REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 30, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

CALMING OF THE STORM

They came and woke Jesus, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" He said to them, "Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?" Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. Matthew 8:25-26

Have you ever felt fully loved by someone that you felt as if nothing could ever go wrong in your life? Jesus had loved his disciples and was with them when the storm came upon them on the sea. Like the disciples we all have different storms in our lives. What do we do when we are overwhelmed by the storms of life?

Imagine you were out on the sea with the Apostles. You were a fisherman and spent countless hours on the sea throughout your life. Some days the sea was exceptionally calm and other days there were big waves. But this day was unique. These waves were huge and crashing and you feared that things would not end well. So, with the others on the boat, you woke Jesus in a panic hoping that He would save you.

What would have been the best thing for the Apostles to do in this situation? Most likely, it would have been for them to allow Jesus to remain asleep. Ideally, they would have faced the fierce storm with confidence and hope. "Storms" that seem overwhelming may be rare, but we can be certain they will come. They will come and we will feel overwhelmed.

If the Apostles would not have panicked and would have allowed Jesus to sleep, they may have had to endure the storm a bit longer. But eventually it would have died down and all would have been calm.

Jesus, in His great compassion, is OK with us crying out to Him in our need as the Apostles did on the boat. He is OK with us turning to Him in our fear and seeking His help. When we do, He will be there as a parent is there for a child who wakes during the night in fear. But ideally we will face the storm with confidence and hope. We will ideally know that this too will pass and that we should simply trust and stay strong. This seems to be the most ideal lesson we can learn from this story.

Reflect, today, on how you react to hardship and problems in your life. Be they big or small, do you face them with the confidence, calm and hope that Jesus wants you to have? Life is too short to be filled with terror. Have confidence in the Lord no matter what you face each day. If He seems to be asleep, allow Him to remain asleep. He knows what He is doing and you can be certain that He will never allow you to endure more than you can handle.

Lord, whatever may come my way I trust You. I know You are always there and will never give me more than I can handle. Jesus, I do trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 29, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." Matt. 16:18

We are Christ's Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. The Church has always faced challenges, from the behavior of those within to persecution by those without. Yet Jesus reassures us that we will prevail. We are founded by Christ and led by the Holy Spirit, and Truth cannot be defeated. A firm foundation of faith and an evangelizing spirit, combined with God's grace, bring the good news of Jesus and of God's love for us to the world.

The Church, throughout the ages, has been hated, misunderstood, slandered, ridiculed, and even attacked. Though sometimes ridicule and rebuke come as a result of the personal faults of Her members, most often the Church has been and continues to be persecuted because we have been given the mission of clearly, compassionately, firmly, and authoritatively proclaiming, with the voice of Christ Himself, the truth which liberates and sets all people free to live in unity as children of God.

Ironically, and sadly, there are many in this world who refuse to accept the Truth. There are many who instead grow in anger and bitterness as the Church lives out Her divine mission. What is this divine mission of the Church? Her mission is to teach with clarity and authority, to pour forth God's grace and mercy in the Sacraments, and to shepherd God's people so as to lead them to Heaven. It is God who gave the Church this mission and God who enables the Church and Her ministers to carry it out with courage, boldness and fidelity.

Today's Solemnity Saints Peter and Paul are not only two of the greatest examples of the Church's mission, but they are also the actual foundation upon which Christ established this mission.

Jesus Himself in gospel said to Peter, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."

There are many who get angry at the Church for clearly, confidently and authoritatively proclaiming the liberating truth of the Gospel. This is especially true in the area of morality. Often, when these truths are proclaimed, the Church is attacked and called every sort of slanderous name in the book.

The primary reason that this is so sad is not so much that the Church is attacked, Christ will always give us the grace we need to endure persecution. The primary reason this is so sad is that most often those who are the angriest are, in fact, those who need to know the liberating truth the most.

Everyone needs the freedom that comes only in Christ Jesus and the full and unaltered Gospel truth that He has already entrusted to us in Scripture and that He continues to make clear to us through Peter in the person of the Pope. Furthermore, the Gospel does not ever change, the only thing that changes is our ever deeper and clearer understanding of this Gospel. Thanks be to God for Peter and for all of his successors who serve the Church in this essential role.

Reflect today on the truth of the gospel which must be proclaimed in love and compassion; but love is not loving nor is compassion compassionate if the truth of the life of faith and morals is not present. On this feast of Saints Peter and Paul, may Christ give all of us, and the entire Church, the courage, charity, and wisdom we need to continue to be the instruments that set the world free.

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Church and the liberating Gospel it preaches. Help me to always be faithful to the truths You proclaim through Your Church. And help me to be an instrument of that truth to all in need of it. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 28, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

LOVING JESUS ABOVE ALL OTHER

Jesus said to his apostles: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37-38

Putting Jesus above all else could be challenging. Jesus discusses today the challenge of living the Gospel. Faithful discipleship comes with demands. But we are not to keep the Gospel message to ourselves - it must be proclaimed and lived no matter what the cost. For those who are faithful, the reward will be newness of life.

Jesus explains an interesting consequence of choosing to love family members more than God. The result of loving a family member more than God is that one is not worthy of God. This is a strong statement meant to evoke serious self-reflection.

First, we should realize that the only way to authentically love one's mother or father, son or daughter, is to first love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Love of one's family and others must flow from this pure and total love of God. For that reason, we should see Jesus' warning as a call to make sure we are not only loving Him fully, but also a call to make sure we fully love our family by allowing our love of God to become the source of our love of others.

How is it that we may violate this command of our Lord? How would we love others more than Jesus? We act in this sinful way when we allow others, even family members, to take us away from our faith. For example, on a Sunday morning while you are getting ready to go to church, a family member tries to convince you to skip Mass for some other activity. If you concede so as to appease them, then you are "loving" them more than God. Of course, in the end, this is not an authentic love of the family member since a decision was made contrary to the will of God.

Reflect, today, upon how you can truly love those in your family by turning your heart and soul first toward the love of God. Allow this complete embrace of the love of God to become the basis of love in every relationship. Only then will good fruit come forth from the love of others.

Lord, I give to You my whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Help me to love You above all things and in all things and, from that love, help me to love those whom You have put in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 27, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

LORD I AM NOT WORTHY

"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." Matthew 8:8

Jesus praises the centurion, who asks for his servent's healing with humility, trust and loving concern. Our prayer before receiving the Eucharist is from the words of the centurion, who acknowledges his unworthiness and asks Jesus to heal his servant with the power of his word.

Though our prayer asks for our own healing, we can include prayer for others, as did the centurion, for the Eucharist is a sharing of us all in Christ. The centurion is praised for his faith in the healing power of Jesus' word.

Jesus is impressed with this man's faith stating that "in no one in Israel have I found such faith." This man's faith is worth pondering as a model for our own faith.

First, let's look at his humility. The centurion acknowledges that he is "not worthy" to have Jesus come to his home. This is true. None of us are worthy of such a great grace. The home that this spiritually refers to is our soul. We are not worthy of Jesus coming to our souls so as to make His dwelling there. At first this may be hard to accept. Are we really not worthy of this? Well, no, we are not. That's just the fact.

It's important to know this to be the case so that, in this humble realization, we can also acknowledge that Jesus chooses to come to us anyway. Recognizing our unworthiness should do nothing other than fill us with great gratitude at the fact that Jesus comes to us in this humble state. This man was justified in the sense that God poured His grace on him for his humility.

He also had great trust in Jesus. And the fact that the centurion knew he was unworthy of such a grace makes his trust all the more sacred. It's sacred in that he knew he was unworthy but he also knew that Jesus loved him anyway and desired to come to him and heal his servant.

