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Church Cross

Daily Reflection

After healing Peter’s mother-in-law and many others in Capernaum, including those possessed by evil spirits, Jesus attempts to withdraw from the crowds to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

This is not thought to be an evasion on Jesus’ part, but rather a mechanism to allow Jesus to instruct on the cost of true discipleship. The apostles have left behind homes and occupations to follow Jesus. As he attempts to depart, two individuals approach Jesus, separately, purporting to follow him. To the first, a scribe, a man of learning and position, Jesus tells what the life of a follower is like. He also, again, entitles himself ‘Son of man’, from Daniel 7:14, not fully understood at the time, but emphasizing Jesus’ mission as not of one of an earthly Messiah addressing Jewish nationalistic aspirations. After his resurrection, the apostles would recognize ‘Son of man’ actually meant ‘Son of God’.

Jesus would also be approached by a prospective disciple who wishes to follow, but first needs to bury his father, a sacred duty in Judaism. Unlike the call of Elisha by Elijah in the Old Testament, (1 Kgs 19:19-21) Jesus tells him, rather brusquely, to let the ‘dead bury their dead’, inferentially, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. This speaks to the radical commitment of the disciple but does not revoke the duty of the living to the dead, rather illustrating the highest demand of Christian life.

The interlocutors in this episode address Jesus respectfully as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, but we do not hear whether either accepts Jesus’ challenge to ‘Follow me…’.

July 1

FOCUS: Prioritizing Jesus may mean sacrifice.

When was the last time you felt overwhelmed? Humanity suffers from common aliment. It is the illusion of control. We like to be in charge of the situation, other people, even nature itself.

When we lose control, we can react in different ways. Some panic, others hunker down and wait out the trouble. In every case, our ego based upon the illusion of control deflates. Humility fills the void. If we are honest, we will admit that a greater power is in charge.

The first reading from the prophet Amos reveals a series of questions that lead us to think about why God does what He does. The message of the passage is that we may endure hardships and things we cannot understand, but God has a perfect plan that works through the free will of man and our choices. He is in control and wants to ultimately bring good to all His children. And the ultimate good is eternal life. 

In our Gospel, the disciples cry out to a sleeping Jesus, ““Lord, save us!  We are perishing!” Jesus said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.” (Matthew 8:25-26) Here's the thing, although God is in control of all things, He gives us free will. He will not act on our behalf unless we ask Him to. During the storms of our life, when we are sinking, we must call out to Jesus who will rescue us. The more we ask, the more we receive.

How do I eliminate the storms in my life? By giving God, the authority to act on my behalf. When I give God the control and surrender my will to His will, I experience peace and calm even when storms brew around me. The disciples felt awe and wonder asking, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?” This man is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is our Lord and Savior. 

What more do we need? His plans for us are to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. There is nothing to fear when we turn to Jesus and give God the control. Today, let’s reflect on the storms we are navigating and seek ways to surrender our control to God.

July 2

FOCUS: Jesus asks his followers to have faith in him.

The level of trust we place in God without the physical evidence laid out for us brings us to a greater growth in our faith. It also forms a greater dependence on God! In doing so we are more overwhelmed with grace as we see the hands of God work in our lives! Indeed, the plan of God brings fruit in our lives as we reflect and see how He uses difficulties and challenges to form us and place us in a prayerful mood! It enriches us to communicate to God and develop a more intimate relationship with Him! Furthermore, we go beyond the dictates of the world and place a greater trust in God alone! However, the evidence is there historically as we read the Word of God and as we engage in the Sacraments! The legacy of the Eucharist challenges us to believe and when we do the presence it brings us to a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit working as well as the physical presence bringing healing and comfort!

July 3

FOCUS: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.

Amos 7:10-17
Psalm 19
Matthew 9:1-8

There is a lot to today’s gospel in which Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic and also gives the paralytic a physical healing.  Take note of the words used in the second verse of the gospel: “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, child, you sins are forgiven’…”  Jesus refers to “their faith”, He did not say the paralytic’s faith.  This underscores the opportunity for our faith to help others when we pray for them.  As a Church we are individuals in need within a community that also is in need.  Our prayers for each other matter.  

Jesus then establishes His authority to forgive sin – and yes, the scribes were correct, only God can forgive sins.  And there’s the thing – Jesus is God, so He can forgive sins.  Jesus gave that authority to the Apostles when He appeared to them after His resurrection.  That authority extends to our priests in the Catholic Church – take advantage of the healing!  We are comprised of body, mind and spirit – each of which nourishes the other, they work simultaneously.  When our sins are forgiven it nourishes our spirit initially, and leads to a better frame of mind and healthier lifestyle.  We see that Jesus found it necessary to heal both body and spirit.

