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Friday, September 11, 2020

Noticing the Sins of Others

Noticing the Sins of Others

September 11, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Luke 6:41

How true this is!  How easy it is to see the minor faults of others and, at the same time, fail to see our own more obvious and serious faults.  Why is this the case?  

First of all, it’s hard to see our own faults because our sin of pride blinds us.  Pride keeps us from any honest self-reflection.  Pride becomes a mask we wear which presents a false persona.  Pride is an ugly sin because it keeps us from the truth.  It keeps us from seeing ourselves in the light of truth and, as a result, it keeps us from seeing the log in our own eye.    

When we are full of pride, another thing happens.  We start to focus in on every small fault of those around us.  Interestingly, this Gospel speaks of the tendency to see the “splinter” in your brother’s eye.  What does that tell us?  It tells us that those who are full of pride are not so much interested in putting down the serious sinner.  Rather, they tend to seek out those who have only small sins, “splinters” as sins, and they tend to try and make them seem more serious than they are.  Sadly, those steeped in pride feel far more threatened by the saint than by the serious sinner.  

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you struggle with being judgmental toward those around you.  Especially reflect upon whether or not you tend to be more critical of those striving for holiness.  If you do tend to do this, it may reveal that you struggle with pride more than you realize.

Lord, humble me and help me to be free of all pride.  May I also let go of judgmentalness and see others only in the way You want me to see them.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Seeking a Sign

July 20, 2020
Monday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”  Matthew 12:38-39
Jonah was the sign.  He spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale.  He certainly was presumed dead by those who threw him over the side of the boat.  But the whale acted as an instrument of God’s will in that it brought Jonah to Nineveh to preach repentance.  And they did repent and change their lives!  The darkness of the belly of the whale, in the end, became a blessing and a sign for ages to come.
Fast forward from the story of Jonah to the story above when the followers of Jesus seek a sign from Him.  They want some sort of “proof” of who He is.  Or perhaps they are just curious and want to be “entertained” by a miracle.  Whatever the case may be, Jesus makes it clear that the sign He will give is the sign of Jonah.
Clearly, the story of Jonah is a prefiguration of the death of Jesus; His three days in the tomb and His Resurrection.  This is the sign that Jesus will offer and the sign that He continues to offer.  It’s a sign of great hope when we perceive it properly. 
However, very often we can fall into the same temptation as the followers of Jesus in the story above.  Very often we also want a sign other than the signs Jesus gave us.  We want some other proof from God of His will.  We want Him to speak loudly and clearly.  But that doesn’t always happen.  More often what we experience is what appears to be silence from God.  We may wonder, “Lord, where are You?  Why don’t You speak to me?”  But Jesus will speak to us in the same way.  He will gently remind us of His life, death and Resurrection.  He will remind us that we must believe in all that He has spoken, and even if we feel like we are in the belly of a whale or dead in a tomb, hope is not lost.  God is present in all things and He is active and present to us even when He seems to be silent.
Reflect, today, upon how strong your faith is even though you may not get the sign from Heaven that you may want.  You must be reminded that the Father spoke to you clearly through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus and this is the way He continues to speak to you today.  Listen to that lesson and embrace the truths it proclaims.  Even if you feel like you are in a tomb or God is silent, know He is not.  He is speaking to you all the time.  You just need to discern His voice.
Lord, help me to believe in You even though I do not see miracles or signs from Heaven.  Help me to believe in You despite any doubts or weaknesses I have in life.  Give me a firm faith to answer Your call in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.
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Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Defeat of Evil

