The Teachings Of Jesus

Jesus in today’s Gospel from Matthew 10:24-33 teaches His disciples some important lessons that are true for us today. I want to look at a few of the teachings.

“No disciple is above his teacher”

This one makes me think about parents and children along with teachers and students. Isn’t it amazing when children grow older they know more than their parents? And for you teachers out there, that your students think they can outsmart you?

“Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

I personally would have a difficult time with this one without the mercy I know my Savior Jesus has. If my darkness was proclaimed on rooftops, well, I’m not sure I could ever show my face again. I guess my answer would be to strive to stay in the light and avoid darkness.

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

I have mentioned before that some form of “do not be afraid” is said 365 times in the Bible. That would be one for every day. Walking with Jesus should help us to never be afraid. If we believe He has our back and this world is temporary, why fear? If we are going to live in fear, how about Holy fear of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Lastly, the one I see most often quoted on Facebook but it also irks me somewhat because the one’s who post it always have some kind of ending tag that seems to threaten you if you do not share it, assuming you are too ashamed of Jesus to post it on your page! Nonsense!

“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

We can acknowledge Jesus in so many ways. It doesn’t have to be in writing blogs or posting on social media. I enjoy sharing my love for Jesus by writing. Sometimes, it hurts to write my pain of offending Jesus but it’s my way of sharing my life and love for our Lord. Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Teachings Of Jesus

You will be hated by all because of my name

I do not think that anyone really wants or likes to be hated. I was looking at Jesus on the cross today and right now as I write. One must be a great criminal or a great threat to be hated so much as to be tortured like Jesus was. It’s easy to think about what others did to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The truth is, I am one of them.

Striving to pick up my cross and follow Jesus is my goal each day. I try my best which is all I think our Lord asks of me. But my sins, the same types of sins each day of selfishness, self gratification, impure thoughts and more put those nails into Jesus. I am sorrowful and know that without God’s grace, I would be in complete darkness. With Jesus, there is always hope. He knows me better than I know myself. My struggles are not unique but they are mine. Because of my struggles, I am much more tolerant of others and have learned to keep working on that plank in my eye before I can remove the speck from my neighbor’s eye.

Many people do not want to follow Jesus and the teachings of the Church. I do, but I often fall very short. My spirit is very willing, my prayers keep me close to Jesus but my flesh is still very weak. I get it in my mind, it makes sense to me but transferring it to love in my heart is where my challenge is. I ask, “How can I continue to offend Jesus with my sins and continue to tell Him throughout the day how much I love Him?” I do love Him, He knows it and I believe He is extremely patient with me. God is amazing!

So today in the Gospel of Matthew 10:16-23, Jesus tells us we will be hated by all because of His name. His startling words are hard to hear…

Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.

Sadly we experience this today in our society. Sin, when rampant can surely bring hate for Jesus. Satan, the father of lies and king of sin hates Him the most. I know I am a great sinner, maybe not by the world’s standards but by the standard of picking up my cross each day and following Jesus. The straight and narrow road has been showing me some alternate paths to nowhere. All the more reason to pray for the grace to love the Lord with all my heart soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. Tonight, I jump into the ocean of God’s mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

You will be hated by all because of my name

FEAR OF REJECTION

I was complimenting a couple of our students today on their attitudes. At such a young age, they seem to have a grasp on not taking things personal. When I was their age, I pretty much took everything personal. I was such a people-pleaser that would say or do what was necessary to try to make people like me. This type of attitude is still a part of me and I have to fight myself to not fall into a trap of being concerned what others might think.

The readings today from Genesis 44 and the Gospel of Matthew 10 bring to my mind rejection and how one handles it. The story of Joseph tells about his brothers selling him into Egyptian slavery. Joseph ends up being almost as powerful as Pharaoh. When famine struck, his brothers unknowingly had to ask him for food for his family. It’s a great story but the point is, Joseph handled his brother’s rejection by telling them…

“But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

And Joseph did save lives as the food he so craftily stored up during plentiful times was enough to feed all during the lean times. He ended up not holding a grudge against such an evil act of his brothers. It’s a positive lesson to have mercy and forgive.

The Gospel is a bit different. Remember, Jesus is sending his 12 disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. They were to go out with hardly any provisions and have to depend on the generosity of those they were proclaiming the message of the Kingdom. They were to look for worthy people and were told by Jesus…

“As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it”

But what happens if they are rejected by the people? We know our God is loving, forgiving and merciful. What do you think He told them?

“if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

I understand this to mean if we do not want to listen to God through the people He sends to help us to know His will, then God will deal with us in His time. It also means that we cannot be afraid of rejection if we are asked to speak God’s truth in love to whomever God calls us to share it with.

Let us ask for God’s grace to guide us through the storms and fears of rejection. We can stand tall and love our neighbors in truth. God tells us 365 times in some form in scripture to not be afraid. Let us listen and act with righteousness and courage to proclaim God’s message of the Kingdom. Amen.

FEAR OF REJECTION

“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 10:1-7, Jesus summons His twelve disciples. The passage names them for us and Jesus….

gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness

He gave them some other explicit directions and the passage finishes saying…

As you go, make this proclamation: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”

We who try to follow Jesus have been, by our baptism, given the same instructions as we go about living our lives for the glory of God. How can we best make the proclamation that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” to our families, friends, coworkers and all the people God sends to us on our journey? How do we do it without making those we love and care about run for cover from the “Jesus Freak”?

What I think works for me is to act like Christ. Acting like Him brings the best out in me and also the best out of others. People who know me know how much I love the Lord. Those who might meet me for the first time will only know how much I love Christ by the way that I love them. I used to try to preach and teach Christ and that did not work for me. First of all, I do not know enough to preach and teach but I know enough of how to strive to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, generous, faithful and gentle with people. Those are some of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that would be good for all of us to practice on a regular basis. I would say in doing that, we are proclaiming that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”

Wrestling With God

Today’s Scripture reading from Genesis 32:23-33 brought to mind the sport of wrestling. I was very privileged to coach and work at a high school that had a great wrestling program. I remember walking through the small wrestling facility on my way to basketball practice. The sweat, humidity, the grunting and the fierce competition was there each day.

Jacob, who later became known as Israel, wrestled with some man until the break of dawn. That must have been extremely physical and tiring to wrestle for such a long time. Jacob must have had a great gift of competitiveness, strength, power and tolerance of pain as scripture says;

When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.

We find out a little later that Jacob was wrestling with a Divine Being. Some scripture scholars even think that the Divine Being was God Himself in some form. Jacob was the winner of this match and the passage continues;

The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

The blessing did come as the man told Jacob;

“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.”

So some of the great high school wrestlers come to my mind such as the “Martin Family”, “Larry Landless” and of course, our National Champion “Anthony Valencia”. There were many more that graced our campus at Mark Keppel High School. These wrestlers worked so hard using their God-given abilities and through their dedication and successes, they helped to unify the student body and staff with the pride of the Aztecs.

In my nostalgia, I realize that like Jacob, I am wrestling today with a Divine Being. Every time I pray, in a sense, I begin a wrestling match with God. God says, “it’s best to do this” and I say, “what about this?” I wrestle with what I want versus what God wants. Sometimes I win the battle, but lose the match. I think wrestling with God is a good thing. As my losses pile up, I learn and grow. This training can be grueling and tough but it is worth it.

One of my problems with prayer is that I do not always have the passion that these great wrestlers I have mentioned had. They were tough and relentless to give their best to win. I sometimes tend to say what I think God wants to hear rather that what I really want to say. That is like being unprepared to wrestle. Jacob reminds me today to be prepared and wrestle even until the break of dawn or until the Lord “breaks” me. Then like Jacob, I win!

Wrestling With God

Saint Maria Goretti

Today is the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti. I have reflected much on this great saint. It has brought to mind often my own beautiful granddaughter Elise. Maria was 11 and a half years old on the tragic day of her death. Elise will be turning 8 years old very soon. I also think about my two daughters who have grown to be remarkable contributors to society as well as beautiful mothers. They were given this great opportunity to live while Maria’s opportunity was short-lived. The simple synopsis of the story of Saint Maria Goretti via Wikipedia is this:

On July 5, 1902, Maria was sitting on the outside steps of her home. Knowing she would be alone, Alessandro Serenelli returned to the house and threatened her with a knife intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning him that he would go to hell. He stabbed her fourteen times. The following day, 24 hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, she died of her injuries, while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary, and clutching a cross to her chest.

The story gets all the more incredible. Maria chooses to forgive but her mom struggles with forgiveness. Alessandro, in prison, is visited by Maria who forgives him. He repents and once he was released, he visits Maria’s mother and begs her forgiveness. She forgives him and they attend Mass together the next day. When Maria was canonized a saint in 1947, both Maria’s mother and Alessandro were present. Alessandro became a lay-brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until dying peacefully in 1970 at age 87.

Jesus forgave His persecutors on the cross. If one of our children or grandchildren was raped and killed, could we forgive as God calls us to forgive? It’s a question to pray about. What does God expect of us in situations like these? The world’s answer, lead by the father of lies, would be to take revenge and strike back. No mercy! You hurt or kill one of mine, I hurt or kill you.

I have learned much through prayer, scripture and the teachings of the church. God is a very merciful and loving God and we are also called to be merciful and loving. The prayer Jesus taught us even says:

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Let us pray we are never put to this test and for the health and welfare of all the people in our lives. May God have mercy on us. Amen.

Saint Maria Goretti

Strength In Weakness

I grew up a sports fanatic. Baseball was my first love and I was pretty sure from a very small age that I would be a professional baseball player. I dominated in little league, pretty good in high school and then came the scholarship to play for a school known for a great Division 1 Baseball Team. I was on my way to the major leagues.

Not knowing God at this stage of my life, I believed I achieved everything on my own and my competitive nature would wear others down. I saw myself as a very gifted athlete. Oh the humility that God brought to me without even realizing it. First, me an all-league player was now stepping on the field with mostly all-state and all-americans. They all hit the ball farther than I did, they were stronger and much faster. That confident big-headed soon to be major league player was now lacking confidence and riding the bench. My first college class, HUMILITY 101.

Injuries took it’s toll on me and my interest to play with the realization that I would not play in the big leagues lead me to coaching. So where am I going with my scripture reflection today? First, I want to give thanks to God for the gift of sports. It is an awesome gift for those who play, coach and watch. I spent the day with my family, playing a little baseball with my grandchildren and then watching the Women’s World Cup Soccer. God is so good!

St. Paul today in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 says some very interesting things I can relate to in my journey in sports and life. First he says,

“I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

I boast that God has always been in control of my life and he let me learn the hard way granting me His grace of humility especially through sports. He has also humbled me greatly in my sinfulness which is another blog for another day. Second he says,

“Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I believe that I am now much stronger in Christ living in me and weak in the eyes of the world. I have experienced insults in sports and because of my faith in Jesus. I have been persecuted like so many who believe in the teachings of the church. I have constraints that I would not have if I believed what the world says and not what Christ has revealed to me.

Being weak in the world does not mean to me that I lie down and let others walk over me. As a player and a coach, I believed I would win every time and I believed my teams would win. I hated giving up regardless of the score and for the most part, my teams played hard to the finish. I was not a great coach most of my years. I yelled, cussed and screamed at players mostly because I was weak at making proper adjustments and coaching proper fundamentals. I learned and became better at the end of my coaching years. Today, I am very content looking back and sharing my weaknesses for when I am weak, I am strong.

Great job USA Women, 5-2 victory over Japan! Thank you Lord for the gift of sports!

Strength In Weakness

Praise the Lord for the Lord is good!

Psalm 135’s Responsorial today tells us that the Lord is GOOD! On this day of Independence celebrations throughout the United States, I am very thankful to live in this country that has given me freedom to live the good life the Lord has given to me and my family.

I start always as the Psalm response says to give Praise to our Lord. God gives us freedom also to choose Him and His ways or not. Our country though in my humble opinion, has often forgot about the ways of God. In loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, we are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many of my neighbors though, along with leaders in this beautiful country, have forgotten this and the Golden Rule to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I am guilty also, filled with selfishness and sometimes an attitude of what’s in it for me. Ranting about this country’s demise brings no help to a solution as I am reminded that the plank in my eye is much larger than the speck in my neighbor’s eyes. God is in charge, He will always be in charge and He will bring all things He permits to a greater good. We may just have to suffer the pains of fighting God’s will and doing it our way.

So even though I believe that we as a country are on a downward spiral away from God, I am so very blessed, even the sinner I am. I have been blessed with a roof over my head, a job, food, clothing, peace of mind, relatively good health, a beautiful family and freedom to live my life with countless blessings from God. I praise and thank Him for all the women and men who have served and serve this country to provide the freedom I enjoy. I thank God for the countless number of veterans that have given their lives so that I can share the joys and disappointments in my life. I pray for God’s mercy on all who have died serving in our military. Praise the Lord for the Lord is good!

Praise the Lord for the Lord is good!

Saint Thomas: “My Lord And My God”

Today in the church we celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle. You know him, the “doubting Thomas”. He would not believe his fellow Apostles that they had seen the risen Lord when Thomas was absent and not in their company. He boldly proclaims to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I am pretty sure that in my life, God reveals himself to me through many people and occurrences. Do I always believe what others tell me? No and I do not think I should unless I discern properly with guidance from the Holy Spirit whether this is from Him or not. I would not expect anyone to believe the reflections I write each day without prayer to see if God might be speaking through my writing. The father of lies, Satan has a way of manipulating truth and without proper prayer and discernment, we could fall into a trap.

In the case of Thomas, seeing is believing rather than believing is seeing. Jesus even makes that point clear after He tells Thomas to go ahead and “put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Can you imagine the feelings that must have been going on in Thomas?” Thomas did answer Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Then, the very profound words of Jesus for all of us today, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

For me during Mass, when the priest elevates the Sacred Host and says “This is My Body which will be given up for you”, I silently respond, “My Lord and my God. I believe, help my unbelief.” In a sense, I am reminded of Thomas and have hope that all doubt will be taken away from me. Oh dear Jesus, increase our faith so that we will believe and see. Amen.

Saint Thomas: “My Lord And My God”

“God Himself Will Provide The Sheep”

Those are some pretty prophetic words from Abraham to his son Isaac. At the time, I am sure Abraham was not thinking of Jesus but of the terrible command that the sheep he was to use for the burnt offering was none other than his son Isaac. In this passage from Genesis 22:1-19, God commanded Abraham to slaughter his only son Isaac as an offering to him. Abraham was very obedient.

This is one of my favorite Bible stories. Oh how I wish I had the faith of Abraham. He came so close to plunging his knife right into Isaac before the Lord’s Messenger stopped him. The Lord’s Messenger praised Abraham for his devotion to God. Then the Lord’s Messenger called again from heaven, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.” We have come to know Abraham as our “Spiritual” father.

Could we today even put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes and contemplate what me might do in a similar situation? Faith and obedience are great gifts from God. The times and customs were so different. There were pagan practices of offering up human sacrifices to gods. So maybe to Abraham, he truly believed that this was what Our Father truly wanted from him. I am very pleased that it worked out as it did. It still leaves me to reflect, what areas in my life is God calling me to faith and obedience? Am I listening? Am I ignoring? Am I too comfortable where I am at today? I have lots to ponder.

One interesting point I would like to conclude with. Isaac was the sheep to be sacrificed as a burnt offering. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed as an offering for us. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice on his shoulder. Jesus carried the wood of the cross on His shoulder. Isaac was tied up on top of the wood to be slaughtered. Jesus was nailed to the wood of the cross. God saved Issac from death. Jesus saved us. Praise be to God!

“God Himself Will Provide The Sheep”