The Greatest Gift Of Grace

If the only Catholic Doctrine question for my students was, “What is Ms. Ciancibello’s favorite word?”, than the majority of my students would get an A+ in their religion class.  As I teach a variety of ages, 3-8th grade Catholic Doctrine, I am confident that my 8 year old students to my 13 year old students know my favorite vocabulary word. We pass through this word in all the grade’s textbooks.  This word is used in cliche quotes on Pinterest, on pillows at Homegoods, and can even be taken as someone’s first name. We see this word in today’s Word, in the Scripture readings. St. Paul mentions this word as he states to the Ephesians that we have received redemption by his blood, forgiveness of sins, “in accordance with the riches of his grace he lavished upon us.” If you haven’t caught it already… My favorite word is “grace”.

Defining the word “grace” is simply the gift God gives to us of His life and love.  When we receive grace we are receiving God’s very own presence of His life and love.  It is through grace that we partake in the life and love of the Trinity! Grace is a pretty big deal and something our hearts should be craving more and more of.  St. Paul articulates to us that God desires to pour out his grace upon us. He wants to lavish us in the riches of His grace. It is by grace that we can receive redemption through Jesus Christ.  It is by grace that we can become a new creation in the forgiveness of our sins and live a life of holiness. It is by grace that we can live without blemish- without sin. Grace helps us to live out our purpose! This gift helps us to love Him and serve Him as we are called to do.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced more and more, I’ve learned what a gift truly is.  When I was a child I would honestly expect my parents to give me a birthday present. Gifts were something that were normally given on special occasions. I did not realize until I matured that no one is due a gift or entitled to anything! The biggest example of this in my own life was the moment my boyfriend (now fiance) got down on one knee.  The biggest gift of my life was symbolized in a ring, but was mainly the question of “Will you marry me?”. An absolute gift. Something I will never deserve, someone I will never be entitled to. A complete selfless gift that was given to me.

In the current preparation of discerning engagement to being engaged, I have learned much. I have cultivated deeply in my heart the understanding of a gift, and therefore a new understanding of grace.  God freely gives us grace as a GIFT. We do not deserve it. We are not entitled to receive it. He just selflessly gives it to us and proposes it to us throughout our lives. He proposes this gift of His life and His love because He simply desires to love us and to be with us forever.

It’s simple and beautiful.  His grace is constantly offered, constantly tangible, constantly a sacrificial gift. Let’s open our hearts to say “YES” to this gift of grace today.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

May We Thrive On The Cross

As I type, a heatwave has descended upon Western Michigan and surely much of the country. Mid-July is not known for the most pleasant of weather, especially for one who sports a 30–week pregnant belly. It reminds me of the years I lived in Kentucky, when I couldn’t even touch my steering wheel without burning my hand and instead of being greeted by cool early morning air as I headed to work, I breathed in sweltering temps already in the mid 80’s. Yet even this suffering pales in comparison to the heat spoken about in today’s Gospel. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Oh, the fires of Gehenna! How hot they must be! It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Yet Jesus does not speak this way in order to instill fear in us, but rather the plain truth, a pointed reality. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, in other words, everything we do bears consequences. Even so, Jesus goes on to reassure us of His deep and infinite love: “All the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Today we remember the life and legacy of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. I have always been drawn to her, since my niece bears her name and because of her courage and early death. Even during my time in “The Bible Belt” I was still able to find like-minded Catholics to befriend and share my faith with, but she was surrounded by pagan Mohawks who treated her as a slave upon her conversion. She escaped to a Christian village on foot, a 200-mile journey, to continue her journey of faith. A woman of prayer and penance, she vowed to remain a virgin and died at the tender age of 24.

It causes me to reflect upon the things I have suffered that now seem so small. I recently had to make a trip to the hospital due to pregnancy related issues. And although all turned out well, I still bear the “battle scars” of large yellow and purple bruises on my hand and arms after 5 attempts to insert an IV. Did I pay this price as lovingly as she would have? Did I acknowledge my Lord before the healthcare professionals through my words and attitude even while I “suffered”?

Today’s reflection on states, “We like to think that our proposed holiness is thwarted by our situation. If only we could have more solitude, less opposition, better health. Kateri Tekakwitha repeats the example of the saints: Holiness thrives on the cross, anywhere.”

