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Mt 20:1-16 The Joy of Work

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
By Benedict Augustine
“’My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
As the saying goes, “the Devil will find work for idle hands.” When a person does not have work, actual constructive activity with a greater purpose in mind, temptation and sinwill descend on the poor idler. People without jobs or any serious responsibilities must experience the stress of not working, a stress that working people rarely understand.  Unemployed people do not have fun, as some overly busy people might believe, but they must contend with feelings of uselessness, boredom, inadequacy, humiliation, guilt, and, if they have serious expenses to pay, debt and poverty.  Thus, we may complain about work, but very few of us want to lose our jobs.
Although some—like myself—may argue about the merits of her prose, or character development, or her atheism, Ayn Rand showed at least some insight in her novel Atlas Shrugged, when she describes in depth the kind of decline and decay that follows from a lack of work. In a large middle portion of the book, the protagonist of the story tries to find a man, John Galt, whom she believes might have some answers to her questions. During her journey, she encounters a small town that used to have a thriving factory providing many jobs to the town along with all the benefits derived from the revenue it produced and the economic activity it stimulated. Rand, though writing her book in 1957,accurately describes the condition of many industrial towns today, over fifty years later,which have suffered from the mass exodus of manufacturing work. Her description sounds eerily similar to cities like Detroit or Flint Michiganand probably quite a few other cities that are now doing all they can to keep the industries from leaving. In the novel, the town is covered with blight; the citizens loiter the streets, hungry and hopeless, and many of them have no access to government services like education, medical care, or public safety; even the streets have cracked beyond recognition and many of the stores and office buildings are empty or inhabited by squatters; in every part of the town, despair is palpable and pervasive. If anyone wants to know what comes of idleness, they can read the book—which is long and tedious at parts—or they can learn more about cities in the rustbelt. Whether fictional or real, these settings illustrate idleness in all its gloom and ugliness.
Most people tend to think that these desperate circumstances result from a lack of funds, not work. On an individual level as well as a collective level, less employment means less money, which then means less stuff. If communities and individuals had great stores of wealth, they would not need work; they could finally enjoy life. However, that would be over simplifying the issue. Yes, a lack of money creates stress and hardship, but a lack of productive activity can do the same. Many rich people who do not work but live off past successes or the successes of others, still have to face the demons of the unemployed. They still have to cope with addiction, feelings of uselessness, loneliness, and general depression. Many people know this through watching so many celebrities who seem to have it all but in fact wallow in despair and act with recklessness. Common sense—which, alas, is not so common—would allow most of us to see that a large quantity of money coupled with free time will mostly lead to something bad. Nevertheless, peopleblindly covet the fame, wealth, and recreation of the celebrity.
Does that mean that work, by contrast, confers so many virtues to a person? Should we all become workaholics to find happiness? While many politicians and economists would suggest this, simply working does not bring fulfillment. Honest work can stave off the misery of idleness, but it does not make a person better. Even work that compensates a worker handsomely does not make that person better, just richer. The work must have some kind of meaning or some noble purpose in order to improve the soul of a personand make him betterIn the Christian understanding, we would say that work must be subordinated to God’s will. We become better from out jobs when we do it for God’s sakeand the sake of others, not ourselves. My job as a teacher makes me better when I offer the work up to God with gratitude, with energy, and with thought. If I teach for God’s sake, I want to be the best teacher possible and make the greatest use of the gifts and talents He gave me. My job makes me better when I serve my students, a lovable yet frustrating group of adolescents, and help them develop their skills in reading and writing. I make their lives better, and that makes my life better. If I only worked for my own sake, to simply earn a living, have additional vacation, and do as little work as possible, I would actually become a worse person rather than a more virtuous one. My relationship with God as well my students and colleagues would suffer immensely from such selfishness.
Needless to say, teachers, or any employee with this self-centered attitude, do not last long at their job. They are the laborers who quarrel with the landowner for giving the same wages to the newly hired as to them. They found no joy in the work; they simply wanted the wage. Because they had a selfish mindset, their work did not improve them as people, but made them envious and petty. Would they have rather languished in the street, uncertain about making any money that day? Do they really think that those workers hired in the last hour had a better day than them because they waited like idiots on the street instead of working with purpose in the field? Do they think that such complaining entices their employer to hire them another day?
Naturally, some people have this idea when considering the Christian life. They think they assume only burdens and live a life of denial and guilt while their heathen friends and family have a party each and every day. Like the prodigal son’s older brother, they have a certain resentment against those elderly converts who, done with sinning and close to death, can now put that life behind them and be born again in the spirit. They envy the thief who had the amazing good luck to be crucified next to Christ. This is foolishness. By their faith, Christians receive Christ’s grace sustaining them; by their love, they have aspiritual family that will support them all their lives; and by their hope, they will persevere through any hardship and shortcoming because God’s heavenly kingdom awaits them. Christian life becomes drudgery if we lose sight of our blessings and obsess over our own interests. Instead resenting the prodigal son, the thief on the cross, or the newly hired laborers, we should have mercy on their sins and rejoice at their return home. Not only will this make us happier, but it will also make us holy. God expects this mercy of us; Jesus Christ models this mercy for us; and the Holy Spirit empowers us to act with this mercy. If we can accept this gift and command of the Holy Trinity, we can experience the joys of Heaven today as we prepare our souls for everlasting joy in Heaven tomorrow.

Mt 19:23-30 Good Morning God!

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus said to his disciples:  “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.”  …Then Peter said to him in reply, “We …

Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse 2014-08-18 16:02:00

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
This Gospel elicits a response that we know all too well as Christians: What did you just ask of me, Lord?!?!
This Gospel also elicits controversy. How, after all, can we take these words literally? My parents have three children to feed and four college degrees to be paid for. I can’t give up my car and walk from the suburbs to Dallas every morning for class. The question is then, how can we possibly live out this radical call? It is frightening to think that we are living in a manner inconsistent with the demand Jesus gives us. We shouldn’t be afraid, though. Instead, we should look at this Gospel as Jesus’ call to go outside of ourselves in the spiritual life.
Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is something to be said about the rule-followers of society. After all, rules are rules for a reason. The Church gives us certain guidelines and instructions for our own welfare– not because the male-dominated hierarchy loves to micromanage every aspect of our lives, as popular opinion would have it. However, we cannot be so caught up in following rules that we become spiritually self-absorbed.
So many Catholics, especially among the youth, resist temptation and sin so vehemently that they become spiritual introverts. The faith becomes a constant examination of conscience. I have seen people refuse to receive Communion because they said a bad word when they stubbed their toe. It is great that some people strive for virtue. But is this introversion really heroic virtue—the cause for sainthood?
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.” The word ‘heroic’ comes from the same Greek word meaning “warrior, protector, or defender.” You probably didn’t need that explanation, but think—what is a warrior, protector, or defender? Do they fight battles that lie solely within themselves? What great Christian spends his entire life defending himself? Jesus Himself lived in a hostile time, much like we do. He was surrounded by temptation as well. But yet, his entire life was poured out in service for the poor—that is why we know that He is infinitely holy. And He demands the same of his followers.
There is a hospice near my house that I like to stop into on Saturdays. This past Saturday, I was running late getting there, so I worked a different job. I normally work in the kitchen, but the kitchen was closed at that point.Instead, my volunteer director gave me a list of rooms that I should go to for manicures. I don’t even do my own nails anymore, given that I go to school with girls and play sports and instruments and whatnot. Needless to say, it was interesting. I ended up spending at least a half hour in each room trying to fix the mess I made on each patient.
There was something that really struck me that one of the patients said. She wasn’t someone I normally work with, but she immediately caught sight of the Miraculous Medal that I wear, and began talking about religion. Many of the patients are very strong Christians. She told me about how that morning, her preacher lady (so I immediately knew she was not Catholic) came to visit her and pray with her. She said she had been a Baptist for eighteen years, having left the Catholic Church. She said that the preacher lady visited her every week, and all the members of her community loved to pray for her, call her, and visit her. She said she had never been able to find a Catholic community that was accessible and supportive to her.
Ouch!!! I didn’t know what to say. It seemed surreal that she had told me all of that, a complete stranger. I promised her I would “work on it.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions. Are we working on it? Are we going to let more people leave the one true Church because we cannot step outside of ourselves in service and in love? I think I know why service is uncomfortable. Sometimes I do not want to go to the hospice because I am unable to face the depth that I find there. Faith becomes reality in the faces of suffering people. Their life is their faith that they will be saved. Seeing faith as reality forces you to change your ways and your perspective—and that is so uncomfortable. You can kill two birds with one stone—service brings about self-conversion while positively affecting the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Don’t go away sad and fearful from the call of God. Jesus is telling us this: it is great to be holy and follow the commandments to the letter, but we can do more. We can attain heroic virtue. Yes– take time to make sure you are spiritually squared away, but after that, never neglect to go outside ofyourself in service. Push yourself.
Pope Francis recently said this: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things… Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.” As Christians, let us live every day in service. Just as a side note, the Church has a nifty list of “works of mercy” that are awesome to reflect on and strive for. You can find them at this link:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm
Katie Gross is a junior at a Catholic high school in Dallas. She loves to sing, read, and run cross country.

