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Daily Reflection

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Today’s Gospel segment concludes our reading of Matthew 10 called “The Missionary Discourse”.

The segment begins with Jesus’ warning that the way of the disciple would not be free of conflict.
In a society and culture where family and family ties were the most important relationships in people’s lives and much stronger, in general, than in modern society, Jesus would instruct that faithfulness to him might involve rupture of family bonds. This is not an attack on family life, but an instruction that the disciple’s highest loyalty must be to Jesus.

Regarding the potential cost of discipleship, Jesus would make several prescient statements about losing life to gain life and taking up one’s cross. The meaning of the latter would not have been merely metaphorical to Jesus’ followers, but a well-known and terrifying instrument of torture and execution to dissenters from Roman law. Jesus would subsequently scandalize his followers when he literally takes up the cross.

In closing, Jesus would then, like all good teachers, reiterate the basic points of this discourse. The disciples are representative of Jesus and to receive them is to receive not only Jesus but his heavenly Father. Those who receive Christian prophets and holy men would be remembered and rewarded.

Today is also the feast of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church. Born in Italy in about 1218, he became a Franciscan friar, studied at the University of Paris and was a friend and colleague of Thomas Aquinas. He wrote extensively on philosophy and theology and was made cardinal bishop of Albano late in his life. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.

July 15

God calls us to turn away from sin and put him, and those in need, first in our lives.

Tomorrow begins the National Eucharistic Congress. The first one to be held in 100 years. This past weekend a past-president and current presidential candidate survived an assassination attempt on his life during a political rally. There is no coincidence that thousands and thousands of faithful Catholics will gather this week to proclaim to the world Jesus’ living presence among us. Our world needs peace. Our world needs love. Our world needs God at the center of our discourse. 

God’s providence is evident in our readings today, the day before the Eucharistic Congress. Both readings are strongly worded, and both call us to remain faithful in the midst of hardships. Our psalm tells us, “God upholds His city forever.”  This does not refer only to the holy city of Jerusalem, rather as St. Augustine describes, it is the peaceful reign of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Creation, The City of God. 
Psalm 48 also calls us to be totally confident of God's protection and completely unafraid of the powers of this world.  We are not to be "stunned, terrified, routed," not to be "quaking and in anguish," because God is always with us, and we have nothing to fear.

Jesus reproaches cities like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even His chosen city, Capernaum, for failing to believe and repent even in the face of His miracles. However, He is also speaking to all people like us who are blessed by the presence and works of Jesus, and still do not put our faith into practice. We do not trust in God alone but continue to fear and follow the false gods of power, security, force. We dwell in the City of Man, rather than the City of God.

Our readings remind us that God is in charge. We need faith that believes and relies on God’s providence.  "Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear, do not let your courage fail," says Isaiah. For of all those things that make us tremble, God says, "This shall not stand, it shall not be!"  If only we could remember that in times of trouble or woe!  Faith in God is a power stronger than all other forces put together.  "Unless your faith is firm," says Isaiah, "you shall not be firm!"  And over and over again, Jesus proclaimed, "Be not afraid.  I go before you always.  Come follow Me!"

Today we pray passionately, confidently, and humbly, "Lord, increase our faith."  We can participate in the National Eucharistic Congress remotely by watching the coverage on ETWN or Relevant Radio.

July 16

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Indeed, the need to draw near to the father in this pilgrimage on earth aches in our heart because of wanting to belong to the author of life! Jesus gives us that opportunity to discover the Father as we draw close to Him! In Him we discover the mystery of the Trinity and unmistakable love that binds Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Word made flesh brings us to physical contact of the living God!!! When we set our eyes on Jesus, we our overwhelmed by the love God has for us! The wounds Jesus sustains helps us to seek the God when we are in pain and need the healing touch of the Lord! The legacy of the Eucharist is further physical evidence of the desire of God to be made available to us body and blood, soul and divinity! Furthermore, the Eucharist comes to us by making all of heaven and earth present to us at Mass where we enjoy not only the presence of God but also all the heavenly hosts as well all who have reached heaven! It begins with Jesus and when we bring our hearts to Him we draw closer to who He has called us to be!!

July 17

Humble, childlike trust in God is greater than any earthly power.

Isaiah 26:7-19
Psalm 102
Matthew 11:28-30

There is a consistent theme between today’s reading from Isaiah, the Psalm, and our gospel: stick with God because he cares for you.  What is the burden to which Jesus is referring in the gospel passage?  It is His commandment to love one another.  In Isaiah and in the Psalm, we are reminded that those who follow in God’s way will have a path that is smooth and level.  In the days of Isaiah the main travel was of course by foot – people longed for a route that was devoid of mountains or hills or rocky roads.  They wanted what Isaiah told them God promises for those who stay close to Him: “The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just You make level…”

In today’s psalm, we hear the same message: “The Lord looked down from His holy height, from heaven He beheld the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”  The groaning of prisoners is a reference to those captured by sin, and those doomed to die is a reference to those who will lose out on eternal life with God.

In the gospel Jesus says He will give those who labor and are burdened a very special type of rest, His rest.  All He asks of us is to take up His yoke instead of the one we place upon ourselves.  When we turn things over to God, our troubles, anxieties, fears, addictions, anger, pride…you name it…life becomes more peace-filled.  Why?  Because just as a child looks to their parent for safety, we can trust in God taking care of us.  We can see it.  We can feel it.  We can live it.

Now, to do that we need to make a conscious decision.  What am I carrying around with me that is a burden and prevents me from taking up the yoke of Christ?

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

July 18

The way of the just is smooth, and the Lord makes level their path.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us three insights with his response to the Pharisees defense of the disciples “breaking the Sabbath Law.” 

The tension between Jesus and the Pharisees reaches a new level.  When the Pharisees accuse Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath rest, Jesus gives them, and us, a legalistic, a spiritual, and insight into our relationship with Him as our Lord.

Jesus first provides a legalistic response since this how the Pharisees are treating the laws handed down to them.  He refers to King David, who with his men ate the bread from the temple because of their extreme hunger.  He also points to the temple priests themselves, who are allowed to perform work on the Sabbath in the temple.  This leads to the spiritual insight that follows.

Jesus then challenges the Pharisees, and us, with the words, “And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.”  Jesus always puts mercy ahead of sacrifice.  Our actions should always be based on the love that Jesus provides, before we consider the requisite obedience.

Then Jesus tells the Pharisees words they did not want to hear or accept.  He tells them, “For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”  The Pharisees saw themselves as the lords of the Sabbath, allowing them to hold power over the people.  There are two possible interpretations of this verse.  The first and most common is that Jesus is announcing himself, i.e. the Son of man, as Lord and God.  This would have infuriated the Pharisees!  But consider a second interpretation.  Since the word “lord” is not capitalized, we need to consider what Jesus means by “the Son of man.”  In Hebrew and Aramaic, “son of man” could be interpreted as generic for “man” and not any specific person. In this interpretation, we are all lords of the Sabbath by virtue of our unity with Christ.

Ultimately, we are called to act with the heart and mind of Christ, approaching the Sabbath, or for us Catholics, Sunday, and every day with a desire to give love and mercy to others.  Yes, Sunday is also the day chosen by God and the Church to rest and worship God.  But even our practice of the Sunday worship, i.e. the Mass, must come not from obedience but from our deep love of the Lord.

Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection
Are your actions toward others centered on the desire for mercy, not sacrifice?

July 19

We follow Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law.

Today is Saturday, July 20th. The readings for today provide a stark choice – WOE or DELIGHT?
In the reading from the Book of the Prophet Micah we see these words: “WOE to those who plan inequity, and work out evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and they take them; They cheat an owner of his house, a man of his inheritance.”

Compare that to the Gospel of Matthew: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I DELIGHT; I shall place my Spirit upon him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Most of us are likely not planning inequity or working out evil on our couches. Few of us see ourselves as servants of the Lord; His beloved. 

All of us are created in the image and likeness of God with the gifts of free will and reason. Therefore, it is our choice today and every day – WOE or DELIGHT?

What will you choose today?

July 20

Embrace humility and strive for forgiveness.

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