In the Gospels, Jesus introduces us to God the Father and invites us into his heavenly realm right here on earth, the kingdom of God. He opens our eyes to see that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of this world, which we can touch, taste, see, hear, and smell (our physical world), and God's kingdom, which is unseen but just as real—in fact, even more so.
By getting to know Jesus Christ and learning how to connect with him spiritually, we can become "kingdom-of-God dwellers." But because we have been given the gift of free will, each of us must decide, every minute of each day, in which kingdom we will choose to place our hope and trust.
–from the book Born to Soar: Unleashing God's Word in Your Life
✞ JUNE 30, 2017 "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
TODAY'S FEAST DAY
†FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH A great number of Christians perished at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero during the terrible persecution that lasted from 64-68 A.D. This was the first of many major persecutions of the newly founded Church at Rome. The holy men and women who first died for the Gospel of Jesus Christ are also called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." Some were burned as living torches in the Emperor's gardens; some were crucified; others were fed to wild animals. Many died even before Sts. Peter and Paul, and therefore it is said of them that they are the "Disciples of the Apostles ... whom the Holy Roman Church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death." God used the sacrifice of these holy men and women, who suffered like their savior Jesus Christ, to lay the indestructible foundation of His Church. Their bold witness for the Christian faith as they endured a brutal death won many converts and caused the Church to grow and spread throughout the world. The feast day of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church is June 30th.
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." Matthew 7:21
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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
Saint of the Day for June 30
First Martyrs of the Church of Rome's Story
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' 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.
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 Gn 17:1, 9-10, 15-22
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said: "I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless."
God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised."
God further said to Abraham: "As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai; her name shall be Sarah. I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her. Him also will I bless; he shall give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples shall issue from him." Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?" Then Abraham said to God, "Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!" God replied: "Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him. I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve chieftains, and I will make of him a great nation. But my covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year." When he had finished speaking with him, God departed from Abraham.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 R. (4) See how the Lord blesses those who fear him. Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; Your children like olive plants around your table. R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him. Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. R. See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.
Alleluia Mt 8:17 R. Alleluia, alleluia. Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 8:1-4
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I will do it. Be made clean." His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."
Meditation: Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22
The First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church (Optional Memorial)
As for Ishmael . . . I hereby bless him. (Genesis 17:20)
The story of Abraham and his son Ishmael is as messy as any mixed marriage or custody battle today. According to Mesopotamian law, a childless woman could offer a slave to her husband as a substitute child bearer. That's how Ishmael was born; Abraham's barren wife, Sarah, offered her slave Hagar to Abraham to bear a child for her.
Like a modern surrogacy story, relationships got complicated after Ishmael was born. Abraham loved his son Ishmael, but Sarah and the "surrogate mother" held one another in disdain. Sarah wanted to throw Hagar out. Imagine the household tension that little Ishmael must have felt. By the time God told Abraham that Sarah would conceive a child of her own, his response was a little bit cynical: "Just let Ishmael live through this!" (Genesis 17:18).
Isn't it comforting to think about how faithful God was to Abraham and Ishmael despite all this family strife? The way God responded to Abraham's frustration is the way he responds to us today. He says, "I will bless you and maintain my covenant with you." God's love can't be dragged down by our problems!
Our families don't have to be perfect for God to remain faithful and merciful. We don't have to make all the right decisions in order for God's will to happen. Even Abraham struggled to believe this in his heart though. As God was promising blessing, Abraham was caught up in his family troubles. Does this sound familiar? Whether family or some other worry weighs you down, take a moment to suspend thinking about that and concentrate on God's love.
As God's eternal faithfulness was present to Abraham, it is also present to you. Sometimes it's helpful to be concrete by recalling one or two specific examples of God's faithfulness. Try to remember a time that God bailed you out of a tough situation. Thank God for that. Or thank him for a blessing from the past week! Finally, strengthened by these memories, offer up your biggest worry—your Ishmael—to the faithful goodness of the Lord. God is always at work in our lives; we just have to rise out of our worries to perceive it.
"Jesus, I take comfort in your constant, faithful love."
Psalm 128:1-5 Matthew 8:1-4
my2cents: These words were recorded from God from thousands of years ago: "Walk in my presence and be blameless." He said this to a man that was about 100 years old, Abram, named Abraham by our Lord in Heaven. The father of nations. Called to be blameless and the message goes to your very eyes... holiness.