So may we thrive on the cross no matter where we find ourselves, whether it be in extreme heat, on a hospital bed, or in a hostile environment, knowing that in the end, the Lord will acknowledge us before His heavenly Father.

Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger ( and She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.

Sheep In The Midst Of Wolves

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” -Matthew 10:16

I am on the road currently for some parish visits. I spent the day interacting with parish staff, having some great conversations about faith, praying in several adoration chapels that were open 24/7, and looking at some beautiful churches.

I got into my hotel room after a workout, flipped open my laptop, and found an unsettling video on my news feed. If you haven’t seen the Michelle Wolf video applauding abortion, it is not worth watching. It was enough to make even the biggest optimist sit on the edge of his bed on the verge of tears and just pray for our world. I must admit that every part of me felt defeated and I just wanted to hide.

I searched for the daily readings desperate for some hope from the Word of God and I open to this happy verse, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” It really hit me tonight, being a Christian is hard. But it is hard for a reason I did not want to admit to myself. It is hard because I would rather play the victim and sit in my disgust for the world than look at my own heart. It is hard because I would rather gossip about a coworker or friend than admit my own faults. It is hard because I would rather preach the Gospel in an easy manner like this, than help people in my own family to realize the power, mercy, and love of God.

Some of us love to cower. We protect our ego, sometimes without realizing it, and fear starts to hold us back.

We don’t need to be a Church that mimics a horrible team. An effective team uses their defense to prevent bad from happening and to progress the ball forward. An effective team uses their offense to score a goal and win while maintaining good sportsmanship with the opposing team that stems from the common humanity of all the players.

An ineffective team’s defense cowers in fear only to eventually be pushed so far back that the undesired event they were trying to prevent repeatedly occurs and is allowed. An ineffective team’s offense scores a goal solely to prove they are stronger, faster, wiser, and better in every way than the opposing team: the epitome of pride.

It seems recently that as the lay faithful we can be in the position to either be constantly on the defensive by a significant portion of society, being pushed further and further into dismay and not making progress in spreading the Good News, or we are on the offensive desperately trying to spout apologetics in the hope of winning the argument over the soul.

Now this isn’t a fluffy “just love people” point that I am trying to make, but rather I want to call us all out: calling us not only to feel good love but to the kind of love that makes us all into Saints.

What is the reason we read blog posts like these? Is it to help us grow in faith so we can go out like the early Christians and preach the Good News, trying to invite people into a relationship with God, or is it because we are comfortable hearing from people who think exactly like us?

Why do we form groups and bible studies at church? Is it to learn the scriptures and invite the outcast in or is it because the world out there is so bad that we would rather maintain our own safe world inside these groups?

The Gospel Today could not be more clear. We are being sent out as sheep amongst wolves, but we must go out shrewd and simple. We must go out with our intellect and empathy. We must meet people where they are at and not leave them there, just as we don’t want to be left where we are. We must come together as a good team and help one another to grow in the fullness of faith and love, which is Love Himself and love for our neighbors.

I have thought a lot about teams lately because I am getting married exactly three months from today. I am so thankful to have formed the best team with my beloved, Nathalie. I am so thankful that God has brought us together to start a team of our own and form our family in going out and helping the world realize the love of the Creator.

So I challenge you and remind myself: what kind of team are you going to form today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life? An ineffective team that cowers in fear or lunges out in anger (either way causing division), or an effective team that is willing to put aside their comfort, pride, and ego, ready to go out and lead with love? Decide and then act.

Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at

The Kingdom Of Heaven Is At Hand

Sometimes that’s hard to believe.

It’s easy to look out over the landscape of what humanity has done to the world and believe that this isn’t what God had in mind for us. We’re constantly at war with each other; we poison the water that feeds us and the air that sustains us; we neglect those who don’t have the political or financial power to “count” in our culture or in our world.

Yet in today’s gospel, Jesus says, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

The early Church took that literally; first-century Christians fervently believed that Jesus would return at any moment, that the world would soon end, and that the Kingdom was quite exactly and physically at hand. For some of them, this assumption made it easier to follow Jesus’ teachings: sell what you own, give it all to the poor, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry… in the shadow of the end of time, this may have seemed more workable than it does to many people living two centuries later who have to pay rent and put food on the table for the next few decades at least.

