June 24-29: 12th week: Weekday Reflections

June 24: Monday (Nativity of St. John the Baptist): Luke 1: 57-66, 80: 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the birth and naming of St. John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet.  He was given the mission of heralding the promised Messiah and of preparing the Chosen People to welcome that Messiah by preaching to them repentance and the renewal of life.  John was born to the priest, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth in their old age.  Today’s Gospel passage describes John’s birth, Circumcision and Naming ceremony.
A miraculous birth and an event of double joy: His elderly parents rejoiced in John’s birth, as he was a gift from God in their old age.  Since the child was a boy, all their neighbors rejoiced with them, and the village musicians celebrated the birth by playing their joyful music.  The Naming followed the baby’s Circumcision, and Elizabeth insisted that the child should be named John (which means “the Lord is gracious”).  The mute Zechariah approved that name by writing, “His name is John.” At that action of obedient surrender to the Lord God, his speech was restored, and he loudly proclaimed the praises of God for blessing him with a son and Israel with her Deliverer, whose herald his son would be.
Life messages:  1) We need to pray for our parents and be thankful to them for the gift of life, the training and discipline they have given us and the love and affection they have lavished on us.  Let us ask God’s pardon if we are, or were, ungrateful to them, do/did not take proper care of them in their illness or old age or ever inflicted pain on them.  2) We need to remember and pray for our godparents who sponsored us in Baptism, which made us children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, heirs of Heaven and members of the Church.  3) We should have the courage of our Christian convictions as John the Baptist did, and we should become heralds of Christ as John was, by our transparent Christian lives. ( L/19

June 25 Tuesday: Mt 7: 6, 12-14: Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you. 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
The context: Today’s Gospel passage, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, speaks about the proper use of holy things, the Golden Rule we have to obey and the less-traveled narrow way we have to take in our Christian lives.
Jesus advises his listeners to use holy things in a holy manner.  The Jews had a statement in their Scriptures (“Do not put a golden ring in the nose of a pig or on the ears of a dog” Prv 11:22), parallel to Jesus’ statement, “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine”(Mt 7:12) The Jews understood the injunction to mean the exclusiveness of their religion, which meant that they should not teach the Law to the Gentiles.  The early Church interpreted Jesus’ statement in its earliest catechism, the Didache, to mean that only the baptized should approach the Eucharistic table.  This view is reflected in the canons of the Oriental Churches, introducing a command in the text of the Mass before Eucharistic prayer, “Let the catechumens, hearers and unbelievers quit,” and another command before Holy Communion, “Holy things are for holy people.”  The statement of the Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Mt 7:12), is Jesus’ positive contribution to ancient and negative Jewish principles, meaning that real Christianity consists in doing good to others by loving service and works of mercy. Supplementing the instructions given by Moses (Dt 30:15-20), Joshua (Dt 24:15), and Jeremiah (21:8), Jesus challenges his followers to “enter by the narrow gate and take the hard way that leads to life.”
Life message: 1) Let us learn to reverence and respect holy things in a holy manner and do to others what we wish them to do to us. Let us choose Jesus’ narrow way of sacrificial love and humble service. ( L/19

June 26 Wednesday: Mt 7:15-20: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
The context: In today’s Gospel passage, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives his Church a warning against false prophets and their false doctrines. Jesus compares them to wolves in sheep’s clothing and tells us we can recognize them by observing the lives they lead and the doctrines they teach.
False and true prophets: The Old Testament speaks of false prophets and how they mislead God’s people. Jeremiah 23:9-40 is a classic example. The prophet condemns the false prophets of Baal. The Old Testament gives three signs of true prophets: a) they honor God and promote the worship of the one true God; b) they care for the poor; c) they fight for justice. Modern false prophets in the Church try to remove the cross from Christianity, dilute sin, avoid teaching about God’s judgment and teach that morality is relative, which God abhors: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness” (Is 5:20). They try to separate the people of God from the Magisterium of the Church. But modern true prophets lead exemplary and righteous lives, obey God’s laws and the Church laws and demonstrate the virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance. In addition, they produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Life message: 1) As Christians, we participate in the prophetic role of Christ. Hence, we have the duty of leading others to Christ by our exemplary Christian lives. ( L/19