Finally, Jesus is recognized for His authority by those who witnessed the miracle.  At the time, the scribes taught and acted on the authority of the Mosaic Law.  Jesus, however, acted on His own authority.  Something the scribes considered unthinkable.

On this Independence Day, let’s celebrate our incredible country and pray that we will completely turn our wishes, dreams, and actions over to the authority of our loving God.  There are significant forces at work to divide us – let’s not let that happen.  Let’s let the Holy Spirit guide us!

It is a great day!  Go smile at God today!

July 4

FOCUS: Trust the Lord’s word and never doubt his mercy.

	In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus call Matthew to “Follow Me.”  This encounter with Jesus in some ways is even more remarkable than the encounter that St. Paul had with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  While Matthew’s immediate response, like Paul’s, was quite unusual, the rest of the Gospel passage shows what is possible when Jesus encounters us and calls us to be His disciples.

	Jesus does not let this encounter with Matthew end there.  Rather, he goes to Matthew’s home and dines with him and other tax collectors and sinners.  Of course, the Pharisees tag along, curious to see what this up-and-coming Rabbi would do next.  What happens is the Son of God is bringing a new way of living to those who need it most.  Jesus is offering to change their hearts, which will in time change their lives.  He is offering a different remedy.  Jesus is offering love and mercy, rather than requiring animal sacrifice and strict observance of the Law of Moses.

	For most Catholics, we know how to pray the prayers, receive the sacraments, and observe, albeit loosely, the required practices of our faith.  But until we have an encounter with Jesus, until His call to us to become His disciples becomes very real and personal, our lives don’t look any different than the non-believers around us.

	Everyone is seeking true love and acceptance.  Given our natural tendency toward sin, everyone needs mercy.  Unfortunately, like Matthew before his encounter with Jesus, we try to fill these needs like the non-believers around us.  The “Good News” is that Jesus became one of us to rescue us from sin and show us how to love.  True love is the giving of oneself for others.  True mercy is loving others despite their faults and forgiving others for the sake of helping them experience the love of Jesus.  But the “Great News” is that Jesus is also calling us to spread His love and mercy as disciples, continuing to build the kingdom of God.

	The more we surrender our will to God’s will, the easier it becomes to follow Jesus as his disciples.  Don’t let the thought of discipleship worry you.  Discipleship requires just two things, love and mercy given freely to others.  With this as your daily purpose, Jesus will lead you to the encounters with others that He has planned for you.
Today’s Questions for Prayer and Reflection
How can you follow Jesus’ call to be His disciple today?

July 5

FOCUS: God comes not for the righteous but the sinner.

Today is Saturday, July 6th. We live in a world that appears broken and wounded. We see the effects of death, illness and suffering when we watch a newscast or read a newspaper or an on-line report. It seems all of creation is groaning as it moves through time …. And we groan with it. Often, we wonder what the world is moving towards. We know that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. It remains present in our worship spaces and adoration chapels, in the Sacraments and the Eucharist, in the body of Christ, the Church, and in our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, while the Kingdom of God is present, it will not be fully realized until Christ comes again.

However, the readings for today speak of God’s desire to raise up, to rebuild, to restore and to make us new in this lifetime. In the reading from the Book of Amos we see this quote, “On that day I will raise up the fallen hut of David; I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old…”  and, later this quote, “I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel.” It is important to remember that Israel was the chosen people of God…. And we are too!

The Gospel from Matthew states, “No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins.” I wish that were true! I do it all the time! I labor, but rarely rest. I seek to serve others, but rarely take care of myself. I try to rejuvenate myself with things of this world, instead of allowing the Lord to infuse me with new life. I “go away”, but rarely go “on retreat” and make myself fully available to Christ.

I recently heard someone say that while, the Lord thirsts to make us new, he needs our consent and cooperation. We resist that because we are afraid to “waste time on God”. In our busy world, we fail to see the opportunity for renewal if we simply “waste time” by arriving 15 minutes earlier for Mass (or staying 15 minutes later); if we “waste time” by sitting in contemplative silence; if we “waste time” by taking a short walk in nature; if we “waste time” by going on retreat instead of vacation.

Today, I invite you to  “waste time with God” and place yourself fully at his disposal, even for a short period of time AND ask Him to renew, restore, and re-create you into a new wineskin that He can pour His grace into.

July 6

FOCUS: The Lord brings peace and restoration.

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