Episodes

  • Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… Luke 8:1–2

    Our Lord was on a mission. He traveled on foot from one town to another, “preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.” His message truly was “good news.” He healed the sick, cast out demons and, most importantly, He forgave sins. As a result, many began to follow Him. Not only did His followers consist of the Twelve whom Jesus personally called and who He would eventually send forth as His Apostles, but others followed Him also. Today’s Gospel also mentions three women by name: Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Susanna. These are but a few of the people who were deeply touched by our Lord, who in turn left all to follow Him.

    The choice of these first followers to abandon all and follow Jesus invites us to examine the extent to which we have committed our lives to following Him also. Among the many people who heard Jesus preach, there were undoubtedly various responses. Some rejected Him, others were intrigued by Him, others believed in Him but were not willing to become His disciple, and some did commit themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus and His mission of proclaiming good news. For the latter, the good news they heard changed their lives.

    What is your response to our Lord? One good way to properly answer this question is to examine the amount of time and energy you have committed to our Lord and His message of good news. How much time have you spent reading His holy Word, praying to Him, speaking about Him and learning the faith that He has taught? How much does His message affect the decisions you make in life? Being a Christian is not something we can compartmentalize. We cannot have our “faith time” a few moments of each week and then spend the rest of our time on other activities. True, our days will be filled with many activities that are simply normal parts of our lives. We all have duties and responsibilities that occupy much of our days. But being “all in,” so to speak, means that Jesus and His message permeates everything we do. Even our ordinary daily activities such as work, chores, and the like must be done for God’s glory and in accord with His divine will.

    For Jesus’ first followers, though they traveled with Him from town to town and radically changed the course of their daily lives, they still would have engaged in many ordinary activities. But those ordinary activities were ultimately done so as to help them and others fulfill their ultimate mission of listening to and responding to the Word of God.

    Reflect, today, upon the extent that you have consecrated every part of your life to our Lord and His mission. Doing so does not necessarily require that you become a public evangelist, spend all day at Church or the like. It simply means that Jesus and His mission are invited into everything you do every day all day. We can never serve our Lord fully enough. As you examine your daily activity, look for ways to bring our Lord into everything you do. Doing so will truly make you one of His faithful disciples who are all in with your life.

    My divine Lord, You are on a mission to save souls and to build up Your glorious Kingdom. I thank You for inviting me to not only become transformed by Your holy Word but to help spread that Word to others. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Please enter into every part of my daily life and use me for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

  • 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.” Luke 7:48–50

    These loving words from Jesus were spoken to a sinful woman who showed up unannounced at a dinner Jesus was having at the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisee looked down upon her in judgment, but she didn’t care. In sorrow for her sins, she anointed Jesus’ feet and humbled herself before Him, bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.

    The conversation ends with Jesus looking at her and telling her “Your sins are forgiven.” Note the reaction of those who were at the table. We are given an insight into their interior thoughts. They said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

    Those who have been born and raised within the faith have always understood that God forgives. We were taught this from an early age, learned much about it in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and have heard this message throughout our lives in one form or another. But imagine never hearing about or experiencing the forgiveness of God throughout your life, and then suddenly one day you do. Imagine what these people must have been experiencing as they encountered the forgiveness of sins for the first time in the Person of Jesus as He forgave this sinful woman. They may have been a bit confused by this, but, perhaps more than anything else, they would have experienced a holy awe and amazement at what God had done. They saw this sinful woman come in, they sensed the judgment and demeaning attitude of the Pharisees, they saw her express sorrow and humiliation, and then they saw Jesus forgive her.

    Are you amazed at the gift of the forgiveness of your sins and the sins of others? Or do you take forgiveness for granted? The wonder and awe that the people manifested at the forgiveness of the sins of this woman should help us to examine our own attitude toward God’s mercy and forgiveness. We need to continually foster within ourselves the same amazement at God’s mercy that these people had. We must work to never take forgiveness for granted or to see it as just one more normal part of life. Rather, we must see it as extraordinary, ever new, ever glorious and forever awe inspiring.

    Reflect, today, upon the awe-inspired words of these first followers of Jesus: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” As you do, let God fill you with the deepest gratitude for the forgiveness He has offered you. Renew your appreciation for this unmerited gift from God and allow that gratitude to become the source of your ongoing amazement at the mercy of God.

    My forgiving Lord, Your mercy and compassion for the sinner is truly awe-inspiring. Thank You for loving me and all Your followers with a love so deep. Please fill my heart with a holy awe at Your incredible mercy. May I always be amazed at Your forgiveness and always be filled with the deepest gratitude as I experience it in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25

    Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Son of God, loved her Son with a perfect love. She enfleshed every virtue to perfection. Her love for her Son was a love that was beyond what we could ever imagine. She conceived Him miraculously, bore Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, nursed Him, raised Him and loved Him throughout His life. It’s difficult to even imagine the depth and beauty of the love she had for Jesus. Generally speaking, a mother’s love is powerful, unwavering, deep and filled with tenderness. Try to imagine the Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary and the amazing depth of love alive in her heart.

    Imagine also the scene depicted in the Gospel passage quoted above. This loving mother stood at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon her crucified Son, continuing to exude every motherly virtue. And because it’s hard to fathom the depth of her love for her Son, it’s also very hard to imagine the depth of sorrow and interior suffering she endured as she watched the cruelty toward Jesus unfold. All she could do in that moment was stand by Him and with Him in this moment of extreme agony. Her love was expressed, in that moment, by her fidelity to Him.

    What’s beautiful to know is that love, sorrow, compassion and suffering were united as one within her Immaculate Heart. Within the beauty of her heart was every human emotion, fueled by God’s grace, enabling her to give to her Son the greatest gift she had: her motherhood. She was a true mother throughout her life, and, in this moment, as her Son hung on the Cross, her motherhood culminated in a perfect human expression.

