"Let the Word of God come; let it enter the church; let it become a consuming fire, that it may burn the hay and stubble, and consume whatever is worldly; there is heavy lead of iniquity in many; let it be molten by divine fire; let the gold and silver vessels be made better, in order that understanding and speech, refined by the heat of suffering, may begin to be more precious." — St. Ambrose
MEDITATION OF THE DAY "Joseph's virtue was sublime and exceptional; therefore it was subjected to a great and singular trial. But, as he heroically surmounted this trial, so God was pleased, not only to console him, but to exalt him to a dignity of extraordinary glory." — Edward Healy Thompson, p. 197 AN EXCERPT FROM The Life & Glories of St. Joseph
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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in 57-58 A.D..
There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city "caused by the certain Chrestus" [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius's death in 54 A.D. Paul's letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.
Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.
Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians.
Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter, writes: "It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith...."
"Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented, like Dirce or the daughters of Danaus, suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize."
Lord, you are always there waiting for me. May I never be too busy to find time to spend in your presence.
"I am free." When I look at these words in writing They seem to create in me a feeling of awe. Yes, a wonderful feeling of freedom. Thank You, God.
In the presence of my loving Creator, I look honestly at my feelings over the last day, the highs, the lows and the level ground. Can I see where the Lord has been present?
The Word of God
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 Am 7:10-17
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: "Amos has conspired against you here within Israel; the country cannot endure all his words. For this is what Amos says: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land."
To Amos, Amaziah said: "Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple." Amos answered Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now hear the word of the LORD!"
You say: prophesy not against Israel, preach not against the house of Isaac. Now thus says the LORD: Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by measuring line, and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11 R. (10cd) The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just. The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; The ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just. They are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; Sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
Alleluia 2 Cor 5:19 R. Alleluia, alleluia. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 9:1-8
After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven." At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"– he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ We are celebrating the Year of Mercy, and this episode is a reminder of the quality of the mercy which Jesus came to proclaim. Jesus does not let them ask him to cure the paralytic, he talks first. His are words of encouragement, the phrase we find so often throughout the Bible - 'Take heart...your sins are forgiven'. Sometimes I might think that I have no sins, or that my sins are too big or shameful to be forgiven by Jesus. But Jesus is upset that his power to forgive sins is put into doubt, and is quick to prove he has this power.
▪ Jesus cured the paralytic when he saw the faith of those who carried him! Who are those I carry in faith, in prayer, in companionship and compassion? Who are those whose faith, at one time or another in my life, carried my weak self to Jesus?
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
The First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church (Optional Memorial)
Your sins are forgiven. (Matthew 9:2)
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."
my2cents: Today we heard "To Amos, Amaziah said: "Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!" There was this sense of rejection by the king, rejecting the prophet said to have been sent by God. The name "Amo" in spanish means "Master" so in a sense, it is rejecting the master that was sending a message. The word "amo" also means that you love, and so in a sense it is rejecting the love that was sent, the message is love, and love is faithfulness, and this means full of faith. Rejection of faith and faithfulness is at hand. One doesn't just reject a little, you reject everything. And this rejection leads to the trained thoughts and hearts of the Jewish people that still exists today, that of not accepting, that of not forgiving, that of a rejection that a Messiah had arrived and that possibility that the Messiah exists among us this very day.
We prayed "The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just" and the Lord judged, Jesus judged among them and all was rejected. Just because we declare it untrue, does not make it untrue. Just because we fail to give glory does not mean He is not glorious. Just because we hide from the sun does not mean it is not shining. Just because we do not forgive does not mean God doesn't forgive. It's suddenly on us... In comes the Lord of our lives and speaks to a paralyzed man and offends the Jewish people by saying ""Courage, child, your sins are forgiven." If there was an onslaught on God's children, the first Christian martyrs, it was fueled because of these words the devil had to hear that saved a man's life, and the devil said "you are people haters" and the truth is revealed, because when you point the finger, the rest point back. Today, the abortion siders say that we pro lifers are "women haters", but truth is abortions hurt women many times physically and every time spiritually. So the devil speaks and you have to watch carefully the words chosen. All because our Lord says "be encouraged, (My) child, your sins are forgiven" OH MAN these words are a soothing balm, a healing balm when heard in the confessional with the Father, the person of Christ in confession. This burden, this weight is lifted, this onslaught of attacks of guilt and anxiety brought about by the world and the devil, it is lifted, and I am healed, and I can be one with the flock again. Yesterday, I decided to text a friend married to a cousin of mine. I told him that I hadn't seen him in church for a while and that I felt disconnected from him and I told him he should go to confession and that I missed hanging out. He said "we should golf again" and I said "i'll only go if you go to Mass with me or adoration of the most Holy Eucharist, (the Blessed Sacrament)". And I got no response. You see, once you are disconnected, there is no possible response. And now, the invitation is set. What happens with the Jews is that there is a disconnect with mercy, they believe there is a limit, and Christians, true Catholics believe that God's mercy is endless. Jews believe that forgiveness is between the perpetrator and the victim, no intercessors allowed, and so when the Lord intercedes to forgive in the name of everyone, He is blaspheming in their eyes, their trained thoughts. Today, these intercessory thoughts still rage amongst denominations of Christianity, that say you may not have heavenly intercessors, like angels and saints and an angelic saint like Mary. You see, these words of today, they are all encompassing because it all hinges on faith, and religion which is a set of beliefs. Set your faith on Christ. Set your faith on fire. Set your life on Christ the Lord. If He will forgive, then who am I not to forgive others?
So what did it feel like to live a retreat with prisoners for the first time? I asked a couple why they were there. One was there for murder, because he stabbed someone that eventually died from the wounds. One was there because he was drunk and killed others in an accident. The stabber said he wasn't himself, something had taken over. The other wasn't himself when he was drunk. But the common denominator is that they remember being there but not really there, like being possessed in a way. Why do I bring all this up? Because I was being their friend, their brother. So what did it feel like? It felt the same as talking to a woman who has had an abortion. What possessed you at one time to kill does not make you who you are once you are forgiven. I forgave. They are paying, but when forgiven, the soul is what matters. A nonbeliever would not be in my shoes. They would say the opposite, and would not see these people as humans, as brothers and sisters, but as animals that belong in their cages. The judgement is set and the judgements of the Lord are true. Forgive as you would like to be forgiven. Love as you would like to be loved. Notice, you are the giver.
Acceptance of Christ changes the world.
Defiance of Christ keeps it the same.
your brother through the blood of Christ and all the martyrs for Christ...