August 20, 2014

Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Memorial: Saint Pius X 
Pray for God's strength:
wordbytes.org/saints/DailyPrayers/PiusX.htm

Today's Readings: August 21, 2014
Ezekiel 36:23-28
Psalm 51:12-15,18-19
Matthew 22:1-14
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082114.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/14_08_21.mp3

Living in the land of holiness

In today’s first reading, God speaks to us with assurances that, because of our desire to love him and follow him, we will grow in holiness. No doubt about it!

Are you holy now? Yes! When you were baptized, your sinful nature died and you received life in the HOLY Spirit. The problem is, we don't always act according to our true nature. We reject our own goodness and thus we sin – or said more accurately, we reject the Holy Spirit within us.

If we accept the invitation of Jesus to join the great wedding banquet, like he explains in today’s Gospel reading, our heavenly King graces us with a feast of his goodness. And our Queen Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who lived her entire life in the fullness of grace, adds her prayers to ours and shares with us her gift of grace.

This is how God proves his holiness to the world. He proves it, as Ezekiel prophesied, through us and our ever-increasing holiness. What sins are currently controlling you? God can help you overcome them! Read Ezekiel's words as a promise from God to you personally:

“I will take you away from that world of sinfulness, because it's foreign to your true nature, and I will bring you back into my kingdom, your real home.

“I will sprinkle purity (clean water) upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities. I will cleanse you from the muck of your idols, from everything that you hold dearer than your true God.

“I will remove your stony heart and give you a new heart – the Sacred Heart of my Son – and place within you a new spirit – my Holy Spirit. This Spirit will empower you to live by my statutes and decrees.

“You shall live in the land of holiness – my kingdom – which I gave to your ancestors, the saints who went before you.

“You shall be my child, and I will be your God. Indeed, this is already so, because you desire it! All I ever needed from you was your permission to lead you, to change you, and to embrace you. Thank you for giving this to Me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the penance rites of Mass, and in your everyday love for Me.”

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica of Good News Ministries (gnm.org)
For PERMISSION to copy this reflection, go to gnm.org/copyrights.htm
For professionally published reflections and other Good News materials for RCIA, church bulletins, etc., please visit Catholic Digital Resources at catholicdr.com

To sign up to receive the Good News Reflections by email, go to gogoodnews.net/DailyReflections

August 19, 2014

Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Memorial: Saint Bernard 
Pray for holy living:
wordbytes.org/saints/DailyPrayers/Bernard.htm

Today's Readings: August 20, 2014
Ezekiel 34:1-11
Psalm 23:1-6
Matthew 20:1-16
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082014.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/14_08_20.mp3

Following a good shepherd

Have you ever been hurt by one of God's shepherds? Indirectly and directly, we've all suffered from priests who've abused their vocations, but a shepherd is anyone who's had the responsibility of guiding us and protecting us.

What is a good shepherd?
He (or she) is caring.
He protects his flock.
He guides his sheep to safer pastures.
He goes after the lost and finds them.
He carries the weak ones over the rough spots.
He fights off the wolves and defeats them with the power of God.
Always alert to do his job well, he is closely connected to the Lord who empowers him.

What an awesome calling!

Today’s first reading makes it clear how upsetting it is to the Lord when shepherds fail to do what they're called to do. Just because they've been given authority over us does not automatically give them a special place in God's kingdom. The sheep are held higher in God's esteem than shepherds who are not like Christ the Good Shepherd. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, "Thus the last shall be first and the first shall be last."

Pope Francis said (April 14, 2014) that those who are not willing to be shaped by the Holy Spirit, “meditating every day on the Gospel… experiencing the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation… eating the Eucharist with faith and with love… being men of prayer…. it would be better for you to have the courage to seek another path.” If only they would heed his warning!

However, when they don’t and we get hurt by shepherds who fail to be good shepherds, we do not need to run from them and from the Church. Indeed, we are called to stay and be Christ’s instrument of healing and restoration. The first step of healing is to remember how God feels about it: "I myself will look after [my sheep] and tend to their needs." Jesus is the perfectly Good Shepherd. He picks us up and gently embraces us, kisses our wounds, and carries us where we need to go, while we safely rest and recover.

To truly rest in the Divine Shepherd's arms, we need to forgive the human shepherds who pastured us poorly. We need to remember that they, too, have been pastured poorly by someone in their background, and often their selfishness comes from an all-consuming need to pasture themselves – a need that only Jesus can successfully fill if they let him.

All human shepherds (even the best of them) are imperfect and will fail us from time to time. If we seek perfect love and guidance from them, insisting that they give us all that we need, we take our eyes off of Jesus and what he can do for us. Only with Jesus can we, like it says in today’s responsorial psalm, be wanting for nothing, fully satisfied. Only with Jesus can we find lush pastures, restful waters, and refreshment for our soul. Only with Jesus can we find the right path through dark valleys. Only with Jesus can our lives overflow with goodness.

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

To help with this, Good News Ministries offers a parish healing ministry, Parish Restoration Services. See http://parishhope.com

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica of Good News Ministries (gnm.org)
For PERMISSION to copy this reflection, go to gnm.org/copyrights.htm
For professionally published reflections and other Good News materials for RCIA, church bulletins, etc., please visit Catholic Digital Resources at catholicdr.com

To sign up to receive the Good News Reflections by email, go to gogoodnews.net/DailyReflections