Monday, August 29, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Matthew 25: 1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Prepare your hearts for the coming of the Kingdom. Do not live today believing there will be a tomorrow. If Jesus were to return right now you could not go off and make right all your wrongs. You stand as you are. Go instead and prepare in the time that you have. Mend the brokenness of your life. Right the ledger with not only God but your fellow man. Do not let nightfall find you with a broken bridge. Grant forgiveness for every wrong done to you. Love your neighbor as you wish to be loved by the Father.

If Jesus comes he will find in you a humble, contrite heart. He will find one prepared to receive him and inherit the Father’s royal nature. If you awake tomorrow it is another opportunity to love as you yourself wish to be loved. It is an opportunity to put joy into another’s heart. It is another opportunity to witness the glory of Jesus in the way you live your life.

A prepared heart is over abundantly joy filled at the bridegroom’s return while the unprepared scatter around anxiously. Jesus loves those who prepare themselves for his arrival and shuns those who live solely for themselves and are not concerned with the coming kingdom. Do not be found locked outside of the door when it closes, eternally separated from God.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Matthew 25: 42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Jesus instituted his Church. When he departed he entrusted the care and operation of that Church to his beloved disciples. They in turn entrusted it to their disciples. And thus the chain of apostolic succession began. The Church is now in our care. If Jesus came back today do you think he will approve of our stewardship? Have we stayed true to the Master’s instructions or have we strayed? If he came back today do you think he would be pleased to find 40,000+ denominations of Christian?

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time?

I am Catholic because I believe the claims of the Catholic Church are true. The more I study religion in general and Catholicism in particular the deeper I believe these claims. The more I study the clearer it becomes. Catholicism is beautiful and genius and could have only been created by the hand of God. For those who do little more than go to Mass on Sunday this beauty and genius is obscured. For a non-Catholic looking in it is more confusing than a first grader trying to make heads and tails of a calculus book.

One day the Master will return and all will be made clear to everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

John 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

When God chose to be one of us he did not chose to come down as a great king. He did not come down to rule over us. He came as a baby born in a barn. He chose a life of poverty and hard labor. He came to ordinary parents. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were among the most common names of the day. Jesus was like us in all things except sin.            

Why is Jesus the great mediator? How can Jesus stand before the Father and speak on our behalf and then stand before us and speak for the Father? Jesus can speak to us divinely as human and speak to God humanly as God for he is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus is the bridge that perfects the relationship between God and man.

It is human nature to want to be like our own kind. Adam may have had the perfect relationship with God but it was a relationship at a distance because God was God and man was man. God made woman so man would have a companion like himself. Then God chose to be incarnate so he could be like us and have that perfect relationship with man.

How great is our God, who in his divine greatness would humble himself to become like us in all things so he could be closer to us, allowing us to love him more. God was no longer this grandeur being in the clouds so far out of our reach. God was with us and like us. We could talk to him and walk with him and embrace him.

And we could crucify him.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Matthew 23, 23-26

Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

We have heard that it is who is on the inside that matters. The person on the inside is our true self. The word persona in Latin means mask. Our persona, our personality, is the mask we wear when we face the world. A mask doesn’t always reflect the true self.

Woe to you who perfect your mask and neglect your true self. At the end of the party all masks will be removed and people will see you for what you really are. Instead, make yourself a lantern with clean clear glass. Carry the light of Christ within you and allow it to shine through you in everything you do.  The light, truth, and love of Jesus are more beautiful than any mask you can ever make. When you reflect this beauty you yourself are beautiful.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Matthew 23, 13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

We often put our trust in the wrong things. We have lucky charms, rabbit foots, even rituals that we dare not break if our favorite team is on a winning streak. Even Catholics have their upside down statues of Saint Joseph, novenas, and statues of Mary on the dash. We put our trust in things instead of who makes the things sacred.

