• St. Peter the Fisherman

June 12, 2020

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: “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. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Opening Prayer: Here I am again, Lord, coming into your presence filled with hope in your goodness and a desire to hear your voice speak to my heart. I know you are thinking of me right now—you never stop thinking of me. I know you have a beautiful dream for me life, and I can only discover and fulfill that dream if I stay close to you. As I pray and reflect on your words today, I do so with that desire: I want to come closer and closer to you, and never be separated from you. Please enlighten and strengthen me, Lord.

Encountering Christ:

1. Abusing God’s Gifts: The perennial temptation linked to our sexuality is lust, seeing and treating other people as objects rather than persons, as tools for our own pleasure rather than fellow pilgrims on the way to the Father’s house. This, like anger, is one of the capital sins, because it leads to many other sins. Just as anger can lead to sins like calumny, murder, and even war, lust destroys lives and families through many forms of abuse and exploitation. Our culture seems to have forgotten this. It actively promotes lustful attitudes and actions through the super-sexualized nature of popular entertainment and the ever-growing proliferation of pornography. This promotion of lust, in fact, has contributed to a general loss even of common sense when it comes to some of the most basic realities of our human existence— like our being created male and female, and the lifelong nature of a marriage relationship as the origin of every family. In this passage Jesus is reminding us of God’s noble design for our sexuality: through the faithful gift of each other to each other, spouses image the generous and life-giving love that flows among the three divine persons of the Trinity. Our sexuality is a precious and beautiful part of God’s plan for our lives, and so when lust and infidelity creep in and corrupt it, the corruption is especially destructive.

2. Sin Matters: In this context, Jesus also reminds us that sin really matters. Whenever we choose to act in contradiction to God’s plan for our human nature, we cause damage to our souls, which is even more lasting and dangerous than damage to our bodies. This is why Jesus exhorts us to cut away anything in our lives that leads us into sin. His image of cutting out our eye or cutting off our hand if they lead us into sin is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, it can’t be—neither our eyes nor our hands can ever commit a sin, since sin is always a choice against God’s wise plan for us, and choices are made in a person’s spirit. But to choose against God’s plan for us can cause us eternal damage by separating us from his friendship forever. The image of it being preferable to lose a hand or an eye rather than to lose our very self by going to hell is a vivid illustration. Jesus really wants us to know the truth: our choices matter! We can use God’s gifts for the good purposes for which he gave them to us–as in the purpose of our sexuality, which is to bring us together in a spousal relationship of love from which new families are formed–or we can abuse his gifts, and wreak destruction on ourselves and on others. Jesus really wants us to make the right choices, and he will help us do so. We just have to be humble enough to accept the truth of who we are as human beings with a specific human nature created by God, a nature that flourishes when we obey the natural law God has written inside it.

3. Occasions of Sin: Catholic spirituality has always encouraged us to avoid the so-called “occasions of sin.” These are situations in which we know we will be severely tempted to sin. We all have situations like that because we all have a fallen human nature. Certain tendencies within us seem to be attracted to sin, even when we know that acting against God’s wise plan for us (that’s the essence of sin) is bad for us and for those around us. Knowing that we have these tendencies of our fallen nature (called “concupiscence” by theologians) can help us avoid situations in which those tendencies may be encouraged— occasions of sin. This is partly what Jesus was getting at when warning us to cut out the causes of sin from our lives. What are my occasions of sin? Certain relationships or social situations? Certain habits of laziness or indulgence? Sin wreaks destruction, because it abuses God’s gifts, using them for purp oses God never intended. Being convinced of that can give us the courage we need to avoid situations that blind us and make sin seem attractive.

Conversing with Christ: Lord, you spoke so clearly and directly about sin. You spoke so clearly and directly about sexual sin. The world around me doesn’t do that. The world around me doesn’t even use the term sin anymore. The world around me is filled with confusion and contradiction regarding all things sexual. I want to welcome this gift you have given me and live it with integrity and beauty. I want to live it in the way you meant it to be lived. Please help me. Please enlighten me. Please give me the courage I need to always make choices in harmony with your wise plan for my life and for the lives of those around me. I believe in you, Lord; help my unbelief! (cf. Mark 9:24).

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will make a list of the most frequent occasions of sin in my life. I will talk with you about them and make a realistic plan to avoid them. Then I will talk about that plan with a close friend or mentor in order to have someone who can help hold me accountable to that plan.

  • St. Peter the Fisherman

June 9, 2020

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

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: I believe that you are here with me now, Lord. I believe that you are looking upon me with love, that you desire to be with me. I too desire to be with you. I want to offer you my time and presence as an act of love and worship. I need your grace, Lord, and you deserve my praise. Please send your Holy Spirit to quiet my soul so that I can hear what you want to tell me today, and to strengthen me so that I can respond to your words with courage and generosity.

Encountering Christ:

1. Salt of the Earth: In Jesus’s time refrigeration had not yet been invented. The most common way to preserve meat and other perishables was through using salt. Salt not only gave flavor to food, but also preserved it. As Jesus continues unfolding his core teachings at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us that we, as His followers, are meant to be–are called and equipped to be–the salt of the world. Filled with his truth and grace, we bring zest and meaning to life wherever we go. And yet, Jesus warns us that it is possible for us to lose sight of this mission, of this identity we have in him. When salt loses its taste, it becomes utterly useless. Jesus is pointing out that what really makes our life worth living is our Christian identity and mission. If we let that get watered down, if we compromise that, we lose everything that really matters. Is my Christian identity and mission the central reality of my life, the force behin d what I think, say, and do? Or have I perhaps relegated my faith to one sector of my life? What helps me keep my saltiness? What influences in my life tend to weaken and water down my Christian identity?

2. Light of the World: Original sin disrupted God’s plan for this world. Evil, suffering, death—these were not part of God’s design for the human family. Original sin obscured the human mind and darkened the human heart. Jesus came to roll back that darkness and redeem us from sin. When he reveals to his disciples that they–that we–are the “light of the world,” he is entrusting us with the mission to spread this redemption. The candlelight service on the Easter Vigil, when the light from the Easter candle is passed on to every person in the church, one by one, until the whole space is illuminated, is a symbol for the Church’s mission in the world as a whole. Each one of us receives the light of Christ–what he has revealed as true about God, the world, and human happiness, as well as the grace to live in harmony with that revelation–and is called and equipped to pass that light onto others. Does my life sh ine with the light of Christ? What inhibits it from shining? What helps it shine more? In what ways am I spreading that light to others? In what ways is God asking me to spread that light?

3. Our Mission Matters: God didn’t have to make us partners in his redemption. He could have reserved to himself all the work involved in his plan of salvation. But he didn’t. He chose to make us his coworkers, his ambassadors, his companions in the great adventure of building up an eternal Kingdom. Why? God created human nature. He knows the needs and desires of our hearts more deeply than we ourselves know them. And he knows that one of our deepest needs is for authentic meaning. We are spiritual beings, even though we live in a material world. And so merely material kingdoms–material achievements, pleasures, accumulations–will never satisfy us. By inviting us to be partners in building up His eternal Kingdom, he actually opens up the possibility for our decisions and actions in this world to impact the world to come. That can give real, everlasting meaning to our lives here on earth. When we faithfully engage in our mission to build up C hrist’s Kingdom, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we are doing things that will reverberate into eternity. That is something that can satisfy the desires of our hearts.

Conversing with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for inviting me to be your coworker. Thank you for giving me the grace to be light and salt for this needy world. Thank you for giving true, lasting meaning to my life. So often I get caught up in the demands of life on earth and lose sight of the bigger picture. Help me to know how to be salt and light in the midst of my daily activities. Give me a heart like yours, which was always looking for ways to bring people closer to God and put them on the road to eternal life. I want to live my life as your ambassador. I want to invest my time, talent, and treasure in building up a Kingdom that will have no end.

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will consciously embrace my call to be salt and light for the world by proactively performing some kind of work of mercy, either a corporal work of mercy (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead, giving alms to the poor) or a spiritual work of mercy (counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead).

  • St. Peter the Fisherman

June 8, 2020

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 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 Lord, I turn to you and to your words in the Gospel because I believe in you. I believe that you want what is best for me and are able to lead and guide me along the path of spiritual growth and true happiness. I am familiar with these words of the Gospel, but I know you always have something more to say to me, and I always need to hear what you have to say. Open my mind and my heart to courageously welcome the grace you want to give me today.

Encountering Christ:

1. Christ’s Core Teachings: Today we begin our annual review of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, which St. Matthew presents to us in Chapters 5-7 of his Gospel. Most Biblical scholars agree that what St. Matthew combines into one long sermon is most likely a summary of many different discourses Jesus gave repeatedly throughout the years of his public ministry. In other words, the Sermon on the Mount contains the key lessons Jesus wanted to give through his teaching. He reinforced these lessons through his other activities, especially his miracles and his Passion, as well as through the teaching he gave with parables—most of those appear later in St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Church is so wise to have us go through these core teachings of Our Lord every year as we leave behind the liturgical season of Easter and get back into Ordinary Time. As human beings living in a fallen world, burdened with our own fallen human nature, we constantly need to be reminded of what is essential for Christian living. We need to keep going back to the basics, just like athletes who drill the fundamentals at the beginning of every new training season. How open am I to hear what God wants to say to me in this particular season of my life through these core teachings of Jesus Christ?

2. What Jesus Wants for Us: The very first word Jesus uses at the beginning of this summary of his core teachings is “blessed.” The Greek word, makarios, implies a state of being fully and unassailably prosperous. It means the kind of happiness that comes from living life to the full, from having all that we need to feel fully alive. That’s the first word Jesus speaks as he begins revealing his message about Christian living. This means that his most ardent desire for each one of us, for every one of his followers and potential followers, is for us to live life to the full, to discover the path of meaning and fulfillment that we all yearn for. Human history is littered with countless philosophies and religions that have desperately, and unsuccessfully, searched for the secret to the truly happy life. Jesus knows that our deepest desire is precisely that—to live life to the full, to find the meaning we were created to enjoy. By beginning his Sermon on the Mount with the world “blessed,” and by repeating it nine times, he is opening his own heart to us and saying, as St. John the Evangelist puts it later in his Gospel: “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10). That’s what Jesus wants for us—everything he taught, did, and lived, was to help us achieve that goal. Is that how I see Our Lord?

3. A Counter-Cultural Path: These first verses of the Sermon on the Mount are known as the “Beatitudes,” because the word in Latin for “blessed” is “beatus.” Each Beatitude contains a behavior and a reward. Jesus is teaching us that how we choose to behave in this world has consequences. If we choose to behave in harmony with God’s design for human nature, we will experience more and more the meaning and fulfillment we were created to experience. The Beatitudes are the initial presentation of these behaviors, this way of life, and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount explains them and illustrates them. And they need to be explained, because they are not popular behaviors from the world’s perspective. So much of our popular culture promotes the contrary behaviors: instead of poverty of spirit, the world invites us to seek happiness in material wealth and popularity; instead of being sorrowful in the face of sin and its horrible consequences, the world invites us to delight in self-indulgence; instead of being merciful, the world invites us to foster revenge and resentment, to put down others and reject them instead of forgiving them. The Beatitudes, and the whole Sermon on the Mount for that matter, show clearly that being a follower of Christ is a counter-cultural choice that takes courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance. In other words, it can be hard. But Jesus invites us to “rejoice and be glad” when we experience that difficulty, because it is a sign we are on the right path and moving in the right direction, and that’s what really matters.

Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I can hear your voice through these words of the Gospel. I can hear the love and the eagerness with which you reveal this path of a meaningful life. I can see the light in your eyes, a light filled with hope that I will truly listen to your teaching and do my part to put it into practice in my life. But I also know how easy it is for me to let the noise of the world drown out your voice, and to let the glitter of the world obscure the light of your eyes. Help me, Lord, to “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for everything that you desire for me. Help me to follow the path of the Beatitudes, the path of true joy and meaning.

Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will respond to moments of difficulty, sadness, or frustration by calling to mind the first word of your Sermon on the Mount and remembering what it tells me about your desire for my life: “Blessed”—a life lived to the full.


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