This shows us that our trust in Jesus must not be based on whether or not we have a right to His presence in our lives, rather, it shows us that our trust is based on our knowledge of His infinite mercy and compassion. When we see that mercy and compassion, we will be in a position to seek it out. Again, we do this not because we have a right to it; rather, we do it because that's what Jesus wants. He wants us to seek out His mercy despite our unworthiness.

Reflect, today, on your own humility and trust. Can you pray this prayer with the same faith as the centurion? Let him be a model for you especially every time you prepare to receive Jesus "under your roof" in Holy Communion.

Lord, I am not worthy of You. I am especially not worthy of receiving You in Holy Communion. Help me to humbly recognize this fact and, in that humility, help me to also recognize the fact that You desire to come to me anyway. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 26, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

OUR MOTIVATION TO LOVE

His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." Matthew 8:3b-4

God always wills the good for us. In the Gospel reading, the leper tells Jesus that if he wills it, Jesus can make him clean. We believe that Jesus always wills our good, even if daily events do not look as dramatic as this Gospel account. What does this mean for us? What can we learn from the confidence of the leper and his bold request?

An amazing miracle takes place and Jesus simply tells the one healed to "tell no one." Why does Jesus say this?

First, we should start by reflecting upon what Jesus did. By cleansing this leper He restored this man's entire life to him. He was living as an outcast, separated from the community; his leprosy, in a sense, took everything from him. But he had faith in Jesus and presented himself to the care and mercy of God. The result was that he was made whole and restored to full health.

Jesus often would tell those who were healed to tell no one. One reason for this was that Jesus' acts of love and mercy were not done for His own benefit, rather, they were done out of love. Jesus loved this leper and wanted to offer Him this precious gift of healing. He did it out of compassion and, in return, only wanted the man's gratitude. He did not need to make this a public spectacle, He only wanted the man to be grateful.

The same is true with us. We need to know that God loves us so much that He wants to lift our heavy burdens and heal our weaknesses simply because He loves us. He doesn't do it first because it will benefit Him, rather, He does it out of love for us.

One lesson we can learn from this has to do with our own acts of love and mercy toward others. When we go out of our way to show love and compassion, are we OK with no one knowing? Too often we want to be noticed and praised.

But the nature of an act of love and compassion is such that it should be done simply out of love. In fact, doing something loving and compassionate that is not noticed by anyone helps us grow in love and compassion. It purifies our intentions and enables us to love for love's sake.

Reflect, today, on your motivation for the acts of kindness you do. Pray that you also can desire to act in hidden ways in imitation of our divine Lord.

Lord, may I grow in love of others and express that love in a pure way. May I never be motivated by a desire for vain praise. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 25, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BUILDING UPON A FIRM FOUNDATION

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock." Matt. 7:24-25

Let us build our faith on the firm foundation of the Lord. Staying faithful to the words of Jesus, and acting upon them, gives our lives a firm foundation. Let us never become complacent in our faith, but instead strive to live each day faithful to God's will.

Jesus tells his disciples that one must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven, and one must listen to and act on Jesus' words to build a firm foundation of discipleship.

The passage above is followed by the contrast of one who built his house on sand. The wind and rains came and the house collapsed. It's a clear contrast that leads anyone to conclude that having your house built on solid rock is much better.

The house is your life. And the question it raises is simply, how strong am I? How strong am I to face the storms, hardships and crosses that will inevitably come my way?

When life is easy and all goes smoothly, we do not necessarily need great inner strength. When money is plentiful, we have many friends, we have our health and our family all gets along, life can be good. And, in that case, life can even be easy. But there are few who can go through life without facing some storm. When that happens, our inner strength is tested and the strength of our inner convictions is required.

In this story from Jesus, the rain, floods and wind that buffeted the house are actually a good thing. Why? Because they allow the foundation of the house to manifest its stability. So it is with us. The foundation of our lives must be our fidelity to the Word of God.

Do you believe the Word of God? Have you pondered it, studied it, internalized it and allowed God's Word to become the foundation of your life? Jesus makes it clear that we will have a solid foundation only when we listen to His words and act on them.

Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe all that Jesus says. Do you trust in every word He has spoken? Do you believe Him enough to rely upon His promises even in the midst of life's greatest challenges? If you are not sure, then this is a good day to recommit yourself to the prayerful reading of His Word. All He says in Scripture is true and those truths are what we need to create a firm foundation for the rest of our lives.

Lord, help me to listen to Your words and to act on them. Help me to believe in Your promises and to trust You even when the storms of life seem fierce. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 23, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

A CALL TO HOLINESS AND PERFECTION

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

This familiar phrase was a command from God established in the Old Testament. It's a good rule of thumb by which to live. The gate to the way of life is narrow, but God's grace is there to help us.

Jesus fulfills the law, teaching and modeling the way to perfection. Following him ensures we do not get lost on the broad road that leads to destruction. For though the gate to the way of life is narrow, it is in no way impossible to enter. God's grace is there to help us follow his commands and lead a faithful life.

Jesus instructs the disciples on holiness: To keep holy the things of the Lord, and to do unto others as they would have done to them.

What would you have others "do to you?" Think about that and try to be honest. If we are honest, we must admit that we want others to do a lot for us. We want to be respected, to be treated with dignity, to be treated fairly, etc. But on an even deeper level, we want to be loved, understood, known and cared for.

Deep down, we should all try to recognize the natural longing that God gave us to share in a loving relationship with others, and to be loved by God. This desire goes to the heart of what it means to be human. We as humans are made for that love.

This Scripture passage above reveals that we must be ready and willing to offer to others that which we desire to receive. If we can recognize within us the natural desires for love, we should also strive to foster a desire to love. We should foster a desire to love to the same extent that we seek it for ourselves.

This is harder than it sounds. Our selfish tendency is to demand and expect love and mercy from others while at the same time we hold ourselves to a much lower standard regarding how much we offer. The key is to put our attention on our duty first. We must strive to see what we are called to do and how we are called to love.

As we see this as our first duty and as we strive to live it, we will discover that we find much greater satisfaction in giving than in seeking to receive. We will find that "doing onto others," regardless of what they "do to us," is what we actually find fulfillment in.

Reflect, today, on the natural desire you have in your heart for the love and respect of others. Then, make this the focus of how you treat those around you.

Lord, help me to do to others what I desire they do to me. Help me to use the desire in my own heart for love as the motivation for my love of others. In giving of myself, help me find fulfillment and satisfaction in that gift. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 22, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

HOW MUCH DO YOU JUDGE OTHERS?

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." Matthew 7:1-2

Acknowledging our own faults helps us. Jesus often called people out for being hypocrites. He taught that love of God and love of neighbor could not be separated, and when we refuse to acknowledge our own shortcomings we are doing neither adequately. As we look to love and help others, let us also ask God to show us our own faults and help us overcome them.

Jesus tells his disciples, Stop judging, that you may not be judged. He says hypocrites notice a splinter in another's eye before the large beam in their own.

Being judgmental can be a difficult thing to shake. Once someone falls into the habit of regularly thinking and speaking in a harsh and critical way, it's very difficult for them to change. In fact, once someone starts down the road of being critical and judgmental, chances are that they will continue down that road becoming more critical and more judgmental.

This is one of the reasons Jesus addresses this tendency in such a strong way. After the passage above Jesus states, "You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first..." These words and Jesus' strong condemnation of being judgmental is not so much because Jesus is angry or harsh toward the judgmental person. Rather, He wants to redirect them lfrom the road they are heading down and help to free them of this heavy burden. So an important question to ponder is this: "Is Jesus talking to me? Do I struggle with being judgmental?"

If the answer is "Yes," fear not and do not get discouraged. Seeing this tendency and admitting it is very important and is the first step toward the virtue which is opposite of being judgmental. The virtue is mercy. And mercy is one of the most important virtues we can have today.

It seems that the times we live in demand mercy more than ever. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is the extreme tendency, as a world culture, to be harsh and critical of others. All you need to do is read a newspaper, browse social media, or watch the nightly news programs to see that our world culture is one that is continually growing in the tendency to analyze and criticize. This is a real problem.

