We are glad that you found us, the DEACON-5! Here, we will be posting daily Gospel reflections, Mondays through Fridays, each day written by a different permanent deacon in our group. We pray that you find inspiration and a touch of God’s love for sharing some time with us. Please feel free to leave a comment or a prayer request for us!
Blessings to you all! Deacon Ray Gallego, Deacon Steve Hillmann, Deacon Paul Machuca, Deacon George Mora and Deacon Chuck McDaniels
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Opening Prayer: My most merciful and gentle Jesus, I thank You for the many ways in which You come to me, revealing Your love and grace. Please help me to see clearly the ways that I must change, so that even the beginnings of the smallest sin in my life may be rooted out. I love You, my Lord. Help me to love You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Encountering Christ: Today is the memorial day of St. Vincent de Paul so here is an illustration about today’s Gospel and him. St. Vincent de Paul ran an orphanage in Paris during the first half of the seventeenth century. One winter day he opened the front gate to find an abandoned infant lying in the snow. He brought the bundled baby back into the warmth of the room where he was meeting with several wealthy women who helped support the orphanage. Naturally, St. Vincent asked them what he should do with the tiny, frail creature. One of the women suggested that perhaps God intended for the baby to die, as a punishment for the sins of the mother. Appalled at this attitude, St. Vincent angrily retorted, “When God wants dying done for sin, he sends his own Son to do it!” This is grace, mysterious, inexplicable, but touching and overwhelming. It is worth devoting the whole of our lives to a response to this grace.
In today’s passage, Our Lord addresses the disciples after He “realized the intention of their hearts.” This is a very important line. Essentially, Jesus noticed that the desire for boastfulness was just beginning. By analogy, when a weed begins to grow, it is easily pulled up by the roots. But if it is left to grow for a while, then the roots are more difficult to pull up, and doing so often affects the other plants and ground around the weed therefore, it is with sin. By gently bringing a child into their midst and stating that “the one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest,” Jesus was helping them to remove this “weed” of the sin of vainglory before it took deep root in their lives. As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He continues to act with gentleness, addressing their slight error in their reasoning.
This is important to understand, because our Lord always desires to address our sin the very moment it begins. If we are open to His subtle promptings of grace, gently redirecting our actions the moment we begin to go astray, then our attentiveness to His loving rebuke will help keep us from becoming more deeply rooted in our error, whatever it may be. Establishing a practice of constant self-reflection greatly helps with this. Establishing this habit means we do not see our Lord as a harsh and critical Judge; rather, we see Him in His gentleness and care. This image of Jesus gently bringing a child before the disciples to teach them about true greatness should help us to realize that we should never fear these gentle promptings of grace.
Ask the children if they think they have any gifts. They will probably be as confused as adults are when responding to this question. Children know about buying gifts. Place a gift bow on each child’s head and suggest that rather than buying gifts for their parents or new teachers, they try to be gifts to their parents and their teachers. Would someone want to get them as a gift? Help the parents to remember what gifts these children were and are. So … are you (we) a gift to Our Lord?
Closing Prayer: “Our vocation is to go and enflame the heart of men, to do what the Son of God did, He who brought fire into the world to set it alight with His love. What else can we wish for, than for it to burn and consume all things?” -St. Vincent de Paul
Action for the Day: Address the small sins with which you are struggling. Of course, all serious sins must be firmly dealt with first. But once all serious sin is rooted out of your life, be attentive to the gentle and merciful promptings of grace by which Jesus wants to root out every small sin at its beginning and even every spiritual imperfection.
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I am grateful for this opportunity to come before you in prayer. You know that I believe in you; that is why I am coming to you. However, you also know how much my faith needs to grow. I ask you for that grace to grow in my knowledge of you, to think more like you, and to trust you each day more. I also ask you to bless those souls entrusted to my prayer.
Encountering Christ: It’s interesting that Jesus was both “praying in solitude” and that “the disciples were with him.” Saint Bede explains this apparent contradiction by stating that “the Son alone is able to penetrate the incomprehensible secrets of the Father’s will.” Therefore, our Lord was always alone with the Father in the sense that only Jesus knew the Father fully and intimately. This is because He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father.
With that fact clearly understood, it’s also important to understand that as Jesus prayed to the Father within His human nature, something new took place. Though Jesus was eternally with the Father, His human nature was not eternally with the Father. Therefore, as the Eternal Son of God communed with the Eternal Father while living in human flesh, human nature was suddenly elevated to a height that it had never been before. Not only was the Eternal Son living in perfect union with the Father, BUT now the Eternal Son, fully human, brought His human nature into this oneness.