    We all long to be loved by another. To give and receive love is the greatest gift that we can give and receive. Love is what we were made for and is the source of our fulfillment in life. We can be certain that as Mother Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, her human heart experienced the greatest fulfillment ever known. Her heart was fulfilled because she exercised her motherly love to perfection.

    Gaze upon the image of the Mother of God this day. Ponder, especially, all that she would have experienced within her human heart. Though theologians could write volumes on this meditation, the best way to understand her heart of love is through prayerful meditation. Ask our Blessed Mother to reveal her heart to you today. Find some time to sit in silent adoration of this holy image of perfect motherly love. As you do, know two things. First, know that Mother Mary has this same depth of love for you. Do not doubt it. Her heart burns with compassion as she gazes upon you, even in your sin. Second, know that our Blessed Mother’s love must also fill your heart and overflow into the lives of others. We all must allow her compassion, concern, fidelity and mercy to flow through our hearts. Who do you need to love with the heart of our Blessed Mother? Seek to receive the love in the heart of the Mother of God and seek to give that love. Receive it in and then allow it to flow forth. There is truly nothing in this world more beautiful and awe inspiring than the holy image of this love.

    My Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother, you stood at the foot of the Cross of your Son with the perfection of a mother’s love. Your heart was filled with a sorrow that was mixed with every holy virtue. Pray for me that I may understand this love more fully, so that I may also open up my own heart to your love. As I do, I pray that I will become an instrument of the love in your heart toward those in my life who suffer and are in most need of tender compassion and mercy. Sorrowful Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16–17

    If Jesus would never have given His life on a cross for the salvation of the world, then a cross would never have been seen in “exultation.” A cross, in and of itself, is an instrument of death, a horrific and violent death. It’s also an instrument of humiliation and torture. Yet, today, the Cross is seen as a holy and blessed object. We hang crosses in our homes, wear them around our neck, keep them in our pocket on the end of the rosary, and spend time in prayer before them. The Cross is now an exalted image by which we turn to God in prayer and surrender. But that is only the case because it was on a cross that we were saved and brought to eternal life.

    If you step back and consider the amazing truth that one of the worst instruments of torture and death is now seen as one of the holiest of images on earth, it should be awe inspiring. Comprehending this fact should lead us to the realization that God can do anything and everything. God can use the worst and transform it into the best. He can use death to bring forth life.

    Though our celebration today, the “Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross,” is first and foremost a feast by which we give glory to the Father for what He did in the Person of His divine Son, it is also a feast by which we must humbly understand that God can “exalt” every cross we endure in life and bring forth much grace through them.

    What is your heaviest cross? What is the source of your greatest suffering? Most likely, as you call this to mind, it is painful to you. Most often, our crosses and sufferings are things we seek to rid ourselves of. We easily point to crosses in life and blame them for a lack of happiness. We can easily think that if only this or that were to change or be removed, then our life would be better. So what is that cross in your life?

    The truth is that whatever your heaviest cross is, there is extraordinary potential for that cross to become an actual source of grace in your life and in the world. But this is only possible if you embrace that cross in faith and hope so that our Lord can unite it to His and so that your crosses can also share in the exaltation of Christ’s Cross. Though this is a profoundly deep mystery of faith, it is also a profoundly deep truth of our faith.

    Reflect, today, upon your own crosses. As you do, try not to see them as a burden. Instead, realize the potential within those crosses. Prayerfully look at your crosses as invitations to share in Christ’s Cross. Say “Yes” to your crosses. Choose them freely. Unite them to Christ’s Cross. As you do, have hope that God’s glory will come forth in your life and in the world through your free embrace of them. Know that these “burdens” will be transformed and become a source of exaltation in your life by the transforming power of God.

    My exalted Lord, I turn to You in my need and with the utmost faith in Your divine power to save. Please give me the grace I need to fully embrace every cross in my life with hope and faith in You. Please transform my crosses so that You will be exalted through them and so that they will become an instrument of Your glory and grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.” Luke 7:6–7

    What’s interesting is that these humble words, spoken by a Roman centurion, were not actually spoken by the centurion to Jesus. This is because the centurion did not believe he was even worthy of going to Jesus himself. Therefore, he sent some of his friends to speak these words to Jesus on his behalf. In a real way, the friends of this centurion acted as intercessors before Jesus. Jesus’ response was to express amazement at the centurion’s faith. Jesus said to the crowd who was with Him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And at that point, the servant was healed by Jesus from a distance.

    Most of the time, if we have an important request to make of another, we do so in person. We go to the person and speak face-to-face. And though we certainly can go to our Lord in prayer, face-to-face, person to Person, there is something very humble about bringing our needs to our Lord through the intercession of another. Specifically, there is something very humble about asking for the intercession of the saints.

    Seeking the intercession of the saints before our Lord is not done because we are afraid of our Lord or because He would be offended by us going directly to Him. It is ideally done as an act of the utmost humility. By entrusting our prayer to those who are in Heaven, gazing upon the face of God, we do entrust our prayer to God. But relying upon the intercession of the saints is also a way of acknowledging that we are not worthy, by our own merits, to stand before the Lord and bring Him our request. This humility can be difficult to understand at times, but it’s important to try.

    What is it that you need to pray for in your life right now? As you call that to mind, pick a saint to act as your friend and intercessor before God. Turn to that saint in humility and say a prayer to that saint, admitting that you are not worthy of going to our Lord on your own. Then entrust your petition to that saint and ask him or her to present that prayer to our Lord on your behalf. Praying to our Lord, through the intercession of a saint, is a way of also saying that you know Jesus’ response to you is pure mercy on His part. And the good news is that Jesus deeply desires to shower His mercy when we humble ourselves before Him, especially by coming to Him through the mediation of the saints.