The good thing about mercy is that God uses either our judgmentalness or our mercy (depending upon which is more manifest) as the measuring rod of how He treats us. He will act with great mercy and forgiveness toward us when we show that virtue. But He will also show His justice and judgment when this is the path we take with others. It's up to us!

Reflect, today, on mercy and judgmentalness in your life. Which one is greater? What is your primary tendency? Remind yourself that mercy is always far more rewarding and satisfying than being judgmental. It produces joy, peace and freedom. Put mercy in your mind and commit yourself to seeing the blessed rewards of this precious gift. Lord, please do fill my heart with mercy. Help me to set aside all critical thinking and harsh words and replace them with Your love. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 21, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE PERFECT LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

God knows even the hairs on our heads - we need not be afraid of anything. Jesus also exhorts us: Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. He calls us to proclaim his words on the housetops. We know that we are never left alone, and that through God's care and the help of the Holy Spirit we can testify to him by whose death and resurrection we are saved. Courage is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

It's comforting to know that the All-Powerful God of the Universe knows every detail about our lives and is deeply concerned about every single detail. He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves and He loves each one of us more deeply than we could ever love ourselves. These facts should give us much peace.

Imagine the truth contained in this Scripture above. God even knows how many hairs we have on our head! This is stated as a way of emphasizing the depth of intimacy by which God knows us.

When we can come to the realization of the Father's perfect knowledge of us AND His perfect love of us, we will be in a position to put our complete trust in Him. Trust in God is only possible when we understand who we are trusting. And when we do begin to more completely understand who God is and how much He cares about every detail of our lives, we will more easily entrust to Him those details, allowing Him to take control of all.

Reflect, today, upon these basic truths of God's perfect knowledge of us and His perfect love. Sit with those truths and ponder them. As you do, allow them to become the basis of an invitation from God to let go of your own control of life in favor of His control. Try to make an act of total surrender to Him and you will begin to discover the freedom that comes with this surrender.

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your perfect knowledge of every detail of my life. I thank You, also, for Your perfect love. Help me to trust in this love and to trust in Your daily invitation to surrender all. I do surrender my life to You, dear Lord. Help me to surrender more fully this day. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 20, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE IMMACULATA HEART OF MARY

"...his mother kept all these things in her heart." Luke 2: 51

Today we honor our Blessed Mother. In particular, we honor her Immaculate Heart just as we honored Jesus' Sacred Heart yesterday. The two go hand in hand. The maternal love of Mary is an all-consuming love. The heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary so perfected in virtue and full of grace that she could not help but love God and her son with an all-consuming love. She shares that love with and for us, interceding for us and helping us to obtain purity of heart in our own lives.

The Heart of our Blessed Mother is a sign of her perfect love for us. It is "Immaculate" in that it is spotless and perfect in love. When reflecting upon the perfection of love, we also acknowledge that her love is the perfection of a mother's love. This is a unique love of the highest order. A mother's love is not just love of neighbor or a friendship. Rather, a mother's love is such that it is completely invested, nurturing, sacrificial and total. This is the love our Blessed Mother has for us.

Today is a good day to reflect upon whether or not you have allowed her to love you with this perfect motherly love. Have you consecrated yourself to her, choosing her as your queen and mother?

The Immaculate Heart, and therefore, the Immaculate love of our Blessed Mother is a glorious gift from God. She is the instrument through which Salvation Himself came into our world. She is also, therefore, the continuing instrument through which all the grace given by Christ comes into the world. She is the Mediatrix of Grace. Why does she have this role? Because God destined it to be so. God could have saved us any way He chose, but we must humbly and honestly acknowledge that the way He chose to save us is through the mediation of the Blessed Mother.

God does not change His mind today. He chose her as the instrument of salvation over 2,000 years ago and He continues to choose her today. He continues to pour forth His grace on the world through her and she continues to distribute His love and mercy through her Immaculate and motherly Heart.

Reflect, today, upon the beauty and perfection of the love radiating from her life for you. Run to her and make an act of faith in her motherly care. Consecrate yourself to her and let her be the instrument God wants her to be.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 19, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

SACRED HEART OF JESUS - LOVE

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Heart that reflect the love of the Father. The Father's heart beats with love for his Children. The Father loves us as his children. From age to age He has shown us compassion and mercy, and in the fullness of time, He acted to take away our burden and meet all our needs.

The image of the Sacred Heart is one that brings comfort and consolation. The lanced heart of Christ reminds us of the depths of God's love for us. Sharing our stories of "falling in love with God" is an evangelization tool we can use to ignite a spark in the heart of another, enkindling in them a new relationship with the Lord.

To some, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an old and outdated celebration in the Church. It can be seen as one of those ancient feasts that have little meaning in our lives today. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is exactly what we need to know, experience and receive in our lives today. His heart, that heart which was pierced by the lance and from which flowed blood and water, is the sign, symbol and source of the burning love of His very soul. The blood is an image of the Most Holy Eucharist and the water is an image of the cleansing waters of Baptism.

This celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration of Jesus pouring out on us His whole life and all of His love. He held nothing back which is symbolized by the pouring forth of the last drop of this blood and water from His Heart as He lay there dead on the Cross. Though it's a very graphic image, it's graphic to make a point. The point, again, is that He held nothing back. We need to realize that Jesus continues to give us everything if we are willing to receive it.

Reflect today about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Love God is calling you to show to those around you. If you are finding that you need to know His love more deeply in your life this day, try spending time reflecting on this Scripture: "…but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out" (John 19:33-34). Spend time reflecting upon that last self-gift, the gift of that water and blood flowing from His wounded Heart. It is a sign of His infinite love for you. Reflect upon it being poured out especially for you. See it, be immersed in it, and be open to it. Let His love transforms you and fill you with Divine grace.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. I thank You, dear Lord, for giving all to me. You held nothing back from me and You continue to pour out Your life for my good and for the good of the whole world. May I receive all You give to me and hold nothing back from You. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 18, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE LORD'S PRAYER

"This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven…" Matt. 6:9.

Prayer ought not to be rattling of words but modelled upon the Our Father and therefore resting upon a spirit of forgiveness. Words are important for faith, but action bring those words to life. Jesus has given us the words to ask for God's help and grace and through that help and grace we have the power to live our faith.

How amazing it is that we call address God as our "Father". This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. By this sacrifice we have been adopted into God's family and have the rights of legitimate children. Our guilt has been washed away and we now can enter into the presence of God as his children and we call go to him as children run to their daddy.

Knowing our inability to pray, Jesus not only taught us the Our Father but also gave us the Holy Spirit to breathe life into our prayer. This is the Spirit who lives in the heart of every baptized Christian. This is the Spirit who intercedes for us and who cry out to God. It is the same Spirit that guides us in prayer and pricks our conscience and moves us to repentance, obedience and deeper desire to be in unity with our brothers and sisters by extending the forgiveness we have receive to others.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the Lord's prayer. We may be battling with forgiving someone in our lives, but we should give up unforgiveness so as to set ourselves free from sadness and unhappy Christian life. When we feel our desire for God flagging through our unforgiving attitude, we can turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for the power to pray and forgive wholeheartedly instead of mechanically.

Calling God "our" Father also reveals the union we share with one another. All who call God their Father in this intimate way are brothers and sisters in Christ. We, therefore, are not only deeply connected together; we also are enabled to worship God together. In this case, individualism is left behind in exchange for fraternal unity. We are members of this one divine family as a glorious gift of God.

As your reflect on the Lord's prayer and your attitude towards forgiveness, ask Jesus to pour out his Spirit on you. and then yield to the Spirit's control. He will guide, direct and intercede for you not just as you pray but throughout your day. He will help you to forgive and put your worries and concerns in God's hands and surrender yourself to him.