We prayed today " See how the Lord blesses those who fear him. Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways!" But imagine, if you don't feel blessed. Imagine that you can't walk in His ways. Imagine yourself cast out. This message is for you. God is there, always been there. He is ready to bless, to bless those who fear, that means love, that means is amazed by GOD!
In comes the AMAZING ONE, right before us as a leper begs on his knees ""Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." For some strange reason, I was getting these thoughts this morning as I pondered the Lord as I got ready for work, "what if the only way we could see the Lord is on our knees". Yesterday's Psalm said "Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad." Proverb 29:23 says "A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor." The leper represents all the lost, and found. Because a lost one comes on his knees like the Prodigal Son, and realizing the great honor, of what all he left, he remains on his knees in gratefulness, appreciation, lowliness, in the same role as our Blessed Mother in Heaven, giving honor to God.
And for this, be ready for a world that is not ready. This is why we honor today's saints, and they are not "fallen heroes" but heroes alive in Heaven. They took their cross, they followed ChrisT to the T. We are called to follow that example. And it starts with little things. Turn off the raunchy stuff. Turn off darkness. Turn on the lights, and the lights are obvious like when a martyr is burned at stake like a torch for the world to see. Confident, and unafraid, with only fear of the Lord to ever fail Him. Too much is at stake. And the stake awaits. God awaits. We are privileged to serve and honor Him with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul! Love you God. Thank God for Friday, a good Friday, a Friday You Died for us on. No longer is it about me, but You O Lord, Thank you. I DO WISH TO BE MADE CLEAN
Right now I am being washed clean and wrung out. The fact that I once thought I knew what life was about would make me laugh, if I could laugh. All my former certainties lie exposed. I remember fighting stubbornly to prove myself right about things, and believing that I was right. I recall everything I took for granted. What was that life I was leading? Behind the façade, behind the image of the person I thought myself to be, is there a truth worth knowing?
How many things were never seen, never guessed? What have I missed?
A small clarity arises. I was not the center, even though it felt that way. I was not the center. The small story of my life was not the point. It left so much unborn.
–from the book Stars at Night: When Darkness Unfolds as Light
✞ "Act as if everyday were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform." — St. Alphonsus Liguori
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at this moment is progressing to the one state or the other." — C. S. Lewis, p. 92 AN EXCERPT FROM Mere Christianity
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Hebrews 1:1-3
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STS. PETER AND PAUL
St. Peter and St. Paul (1st c.) were the foremost Apostles of Jesus Christ; St. Peter was the leader of the Twelve, while St. Paul followed Christ after His ascension into heaven. Together the two saints are the founders of the Church in Rome through their apostolic preaching, ministry, and martyrdom in that city. They are the solid rock on which the foundation of the Catholic Church is built, and they will forever remain her protectors and guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God's providential guidance that they transformed the capital of the Roman Empire into the heart of the Church, with the mission to radiate the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world. Both saints were martyred in close proximity to one another; Peter first, then Paul, though some traditions claim they were killed on the same day. St. Peter was crucified upside down and buried on the hill of the Vatican where St. Peter's Basilica now stands. St. Paul was beheaded on the via Ostia and buried where the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls now stands. St. Peter and St. Paul are the patron saints of Rome and they share a feast day on June 29, a tradition going back to the earliest centuries of the Church.
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles Mass during the Day
Reading 1 Acts 12:1-11
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. –It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.– He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.
On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, "Get up quickly." The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, "Put on your belt and your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him, "Put on your cloak and follow me." So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting."
Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him. I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad. R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him. Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name. I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him. R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed the man who takes refuge in him. R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Reading 2 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Alleluia Mt 16:18 R. Alleluia, alleluia. You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Meditation: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Saints and Peter and Paul, Apostles (Solemnity)
I . . . am already being poured out like a libation. (2 Timothy 4:6)
If the apostles were a sports team, Sts. Peter and Paul would be the all-stars. They were strong vocal leaders. They set the direction and lived as vibrant examples of Christ-like disciples: a life poured out in sacrifice as an offering to God. Imperfect though they were, they grew in greatness as they fought the good fight every day and remained faithful witnesses until death. St. Peter met his death upside down on a cross in Rome. St. Paul was beheaded about the same time, also in Rome.
