Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13–14, NJB)
I did not kill anybody, or set fire to someone’s house, or committed adultery. I go to church regularly, read the Bible and other spiritual books daily, and pray a lot. I fast on bread and water twice a week. I have travelled to hallowed places of worship on scores of pilgrimages. I am far better informed on religious matters than my acquaintances. I gain deep insights into Scripture and theological studies by attending conferences; I always understand everything the speakers say, and thoroughly enjoy the programmes from beginning to end. I know all the standard formulary prayers, hymns and rituals; I can compose lengthy pious supplications and meditative thoughts instantaneously. I have been instrumental in organizing numerous devotional events. I donate money to worthy causes, help people who are in need, do multiple voluntary works expertly and say many holy things. Surely I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world, am I not? Surely my friends will speak of me as a saint after I die!
But have I paid any attention to this teaching of James in the New Testament? “Nobody who fails to keep a tight rein on the tongue can claim to be religious; this is mere self-deception; that person’s religion is worthless.” (Jas 1:26, NJB)
According to just one short paragraph of Jesus’ teaching below, how often should I have been condemned in the past week alone?
He warns, “You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt 12:34–37, NAB)
A person speaking good may be a good person, or may be an evil person pretending to be good. However, a person speaking evil is not a good person pretending to be evil; a person speaking evil is evil!
Will I not be opening my mouth proudly again to say malicious things against someone whom I consider inferior to me? Will I not continue to think nothing of spreading rumours about the person I envy? Will I not be justifying myself tomorrow for being angry with those who do not agree with my brilliant observations? Do I deem pride, envy and anger – three of the seven deadly sins – deadly for others but not for me? Do I not know that angels became devils because of pride? Do I consider myself sinless as long as nobody seems to notice my sins?
James writes: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (Jas 2:10–11, NIV)
No wonder Jesus cautions: “I have much to say in judgment of you.” (Jn 8:26, NIV)
This is how he speaks to those who have the appearance of good but are not truly so: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Mt 23: 27–28, NIV)
“You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as upright in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed in human eyes is loathsome in the sight of God.” (Lk 16:15, NJB)
“You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (Mt 23:15, NIV)
Is it time to canonize myself?
Before canonizing myself, I should think about and remember the following.
“For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Mt 7:13, NIV)
“When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers!” (Mt 7:22–23, NJB)
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (Jn 12:46–48, NIV)
“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.” (Lk 6:47-49, NAB)
“Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn: 8–9, NIV)
“Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth.” (1 Tim 6:3–5, NAB)
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (Jas 3:14–16, NIV)
Now, should I not examine myself more carefully, therefore, and in a totally honest and truthful way? Otherwise, should I not fear that, even though I may have been invited, I may have been chosen, and I may even be at the gate, in the end I may be locked out if self-satisfaction sets in?
Jesus already said: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Lk 13:24, RSV)
“When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’” (Lk 13:25–27, RSV)
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” (Lk 14:34–35, NIV)
“Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Mk 10:31, NJB)
“What have you got that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why are you boasting as though it were your own?” (1 Cor 4:7, NJB)
Should I crown myself today? Only a fool would do that. God alone can make saints – at the moment he chooses, if he opens the door into Heaven for me after a period of sincere self-examination, repentance and conversion on my part.
Repent; obey Jesus, the Advocate
In the last book of the Bible, God warns me: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked… Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Rev 3:14–19, NIV)
John writes in his first epistle: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:1–6, NIV)
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:5–9, NIV)
Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:15–17, NAB)
In Colossians 3:7–9, St. Paul says that I must put away all these things: anger, hot temper, malice, slander, abusive language, and filthy talk. “Stop lying to each other!” he cautions.
In the First Letter to the Corinthians, he demands, “Follow the way of love.” (1 Cor, 14:1, NIV)
In chapter 13 of the same letter, he describes love as the highest theological virtue. Concerning this, I had better look inside my own heart seriously. And I had better not make these mistakes: to merely speak about the well-known passage without putting it into practice, giving advice, reciting the lines and using them to judge others instead of applying them to myself – none give any evidence of saintliness. But, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, if I meditate on the famous verses honestly, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, word by word, then change and carry out everything in them – towards everyone and at all times (even when nobody is watching) – then perhaps I will progress in the right direction.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13: 1– 7, NIV)
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (Jn 15:11–14, NIV)
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:29, NIV)
How many days does it take a person to be justified who sincerely repents from the heart?
Jesus spoke this parable. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other…” (Lk 18:10–14, RSV)
On the day that the humble person acknowledged his sinfulness, he arrived home justified.
Soon afterwards, Jesus travelled through Jericho. “And there was a man named Zacchae’us; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchae’us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it four-fold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…’” (Lk 19:2–9, RSV)
‘Today,’ the same day that Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ invitation, and made haste and came down from his lofty position, and welcomed Jesus joyfully, and reformed his ways, salvation came to him.