Father in heaven, teach me to pray. Fill me with your Spirit and help me in my weakness, so that my prayer will be pleasing to the Trinity and glorify your name. Jesus, I trust in you.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 17, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE HIDDEN LIFE IN GOD

Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father." Matt. 6:1

Very often when we do something good, we want others to see. We want them to be aware of how good we are. Why? Because it feels good to be recognized and honored by others. But Jesus tells us to do the complete opposite.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called not only to do good, but to do good for the right reasons. It is true that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are outward signs of interior conversion in relation to God, oneself, and others (CCC 1434). But these outward signs exist as statements about God's work in us, not as visible means for us to seek temporal and earthly praise for our deeds. Jesus tells us we will be rewarded in the way we seek, so we should aim for eternal, not temporal, rewards.

So when we do a work of charity, fast or pray we should do it in a hidden way. In other words, we should not do it so as to be noticed and praised by others. It's not that there is anything wrong with others seeing our goodness. Rather, Jesus' teaching goes to the heart of our motivations for our good actions. He's trying to tell us that we should act in a holy way because we want to grow close to God and serve His will, not so that we can be recognized and praised by others.

This offers us a great opportunity to look deeply and honestly at our motivations. Why do you do what you do? Think about the good things you try to do. Then think about your motivation in doing those things. Hopefully you are motivated to do holy things simply because you want to be holy and want to serve the will of God. Are you content with God and God alone seeing your good actions? Are you OK with no one else recognizing your selflessness and acts of love? Hopefully the answer is "Yes."

Holiness is especially found in your hidden life. There, where you are seen only by God, you must act in a way that pleases God. You must live a life of virtue, prayer, sacrifice and self-giving when only God sees. If you can live this way in your hidden life, you can also be certain that your hidden life of grace will affect others in a way that only God can orchestrate. When you strive for holiness in a hidden way, God sees that and uses it for good. This hidden life of grace becomes the foundation for who you are and how you interact with others. They may not see all you do, but they will be affected by the goodness within your soul.

Lord, help me to live a hidden life of grace. Help me to serve You even when no one sees. From the solitude of those moments, bring forth Your grace and mercy for the world. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 16, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

LOVE & PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father." Matt. 5:44-45

This is not an easy command from our Lord. But it is a command of love. Jesus overturns the common societal expectation to hate one's enemies. In God's kingdom, there is no room for hatred, and no one is properly labeled "enemy." Instead, each and every person we encounter, even those we dislike or who dislike us, is an opportunity to grow in love.

First, Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Who are our enemies? Hopefully we do not have "enemies" in the sense of those who we have willfully chosen to hate. But we may have people in our lives who we are tempted to have anger toward and who we have a difficult time loving. Perhaps we can consider anyone we struggle with as our enemies.

To love them does not necessarily mean we must become best friends with them, but it does mean we must work toward having a true affection of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness toward them. This can be hard to have toward everyone but it must be our goal. This goals gives us the opportunity of getting close to heaven.

The second part of this command will help. Praying for those who persecute us will help us grow in the proper love and affection we need to foster. This aspect of love is quite straightforward even though it is also quite difficult.

Think about those whom you have a very difficult time loving. Those toward whom you have anger. It could be a family member, someone at work, a neighbor or someone from your past with whom you have never reconciled. It is in keeping with this Gospel passage to honestly admit that there is at least someone, or perhaps more than one person, with whom you struggle, either externally or internally. Admitting this is simply an act of honesty.

Once you identify this person or persons, think about whether you pray for them. Do you spend time regularly offering them to God in prayer? Do you pray that God pours forth His grace and mercy upon them? This may be hard to do but it is one of the healthiest acts you can do. It may be difficult to show love and affection toward them, but it is not hard to consciously choose to pray for them.

Praying for those with whom we have a hard time is key to letting God foster a true love and concern in our hearts toward them. It's a way of letting God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer have to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate.