Everything we do should begin and end with God. The moment we wake up we should give praise and thanks for having been given another day. Before we fall sleep we should give thanks for the blessings we have received that day and ask forgiveness for all that we have done wrong. We should fill our day with little prayers in all that we do. When faced with a trial remember this simple prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Without the presence of God the temple is just another building. Without God the altar is just another table. Without God my life is meaningless and lost forever. Trust in God over the things of man.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

It’s a matter of perspective.

What a parent sees as love a child sees as pain, suffering, and punishment. How many of us as children have said, “When I have kids I will never do (fill in the blank) to them.” Then as parents we not only find ourselves doing that very thing to our kids but we find that we now understand that it is necessary, our duty as parents, and done solely because we love our children and want the best for them.

My father was a strict man. He ruled through fear and the wrath of his hand. He never once beat me but he did give out punishment for wrongdoing. Looking back as an adult I now know that my father was the greatest teacher I have ever had. He taught disciple and right from wrong. He put me on the path I walk today. I wish I could be half the father he tried to be.

The first step to wisdom is fear of the Lord. When we see fear through modern definition we think of cowering from wrath. The older definition of fear is respect. The first step to wisdom is respect for the Lord. The first person of God is Father. A loving father teaches his children. Punishment is nothing more than a way to teach. Discipline as a noun means the study of or a teaching. A disciple is someone who studies a certain teaching. The Disciples were students of Jesus.

A father who does not discipline does not love his children. One of the most important words a child has to be taught is No. No establishes boundaries. We live at a time where the word No is taboo. Modern society wants to live without boundaries. We want to be able to define for ourselves who and what we are. When a child strays past the boundaries a loving father will use discipline to bring them back.

Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Matthew 23: 1-12

Matthew 22: 34-40

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

What fuels your desire to serve? What motivates you to do something? Is it the personal recognition? Does it make you feel important when you are recognized for something you have done? Are you one to hold favors over the heads of those who you have done them for? Do you keep a ledger of debts owed to you? If so you will have an earthly reward.

The Pharisees strictly abided by the letter of the Law. They called for an adherence so strict as to put a heavy, unbearable load on those who followed that religion. They did in public where all could see and marvel but seldom practiced in their hearts. They did it solely for power and recognition.

Jesus took on the unbearable load and bore it for us so that our burden would be light and our load easy. He showed us by example how to live. He did not stand on the top of the mountain and yell, “Look at me!” He did not instruct us to do while he did something else. He lived what he taught and he never judged anyone who tried and fell short. He did not place himself better than those who followed him.

We disciples who follow today are called to act like the master. We are called to serve our brothers without thought to the cost. We are called to bear the heavy load for someone who cannot bear it themselves.

To be truly humble we are not called to think less of ourselves. We are called to think of ourselves less.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Matthew 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

If there was only one part of the bible you could ever read this would be that part. This sums up everything you need to know to live a good life both here on earth and with God in heaven.

Love God with all that you are.

Love your neighbor as God has loved you.

These two commandments boil down to just one word – agape.

Agape is the highest form of love possible. It is the total giving of self for another. It is sacrificial love. It is the love God has for each and every one of his children. It is the love we are called to have for God and each other. It is what we have been made for.

To truly love someone is to will the best for that person. What is best for a person is not necessarily what is best for us. But in order to love someone we have to put their best interests before our own. It was not in Christ’s best interests to die upon the cross. He did it not for himself but for us.

The crucifix is the visible face of agape love. The crucifix shows us the real nature of God. For God so loved the world that he allowed himself to be tortured and killed so that we may live. Are you willing to do the same for someone else?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Matthew 22: 1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying,
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The gift of salvation was first offered to the Jews. When they turned their backs to Christ the offer was extended to the Gentiles. Now the offer of salvation goes out to all people. Some hear the invite and accept. Some turn a deaf ear to it. Some will never get this invite until they stand before the Lord at the end of time.

