The Sunday Gospel For Men

Catholic reflections on the Sunday Gospel. For men. Every Sunday, we’re called to the altar of Christ to receive the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Prepare to encounter our Lord by reading and praying with the Word of God. Each week, we’ll send you the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection to help you prepare for Sunday Mass.

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Sunday Mar 12, 2023

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”—which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
John 9:1, 6–9, 13–17, 34–38
The Man Born Blind
Today the Church celebrates the second scrutiny. The scrutinies are exorcisms of the men and women who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. In today’s exorcism, the priest asks that the elect might be enlightened—like the man in today’s Gospel—and freed from the slavery of the father of lies.
Today’s Gospel story gives us great hope. Notice what Jesus did for the man born blind: “he found him.” This means Christ goes looking for us. The act of coming to the Lord begins with God searching for us. The whole story of Christ’s life is one of God seeking us out because we have alienated ourselves from his love and rejected the love of fellow humans.
God meant it when he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). From the very foundations of creation, the enemy of man has been isolation from love. Adam and Eve began the process of leaving the presence of God when they chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, and we have been predictable heirs to this behavior ever since. We also have a habit of throwing one another out of our lives. Loneliness is a deep suffering in this life. It is something like a foretaste of hell. We were made to see the truth and live in communion with God.
This communion with God is the way of faith, hope, and love. As the darkness of sin closes our eyes to the love of God, grace moves to find us. This movement of grace is a great mystery, as it may find us early in life as a response to our baptism or may even find us late in life on our deathbed. But there is no doubt that grace and God’s own life and love are moving within human experiences to open our eyes to his will for us.
The Church, and its ministries, try to make us more capable of relating to God. It does this through the sacraments, catechesis, acts of charity, and its mission. The Church continues Christ’s work in and throughout time. God wants to welcome us, give us sight, and restore our communion with him and one another. He gives us the strength to answer the question Jesus asks the man born blind: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Today, pray for those preparing to enter the Church at Easter. Pray that God may gently lead the elect to Christ, the light of the world. Finally, tell the Lord in answer to His question with conviction, I do believe, Lord.

Thursday Mar 09, 2023

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
John 4:5–15, 19b–26, 39a, 40–42
The Woman at the Well
Over the next three Sundays, we will celebrate the three scrutinies in preparation for the Baptism of the catechumens who are to be admitted to the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The Gospel readings on these Sundays will be the same Gospel readings that have been associated with the scrutinies since at least the seventh century: The Woman at the Well, The Man Born Blind, and The Raising of Lazarus.
In today’s Gospel, we see that Christ waits for us when we are in our deepest need. He is there, ready to respond when we announce our most urgent thirst. This need—this thirst—is not for realities that are temporal. No, our deepest thirst is for God himself.
The setting of this Gospel reading is at a well, which has many allusions to marriage in the Old Testament (see Genesis 29). The woman at the well in John’s Gospel is a Samaritan, a non-Jew. She represents the hunger of humanity to find rest in loving and being loved by God. Here, at the well, God reveals himself as the one who wants to marry the world. All thirsts will end in heaven, but they begin to be quenched  even here on earth as we enter more deeply into a vulnerable and realistic relationship with God.
We enter into conversation with God just like this woman at the well. We tell him everything, and he tells us everything about us and himself. Thus, he reveals the meaning and purpose of each our lives. Such a purpose is certainly not one of wandering in thirst from well to well. This would be a purposeless life—a futile life. We were not created to simply seek temporary relief from meaninglessness or pain and suffering. God is always offering us eternal rest as we establish communion with him in prayer and worship.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” Jesus has revealed himself to be “the truth” (John 14:6), and he is present to us through the sacraments and in the scriptures as the living Spirit. In the above passage from today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is saying that the Father is seeking people to worship Christ. Yes, the Father is actively seeking out all men to worship him in spirit and truth—literally, in Christ. This is how we fulfill the Father’s desire: we share the good news, we give testimony that Christ is the Savior, we are witnesses to the fact that Christ is the one in whom all our thirsts are satisfied.
In your prayer today, bring your pains to Jesus. Tell him everything. He is waiting for you. Allow his love and grace to gush into your souls and fill you with right worship in spirit and truth.

Thursday Mar 02, 2023

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matthew 17:1-9
Heaven on Earth
The Transfiguration is a foretaste of heavenly glory. In this event, Jesus is taken up into the heavens and clothed in a dazzling white garment. When Jesus is in this exalted state, he dialogues with Moses and Elijah. The former represents the law—for it was to Moses that God revealed his law (see Exodus 31:18). The latter, Elijah, represents the prophets—for this prophet was taken up into the celestial body by a fiery chariot in a whirlwind (see 2 Kings 2:11). More than the law and the prophets, the operation of the Trinity is manifest at the Transfiguration. Concerning this event, St. Thomas Aquinas says, “the whole Trinity appears—the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Spirit in the bright cloud.”1 Thus, when Jesus was taken up into the heavens, and an unearthly splendor filled that place, the Trinity, the law, and the prophets were all made manifest.
Although we do not see Jesus shining like the sun, we can experience a foretaste of heaven while we are still here on earth. Today, we will reflect on two of these foretastes of heaven. The first is in our relationship with God and the second is in his sacred liturgy. 
At the end of time, there will be a new heaven and a new earth; the holy city—the new Jerusalem—will come out of heaven from God (see Revelation 20:1-2). We cannot be in heaven—the New Jerusalem—until the end. However, the vital essence of heaven is that we are with God. Every good deed, every act of asceticism, every scriptural reading, every encounter with God, all of these are a kind of foreshadowing of heaven because all of these deepen our relationship with God. 
When we do these good deeds, we should happily think of the heavenly kingdom, the end of time, and our death. Thinking about heaven is deeply related to thinking about death. Centuries ago, it was common for people to meditate on the four last things: heaven, hell, death, and judgment. Our Christian ancestors did not want death to befall them quickly because they wanted the time to prepare themselves spiritually before their individual judgment. They were ready to embrace suffering in reparation for their sins—even the sufferings that accompany death. The saints embraced any suffering as an opportunity to share in the cross of Christ so that they, and others, might come to the glory of heaven. All of their asceticisms and good deeds were foretastes of heaven as they formed the saints’ relationship with God. 
The second type of heavenly foretaste is the sacred liturgy, the Holy  Mass. In the liturgy, we partake in the sacrificial action of eternity. Every sign and symbol at the Mass and in the church should point us to think about the heavenly reality. The union of the signs of the earthly liturgy and the heavenly liturgy was well illustrated in a report that was brought to Vladimir I, Grand prince of Kiev, by his emissaries returning from Mass in the Great Church of Constantinople. Vladimir’s emissaries recounted this Mass saying: 
We know not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth, there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of the other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.2
Hopefully, you have the same experience at Mass and see that the action you are participating in is a heavenly reality.
In your holy hour today, reflect on these earthly foretastes of heaven. Do you see how your good deeds point to heaven and how the Mass touches the heavenly reality? Allow the grace of these moments to change your life so that you can spend eternity with God in heaven.
1Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 3, 45, 4 ad 2
 2Samuel H Cross and Olgerd P. Scherbowtz-Wetzor, eds. and trans., The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text (Cambridge, Mass.: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953) in Alexander Rentel, “Byzantine and Slavic Orthodoxy” in The Oxford History of Christian Worship, eds. Ceoffrey Wainwright and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Also see: René Marichal, Premiers Chrétiens de Russie: Introducion, choix et traduction des textes, Chrétiens de tous les temps 16 (Paris: Cref, 1966) 52-53, in Marcel Metzger, The History of the Liturgy The Major Stages, trans. Madeleine Beaumont, (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1997), 86.

Thursday Feb 23, 2023

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Matthew 4:1-11
 As we heard in today’s Gospel, Satan attacks Christ using his identity, saying, “If you are the Son of God….” Satan hopes to provoke Jesus into defending himself and performing a miracle, thus submitting to Satan’s prompt. But Christ does not give in to the devil. He cannot be moved by temptations or outside forces; he acts only out of his own freedom.
Satan knows that we are different, so he often successfully takes the same approach with us that failed with Christ. He tempts us with our identity. To one, he says, “You know God is mad at you, so why not drink tonight?” To another, he says, “You are not loved by God. How could you be? Think about your sins.” To a third, he says, “You will never become holy; you are always making mistakes, weak and filled with faults.”
Satan always tries to make us believe that we are broken and repulsive to God or that God has already abandoned us. The two most common satanic lies are: “There is something wrong with me” and “I am alone.” When we buy into these lies, we usually sink deeper into sin. At times sin fills the man with a defeatist attitude. He thinks, “Well, since I already started drinking I might as well keep going,” or, “Since I already started looking at pornography I might as well keep doing it.”
But God moves you toward freedom no matter the depth of sin you have entered. Once you begin sinning, you are not condemned to stay there. Grace is offered for you to stop at the 2nd drink; nothing is inevitable or determined in our behavior. God knows that he can reach you and he keeps trying. Even the next day, when you awaken with regret—and a headache—God is there, not to condemn you but to refresh you with his life.
The world of condemnation and rejection belongs to Satan. He wants to take us to that world, but we do not have to go. We can always move toward the resurrection, toward the light and freedom. Do not start going down the road to self-condemnation. Always reach out for grace. Remember, as  Fr. Jacques Philippe says in his book Interior Freedom:
The person God wants to touch and to transform with his love is not the person we would have liked to be or ought to be. It is the person we are. God doesn’t love ideal persons, he loves actual real persons” (Interior Freedom 32).
In your Sunday holy hour, recall the times that the devil has tempted you using your identity. Did he pull you toward pride or fear? Then take comfort and know that you are not alone. You are not wounded beyond the gaze of Christ’s love. 

Thursday Feb 16, 2023

Jesus said to his disciples: “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. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:38-48
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That is a daunting command. Too often, we understand that command through the lens of our contemporary anxiety-ridden culture. We interpret that saying of Christ to mean that we cannot make mistakes, that we cannot fall into error. All must be perfect, without blemish, without weakness, because in perfection we find our identity. The counselors’ offices are filled with men bearing such anxiety. 
Christ is not commanding the perfect execution of all human action; he is commanding something more vexing. He is commanding that we act like God in loving all. We are to love those who do not love us. We are, in other words, to will the good of those who will our harm. In this way, we are to be perfect.
God’s love is available for the sinner and the saint. The entire scripture is a testimony to God’s love seeking out and penetrating the hearts of “sinners,” of bad people. To leave the bad people without love would be to leave them without God, for God is love. He wants us to participate in his love and join him in converting bad people into good—enemies into friends. 
We are not to act like God out of our own willpower. It is too puny—too wounded. We are to act like God out of our willpower infused with God’s love. This infusion happens through prayerful communion with God and through faith, hope, and love.
Forgiving those who have harmed us means being configured to Christ upon the cross, who says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). To forgive someone is to incorporate the wound they inflicted upon you into your love for them. In other words, the wounds do not sever your communion with another but instead become the occasion for your love to deepen. Forgiveness is always a miracle. Forgiveness is always divine, always unexpected, and scandalous to modern rules and values. 
Our culture and society today teaches us to “cancel” the enemy, to shun and exile him to the margins of influence and commerce. However, in Christ, the enemy is always our future brother. There is no clearer evidence that one has allowed Christ to inhabit one’s will and heart than forgiving one who has harmed us. 
Such forgiveness does not have to happen all at once. It usually proceeds in degrees, as the victim slowly relates all the pain to God in prayer and, over time, becomes enabled to set his heart free from the prison of hate, revenge, and anger. Such freedom does not have to occur in the perpetrator’s presence. God can free us from the chains of unforgiveness even after the perpetrator has left our presence or died. Forgiveness is a gift God gives victims; if they are open to it, this gift frees perpetrators. This is perfection: forgive as you have been forgiven. 
Today, ask the Lord to give you the grace of perfection—the grace to forgive and to love. 

Thursday Feb 09, 2023

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter 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. You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one."
Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37
Free from Within
In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees—he invites them to be more than mere “rule followers.” Although he respects rules, more importantly, he invites us to internalize the truth of the moral rules and live this truth as our own. To remain a rule follower under fear or compulsion is not the glory of the disciple. Such a life does not flow from a love of truth and holiness. It is true that one who follows rules keeps order within the sphere of behavior. However, Christ is looking for inner freedom and integrity. In the fullness of the Christian life, lust will not become promiscuity because a man does not desire it, anger will not become violence and envy will not birth theft because these disordered desires have been deflated by one’s participation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
Our moral behavior flows from somewhere deep within our heart and soul, not simply from a superficial rebellious streak. Our lust, our anger, and our murderous ways need to be healed from within. We need to be set free from interior influences, from desires gone astray, from unchecked and unreasoned impulsive behavior. Jesus wants us to know that our acts are ours and that part of being saved by him is becoming aware of what is within us and giving it to Christ for inner healing, as he is the Divine Physician. This type of living is part of the abundant life that Christ promises. 
A man who simply follows rules does preserve public order, as no violence occurs and no theft is perpetrated, but the man who is refraining from such behavior still wants to steal and still wants illicit sexual behavior. Christ wants to set us free from within. 
As one’s prayer life, worship life, and ascetical life deepen in Christ then progressively, developmentally, in time, and patiently a man undergoes a startling renewal. His desire for sin diminishes. He begins to anticipate that if he follows the promptings of sin he will end up, not in a place of fulfillment, but of boredom and meaninglessness. 
With the light of Christ flooding our minds we actually begin to foresee the fruitlessness and irrationality of choosing sin. And so, by the power of being in communion with Christ, a man comes to say ‘no’ to sin. He says no not simply because such behavior is against a commandment or religious rule, but because he knows that such behavior undermines his very dignity and his communion with God. This is freedom indeed. And such freedom is attained by stopping the evil thought or desire at its first appearance in the mind. If we welcome it and think about it, desire then awakens to push us toward that which we know is evil. In the power of the Spirit, when the first thought to sin arises simply turn and ask our loving God to empty its attraction and reveal its true nature to us—a nature always at odds with our lasting happiness.  
In your holy hour, today and in the coming days, ask the Lord to heal you from within so that your righteousness might surpass that of the Pharisees. Ask the Lord to free you from every inclination to sin and to orient your heart and soul toward worship of the true God, today and every day moving forward.

Thursday Feb 02, 2023

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."
Matthew 5:13-16
Public Witness
Christianity, being a Christian, involves public action. The apostles declared fidelity to Christ before crowds, governments, towns, and cities. Jesus himself died before men in public, attesting to his great love for mankind and his Father in Heaven, by the power of the Spirit. 
During the course of human history, many have tried to make Christianity a private devotion. Even in our own time we have seen a subtle shift in language from respecting freedom of religion toward claiming to respect the freedom to worship. True freedom of religion is not only the freedom to go into a building and worship. It also implies that one is free to fill the public square with the speech and behavior that flows from worship, as long as it does not interfere with the common good.  Religion is not free if it is only given sanction to inform one’s private emotions or thoughts. 
The good news is supposed to set men free, not simply make the worshipper feel loved. Such experiences of being loved by God and loving God in return are essential to the human experience of faith. But such reciprocal love between an individual and God must also bear public fruit. 
Sometimes it is difficult to give testimony about God’s love and his laws in public, and so we shrink from such occasions in the name of respecting others’ privacy. If we do this too often, however, we lose the very vocabulary of salvation and become mute before others when they approach us looking for relief from our time’s superficial philosophies, therapies, and self-help pursuits.  
We need to be bold in articulating what we believe and why we love God. We have to affirm that such love has a right to be spoken and acted upon in public, or we may find ourselves confined to church buildings and banned from public testimony. We are called to let our light shine. We are called to be the light of the world, not simply the light of the sanctuary. We may be tempted to ‘go along to get along,’ but such compromise is not prudent. It is simply self-preservation, or tepid conviction. All the apostles except one died a martyr’s death. Their light attracted the attention of those who prefer the dark. But through their public commitment to Christ the church spread and the good news reached even those in the dark. 
In your holy hour today, reflect on how you can bring the fruits of your life devoted to prayer, asceticism, and fraternity into the public eye. Ask that the light of these graces might shine before others “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Thursday Jan 26, 2023

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.”
Matthew 5:1–12a
The Beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit. What does this mean exactly? Think of the opposite of being poor in spirit—which is being prideful. When someone is prideful, they are “puffed up” and “full of themselves” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4–5). The antithesis of pride is humility. Therefore, you are a blessed man if you humbly acknowledge that God is God, and you are not. 
Blessed are they who mourn. How is it that the sorrowful are the happy ones? Isn’t this a clear contradiction? No, even though it may seem to be. Those who mourn are blessed since they mourn over the right things. In other words, they place their joy in eternal things and not in the things of this world. Precisely in their earthly mourning, they experience a hopeful joy for eternity. Even though they are bound to encounter sorrow in this valley of tears, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is their comforter. 
Blessed are the meek. What is meekness? It’s certainly not a word you hear every day. Meekness is not weakness; rather, it is the controlling of the emotion of anger through right reason and love. Moses is an example of meekness. He was said to be the meekest man in the world (see Numbers 12:3) because he only had righteous anger (see Exodus 32). However, he eventually became embittered and spoke words that were rash when he was tested at the waters of Meribah (see Numbers 20:10–11, Psalms 106:33). Sadly, this prohibited him from inheriting the promised land (see Deuteronomy 32:51–52). Moses’s punishment serves as a kind of warning for us: if we want to enter into heaven, the true promised land, then we must learn to control our anger (see Ephesians 4:26–31). 
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our Lord also says many times elsewhere: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34; compare 5:30, 36, 6:38, 9:4, 17:3–4). This should be our greatest source of motivation. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. In one sense, this means: “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:2). But as St. John Chrysostom says, “The reward here seems at first to be only an equal return; but indeed it is much more; for human mercy and divine mercy are not to be put on an equality.”1 You receive far more mercy from God than you could ever show others. 
Blessed are the clean of heart… Blessed are the peacemakers. Remember well that you were made a child of God in your baptism. Cherish this new identity and this new dignity that was bestowed on you by God the Father. If we remain pure and persevere to the end, then, by God’s grace, “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). 
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This is to say: “You are blessed when you stand up for what is right—no matter the earthly consequences.”
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. In this last beatitude, Jesus returns to the first. Just as he promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit, now he promises the kingdom to those who are persecuted. 
In your silent prayer today, reflect on one or two of these Beatitudes and write them down. Ask the Lord to lead you in your prayer and consider what action He may be asking of you.
1Quote by St. John Chrysostom found in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 152.

Thursday Jan 19, 2023

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. 
Matthew 4:12–23
Left Their Nets 
After Jesus’s baptism and before his public ministry, John the Baptist is absent from Matthew’s narrative accounts because he had been arrested. When Jesus learns about John’s arrest, he goes to Galilee to the region inherited by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali in fulfillment of the prophecy (see Isaiah 9:1–2). This same prophecy is the one that predicted how a “child,” a “son” (Isaiah 9:6), would be born in Israel who would be a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and sit “upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness” (Isaiah 9:7). Knowing full well the implications of his actions, Jesus begins to call his disciples and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom amidst all these Messianic expectations. 
The men he called to follow him were simple fishermen. They probably had heard the scriptures—especially the ones that speak of the Messiah coming from their region—because they attended synagogue services on the Sabbaths. They had faith in God, but they probably didn’t believe these prophecies would come true in their lifetimes. Then, all that changed when they heard the excitement around Jesus’s preaching as he went around exclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 
When our Lord calls you, he doesn’t ask you to be someone you are not. God’s grace does not impose itself on you or destroy your individuality; rather, it elevates, transforms, and perfects you into the man that you were created to be. Jesus sees that Peter, Andrew, James, and John have natural skills as fishermen. Jesus then uses those skills to make them great evangelists, saying, “I will make you fishers of men.” Notice the response of each of these men. Scripture recounts how “[a]t once they left their nets” and “immediately” followed him. Their hearts were ready because they were open.
Where is your heart today? Is it scared to let go and let God in, or does it freely offer everything to God, trusting that he will make you the greatest version of yourself? In your meditative prayer today, ask God for the grace to drop your nets—whatever they may be—so that you may follow Christ unreservedly. 

Thursday Jan 12, 2023

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
John 1:29–34 
Agnus Dei
Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi (Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.) This was John’s proclamation when he saw Jesus approaching him in today’s reading. After the Spirit of the Lord had descended on Jesus, John knew that Jesus was the “Son of God” and the savior of the world.
When John—Jesus’s older cousin—identifies him as “the Lamb of God,” he says that Jesus “existed before” him. If you were present among the crowd, surely you would think, “What a bizarre thing to say about a younger man.” However, John was correct in saying this, for Jesus existed before all time. This was neither self-depreciation for John nor empty praise for Jesus; John was speaking out of true conviction from “the one” who sent him to baptize in the first place. In his own words, John says, “The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’” And that is all John needed to believe that Jesus was the Son of God born before all ages. 
Throughout sacred Scripture, God is referred to in many ways. For example, he is called El Shaddai, or “God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1, 49:25), the Lion of Judah (see Genesis 49:9), and the Alpha and Omega (see Revelation 21:6, 22:13). These are all impressive and powerful titles, but in today’s reading John calls him a lamb. What does a lamb have to do with God? A lot. The lamb was associated with Abraham’s sacrifice in place of Isaac and was the key sacrificial animal in the Passover (see Exodus 12:3). 
Recall when Isaac asked his father, “‘Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son’” (Genesis 22:7–8). As the story continues, God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice. Note well that Abraham does not sacrifice a lamb. Abraham’s sacrifice is not completed until God provides himself as the lamb with his death on the cross. 
Likewise, the lamb’s blood in the Passover saved the people of Israel from the angel of death and from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12:3). The Passover event was a foreshadowing of Christian baptism, where we overcome death by participation in the Paschal Mystery. We are adopted by God and forgiven our sins. 
In the silence of your prayer today, reflect on the title “lamb of God.” Why is the all-powerful God associated with a lamb? Then thank the Lamb of God for taking away your sins and giving you new life.


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