    Reflect, today, upon the humility of this well-respected Roman centurion. Try to understand the power of his humble approach by which he sent his friends to Jesus on his behalf. As you do, pick a saint in Heaven and ask them to go to our Lord on your behalf and request that our Lord grant you the same humility and faith as this centurion. Doing so will lead our Lord to be amazed at your faith and humility also.

    Saints of God, please offer to Jesus my humble request that I grow more in humility and faith. My precious Lord, I do bring this and all my prayers to You. As I do, I acknowledge that I am not worthy of Your Divine Mercy. But through the mediation of the saints in Heaven, if it be Your will that You bestow Your mercy upon me, then I humbly make this request of You through them. Mother Mary, I especially entrust all my prayers to Your holy intercession. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • Jesus began to teach the Apostles that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Mark 8:31–33

    This was most likely not the reply that Peter was expecting from Jesus. Peter was struggling with fear as Jesus explained that He would be entering into much suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders of the time. Peter loved Jesus and was fearful and anxious about the thought of his Master suffering and being killed. So Peter, motivated by fear and confusion, tried to “talk some sense” into Jesus.

    The result? Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other Apostles by Jesus. Jesus went so far as to say, “Get behind me, Satan.” That must have hurt.

    To understand this properly, we must start with the obvious conclusion that Jesus’ words were words of great love. Jesus is not capable of anything other than love. Therefore, we must seek to understand how these strong words from Jesus were loving and holy.

    The key to understanding this is the second thing Jesus said. “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus had just revealed to the Apostles the deepest mystery of His life's mission. Namely, He just revealed that His mission was to accept unjust persecution and death at the hands of the religious leaders. But in revealing this, it is also clear that He intended to bring good out of this suffering. He would not have allowed this suffering if it were not for some greater good. The hard part is that, in order to understand this great mystery of suffering, one needs a deep faith. The Apostles were being challenged to see this situation from the divine perspective. Peter was having a hard time doing so, and that is why Jesus had to challenge him so directly.

    Jesus’ rebuke was a rebuke of love, helping Peter break free of his fear and limited vision so as to enter into this profound mystery of Jesus’ loving sacrifice.

    Reflect, today, upon your own struggle with the Cross of Christ. His sufferings continue to be made present in our world through the love and sacrifices of His sons and daughters. When Christians suffer on account of their faith, we must see this from the eyes of God, not the eyes of men. We must see the divine blessings that accompany such sufferings and we must accept them in accord with the great mystery of God’s plan.

    Lord, I too lack the necessary faith to see the blessings that accompany Your Cross, as well as the many crosses I am given in life. Help me to be purified in my faith so that I can see Your hand at work in all things, even suffering, injustice and persecution. May I see life from Your perspective alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • Jesus said to his disciples: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.” Luke 6:43–44

    What a great way to examine the direction of your life! This Gospel passage gets to the heart of how we can best discern whether or not we are truly fulfilling the will of God. Oftentimes we may struggle with knowing clearly if we are doing that which God wants of us. There are many directions in life that we can be pulled toward and many goals we can come up with on our own. For that reason, it is useful from time to time to stop and do an honest inventory of our lives.

    When you look at the past year of your life, what do you see? Specifically, do you see good fruit being born? Such an examination is helpful to do from time to time. It is useful to make such an examination not only for the past year but for different time periods. Perhaps start by looking at the big picture by looking at all the times in your life that were most fruitful for the glory of God. From there, try to look at your life decade by decade, year by year and then even month by month over this past year. Look for the most blessed moments in your life as well as the most challenging moments.

    When we examine our lives in this way, it’s important to understand what to look for. For example, there may be moments when all went well in one way or another and then other times that were painful and very difficult. What’s important to know, from a divine perspective, is that just because something “went well” at one point, or just because something was “painful and very difficult” at another point in our lives, this doesn’t mean that the former was the most fruitful for the Kingdom of God or the latter the least fruitful. In fact, heavy crosses and difficulties in life can often be the most fruitful times for us, spiritually speaking. Just look at Jesus’ life. Of course, everything He did was fruitful for the glory of the Father in Heaven, but we can easily point to the most painful moment of His life as the most fruitful. His Crucifixion brought forth the greatest good ever known.

    So it is with our lives. The fruitfulness of our lives is not best discerned by looking at those moments when all was easy, fun, memorable and the like. Though those may also be graced moments, we need to look at spiritual fruitfulness from the divine perspective. We need to look for the moments in our lives, be they easy or difficult, when God was clearly present and when we made choices that gave Him the greatest glory.

    Reflect, today, upon your life being like a tree that bears spiritual fruit. What times of your life, decisions you made, or activities that you were engaged in produced the most virtue in your life? When was your prayer life the deepest? When was your charity the strongest? When was your faith and hope the most evident? Return to those moments, savor them, learn from them and use them as the best building blocks for the glorious future our Lord desires for you.

    My glorious Lord, Your life bore fruit of infinite value. You continually chose to fulfill the will of the Father in Heaven, and, as a result, You lived every virtue to perfection. Help me to regularly pause in life so as to examine the direction in which I am going. May I learn from my errors and rejoice in those moments that were most fruitful for Your Kingdom. I love You, Lord. Help me to bear the greatest fruit for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” Luke 6:41

    Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of the greatest spiritual writers and doctors of the Church, explains in her spiritual masterpiece “Interior Castles,” that one of the first steps on the path to holiness is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge produces humility, because humility is simply having a true opinion about yourself. When a person fails to know themself from the true perspective of the mind of God, then they open themselves up to many errors of judgment. One such error is that they can easily become fixated upon their perceived sins of others.

    The Gospel passage quoted above depicts a person who gravely lacks self-knowledge. Why? Because they “do not perceive the wooden beam” in their own eye, meaning, they do not see their own sin. As a result, Jesus explains that this person also becomes fixated upon the “splinter” in their brother’s eye.

    When you consider your own thoughts, what do you dwell upon the most all day long? Do you honestly look inward, seeking to know yourself as God knows you? Or do you spend excessive time thinking about others, analyzing and judging their actions? This is an important question to ask yourself and to answer with honesty.

    The best way to know yourself is to gaze upon Jesus. When He becomes the focus of your attention throughout the day, you will not only come to know Him, but you will also come to know yourself more honestly. Gazing at the beauty and perfection of our Lord will have the double effect of knowing Him and knowing yourself through His eyes. It will also help you to know others as He sees them.

    How does Jesus look at those around you? He looks at them with perpetual mercy. True, at the end of every life, when we pass from this world to the next, we will encounter our particular judgment from our Lord. But while here on earth, God continually gazes upon us with mercy. For that reason, mercy must become our daily mission, and we must build a habit of gazing upon everyone in our life with the eyes of mercy.

    Reflect, today, upon our Lord. Look at Him, gaze upon Him, seek to know Him and make Him the focus of your attention. As you do, try to dismiss from your thinking process your own perceived judgments of others. Allow your gaze upon our Lord to help you to not only see Him but to also see others through His eyes. Build this habit and you will be on the fast track to the path to holiness.

    My merciful Jesus, may I build a humble and true habit of gazing upon You in Your splendor and beauty. As I see You, day in and day out, please also help me to see myself through Your eyes of mercy so that I will also grow in humility. Please remove all judgment from my heart so that I will be free to know and love all people as You know and love them. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Luke 6:29–30

    This must have been shocking to Jesus’ first disciples. First of all, recall that Jesus taught these words with a spiritual authority that left those with an open heart with a conviction that what Jesus taught was truth. Also recall that Jesus taught these deep spiritual lessons within the context of performing numerous miracles. So, for these reasons, His new followers would have known that what Jesus taught was true. But how could they fully accept such teachings?

    Though many commentators will try to point to the deeper spiritual principles that Jesus was teaching, try to first take His words on face value. He really said that you must offer the other cheek to someone who strikes you, to give your tunic to one who steals your cloak, and to give to everyone who asks of you, never demanding back that which someone takes from you. These are not easy lessons to accept!

    One thing that these powerful lessons teach us is that there is something far more important in life than the humiliation of being struck on the cheek and having your possessions stolen. What is that more important thing? It’s the salvation of souls.

    If we were to go through life demanding earthly justice and retribution for wrongs received, we would not be able to focus upon that which is most important. We would not be able to focus upon the salvation of those who have wronged us. It’s easy to love those who are kind to us. But our love must extend to everyone, and sometimes the form of love we must offer another is the free acceptance of injustices they commit against us. There is great power in this act of love. But we will only be able to love another this way if our deep desire is for their eternal salvation. If all we want is earthly justice and satisfaction for wrongs committed, we may achieve that. But it may come at the expense of their salvation.

    Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that every wrong must be righted here and now. But that’s clearly not what Jesus taught. His wisdom is so much deeper. He knew that a profound act of mercy and forgiveness to another, especially when they have hurt us deeply, is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And it’s one of the most transformative actions we can also do for our own souls. When love hurts, in the sense that it costs us our earthly pride, especially by completely letting go of injustice, then our act of love for that person has great power to change them. And if that act changes them, then this will be the cause of your joy for eternity.

    Reflect, today, upon any way that this hard teaching of Jesus is difficult for you. Who comes to mind as you ponder this teaching? Do your passions revolt against this command of love from Jesus? If so, then you have discovered the specific area where God wants you to grow. Think about anyone with whom you have a grievance and ponder whether you desire their eternal salvation. Know that God can use you for this mission of love if you will love in the way our Lord commands.

    My merciful Lord, Your love is beyond my own ability to comprehend. Your love is absolute and always seeks the good of the other. Give me grace, dear Lord, to love with Your heart and to forgive to the extent that You have forgiven. Use me, especially, to be an instrument of salvation and mercy to those who need it most in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20–21

    Today we celebrate one of the most consequential birthdays in the history of the world! Certainly, the only birthday more important is that of our divine Lord Himself. But today we honor His mother, and our mother, too.

    The Blessed Virgin Mary was born into our world without the stain of original sin. She was preserved from experiencing fallen human nature through the gift of her Immaculate Conception. Thus, she was the first to be born in the perfection of human nature after the fall, and she continued to experience this grace throughout her life, responding to God with her free will every step of the way.

    All of us enjoy celebrating our birthdays. Children especially love it, but most everyone looks forward to that special day each year when family and friends honor them and celebrate them in a special way. For that reason, we can be assured that even our Blessed Mother loved her birthday while here on earth and continues to enjoy this special celebration in Heaven. Of course, she did not enjoy her birthday because she wanted to be pampered or given special attention. She, perhaps more than anyone other than her divine Son, rejoiced on her birthday because of the deep spiritual gratitude she had to God for all that He did in her life.

    Try to ponder the heart and soul of our Blessed Mother from her perspective. She would have been intimately united to each person of the Most Holy Trinity throughout her life. She would have known God, living in her soul, and would have been in awe of what God had done to her. She would have pondered these graces with deep humility and exceptional gratitude. She would have seen her soul and mission from the perspective of God, keenly aware of all that He had done for her.

    As we honor the birthday of our Blessed Mother, it’s also an important opportunity for each of us to ponder the incredible blessings that God has bestowed upon each one of us. No, we are not Immaculate as Mother Mary was. We were each born into original sin and have sinned throughout our lives. But the blessings of grace, given to each one of us, is exceptionally real. We only need to work to have the eyes to see these graces. Baptism, for example, bestows upon the soul an eternal transformation. Though our sin may cloud that transformation at times, the transformation is eternal. Our souls are changed. We are made new. Grace is poured into our hearts, and we become children of God. And for the soul who is able to perceive the countless other ways that God bestows blessings, gratitude is the only appropriate response.