On Calvary, two criminals were crucified beside Jesus. “One of the criminals hanging there abused him: ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He answered him, ‘In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Lk 23:39–43, NJB)
‘Today!’ Again – for those who honestly admit their guilt and look to Jesus for mercy.
How long does it take someone to decide seriously for repentance? Not long! Nobody should spend another day on earth going through life staying as evil as before.
Guidance from St. Peter
“God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5, NJB)
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Pet 2:1, NIV)
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble… For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.’” (1 Pet 3:8, 10, NIV)
Guidance from St. Paul
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Phil 3:12–15, NIV)
“So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it must be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12, NJB)
Jesus, you said: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:32, RSV) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
In your life and in your relationships it is very important to recognize fools and those who proclaim themselves to be wise but are not. If you know how to deal with them you will have greater peace and sympathy.
Take a few moments to think about whether there are people in your family, among your kinfolks, co-workers, acquaintances or friends who behave like fools. Here are some ways to identify them.
“Whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Pr 10:18, NAB)
“Fools take no delight in understanding,
but only in displaying what they think.” (Pr 18:2, NAB)
“The lips of fools walk into a fight.” (Pr 18:6, NAB)
“It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Pr 20:3, NIV)
“As dogs return to their vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.” (Pr 26:11, NAB)
How to distinguish the wise or prudent from fools
“The way of fools is right in their own eyes,
but those who listen to advice are the wise.” (Pr 12:15, NAB)
“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” (Pr 12:16, NIV)
“All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” (Pr 13:16, NIV)
“A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.” (Pr 14:3, NIV)
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” (Pr 14:8, NIV)
“The wise person is cautious and turns from evil;
the fool is reckless and gets embroiled.
The quick-tempered make fools of themselves.” (Pr 14:16-17, NAB)
“The crown of the wise is their wisdom, but folly is the garland of fools.” (Pr 14:24, RSV)
“The heart of the wise seeks knowledge, a fool’s mouth feeds on folly.” (Pr 15:14, NJB)
“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” (Pr 28:26, NIV)
“Fools give vent to all their anger;
but the wise, biding their time, control it.” (Pr 29:11, NAB)
How not to handle a fool
“Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pr 1:7, NIV)
“A single reprimand does more for a discerning person
than a hundred lashes for a fool.” (Pr 17:10, NAB)
“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly.” (Pr 17:12, NIV)
“Do not speak in the hearing of fools;
they will despise the wisdom of your words.” (Pr 23:9, NAB)
“Wisdom is too high for a fool.” (Pr 24:7, RSV)
“Snow no more befits the summer, nor rain the harvest-time, than honours befit a fool.” (Pr 26:1, NJB)
“A thorn branch in a drunkard’s hand, such is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (Pr 26:9, NJB)
“Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.” (Pr 27:22, NIV)
“If a wise person disputes with a fool,
there is railing and ridicule but no resolution.” (Pr 29:9, NAB)
How to deal with fools
Heed Jesus’ warning: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mt 5:21-22, NIV)
The book of Proverbs puts it this way: “Whoever mocks the poor reviles their Maker;
whoever rejoices in their misfortune will not go unpunished.” (Pr 17:5, NAB)
In the above quotation, “the poor” are not just those who have few monetary and material possessions, but also those who are less gifted in psychological maturity, or pleasant personalities, or wisdom.
In the following Gospel reading, the “little ones” can also be applied to the same group of individuals. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 18:10, RSV)
Here is what you can do. First, love them. Jesus commands: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12, NJB)
Second, pray for them. You cannot change the hearts of fools by arguments and exhortations, or by shaming and rebuking. It is only by the grace of God that fools can be transformed to abandon their sin of pride and the desire for self-aggrandizement.
Third, rather than fuming with anger while a fool around you rages on and on with endless complaints and jealous boasting, do as these proverbs tell you:
“Do not answer fools according to their folly,
lest you too become like them.” (Pr 26:4, NAB)
“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” (Pr 14:7, RSV)
This article contains Biblical quotations only. Obey God and he will raise you to the heights of honour.
No revenge; leave vengeance to the Lord
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.” (Pr 24:29, NIV)
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you. (Pr 20:22, NIV)
For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (Heb 10:30, RSV)
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated… So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Heb 10:32–37, NIV)
Do good; love
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (1 Thes 5:15 NIV)
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev 19: 18, NIV)
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also… Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:27–29, 36, NIV)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:14, 18–21, NIV)
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Heb 12:14–15, NIV)
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. (1 Cor 4:12–13, NAB)
Blessed and exalted
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (1 Pet 3:8–14, NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place…
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. (Phil 2: 5–15, NIV)
Do not wait until Lent to pray the Way of the Cross. Come close to Jesus daily by spending a few short moments with him in a manner like the sample below. Ask him to teach you what to think about him, what to learn from him, how you can be like him, in what way you are already following in his footsteps, how you have used his good example to deal with conflicts in your family, in the work-place, with acquaintances, and with those who treat you as an enemy. Share with him your joys, your sorrows, your concerns of the day. Thank him.
It is true that this Way of the Cross version does not carry with it any plenary indulgence from the Church. If you want, you can pray a version to which an indulgence is attached. How often you do that each year is for you to count.
Every Catholic church has the fourteen Stations of the Cross displayed prominently on the walls. Why is this?
Jesus, at the time when you were condemned and sentenced to death, no Gospel had been compiled and no theological treatises had been written to expound on what you were doing. You faced your sacrifice silently, offering no explanation to anyone. Never once did you look for sympathy. You knew what you had to do, and did it for the eternal benefit of all.
Jesus, you were insulted, beaten, and made to shoulder the cross. The spectators regarded you as a disgraced failure. No matter what people thought, you persisted on your sacred mission without telling your foes you were doing the greatest good for them. You bore no bitterness; you did not fight back. You remained constantly meek and humble of heart. You cared not for praise or human recognition.
Jesus, after an all-night ordeal of brutality and torment, you collapsed. You could have used this fall as an excuse to call off the rest of the humiliating undertaking; but you got up and pressed onward.
Jesus, your Mother may have prayed: “Father, our Son’s Passion is excruciatingly agonizing. Please have mercy on him and reduce the time of his suffering by giving the same suffering to me too.”
Jesus, you accepted help from a stranger. Even though he was only forced into giving you a hand, in return you inspired the evangelists to include in the Bible his name and those of his sons and his village. Lord, how much more will you reward those who do things for you voluntarily!
Going against the current, and without the slightest concern for her own safety and reputation, Veronica braved the wrath of the soldiers and the crowds. Jesus, forever after, whoever follows her example of devotedness to you with selfless bravery, will become more and more your true icon in heart and soul and mind.
Jesus, you were whipped and pushed, and fell a second time. You got back on our feet, not because you were coerced, but because of your immense love for me and your desire to save me.
Jesus, you always respected women, never taking advantage of them or preying on their sympathy and affection. Even in your own hour of need, you made sure to remind them to take care.
In the four gospels, I have seen how kindly you treated mothers, widows, little girls and women of all ages – sinners and the virtuous alike. You were always so thoughtful and considerate towards each one of them.
Jesus, you summoned up your last ounce of energy to complete your mission for my sake. Thank you.
Jesus, you submitted yourself to humiliation on my behalf; that is why, time and time again, even when I could have been put me to shame, I wasn’t.
For your love does not apply solely to my life after death. Your love is concerned with every situation in my life now. Never should I live in darkness, with a shadow hanging over my head. When I surrender each difficulty into your hands, the light of your grace shines on all seemingly unsolvable problems. Thank you, Jesus.
And Lord, help me never to embarrass anyone.
Jesus, you endured unbearable pains so that I do not have to suffer overly much. Lord, every time I ask, you deliver me from all tribulations – mental, physical and spiritual. You never fail me. Thank you, Lord.
And Jesus, help me never to harm anybody.
Jesus, you loved me so much that even if I were the only person in the history of the world who needed redemption, you would have died for me. “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20, NIV)
Thank you, Lord, from the bottom of my heart.
Jesus, why did you create me? For Heaven, of course! Nothing less! Without consulting me, you fashioned me; was it for suffering or for disaster? Certainly not! You are God, what you do must be for good. It cannot be otherwise.
Thank you for creating me and redeeming me from my sins, keeping the door open for me to live in eternal happiness. Thank you for directing me back onto the right path every step of the way.
Jesus, with the help of your grace, I resolve not to sin against you anymore. I resolve to live in simplicity and absolute trust in your unparalleled kindness towards me.
Yes, it is good to pray with family and friends and parishioners, or in prayer groups, or at charismatic meetings and conferences… It can be very fruitful, and often a lot of fun, especially when accompanied by instrumental music and the raising of hands.
Still, sometimes, do as Jesus did: pray alone in secret!
Near the beginning of his ministry in Capernaum, after teaching in a synagogue, Jesus drove out an unclean spirit from a man, and, on the same day cured Simon’s mother-in-law of a severe fever. That evening, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town gathered at the door, and he drove out many demons and healed many who had various diseases. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mk 1:35, NIV)
“In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Lk 6: 12-13, NAB) Only after this, when day came, did he call his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles.
