Monday, August 3, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:13-21

18th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:13-21

Today in the Gospel, Jesus received devastating news. He heard that his beloved cousin, John, had been brutally beheaded. In the wake of this news, Jesus needed time to be alone to absorb this news and begin to grieve for his dear friend.

Jesus got into a boat and withdrew to a deserted place. However, his time for grieving was short-lived. The crowd of people followed him and arrived there before him. I wonder if Jesus was tempted to start rowing to find another place where he could be alone? However, Matthew writes “that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the crowd.” Jesus got out of the boat and ministered to the people. He healed all those who yearned to be “whole” again.

As evening drew near, the disciples realized that many had not brought any food to eat. They were concerned for the people but they did not know what to do. They went to Jesus and told him to send the people away to the towns where they could buy food. However, Jesus instructs his disciples to feed the crowd. His disciples immediately protested. They said: “We only have two fish and five loaves of bread! This small amount of food will never be enough for this huge crowd!”

Jesus, however, was not disturbed or worried. He told his disciples to bring the fish and the bread to him. Then he instructed the crowd of people to sit down on the grass. I wonder what the disciples were thinking as they gathered the food? Did they think Jesus was crazy? Or were they anticipating another miracle?

Jesus took the bread and the fish and he blessed them. He then gave the bread and fish to his disciples and instructed them to distribute the food to the people. They did so. And as we know, everyone was well fed and there were quite a few baskets of leftovers.

Do you ever get concerned that you may not have “enough” for what seems to be needed? It may not be enough money, energy, time, love, appreciation or ___________ (you fill in the blank). These are the times when we need to come to Jesus and ask him to supply us with what we truly need. And Jesus will give us what we need. However, it may not be exactly what we asked for. At these times, will we trust that Jesus is supplying us with “the loaves and fishes” that we need? Or will we complain because Jesus had disappointed us?

Today, may we trust Jesus to gift us with everything we need. And may we remember to thank him!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reflection: John 6:24-35

18th Week in Ordinary Time – John 6:24-35

In today’s gospel the people are hungry to hear Jesus preach and teach. Since they could not find Jesus or his disciples, many of them got into boats and went to Capernaum to look for him. When they found him, they asked him: “When did you get here?” Why did they ask him this particular question? They had found him and wasn’t that what they had hoped for? Perhaps they did not know what else to say to Jesus.

Jesus says to them: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs and wonders. You come to me only because you ate your fill of the loaves!” Jesus then tells them not to work for “food that perishes but rather for food that will truly satisfy your (spiritual) hunger.”

Today may be a good day to take some time and ask ourselves: why do we come to Jesus? Do we have an agenda when we come to Jesus? Do we give him a laundry list of requests? Or do we come and spend time with him simply because we long to be in his presence? I pray it is the latter!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:1-12

17th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:1-12

The primary character in today’s Gospel is Herod the tetrarch. Herod had heard many stories about Jesus and he believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. He assumed that Jesus was able to do amazing deeds because he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.

If you remember, Herod had John arrested, put in prison and ultimately put to death. He did all of this because John had criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his concubine. John told Herod that this was unlawful. However, Herod did not listen. He was determined to find a way to “rid himself” of John.

The opportunity came when Herod had a birthday and a grand celebration was planned. During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and his guests. Herod was so enthralled with her performance that he promised to give her anything she asked for. However, the girl did not know what to ask for. She went to her mother and consulted her. Herodias instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!

When the girl told Herod that she desired the head of John the Baptist, Herod was dismayed and distressed. However, since he had promised the girl that she could have whatever she wished, (and he had said this in the presence of many guests), he felt bound to do as the girl requested. Thus, he gave the order to have John beheaded. The servants brought John’s head to the girl on a platter. In turn, the girl took John’s head to her mother. Then John’s disciples buried John’s body and went to tell Jesus of John’s death.

Have we ever been “boxed in” and had to do something that we truly did not want to do? Something that we clearly knew was not right? I assume it was not anything nearly as serious as having someone killed to please another person! I wonder what would have happened if Herod had refused to kill John despite the fact that he had promised that he would give Herodias anything she wished for? Some of the people present may have called Herod a liar or a louse for not following through on his promise. However, I hope the majority of people present would have silently applauded and supported his decision.