July 19, 2020
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.”  Matthew 13:24-26
The introduction to this parable should wake us up to the reality of the evil one in our midst.  The specific action of the “enemy” in this parable is disturbing.  Imagine if this story were true and you were the farmer who worked very hard at sowing the seed throughout your field.  Then, if you awoke to hear the news that weeds had been sown also, you would be quite saddened, angered and disappointed.  
But this parable is especially about the Son of God.  Jesus is the one who has sown the good seed of His Word and watered that seed with His Precious Blood.  But the evil one, the devil, has also been at work trying to undermine the work of our Lord.  
Again, if this were a true story about you as a farmer, it would be hard to refrain from much anger and a desire for revenge.  But the truth is that Jesus, as the Divine Sower, does not allow the evil one to steal His peace.  Instead, He has allowed this action of the evil one to remain for now. But in the end, the works of evil will be destroyed and burned in the unquenchable fire.
What’s also interesting to note is that Jesus does not root out all evil in our world here and now.  According to the parable, He refrains so that the good fruit of the Kingdom will not be negatively affected.  In other words, this parable reveals to us the interesting truth that the “weeds” all around us, that is, the evil alive within our world, cannot affect our growth in virtue and entrance into the Kingdom of God.  We may have to endure evil on a daily basis and find ourselves surrounded by it at times, but our Lord’s willingness to allow evil for now is a clear sign that He knows it cannot affect our growth in virtue if we do not let it.
Reflect, today, upon the reality of evil in your world.  It’s essential that you name evil activity for what it is.  But evil cannot ultimately affect you.  And the evil one, despite his malicious attacks, will ultimately be defeated.  Reflect upon the hope that this truth brings and renew your trust in the power of God this day.
Lord, I pray that You do deliver us all from the evil one.  May we be freed from his lies and snares and always keep our eyes upon You, our Divine Shepherd.  I turn to You in all things, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.
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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Matthew 12:14-21 | Jacob Jordaens | The Pharisees began to discuss how to destroy Jesus

Matthew 12:14-21The Pharisees began to discuss how to destroy Jesus
Jesus amongst the Pharisees,
Painted by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678),
Painted circa 1660,
Oil on canvas
© Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 4 December 2019, lot 23, sold for £212,000
The Pharisees went out and began to plot against Jesus, discussing how to destroy him.
Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:
Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved, the favourite of my soul. I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations. He will not brawl or shout, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smouldering wick till he has led the truth to victory: in his name the nations will put their hope.
Reflection on the Painting

Our Gospel reading of today starts with the words ‘The Pharisees went out and began to plot against Jesus, discussing how to destroy him’. Yes, Jesus was seen as a very real threat to the authority of the Pharisees. Jesus was fully aware of their plotting which had well and truly started now, and so He decided to disappear from sight for a while…

Our painting is by Jacob Jordaens. After Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, he was the leading Flemish Baroque painter of his day. We see Christ depicted among the Pharisees, with the Dove of the Holy Spirit hovering above Him. Jordaens has in fact created an imaginary religious scene rather than illustrating an actual episode from the New Testament.  Jesus’ right hand is pointing upwards towards His Father. His left hand is pointing towards books held open by the Pharisees. Written in Flemish, these books are both of the Old Testament (Isaiah 63 on the left) and New Testament (e.g. the text reads in Flemish ‘we saw him but did not recognise him’; Jordaens humorously depicts a man holding a large pair of glasses, leaning over towards Christ and not recognising Him). The Pharisees are seen reading the New and Old Testaments, the painter wanting to make the point that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of the Old Testament , but that He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. We can read further Flemish statements on these books saying ‘Jesus Christ is the truth’, ‘God lives forever’ and ‘I am the Risen One’.

Christ, with His one hand on the scriptures and the other pointing upwards, shows He is the only way to salvation… So the Pharisees can conspire all they want and aim to destroy Christ as per our reading today, but ultimately, Christ’s salvation and message of love will conquer all…

by Patrick van der Vorst

Top 6 Natural Alternatives To Aspirin

Aspirin is a common over the counter pain reliever used to treat mild to moderate pain caused by toothachescolds, and headaches. It also has a noticeable anti-inflammatory effect which makes it useful for reducing the swelling seen inarthritis[1] Despite its ubiquitous availability, it does have some serious drawbacks. Aspirin has been associated with peptic ulcer formation when taken for prolonged periods or high doses. [2] This can lead to perforation and can cause internal bleeding when not managed correctly. In some people, it can even be a strong trigger for asthma episodes. [3] This syndrome is referred to as aspirin-induced asthma. Although rare, there are reports that since Aspirin is also a blood thinner, it can increase the likelihood of a person developing a hemorrhagic stroke. [4]
If you feel like using aspirin may be too much of a risk to your health, there are natural alternatives available. However, the herbs mentioned in this list are intended to replace aspirin as a pain reliever and not as a blood thinner or antipyretic. As with any medication, it is important to consult your doctor before using herbal medicines. With that being said, here are 6 natural alternatives to aspirin that have been found valuable for pain.

1. Ginger

Ginger is a popular root crop that has been used for centuries as an ingredient in both Asian cuisine and traditional medicine. Fast forward to today, ginger is still used as an herbal analgesic. Researchers from the University of Georgia were able to test how effective ginger was in easing muscle pain. In their study, as little as two grams of raw ginger a day were able to reduce exercise-induced muscle pain by as much as 25 percent. [5] Add to this the fact that ginger also has anti-ulcer properties not seen in your typical aspirin tablet. [6]

2. Turmeric

A staple of Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used for centuries to treat various ailments ranging from skin disorders to pain. Turmeric has found a place in modern herbalism as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Its principal active component is Curcumin. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient that works in similar fashion to the drug Celebrex but with a better safety profile. [7]

3. Clove Oil

Traditionally used for toothaches, clove oil is rich in a compound called eugenol. Eugenol, when used topically, can help numb the area due to its mild anesthetic properties. This is the reason why clove oil is a common ingredient used in tooth drops. However, studies have shown that its anesthetic effect can even rival those seen with the topical anesthetic benzocaine. [8]

4. Peppermint

When we think about peppermint, we automatically associate it with candied treats and/or tea, but in the field of herbal medicine, peppermint is more than just a menthol flavoring. It has been used successfully in treating the pain associated with tension headaches and has been approved for the topical treatment of muscle and nerve pain. [9][10]

5. Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a flowering herb with light green leaves used traditionally by those living in the Mediterranean region. When the seeds are powdered and consumed, it is said to have a potent analgesic effect specific to menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea. This property of Fenugreek was even reported in the Journal of Reproduction and Infertility to improve the other symptoms of dysmenorrhea like fatigue, headache, and nausea without a report of side effects. [11]

6. Feverfew

Feverfew has long been used as a potent anti-inflammatory both as an herbal medicine and as a skin care ingredient. Due to its calming effects, it has been found to be effective in blocking the inflammation caused by the protein called IkappaB Kinase, which in turn alleviates inflammation and pain. [12] It is also a popular herbal treatment for migraines since it is considered capable of preventing an episode. [13]
[2] Gender differences of low-dose aspirin-associated gastroduodenal ulcer in Japanese patients. (2010).https://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/full/v16/i15/1896.htm
[4] Can you take aspirin if you regularly take ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for another condition? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/daily-aspirin-therapy/art-20046797?pg=2
[5] Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise. (2010). http://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(09)00915-8/fulltext
[6] Gastroprotective Effect of Ginger Rhizome (Zingiber officinale) Extract: Role of Gallic Acid and Cinnamic Acid in H+, K+-ATPase/H. pylori Inhibition and Anti-Oxidative Mechanism. (2011). https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/249487/
[7] Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management. (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3591524/
[8] The effect of clove and benzocaine versus placebo as topical anesthetics. (2006).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16530911
[9] Effectiveness of Oleum menthae piperitae and paracetamol in therapy of headache of the tension type. (1996).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8805113
[10] A Review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L). (2006).https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7015287_A_Review_of_the_bioactivity_and_potential_health_benefits_of_pep…/
[11] Effects of fenugreek seed on the severity and systemic symptoms of dysmenorrhea. (2014).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24695380
[12] The anti-inflammatory natural product parthenolide from the medicinal herb Feverfew directly binds to and inhibits IkappaB kinase. (2001). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11514225
[13] Usefulness of nutraceuticals in migraine prophylaxis. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28527067

Dealing with the Malice of Others

July 18, 2020
Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest—USA Optional Memorial
(Celebrated July 14 outside the United States)