As soon as Jesus finished feeding the five thousand by multiplying two fish and five loaves, he made his disciples get into the boat, and dismissed the crowds. “After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.” (Mt 14:23, NAB)
After healing a leper, Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone. “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Lk 5:15-16, NIV)
Jesus teaches: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:5-8, NAB)
What are you waiting for? A more meaningful life? A better job? A physical healing? The completion of a project? A problem to go away? The conversion of a relative?
Most people are obliged to wait for one thing or another. In the gospel you will find many blessed individuals having to bear their share of waiting. Mary is a prime example. The angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”… And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:30–31, 38, RSV)
With her assent, Mary opened herself to much waiting throughout her existence. The carrying of Jesus in her womb for nine months was only the beginning.
When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary discovered that their son was missing on their return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After a three-day search, they found him in the temple, asking the learned men questions and answering theirs, astounding them with his intelligence.
His mother complained, and he gave his answer:
“My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.” He replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:48–49, NJB)
Jesus yearned to start doing his Father’s work; he wanted to get on with the vocation he felt he had; his family could hardly hold him back. Yet, even with his advanced intelligence and understanding, he consented to wait. And for two decades he studied and worked in Nazareth, quietly growing up, and patiently getting ready for his future task.
The apostles waited too, though not for quite as long. Soon after his resurrection, Jesus commanded them to proclaim to all nations repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. But first, he said:
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49, NIV)
They were to await the descent of the Holy Spirit. Not until Pentecost, several days later, were they to begin their mission. It was then that they burst forth in an explosion of power given from on high.
How to Wait
Whatever we are waiting for, we should make the most of the intervening time.
How? Let us gain some skills in this matter from the apostles, from Jesus, and from his mother.
Learn from the Apostles
After being told to remain in the city until the Holy Spirit came upon them, the apostles
“returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Lk 24:52–53, NIV)
They stayed together. They benefited from each other’s company and support. They missed Jesus, but, in a group, they were able to cope. They did not go about carrying sad faces and forlorn hearts. They waited with joy; they praised God; they prayed in the temple.
When we have to wait, let us do the same: staying in community with holy friends. Let us help each other, and be joyful. Since worrying and fretting do not make things any better, let us try praising God together.
Let us reserve time for prayer, especially at church in the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord, adoring him, listening to him and following his guidance. He may be priming and grooming us for an assignment that only we can be trained to perform.
Learn from Jesus
How did Jesus live before taking up his public ministry?
“And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them… And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Lk 2:51, 52, RSV)
Jesus placed himself under the authority of his father and mother. He lived in obedience. He remained hidden. It was not till about age thirty that he worked his first miracle at a wedding in Cana.
We, too, should be obedient to God our Father, and to Mary our mother: by keeping God’s commands recorded in the Bible, and by living the messages that Our Lady passed on through her many apparitions on earth over the centuries.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom.” Many of us, as we become older, hardly become any wiser. Day after day we make the same complaints. Week after week we shed the same tears. Month after month we hold on to our hatreds and conflicts, and deal with problems through the same futile routine. We moan and groan but seldom learn from our experiences.
Jesus, on the other hand, grew in wisdom. And not only that, he also increased “in favor with God and man.” He became more and more what his Father wanted him to be; he got along better and better with his fellow human beings.
Let us seriously examine how we can improve our way of life, and how we can enrich our relationship with God and with neighbour. If we are to mature like Jesus, we should read from the gospels every day, listening to what He says, and doing all that He tells us.
Learn from Mary
What did Mary do after being informed that she would conceive and bear a son?
“Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth… Mary stayed with her some three months and then went home.” (Lk 1:39–40, 56, NJB)
Instead of staying cooped up in the house, moping around, and worrying about her concerns and problems, Mary went immediately to visit her saintly cousin. She went outside, she travelled. She helped in the preparations for the birth of John the Baptist.
In the same manner, while awaiting the arrival of a future event, we should not become totally isolated. Call on good people and friends. Visit them, and invite them to visit you. Go outdoors into the fresh air and open skies. And do not just sit in your room hoping for things to happen; start something yourself. Join your parish prayer group. Cultivate holy friendships. Volunteer some of your time and resources for anyone who may be in need. Do not be miserly with your money.
Read the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke and you will discover the special favour Elizabeth and Zechariah enjoyed in the sight of God. One can easily surmise that Mary went to see them also for the purpose of seeking their guidance. We, too, ought sometimes to ask for direction and advice from a wise priest or nun, either in person or from good books or articles they may have written.
Judging also from the Spirit-filled nature of the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary (see Lk 1:39–55), we can speculate that they spent some of their time together in spiritual conversation and prayer. We, too, should daily devote time to praying and to pondering the things of God.
The Hour of Deliverance
Before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to return to Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman census.
