#readings 20151025

The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net

What can a calamity, such as a political blood-bath or a natural disaster, teach us about God’s kingdom and the consequences of bad choices and sinful actions? Jesus used two such occasions to address the issue of sin and judgment with his Jewish audience. Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Jerusalem at the time, ordered his troops to slaughter a group of Galileans who had come up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice in the Temple. We do not know what these Galileans did to incite Pilate’s wrath, nor why Pilate chose to attack them in the holiest of places for the Jews, in their temple at Jerusalem. For the Jews, this was political barbarity and sacrilige at its worst! The second incident which Jesus addressed was a natural disaster, a tower in Jerusalem which unexpectedly collasped, killing 18 people. The Jews often associated such calamities and disasters as a consequence of sin. Scripture does warn that sin can result in calamity! Though the righteous fall seven times, and rise again; the wicked are overthrown by calamity (Proverbs 24:16).
The time for repentance and forgiveness is right now! The real danger and calamity which Jesus points out is that an unexpected disaster or a sudden death does not give us time to repent of our sins and to prepare ourselves to meet the Judge of heaven and earth. The Book of Job reminds us that misfortune and calamity can befall both the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Jesus gives a clear warning – take responsibility for your actions and moral choices and put sin to death today before it can destroy your heart, mind, soul, and body as well. Unrepentant sin is like a cancer which corrupts us from within. If it is not eliminated through repentance – asking God for forgiveness and for his healing grace, it leads to a spiritual death which is far worse than physical destruction. The sign of the barren fig tree Jesus’ parable of the barren fig trees illustrated his warning about the consequences of allowing sin and corruption to take root in our hearts and minds. Fig trees were a common and important source of food for the people of Palestine. A fig tree normally matured within three years, producing plentiful fruit. If it failed, it was cut down to make room for more healthy trees. A decaying fig tree and its bad fruit came to symbolize for the Jews the consequence of spiritual corruption caused by evil deeds and unrepentant sin. The unfruitful fig tree symbolized the outcome of Israel’s unresponsiveness to the word of God. The prophets depicted the desolation and calamity of Israel, due to her unfaithfulness to God, as a languishing fig tree (see Joel 1:7,12; Habbakuk 3:17; and Jeremiah 8:13). Jeremiah likened good and evil rulers and members of Israel with figs that were good for eating and figs that were rotten and useless (Jeremiah 24:2-8). Jesus’ parable depicts the patience of God, but it also contains a warning that we should not presume upon patience and mercy. God’s judgment will come – sooner or later – in due course.
Why God judges Why does God judge his people? He judges to purify and cleanse us of all sin that we might grow in his holiness and righteousness. And he disciplines us for our own good, to inspire a godly fear and reverence for him and his word. God is patient, but for those who persistently and stubbornly rebel against him and refuse to repent, there is the consequence that they will lose their soul to hell. Are God’s judgments unjust or unloving? When God’s judgments are revealed in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). To pronounce God’s judgment on sin is much less harsh than what will happen if those who sin are not warned to repent. Don’t tolerate sin God, in his mercy, gives us time to get right with him, but that time is now. We must not assume that there is no hurry. A sudden and unexpected death leaves one no time to prepare to settle one’s accounts when he or she must stand before the Lord on the day of judgment. Jesus warns us that we must be ready at all times. Tolerating sinful habits and excusing unrepentant sin will result in bad fruit and eventual destruction. The Lord in his mercy gives us both grace and time to turn away from sin, but that time is right now. If we delay, even for a day, we may discover that grace has passed us by and our time is up. Do you hunger for the Lord’s righteousness and holiness? “Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you that I may grow in righteousness and holiness. May I not squander the grace of the present moment to say “yes” to you and to your will and plan for my life.”

