June 11th, 2021

The Gospel according to John (John 19:31-37)

Since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

Opening Prayer:  Sacred Heart of Jesus, I adore you. I pray with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque: “From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before you, O Most Sacred, Divine, and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay to you all the homage of love, praise, and adoration in my power. Amen.”

Encountering Christ: In the gospel account today,  we see just how much Jesus loves each of us. We are reminded that at the crucifixion Jesus gives his full measure for us. Literally he pours out everything that was inside of him. The blood and water that flowed from his side is the basis for our image of the Divine Mercy photo.

So what is the gospel calling us to do today OR what is the “Good News” for us. It boils down to the simple denominator of LOVE. Jesus so loves us that he was willing to give his life up so that we might be able to live in all eternity. 

In Jesus’ dying on the cross, he establishes the way for us to gain eternal life in heaven. It is through this act of love that we see that Jesus makes death the very doorway to heaven. He leaves this world and moves through death into eternal life.

As Jesus sheds the final measure of blood and water from his side, Jesus seals the New Covenant. But how do we see ourselves in that relationship with Christ. Are we willing to die to self in order to align ourselves with Jesus’ teachings? How well do we follow Jesus in the journey of life preparing ourselves for entry into eternal life?

Remember that Jesus loves each of us so much that he constantly reaches out to us to bring peace and love to our own lives, families and community. Remember too that as we carry our own crosses each day – Jesus is always there to carry us and our cross….. What a great God we have!

Closing Prayer:  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me. Pierced for my transgressions, hide me within your open wounds. You bled for me; you burn for me. May I, too, bleed and burn for souls through acts of love and mercy. May I love and serve you and my neighbors as you commanded me.

Action for the Day: Lord, today by your grace I will make a loving act of devotion to your most Sacred Heart.

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June 10th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:20-26)

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Opening Prayer: God, you are the just judge, and you are also full of mercy. Thank you for teaching me in your way of justice and mercy. Help me to fulfill your greatest commandment and love others as you have loved me (cf. John 13:34).

Encountering Christ:  In yesterday’s gospel Jesus tells us he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.  In today’s gospel he helps us to find the perfect balance between mercy and justice.

This reminds me of the struggle I have with mercy and justice.  I tend to focus on mercy.  Maybe because I want to address hurt and pain with a shower of forgiveness and love that can help overcome feelings of unworthiness.  But in doing so I can overlook the importance of dealing with the issue in a responsible and justified manner.

It appears then as it does now, we struggle with leaning too much on the side of mercy or the side of justice.  However, they are not mutually exclusive.  Just like so many other things in the life of a Christian what may seem to many as opposed are actually coexistent.  Jesus came so that we could appreciate, apply, and experience life through the love of a just God.  Not justice only but justice with charity.

Is this not a good reminder?  So many times we fly into a rage because someone has done something causing hurt or destruction.  We immediately call for justice.  The perpetrator is guilty and needs to be punished.  We want this person to suffer worse than the victim or at the very least the same.  There is nothing wrong with a passionate sense of justice.  We need rules, laws, guides to help all of us recognize boundaries and to help promote a civil and moral coexistence.  But isn’t it interesting when we are the offender and justice is not called upon so swiftly and with such fervor for retribution.

There is one lesson that Jesus always reinforced with his behavior and actions.  When approached by a sinner seeking to regain balance in their life Jesus met them with mercy, love, and forgiveness.  And without demanding justice he made it clear that there was unfinished business.  The person who had just received the gift of mercy was asked to sin no more.  In other words, live a life of justice.

What a wonderful teacher!  He not only spoke the word, but he also exemplified the word.  And, yes, he was the WORD.  But that is why he came, so we could hear and see the balance between the Christian life of mercy and justice.  Both are important and necessary to follow and live like Christ.  The balance is in the WORD which resides in you and me.

Closing Prayer: Dear merciful and just God may the grace you bless us with every day help us to seek and find the narrow way.  We know it is difficult but not impossible as long as we rely on you.  And like your son, help us to speak and live with mercy and justice so that others may find their balance with you.

Action for the Day: What has caused you recently to charge up the justice hill without an equal passion for mercy.  Reflect on the life of Christ and ask him to help you approach every situation and person today as he would with a heart full of love and a love for the law that helps heal and redirect us all into the arms of our Father.

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June 9th, 2021

A Reading form the Gospel According to Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Opening Prayer: O God, strength of those who hope in you, graciously hear our pleas, and, since without you, mortal frailty can do nothing, grant us always the help of your grace, that in following your commands we may please you by our resolve and our deeds. 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.

Encountering Christ:

Jesus frequently angered the Pharisees by breaking the law. He pulled ears of corn on the Sabbath. He healed on the Sabbath. He touched the unclean. It seems clear that when he speaks of the Law, he is speaking of it in a transformed sense as defined in his teaching that only two commandments are necessary – to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

The law of love reaches to the four corners of the earth and to the end of time. No being escapes the demand of this law. When this law is honored, all the other laws fall into place.

The relationship between the Old Testament and the novelty brought by Jesus was one of the main issues the Gospel had to face. Here Jesus insists on the continuity between the Law and himself. Yet, by affirming that he is bringing the Law to its perfection he is claiming special powers for himself, divine powers. This is the real difference: Jesus is God himself.

The perfection that Jesus brings to the Law is in its spirit and not in the individual observances: the Law is fulfilled by love, which becomes the greatest commandment of all, and in the spirit of freedom, the freedom of the children of God. Ask yourself what is my manner of fulfilling the law and teaching it to others, ask the Father for his pardon. Also ask him to give us his spirit of universal love and filial freedom.

God gave the Israelites the Levitical laws in order to help them learn how to be a people “of his own possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Before the Exodus, they had lived in Egypt for over four hundred years. They needed very specific, restrictive laws to keep them from falling back into the habits they had formed while living with the Egyptian people. They ate, learned, and worshipped as Egyptians. These laws were meant to teach them discipleship: how to love, worship, and follow the one true God. The Torah prepared God’s beloved people for the Christian life, specifically for discipleship. When Christ became man, he embodied the law and made it manifest in a new way. He also set us free from the demands of the Levitical laws in order to write the new law on our hearts. We can ask ourselves if we have truly allowed Christ to write his law on our hearts in order to be his faithful disciples. Daily Bible reading, including meditating on the readings for Mass (like praying with this reflection), is a wonderful way to allow God to write his law on your heart. 

According to the Catechism, “Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter” (CCC 2054). Jesus added “grace and truth” (John 1:14) to the commandments when he instituted the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). 

Closing prayer: Jesus, my heart is yours. Please write your law on my heart so that I can know, love, and serve you as you deserve. May your law be impressed upon me daily so that I carry it within me wherever I go. 

June 8th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:13-16) 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to be Your light in the world.  Help me to shine that light, even when it is difficult, and to know that by shining, I am sharing Your love just a little bit each day.  Thank You for letting me be a vessel of Your light! Amen.

Encountering Christ:

When I was a boy, each summer, I attended a Christian summer camp in a place called Redwood Christian Park.  It was a wonderful place among the redwood trees.  It was so easy to see the power and majesty of God there in one of the most beautiful parts of His creation.  One summer, I remember hearing one of the leaders there speak about the passage we read in today’s Gospel.  The part about being a “city set on a mountain” always struck me, and even to this day, tugs at my heart to think of it.

The one very practical thing that youth leader told me, all those years ago, was that our lives as followers of Jesus are meant to be seen.  They are meant to shed light into the world.  Yes, it was true that our relationship with Jesus was very important indeed, but our calling to be His follower, His disciple, was to go beyond just that one-on-one relationship.  It took me a long time to truly begin to understand that fact.  Thinking now about it, I know that I have barely scraped the surface of that awesome calling.

It really goes against my personality, you know, to be seen like a city on a hill.  I’m an introvert and a middle child.  Those of you for whom those two adjectives don’t apply may not appreciate it, but that combination is the perfect storm of desiring to “fly under the radar” and not attract attention.  It’s a combination that I have struggled with for my whole adult life, since I can’t really do that, generally, and I definitely can’t do it in my faith life.

How, then, can we do it?  Truly, we can’t do it with our own abilities.  We can try, but I firmly believe that we can’t do it regularly without the whispers of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, assuring us that no matter what comes, that Spirit is there to strengthen us and to remind us of how loved we are.  It does still take our own action to demonstrate Jesus’ love, and that same Spirit is what gives us the ability to do it, despite what we see in the world, or how that love is received.

Just like Jesus called His first disciples, and how He told them of the Beatitudes (the part of Matthew’s Gospel that immediately precedes today’s passage), He didn’t tell them to do what He Himself could or would not do.  No.  He demonstrated a life of love, service, charity, and mercy.  His words to each of us are just to emulate that example.  “Be an extension of the same love that you have witnessed from Me.” And that process isn’t in the big events of life.  No, it is in the ‘ordinary’, and as we continue on our journey in Ordinary Time, it is in the small actions each day that we are the extension of that love, and are the brightly lit city, set on the top of a mountain.

Would that we would see ourselves as Jesus sees us!  To Him, each of us are a precious gift.  All Jesus wants from us is to help others see themselves to be as precious.  Open your eyes today and see the light that you can shine.  Let it shine, and let it help to lead someone else to see that they too are precious, and that they have light that they can shine as well.

Closing Prayer: Lord, help me today to love more like You do.  Thank You for loving me, and for sharing Your mission with me.  Let me do what I can, with Your grace, to share Your love and to help even one other person to know that they too are beloved and blessed.  Let me do this with the way I live my life today and every day.  Amen.

Action for the Day: Think today of one way that you can “shine your light” before others, so that they may see God’s goodness in you, and be drawn closer in relationship with Jesus.

Redwood Christian Park, Boulder Creek, CA

June 7th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 5:1-12):

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Opening Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for teaching us how to be happy and holy by giving us the beatitudes. Help me to learn how to love others as you have loved me (cf. John 13:34). 

Encountering Christ: We have all heard in one way or the other that we need to have the “right attitude for gratitude”. Your attitude is what helps us get through the day and the right attitude allows us to receive “The Heights of Holiness”. Therefore, we need to have the “Attitude for the Beatitudes”!

Today’s Scripture, we are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount” which takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.

You think to yourself, it’s pretty hard to be perfect (like Jesus) and abide by the original 10 Commandments but now I have 8 more laws to abide by?! Allow me to put things in perspective; our Jewish Brothers and sisters believe and abide to their own set of rules, in fact, they have 613 rules or commandments … 613! They are called “mitzvot”. They cover many issues, including instructions about food, diet, punishments, how and when God should be worshipped. Jews agreed to follow these rules when they were given to Moses as part of the covenant. So now we know that the grass is greener on our side regarding following rules.

As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?

When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you are challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.

The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. They are our prescribed “Attitude for the Beatitudes”. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes. So it’s time to analyze our attitude and accept our prescribed attitude.

Closing Prayer: Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Allow me to have the attitude of Holiness so that I will find the happiness and fulfillment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.

Action of the Day: Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.

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ATTITUDES of our Day!