There are those who believe that all that is necessary is for them to accept the invitation. After they have RSVP’d yes there is nothing they need do and nothing that can happen to keep them from the feast. Yet, in this passage we clearly see that accepting the invitation is not enough. The man had no excuse for his king as to why he did not come in proper attire for the wedding feast. The man was cast out for his lack of action.

Likewise, when we accept the invitation to the wedding feast we are expected to act in a certain manner. We are expected to dress the part. There is proper etiquette to be followed. Faith alone gets you the invitation. It opens the door. You still have to walk through it. You still have to act.

Wedding crashers will be shown the door.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Matthew 20: 1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Claude Newman was an illiterate black man on death row for murder at the age of nineteen. He was visited in death row by our Mother Mary. Mary convinced the man to repent and he summoned a priest to begin instruction in the Catholic faith. He was a Catholic barely a month before he went joyfully to his execution. Later Claude appeared with the Holy Mother to another inmate just before he was put to death. They gave the man a vision of what he faced in hell. The man converted on the spot just before being put to death.

God extends the offer of salvation to each and every person. If the person has never received a saving knowledge of Jesus before they died Jesus will be his best advocate. The reward of salvation is the same for anyone saved, whether they are a last second convert like Claude or a life-long servant like Saint Theresa of Calcutta.

There will be those who dedicate their entire life to the service of the Lord who think they should get a larger share in the Kingdom of heaven. Those who put themselves behind others will come first and those who think they should be first will be served last.

If you wish for a large share in heaven you must put away selfish desires and serve others before yourself. If you can truly get to this mindset and way of life you will find that you no longer care about your share in heaven. You rejoice with God for those who accept him in the final moments of their lives. You do not grow jealous that they have received the same reward in heaven as you who have served for so long.

The reward for living a life dedicated to the service of our God is a life well lived.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Matthew 19: 23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Being rich is not a sin. Being rich will not keep you from getting into the Kingdom of heaven. What you choose to do with your riches does.

The Twelve replied with, “Who then can be saved?”

In other words, each and every one of us is rich in our own respects. Money is not the only treasure. I have something far more valuable than money. It is even more valuable than the air I breathe. If I do not have air my body will die. If I do not have my faith there is no life within me. My faith is my greatest treasure.

What do I do with my faith? If I hoard it all for myself I am nothing more than another rich man who cannot pass through the eye of the needle. Like a man with tremendous wealth, my faith is meant to be shared with those who do not have it. My faith is to be used to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

The trick to passing through the eye of a needle is that it cannot be done alone. A single person is too big to fit. You can only pass through the eye of a needle if you are with a group.

Come judgment, we do not stand before Jesus alone. We stand before him with every person we helped get to heaven. If you stand before Jesus alone it is only because you did nothing to bring another to a saving knowledge of Jesus. If you stand alone you are a rich man who greedily kept all of his treasure for himself.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Luke 1: 39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

Mary’s yes to God undid Eve’s no. Jesus’ yes to God undid Adam’s no. What can I accomplish, Lord, when I say yes to you?

God has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us. He respects our free will and asks. Most are like Adam and Eve and reject God’s request because we want that which God is not willing to give.

When I was nineteen God asked me to serve him as a priest. This request was strange to me. I wasn’t Catholic. I was a fleet sailor and about as far away from a holy life as one could be. God’s request didn’t jive with who I was or who I thought I was going to be. Like Adam, I said no.

Instead I became a husband and a father. Like so many, I took for myself a vocation I was not called to but wanted regardless. And like so many that marriage failed. Eventually I got my life right with God. Then he came knocking again, this time asking me to serve him as a deacon. Again the answer was no.

Slowly my life deteriorated. Finances, work, even my health got progressively worse. But the knock never went away. I was taken to literally one heartbeat from death before I said yes. Once I did things changed for the better almost immediately. Then I found out that my heart was 90 – 95% blocked and I was really only a single heartbeat from death. I had a quintuple bypass and a near miraculous recovery.  All because I said yes to God’s knock on the door of my heart.