    Reflect, today, upon the glorious celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Begin by trying to rejoice in her life through her eyes. Try to imagine what she saw as she looked into her own graced soul. From there, try to rejoice, also, in your soul. Be grateful for all that God has done for you. Work to have eyes that see these countless graces and allow yourself to rejoice in God’s blessings with our Blessed Mother.

    My dearest Mother, happy birthday! Today I rejoice in the incredible gift that God gave to you in your Immaculate Conception and birth into our world. I pray that I may honor you in a fitting way this day and to especially understand more clearly the beauty of your graced soul. Pray for me that I may also rejoice in the countless graces bestowed upon me by our merciful God. I love you, dear Mother. Precious Jesus, through the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I trust in You!

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  • And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. Luke 6:17–19

    The Gospel of Luke presents us with what is traditionally known as the “Sermon on the Plain.” Almost everything Luke includes in this sermon is also found in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Matthew, however, adds some teachings not found in Luke. Matthew’s sermon has three chapters while Luke’s has only one.

    In this, the introduction to this “Sermon on the Plain,” from which we will be reading all week, Luke points out that large numbers of people came from far and wide to listen to Jesus. This crowd included many Jews but also included many people from the pagan territory of Tyre and Sidon. And what was it that drew so many of them? They came to “hear” Jesus preach and “to be healed.” They wanted to hear the words of Jesus since He spoke with great authority and in a way that was changing lives. And they were especially amazed by the healing power that Jesus manifested. The last line of the passage above gives great emphasis to this desire for healing. “Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.”

    It’s interesting that Jesus performed so many powerful miracles as He went about His public ministry. This was especially the case as He began His ministry. He became a sort of instant celebrity to many and was the talk of the many surrounding towns. But it’s also interesting to note that, as time went on, Jesus gave more emphasis to His teaching than He did to the miracles.

    What is it that draws you to our Lord? Perhaps if there were numerous manifest miracles performed today by God, many people would be amazed. But physical miracles are not the greatest work of our Lord and, therefore, should not be the primary focus of our relationship with Him. The primary reason we should be drawn to our Lord is because His holy Word sinks in deeply, changes us and draws us into communion with Him. This is clearly seen by the fact that now that the Gospel message has been deeply established and the Church formed, physical miracles are rare. They do happen, but not in the same way that they did as Jesus first established His public ministry.

    Reflect, today, upon the primary reason you find yourself drawn to our Lord. Seek out His living Word, spoken within the depths of your heart. The most important miracle that takes place today is that of interior transformation. When a person hears God speak, responds to that Word, and allows Him to change their life, this is among the most important miracles of grace that we could ever encounter. And this is the central reason we should be drawn to Him, seek Him out and follow Him wherever He leads.

    My miraculous Lord, please draw me to Yourself, teaching in the wilderness of my interior life of silence and solitude. Help me to seek You out so that I can hear Your Word, spoken to me to give me new life. May I always listen to You so that Your holy Word will transform me more fully, making me into the new creation You desire me to be. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions… Luke 6:6–8

    Jesus had a gift. Of course, He had every good gift to perfection. But in today’s Gospel, we see one of Jesus’ gifts made manifest. Namely, Jesus was able to realize the intentions of those He daily encountered.

    Normally, we can only know another’s intentions if they were to tell us their intentions. We cannot read minds and hearts. But our Lord could. He had the divine ability to read every soul and know every heart. For that reason, when someone came to Him with great faith, He knew it. And when someone came to Him with evil intent, He knew it.

    When Jesus perceived the ill intentions of the scribes and Pharisees, He used that knowledge to manifest their intentions. They intended to find a reason to accuse Jesus, so He gave them one. Jesus cured a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, and the scribes and Pharisees “became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” They thought miracles were violations of the law of Sabbath rest. Jesus knew they would apply their twisted logic to this miraculous healing, and He knew they would become enraged at Him on account of their envy. So, in a sense, Jesus provoked them so that that which was in their hearts would come forth for them to see.

    All of our interior intentions and thoughts are known by God and must become manifest to us in the presence of God. By provoking the scribes and Pharisees in charity, Jesus forces them to face that which was within them. They had to choose to either continue down the path of envy or to realize the foolishness of their interior thoughts. Sadly, for the scribes and Pharisees, it appears that many of them became more hardened in their sin. But this was a choice only they could make.

    Reflect, today, upon your own interior intentions and thoughts. Why do you do the things you do? What hidden motivations are in your heart? Is there some person, or a certain situation you find yourself in that causes you to obsess in anger interiorly? Or is it true charity that resides within you and is the source of your actions? Is there a profound faith? A supernatural hope? Or is it primarily some sin with which you struggle? Know that Jesus knows your heart, and He wants you also to see clearly those things hidden in your heart. He wants you to see your intentions as clearly as He sees them. Allow Him to reveal the depths of your heart to you so that you can turn away from the sins you find and rejoice in the virtues by which you live.

    My glorious Lord, you know all thoughts and probe the depths of every heart. You know me, Lord, through and through. Please open my eyes to see that which is within me so that I can discern the ill intentions I have and rejoice in the virtues given to me by You. May I always be attentive to You, dear Lord, so that I become aware of all that You wish to reveal to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” Mark 7:34b

    These are powerful words. Why are they powerful? They are powerful because they are more than words. They are words that actually accomplish what they say. These words are spoken by Jesus after the deaf man is brought to Him with the request for healing. By saying the command “Be opened!”, the deaf man’s ears are opened and his speech impediment is removed.

    When Jesus speaks, His word changes things. This is true in this story but it is also true in our lives. We all are deaf and struggle with a speech impediment in the sense that we do not always hear the voice of God and we do not always speak His word and words of charity. For that reason, these words of Jesus must be spoken to us. We must let Him take us off to a quiet place alone and speak to us. We must let Him say those words to us. “Ephphatha!–Be opened!”