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand… we just have to live in the uncertainty of not knowing exactly when. And no one likes uncertainty!

All of which makes today’s gospel extremely challenging, because it seems to ask us to put away that uncertainty and behave as if the Kingdom is already here: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.” That feels like even more uncertainty. It’s unclear how we’re to go about carrying out these difficult tasks; we’re being asked not to think about ourselves, our own security, our own comforts, but rather move forward into an unclear future without any of the material goods that make us feel safe. How are we supposed to resolve that command with living lives in the 21st century?

Perhaps the resolution is not in establishing certainty—something we all aspire to and never will attain in this lifetime—but in remembering that we aren’t simply challenged: we are also loved. Today’s reading from Hosea underscores that: even though God’s children didn’t recognize his love, even though they turned away and embraced the worship of other deities, God’s love remained steadfast: “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me,” Hosea says. “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks (…) I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.”

I will not let the flames consume you. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The promise is there: we are beloved of our God. We shouldn’t behave as if that were not true. We should be living differently from those around us. We should be bravely taking on the gospel’s challenges, knowing that God is behind it all. We don’t have to be afraid: God won’t let us fall. It may not always feel like it—but the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Jeannette de Beauvoir works in the digital department of Pauline Books & Media as marketing copywriter and editor. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she studied with Adian Kavanagh, OSB, she is particularly interested in liturgics and Church history.


Since they do not fear the LORD,
what can the king do for them?

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the times in my life that are marked by providence are also the times that I chose to trust. Fear of LORD is less like terror and more like a respect or trust for Who He is.


It is impossible to have a sincere, intimate relationship with any person (human or divine) if we do not trust them. So to it is with God; what can He do for us if we do not trust Him?

Trust is difficult to choose, especially if we’ve been hurt, betrayed, manipulated or misguided. We should only trust if we have good reason.

I trust my friend Tara to speak the truth about the nature of Physics because she holds a Bachelors Degree in Physics. She has proven capable to be trustworthy in this realm of knowing. What has Christ done to be proven capable of our trust in Him?

The centerpiece of our faith: The Crucifixion.

It can be difficult to feel an intimacy with the cross; it is easier to observe it as an isolated historical event. And maybe it would remain just that… if we did not have the Eucharist.

The Eucharist, the gift of Himself, His suffering heart. The crucifixion was an event, but we are invited to receive the graces of the suffering at each Mass. His heart beats in the Eucharist. He is living and loving us.

Since they do not fear the LORD,
what can the king do for them?

We are given many reasons to trust Christ. But until we do, what can He do for us?

Look to His Death.

Hope for new life.

Trust it is true.

During the week, Matthew Juliano is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band. You can find more content by Matt and his band at

Called To Preach

St. Augustine calls Matthew the Teaching Gospel. Jesus is our teacher, the Incarnate Word, the Logos. So what are we to learn from today’s Gospel reading? At first glance, it appears more like a poorly constructed transition in a middle school writing assignment. We get demons and Pharisees and sheep and shepherds, a harvest and workers. It feels like St. Matthew was a bit all over the place.

If we look to the prophet Hosea for some help, he seems to have his hands full with Ephraim and the Israelites with their idols. Hosea was sent by God to help bring the Israelites back into covenant, into relationship with God. Israel’s prayers are no longer being answered; because prayer presupposes a docility to the will of God. Their altars were no longer places of sacrifice to God because they have become places of self-serving worship.

“Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of men…they have hands but feel not; they have feet but walk not. Their makers shall be like them”.

Hosea’s primary message is of God’s love and fidelity, despite people’s sins. Hosea had been sent to gather God’s people back together and to lead them back to God. However, the Israelites were so intent on their self-serving worship, their idols they can control, that they ignored Hosea. Hosea was a type for Christ; he was sent by God to the Israelites but was rejected and abused by God’s own people.