Mt 15:21-28 Tail Between Their Legs

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)By Fr. ALFONSE NAZZAROAt that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David…

Mt 19:13-15 I See Potential Here

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent the…

Lk 1:39-56 How To Get Ahead

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary(Click here for readings)By Fr. ALFONSE NAZZAROWhen Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said…

Mt 18:21-19:1 Forgiving The Poor and Learning From Them




Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
(Click here for readings)

By HALEY HOYLE

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”

How often must we forgive our brothers when they are so hungry and thirsty?  Here is an entry from Haley’s journal.

Date: July 2, 2014

Location: Nkozi, Uganda (Nnindye, Lubanda A)


The Hunger and Thirst: I never grasped the severity of those words until I came to Africa.


Here, everyone is hungry. Everyone is thirsty.


Now, I don’t support “hand-outs” – just throwing cash at people to take away their pain. But food, food is a whole different story.


If I see someone who is so obviously hungry, and I happen to have food with me, it feels physically impossible not to give it away.

Towards the end of week three, when the hunger in their eyes really began to break me, I started bringing some of my food with me to my interviews in the village.


One day, we interviewed a few leaders from the SILC group (click “SILC group” for more info) in part of our village called Lubanda A. I brought a few snacks with me – 2 clif bars, some to-go cups of peanut butter, and trail mix. We arrived at Lubanda A around midday. The meeting was to take place in front of the SILC secretary’s home, right next to the banana garden this group was able to open up in just six months as a result of their success with SILC.


The 1st thing I always notice in each new community we visit are the children. The kids are always sure to greet me – the only muzungu (white person) they’ve seen in ages – with huge smiles and instant joy. Ask me about the kids from Kankobe Senero sometime. That, my friends, is real joy.


At Lubanda A, there was no such joy. The two children I sat with for two hours during our meeting did not smile once. Their faces were hardened, more hardened than any five or six-year-old’s face should ever be. Their clothes were torn. They looked as if they hadn’t eaten or bathed in weeks.


And as I journal here in the middle of this random banana garden on a random Wednesday in the middle of rural Uganda, I’m desperately searching for words to adequately describe the children of Lubanda A. I’ve started at this blank page for the past 20 minutes wondering where to begin, and I realize now that the only way to describe these children is lifeless, as lifeless and blank as this once-blank page.


When I looked into their eyes, I saw nothing but hunger. When I searched their hearts, I found nothing but thirst.


Aggie made me promise to pay attention during our SILC meeting and not be distracted by the kids like I always am, but I couldn’t help myself this time. I couldn’t ignore their hunger; I couldn’t look away from their pain.


Halfway through the meeting, I pulled out my snacks and instantly noticed a small flash of life in the children’s lifeless eyes.


I offered all of my food to the children, their mom and dad, and the other SILC leader present. Needless to say, by the end of that meeting, my lunch had vanished. Sure, I was hungry, but I knew they needed it much more than I did. And besides, the small flash of life I saw in their hungry eyes was enough to keep me satisfied for weeks and weeks to come.

So as much as I like to complain about only eating rice and beans for every single meal for two months (sorry peeps back home for always asking you to ship me cheeseburgers and pizza), I know that the hunger and thirst I experience most nights here will never even come close to what these people experience on a daily basis.

After living in Uganda for almost two months now, I’ve come to one conclusion: if you have food and drink on the table, a roof over your head, and a family who actually cares about you, you have very little to complain about in this life.


I can already sense how frustrating it will be to be back in America in just three short weeks – a land full of many people who have too much and love too little (myself being one of those people).


Here, love actually means something, and family, friendship, and faith are the greatest joys one has in life. I could write for days and days about the way Ugandans view these three “joys,” but all I’ll say is this: the people I’ve met here so far get life. They just get it, plain and simple. They take relationships seriously. If they say you are their friend, they mean it. They don’t gossip about you behind closed doors or make fun of you or tear you down in anyway. Instead, they hold you and feed you when you’re sick (thank you my beautiful twin Kush), make your bed and fold your clothes when you’re busy at work (thank you my sweet roomie Aggie), pray with you when you’re sad (thank you both of you), and laugh with you till the sun goes down (thank you my Princess Emily).