    What is it that you are not hearing properly? What is it God has been saying to you for a long time that you refuse to hear? What is it you have allowed yourself to become deaf to? Let our Lord open the “ears” of your heart so that you can hear all that He wishes to say to you. Once that happens, Jesus will also help you speak His words of truth and love.

    Reflect, today, upon how open you are to hearing the voice of God. We all struggle at times with listening, and we especially may struggle listening to God. Spend some time alone with our Lord and let Him heal you so that you can hear and understand all that He is saying to you.

    Lord, I do not always listen to You. Please speak Your words of healing to me so that I can hear You more clearly. In hearing You, may I listen to all that You have to say. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” Luke 6:5

    This short yet powerful statement by Jesus was spoken in response to the Pharisees who questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were apparently doing what was unlawful on the sabbath. They were walking through a field of grain, picking grain as they walked, and eating it for nourishment on their journey from one town to another.

    This challenge from the Pharisees highlights their scrupulous approach to the moral law. Recall the Third Commandment given through Moses: “Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8–10). From this Commandment, the Pharisees had developed a complex commentary which went into great detail about what kind of work was forbidden on the Sabbath in their view. One such regulation was to pick and mill grain. Thus, they judged that this was what the disciples were doing and were, therefore, violating the Third Commandment.

    The laws of God, as they are given by God, must be followed perfectly. His divine Law refreshes us, enlivens us and enables us to live in union with Him. The Pharisees, however, deeply struggled with a need to control the lives of the people through their human interpretation of the divine Law. By saying that “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” Jesus made it clear that this scrupulous interpretation of the Third Commandment taught by the Pharisees did not align with the truths of that divine Law.

    One lesson to learn from this encounter is that each one of us can easily fall into a similar trap. It’s easy to replace God’s true Law with our perception of faith and morality. We are weak human beings, and there are many things that affect our thinking and our convictions in life. Emotions, habits, family relationships, friendships, media and so many other things affect us in powerful ways. Sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. We can easily arrive at certain judgments of faith and morality that are slightly erroneous, being based on subtle errors. As a result, we can easily begin to get off track in our thinking and convictions and, over time, can find that we have deviated far from the truths of God. When this happens, it can be difficult to humbly admit it and change our convictions.

    Reflect, today, upon the humble truth that Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord of the divine Law. This means that we must perpetually remain open to changing our opinions when we hear our Lord speak to us. Ponder any way in which you have become overly attached to your own opinions. If they bring forth peace, joy, charity and the like, then they are most likely in union with God. If they are burdensome, a cause of confusion, contention or frustration, then you may need to step back and humbly reexamine the convictions you hold, so that He Who is Lord of all will be able to speak His divine Law to you more clearly.

    Lord of all Truth, You and You alone are the guide of my life. You and You alone are the Truth. Help me to be humble, dear Lord, so that I can recognize any error in my convictions and turn to You and Your divine Law as the one and only guide for my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • “Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:37–39

    This short parable comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He just called Levi, the tax collector, to become one of His disciples, and then Levi invited Jesus to dine at his home with other tax collectors and sinners. When the scribes and Pharisees saw this, they objected and challenged our Lord. In response, Jesus tells this parable as a way of explaining that He came to call everyone to change and to experience a new transformation of their life.

    The “new wine” spoken of in this parable is the grace poured forth from the Cross. Remember that blood and water sprung forth from His side as He hung upon the Cross. This has been symbolically understood as the grace and mercy given to us from the Cross, which is transmitted today through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Baptism transforms us into a new creation, and, as a new creation in Christ, we must desire the new wine of the Most Holy Eucharist so as to be daily transformed by our Lord.

    Many of the Church Fathers point out that the “old wine” that many prefer is a reference to those who wanted to continue living according to the old law. This is especially true of the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking this parable. Jesus was bringing them a new teaching and preparing them for a new grace. But they rejected it, preferring the old life they were living.

    One thing this tells us is that if we are to receive this new wine of the grace of God, we must be ready and willing to abandon our old selves and become new. Change can be hard. Even as evangelized Christians who are already living in the grace of Christ, we will be continually called to a deeper and deeper change in our lives. Too often we can easily become complacent and content with the life we are living. When that happens, it will hinder our Lord from pouring the new wine of His grace into our souls in ongoing superabundance.

    How do you deal with change in life? If you want to grow in holiness, you can be certain that change is the only constant in life. We must become new creations each and every day, growing, being more fully transformed, changing our ways, giving up the old and embracing that which is ever new. This requires a certain amount of courage as we come face-to-face with the daily need to be changed by grace. It means daily death to our old self and daily becoming a new creation in God.

    Reflect, today, upon the courage it takes to change. What is it in your life that you may be afraid to change? What “old wine” do you prefer over the “new wine” of God’s grace? What old habits or attachments do you have that our Lord wants you to let go of? Face the changes God wants for you with courage and trust, and You will indeed become more fully the new creation in Christ you are meant to be.

    My most merciful Lord, I know You call me to continual change in my life. Please give me the courage I need to face all that I need to detach from in life and all that hinders me from becoming the glorious new creation You have called me to become. Pour forth Your abundant grace into my life, dear Lord, making me into Your new and glorious creation in grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Luke 5:8

    Consider carefully this very moving action of Simon Peter. Jesus had just begun His public ministry, healing Simon’s mother-in-law as one of His first miracles. After that, Simon witnessed Jesus heal many other sick people and cast out many demons. And then, shortly after these initial miracles, Jesus got into the boat of Simon, directed him to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” As soon as Simon obeyed, he caught so many fish that they needed a second boat to come and help them. The response of Simon to this additional miracle is recorded above.