“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son.” (Lk 2:6–7, RSV)
Just as the term of Mary’s confinement came to completion, so will ours. The length of our waiting may be indefinite, but it is certainly not infinite. We may have to wait nine months, or two decades, or a few days, but there will be an end to it all. There will finally be a moment of deliverance, of fulfillment. Then will our hearts overflow with such gratitude and peace.
Do not be impatient. Do not be cast down. Our day will come. It will come soon enough. Like the apostles, let us wait cheerfully and joyfully in prayer, supporting one another, and praising God for his far-sighted providence. Like Jesus, let us wait in obedience, improving ourselves spiritually and in other ways, growing in wisdom and in our relationship with God and with our neighbours. Like Mary, let us wait in doing good, making use of our time for the benefit of others, and getting ourselves refreshed and ready for what is to come.
Someday, like Mary, we too will give birth to Jesus – bringing Christ to those whom God has all along been preparing us to reach out to and lead back to himself.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:36-38, RSV)
The prayer for labourers has risen up to the Lord countless numbers of times. Have you ever considered yourself an answer to the prayer?
Who Is a shepherd?
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21:15–17, NIV)
The person who truly loves Jesus is the one who may be called upon to feed his lambs and tend his sheep. If you love Jesus, you may be asked to shepherd for him. The flock he gives you may not be large. It may be no more than a few relatives or friends. It may be just one member in your family or among your co-workers and acquaintances. It may even be a stranger that you meet by chance. Whoever they are, they may need you.
Knowledge and discretion
Of course, you have to be thoroughly educated in the ways of the Lord. You have to be well informed. You must study; you must become qualified. You must not make up your own theology from your limited understanding. You must learn procedures of discernment from experienced spiritual directors. You have to choose the right words at the right moment. You have to be tactful, discreet, wise and loving.
You have to pray for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:15–17, NIV)
What are some things you can do?
1. Genuine caring
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mk 6:34, NIV)
As in the quotation at the beginning of this chapter, we are told that the crowds were “like sheep without a shepherd.” In the first passage, Jesus asks for more labourers. Here he reveals how a shepherd feels and acts. “He had compassion on them.” His heart went out to them. He was moved with pity. He did not despise the people or hide from them, or make excuses to be rid of them. Even though he was very tired, he “began teaching them,” and he taught them “many things.”
We, too, can spend time with people who are lost for lack of direction. By kindness and understanding we can extend the comforting hand of Jesus to them. By showing our concern, we can spread his love and his good news.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (Mk 6:35-37, NIV)
Don’t send the people away. Do something for them. Without sinning or falling into temptation, do whatever you can, however little. In the above incident, when the disciples came forward with two fish and five loaves, Jesus built on their initiative and fed over five thousand people. You begin; Jesus will finish.
Youth prayer groups have been formed in many parishes throughout the world. The first steps towards organizing these were often taken by parents who saw the need for such spiritual gatherings for their sons and daughters. They did this voluntarily and without being ordered to do so. Now their young ones have a chance to know the joy of walking with the Lord. Now they have a trustworthy companion in Jesus. Now they do not spend their Saturday nights in undesirable places or with disreputable friends. These parents are examples of concerned shepherds.
Many men and women, boys and girls, fast and pray the Rosary for the conversion of unbelievers and sinners. These are noble and unselfish ways of helping to save countless numbers of human beings from unnecessary and prolonged darkness and pain. This is caring. This is love. This is another illustration of shepherding.
The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11-13, RSV)
Be like Jesus. Do not run from the problem. Stay and help. Lay down your life for God’s people. The Holy Spirit is in you by virtue of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Use his power and the courage which he has placed in you.
2. Speaking out
Picture the scene at the first Christmas.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:8-11, NJB)
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Lk 2:15-18, RSV)
As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Lk 2:19, NJB)
The shepherds were simple peasants. Why would anyone believe that they saw angels in the middle of the night? Why would anybody believe that they carried “good news” from these “angels”? Why would even one person take them seriously about the baby in the manger being the Christ for whom all of Israel was waiting? Yet, courageously, they spoke out. “They made known” the message. It made the Mother of God ponder in her heart. She “treasured” their words.
To bear witness for Jesus, you simply speak out. The angel’s announcement to the shepherds was, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.” Do not fear. What you say about Jesus is joyful news. It is good news. It should be shared by all.
Moreover, do not just speak about Jesus. Tell them to carry out what he taught. He said,
“… and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” (Mt 28:20, NJB)
Not everyone will agree with what Jesus says. Not everyone will do all that he asks. But his words may make them wonder and think. Some may be influenced without your being aware of it.
In Medjugorje, many homes used to display a poster which said, “U ovoj kući se ne psuje.” It means, “In this house do not swear.” This demonstrates a silent way of speaking out.