They never even dream of breaking their promises. If they say they’ll never leave you, they won’t. If they promise they’ll never betray you in any way, they would never dare. If they claim they love you, trust me, they mean it.


Yet the greatest thing about them is that they don’t have to say anything at all. You just know. Their actions tell you the whole story; the way they treat you on a daily basis says more than words could ever say. “[They] say it best when they say nothing at all.”

So maybe they are physically hungry and thirsty. Maybe some of them are living in extreme poverty. But to me, some of the richest people in the world are more spiritually and emotionally impoverished than these people will ever be.


Every time I think I’m experiencing true hunger, I’ll think back to the children of Lubanda A…their hardened faces, their torn clothes, their lifeless eyes, their bones bulging out of their backs.


Every time I think I’m thirsty, I’ll think of the little ones in my village who rise while it is still dark and walk miles and miles to fetch water for their families. And then return home and spend yet another hungry day at school, without any sort of complaint or negativity whatsoever.


As long as I live, I’ll remember the hunger and thirst in their eyes. But as long as I live, I’ll also remember that their lives – full of real laughter, endless peace, and selfless love*** – are more emotionally rich than ours may ever be.
Glory to You, oh Lord, for bodies that are always hungry, but hearts that are forever satisfied in You.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Love you for reading.
And we love you for blogging!!
Haley is a full-time student at the University of Notre Dame and a part-time blogger. You can find her at The Hunger and Thirst. 

Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse 2014-08-13 12:40:00

Mt 18:15-20 The Meaning of Church
(Click here for readings)
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”
More than most words, the word, “church,” contains a wide assortment of meanings. In the books of the Bible alone, church could mean the physical temple, the new Zion, the Bride of Christ, the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ, a community of believers, a community of common history and law, a family, or various combinations of these things, or something different altogether. Because the Church signifies so many different meanings, one can feel tempted to think of it as some vague idea that any individual candefine for himself. One person take a narrow view of the Church, thinking of it as aspecial building that houses a certain group of people who follow a particular set of moral teachings. Another might treat Church in much broader terms, thinking of her as a vast network of sympathetic, though not exactly united, individuals open to the divine.
Obviously, picking either of these extremes will lead to error. If a person has a narrow view of the church, he will feel tempted to treat it as a mere social club with an arbitrary set of rules. He might attend one church because it suits his class and background while another person will attend some other church for the same reasons. Their method of worship will often follow from a set of rules considered and maintained by a consensus of the members, reinforcing personal preferences while relativizing absolute the truth of Divine revelation.
The narrow view of church fueled many of the early Protestant breaks in the sixteenth century. The Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches often broke away from the Catholic Church because many of their followers saw church in terms of a physical community. In the case of Lutheranism, German princes wanted their own German churches that would rest under their authority and represent their people, not an Italian (or sometimes French) church that assumed a supranational leadership. Calvinism appealed to the Swiss and some of the American Puritans  who again wanted a church specific to their customs. In one fell swoop, King Henry abolished Catholicism for an Anglican church that would accede to his leadership—allowing him to divorce his wife—and thus nationalize Christianity. While different doctrines accompanied the founding of these churches, popular opinion more often played a bigger role in determining a new church’s success than a better argument.
To be fair, Catholics at this time countered with the same tendencies towards a narrow Christianity. The French and Italians appropriated the Church for their own purposes of government, which led to the abuses of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. In the schisms of the fourteenth century, these two countries tried to either make the Church a retainer of their respective governments, angling to make one of their people the pope; one side wanted to make the Catholicism French, the other, Italian, but few political leaders thought of making France or Italy Catholic, taking the success of past missionaries for granted. Spain did the same, using the Church to convert half the New World to Catholicism and by extension, under the dominion of Spain. When one considers the usurpation of the Christian Church for the purposes of legitimizing political authority and certain national identities, he should recognize the problem in labeling the conflicts resulting from the Reformation as the “Religious Wars”. Monarchs waged these wars, not the Catholic Church or the breakaway Protestant churches; they used religion to organize their particular faction, which had a political character more than a religious one. Even a cursory glance will show Catholics apparently supporting certain Protestants, and vice versa, showing that spiritual truth figured less into the meaning of church than political power and authority. Understanding this does not excuse the violence, but it should help correct the widespread fallacy that blames religion for starting wars.
Applied to today, taking an overly specific view of the Church has led to similar trends in modern Christianity. All too many Christians today associate Church with their cultural or particular community rather than with the spiritual life. Of the billion or so Catholics in the world, a large portion of them would probably only qualify as “Cultural Catholics.” They do not practice their faith; they do not pray; they know little to nothing about theliturgy, the Bible, or theology; they do not attend Mass except on holidays with their grandparents; but, all the same, they call themselves Catholic because they attended Catholic school once upon a time, or they have Catholic family members praying for them. They make the mistake of saying that were “born” Catholic, instead of baptized Catholic, betraying their thought that religion is some cultural trait instead a spiritual way of life that leads on the true salvation. They think their Italian background, their memories of the nuns disciplining them, or their parent’s alcoholism makes them Catholic, and thus embrace a stereotype instead of reality.
Ironically, this excessively narrow view of Church has resulted in an excessively broad view of the Church. Many writers reacting to the horrors of the “Religious Wars” wanted to redefine the Church as a kind of philosophy. Instead of an actual group of people with actual beliefs and actual traditions, Church became an abstract concept. These enlightened people whisked away the important doctrinal differences between Catholicism and the new Protestant denominations, deeming them altogether subjective and irrelevant. As more people adopted this open view of the Church, Christendomeventually became Christianity; later, Christianity became theism, on par with any other form of belief whether it be Buddhism, Totemism, or ScientologyTheism, without any formal set of beliefs or regular gathering, eventually dissolves in agnosticism or atheism: the Church of God degenerates into the Church of Man.
Despite the argument that expanding the meaning the Church would allow more people to unite under its banner and therefore enlarge the community and minimize conflict, it has actually contributed to the widespread spiritual individualism and isolation. If Church is simply an idea, then one can reject it on the basis of one’s opinion, or one can adopt it one on his own terms; it has no physical reality. Many Christians today worship alone, away from others, without any kind of reference point. They hate “organized religion,” never considering the fact that religion implies the organization of belief among a group of people. They say that Jesus came to save sinners and abolish the Church; lacking any kind of guide outside themselves, they overlook Jesus’ quite apparent desire to have his disciples organize into a universal Church that would preserve and spread His gospel. Otherwise, these Christians who do not believe in Church—a somewhat blatant contradiction, but a prevalent view nonetheless—will make their own gospel and speed down the solitary descent of perdition.
The correct orthodox understanding of Church lies somewhere in between these two extremes. The Church is composed of real people, who do interact as a community, where “two or three” or a thousand gather in physical proximity. Those who do not gather, or substitute virtual gathering for real gathering (i.e. the Internet), at some point in their spiritual lives, which even hermits do before their seclusion, risk having a warped perspective of God, themselves, and others. The Church stabilizes and supports her members in their spiritual journey; alone, those members will necessarily become destabilized and fall deeper into sin and error. Along with gathering, the Church must accord with God’s Will, “in my [Jesus’] name.” Church should not serve as some social club of likeminded people or some cultural symbol; it must administer God’s truth. If people do not gather in Jesus’ name, they cease to qualify as members of His Church. Those who try to maintain otherwise, those who meet in their own name, not Jesus’ name, should be corrected by those who follow Jesus; when they resist correction, they must be removed from the Church: “treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector.”group of people that gathers in any name besides Jesus effectively commits the sin of idolatry, worshipping what is not God. Churches that have allowed every new ideology to penetrate their theology eventually lose their mission, and ultimately lose Jesus. Quite a few Christian denominations in the Western world have suffered this fate.
Catholics today who face the twin temptations of making the Church too exclusive or too inclusive must stop looking at other organizations around them, and look to Jesus beyond them. Christ, not the ambitious individual or the confused rabble, must lead. Both divine and human, he must lead the spiritual dimension as well as the physical dimension of His Church. With Him, the Church will flourish; without Him, the Church will inevitablydecline and eventually fall into obscurity.

Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 Lost and Found

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,

will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father

that one of these little ones be lost.

Get found.
This morning we awoke to the news that comedian Robin Williams has died. Known for being zany and outrageous, he was also known for kindness. Unfortunately, as the news reports, he also struggled with addiction and depression. Ultimately, it seems he took his life on Monday. How can this be?! Well, unfortunately it’s a story we here all too often.
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
This is one of my favorite gospel passages. There is so much good stuff wrapped up in it! It foretells that we will go astray (He knows it will happen!) It says that we will be alone during that time (“one of them goes astray”.) If wereare alone, then we’re probably scared, too. It says that other people will be inconvenienced (“leave the ninety-nine). It says it will be tumultuous for those involved (“in the hills”). And most beautifully it says, He will come get us (“go in search of the stray.”)
However there’s a catch. In order for this to work, we need to want to be found by Him. If when He comes looking for us we hide and deny His help, then we’re back on our own. Alone seeking refuge in something else.
God does not want us to be lost.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”
Money does not buy you peace when you are lost. Having the Lord in your life brings you peace and security. You don’t have to pay for it; you don’t have to earn it. The Lord gives it freely, and you can have as much of it as you want.
Today I will say a prayer for Robin Williams, his family and anyone touched by him. I will also say a prayer for the lost sheep – it’s big one. It’s all of us. But thankfully God is ready, willing and able to bring us home.
This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Raleigh, NC. Kim converted to Catholicism in 2012.

Temple Tax

Monday of the Ninteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE G.

When they came to Capernaum,
The collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the seadrop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.”
In my opinion, this Gospel reading is very often overlooked. I have to admit that when I started reflecting on this reading, no ideas immediately came to my head. On the surface level, this exchange between the collectors, Peter, and Christ is not romantic or heroic or impassioned like some of the other Gospel readings. That being said, I should know by now that God is not a surface level God!
The collectors of the temple tax approached Peter andsaid,“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?” The particular tax that the collector asked of Jesus and Peter was called “a ransom for the soul”– a small tax for the purpose of sustaining the temple. Exodus 30:12 recounts, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.” The collector was asking Jesus to pay a ransom for his soul. The Son of God!?! A ransom for a perfect soul!?!
This is where the Gospel takes on its hidden meaning. Jesus, the Son of God, has no need of paying tribute. But still, he does. This expresses two different truths to us: that Jesus died for our sin although he had no sin himself, and that Jesus was perfectly humble.
Take some time to reflect on this reading as a representation of Christ’s passion and death.  Jesus spent a lot of time in Capernaum. He knew better than anyone that the temple tax would be collected from him that day. He knew that he had no need himself of paying the temple tax. The collectors mocked him, trying to catch him disobeying Jewish law. But still, did he try to avoid the tax? Or think of the miraculous means by which the tax was paid! Christ could have called down the angels and received any amount of money he wished. But yet, he chose to pay the tax demanded from Him by the most humble means possible, and He only produced the exact amount necessary to pay. He paid every cent of what He had—there was nothing left over. And He paid for Peter.
When you dig into this reading, so much meaningful symbolism of the Passion comes to the surface. Christ didn’t avoid his captors in the Garden of Gethsemane. He presented himself freely. Christ had no need to die because He was perfect, but still he submitted himself to an unjust sentence and an unjust condemnation. He could have even come down from the cross! Or chosen a less gruesome way to die! But no—He gave everything He had, freely. Without contest. And He paid for us.
How strikingly humble! When was the last time I was subjected to injustice and didn’t complain for hours on end? I can’t even remember. Actually, I have probably never been able to react like Christ would. That is my pride coming to the surface. We all need to ask Christ to give us perfect humility. If the Son of God can make himself a servant, emptying himself entirely although it is seemingly unjust, what is holding us back from doing the same? Are we to be less humble than the Son of God? Forgive me, because this is a tangent, but I feel the need to share something that really struck me recently. Have you ever gone to Mass or adoration or confession and just felt overly “built up”? I was in Mass one time, and it struck me. There I was, dressed nicely, my hair was done, I had makeup on, there was an expensive cell phone and car keys in my pocket … and there was Christ on the altar, a piece of bread.
Wow.
There is no way to be more humble than Christ, as crazy as that seems to us. He is perfect humility. We will never surpass Him in humility…. but we can strive to model our lives after it.
Here’s a good illustration. I was particularly stumped before writing this reflection, so I consulted a Biblical commentary. Unfortunately, the author of the commentary I often use is particularly prejudiced against Catholics. He says: “The papists make a great mystery of Christ’s paying for Peter, as if this made him the head and representative of the whole church; whereas the payment of tribute for him was rather a sign of subjection than of superiority.” To which we say as Catholics: exactly right, sir! “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” It is fitting that Peter, the rock upon which Christ built his church, should be totally indebted to Him. Superiority is not the mark of leadership. Superiority is not the mark of wisdom.
Today is the feast of St. Clare. We hear so often in the Church of men and women who abandon their wealth and pride to give themselves away as servants. What is stopping us?

Katie is a junior at a local Catholic high school. She is an intelligent and gifted writer and I would  like to thank her for agreeing to write for this blog site.  Welcome Katie!

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