Be Healed

Many of the “religious” folks at the time of Jesus were scandalized that he would associate with people who were viewed as unholy or undesirable.  Mark’s Gospel tells us that, “While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus heard this and said to them, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.’” (NAB, MK 2”15-17) The religious leaders failed to see their own sinfulness and so also did not recognize the need for a savior; their judgmental view of the world blinded them from the truth.

When we are able to recognize ourselves as sinners, grace opens our eyes to see that we are the sick to whom the Son of God came to save. Jesus wants to sit and eat with us. He calls us to the Lamb’s Supper as he calls us to conversion, and we need not be afraid or embarrassed. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely healing.” (HEB 4:14-16) God is calling us today, just as he called Matthew and all of his disciples; “Come, follow me.” Jesus calls us to conversion, to recognize that we are in need of healing because of our sins, and then to receive his grace, that grace we need to change our lives and live in constant pursuit of holiness. Jesus calls us to himself. Let us answer that call.

Jesus, I hear your call. I know that I am a sinner. I know that I need the healing that only comes from you. Forgive me. Give me the wisdom to see my sins and defects, the heart to be truly sorry, the courage to confess all that I’ve done, the heart to receive your love, mercy, and grace, and the determination and strength to live in that same grace, according to your Law and Covenant of Love. Amen.

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Make Me Clean

Jesus frequently used healings and miracles to support and emphasize his teaching of a New Law and a New Covenant. In the Gospel of Mark, for example, we hear early on of the healing of a leper. Lepers were ostracized from the community and were not even allowed to participate in worship; they were absolute outcasts from family and society in a truly profound way. So, being healed of leprosy meant being reunited with family, reunited with friends, and reunited with the People of God, being able to properly worship with the community in the Temple and synagogues.

A leper came to [Jesus] and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I will do it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.” (NAB, MK 1:40-42) We are all in need of cleansing, and our faith reminds us that we can turn to our most merciful and forgiving Savior at any time, and he’s there, waiting for us, ready to give us the gift of renewal and reconciliation. The depth of our sins is insignificant in the presence of the power of God’s grace; his infinite love for us provides immediate rescue when we call upon him in faith.

When is the last time you knelt down and begged Jesus to make you clean? It takes humility and faith to admit our sins and confess them, and it takes the strength and courage that come only from God’s grace to keep us from sin in pursuit of holiness and sanctity. We are each called to be a saint; we are called to unity with our Lord in a perfection that can only be accomplished because of the Sacrifice and Passion of God’s Only Begotten Son. We are made perfect through his perfection, and we are made holy through his sanctifying life.

Lord, Jesus, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Open my mind and reveal to me my sins, that I may honestly and openly confess them with a most contrite heart. I desire nothing less than you, and you desire nothing less than my salvation. Give me a truly sorrowful heart for all of my offenses, and give me your grace, so that I may change my life and pursue the life of holiness to which I am called. Amen.

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Grace & Righteousness

The Eleventh Day of Christmas!

Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil…. In this way, the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.” (NAB, 1JN 3:7-8, 10) Our righteousness is interior, flowing from the heart as a result of God’s abundant grace. Our actions and good works result from the desires and gifts which God has already given us through his salvific grace. Thus, our cooperation, our “yes” to God, and the assent of our will are not particularly exclusive to us as individuals, but are rather ultimately and fundamentally from the Creator himself. All that is good is from God, and the righteousness of his people is the glorification of his grace acting in love.

We are children of the Covenant of Love. Our redemption and salvation are a result of that same love, a deep and incomprehensible love according to which God sent his Only Son into the world, to complete His Passion so that we might receive mercy and forgiveness, atonement for our sins. It is the Love of God, a love like none other, that redeems us and continuously calls us to conversion and unity with him. We are to love our neighbor as Christ, to see Jesus in each other. True righteousness is revealed as we are conformed through his Law of Love and his Covenant of Communion to be Christ in our world, to be his act of love.

Lord, you love me with an unfailing love. All that I do, all of my gifts, and all of my good desires come from you through your grace. Thank you for choosing me, who is unworthy, but is made worthy by you. Allow me to see you in those around me, in my family and friends, in my coworkers and neighbors, and in the suffering, marginalized, and rejected of this world. I want to live your Law of Love; give me your grace. Amen.

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Get Rid of Gossip

In many places throughout Scripture, we are warned of the dangers of talking idly about others, particularly speaking inappropriately or uncharitably, especially regarding another’s behavior, appearance, motives, or reputation. Gossip is so popular and typical in many of our conversations, that oftentimes we are arms deep into it before we even realize we’re doing it, and it can become a habit, or even the basis of “friendly” gatherings.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains how the people were gossiping about himself as well as John the Baptist. He says, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinner.’” (NAB, MT 11:18-19) These are the irreverent, inappropriate, and uncharitable remarks about John the Baptist, the one about whom Jesus says, “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” (11:11) And these are the rantings about Jesus, the Christ, Son of God.

How wrong our gossip can be! We must be so very careful here, to ensure that we ourselves are not drawn into the judgmental conversations we encounter in our daily lives. As Christians, we pursue Truth, we pursue Love, and we pursue Wisdom. These are present in Christ, and so, as we seek Christ in others, we become able to witness Wisdom “vindicated by her works” (11:18), where grace allows us to, as yet, live imperfectly in the Kingdom of God, with faith and hope to sustain us.