How often have you told your children not to follow the crowd? Or how often have you schooled yourself not to blindly do as someone else expected you to do? At times in our lives, we do need to stand up for what we believe is right and just. And often, this is not easy. Usually there are people who may strongly disagree with us.

However, if we do as the crowd wants, we may have to live with the guilt and the shame for the rest of our lives. I wonder if for the rest of his life Herod regretted having John beheaded? He knew he had not been strong enough to do what he truly believed was right. Hopefully, he learned from this devastating experience.

Today I invite you to be mindful of your actions, choices and decisions. These all impact others, the community, as well as our own lives. Today may we make thoughtful, loving and righteous decisions. May God grace us with wisdom and insight!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:54-58

17th Friday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:54-58

This Gospel begins as Jesus returns to his “native place.” When he returns home, he immediately goes to the temple and begins to teach the people. Many were amazed and astonished. After all, many of them had seen Jesus grow up. Yet here he was preaching and teaching! They asked one another: “Where did he get all of this wisdom? How is he able to perform such mighty deeds?” They knew he was a simple carpenter, like his father, Joseph. And they knew his mother and all his siblings. They had great difficulty comprehending all of this!

Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!

Take a moment and “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” Imagine the emotions that must have raced through Jesus during this encounter. He was so happy to be home. Jesus loved his hometown. And he loved the people of the town. And yet, they could not accept who he had become. They wanted him to remain as he was when he lived among them. Were they jealous? Or were they intimidated by this side of Jesus? Would they not accept him as he was? Could they not love him as a neighbor and kinsman?

Do we ever shun or judge people who seem to be more than we think they should be? I assume we all do! At times, we have judged another before we are aware of judging them. At these moments, we have a choice: to continue judging them or to choose to let go of our judgment when we realize that we are judging the individual. The choice is always ours to make.

Today may we consciously and deliberately “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” If we do so, we may find that we are more peaceful, gracious and loving! We also may be more joyful and light-hearted! And we may receive more gifts than we have given!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:47-53

17th Thursday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:47-53

Today Jesus uses another analogy for “The Kingdom of heaven.” He uses an example from his experience as a fisherman. Since quite a few of his disciples also were fishermen, they would be more likely to understand his message.

He tells his disciples that the Kingdom of heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea. Naturally the net collects a variety of species of fish. When the net is full, they haul it ashore. However, a net typically collects more than fish. Often the net would also collect a variety of other objects or other species of sea life that was not useful for their purposes. Thus, when they brought the net ashore, they had to separate what was good and edible from what was not useful. Naturally they threw aside what they could not use.

He then tells his disciples: “the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.” And the wicked will be thrown into a fiery furnace! There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Today is a good day to ask ourselves: Are we one of the righteous ones? Or are we one of the wicked ones? I assume that we may be a bit of both. We may move from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending on what is happening in our lives. However, when we become aware that we are in a wicked or unproductive space, we need to consciously choose to move toward our righteous space!

Today I invite you to be aware and alert! Forgive yourself if you are in your wicked space for a time today! Then consciously move into a more peaceful and loving stance. What do you experience in this process? Hopefully, you will like the difference!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflection: John 11:19-27

17th Wednesday in Ordinary Time: Memorial of St. Martha – John 11:19-27

Today’s Gospel reading focuses on the death of Lazarus, and its impact on his sisters, Martha and Mary, and also Jesus. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were a “second family” to Jesus. Jesus spent time with them, he laughed with them, he relaxed with them and he loved each of them. Thus, when Lazarus died, Martha, Mary and Jesus all were devastated.

Jesus was not present when Lazarus died. When he received word of Lazarus’ death, he went to the house. Martha went out to meet him while Mary stayed in the house. When Martha saw Jesus, she immediately reprimanded him. She bluntly told him that if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died. She continued by saying: “Even now, I know if you pray to God, God will give you what you ask for.” Naturally, she hoped that Jesus would ask God to bring Lazarus back to life!