    Three things take place in this passage. First, “Simon Peter saw this…” And though he saw this, literally with his eyes, we should see his “seeing” as something even deeper. Simon Peter saw not just the best day of fishing he had ever had. He saw God’s grace at work through Jesus and was deeply moved interiorly by what he saw. Jesus used that which was one of the most central parts of Simon Peter’s life (fishing) to manifest His divine power. In a sense, Jesus brought this lesson home to Simon, using fishing as the source of His lesson.

    Secondly, Simon’s response was perfect. By encountering this divine miracle, Simon immediately was aware of his sin. Though we do not know what Simon’s sin was, it is clear that this encounter with our Lord led him to immediately call to mind whatever he was guilty of. Perhaps he had struggled with some ongoing habitual sin for years, or perhaps he had done something of a grave nature that still haunted him. But all we know is that Simon’s encounter with this very powerful and personal miracle moved him to an awareness of his sin.

    Thirdly, Simon falls at the knees of Jesus and tells the Lord to depart from him. And though Jesus’ mercy is so great that Jesus would never depart from him, Simon is not only aware of the fact that he is unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence, but he also manifests this conviction through his humble action of repentance.

    What does Jesus do? He said, “Do not be afraid…” And when these new disciples arrived at shore, “they left everything and followed him.”

    Each one of us must encounter our Lord in this same way. We must see Jesus. We must be deeply attentive to Him. We must recognize His presence, hear His voice and see His action in our life. If this is done well and through faith, then our personal encounter with our Lord will shine light on the sin we need to repent of. This is not so that we remain in guilt and shame; rather, it is so that we can also humble ourselves before Jesus and acknowledge we are not worthy of Him. When this humble admission is done well, we can be assured that Jesus will also say to us, “Do not be afraid.” His consoling words to us must then be responded to with the same choice made by Simon and the others. We must be ready and willing to leave everything behind so as to follow Him.

    Reflect, today, upon this image of Simon Peter on his knees before Jesus. See his humility and honesty. See his sincerity and interior awareness. And see his understanding of the divine power of Jesus before him. Pray that you, too, will see our Lord, experience your sin, humble yourself before Him and hear Him call you to radically and completely follow after Him wherever He leads.

    My consoling Lord, You manifested Your almighty power to Simon Peter through his ordinary daily activity. You allowed him to see Your divine power at work. Help me to see You at work in my life also, dear Lord. And as I see You, help me to humble myself before You, acknowledging my unworthiness. As I do, I pray that I also hear You say to me “Do not be afraid,” so that I can get up and follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. Luke 4:38–39

    If you wanted to share some important message with a group of people, you would first need to get their attention. This could be done through a variety of means, such as through a charismatic personality, a powerfully moving story, a heroic act of virtue, or anything else that leaves people impressed or even amazed. Once you have their complete attention, you can share the message you want to share. This is what Jesus did in today’s Gospel.

    Jesus began His public ministry in Nazareth, but the people of his hometown rejected Him from their Synagogue. Therefore, He immediately traveled some 20 miles on foot to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would spend much of His time. In this first visit to Capernaum, at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus taught in their Synagogue, cast out a demon, and then went to the home of Simon (who eventually was given the name Peter) to perform His first recorded physical healing in Luke’s Gospel. He cured Simon’s mother-in-law, who suffered from a severe fever. Then, later that evening, many people brought to Jesus the sick and possessed, and Jesus “Laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” He certainly got their attention. And the next morning, as Jesus was preparing to leave Capernaum after this first visit during His public ministry, the people tried to convince Jesus to stay. However, Jesus said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.”

    Has Jesus ever gotten your complete attention? Though you most likely have never witnessed a miraculous healing first hand or seen a demon being cast out of one who was possessed, Jesus still wants your full attention. He wants you to be so amazed at Him and so impressed by Him that you find yourself seeking Him out so as to be more fully fed by His divine teaching.

    Some people give their full attention to our Lord after a powerful experience on a retreat. Others are struck by a powerful sermon. And there will be countless other ways by which Jesus has gotten your attention so as to fill you with a desire to listen to Him and be with Him. Such experiences lay a wonderful foundation by which we are continually invited to turn to our Lord. If this is not an experience to which you can relate, then ask yourself the question “Why?” Why haven’t you been amazed by our Lord to the point that you fervently seek Him out so as to listen to His nourishing Word?

    Reflect, today, upon this initial way by which our Lord got the attention of the people of Capernaum. Though some would eventually turn from Him, many did become faithful followers on account of these personal experiences. Reflect upon any way that you have encountered our Lord powerfully in the past. Have you allowed that experience to become an ongoing motivation for you to seek Him out? And if you cannot point to any such experience, beg our Lord to give you an interior drive to desire more of Him and to be fed by His holy Word and divine presence.

    My miraculous Lord, I know that You desire my complete attention in life. And I know that I am often distracted by many things that compete with You. Give me the grace I need to become so amazed by You and by Your action in my life that I fervently seek You out so as to be continually nourished by Your holy Word and divine presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. Luke 4:36–37

    Jesus had just encountered the wrath of many in His hometown of Nazareth, so He left there and traveled about 30 miles to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee. This was to become His new home during His public ministry. The reaction He received in Capernaum was much different than that which He received in Nazareth. As He taught in the Synagogue in Capernaum, a man with a demon came to Him, Jesus rebuked the demon and cast it out, and the people were amazed. Word spread about Jesus quickly. After this, Jesus performed many other miracles, and the people continued to be in awe of Him.

    What was it that impressed the people of Capernaum? In part it was the “authority and power” with which Jesus spoke and acted. But it was not only this, since Jesus had done so also in Nazareth where the people failed to believe in Him. In Capernaum it wasn’t that Jesus was different, it seems that the people were different. Jesus won over many hearts in Capernaum because the people were open to the gift of faith. In fact, when Jesus was preparing to leave from Capernaum, the people begged Him to stay. Though eventually Jesus would also encounter resistance from the people there, their initial reaction was one of faith.