June 27 Thursday (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): Matthew 7:21-29: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’  24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 ….29
The context: Today’s Gospel is the concluding part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gives us two warnings: 1) that we must match our profession of Faith with actual obedience to the will of God and 2) that we must build our life on the firm foundation of his teachings.  Jesus warns us against hypocrisy and challenges us to make a radical commitment to his word by putting it into action.
Criterion for entrance to Heaven: In the first part of the Gospel for today, Jesus asserts that fidelity, both in Faith and in its practice, is what gives one admission into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus is speaking about the future leaders in his Church who will prophesy, cast out demons, and accomplish deeds of power in the cause of Christ without stopping to reflect on whether they are obeying Jesus and living according to his ideals.  Fine words can never be a substitute for fine deeds.  We may deceive men with our words, but we cannot deceive God who reads our hearts.  That is why the Apostle James advises us in his epistle, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1: 22).
The obedient wise man and the non-obedient fool: Jesus contrasts a wise man who practices what he believes with a fool who does not practice his religious beliefs, using the images of one man who built his house on firm rock and another who built his house on loose sand in summer, right in the rainy season flood-plain of a river.
Life messages: 1) We need to build our family on a strong foundation: There can be no great marriage and no great family without a solid foundation, and that foundation begins with the husband and wife doing and being the love of Christ for each other and for their children.  The members of the family must love one another the way Jesus wants us to love, to forgive each other as he teaches, and to become servants of one another the way Jesus was to everyone.
2) We need to synchronize our living with our profession of Faith: The test of our Sunday worship is the effect it has on us in our homes and workplaces and the way it influences our relationships with friends and neighbors.  The great test is the care, consideration, and sensitivity we show to our neighbors, many of whom would otherwise lack affection, words of encouragement, and forgiveness. ( L/19

June 28 Friday (The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus): Luke 15: 3-7:
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the second popular Catholic devotion among Catholics, the first being the Rosary. The infinite love and mercy of God is shown in many different metaphors and symbols like the Baby in the manger, the Good Shepherd, the Crucifix, the Sacred Heart, and the Divine Mercy PictureThe devotion to the Sacred Heart is based on the apparitions of Our Lord from 1673 to 1675 to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun of the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in France. The Gospel passage, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:35-37) lies at the foundation of the whole tradition of devotion to the Divine Heart. The practices of the “Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” in the home and the “Consecration and dedication of the family to the Sacred Heart” were begun by Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and were later approved by the popes. Official and social recognition of the rule of Jesus over the Christian family is the purpose of the consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The “Holy Hour,” the “Litany of the Sacred Heart,” “The Act of Consecration of the Family and the Human Race to the Sacred Heart,” the “First Friday Devotion” and the “Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” are different forms of this devotion.
Life Messages: 1) An invitation for heart transplant. Our hearts become stony and insensitive through our daily exposure to acts of cruelty, terrorism, injustice and impurity. Hence God prescribes a change of heart through His prophet Ezekiel (Ez 11:19-20to make our hearts soft, elastic, large and sensitive:” I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the stony heart from their bodies and replace it with a natural heart.” The Sacred Heart of Jesus should be the ideal heart for this medical procedure because Jesus said, “Learn of me I am meek and humble of heart.” Let us ask to have the heart of Jesus.
2)  An invitation to love. The Sacred Heart of Jesus challenges us to love others as Jesus loved, selflessly, unconditionally and sacrificially, and to express this love in humble and loving service done to others.
c)     An invitation to pray: First, let us continue to pray for the grace of healing for those who have been the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy as the Church expresses its sorrow and seeks forgiveness from these victims. Let us also pray that these victims may, in turn, accept the grace to forgive those who have harmed and betrayed them. Second, let us pray for the grace of courage for our bishops to be true shepherds in caring for their flocks; in restoring discipline in clerical and religious life and in ending the dissent that has undermined the Magisterium. Third, let us pray for the grace of perseverance, that clergy and laity alike will keep the Faith and not lose hope in difficult time of purification. ( L/19

June 29 Saturday (Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles): (Saints Peter & Paul the Apostles): Mt 16: 13-19: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth  shall be loosed in heaven.”
Peter and Paul are the principal pillars of the Church. Today we celebrate the feast of their martyrdom. Peter was son of Jona and brother of Andrew. He was a professional fisherman from Bethsaida, a fishing town on the Lake of Galilee or Gennesaret. He might have been a follower of John the Baptist. It was his brother, Andrew, who introduced him to Jesus, and Jesus who changed his name from Simon to Cephas or Peter. Jesus made Peter the leader of his apostles. At Caesarea Philippi, he promised to make Peter the head of his Church, and the risen Jesus confirmed Peter’s precedence. It was Peter’s speech on the day of the Pentecost, which inaugurated the Church. He made missionary journeys to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea He also offered the decisive argument settling the question of Gentile converts and the Jewish Law at the first Council in Jerusalem. He wrote two epistles to the whole Church and he was martyred in Rome by crucifixion under the emperor Nero.
Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest apostolic missionary, was a Roman citizen by birth as he had been born in the Roman colony of Tarsus. His original name was Saul. As a Pharisee, he was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he learned the trade of tent-making. He was present at the stoning of Stephen and “consented to” this deed (Acts 8:1). But he was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. He made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. Paul wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and lived under house arrest for two more years in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome.
Life Messages: 1) Just as Peter and the other apostles did, we must open our eyes, ears and hearts wide to see, hear and experience the Risen Lord coming to our life in various forms, circumstances and events. 2) We need to love, obey and pray for Pope Francis and the bishops and priests who are the successors of Peter and the Apostles as they continue the work of the Risen Lord with and for us. (Fr. Tony) (