How much more did God bless Mary for her yes to be the mother of the salvation of humanity? How much more did he look with favor on her for the suffering she would endure as she saw her only son hang on a cross and die?

Jesus gave his mother to us to be our mother too. Why do so many say “no thanks” to such a precious gift?

Hail Mary, the Lord is with thee

Blessed are thou among women

And blessed is the fruit of your womb


Holy Mary, mother of God

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hebrews 12: 1-4

Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
he endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

For far too many of us our religion, our faith, is often secondary to our lives instead of being the driving factor behind our lives. We fit faith in where we can. We do the minimum to meet our obligation to God, if that.

Christians should never be of the mindset of how little they can do. Jesus did not just meet the Law as the Pharisees did. Jesus fulfilled the Law. He exceeded it. He showed by example how to put God first and live life with that end goal in mind.

We make time to eat. We make time to sleep. We make time to watch our favorite shows on TV. How many of us make time to pray? How many of us use Sunday as our only God time and then feel that it is an inconvenience?

Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.

We were made by God for God and, God willing, we will spend eternity with him at the end of this age. Let us rightly put God first in our lives and not just an afterthought or something we squeeze in. Let us ask how much more we can do and not what the bare minimum is. Let us remain strong and not grow weary or lose heart.

Let us run this race to the end.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Matthew 19: 13 – 15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

I look upon you with disdain and scorn you wretched, filthy excuse for a person. You are less than human. You are a bum, a street person. You are a waste of life. This world would be better without you in it.

Jesus looks upon the very same person with pity, compassion, and love. Jesus allows himself to be tortured and put to death for that person. Who am I to look upon this person with disdain? Who am I to judge this person unworthy? Who am I to keep this person from Christ?

Jesus casts no one away. Jesus calls all to himself. As doulos I am not to turn people from Jesus but I am commanded to bring Jesus to the people.

Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them.

We all are children to God.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Matthew 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

We have forgotten in our age that marriage is a vocation – a calling. A Christian does not have the right to marry. A Christian has to be called to marriage by God. Some were incapable of marriage because they were made so.  Others have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. This is difficult, even impossible, to understand and accept for a large part of our society today driven by sex, feelings, and a sense of entitlement. Marriage is my right, not something I have to be asked to do.

Marriage is viewed as a rite of passage. We are supposed to graduate college, get a good job, get married, and make grandbabies. Marriage gas been reduced down to nothing more than a contract between two people for a period of time. We can continue to stay together as long as we both feel good about one another. As long as I get mine as I give you yours we are good.

But from the beginning it was not so.

Marriage was created as a sacrament. A sacrament is an oath to the death. I promise to give you all that I am until I breathe my last. A sacrament is a lifelong commitment made between three people, the husband, the wife, and God. When a husband is unfaithful to his wife he is also unfaithful to God. He does not cheat only on the woman. He also cheats on the God who made him, the God that called him into this covenant to begin with. This is why adultery is a mortal sin of grave consequence.

Therefore, whatever God has joined together no man is capable of separating.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Matthew 18: 21 – 19:1

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

That man is I. I am the ungrateful slave. I have accumulated an unpayable debt to the Lord my God through the sin I commit every day. There is nothing I can do to repay what I owe. The cost of my sin is my life. God would be just if he were to foreclose on this debt and cast me into the abyss for eternity. But what does the merciful master do? He forgives. He redeems. He makes me whole.

Then what do I do? I call due every debt owed to me by those I know. I hold grudges. I stay angry. I refuse to acknowledge the existence of those I love because of something they said or did. I demand my hundred denarii and will not accept one penny less.

Mercy shall be received in the same measure that it is given. If I want to receive God’s mercy in its fullest I have to give mercy in my fullest. I need to forgive anything and everything that is in the way of my love for another. I have to let go of the hurt, hate, and fear that keep me from seeing Jesus present in every person.