I know that I am judgmental, and that only you, Lord, see with the eyes of perfect Truth. Help me to seek you in others and to find your presence in the world. Give me your grace to speak of others with charity, compassion, and understanding. Allow me to see your Wisdom as she expresses herself in works of faith and love. May I grow ever stronger in my love for others so that you may be glorified in my life. Amen.

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Gracious & Merciful

Oftentimes we forget that God is not only infinite in mercy and forgiveness, but he is infinite in justice as well. We see mere shadows and reflections of true mercy, forgiveness, and justice in our world. The closer we draw to the Lord, however, the better able we are to know “the Lord [who] is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and rich in kindness.” (cf. NAB, PS 145:8) The closer we draw to the Lord, the more we will imitate his perfection of infinite virtue.

This often-quoted verse from Psalm 145, is frequently used in weddings, and several Contemporary Christian songs are similarly titled. It would truly be an incredible world, and most certainly a godly marriage, if we were able to be gracious and merciful with each other, always being slow to anger and rich in kindness. This is our calling if we are to imitate our Creator, if we are to become most perfectly that which we have been created.

Father, teach me to be gracious and merciful with others in my life. I am impatient, selfish, offensive, quickly frustrated, easily angered, and unkind. Forgive my lack of humility. You know my imperfections and my sins. Heal me of them, so that by your grace, I may grow closer to you, and imitate you more and more each day. Amen.

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Come Home

God desperately loves each and every one of us. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a short parable of a shepherd with “a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (NAB, MT 18:12) Jesus further explains that it is similar regarding our Heavenly Father when one of his children goes astray, and upon finding the lost, the shepherd, our Lord, greatly rejoices!

Being lost, and then found, brings to mind the incredible song by writer John Newton; the great spiritual hymn, Amazing Grace: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” It is by God’s good grace that we are found, that we are welcomed into his family, and it is only through his grace that salvation may be ours. We have wandered, but our loving Father brings us back home.

Thank you for loving me, sweet Jesus, and thank you for always searching for me and pursuing me in your love whenever I am lost. You love me with an inexhaustible love, and I am grateful. Help me to love others and rejoice in coming home to you. Amen.

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Hail Mary, Full of Grace!

Today, we hear the incredibly beautiful words from St. Luke’s Gospel, where the Angel Gabriel confronts Mary with a profound and timeless message. He calls to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you…. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (NAB, LK  1:28, 30) The Angel announces that Mary, although a virgin, will be the God-bearer. While Mary cannot understand how the words of God’s Messenger will come to pass, her trust and faith were far greater than her doubt and lack of understanding. Thus, she responded with the words of eternal consequence and perfect unity of will: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (1:38)

Mary is the example par excellence of faith and discipleship. Being the mother of our Lord, she is also Queen of all Apostles, since she was the first one, literally, to carry the Gospel, to carry the Good News, the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Mary is not to be adored, but because of her special role in salvation history and her immaculate nature, being full of grace, she is due a veneration that is higher than that of other saints and loved ones. She is not our biological mother, whose water broke open to give us life in this world; rather, she is the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. When Mary’s water broke open, the world received God made flesh, whose very presence sanctifies the womb and woman who carried him and who sanctified the waters of our own baptism in his. Mary, our Mother, was set apart from the moment of her conception, as she, from that very moment, was completely filled with saving grace of Almighty God.

Heavenly Father, give me your grace. I am in this world as a broken, homeless soul, restless and uneasy in heart because of my nature. Make me a true disciple like Mary, your mother, my mother, who let faith and trust lead her to your truth, and when I am confused, in doubt, or don’t understand, may I repeat the words given to me by our mother: I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word. Amen.

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Confess Jesus

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (NAB, ROM 10:9-10) This verse of Scripture is often misapplied by those trying to establish that salvation is secured by a single act on the part of a believer. “Just say it, and you’re saved.” I like to quote the great Scott Hahn, who sharply says, “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” In other words, you can’t simply quote the English translation of a biblical text without considering the greater context of the passage, book, and entire Bible itself. One who does so is exposed to great danger of misunderstanding what was meant and failing to see the Truth in God’s Word.

One consideration is that for a person at the time of Christ, to confess that Jesus is Lord, that person would be committing treason. The only person to be publicly proclaimed as lord was the Roman Emperor; to call Jesus “Lord” could very easily result in one’s torture and execution. To confess with the lips was a profound act of faith and trust in God, both of which result from the gift of God’s grace.

Secondly, there is no reason to believe that confessing Jesus as Lord is a one-time deal. Quite the contrary. The reality, substantiated by the full context of Scripture (cf., MT 10, 2TM 2, HEB 4, HEB 10, etc.), is that we are to continually confess Jesus as Lord, throughout our lives, until our physical death, and when we sin, we are to reconcile ourselves with those whom we’ve sinned against and with God, and “then bring your gift to the altar.” (MT 5:23-24) Thus, by God’s grace, we are all called to “work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), as we confess Jesus as our Lord by faith and through our works of love.

Jesus, I accept you as my Lord, and I thank you for the gift of grace given to me. Increase my faith so that my very life becomes my confession, that every word that goes forth from my mouth (nay, from my heart), gives you honor and glory through all that I do as your disciple. Amen.

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