July 29- Aug 3: 17th week Year 1 Weekday Reflections

July 29 Monday: (St. Martha) Matthew 14:13-21: 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 As he went ashore, he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Cfr also MK 6:30-44, LK  9: 10-17, JN 6: 1-14)

The context:  Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ miraculous feeding of a great multitude. The story is told in all four Gospels and serves as Jesus’ way of introducing to his hearers a merciful and providing God. This miraculous feeding was meant to remind people of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness and to foreshadow the true Heavenly Bread which Jesus would offer his followers. Moses, Elijah and Elisha had fed people without the benefit of resources.  The present miracle resembles particularly the one performed by Elisha in 2 Kgs 4:42-44.
Jesus took pity on the growing physical hunger of his listeners as he preached, and he challenged his apostles to feed them. They brought him what they had — five loaves of bread and two dried fish. Jesus took these, said a prayer of blessing, broke them and asked the apostles to distribute them. Since it was mid-April, springtime in Israel, the people could sit comfortably on green grass in groups of hundreds and fifties as Jesus asked. After serving a sumptuous meal, which satisfied everyone’s hunger, the apostles collected twelve wicker baskets filled with leftover bread and fish pieces, a vivid demonstration of God’s generosity in giving.
Life message 1) We may not be able to feed the hungry millions in the world, but today’s Gospel challenges us to do our humble share in alleviating hunger and poverty in our neighborhood. God will amplify our little contributions and reward our good will and generosity.  

July 30 Tuesday: (St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Doctor of the Church) Matthew 14:22-36: 22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32..36 
The context: The event presented by today’s Gospel is the scene immediately following Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Sensing the danger of having the people make him leader of a revolt, Jesus promptly instructed his apostles to leave the place by boat and, after dispersing the crowd, he went by himself to the mountain to pray.
A double miracle on the sea:  When the apostles in the boat were several furlongs away from the shore, they faced an unexpected storm on the sea caused by the hot wind of the desert rushing into the Sea of Galilee through the gaps in the Golan Heights. Recognizing the danger, Jesus walked on the stormy waters toward the boat. Jesus calmed the frightened disciples as he approached the boat, allowed Peter to do a trial walk on water, then saved him from drowning when he began to get frightened. As soon as Jesus brought Peter into the boat the storm ceased miraculously. The apostles recognized the presence of God in their midst and they all worshipped Jesus.
Life messages: 1) Let us approach Jesus with strong Faith in his ability and availability to calm the storms in our lives and in the life of the Church. Church history shows us how Jesus saved his Church from the storms of persecution in the first three centuries, from the storms of heresies in the fifth and sixth centuries, from the storms of moral degradation and the Protestant reformation movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the storms of sex abuse scandals of the clergy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 2) Let us ask Jesus to protect us when we face storms of strong temptations, storms of doubts about our religious beliefs, and storms of fear, anxiety and worries in our personal lives. 3) Experiencing Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us confess our Faith in him and call out for his help and protection.  ( L/19

July 31 Wednesday: (St. Ignatius Loyola, Priest) Mt 15:21-28: 21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Cfr Mark 7 24-30)
The context:  In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates that salvation is meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews, by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for her strong, trusting faith expressed by her patient, persistent and persevering prayer.  Here, Jesus shows us that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.
This is one of the two miracles of healing Jesus performed for Gentiles. The other is the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:10-12). These miracles foreshadow the future preaching of the Gospel to the whole world.  Jesus first ignored both the persistent cry of the woman and the impatience of his disciples who wanted him to send the woman away. He then tried to awaken true Faith in the heart of this woman by first ignoring the request and then by an indirect refusal. We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before he finally granted her request the fourth time. Her patient persistence was rewarded, and her plea was answered. Jesus was completely won over by the depth of her Faith, her confidence and her wit and hence responded exuberantly, “Woman, great is your Faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Life messages: 1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  Christ himself has told us to keep on asking him for our needs: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have “great Faith.” 2) We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather what God knows we actually need, and what is really best for us, at the most appropriate time we need it. 3) We need to pull down the walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are.  It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls our pride, intolerance and prejudice raise, should crumble. ( L/19

August 1 Thursday: (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop, Doctor of the Church) Mt 16: 13-23: 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.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the first of the three times when Jesus foretold his passion, death and Resurrection. The passage consists of two sections, the Messianic confession of Peter and the prediction of his own passion by Jesus. Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection. This famous profession of Faith by Peter took place at Caesarea Philippi, at present called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts. 1) “What is the public opinion about me?” 2) “What is your personal opinion?” Their answer to the first question was: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Peter volunteered to answer the second question saying: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Jesus confirmed Peter’s insight as a special revelation from God. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father.”
Life message: 1) Let us experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to him. We experience Jesus as personal Savior by listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by frequenting Holy Mass and offering him our lives on the altar, by being reconciled with him every night, asking his pardon and forgiveness for our sins and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we are in mortal sin. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. ( L/19

August 2 Friday: (St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest)Matthew 16:24-28: 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
The context: After Peter made his famous declaration of faith in Jesus as God and Messiah, Jesus plainly warned his disciples about his suffering and death and promised his Resurrection. But the apostles were unwilling to accept such a fate for their Master. Peter even took Jesus aside and prayed, “God forbid it.”It was after Peter’s protest that Jesus declared three conditions of the discipleship which he expected from his followers. We hear them in today’s Gospel.
Conditions of Christian discipleship: 1) Deny yourself 2) Take up your cross. 3) Follow Me. Denying oneself means evicting the self, with its selfish thoughts and desires, from one’s heart. It also means cleansing the heart of all bad habits and evil tendencies.  Finally, it means enthroning God in one’s cleansed heart and surrendering one’s life to God’s service by serving others. Carrying the cross means willingly accepting the pain involved in serving others sacrificially. It also means spending our time, talents, wealth and health for others until it hurts us. It is our sacrificial sharing of God’s blessings with others. Carrying one’s cross also means our doing penance to make reparation for our sins and to grow in self-control. Carrying one’s cross becomes easier and more meritorious when we accept life’s crosses as loving gifts given by a loving Father. The comparison of our light crosses with the heavy crosses given to others should make us grateful. Finally, we should carry our crosses, praying for Heavenly strength. “Follow Me” means the disciple should be ever ready to obey as Jesus directs him or her through his words in the Bible and through the teaching authority he instituted in the Church.
Life message: We need to love the cross, wear the cross, and transform the God-given crosses of our life into the instruments of our salvation by working with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. ( L/19

August 3 Saturday: Matthew 17: 14-20:  14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up (Matthew 17: 14-20): 14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will  be impossible to you.”
The context: When Jesus came down from the mountain of the Transfiguration along with Peter, John and James, the father of an epileptic son knelt before Jesus and asked Jesus to heal his son. The father’s complaint was that the other nine disciples of Jesus waiting for their master to come down from the mountain could not heal the boy.
The healing: After expressing impatience with the crowd and his apostles for their lack of Faith, Jesus rebuked the demon and cast him out of the boy. Later when the apostles asked Jesus why they had been unable to do the same although they had been given the power of exorcism, Jesus pointed out their lack of Faith. Jesus said further that even a small amount of Faith would enable them to do great things. Faith moving mountains was a Jewish phrase meaning that God can remove all difficulties for one who places his trusting Faith in Him.
Life message: We will be able to solve our problems and many of the problems of our fellow-human beings if we place our trusting Faith in God’s power and goodness and ask for His strength in prayer. ( L/19