What is the difference between pity and mercy? Pity is compassion extended downward to the humanity of a person, looking upon that person as being lower than myself. Mercy is compassion extended upward recognizing Christ in the person and acknowledging the dignity that person has because they were made in the image and likeness of God.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

John 12: 24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

Every seed comes packaged with everything it needs to become the plant it was intended to be. It can never become that plant and bear fruit if it is never put into the ground. If it is germinated and cared for the plant will grow, blossom, and produce fruit. It accomplishes its purpose.

The Greeks thought Jesus was just another great philosopher like Socrates. Like Socrates, the Greeks knew Jesus was going to be put to death. They came offering asylum from those who wanted to kill him not knowing that Jesus purpose was to be made a sacrifice for all humanity. Unless Jesus fulfilled his purpose the entire vine of humanity would perish.

We each have a purpose and have been given the gifts necessary to achieve it. Most of us squander these gifts never realizing our full purpose. Those who use their gifts for personal gain will have their reward in this life. Those who use their gifts in the service of others will inherit God’s royal nature. If we want to be like Christ we have to give up our lives so others may live. This is what it means to be doulos, slave of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-15

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”

Why must we become like little children to enter heaven? Because little children trust without question and love without wanting something in return. Little children are not boastful or pride filled. Little children rely entirely on their parents for everything without worry or stress. Little children believe without seeing and never require proof.

These things change as we grow older. We no longer trust without question. We no longer love without wanting something in return. We beat our chests and pat ourselves on the back. We are pride filled. We no longer rely on God to provide and are full of worry about how we will fill our needs. We no longer believe without overwhelming proof. Everything that makes children so special we view as childish.

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Matthew 17: 22-27

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.”

Jesus became like us in all things and subjected willingly to all things required of us. He did not use divine privilege for anything. Because of this he is the greatest of mediators before the Father. He is a divine person so he can speak directly to the Father in the language of God, yet, living a fully human life he can speak with the full understanding of what it means to be human. Jesus can speak to us as God in the language of man. In himself he bridges the gap that existed between God and man since man was first created.

Something built into creation was a desire to be with like kind. Although Adam had the perfect relationship with God, God and man were not of like kind. There was always a divide between the two. Jesus bridged that divide when he became human. Through Jesus we can have the perfect relationship with God for through him we are like kind. Jesus also has the perfect relationship with the Father for he is one with him.

People who believe that they do not need a church and only need to have a relationship with Jesus alone separate themselves with the divide that existed at creation. If Jesus is one with the Father and one with us then it cannot be just you and Jesus alone. Being one with Jesus makes you one with his Father, the Holy Spirit, and his people, the Church. Being one with Jesus makes you one with the entire family of God. You cannot forsake any member of the family without making yourself forsaken. The hand cannot move without the arm and even the head needs the neck to turn. Just as the body without the head is lifeless so too is the hand without the body.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Luke 12: 35 – 40

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Why are people so enthralled with knowing when the end of this age will come? If they know the hour they can prepare for it at that time. They don’t have to prepare beforehand. To prepare for anything is to put something before yourself. I want to eat tomorrow so I must spend my time and money today to buy food to have tomorrow. If I know that a friend is going to be taking me to lunch tomorrow I can spend the time and money I would have dedicated for lunch on a selfish endeavor instead.

People do not want to live a Christ centered life for any longer than they have to. To have a life centered in Christ is to have a life spent in sacrificial service to others. We know that this is the life Christ has called us all to. It means to let go of the self and embrace the other. If we know when the end is coming we could live for ourselves until the day before the last day. Then we could dedicate all that we are for the other and get the reward for our nobleness.

If I knew when the last day was coming I could sin all I want, enjoying life to the selfish fullness possible. They I could repent and go to confession before the last day and be clean. Living life this way is like playing chicken with a bridge that is out. We want to drive as fast as we possibly can and hit the brakes at the latest possible second before going over the cliff. Pray that the car comes to a full and complete stop.