    Do you want Jesus to act powerfully in your life? Do you want Him to act upon you with authority and power? Many people, from time to time, can feel as though their lives are somewhat out of control. They experience weakness, confusion, a lack of direction and the like. For that reason, true spiritual “authority and power” is very welcome. What sort of authority and power do you need Jesus to exert over your life today?

    Think of a small child who is frightened. When this happens, the child turns to a loving parent for comfort and security. The embrace of a parent immediately helps to dispel the fear and worry of the child. So it is with us. We must see Jesus as the source of calm in our lives. He is the only one Who is capable of ordering our lives, freeing us from the attacks of the evil one, bringing peace and calm to our disordered emotions and clarity to our questions and doubts. But this will only be possible if we are open. His power never changes, but it can only enter our lives when we change and when we recognize our weakness and our need for Him to take control.

    Reflect, today, upon the infinite spiritual authority and power of our Lord. It is a power beyond anything else we could imagine. He wants to exercise this authority in your life out of love. What is hindering Him from taking greater control of your life? What sin or temptation does Jesus want to rebuke in your life? From what oppression does He want to set you free? Reflect upon yourself being a member of the town of Capernaum who fully welcomes Jesus, is amazed at Him and desires Him in your life. His working in your life depends upon you and your response to Him. Call on Him and let Him in.

    My most powerful Lord, You and You alone are able to take authority over my life and bring order and peace. Please remove any doubt and stubbornness from my heart so that I can open myself to You and Your grace. Take authority of my life, dear Lord, and lead me into Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4:28–30

    It’s hard to believe that those people who knew Jesus, those from the town in which He had been raised, reacted in such a severe way to our Lord. Jesus had just entered the Synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah who stated that “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon him and that he had come to “proclaim liberty to captives.” Jesus’ mission was clear. He was the Messiah, sent from the Father, in fulfillment of the teachings of the prophets, and yet Jesus was rejected to the point that the people drove Him out of the town and tried to throw Him off a cliff near the town to kill Him. Again, it’s hard to comprehend the extreme emotions that people experienced in regard to Jesus. Some came to love Jesus with the deepest passion, others were outraged at Him and sought His life.

    One thing that these extreme emotions experienced by many should tell us is that we cannot remain indifferent to Jesus when we truly listen to His words. Indifference comes when Jesus is ignored. But when He is heard and understood, it is clear that His message demands a response. If we do not fully accept Him as we listen to His message, then we will be tempted to reject Him and all that He speaks.

    Jesus wants to do the same with us. He wants a response from us. First, He wants us to hear Him, to understand the radical nature of His message, and then to make a choice. He wants us to follow Him with passion and zeal, to believe in everything He teaches, and to radically change our lives as a result. And if we will not change, then Jesus’ words will challenge us and evoke a response.

    One example of this that is common today is the strong response that sometimes comes from a teenager or young adult when a loving parent confronts them when they begin to go astray. When confronted in love and with the truth, emotion is often evoked and stirred up. But that is not always bad. The temptation on the part of the parent is to back off and compromise. But that’s not what Jesus did with the townspeople. He spoke the truth in love and accepted their response. So it is with those in our lives. At times we must speak the hard but loving truth others need to hear even if we know they will lash out. In the end, challenging them with compassion and truth may ultimately win them over. We do not know what ultimately happened to those townspeople who tried to kill Jesus that day out of anger, but it is entirely possible that the extreme emotion they experienced eventually led them to the truth.

    Reflect, today, upon the courage and love Jesus had as He directly confronted and challenged His own townspeople for their lack of faith. Try to understand that Jesus’ challenge of them was a mercy He offered them to move them from indifference. In your life, are there ways in which you need to be challenged? Are there things you have reacted strongly to and even with a form of rage? Try to see yourself as one of those townspeople who became enraged by our Lord. Be open to any way that you have reacted negatively to that which Jesus has spoken to you. Consider, also, any ways that Jesus may want to use you to speak His clear message of love to another, even if you know it may not immediately be received. Pray for courage, compassion, clarity and love so that you will be able to imitate Jesus as He sought to move those of His own hometown out of the indifference they were experiencing.

    My challenging Lord, You desire that all Your children turn to You with their whole heart. Your chastisements are acts of mercy meant to move us out of indifference. Please speak to me the truths that I need to hear this day and use me to share Your holy word with others, especially those of my own family. Jesus, I trust in You.

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  • He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Mark 7:14–15

    Jesus speaks this passage after calling the Pharisees “hypocrites.” He rebukes them for being obsessively concerned about the externals and failing to be attentive to the internals. Jesus makes it clear that evil comes from within and that the heart should be our true concern.

    The thing that sparked Jesus’ strong rebuke of the Pharisees was the fact that they criticized the disciples for not washing their hands and, thus, they ate their meal with “unclean hands.” What’s sad is that the Pharisees seem to make a huge deal about this fact. What this reveals is that the Pharisees seemed to think that holiness is something that you obtain by scrupulous external observance of the laws and customs of the times. But they failed to see the importance of what was within.

    St. Teresa of Ávila has a couple of beautiful quotes that speak of the importance of that which is within. “Within you dwells your God. Enter within, look at Him, talk to Him, listen to Him and stay with Him in your heart.” And, “Indeed, we have heaven within ourselves for the Lord of Heaven is there.”

    Jesus also points out the types of evil that come from within. “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mark 7: 21–23).

    So what’s in your heart? When you spend time alone and quietly look at your life, what do you see? What is it that makes up your interior life?

    Reflect, today, upon that which is within. Know that any sin in your heart must be acknowledged, confessed and purged. Only when that is done can you meet God who dwells within. Only then can you allow God to transform your exterior from His presence in your soul.

    Lord, please do come into my heart. Set my heart on fire with love for You. Purge my heart of all sin and allow Your divine presence to shine forth for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.

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