The elimination of foul language helps to control bad temper and anger, and diminishes one’s false sense of self-importance; it can promote gentleness and peace among fellow-workers and family members. It can help bring a Christian atmosphere to places where people come together.
In the Western world, it is not fashionable to place such signs in homes and offices. But if you will begin by not using vulgar expletives yourself, it might cause others to follow your example. Let peace begin with you. To live a certain way is to speak out for that way. Individually, or in a group, let us do something about the evils around us.
Don’t be shy
Never feel embarrassed by your loyalty to Jesus.
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk 8:38, RSV)
Make decisions in accordance with his teaching. Go off to pray even if others should ridicule you for it. Some days attend noon Mass instead of having lunch with your colleagues; take some friends with you. Acknowledge Jesus by hanging his portrait and crucifix in your home.
“He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them.” (Jn 10:2-4, RSV)
By Baptism and Confirmation, by your love of Jesus and obedience to his commands, by your grounding in, and fidelity to, the teaching of the Church, you have entered through the gate that shepherds go through. You have the potential to be one of them. Develop that potential. A shepherd “leads them out” and “goes before them.” He is a guide, one who shows the way, one who walks in front. He starts things going where there is a need.
In today’s world, bringing up adolescents can be a harrowing experience for parents. There are many evils to beware of: immorality, alcoholism, pornography, drugs, gun violence, distracted drivers… At the same time, temptations to sin come from many directions: television, magazines, friends, movies, social media…
To help their children, parents need to teach and guide them, especially by their own non-hypocritical examples. They must love them, spend time with them, and pray with them. They should correct and discipline them, but also allow their children some privacy and opportunities for self-expression and maturation, remembering that their offspring do not necessarily become exactly what parents hope and plan.
In this chapter three important measures are emphasized: parents must pray for their children, they must have faith in God, they must not live in fear.
- PRAY FOR YOUR CHILDREN
A mother’s prayer
The prayer of a parent is very powerful. The passage below illustrates how a persistent mother found Jesus and moved him to perform a miracle for her daughter.
Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, “Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.” But he said not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, “Give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” But the woman had come up and was bowing low before him. “Lord,” she said, “help me.” He replied, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.” She retorted, “Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.” And from that moment her daughter was well again. (Mt 15:21–28, NJB)
A father’s prayer
The father in the next passage had asked the disciples to help. But when they could not, he persevered by going to Jesus.
As they were rejoining the crowd a man came up to him and went down on his knees before him. “Lord,” he said, “take pity on my son: he is demented and in a wretched state; he is always falling into fire and into water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.” In reply, Jesus said, “Faithless and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy, who was cured from that moment. (Mt 17:14–18, NJB)
What troubles your children? Whatever it is, pray for them. What troubles you concerning your children? Examine yourself truthfully, and pray for yourself.
If there is anything you can do, do it with wisdom and affection, and pray. If there is nothing you or anyone else can do, pray.
In Mark’s description of the above healing story, when asked by his disciples why they themselves could not cast out the demon from the boy, Jesus answered:
“This is the kind that can be driven out only by prayer.” (Mk 9:29, NJB)
- HAVE FAITH
When you pray, do so with faith. Jesus said to the Canaanite mother: “Woman, you have great faith! Let your desire be granted.” (Mt 15:28, NJB)
He said to the demented boy’s father (as reported in the Gospel according to Mark): “Everything is possible for one who has faith.” (Mk 9:23, NJB)
To the disciples who could not heal the boy, he gave this reason: “Because you have so little faith. In truth I tell you, if your faith is the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:20, NJB)
By believing in Jesus, the father in the next story obtained what he asked for.
And at Caper’na-um there was an official whose son was ill. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So he asked them the hour when he began to mend, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”; and he himself believed, and all his household. (Jn 4:46–53, RSV)
The concern you have for your sons and daughters may not be physical. Read the above texts again as though they are about your own children, but replace the mentioned illness by the maladies threatening the young ones in your home.
Read the next story as if it is about your child whom you imagine to be on the road to ruin.
And suddenly there came a man named Jairus, who was president of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter about twelve years old, who was dying…
While he was still speaking, someone arrived from the house of the president of the synagogue to say, “Your daughter has died. Do not trouble the Master any further.” But Jesus heard this, and he spoke to the man, “Do not be afraid, only have faith and she will be saved.”… They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Stop crying; she is not dead, but asleep.” But they ridiculed him, knowing she was dead. But taking her by the hand himself he spoke to her, “Child, get up.” And her spirit returned and she got up at that very moment. Then he told them to give her something to eat. (Lk 8:41–42, 49–50, 52–55, NJB)
No matter how hopeless the situation appears, entrust your children to Jesus. Entrust yourself to him. And learn from his example. He took the child by the hand with kindness; he spoke with her; he asked her parents to give her something to eat, to nourish her, to care for her, to be attentive and loving towards her, to cherish her.