If we then turn to the Gospel, as Jesus was going out, a demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus and the demon is driven out. Jesus drives out the demon and the man’s speech returns. We can see God’s fidelity in bringing healing even though this man was brought to Jesus “as he was going out” presumably for a different purpose. We see the two different reactions to God’s love; awe and amazement by the people and dismissal and slander by those who seemingly should have known better.

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds his heart was moved with pity because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

This passage was especially used in Vatican II to demonstrate the universality of our call to evangelize; to spread the Christian charity that is at the heart of our mission as the living body of Christ, the Church. Jesus went around, he went out. He didn’t sit and wait for people to come to him on Sunday mornings. He went from town to village and proclaimed the kingdom. Like Hosea, he calls people to relationship this time by both proclamation and by healing them where they are hurting the most.

“Christian charity is extended to all without distinction of race, social condition or religion, and seeks neither gain nor gratitude. Just as God loves us with a gratuitous love, so too the faithful, in their charity, should be concerned for mankind, loving it with the same love with which God sought man. As Christ went about all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity, as a sign that the Kingdom of God had come, so the Church through her children, joins itself with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and afflicted, and willingly spends herself for them.” (Ad gentes, 12)

As Jesus is so deeply moved in seeing the crowds, he uses the metaphor of the harvest to express his urgency. Just as farmers must harvest when the crop is ready, not a week early and not a week later because it is more convenient for the farmer’s schedule. Jesus sees the people as ready to receive the effects of Redemption. They are poised and ready to receive the Word. How can He get to them all?

We hear this today and we lament the shortage of priests and religious, but Pope Paul VI reminds us, “the responsibility for spreading the Gospel belongs to everyone-to all those who have received it! The missionary duty concerns the whole body of the Church; in different ways and in different degrees, it is true, but we must all of us be united in carrying out this duty.” (Angelus Address, 23 October 1977)

Each of us, by virtue of our baptism is called to work alongside Christ in proclaiming the kingdom. It isn’t that there is a shortage of baptized, the question we need to ask ourselves is what message are we proclaiming? Do our words and lives proclaim God’s kingdom? Is it possible, like the people of Hosea’s time, we have not disposed our wills to God’s so that our prayers may not be heard? Has our worship become self-seeking and self-gratifying? Have other idols replaced our Creator as our god?

What on the surface appears to be a jumble of mixed metaphors turns out to be a strong call to reexamine our lives, our idols, and most of all, our call to proclaim the kingdom. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, over 70 million in the U.S. We are the workers. Let us unite in gratuitous love and spread the kingdom.

While wearing many hats, Sheryl O’Connor is the wife and study buddy of Thomas O’Connor. Not having received the gift of having their own children, their home is filled with 2 large dogs and their hearts with the teens and youth with whom they work in their parish collaborative. Sheryl is the Director of Strong Families Programs for Holy Family Healthcare which means her job is doing whatever needs to be done to help parents build strong Catholic families. Inspired by the works of mercy, Holy Family Healthcare is a primary healthcare practice in West Michigan which seeks to honor the dignity of every individual as we would Christ. Find out more at

Risen From The Dead!

We know that we must believe in order to be saved. Sometimes, we must admit that our belief is little more than lip-service. But we owe God all of us, as the Sh’ma states: “the Lord is our God, the Lord is One… And you shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” We must love God with our whole being, and as the best Teacher, He will give us opportunities to engage and express that faith, just as he did in today’s Gospel.

Imagine the depth of faith of the “official” (most probably not a Jew) whose daughter is already dead. This is the time for mourning, not for running after some itinerant Jewish rabbi. The professional mourners are already about their business, but this official leaves to find Jesus, interrupts his teaching, and kneels before him in deference, confident that he will be heard, confident that Jesus will intervene. Perhaps the official has seen Jesus work miracles before; but has he ever raised the dead back to life? No doubt impelled by love for his daughter, he dares to believe that Jesus will do just that. He asks him to come and lay his hand on the girl, and Jesus, somewhat astonishingly, rises to follow him.

Now imagine the thoughts running through the mind of this official when the woman with the hemorrhage interrupts their journey! A delay of this urgent business must have caused some anxiety; he is challenged to be patient and remain steadfast in his faith, even though the outcome is delayed.

The woman with the hemorrhage (who has been unable to worship with the community for twelve years, because she is ritually unclean!) expresses her faith by touching Jesus’ cloak, trusting that she can be cured by simply coming in contact with his clothing. Her trusting touch is indeed rewarded, but Jesus points to the cause for her healing: “Your faith has saved you.”

Finally, the group arrives at the official’s house, and as if to underscore the reality of the daughter’s death, the Gospel tells us that the mourners ridiculed Jesus for saying the girl was only sleeping. These people certainly knew death when they saw it; there could be no doubt that the girl was really dead. But Jesus touches her, takes her by the hand, and “the little girl arose.” The official’s faith and trust were rewarded with healing, as the woman’s had been.

There is another parallel in these two intertwined stories: the woman expressed her faith by touching the cloak of Jesus; the girl is healed when Jesus touches her. In these actions, we see how Jesus’ presence is “incarnational” – he respects the nature he has given us and uses material things to accomplish spiritual purposes, affirming bodiliness. There is nothing in our minds and memories that wasn’t first in the senses; we know and remember what we have experienced.

The healing of Jesus came through touching and words, and his grace still comes to us through matter and word and ritual in the sacraments. The sacraments are signs that point beyond themselves to invisible realities, using water and oil, bread and wine, signing with the cross and laying on of hands and eating and drinking to bring us into contact with the living God. We must receive them in faith, so that we can be healed and freed and restored to life by Christ, as the woman and little girl were in today’s Gospel.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

Have Faith

Thank you all for the feedback about our Inspiration Daily program. I will be making some of the positive changes that were suggested over the next few weeks. If you didn’t have a chance to fill out our quick five question survey, please do so HERE, or feel free to email me at with any feedback. God Bless you all and thank you for reading!

-Tommy Shultz


Click here for daily readings

The last line of today’s Gospel made me a little bit uncomfortable. “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” I felt a little bit called out. I am a believer, but I know there are times where I lack faith in my all-knowing, ever-present God. I also know that I am not the only one.

We all question God. We have no right to do so, but in our lives we are faced with issues that make us really wonder if God has anything do with us. It could be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the diagnosis we never expected. Whatever it may be, we are tested and we lose faith, even if only for a moment.

Yet we return to God. Why? Because we are able to see his blessings in everything that remains once the dust has settled. Although a loved one has died, we love those still here more fiercely. Although we may lose a job, we may find another better suited for us. Although we are sick or in pain, we still have life. We are constantly and consistently surrounded by God’s love, his grace, his mercy, his joy. All around us are reminders of God’s presence, both simple and unbelievably amazing.

Right now, I am struggling with the fact that I broke my ankle. I feel helpless and I must sadly admit that for a moment, I was angry at God. It wasn’t his fault that I bought a longboard and stepped off the wrong way. However, I do believe that God had a part in the joy I felt when riding the longboard (for less than an hour, but still). He was the breeze on the hot day, the sunshine on my face, the sparkle in Lake Michigan. He was there.

And he is here. In our lives, we are given free will. We are given the choice between joy and agony in all that we do. We can see the bright sunshine on a summer day, or we can see a sunburn waiting to happen. God is present whether we choose to see him or not. Choose wisely.

Heavenly Father,

You surround us with your love at all times.Help us know your peace when we are troubled. Help us feel your love when we are hurt. Help us celebrate your joy when do not understand. Help us welcome your plan when we cannot see it. All knowing, ever present God, Help us to not lack in faith so that we may feel your presence in our lives.


Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

Hear This, You Who Trample Upon The Poor!

I double booked for today and I wanted to make sure to send this great article on caring for all people, especially the poor and marginalized.

Please also take a second to fill out our SURVEY to let us know how you are liking Inspiration Daily. God Bless!

-Tommy Shultz


Click here for daily readings

The first reading today, from the prophet Amos, is a pointed exhortation against the oppression of the poor and economic injustice:

“Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the containers for measuring, add to the weights, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!’

On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations. I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth and make every head bald. I will make them mourn as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end…” (Amos 8:4-6, 9-10).

This is an exhortation echoed throughout the scriptures so strongly that oppressing the poor and defrauding workers of their just wages are two of the four sins that “cry out to heaven” (Catechism 1867). St. James reiterates the severity of this command in a way that should make us all pause:

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter” (James 5:1-5).

This emphasis on economic justice and the poor continued in the early centuries of Christianity and the Church Fathers gave exhortations against the wealthy that fall right in line with St. James. Perhaps most notable is from St. John Chrysostom who said, “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”

The Church has always taught that the poor are to be given preferential treatment (Catechism 2448). This is because Jesus explicitly identifies Himself with the poor when He makes the radical claim that whoever feeds the hungry and clothes the naked are feeding and clothing Him. Thus we are called to “recognize [Christ’s] own presence in the poor who are his brethren” (Catechism 2449).

All of this should cause us to pause and intentionally examine how we personally treat the poor. The Church commands that we see all our economic decisions as moral decisions. Do I pay attention to where I shop and how they treat their employees? Do I care where the products I purchase are made and if the laborers are treated humanely? Do I support politicians and policies that undermine the dignity of the poor and vulnerable?

I think if we answer those questions honestly that we will all find ourselves failing to live up to Christ’s expectations…and that’s good!Recognizing that we are sinners is the first step towards repentance. And while God clearly condemns the wicked, His mercy is always more abundant. We see this in the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector, a man who cheated and stole from the poor on a regular basis. But Zacchaeus  repented of these sins and said to Jesus:

“‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost’” (Luke 19:8-10).

This is echoed in the Gospel reading today where the Pharisees condemned Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors and Jesus responded with His famous line,“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

So let yourself be condemned by the first reading today. For it is when we recognize ourselves as sinners that we can truly repent. Then when you receive His presence at the Altar you will be able to recognize that same presence in the poor and oppressed.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation.

Giving All We Have

Today’s readings are what everyone worries about: money. “Do we have enough to …” “Should we donate to this group or that?” “How will the government’s policies affect my savings?” “How am I going to pay for college for my kids?” “After my accident the bills keep on piling up.” “Will my savings run out during retirement?”

Even sisters worry about money, at least sometimes. Recently I read about Meg Hunter-Kilmer who in her late twenties, after two theology degrees and five years of teaching, left her job, sold everything she had, and now lives out of her car. She trusts God. No. She TRUSTS God. She certainly makes me think again about my own level of trust.

But today’s readings are about more than just trusting God. The first reading addresses extortion, injustice, and cheating for the purpose of destroying others. In an environment of purposeful deceit to get ahead at the expense of others’ basic human rights, the word of the Lord evaporates. There is a famine for hearing the word of the Lord which is nowhere to be found.

This reading ties together honest care for others, a reverencing of their life and human needs, with the security of God’s leadership and presence in our midst. As we look around us today, as we witness the degradation of the immigrant, the tearing apart of the family, the financial schemes that pit rich against poor, we need to make sure that we aren’t unwittingly swept up in the worry about money at the expense of worrying about our neighbor.

In the Gospel, the religious people considered people like Matthew, a tax collector sitting in his customs post, as a sinner. Jesus saw him and asked him to “follow him.” And. Matthew. Did. He left his money and followed a call that spoke to all the longings of his heart. He even spent his money on Jesus, throwing him a dinner that night in his house and inviting his friends.

Both Matthew and his tax collecting friends as well as the religious leaders of the day were in need of the divine Physician, the One who healed with mercy, the One who lived facing the broken “other” with an open and inviting heart. Jesus’ heart was unencumbered by the riches of financial or righteous wealth, so he could move freely among everyone else who carried the burdens of moral illness.

So when Jesus says we’ll be happy when we live as free as the flowers that luxuriantly populate our fields, here today and gone tomorrow, he tells us that we need to follow him the Word of God, and live as he, facing our neighbor, spending our lives in their service and for their good, trusting all our own needs to him.

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, an author and spiritual mentor, offers personalized and professional guidance for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She draws from the spiritual tradition and her own lived experience to lead seekers deep within themselves and through their personal history to deepen their intimacy with and trust in God; live with greater joy, peace, and interior freedom; and encounter the Lord in their past and present life experiences to find healing, grace, and newness of life. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Sr. Kathryn’s forthcoming book Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments will be released in September 2018.


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