The true Christian isn’t concerned about when the end of the age will come. The true Christian lives every day glorifying the Lord in the way they live their lives. The true Christian is like a loyal puppy waiting for the master to return home.

Hachiko the Akita is an iconic legend in Japan. Every day the dog would accompany his owner to the train station to see him off to work. The dog would return to the train station every night to greet his master when he returned home from work. One day the master did not return. He had died at work that day.

Every day for the next ten years Hachiko would go to the train station and wait for his master to return. The commuters who knew the dog fed him. Despite the care he still developed mange, heartworm, and was often attacked by other dogs, but nothing kept him away from the train platform at night to greet his master upon his return. After nearly ten years, Hachiko laid down on the platform when he waited and died.

This is what true love and devotion looks like. May we all have the heart of Hachiko as we wait for our Lord to return in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Statue of Hachiko - Placed where he waited for his master's return.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2 Peter 1: 16-19

We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it,
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

One of the reasons religion is losing relevance in people’s lives in this age is because we are two-thousand years removed from when Jesus walked the earth. In the day of the twenty-four hour news cycle and eleven second attention span Jesus is as far from us as are the dinosaurs. For more and more people the bible is becoming nothing more than a book of myths.

Jesus’ trusted Twelve, on the other hand, lived this as it was actually happening. They studied at the feet of the great teacher and watched as he came into his glory. Jesus passed his authority on to them and filled them with the words we still need to hear.

We are blessed to be part of a living religion and not one made up of dead myth and legend. Jesus is among us still, guiding us as he guided the Twelve. We need to stay vigilant, always ready for the Master’s return. Let him not find us asleep but faithfully carrying out the mission he has entrusted to us.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

Matthew 16: 24-28

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

The journey of life has two destinations, heaven or hell. God is longing to accept everyone into heaven and sends no one to hell. Where we spend eternity is a choice given to each and every person. Ultimately, it comes down to one question; whom do you love more, God or yourself?

The root of every sin is a selfish desire. We sin when we take more than what God wants to give. Adam and Eve were given everything they could ever want except the knowledge of good and evil. They took this from God in the form of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, something God had forbidden them to take. Sin is always a choice. They took what God was not willing to give and in doing so they broke fidelity in their relationship with God and were separated from him. The same thing happens to us every time we choose to take that which is not offered.

Jesus tells us what we must do if we want to inherit God’s royal nature. We have to conform our wills to that of the Father. We have to deny our selfish desire and accept only that which God is willing to give. We have to live sacrificial lives in service to others.

How do I lose my life for the sake of God? Jesus demonstrates how to do this in the Garden of Gethsemane.  His personal desire was not to be tortured and die. His desire was to stay with those he loved and continue to teach them the ways of the Father. Yet, he put the Father’s desire ahead of his own and willfully took on the task that was presented to him. Likewise, we are tasked with carrying on his ministry in the modern world, a world that teaches that ultimate happiness comes from loving and serving the self above all else. To live for Christ today means to live a life contrary to the culture. That means I have to give up the rewards the culture has to offer.

What profit is there for me to gain everything this culture has to offer ad lose my life for all eternity? That is the lie of the current age, that the self is the center of all that is important. How I define the self is up to me alone and no one has a say in it. If I don’t like my gender I can choose to be something I am not. If I don’t like the ethnicity I am born with I can opt for another. If I don’t like what God has given me I can take what he wasn’t willing to give. I am the center of my world. I am number one. I AM.

And when I choose to save my own life I will lose it in the end.

My cross is who I am. My cross is what God has called me to be. I must embrace my cross and become the best version of myself as I can be. I must follow Christ, the perfect human, and love sacrificially. I must be Simon the Cyrene and help another to bear their cross the best they can.

We get to hell all on our own. We get to heaven by helping and being helped by one another.