“You are greatly misled” (Mark 12:27) .
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who doesn’t believe in Jesus or in Heaven or Hell. He believes that when we die, our bodies will decay beneath the earth and that’ll be the end of it.
While deluded, his view of his eternal destiny sounds far less terrifying, even comforting, compared to the indescribable suffering that in fact awaits “those who, to the end of their lives, refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.” (Catechism, Para. 1034).
St. Faustina was commanded by God to tell people they cannot avoid Hell by claiming on the Last Day they didn’t know it existed. She wrote in her Diary that when she was led by an Angel to the chasms of Hell, she discovered it to be awesomely large and extensive and a place of great suffering.
I shared with my friend a better picture, where on the Last Day the souls who died in God’s friendship will be reunited with their bodies and raised up like angels, “When they rise from the dead they are like the angels in Heaven.” (Mark 12:25) I conveyed what I know as truth from Scripture and the Catechism, which makes clear what God willed from creation. As my words reached his ears, I noticed a fragment of hope in his eye, as if he hadn’t known.
In the Gospels of Mark, Jesus revealed this truth to the Sadducees, but they didn’t believe either. Sadly today, many don’t. Some, like the Sadducees, reject it because they’ve been misled, while others, like my friend, simply don’t know. “You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)
How then, will unbelievers find out before the Last Day? We, who ourselves have been led to the truth, must be joyful messengers of what Jesus revealed to us: that “God is the God of the living; not the dead” (Mark 12:27). e.
The teaching technique Jesus used was established by His Father, who gave Jesus everything. Stories or parables were the method God chose to reveal the unseen to us through His Son. This way, we identify with what’s familiar to us so we can see more clearly the mysteries of Heaven. But before we can understand anything, we must do what Jesus taught those gathered around Him in today’s parable of the sower: listen. “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matthew 13:9).
In this story, Jesus shows a relationship between us and soil. Like soil, we become richer by what God reveals to us. The more we listen, the more He reveals—the richer we become, and we begin to produce fruit that brings joy to both God and us. But if we only listen for awhile and then allow ourselves to be drawn in by earthly pleasures, we’ll resemble the first three kinds of soil in the parable, and wither for lack of roots. If we don’t listen at all and let sin take over like weeds, God’s Truth gets choked out altogether and we stop growing. Jesus is teaching us how to develop and deepen our relationship with Him so we won’t be like the shallow or unfertile soil where nothing ever grows.
Certainly, our objective is devotion to God and love of neighbor. Jesus only uses images from our everyday life such as seed and soil to help us understand and become rich in the ways of Heaven, not in the ways of this world. When we cultivate our own will, Jesus, the Master Sower will take care of tending our minds and hearts.
This evening on Facebook, someone posted one of those reassuring Pinterest boards that read, “Sometimes in life we just need someone to be there for us. Someone who will listen. Someone who will understand us.”
In past years, I would have grabbed onto this one and held tight. But I’ve come to believe that when we really feel deprived of SOMEONE, we must be a SOMEONE and remember that if we have Jesus, we are not not needy; we are poor in spirit.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm gives us fighting words of prayer for these times of loneliness, “Give me back the joy of Your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me” (Psalm 51:17). It’s in these times that we need to pick ourselves up by the scruff of our necks and quickly set out into the world to be a SOMEONE. There are countless SOMEONES lonelier than we are, and they’re not hard to find; hospitals, nursing homes, cancer wards…the street. God will put His SOMEONE in front of us. The moment He sees us using our will to be His Heart, the Holy Spirit arrives.
Check out the back pew of the church; you’ll often find SOMEONE’S sitting there next to their tears. We don’t need their story, but can lay a hand on their shoulder or share a knowing smile. The Catholic Church has powerfully beautiful holy cards and pamphlets, filled with the strength of God’s Truth. Softly drop one next to SOMEONE, or make your own heartening little Pinterest-type card to give. And should we find they want to share their story, we don’t need a SOMEONE degree to listen. All we need is Love. “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
Jesus wants to be our SOMEONE by faith so that through us, His other SOMEONES might find His compassion, “…for in You the orphan finds compassion. I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4-5).
Scripture from today’s Liturgy of the Word:
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
Psalm 50:7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 16bc-17
A reflection on today’s Sacred Scripture:
Today in St. Matthew’s Gospel, we see how Jesus gets to the bottom of our troubles, both big and small. When He enters the town of Gadara, He drives out the horrible demons from the two possessed men, and by doing so, allows the passersby who were held up by all the violence to get through and return to their lives. Even though Jesus puts an end to the town’s dilemma, the people of Gadara are displeased and they implore Jesus to leave the area.
At first, this ungrateful reaction to Jesus’ kindness seemed appalling and made no sense to me. But as I considered it, whenever I fail to acknowledge Jesus for rescuing me from my own problems, I am no different from the people of Gadara—my unresponsiveness to His goodness is no better than driving Him away.
Jesus never performed an act that wasn’t good. His miracles revealed that the Father, who is the source of all good, sent Him to strengthen people’s faith. Still, He is rejected, even when He makes the impossible possible for us. Our problems are never resolved alone, but with Jesus beside us. When we invite Him to stay, we are accepting His tireless and giving heart, and our demons and road blocks become opportunities to show Him our gratitude for His generous love.
…decide tonight to make someone’s tomorrow special by this simply powerful inspiration from Mother Teresa -
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
That’s it! Decide tonight…simply powerful. In just hours, you’ll make someone’s day. Make it great! Nitey!
Once you know Jesus personally you begin to praise Him continuously; instinctively, because you’ve fallen in love with Love. When your joy glorifies Him, your past dissolves into nothing, your present becomes His Word; your future, Heaven. Elizabeth
It’s about saying vs. doing.
Jesus teaches that His Father’s will is accomplished through actions, not just words. It’s not sufficient to say, “I believe,” or “I’m sorry.” When our days here end, having merely spoken these words will not have been enough.
On an encouraging note, God loves us more than we can comprehend. He wants to make our sin and His law visible to us so we can attain eternal life with Him. It’s not enough to confess, and then repeatedly commit the same sins. We must also resolve to do His will. So He left us with tools for strength and endurance: His Word and the Sacraments, to help us build our house on rock, not sand.
We must let Him transform us, and when He sees we’re determined, He’ll replace our way with His way. During our lives, each of us is given the opportunity to develop the Kingdom of God, His very presence, within us! When we do, we begin to see a clearer path toward the Kingdom of Heaven.
How exciting, to realize today’s reading was not meant to dishearten. Jesus only wanted us to know that, to His Father, actions speak louder than words.
Weeks ago we noticed one of the large apple trees in our neighborhood hadn’t yet come into bud. Its bare form stood alone among all the other trees that had long since flowered and were well into full leaf. I remarked that it must have died, but my husband thought it just needed a little more time to mature. Day after day we’d watch the tree and chat about its progress, until finally we agreed that the harsh winter must have killed it. Figuring it would soon be cut down, we didn’t give it another thought.
Fortunately God doesn’t give up on us that easily. And neither should we be quick to decide on another’s growth. Like trees, we need to mature before we can blossom. We tend to think it’s hopeless when others fail to bud, but God goes on feeding us with the desire that we grow in His love and bear fruit that is recognizable as good. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares Christian disciples with trees—some produce good fruit, others bad. How are we to distinguish between them? The difference can be recognized by the quality of our deeds—the “fruits.”
The lone apple tree we left for dead is now fully leafed and lush with life, but because we gave up on it, we completely missed its spectacular flowering stage of pink and white blossoms. Now, with God’s care, it’s well on its way to bearing shiny red fruit, which is what He wants from each of us. “So by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).
Faith assures us that anything is possible with God, and The Catechism teaches us that, “God, who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for He is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it is made perfect in weakness.” (Catechism, Para. 268)
But faith doesn’t always come easy, as Zechariah discovered. He and Elizabeth had spent their lives childless; Elizabeth was barren and now they were old, so any hope of a child was gone forever and their prayers remained unanswered.
Or so it seemed.
A message of incredible hope was delivered to Zechariah by the Angel Gabriel, “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John” (Luke 1:13).
But Zechariah didn’t believe and his doubt became a lesson in faith after he was made speechless. In time, Zechariah accepted the Angel’s message as truth and God’s promise was fulfilled. Zechariah was given a son who was great and whose name would restore his speech and change his and Elizabeth’s lives, and the lives of the children of Israel forever!
How often do we pray for what we think is impossible then doubt we’ll ever receive an answer, especially one as extraordinary as Zechariah’s? We lean toward uncertainty when our situation seems hopeless—but it’s only hopeless to us. What seemed hopeless to Zechariah was accomplished with the help of an angel, God’s grace and Zechariah’s ultimate trust and faith.
Like Zechariah, we must trust in God’s loving power and believe that He will exceed our expectations in time. Zechariah’s muteness taught us that our prayers will only be answered in fullness when we believe.
…but this Mary Oliver poem about peonies is my favorite writing on any of God’s flowers. Each year I pull out this photograph taken the year my pink beauties gave me their best, and I give them back to you to love along with me, approaching yet another first day of Summer. Can’t you just smell them?
* * *
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
- Mary Oliver
“…and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa
Comprehending God’s enormous love for us isn’t always easy. St. John helps us understand a good measure of it in today’s Gospel, where he presents us with the amazing prayer of Jesus to His Father. What tender words Jesus prayed on our behalf. If you want to know Jesus more intimately, allow St. John to share more of Jesus’ beautiful prayer with you, where His love for us shines through so clearly.
This is how much Jesus loves us: knowing He had only hours until His arrest, Jesus prayed for what He desired most – that we all believe in Him as one, and that we believe His Father loves us just as much as Him “. . . that the world might believe that you loved them, even as you loved me” (John 17:23).
Jesus spent one of His last precious days on earth praying desperately for you and me, exposing His beautiful heart to His Father that we may know the extent to which we are loved, “Father, they are your gift to me” (John 17:24).
Spring arrived on our calendars weeks ago here in the Midwest, but we’re just now seeing God’s creatures come to life in glorious splendor! Trees honor Him with blossoms of sweet fragrance while migrating birds announce their return with grateful songs of praise!
Today’s First Reading and Psalm invite us to join with all of God’s creatures in giving praise to the glory of our Majestic Creator, for, “it is He who gives to everyone life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).
Complete joy sounds unattainable in today’s world; after all, who really has it? People do. Jesus says it’s ours if we remain in His love by keeping His Commandments.
As Catholics, we have resources to do it, which alone should bring us joy. But we must accept the fullness of grace the Church has to offer. The Sacraments, frequent attendance at Mass, Adoration and prayer all help us keep the Commandments because they sanctify, instruct, nourish and strengthen us.
We can also learn from the lives of the Saints, who knew what it meant to remain in God’s love. We should pray for the intercession of some of the great Saints who often wrote about their joy, such as St. Faustina, “Great joy filled my soul to see the grace of God.” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska)
St. Therese of Lisieux described her joy as supreme, “Nearly ecstatic with the experience of supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love at last I have found my calling; my calling is love.” (The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul)
What are we waiting for? God chose each of us to experience His joy within us, but first we must find out for ourselves what it means to remain in His love. Then, we must do it.
“If they want joy, let them find Jesus.”
- Mother Teresa (1989 Interview with Mother Teresa for Time Magazine)
This verse in the Book of Acts brings an image to my mind of a street activist holding a sign with those words scrawled across it — a scenario many would turn away from. But those who heard St. Peter’s speech at Pentecost were “cut to the heart” by it, and that day, three thousand were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
How many of us were “cut to the heart” these past days of Lent and now seek forgiveness for our part in Christ’s death? Every one of us who has heard St. Peter’s message must also turn away from sin and allow the Holy Spirit to change us.
Here’s what the Catechism tells us about St. Peter’s message:
“Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved ‘the world wrong about sin,’ (Cf John 19:21) i.e., proved that the world has not believed in Him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.” (Catechism, Para. 1433)
Indeed, we must save ourselves from this corrupt generation! Repentance points us toward the goodness in our lives — it points us to God. Since Jesus Himself said that baptism is necessary for our salvation, we too must become sharers in His mission and stand up for St. Peter’s message — it doesn’t matter where or how we do it, but it matters that we do.