The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2014. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com  

FRUITFULNESS OR DOOM  
“Perhaps it will bear fruit. If not, it shall be cut down.” —Luke 13:9   We must bear the fruit of evangelization and holiness. The alternative is to be cut down like an unfruitful tree (Lk 13:7, 9), and get thrown into the fire to be burnt (see Jn 15:5-6), possibly undergoing tragedies (see Lk 13:1-5) on this earth and finally undergoing the ultimate tragedy of everlasting separation from God in hell. Therefore, we must bear fruit both for our own sakes and for the salvation of as many people as possible (1 Cor 9:19). The Lord is so strict and severe about this because He is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). As Love, He wants all “to be saved and come to know the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). Everyone in the world has the need and the right to hear and see the Christians of this world proclaiming the Gospel and living it in holiness. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Otherwise, we will be punished. We can be sure of bearing fruit and of saving ourselves from the terrible effects of fruitlessness by living in Jesus and accepting Him as Lord of our lives so that He will live in us (Jn 15:5). To do this, we must die to ourselves (see Jn 12:24). “Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed” (2 Cor 4:10). We either die, live in Christ, and bear fruit, or we live for ourselves, are fruitless, and are doomed. Decide to be fruitful now.  
Prayer: Father, like a grain of wheat, I fall to the earth and die to bear much fruit (Jn 12:24).
Promise: “It is [Jesus] Who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ.” —Eph 4:11-12, our transl.
Praise: Jessica rejoiced in the deeper unity she and her husband enjoyed after he came into the Church on Easter Vigil.   (Presentation Ministries offers a Discipleship Program to train disciples to bear much fruit for God’s kingdom. See the information elsewhere in this booklet for details.)   

Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014.  The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements

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#Readings 20141024

The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net

How good are you at reading warning signs?
Jesus expects his disciples to accurately read the signs of the times! Farmers and seafarers know the importance of spotting weather conditions for safe travel and planting. A lot of effort is made today, with the help of science and technology, to discern potential natural dangers, such as tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, tornados, earth quakes, and erupting volcanoes, so that people can be warned to take shelter before disaster hits. Our need for accurately discerning spiritual danger is even more necessary if we want to avoid a spiritual crisis or a moral disaster. Jesus used a vivid illustration to point out the urgency of getting right with God before it is too late. If you got into serious trouble with your neighbor and did something that could get you severely penalized (like being thrown into jail and loosing everything you owned), would you not try to settle the case out-of-court to avoid the worst consequences?
None of us has the power and strength of will for overcoming sin and evil on our own. We stand in constant need of God’s grace, help, strength, and protection. That is why scripture uses vivid language to describe God as our rock, refuge, fortress, and mighty defense. We are also vulnerable to Satan’s lies and deceptions as well as our own spiritual blind-spots for recognizing sin and moral weakness in our own lives. That is why we need God’s help and discernment for distinguishing between truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil. Fortunately the Lord Jesus, who is a just judge, is also a merciful advocate who pleads for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven. The light of Jesus Christ reveals what is in our hearts and his grace frees us from the tyranny of sinful habits, hurtful desires, and harmful addictions. God’s call is urgent and his grace is available for total freedom and transformation in Christ. If we want to turn away from sin the Lord is ready to give us the grace and help we need to choose for his way of love and holiness. Are you ready for his saving grace and healing action in your life? “Lord Jesus, flood my heart with your love and free me from all that would keep me from doing your will. Transform my mind that I may discern what is right and have the courage to choose what is good and pleasing to you.”

The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2014. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com  

MANY-SPLENDORED UNITY  

“Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin.” —Ephesians 4:3   To live lives worthy of our calling as Christians, we must become one as Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are One (see Jn 17:21). We are called to live in divine, Trinitarian, multi-faceted unity. There are seven major facets to our unity with God. “There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:4-6).
These many facets themselves are multi-faceted. There is one bread and one body when we receive the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion (1 Cor 10:17). In Christian community, we are “of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32). In marriage, the husband and wife “are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:6) as they grow to be more deeply of one heart and one mind. Unity is like a diamond of divinity and Trinity. Unity from God’s perspective is pure simplicity. From our human perspective, unity is a rich complexity. Unity is a mystery and a “great gift of the Holy Spirit” (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 20). Let us live lives worthy of our call to be one through, with, and in Him. We were created and redeemed to be one. Let us “make every effort to preserve” and deepen our love in the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3).  

Prayer: Father, “how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one!” (Ps 133:1) Give me a heart for Trinitarian unity.
Promise: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” —Ps 24:3-4
Praise: St. Anthony continued to preach Christ in the face of several assassination attempts.   (For more teaching on unity, order our booklet, Introduction to Small Christian Communities.)   

Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014.  The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements

#readings 20151023

The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net

Do you want to be on fire for God? Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. What kind of fire did Jesus have in mind here?

The fire of God’s purifying love and cleansing word The image of fire in biblical times was often associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2). The image of fire was also used to symbolize God’s glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deuteronomy 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16). It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God’s fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his transforming word in us.

Jesus’ sharp statement that he would cause division rather than peace within families must have shocked his disciples.Was he exaggerating? Jesus used a typical Hebrew hyperbole [a figure of speech which uses exaggeration for emphasis] to drive home an important lesson. We often do the same when we want to emphasize something very strongly. Jesus’ hyperbole, however, did contain a real warning that the Gospel message does have consequences for our lives. It has the power to heal, restore, and unite those who believe its message. But the consequence of ignoring or rejecting the Gospel can lead to many hurtful desires and seduction by the world.

Our first loyalty is to the Lord who made us and who redeems us When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man’s enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The essence of Christianity is loyalty to Jesus Christ – the Son of God and Savior of the world – a loyalty that takes precedence over every other relationship. The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship (or anything else) above God is a form of idolatry.

Who do you love first and foremost? Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? “Lord Jesus, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will.”

The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2014. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com  

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY  
“I kneel before the Father from Whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” —Ephesians 3:14-15   Jesus has “come to light a fire on the earth” (Lk 12:49). He begins this by dismantling families held together by factors not according to His will (see Lk 12:51ff). For example, many marriages and families stay together because of fears, addictions, finances, or confusion. Under such circumstances, these families will never be what God wants them to be. Therefore, Jesus will dismantle these families and then reunite them in love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and peace. In this way, He will light a fire to purify and renew the face of the earth (see Ps 104:30).

Do you have mixed motives in your relations with your family members? Is your family staying together in pure love, or are there other factors? Cooperate with Jesus as He picks apart any sins, selfishness, or self-deception in your family. Then ask Jesus to give to your family:
“gifts in keeping with the riches of His glory” (Eph 3:16),
interior strength “through the working of His Spirit” (Eph 3:16),
His indwelling (Eph 3:17), and
charity as its “root and foundation” (Eph 3:17).

After being dismantled and re-assembled by Jesus, you and your family “will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God Himself” (Eph 3:18-19).  

Prayer: Father, make our families holy by Your standards. Promise: “To Him Whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen.” —Eph 3:20-21 Praise: St. John was governor of his city. He was captured and imprisoned during a battle. While in prison, he gave his life to Jesus, and when released, he became a priest.     

Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014.  The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements

#prayer : For All Food

O God, you entrusted to us the fruits of all creation so that we might care for the earth and be nourished with its bounty. You sent us your Son to share our very flesh and blood and to teach us your Law of Love. Through His death and resurrection, we have been formed into one human family. Jesus showed great concern for those who had no food – even transforming five loaves and two fish into a banquet that served five thousand and many more. We come before you, O God, conscious of our faults and failures, but full of hope, to share food with all members in this global family. Through your wisdom, inspire leaders of government and of business, as well as all the world’s citizens, to find just, and charitable solutions to end hunger by assuring that all people enjoy the right to food. Thus we pray, O God, that when we present ourselves for Divine Judgment, we can proclaim ourselves as “One Human Family” with “Food for All”. AMEN

Readings 20151022

Reflections
The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net

What lesson can we draw from Jesus’ parable about a thief in the night and the parable about the master of the household who surprises his stewards with an unexpected visit? Both parables confront us with the possibility of losing everything we presently own and treasure and losing our the future inheritance as well. 