Jesus simply replied to her request saying: “You know your brother will rise on the last day.” However, Martha wanted Jesus to bring Lazarus back to life now! She knew he had the power to do so. She had seen him work many miracles. She desperately was hoping for one more miracle!

Jesus then says: “I am the resurrection and the life; anyone who believes in me, even if they die, will live! And anyone who lives and believes in me will never die!” Then Jesus asks Martha: “Do you truly believe this?” Then Martha makes a simple, yet profound profession of faith. She says: “Yes, Lord! I have come to know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Have we made our profession of faith? Have we ever said to Jesus: “I have come to know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Today may be a good opportunity to make our profession of faith once again! However, don’t let it be a hollow profession of faith. May it come from the depths of your heart!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:36-43

17th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:36-43

In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man (Jesus) sows only good seed in the fields (in the world). The good seed is the children of the world. They are fruitful!

Then Jesus tells his disciples that the weeds in the field are the children of the Evil One. The enemy who sows the weeds is the Devil! Naturally the “weeds” are the “children of the Evil One.” The Devil, the enemy, is the one who sows the weeds. When it is harvest time, the weeds will be cut down, collected and burned.

Jesus then speaks of the end of time. He tells his disciples that the Son of Man will send angels, and they will collect all of the “weeds” (sinners and evil doers) in his Kingdom. They will be cast into a hot, fiery furnace. However, the righteous will “shine like the sun” in the presence of God! What is the message that we are to glean from this reading? It is not a very inviting reading! However, this reading may prompt us to pause and reflect on our lives. I invite you to do so for five-ten minutes.

Now ask yourself: In my daily life, am I sowing weeds or wheat? What are the areas of my life where there appears to be more weeds than wheat? What do I want to do to change that?

I seriously doubt that any of us are striving to produce poor fruit. However, the weeds often begin to grow in seemingly innocuous ways. They are almost invisible at first. Weeds have a way of encroaching in every area of our lives if we are not mindful and alert.

Today I invite you to sit and reflect on this image of the “weeds and the wheat.” Then identify the weeds in your life. How deep are these weeds rooted? Do you wish to uproot them and allow the good seed to grow?

Then, identify the areas of your life that you have protected or sheltered from the weeds. What is the life and growth you experience in productive areas of your life? What have you learned that might enable you to get your weeds in your life under control?

Then talk with Jesus! Ask him to help you root out the “weeds” in your life. Jesus will not fail you!

Then thank Jesus for the productive areas of your life. These are gift and grace! Celebrate these gifts!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 13:31-35

17th Monday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:31-35

Today Jesus gives us the parable of the mustard seed. He tells his disciples (and us) that the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. If you are a gardener, you know how tiny the mustard seeds are. Yet, as this tiny seed grows it matures into one of the largest of all plants! This plant not only provides mustard, it typically becomes the home for many species of birds.

Jesus then tells the disciples another parable. This parable is about the Kingdom of heaven. For the Kingdom of heaven, he uses the analogy of a woman who took yeast and mixed it with three measures of flour. As the yeast worked in the flour, eventually the whole batch of flour was leavened.

In these parables, Jesus is telling us how he, God and the Spirit work within us. However, the first step is having the seed sown within us and allowing it to grow and become leaven within us. Thus, we first have to hear and accept Jesus’ words and teachings. Then we have to take his words to heart!

Jesus’ presence in our lives is dynamic. However, we have to be open to his word and his action in our lives. Mixing three measures of flour with all the other ingredients to make bread takes time, energy and skill. Bread making truly is an art. The ingredients must be measured out, the dough has to be mixed and then kneaded for quite a while. Then it is shaped, put into pans and baked at a fairly high temperature. If the bread maker is not skilled, the bread may be doughy, tough or the texture or taste may not be pleasing.

Jesus is the master bread baker. He has this process down to a fine art. However, we have to be willing participants in this process. First, we have to place ourselves in Jesus’ hands. At times, we also have to trust that even when we are being “kneaded” more than we think we can manage, we have to believe that this kneading will ensure a favorable and tasty outcome for us and for the people in our lives.

Today give thanks for the “mustard seed” and the “bread” that you are. You have the potential for greatness! Trust the master baker! He will not fail you!