In the Second Reading for the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Paul exhorts Timothy to remain faithful to Christ. “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (2 Timothy 4: 17). With his execution imminent, Paul reflects on the suffering he has endured for the sake of the Gospel. God has stood by me and has given me strength throughout my struggles. By the grace of God I have raised four sons, buried my parents, survived unemployment, and more. So I am confident God stands by me now! How does God give you strength in times of struggle?
Jesus warns against self deception in the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) . I often deceive myself. I think I am a good Catholic because I work for the Church, go to mass, and read the Bible. These are good things. Jesus expects more. Jesus wants faith that moves to loving action. I do God’s will when I follow Jesus’ example of love for the poor, marginalized, and sinners. How do you follow God’s will?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus warns against false prophets. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:19). I think God judges us by the fruits of our self-giving love. The Holy Spirit works with our mistakes, failures, and sins to bear the good fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Galatians 6:22). What spiritual fruit do you bear?
Jesus teaches his “Golden Rule” in the Gospel for Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). Loving your neighbor as yourself is a challenge. You and I want to give of ourselves to others unselfishly. We do not always succeed. Keep your focus on Christ. Forgive yourself and others. Ask God for grace to love more. Try again. How do you practice the Golden Rule?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus admonishes his disciples to avoid judging others. “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). I struggle to avoid judging others. I think everyone should do things my way – the right way. God’s grace has empowered me to see with compassion the motivation of others. Understanding their motivations, I am more likely to love than to judge. They too are more likely to respond in love. How do you measure up others?
Jesus teaches about lasting treasure in the Gospel for Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19). Loving relationships stand the test of time. My car breaks down. My residence changes. My health deteriorates. I still love my family. I have loved my wife for over thirty years. I know my love for my sons and their love for me will extend beyond this life. God’s love abides. These are the treasures that last. These are the treasures in which we ought to invest. What do you treasure?
Jesus teaches the disciples to pray in the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. He tells them to pray as a child appeals to a loving parent. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). As a parent, I want the best for my sons. I love them very much. I know them so well that I can often anticipate what they need. God is like this and more. What do you need from God?
Jesus preaches about love of enemies in the Gospel for Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I used to think Jesus meant following all the rules perfectly. I could never do that. Jesus preaches the perfection of love. He challenges you and me to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. He wants us to love others as perfectly, as fully, as generously as God loves. How can you love those who have hurt you?
Jesus teaches loving mercy in the Gospel for Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil … Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” (Matthew 5:38,42). I tend to resist helping people I don’t think deserve it. If they have wronged me, I’d rather not help them. Jesus expects otherwise. Anyone in need deserves my help. Leave the judging to God. Who needs your help?
In the First Reading for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, God expresses tender loving care for the Chosen People. God compares his intimate love for Israel to a parent’s love for a child. God held Israel’s hand; kissed Israel’s cheek. God threw his arms around Israel and drew them close. God loves us the same. Through Christ, God reaches out and touches us with love. God is as close to us as any loving embrace. How does God touch your life?