The thief in the night
Jesus’ story (parable) of the thief in the night brings home the necessity for constant watchfulness and being on guard to avert the danger of plunder and destruction, especially under the cover of darkness and secrecy! While no thief would announce his intention in advance, nor the time when he would strike, lack of vigilance would nonetheless invite disaster for those who are unprepared to keep their treasure and their lives secure at all times! The intruder strikes when he is least expected! What treasure does the Lord expect us to vigilantly guard in this present life? It is the treasure of the gifts he has won for us – the gift of salvation purchased by his blood on the cross which has ransomed us from slavery to sin, Satan,and death – and the gift of his Holy Spirit who works in and through us to make us a a new creation refashioned in the image of God. The Father and the Son through the gift of the Holy Spirit come to make their home with us. But we can ignore their presence, close our ears to their voice, or reject them through pride and unfaithfulness. Satan comes like a thief in the night to rob us of our faith and to draw us away from God. He works with the world (that society which is opposed to God) and with our flesh (our sinful inclinations) to make us believe that we can find treasure and happiness apart from God and his will for our lives. And we can deceive ourselves by putting off for tomorrow what must be done today. God offers us grace today to turn away from sin and rebellion. We must not presume that we can wait another day. The day of the Lord – when he returns again at the end of this present world – will come like a thief. We need to be spiritually alert and watchful at all times. The Lord comes to us – each and every day – to draw us to himself and to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love. The faithful and wise servant Jesus ends his teaching on watchfulness and vigilance with another parable about a master and his servants (Matthew 24:.45-49). The storyline is similar. There is an element of surprise – the master suddenly returns home unexpectedly, probably from a long journey. He rewards one servant for his faithfulness to his master. He has performed his service dutifully and has done all that the master required of him.  He punishes the other servant who behaved wickedly. This servant was not only irresponsible – he was frequently absent from work and spent his master’s money by partying (eating and drinking) a lot with his friends. The wicked servant also abused his fellow workers with physical force and violence – probably to make them do the work he was supposed to do for his master. The master not only throws him out of his house (he fires him from his job!). He also throws him into the worst possible place – a prison of no return where there is nothing but torment and misery. Should we be surprised to see the master acting with such swift judgment? He rewards faithfulness with honor, blessing, and promotion, and he punishes unfaithfulness due to laziness and abuse with demotion, dishonor, and imprisonment. The Lord Jesus calls us to be vigilant in watching for his return and to be ready to meet him when he calls us to himself. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit so that we may have the wisdom, help, and strength we need to turn away from sin to embrace God’s way of love, justice, and holiness. The Lord’s warning of judgment causes dismay for those who are unprepared, but it brings joyful hope to those who eagerly wait for his return in glory.  God’s judgment is good news for those who are ready to meet him. Their reward is God himself, the source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love and everlasting life. “Lord Jesus, you have captured my heart for you. Make it strong in faith, steadfast in hope, and generous in love that I may seek to please you in all things and bring you glory.  Keep me ever watchful for the coming of your kingdom.”

The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2014. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com  

MORE   “When much has been given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted.” —Luke 12:48   Jesus spoke the above words to St. Peter and the apostles. We might not be expected to perform the works of St. Peter, but none of us are off the hook when it comes to serving the Lord. As Catholics, we have received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation. We’ve heard the message of salvation. As the song says, “We have been told” about Jesus, and His cross, death, and resurrection. We’ve received Jesus into our very bodies in the Eucharist. We have been privileged to read and hear the sacred Scriptures, revealed directly from God in heaven. We’ve received the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Look how much we have received! God would not be just if He did not expect a fruitful harvest in return for His freely given gifts (see Mt 25:14-30; Lk 12:46-48). What boss would not demand a good job from an employee He had trained so thoroughly? Let us give our lives in service to the Lord — not grudgingly, but cheerfully and bountifully (2 Cor 9:6-7). Though we must bear a harvest, we are not God’s employees or slaves; we are His children! (Rm 8:15) Jesus even calls us His friends (Jn 15:15). Can you imagine how fervently the Lord longs to entrust “all His property” (Lk 12:44), the earth and its people, to His disciples? If we disciples of Jesus do not step forward to care for God’s property, we are handing control to those motivated only by greed, selfishness, or power. Jesus expects “more” from us. Step up and get to work.   Prayer: Jesus, so often I only think of pleasing myself. Transform my mind to think only of pleasing You (Ps 104:34). Promise: “In Christ and through faith in Him we can speak freely to God, drawing near Him with confidence.” —Eph 3:12 Praise: Jesus delivered Robert from a life of selling and abusing drugs.   (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)    Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014.  The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements