“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2) Reflection: The Old and New Testaments are both a record and a revelation of God and His relationship with the humans that He created. Both are important to us. Amongst […]
Publisher’s Description Why God Allows Us to Suffer provides a bold and wholly unique answer to the most vexing theological question facing Christianity. In contrast to most contemporary books on the problem of pain–which typically focus on the free will argument and other stale, hopelessly inadequate doctrines–Why God Allows Us to Suffer begins with the […]
Wedding traditions all over the world put special emphasis on the bride and groom’s presence. In Malaysia, the couple get royal treatment as they sit on a raised platform called a pelamin. At Russian Orthodox weddings, the happy couple are given crowns to wear. Special food, decorations, and clothing all match the nature of the party.
Celebratory occasions ought to be “filled” with celebratory things! They ought to honor the person being celebrated as well as the guests. So it would be out of place to serve spoiled food at a wedding or to seat the bride and groom in the back of the room. That was Jesus’ point when the disciples of John the Baptist asked him about fasting. Being in his presence should be a cause for feasting, not fasting.
What an awesome insight into our life of faith! Think of how we talk about the sacraments: we celebrate them. They are celebratory occasions, so they should be given the royal treatment. We are familiar with how the Mass is a celebration and, naturally, a wedding or an ordination. But what about Confession? What about the Sacrament of the Anointing? Are they really joyful events?
Absolutely! Just imagine: every time you step into a confessional, Jesus is waiting there with open arms while all the angels in heaven rejoice. Every time someone is anointed, Jesus’ healing power is poured out–his power to comfort and to soothe, to restore and strengthen. How could you not honor this special moment?
Life doesn’t always feel like a celebration though. The transformation from our old ways to new life in Christ can be challenging. Even going to Mass or confessing our sins—maybe for the hundredth time—can feel dull. But that’s precisely when we should remember the celebration going on in heaven.
So try to capture a spirit of joy at every sacrament, especially at Confession. Even if it seems over the top, try it anyway. Dress up a bit for the occasion. Treat yourself to a special dessert afterward. Maybe even write a thank you note to Jesus for his mercy. Jesus, the guest of honor, has come to you!
“Lord, I want to welcome you into my heart today. Give me a joyful spirit in your presence.”
Jesus was back in Capernaum on a spiritual version of family business. He was furthering his heavenly Father’s plan to restore the rift between himself and his people. First, God had given the Law to help us draw closer to him. Then, he sent the prophets to teach us that God doesn’t judge by appearances but looks into the heart. And now, he has sent his Son to heal our hearts through the gift of forgiveness.
On this day, Jesus is greeted by men carrying their paralyzed friend to him on a stretcher. He is impressed by their faith in his power to heal, and while he is eager to restore this man’s body, he is more eager to heal his soul. And so, before he even mentions physical healing, he tells the man, “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2).
By focusing on forgiveness, Jesus wasn’t dismissing the man’s affliction as irrelevant. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate how important mercy is—and how ready God is to extend that mercy. The man hadn’t even repented, but Jesus still forgave him!
Jesus also wanted them to see that this fellow’s paralysis was not the result of some sin that the man or his family may have committed—a common idea of that day. No, God has mercy on everyone; no one is outside of his care. Even this fellow, living on the margins of society, deserved the same amount of attention as his strong, capable friends and neighbors—maybe even more.
Just as the man’s forgiveness seemed outlandish to the crowd, so was his physical healing. Before their very eyes, his legs were transformed: new muscle mass appeared, and ligaments and tendons connected. Who knows? Maybe even bones materialized out of nowhere!
Imagine yourself on that man’s stretcher. What kind of healing are you seeking? Jesus knows what you need, both physically and spiritually. He sees all of your pain as well as your sin, and he wants to set you free. Give him the freedom to remove whatever obstacles he finds—whatever may be blocking your relationship to him and his father.
“Jesus, I believe in your power to heal and restore everyone who comes to you. Help me open myself to your merciful gaze.”
Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
Offer no resistance to one who is evil. (Matthew 5:39)
We’ve all heard expressions like “What goes around comes around” and “The punishment should fit the crime.” But compare these statements to today’s Gospel reading, and they end up sounding like the ancient law of retribution: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They imply that justice is served when wrongdoers get back what they dished out.
When thought of in the abstract, this sounds completely reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s nothing personal; you’re just trying to be fair and maintain order.
But most wrongdoing is personal. It’s no longer just an “event” out there. You are on the receiving end of an injustice, and you are hurt and frustrated. Especially if you have suffered a serious offense, it can be difficult to remain impartial and unemotional. Something in you wants to get even. And so the cycle of vengeance continues—a cycle that we see not only on the world stage but in family life as well.
What would it take for us to break this cycle? Although Jesus’ words about not resisting evil are an exaggeration, they do prompt us to ask, “How far am I willing to go?” Jesus wants the mark of his people to be mercy. He wants us to try to put an end to hatred, vengeance, and enmity—simply by making changes in our own hearts.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should become doormats and let people take advantage of us. Neither does it mean that we don’t need judges and law enforcement officers to do their jobs. But at the end of the day, a social or political system can’t bring the kind of healing that a person can. As Pope Francis constantly reminds us, we need to encounter one another in order to experience the power of God’s mercy and love.
What simple step can you take to help break the cycle of hurt and retaliation? Maybe just a small act of generosity or a simple “I forgive you” is all you need—even if you don’t feel all that merciful at the time. It may not be easy, but it has the potential to open up someone else’s heart to God’s grace and forgiveness.
“Jesus, help me to be as merciful toward people as you have been with me.”
1 Kings 21:1-16