It seems a bit philosophical to some, but it points to a very important reality that affects us all. Through our Lord’s human prayer to the Father, we are all invited to join with Jesus and share in this divine oneness. The Son of God, as a human being, made it possible for us as humans to share in the elevation of our very lives to oneness with God the Father. And though the Son of God will always retain a unique union with the Father, we are, nonetheless, by participation, invited to share in their life.
So why is this important? One reason is that there is no greater human fulfillment we could ever achieve than to share in the prayer of the Son to the Father. Throughout our lives, we are constantly looking for fulfillment in one form or another. We want to be happy. We want enjoyment in life. We have a natural desire for happiness that we are constantly seeking to fulfill. What’s important to understand is that the greatest happiness comes by sharing in the deep human prayer of the Son to the Father. Prayer, true prayer, is the answer to our deepest desire.
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for the foundational gift of faith, which has led me to recognize you as the Messiah and the Son of God. Help me to continue to conform my heart and mind to yours through prayer and the sacraments. May my words and actions be a reflection of you, so that through me, others may come to know your goodness. Aware of my weakness, I place my confidence in your grace and fidelity.
Action: Lord, today by your grace I will attentively review the specific virtues I am trying to live in imitation of you.
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
Opening Prayer: Dear Father, you sent your only son to restore our relationship with you. May today’s gospel help us to recognize Jesus, not as the world sees him but as he is, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
Encountering Christ: Throughout my life many people influenced me in such a way that I wanted to be like them or at least emulate some of their characteristics. In my youth there were my grandparents, parents, and close family friends. In high school there were teachers, coaches, and older friends. And later, as an adult, people who sincerely tried to live their lives according to the example and teachings of Jesus. All had something in common. I was attracted to how they treated me and others with dignity, affection, and love.
All our lives, whether we know it or not we are searching for more, trying to become better people. We want to improve on so many levels including spiritually. Even people who do not profess any kind of religion or faith expression have an innate desire for more meaning and understanding.
In today’s gospel, this brief passage about Herod is interestingly placed in the midst of Jesus’ ministry and in particular in between the sending and return of apostles. Herod was curious about Jesus but confused by the advice he was getting about who Jesus was. Herod’s curiosity appears to be fueled by a desire for amusement or maybe deep down a sincere desire, like with John, to listen to what he had to say. However, Herod seems to represent those in the world whose curiosity only leads to a knowledge that satisfies superficial interest and stops there.
For those who are looking for much more, we too must go beyond our mere curiosity to know Jesus through stories and miracles. To recognize him in our everyday lives we need to know him on personal level. This calls for a deeper commitment to invest in an intimate relationship that reveals the kindness, mercy, and incredible intense love of the one who came to save you, me, and everyone who wants more than just to satisfy a curiosity.
Occasionally we fall away, lose our sense of direction, or are no longer able to recognize Jesus in our midst. At times we lose our zeal for a relationship with the only one who can make us whole. We have all been challenged with a faith life that seems to float along with a lack of purpose or direction.
Is it time for us to rekindle the fire that can burn so bright and intense that it not only illuminates our hearts but also those around us? Even better, allows us to see Jesus as he was, is, and always will be, the Messiah, the savior, redeemer, healer, true God and true man. And, to see him in each other.
Curiosity can only take us so far. The rest of the journey, although challenging and not always understood, can only be made with a sincere response to the gift God gives us all. A deep and lingering desire for more. More you, more us, more Him!
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, because we were created in your image, we have within us a desire know and serve you better. May the life, death, and resurrection of your son, our brother provide us with the grace we need today and everyday to seek and share more of the blessings you are so generous to give us always.
Action for the Day: Everyone of us has room for improvement. We should continue to grow in faith, knowledge, and service until the day we go home. What area of my faith life needs the most attention? Pray for God’s grace and make the change(s) needed.
He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
Opening Prayer: O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
Luke here brings the 12 into the forefront of the narrative; they are presented as sharing in the Mission of Christ; they are no longer merely disciples but are given the task of doing what Jesus does; to exercise authority over unclean spirits, curing diseases and proclaiming the kingdom of God.