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. Matthew 12:14
If you really sit and think about this, it’s shocking, sad and even scandalous.  Here, the religious leaders of the time were actively, intentionally and calculatedly plotting to kill the Savior of the world.  The very One whom they were supposed to be preparing for and hoping for became their object of malice, hatred and ultimate persecution.
It is shocking and, therefore, we should have a deep sorrow at their actions.  But sorrow at their actions does not mean we need to fall into an irrational anger, despair or a mindset of revenge.  Sorrow at the malicious actions of the Pharisees is actually a form of love toward them in that a deep sorrow at their actions is a way of calling them to repent.  
Sure, this happened many years ago and the actual Pharisees who acted in this calculated and malicious way are no longer with us.  Nonetheless, Jesus continues to be persecuted in numerous ways, and sometimes this persecution is even found among those who claim the name Christian and even those who act in leadership within our Church and world.
Practically speaking, we all may be able to identify in some way with the plotting and planning of Jesus’ persecution.  It would be highly unlikely that we experience this malice to the extent that Jesus did, but all of us have most likely experienced it to one extent or another.
Sadly, when we radically commit ourselves to Christ and His mission, we often become a target of the evil one.  And very often, we experience the arrows of the evil one from those who should be our greatest supporters.  Therefore, if this is your experience in some way, do not be scandalized or overly shaken.  It’s appropriate to be saddened by it, but don’t give in to irrationality as a result.  Persecution is a part of following Christ.  It happened to Jesus and we should, therefore, expect it to happen to us.
Reflect, today, upon how you deal with the hurt and malice of others.  You are not the one who is given the right to judge or condemn them.  But you are called to experience the same sorrow that Jesus did.  This sorrow is a holy sorrow which is spoken of in the Beatitudes.  It’s a sorrow which will enable you to reject the errors you encounter and grow in patience and endurance.  
Lord, when I feel ridiculed or persecuted by others, help me to stand strong in my faith and, especially, in my charity.  Help me to allow a holy sorrow to strengthen me to have hope and to move forward in the mission You have given me.  Jesus, I trust in You.
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Friday, July 17, 2020

Condemning the Innocent

Condemning the Innocent
July 17, 2020

Friday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Father Eugene Gormley, LC
Matthew 12: 1-8
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Introductory Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, I seek new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I seek to love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I want to be led one day to join the saints in heaven, where your Son Jesus Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Petition: Help me to make every Sunday a special day for me and my family.
  1. Fasting on Sunday? It was the Sabbath, a day of rest. The disciples had had a difficult and busy week, and they were hungry. Jesus allowed them to look for food in the fields. This could have discouraged them, not having a meal waiting for them. But they were accustomed to hardship. They were busy and had much to do. There was little free time. Christ was busy on weekends; his mission didn’t stop. The disciples were united with Jesus, participating in his mission. This made all their sacrifices worthwhile and easier to cope with. When we trust in and unite ourselves with Christ, we can be patient and at peace in the midst of trials.
  2. The Confrontation: The Sabbath was established in order for the Jewish people to remember and reflect on their special covenant relationship with God. He had delivered them from slavery and given them rest. The Pharisees, however, focused on “what you can’t do” and failed to see “what you should do.” On Sundays, we should focus more on what we should do in order to worthily receive Christ. Then secondary things will not distract us from what is essential. God has a special relationship with us. He has delivered us from slavery. He continues to love us and asks that we love him and others with all our heart. On Sundays, do I recall my covenant relationship with Our Lord? Am I mindful and grateful for all the good things he has done and continues to do for me? Does God take first place for me on Sundays?
  3. Sunday Service: Christ instructed his disciples about his mission. They grew to understand, appreciate and live it. He taught them to participate at the Sabbath service with fervor, but also to be open to any needs others might have, even on the Sabbath. It is lawful to do good any day of the week, especially the Lord’s Day. Christ cured the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, fed his disciples on the Sabbath, and cured another woman with a bent back on the Sabbath. Charity will inspire us to do good to others even on a Sunday. “Sunday service” and “Service-on-Sunday” go together. Do I ever dedicate my Sundays, or part of them, to bring rest to those who are most in need? What can I do to help the poor and marginalized on that day? How can I instill this spirit of service in my children?
Conversation with Christ: You long to share your Word and Body with me at Sunday Mass and at every Mass I can attend during the week. May I always have a hunger for this encounter with your love and friendship. May I serve others with the same charity and love as you serve me. May Sunday be the most important day of the week for me and my family.
Resolution: I will organize this coming Sunday to be a day of worship and rest. I will try to do good to someone this Sunday, and I will help someone come back to Sunday Mass attendance.
Our Daily Meditation is also available with audio: