Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reflection for the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – The Fisherman

Simon had never had a day quite like this before. It began with a bad night of fishing. They hadn't caught a thing no matter how many times they had lowered their nets. He was tired and ready to go home to bed when a Man walked up, climbed into his boat, and asked him to put out a little way into the lake. Simon did so, not quite knowing why.

The Man taught the crowds on the shore (and the fishermen in the boat) for a long time. He spoke of God and God's plan for the world in ways and words that Simon had never heard before. He was intrigued. He wanted to hear more. But all too soon the Man finished speaking.

Then He turned to Simon and said, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon was surprised and suddenly very tired again. After all, he had been fishing all night. What good would one more try do? But somehow he couldn't say no, so he ordered his men to prepare the nets.

The results were spectacular. The nets, filled with a great number of fish, threatened to tear, and the men on Simon's boat had to call their partners to help haul in the load. Pretty soon both boats were so full of fish that they were near to sinking.

Simon knew this was no natural occurrence. He looked at the Man beside him and dropped to his knees. “Depart from me, Lord,” he whispered, “for I am a sinful man.” The Man smiled. “Do not be afraid,” He said, “from now on you will be catching men.” Simon didn't understand what He meant, but he realized that from that very moment, his life would never be the same again.

Friday – Delight

Today's psalm invites us to “take delight in the Lord.” How often do you do that? How often do you simply sit back and reflect on God's goodness and love? Do you ever just enjoy Him for Who He is? Do you ever break out into songs of praise for the God Who is beyond your imagination yet closer to you than you are to yourself?

We should delight in God even more than we delight in our friends, for He is our greatest Friend. We should spend time with Him, speak to Him, listen to Him, and relish His presence. We should bask in His love, treasure His gifts, and strive to know Him better. We should immerse ourselves in His Word, greet Him in the sacraments with joyful hearts, and pray constantly and confidently.

This is to take delight in the Lord. This is to grow in love for Him. This is to take the psalmist up on his invitation, which, of course, is really the call of God.

Saturday – The Responses of Apostles

The apostles didn't have an easy life in the early days of the Church. As St. Paul said, they were a spectacle to the world, disbelieved, mistreated, dishonored, persecuted, hungry, and homeless. “We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,” Paul added.

How did the apostles respond to all of this? Paul tells us, “When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.”

Wow. How many of us can honestly say we would do that in like circumstances? Would we bless those who ridicule us? Would we patiently endure persecution? Would we respond gently to slander? Most of us would have to answer in the negative. Yet God sets His apostles before us as models to imitate. Their behavior is to be our standard. So next time we find ourselves being treated as the apostles were, we should stop for a moment, reflect on their responses, and seek to make them our own.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reflection for the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Jesus Christ Crucified

St. Paul makes a rather shocking statement to the Corinthians in today's first reading. He says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Human wisdom was not enough. High words and rhetorical genius were insufficient. All the arguments in the world wouldn't cut it. St. Paul had only one message: Jesus Christ crucified.

Here is the very center and heart of our faith. Jesus Christ crucified. The God of the universe nailed to a tree. The King of Kings crowned with thorns. The God-man suffering for our sins. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity crying out, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” The Messiah giving His life that we all might live eternally.

Jesus Christ crucified. This is why Catholic Churches have crucifixes and why Catholics all over the world display them in their homes. Whenever we look at a crucifix, we remember what Jesus did for us, how much He loves us, how He died for us.

Jesus Christ crucified. The very power and wisdom and mystery of God.

Tuesday – Authority and Power

The crowd at the synagogue stood amazed with their mouths hanging open. They had known for quite some time that the man had an evil spirit, but they had never seen anything like this before. The man, or rather the demon, had challenged that new teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, and he had said something very strange: “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

The Holy One of God? What did he mean by that? Wasn't this just Jesus the carpenter?

What's more, Jesus hadn't been one bit disturbed by the man's taunting. Instead, He spoke calmly, almost nonchalantly, and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”

The man immediately dropped to the floor, but when he raised his head, the crowd knew something was different. The evil spirit was gone! The man was perfectly normal, perfectly sane, and extremely grateful.

A buzz passed through the crowd as the people whispered to one another, trying to understand what had just happened. “What is there about His word?” they wondered. “For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”

Yes, authority and power. Jesus indeed had both in a greater quantity and quality than the crowd could have imagined. Little did they know Who Jesus really was. Little did they understand what He could do. Little did they realize what His mission truly would be. They were just beginning to see that there was something different about this Man, an authority and power they couldn't quite grasp but could only witness with amazement.

Wednesday – God's Co-workers

We are God's co-workers. Think about that for a minute. God doesn't need any of us really, yet He has chosen to make us His co-workers. How? Well, empowered by His grace (and that's really important – He gives us grace to work with Him; otherwise we wouldn't be able to), we cooperate in important ways in our own salvation and that of others.

First, we pray. Prayer makes a huge difference in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the whole world. Why? Because God designed it that way. He wills that our prayers work.

Second, we spread the Gospel. There are many ways to do this, of course. Sometimes we speak directly about God and His plan. Sometimes we answer people's questions or respond to their doubts. Sometimes we teach. Sometimes we comfort. Sometimes we argue. But we always spread the truth.

Third, we live what we believe. We practice our faith with confidence. We obey the moral law openly and unapologetically. We go to Mass. We pray in public as well as in private. We treat others as we would want to be treated. We speak out against injustice and evil. We never hide our love for God. Instead, we allow Him to shine through us.

Lord, You have made us Your co-workers. May we always fulfill that role, that blessing, that honor with faithfulness and love. Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reflection for the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Stay Awake

Are you spiritually awake? If you died today, would you be ready to meet Jesus face to face? Or are you numbed by the things of the world so much that you have become insensible to the realities of eternity?

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us to “Stay awake!” We don't know when our Lord will come for us, so we need to be prepared. How can we stay spiritually awake and ready to greet Jesus at any moment?

1. Pray. When we pray, we encounter God. Our relationship with Him grows stronger, and our awareness of His presence deepens. We get to know Him better and love Him more.
2. Read the Bible. Sacred Scripture is God's love letter to us. We should read it often, study it deeply, and meditate on it frequently.
3. Receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. God pours His grace out upon us through the sacraments. We must take full advantage of them.
4. Put the things of the world in their proper place. We all need to reexamine our priorities. If God is not first in our lives, then something must change immediately.
5. Learn more about God. If we aren't moving forward in our faith, we are usually moving backward. Everyone is called to delve deeply into the wonders and mysteries of our Catholic faith. We should always strive for a richer, deeper understanding of God and His plan for us.

Stay awake then! Don't be caught off guard, drowsy with the cares and pleasures of the world. Be ready to meet our Lord when He comes.

Friday – The Ten Virgins

Sometimes people feel a little sorry for the five foolish virgins in today's Gospel. They wonder why the other five young women couldn't have just shared some of their oil with the others or why the bridegroom had to be so harsh with them and not let them into the banquet. Couldn't anyone have cut them any slack?

Let's look more closely at the situation. First off, the five foolish virgins were lazy from the very beginning. They would have seen the other five virgins carrying their flasks of extra oil, but they deliberately chose not to do so too. Perhaps it was just too much work to go fill a flask. Perhaps they thought the others were silly and overly concerned. They would have known that the bridegroom could be delayed, but they didn't bother to take any precautions about it. It was just too much fuss.

So when the bridegroom finally did arrive and the five foolish virgins realized that their lamps were going out, they did the only thing they could think of. They tried to mooch oil from their better-prepared companions. But the wise virgins realized there wasn't enough oil to go around. Their job was to greet the bridegroom. The oil they had would have to be dedicated to that task. If they spread it too thin, no one would be able to light the path for the bridegroom. The foolish virgins would simply have to cope with the consequences of their earlier choices.

Off went the foolish virgins to the marketplace to buy more oil. This would have been a little difficult in the middle of the night, so they probably had to rouse more than one merchant before they found someone willing to get up and sell them oil. Again, they reaped the consequences of their actions (or lack of action as the case may be).

By the time the foolish virgins returned with more oil, the bridegroom had arrived, the feast had begun, and the door was locked. And no one would let them in! They had missed their chance. The bridegroom refused to recognize them. And why shouldn't he have made this refusal? After all, the five foolish virgins had been extremely disrespectful to him. They were supposed to meet him and light his path. But they weren't there. They were off to the marketplace trying to buy the oil that they should have taken with them in the first place. They didn't care enough to be prepared for his coming. They didn't take the time to perform one simple task, merely packing an extra flask of oil. They had made their choice. Now they had to live with it.