When God gives us a mission, he gives us the graces to complete that mission. We refer to this principle as the grace of state. In giving the apostles the mission of building his Church, he also gave them the corresponding power and authority to do so. Traditionally, the Church has understood that the Magisterium has threefold power: to govern, to teach, and to sanctify (CCC 888-895). This passage refers to teaching and sanctifying, implied by the healing. Jesus established a visible Church upon the foundation of the apostles, and that foundation still stands today in the person of the pope and the bishops in union with him. Our Lord’s Church continues to wield his power in order to continue his mission to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.”
Jesus sent the apostles to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.” The Church was never meant to be self-referential. Its sole purpose is to be a sign of God’s presence in the world. It comes from God and goes out to man. Your baggage allowance is zero. What slows you down? What complicates your life? Can you lay it at the feet of Jesus and walk away? Jesus suggests that we should live in a simple way and not be weighed down by petty concerns. It will be difficult for us to bring good news if we are concerned with our own details. We will be able to travel more lightly if we can make what matters to Jesus matter to us.
“Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” It must have been with great joy and excitement that the apostles set out for their first mission. They had often witnessed Our Lord preach, refute the Pharisees, and heal the sick. They had been eagerly waiting their turn. They wanted to do great things for the Lord and prove that he had done well in choosing them. They were also somewhat nervous. Would they be able to cast out demons as he did? He commanded them to do so; therefore, in their childlike confidence, they tried and it worked! They still had much growing and learning to do as his messengers, but they were willing students and collaborators.
Closing prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, increase in our heart the zeal for souls. Help us to go beyond our comfort zone to proclaim your Gospel to those around us. Give us the light and grace necessary for the fulfillment of our duties in our own state of life. Help us to understand that fulfilling your will with as much love as we can is the best thing we can do for the Church and society.
Action of the Day: What is the dust we need to shake off? What is it that tarnishes us and dulls our shine? Today let us pray that we may keep our focus on the good news and not allow ourselves to be slowed down by attention to other messages, no matter how compelling.
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to strive to be a better follower of Yours. You never cease to call me and even when I fail, You still call for me to come close to You. May this time of reflection help me to love more like You do. Amen.
I’ve mentioned before about the online series about Jesus, “The Chosen”. It really does give an interesting perspective on the ones whom Jesus called to join Him, and whom we know as His Apostles. On this, the Feast of St Matthew, I recall those scenes from the series, which really help enlighten why it was so amazing that Jesus called a tax collector to be one of His followers. The way Matthew was portrayed, it’s not hard to see that he was not likely to be one that would be an obvious disciple or Apostle. Yet despite that fact, Jesus called Matthew and he became one of the four Gospel writers, sharing Jesus’ “good news” that we read today.
“Follow Me” are the words that Jesus said to Matthew and in other places in the Gospel, we read of Him saying those same words to the ones who would be His Apostles. The important lesson here is to see what the response was of those men who were asked to follow – they left *everything* and followed. No bargaining, no asking for more time, no excuses. One can only imagine what the families and friends of the Twelve thought of their choices!
Here’s something else to consider, too: those who left everything became totally dependent on Jesus for their very lives. All followers of Jesus are dependent on Him, of course, but those first followers literally, physically, really were fully at Jesus’ disposal. But, they weren’t perfect. They all fled from His side when He was arrested, and only John was there at the cross. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. But, even in their imperfection, Jesus looked on them with love and entrusted the Church to them. He sent them His Holy Spirit to guide them and to remind them of all that He taught them.
It is that Church that we share in today. Our leaders are not perfect now, either. Some may say that there is too much emphasis placed on the physical trappings of the Church and not enough emphasis on helping those on the margins, as Jesus directed His disciples to do. Yet, that is the family of God that we are all a part of in our time. It would be easy to just say that the leaders should just *do something* and improve things, and share more with the poor, the outcast, the unwanted. They certainly should, but the responsibility is not theirs alone. All of us as Jesus’ followers, as members of God’s family, are called to do what we can to minister to the poor and the needy. We don’t have to do it in grand ways – in fact, we should truly not aspire to that. Probably, that’s somewhat scandalous to say, but what I mean is that we should not do good in “glorious” ways for others to see. We should do good, and know that the Lord who created us sees those actions.
Then, when our time on this earthly pilgrimage is done, our Lord will say to us what He said to the good servants in His parables: “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Amen!
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for calling me. Thank You for loving me, even with my imperfections. Please help me serve You better by serving You in those whom You put in my path today. Amen.
Action for the Day: Do a good deed for someone without them knowing about it. Extra credit if they don’t discover the good that you did!