Trust Jesus’ saving mission
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt 18:10–14, RSV)
“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand. The Father, for what he has given me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:27–29, NJB)
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6:37–39, NIV)
- DO NOT BE AFRAID
In the last story, Jesus said to the father of the little girl: “Do not be afraid, only have faith and she will be saved… She is not dead, but asleep.” (Lk 8:50, 52, NJB)
In another passage of the gospel, he assures everyone: “Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Lk 12:6–7, NJB)
You are very precious in God’s eyes. So are your children. God has not forgotten them. He looks after them – just as he has looked after you from your youth, and will continue doing so because you need him just as much as your children do.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me.” (Jn 14:1, NJB)
When you have done all that you can, place everything else in God’s hands. Let his power be displayed in the healing of your children and you.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” (Jn 9:1–3, RSV)
Young people have their hardships. They are passing through a difficult stage in life. The devil will try to make you treat them like enemies. Do not be misled by him. Scripture says: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Pet 5:8-9, NIV)
Jesus’ command is to love one another, not hate. Your children are your flesh and blood. If you don’t love them, who will?
By love, the Canaanite mother was able to enlist Jesus’ help in casting out the devil from her daughter. (Mt 15:21–28, in the first story above.)
Next time the devil attacks by creating a storm in your heart, do not fall for his tricks or react irrationally. Turn to Jesus immediately and ask him to come into the situation.
Go in peace
It takes a long time for young adults to grow and mature. It takes a long time for parents to grow and mature. Parents have lived more years; they should not use their greater age to browbeat their children, or to create more discord and conflict, but to bring affection and peace to their homes. They should not wait to be grandparents for this to happen. Let them begin now.
“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mk 9:50, RSV)
There may be occasional troubles and pain, but with God’s help all will be well in the end. Through overcoming your trials and difficulties, you will ripen into understanding and loving human beings.
Do whatever is in your power for your children. Go to the parish library or a trustworthy Catholic bookstore to find a suitable book on parenting. Ask those who might be able to lend a hand, for example, an experienced priest. But above all, pray for your children, have faith in God, do not live in fear.
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk 7:50, NIV)
Faith will save your family. Faith will bring peace.
A word to all youths
The work of bringing up the young is not easy. Parents do not always possess enough knowledge or presence of mind to take the best course of action in every situation. You, sons and daughters, can help by your co-operation and love.
Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12, RSV)
He also said: “Honour your father and your mother.” (Mt 19:19, NJB)
You give them the most honour, love, and peace of mind, by leading lives of great goodness.
Act of Consecration to Jesus
Jesus, when you were twelve years old, you gave your parents quite a scare by secretly remaining in Jerusalem while they were on the road back to Nazareth. They searched anxiously for you and did not find you until after three days. Your mother has since learned how to care for the young in peace. Today, she has millions of children to look after throughout the world. Many of them are potentially worrisome, yet she is able to stay calm and serene.
From this day forward, I consecrate to your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of Peace, myself and my family members. Direct us towards holiness. Help us to pray, to have strong faith and not to be afraid. Help us to live in peace with ourselves and with our families, and be reconciled with one another, loving each other according to the commands you gave in the gospel.
“What is blindness? How is it healed?” Do you want to know? On your computer or smartphone just enter the questions into a search engine and you will receive answers. If some answers are not good enough search other engines, and keep asking till you find all the information you want.
Similarly, if you want to know about other topics, do the same: ask receive, search find.
In the Bible, Jesus says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.” (Lk 11:9-10, NJB)
Here are some examples of those who asked Jesus and received.
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar on the road asked Him for mercy – the healing of his blindness. The people scolded him and told him to keep quiet. But he persisted by shouting even louder. Jesus stopped, called him over and, on hearing his request, said to him: “Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.” (Lk 18:42, NJB) At once his sight returned. He followed Jesus, glorifying God. And all the people gave praise to God.
In the region of Tyre and Sidon, a Canaanite woman came to Jesus asking for mercy and deliverance of her daughter from demonic possession. Jesus did not say a word. His disciples went and pleaded with him, but he said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” The woman came up to him a second time, knelt low before him and asked again for his help. He replied, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.” She humbly replied, “Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.” Instantly her daughter received the requested exorcism. (See Mt 15:22–28, NJB)
One day Jesus was teaching inside a jam-packed house. Some men brought a paralytic on a stretcher seeking to ask Jesus for a healing and receiving a miracle; but they could not even get close. They persevered by climbing onto the roof, removed some tiles, and lowered the sick man into the room. When Jesus saw their determination and their great faith, he said to the sick man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Then, “I tell you, rise, take your mat and go home.” He got on his feet immediately, picked up the mat on which he had been lying, and went home healed, glorifying God. All the people were amazed; filled with awe, they gave glory to God. (See Lk 5:17–26, NIV)
At Cana in Galilee, a royal official whose son was severely ill in Capernaum heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea. He made the trip to meet Jesus, and humbly asked him to come and heal his son who was near death. Jesus complained, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Unperturbed, the official continued to beg, “Sir, come down before my son dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said. On the day-long return journey to his house, his slaves came to meet him on the way with the exciting news: the son’s fever had subsided, and he had received his health back. Upon enquiring when this took place, the official discovered that it happened at the exact hour when Jesus said: “Go, your son will live.” He and his entire household came to believe. (See Jn 4:46–53, RSV)
Before Jesus died on the cross, a thief who had been crucified next to him, ignoring the impertinent criminal crucified on the other side of Jesus, asked of the Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Right away he received the assurance: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (See Lk 23:42, 43, RSV)
What is the difference between (A) and (B)?
The internet answers questions by giving lots of information, independence and self-satisfaction. Jesus answers requests for favours by giving lots of love and mercy, miracles, healing, faith, forgiveness, life, eternal salvation, and joy.
We started out asking: “What is blindness? How is it healed?” Check the internet; but note that blindness does not always refer to the eye only, but to the heart and the soul as well. In your daily life, examine where you place the balance between (A) and (B). Whatever you need, whomever you ask, give proportionate time to the Lord.
Never forget that Jesus alone can make this promise: “In all truth I tell you, anything you ask from the Father he will grant in my name… Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.” (Jn 16:23, 24, NJB)
(1). “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail.” (Lk 12:32–33, NIV)
The above passage contains Jesus’ exhortation and encouragement to generosity and sacrifice, intending to spur us on to works of charity. When we do as he says, we will gain unfailing treasure in heaven which benefits, for all time, those who are poor.
In the same action, we obtain spiritual graces for ourselves as well. And, of course, it goes without saying, our families, relatives, friends and loved ones will also receive the graces that come our way.
Moreover, the wonderful passage provides the rationale behind which we appeal to saints for help – saints who may have lived a long, long time ago. They have accumulated stockpiles of treasures in Heaven that never wear out, and the Lord shares his glory with them by giving from their store of goodness.
(2). When we ask Jesus for things, we should keep in mind that his treasures are, likewise, inexhaustible. They can never be depleted. Whatever he gives us now does not diminish the amount of future gifts that he will give to us or to others. We can request a hundred things, and he will still have plenty more to give to us at a later date, and to the rest of the world. Even when he grants our smallest wishes it does not take away the possibility of more important prayers being answered.
Jesus invites us, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn 16:24, RSV) Therefore, let’s ask him for every good thing. Ask away, and build up a trustful relationship with the Lord. He is a very loving and generous friend.
He says, “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me.” (Jn 15:9, NJB) “Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32, NIV)
(3). The Lukan passage contains the final part of the response which Jesus gave to the rich young man who ran up to him, knelt down, and asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17, RSV) Remember what happened? Jesus told him: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mk 10:21, RSV) On hearing this, “his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful.” (Mk 10: 22, RSV) He kept his heart clinging tightly to where it used to be.
There are people who wish to follow Jesus perfectly, but their inner desire for admiration from their peers reveal an inordinate attachment to human approval and monetary wealth – not unlike some of their materialistically-minded acquaintances. What sadness this could lead to!
Jesus says to his disciples: “I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.” (Lk 12:22, NAB) These words are meant for the poor in spirit, but they can certainly be applied to those who worry – if they were to start giving away significant amounts of money and possessions – how they would appear to the world if they suddenly could not afford to live in luxurious lifestyles, or eat at trendy restaurants, or wear the latest fashionable clothes.
Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Mt 6:24–25, NIV)
(4). Jesus tells his followers: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6:19–21, NAB)
In the Gospel according to John, we see a boy who put his heart in the right place. He gave to Jesus his treasure of the day – the uneaten lunch that his mom packed for him as he left the house in the morning – and was shown the amazing effect immediately. Imagine the surprise in his wide-opened eyes, and the smile of astonishment across his little face when Jesus multiplied the contents of his lunch-bag big time! How exceedingly delighted he must have been that evening and throughout the rest of his existence on earth and in heaven. How happy he was for being of help to so many who needed his generosity. How joyful he is now as he prays for us to follow his example.
Here is the account. “‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.” (Jn 6:9–11, RSV)
In Jesus’ hands, a few fish burgers given to him by a courageous kid could be used to satisfy the hunger of thousands. How many souls will be affected for all eternity if we fearlessly offer up some of our possessions, talents, energy and time in doing works of charity, and presenting the merits to Jesus for him to multiply and distribute!