No Gift Too Small

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

I was on social media a couple months ago and came across a post that shocked me.  It shocked me because you can sense by the tone that she was hurting.  Her tweet basically said that she has nothing to offer to the church.  This post was heartbreaking, and it had me wondering how many other people within the church may feel like this.  A priest responded with reassurance that she has a gift that nobody else in her church may have.  The next response was from a Southern Baptist pastor who said that there is no gift or deed to small, and that God can use anything for his glory.  It was encouraging to see over two hundred comments encouraging this individual.

What is the point of all of this?  In today’s passage we read that the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different people.  No organization can function if everyone was doing the same thing, and the church is no different.  We all can’t be pastors or teachers.  Yes, sometimes those gifts get all the attention but if you ask any pastor, they would say that there is so much more going on behind the scenes than people may realize.  This was the point of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church.  Charles Spurgeon once said that the greatest gift that one could give him was to pray for him.  We can certainly do that a little more, thee are things in the church that can always be cleaned, Sunday School to be taught, ushers, greeters, and people to put together the bulletin.  There is no gift that is too small, and every gift is needed.

So what gift do you possess that could be used for the benefit of the church?  At the church I grew up in there was a woman named Delores who greeted everyone with a smiling face.  She made everyone feel welcomed, and when she passed to her eternal reward over 500 people attended her funeral.  Her story is a perfect example of something that seemed small, but had a huge impact for the kingdom.  Perhaps your gift is the same.  Let it shine and let God turn it into something that helps bear fruit for his kingdom.  You have a gift that we all need and the Lord will utilize it in a way that you can’t even begin to fathom.

 

Prayer:  Lord Jesus I humbly asked that you take the gift I have and use them for your glory.  Help me to understand what my gift is and submit it to your service.

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Resist The Devil

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly,
to spend it on your passions.
Adulterers!
Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?
Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world
makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says,
The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

So submit yourselves to God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning
and your joy into dejection.
Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will exalt you.-James 4:1-10

The letter of James is a book that is challenging.  It is a book that calls us to action, and the passage today is no exception.  St. James is blunt and to the point.  He is basically saying that we have conflict because we want what someone else has.  We want it so bad that it starts to take over our mind.  We think about it so much that we become resentful and start to justify doing wrong to the person.  Think about that.  You may have done that.  I know I have.  He then talks about humility and resisting temptation.  The reason that this is here is no accident.  Humility and resisting temptation will help us avoid covetousness.  This will help build stronger relationships and community among believers.

Satan knows what we like and he knows what makes us tick.  He will do everything in his power to make you stumble.  He will make you feel that someone doesn’t deserve what they have to the point that you wish harm on the person.  He will make you want to look at that porn site one more time because you aren’t hurting anyone.  He will make you do any number of things and will help you justify them.  He is called the father of lies for a reason.  Resist the bitterness, envy, and strife.  Be humble and resist the snares of the devil.  Remember to rest in Christ and be humble and he will lift you up.

 

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Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things.
–St. Augustine

Behold Your Mother

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved,
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately Blood and water flowed out.-John 19:25-34

The episode mentioned in today’s Gospel is one that in only mentioned in John’s Gospel.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke have no mention of it for good reason.  John was the only disciples that stuck with Jesus during the crucifixion, and there he witnessed an amazing exchange.  Watching the savior of the world in agony on the cross must have been amazing enough, but he also witnessed a son loving his mother.  In his final moments he wanted to make sure that his mother was taken care of.  He tells John “Son, behold your mother”.  This would not have happened if Mary had other children.  In fact, it would have broken Mosaic law to do so.  It was the responsibility of the eldest son to take care of mom, and if something would have happened it would go to the next oldest.

There are a couple observations to take from today’s Gospel reading.  Firstly, Mary had no other children which would go to prove Church teaching about her perpetual virginity.  Secondly John takes care of Mary as his own mother.  John’s mom was still alive during the crucifixion, and yet Jesus hands her over to him.  As Christians we are adopted sons, and therefore Jesus is also giving Mary to us as our mother.  Christ is the head of the church, and Mary is his mother, as adopted sons she is our mother.  She is the mother of the Church.  Behold your mother.

 

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“If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.” -Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Feed My Lambs

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. 
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”-John 21:15-19

There is a lot that are going on in today’s Gospel reading.  It may helpful to oneself in the place of St. Peter to fully understand.  You may recall that when Jesus was on trial, and according to Matthew’s Gospel Peter denied him three times.  In today’s passage Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  The significance of this was not lost on Peter as John describes Peter as being in distress about this.  Peter would go on to be the head of the church on earth, and the first Pope in the Church.  This was a moment of restoration and forgiveness.  Christ goes on to tell Peter that he would suffer martyrdom.

What does this mean for us?  In Matthew 16:18 Christ calls Peter the rock and says that church will be built on him.  Just a few verses later Jesus tells Peter that he is acting contrary to the will of God.  He even denied Jesus!  How many of us have acted contrary to the will of God?  How many of us even denied him?  The bottom line in the life of Peter is about a man who was restored even though he fell from grace.  God’s mercy is greater than anything we have ever done.  Peter went on to lead the early church and feed the sheep.  We may not be priests or bishops, but we all have a gift that help to feed the flock.  Are we using it?

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“We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable.”
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Seek Unity

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”-John 17:11b-19

Today’s Gospel reading from the mass is very interesting.  This is what is known as the high priestly prayer of Christ, and it happens before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prays that the disciples may be unified as Christ was in unity with the rest of the Trinity.  However Christianity is anything but united today.  The Protestant reformation ripped the church apart, and the division has not stopped since.  So what are we to do?

Christ consecrated the disciples, and steadfastness to the truth is what we are called to.  Speak, listen , and inform.  There are a lot of misunderstandings about the Catholic church, and we have the obligation to speak the truth.  In a loving manner lets address the concerns of our Protestant brethren, and in turn lets listen to what they have to say.  It will be frustrating at times, but they love Christ as well and we need to remember that.  We are not of this world and we don’t write off people because they believe differently than we do.  Christ wants unity, and that was one of his last prayers.  How are we bridging the divide?  Let’s address the questions of our Protestant brethren.  Not all of us are comfortable speaking, but if they are sincere about learning the truth they should be ok with getting a link or book.  Remain steadfast in the truth of the faith.

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Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for the unity of his blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the elders and deacons [lit. servants], my fellow-servants.-St. Ignatius of Antioch

Blessed Be the Lord Who Saves

Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death. -Psalm 68:20-21

Today’s Bible reflection is taken from the second part of the responsorial Psalm.  Though it is short there is much contained within its words.  We are reminded that is God who saves, and it is He who controls our eternal destiny.  He has done much good for all of us, he gave us life, and we are to respect and be in awe of him.  In short, blessed be the Lord.

We have a tendency as humans to want to do things on our own.  This is fine and dandy if it is something like riding a bike, but not something we should be doing in terms of our salvation.  The fact of the matter is that we can’t get to heaven on our own.  God is our salvation as the Psalmist says.  Are you trying to do it alone?  Christ established the church to guide us on the road we should go and teach us the truths about God.  It is God who saves and we do not save ourselves.

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“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”
-St. Augustine of Hippo

Go and Bear Fruit

I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.-John 15:16

Today’s gospel reflection is taken from the antiphon before today’s Gospel reading.  Jesus makes a very direct point and simply says “Go and bear fruit that will last”.  It seems so easy, and yet so complicated at the same time.  To bear fruit you have to start with a seed.  In its journey to become fruit the seed go through various stages.  As a seedling it pushes through the dirt towards the sun, it relies on the rain and the sun to nourish it to maturing, and when the time is right it brings forth fruit to bring nourishment to the recipient.

In the Christian life we look to the Son, Jesus, and he provides nourishment through his scripture and the church.  Scripture says that all of us have a gift that can help with the mission of the church.  Some are given the gift of teaching, administration, leadership, mercy, etc.  Each gift is vital and needed to fulfill the mission of the church.  Are we being faithful in this mission?  Using this gift is fruit that will last.  It lasts because it spreads the Gospel and helps teach the next generation that will pass it on.

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He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows. –St. Gregory of Nissa

 

God is Love

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.-1 John 4:11-16

The second reading in today’s mass is from the first letter of St. John.  This letter is a personal favorite of mine.  There is so much theological depth and things we can use on an everyday basis.  This letter is an extension of the Gospel he wrote, and we see a lot of talk about love.  Today’s passage is especially challenging for us.  St. John writes that to love is how we remain in God because God is love.  In a world that seems to be about revenge and shaming to get what we want this may seem extreme.  In fact, it is outright countercultural.

If we acknowledge and accept Christ as the Son of God then St. John says that we have come to know the love that God has for us.  Since we know that love we have been called, and have the obligation, to love others.  Even those who may not like us.  This doesn’t mean that we need to have someone in our home who does us harm, but we have to acknowledge their worth as someone who is made in the image of God.  Remember that God is love, and if we claim Christ then we have an obligation to reflect that love to others.  Are we doing it?

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The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
–Pope St. Gregory the Great

Bible Reflection: Jesus is the Christ

After staying in Antioch some time,
Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence
through the Galatian country and Phrygia,
bringing strength to all the disciples.

A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria,
an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus.
He was an authority on the Scriptures.
He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and,
with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus,
although he knew only the baptism of John.
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue;
but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside
and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.
And when he wanted to cross to Achaia,
the brothers encouraged him
and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.
After his arrival he gave great assistance
to those who had come to believe through grace.
He vigorously refuted the Jews in public,
establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.-Acts 18:23-28

In the first reading of today’s mass we read about a man by the name of Apollos.  St. Luke tells us in the book of Acts that he was well versed in the scriptures, was a great orator, and spoke boldly for Christ.  Those in the synagogue opposed him at every turn, and Priscilla and Aquila took him under their wing and helped him to explain the scriptures even more accurately. In short, he was open to correction and wanted to teach right doctrine.  Having learned from this correction he refuted the Jews that denied Christ, and established through scripture that Jesus is the Christ.

We can lean something very helpful from Apollos.  No matter how much training, or how much others praise us we must remain humble.  We must be open to correction especially to those appointed over us.  This will help us better proclaim that Jesus is the Christ as the scriptures teach.  Let’s make it a daily goal to study the scriptures, pray, and perhaps even look for a spiritual director that can help us learn the faith in a deeper way.  In addition, lets be open to the Holy Spirit and proclaim Christ just as Apollos did.

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The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant.”
-St. Anthony of Padua

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