Saturday – God's Choice

“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise...”

“God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong...”

“God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something...”

Where do you stand with regard to God's choice?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Reflection for the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Endurance

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul compliments his audience on their endurance. The Thessalonians are suffering greatly from many persecutions and afflictions, but their faith remains strong, and their love for one another continues to grow. They hold tightly to God even in the worst of times.

This is indeed endurance. The Greek word here is hypomonē, and it literally means “remaining under.” When we endure, we remain under trials and sufferings and difficulties, but we don't let them weigh us down. We don't give up hope. We don't stop believing. We don't stop loving. We don't stop trusting God, for we know that He is in control and that whatever He allows will, in the end, only bring us closer to Him if we endure.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on

Tuesday – Constancy

Today's Psalm reminds us of God's constancy. God is perfectly faithful, perfectly trustworthy, perfectly consistent, perfectly stable, perfectly steadfast. In Him, we are secure. He will never abandon us. He will never stop loving us. He is always with us, ready and willing to shower us in love and grace.

So why is this so hard for us to believe? Why can't we trust God and place ourselves confidently in His hands? Perhaps we have been hurt too much by other people. Perhaps we feel we have sinned too much to be worthy of God's love. Perhaps we have never taken the time or made the effort to get to know Who God really is. Perhaps we are feeling weak and insecure and fearful and troubled.

God knows all of this. He understands. And He waits for us. He won't force Himself on us, for He respects our free will, but He does pour out His grace upon us that we may turn to Him and recognize that His love and care are always true and constant.

Wednesday – Come and See

“Come and see.” Philip extended this invitation to Nathanael, for Philip had discovered something, or rather Someone, amazing, and he wanted more than anything to share the experience with his skeptical friend.

This actually shows quite a bit of courage and love on Philip's part. He knew Nathanael well, and he probably anticipated his friend's resistance. But Philip understood that Nathanael needed to meet Jesus, so he stepped past his hesitancy and said, “Come and see.”

Is there anyone in your life who needs to meet Jesus? How might you extend the invitation to “come and see”? Could you invite the person to attend Mass with you some Sunday? Or perhaps a Bible study or prayer group meeting? Perhaps you might simply make yourself available to discuss the person's questions about the faith or pray with him or her. And of course, you must always allow Jesus to show Himself through you, in your words and actions and in your loving care for those around you, that they may “come and see” Jesus in you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reflection for the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Cleansing Water, New Heart, New Spirit

In today's first reading, God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel and promises to one day cleanse His people and give them a new heart and a new spirit. Let's look at this in more detail.

First, God will sprinkle clean water upon the people in order to remove their impurities and free them from their idols. We Christians recognize this as a prophecy of Baptism, by which God washes away all sin, both original and personal; fills baptized souls with sanctifying grace, which is none other than God's own presence; and makes them adopted children of God and heirs of the covenant.

Second, God promises to give His people a new heart. Hearts steeped in sin are hard and impenetrable like stone. But the heart that God provides is soft and pliable and human in the best sense of the word. It is capable of great love because it allows Love to penetrate it.

Finally, the new spirit that God pledges to His people is really His very own Spirit. We Christians identify the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who does indeed write God's law on our hearts that we may obey Him with love.

Cleansing water, a new heart, and a new spirit. What amazing gifts our God gives us!

Friday – Two Commandments

Jesus is really the best teacher ever. In today's Gospel, He summarizes the entire Law and all the prophets in two short but powerful commandments: 1. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” and 2. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

These two commandments are all about love: love of God, love of neighbor, and even proper love of one's self. They invite us to examine what we think about love. What is love? Is it merely emotion? Is it giving others everything all the time and agreeing with them in everything? Is it physical desire? No. This kind of love is about total self-giving. It's about willing the absolute best for another and then helping that other achieve the best.

When we love God, we give ourselves to Him totally. We place our lives in His hands and trust Him to care for us in the best possible way. We follow His laws because they are designed for our good, and we respect His authority over us.

When we love others, we will the very best for them, and we do what we can to help them attain it. That may mean taking a “tough love” approach and telling people they are on a dangerous path of sin. It may mean meeting their physical and/or emotional needs in some concrete way if we are able. It always means praying for them that God may pour out His grace upon them and that they may open their hearts to receive it.

Love is always about giving, giving ourselves to God and giving as much as we can to others that they may have the very best. Lord Jesus, help us to love and to fulfill Your two beautiful commandments.

Saturday – God Dwells With Us

In the Old Covenant, God made the Temple His dwelling place on earth as He said to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, this is where My throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of My feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.”

But now those of us who have accepted the New Covenant experience God's presence in new and marvelous ways. God dwells with us even more intimately than He did with the Israelites in the Temple. He dwells with us in the Holy Eucharist where He is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. But even more amazingly, when we are in a state of grace, God dwells within our souls. Think about that for a moment. God is within us. God is present to us in a very real way. We are His temple, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16. He lives with us 24/7. We can talk to Him any time we want and be assured that He hears us.

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay brother who lived in a French monastery, encouraged all people to practice the presence of God. By recalling God's presence continually, placing himself in God's hands, and talking to God often throughout the day, Brother Lawrence received peace and joy far beyond what most people experience. He constantly remembered and received great assurance from the fact that, indeed, God dwells with us.

To read Brother Lawrence's writings on practicing the presence of God, please visit

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Reflection for the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Magnifying the Lord

On this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we listen as Mary proclaims her Magnificat. This song of worship begins with Mary's declaration, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” But this translation doesn't do justice to Mary's beautiful words. The original Greek word for “proclaims” is megalunō, a verb that literally means “to magnify,” as older translations emphasize.

Think about this for a moment. What are the characteristics of a magnifying glass? First off, it is clear, transparent. It doesn't call attention to itself but rather serves as a tool to a greater end. Mary is like this, too. She is clear and transparent with no smears of sin at all. She doesn't call attention to herself but is eminently pleased to serve as God's tool to bring the incarnate Savior into the world.

Now think about what a magnifying glass does. It makes things loom large. It makes the details of an object stand out so that the object may be better known. Mary does the same. She makes God loom large. By her words and actions, she shows Him to the world that others may know him better.

When we pray the Magnificat with Mary, we, too, declare that we magnify the Lord, that we are clear and transparent, that we are His tools who show Him to the world that all people may know Him better and that He may loom large in the minds, hearts, and lives of all.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from

Tuesday – For God All Things Are Possible

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us some major encouragement: “...for God all things are possible.” Let us cling to these words. When all hope seems lost, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.” When we are at our wits' end and don't know what to do, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.” When doubts and fears overwhelm us, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.” When we don't understand, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.” When it's hard to love and hard to forgive, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.” When we want to give up, let us remember that “for God all things are possible.”

These words, “for God all things are possible,” express the highest trust in God. We know that He can and will give us whatever we need. He can and will do for us whatever is best. He can and will support us even in the darkest times. He can and will give us an abundance of faith, hope, and love. He can and will pour His grace into our hearts. We need only be open to Him and remember that “for God all things are possible.”

Wednesday – The Landowner

One hot summer day a landowner needed a few more men to work in his vineyard. At dawn he went to the marketplace where the day laborers congregated and picked out a few promising looking fellows. But these weren't quite enough. So he went back at nine and hired a few more. He might have had enough at this point, but he decided to go back for a few more yet, and at noon he did just that.

By five o'clock, the landowner's generosity was really kicking in, so he went back to the marketplace one last time. If there was anyone still left there, he would give them some work, and indeed he did.

When evening came around, the laborers all lined up to receive their pay. The landowner started paying those who had gone to the vineyard at five o'clock and gave them the usual daily wage. He continued in the same fashion all the way along the line, handing out the same wage to each worker.

Those who had started working earlier in the day started to grumble. They thought they should receive more than those layabouts who hadn't worked nearly as long or as hard. The landowner heard their murmurs and asked them a pointed question: “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” They had to admit that they had.

“Take what is yours and go,” the landowner concluded, “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?”

Aren't we blessed that God is even more generous than the landowner? He gives us every opportunity to accept His offer to work for and with Him, and He rewards even our weakest sincere efforts more bountifully than we can imagine. So let us take up the invitation of the eternal Landowner and bask in His generous love.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reflection for the 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Divine Pantomime

To modern people, the actions of the prophet Ezekiel can seem just plain weird. We might wonder why in the world God would ask Ezekiel to dig through a wall with his bare hands, pick up his baggage, and head off into the night. And we wouldn't be the only ones who might think that Ezekiel was a little nuts. The people of his own day did, too.

Ezekiel, however, is merely a participant in a kind of divine pantomime. God, through Ezekiel, had already proclaimed His warnings and rebukes to the people, but they didn't listen. So God decided to give them a visual lesson as well. Ezekiel would show them exactly what would happen to them if they didn't repent and obey God.

What was this impending fate? Exile. The people would be forced to pack up all they could carry and leave the rest behind. They would dig through the city walls in order to escape from their enemies who would hold the city in their power. They would squeeze through their laboriously dug passages, lift up their packs, and head off into the darkness. Most of them would never return.

See how patient God is with His people? If we don't get the message one way, He tries another. He gives us warning after warning and chance after chance. He even spells out exactly what will happen unless we change our ways. So let's learn our lesson from Ezekiel's divine pantomime and open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to God.

Friday – Confident and Unafraid

Lord, make me confident and unafraid, for You are indeed my Savior.
Lord, make me confident and unafraid, for You are indeed my courage and my strength.
Lord, make me confident and unafraid, for You provide me with living water from Your fountain of salvation.
Lord, make me confident and unafraid that I may praise You with a grateful heart.
Lord, make me confident and unafraid that I may proclaim Your great love and Your great deeds.
Lord, make me confident and unafraid that I may shout with joy and bask in Your love.

Saturday – Personal Responsibility

Today's first reading from the prophet Ezekiel emphasizes personal responsibility. The Israelites apparently liked to recite a proverb that suggested that somehow children were responsible for their parents' sins and vice versa. God, however, corrects this notion.

First, God says that all lives belong to Him, parents and children both. This is extremely important. God is in charge. He sets the rules. He is the truth, and all truth comes from Him. He knows the minds and hearts of all.

So when God says that people are responsible for their own sins and that those who sin seriously risk spiritual death, then we need to listen, take the message to heart, and stop sinning. And when we do sin, we need to pray for forgiveness with trusting and repentant hearts, knowing that our lives are indeed in God's hands and that He doesn't want to lose even a single one of us.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Reflection for the 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – A Vision of Glory

Read today's first reading from the prophet Ezekiel slowly and carefully. What do you notice? What strikes you?

The hand of God settles on Ezekiel, and he experiences a spectacular vision, a vision of glory. It begins with a huge cloud of flashing fire. In the midst of the cloud are four winged creatures with human forms, the cherubim, those angels who worship God with mighty voices.

Then above them, Ezekiel sees a throne. Upon it sits One who appears as a man, gleaming with color and light and fire. He is surrounded in splendor; in fact, He radiates splendor. Ezekiel realizes that he is seeing a vision of God's glory.

God is choosing to present Himself to His prophet in a way Ezekiel can understand. He accommodates Himself to Ezekiel's way of knowing so that he can catch at least a glimpse of his Lord and learn to worship and adore with greater love and trust.

God does the same for us, perhaps not quite so dramatically, but in very real ways. We encounter our Lord in the Eucharist, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, in the events we live and the people we meet, and in our own hearts. God reveals Himself to us so that we can know Him better, worship Him with confidence, and love Him more and more. Then, one day, we too will see a vision of God's glory when we meet Him face to face in Heaven.

Tuesday – One Sheep

The shepherd had a hundred sheep. Ninety-nine of them stayed close to him and followed him. But then there was that one sheep, the troublemaker, the rebel, the one who thought he could go off on his own and find something new and tasty to eat. All he found was trouble.

The shepherd could have left his wayward sheep to his own devices. After all, he had many others. Losing one wouldn't make too much difference, especially when that one didn't seem to care much about obeying. The shepherd might have felt that the troublesome sheep would get exactly what he deserved and left it at that.

But he didn't. Instead he went after the sheep. He searched high and low, knowing that his sheep was in great danger away from the flock. He even left the other ninety-nine behind for a time, for they were safe together.

And when the shepherd found his rebellious little sheep, he didn't scold him or beat him. Far from it. Instead, he rejoiced because the lost was found, and he led the sheep back to the flock with great tenderness.

One would hope that the straying sheep had learned his lesson. Life is pretty scary for a sheep without a shepherd. Wolves howl all around. Food becomes scarce. Darkness closes in. Perhaps the sheep discovered how good he really had it under the shepherd's care.

We little, rebellious, straying sheep ought to learn the same lesson.