The grand martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were the culmination of lives spent as witnesses—the original meaning of the word "martyr"—to the life and truth of Jesus Christ. In that sense, they were martyrs every day—with many little deaths. Peter left his fishing business when Jesus called. He trudged the rocky paths of Galilee and Judea, managed crowds, found food, and learned to love by serving his fellow disciples. Peter put Jesus' directions and needs ahead of his own. He didn't always get it right, but he continued to follow and serve the Lord.
Paul, too, offered his career, position, and life's plans to the Lord. Perhaps unwillingly at first, but wholeheartedly at the end. Daily he chose to serve, even when tired, sick, or hurt; in peril of his life; or in prison. He gave up his reputation as one of the brightest Pharisees and staunchest opponents of the Nazarene's sect. He made plans, only to change them at the Spirit's leading. He listened to and obeyed the Lord even when his emotions and intellect objected strenuously.
Few of us will be martyred as Peter and Paul were, but every day presents opportunities to die to self, to share the gospel, care for others, and hold fast to our faith. We become closer to Jesus, more holy, and more attractive when we accept our little deaths: closing Facebook to read to a child, turning off the television to read Scripture, risking rejection by offering to pray with someone we know is hurting. Jesus is glorified, and we are conformed to him as we yield to these small martyrdoms.
"Jesus, thank you for the opportunities to become more like you today. I trust you to stand with me and strengthen me."
Acts 12:1-11 Psalm 34:2-9 Matthew 16:13-19
my2cents: We heard the Holy Word:""Put on your belt and your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him, "Put on your cloak and follow me." Not even our Lord was delivered in such a way from being in prison. But there is a reason, God's ways are not ours. Our plans are not His...but they should be always.
Let us pray again: "The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him. I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad." The lowly hear Him!? And is His praise always in your mouth? Or did the Eucharist disappear into an abyss? It is the Lord! From the depths He saves. One in our bible study shared last night "I was locked in depression, and nothing nor anyone could get me...but the Lord said to Me "I Am greater".
In comes the Lord and our Savior: ""Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And some answered like "well, they say you're like this and like that. That's how it is nowadays too, isn't it? People say they "know the Lord" because of what people say. No. God is asking something very deep, in the interior life, something more than personal, something...eternal. ""But who do you say that I am?" What Simon answers becomes the truth in the world, ""You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." These are words that reveal who He is among us. The Son of God, God Himself, the King of the world, the one we are to lay down our lives for. Put down your weapons, let go of your selfish thoughts, put on your towel and prepare to clean feet, and get ready to serve feeding lambs. Because this King is all about serving and dishing out unreserved Love. Because God says right here "I love you" and our response in love should be to Him "I love you too" and then He says, "I love you more!". And it goes on, a love relationship. Jesus our King says to Peter our First Pope "I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And at the same time the Church gets going, He speaks to us. "Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven". These words are in line with the Lord's prayer "forgive us as we forgive". Binding. And our relationship grows as we bind ourselves to Him more, like in the Holy Sacraments. Reconciled and fed, bonded, united, these oaths we take we renew upon the Holy Altar. Now Jesus turns to you. A glance of eternal glory looks straight at you "tell Me, who do you say that I am?" He doesn't ask "what I am". He doesn't ask "what others say I am". He doesn't ask "who do others say I am to them". No. He ask WHO am I? Do you know ME? Some people will see locked gates in Heaven and beat on them in desperation "Lord, Lord! Open up!" And He replies "I do not know you." It is like this: You've read much about me in these reflections, but if you see me on the street, I may not know who you are. You see, if you've heard much about the Lord and He has not touched you personally, it is a whole other story. If you go just to obey, you've missed the point of obedience. Obedience is for animals, love is for God's children. Why do I go to Holy Mass almost every day of the week? Why do we pray the rosary so much? Just because it's "good"? Because it's good for me? Wrong. It is because I love God, we love God, and we are thankful and depend on Him for everything. Even if I get a little upset, I am starting to pray about it. Peace comes in. The Holy Spirit comes in.
So, who do you say that HE is?
Know Him Love Him Serve Him It is the law of the Lord and for the good of the world....above all