Wednesday – The Case for Giving

In today's first reading, St. Paul makes a case for generous giving. He begins with an analogy, comparing givers to sowers. Sowers who aren't stingy with their seed but distribute it widely will reap an abundant harvest. Sure, some seed might not take root. Some might get lost along the way. Greedy birds might even eat some. But most of it will grow and flourish and produce a fine crop.

On the other hand, sowers who plant only a few seeds and try to maintain firm control over each of them will end up disappointed. They will reap only a small crop.

Paul continues with a comment on the proper attitude of givers. Givers, he says, ought to be cheerful. They should prudently decide how much they can give, not sadly or under constraint, but willingly and with joy. Giving is an imitation of God, Who is the perfect Giver. When we give, we share in His activity. This is something to celebrate.

Further, Paul reminds his readers that God has given them everything they have. Every grace, and that includes even material possessions, comes from Him. He provides everything His people need, and He expects them to share what they have with others. That, too, is part of His providence, for He works through creatures to meet the needs of others creatures. Our job is to cooperate and spread around His abundant blessings.

When we do this, Paul concludes, the One Who sows in us, Who provides us with all good things, will see to it that we receive a great harvest of righteousness, both now and forever.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reflection for the 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – A Quick Turn Around

Today's Gospel features what has to be the quickest turn around ever. One minute Simon is declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and hearing Jesus say that He will build His Church upon the rock who is now called Peter. But just a few moments later, Simon Peter is rebuking Jesus for talking about His death and hearing Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan!”

What a change! What happened?

First off, Peter wasn't speaking on his own when he proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah and Son of God. He was opening his heart to allow God the Father to speak through him. His testimony was just as much for himself as it was for those listening. God was using him to reveal a mysterious truth.

But it's clear that Peter did not grasp the extent or implications of this truth. He couldn't see it through to its end. He didn't realize that the Messiah had come to die, and when Jesus told him that, he could not accept it. He was no longer allowing God to pour the grace of understanding into his mind. He stepped back into his own ways of thinking, and he failed to grasp the real meaning of Jesus' Messiahship, thereby earning a sharp rebuke from Jesus.

We, too, need to be careful how we are thinking. We should ask God every day to fill us with the right kinds of thoughts, thoughts that are true, good, and beautiful. We should pray for an increase in knowledge, understanding, right judgment, and wisdom so we can see clearly in every situation and act according to God's law of love. We must always ask our Lord to purify our minds and hearts that our every thought, word, and deed may give Him honor, glory, and especially love.

Friday – Losing Our Lives

Jesus often says shocking things to get our attention and teach us important truths. In today's Gospel, for instance, He proclaims, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

This goes against our deepest instincts. We humans naturally want to preserve our lives. But Jesus tells us to let go. Life is important, yes, but He is more important. We should not hold onto our lives so tightly that we let go of Him. We can save our earthly lives, but if we do so by the wrong means, we could end up losing our eternal life. If, on the other hand, we place our earthly lives in Jesus' hands, He will raise them up into eternity.

While this verse does apply on the level of physical life and death, there are many other ways in which we humans tend to place an iron grip on our lives. We might fight against letting go of things that really aren't good for us, like addictions, bad habits, sins, and harmful people and situations. We might cling to the status quo because we fear change. We might turn away from God's call because we are attached to our own plans. In these cases, too, we must lose our lives, or our conception of them, and trust that God has something much better in store for us.

This isn't easy. It requires sacrifice and pain, death to our own inclinations and ideas, and sometimes even physical death, but our loving God has an abundance of life in store for us. We just need to let Him give it to us.

Saturday – A Lamp Shining

St. Peter explains that “the prophetic message,” i.e. Sacred Scripture, is like “a lamp shining in a dark place.” Think about that for a moment. Have you ever thought about the Bible in that way? God's Word is a lamp that illuminates our hearts and shows us the path home to Heaven.

So read it. Open your hearts, and let God fill them with His light. Bask in His words. Let His warm glow seep into your mind and heart and soul. If you don't understand something you read, ask God to show you the meaning. He will. It may be through a commentary or another person or perhaps even in the depths of you own heart, but God will speak to you in just the right way. He wants you to know and love Him.

So pick up your Bible today. You don't have to read much. Even a verse or two will do. Just read with a prayerful, listening attitude, and be ready to open yourself to God's loving light.