Commit yourself this day to prayer for the person you struggle with the most. This prayer will most likely not change your love for them over night, but if you commit to this form of prayer every day, over time God will slowly change your heart and free you of the burden of anger and hurt that may keep you from the love He wants you to have toward all people.

Lord, I pray for the person for whom You want me to pray. Help me to love all people and help me to especially love those who are hard to love. Reorder my feelings toward them and help me to be free of any anger. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 15, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK

"But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." Matthew 5:39

Ouch! This is a hard teaching to embrace. It is a difficult thing to hear Christ say, when he tells us that if someone strikes our right cheek, we must offer the other. Our natural reaction would most likely be either a "fight or flight" response. But Jesus isn't saying we must literally stand there and take this kind of physical abuse, but that the rules of vengeance and justice under the Old Testament law are not those of God's mercy and justice in the new law.

Often, when put in the situation where someone wrongs us or hurts us we can tend to immediately rationalize away this Gospel passage and presume it doesn't apply to us. Yes, it's a hard teaching to believe and an even harder one to live.

What does it mean to "turn the other cheek?" First, we should look at this on a literal level. Jesus did mean what He said. He is the perfect example of this. Not only was He slapped on the cheek, He was also brutally beaten and hung on a cross. And His response was, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Therefore, Jesus does not call us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do.

Turning the other cheek does not mean that we need to cover up another's abusive actions or words. We ought not pretend that they have done nothing wrong. Jesus Himself, in forgiving and in asking the Father to forgive, acknowledged the grave injustice He received at the hands of sinners. But the key is that He did not allow Himself to be drawn into their malice.

Often times, when we feel like another flings mud at us, so to speak, we are tempted to fling it right back. We are tempted to fight and push the bully back. But the key to overcoming the malice and cruelty of another is to refuse to be drawn down into the mud. Turning the other cheek is a way of saying that we refuse to degrade ourselves to foolish bickering or arguing. We refuse to engage irrationality when we encounter it. Instead, we choose to allow another to reveal their malice to themselves and to others by peacefully accepting it and forgiving.

This is not to say that Jesus wants us to perpetually live in abusive relationships that are more than we can handle. But it does mean that we will all encounter injustice from time to time and we need to handle it with mercy and immediate forgiveness, and not become drawn into returning malice for malice.

Reflect, today, on any relationships that are difficult for you. Especially reflect upon how ready you are to forgive and to turn the other cheek. Doing this may just bring you the peace and freedom you seek in that relationship.

Lord, help me to imitate Your great mercy and forgiveness. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me and help me to rise above any injustice I encounter. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 14, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

CORPUS CHRISTI

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." John 6:51

Happy Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God! What a Gift we celebrate today!

The Eucharist is everything. It's all things, the fullness of life, eternal salvation, mercy, grace, happiness, etc. Why is the Eucharist all this and so much more? Simply put, the Eucharist IS God. Period. Therefore, the Eucharist is all that God is.

In his beautiful traditional hymn, "Adoro te Devote," St. Thomas Aquinas writes, "I devoutly adore You, O hidden Deity, truly hidden beneath these appearances. My whole heart submits to You, and in contemplating You, it surrenders itself completely. Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You, but hearing suffices firmly to believe…" What a glorious statement of faith in this wondrous gift.

This statement of faith reveals that when we worship before the Eucharist, we worship God Himself hidden under the appearance of bread and wine. Our senses are deceived. What we see, taste and feel do not reveal the reality before us. The Eucharist is God.

Throughout our lives, if we were raised Catholic, we were taught reverence for the Eucharist. But "reverence" is not enough. Most Catholics reverence the Eucharist, meaning, we genuflect, kneel, and treat the Sacred Host with respect. But it's important to ponder a question in your heart. Do you believe the Eucharist is God Almighty, the Savior of the world, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity? Do you believe deeply enough to have your heart moved with love and profound devotion every time you are before our divine Lord present before us under the veil of the Eucharist? When you kneel do you fall down prostrate in your heart, loving God with your whole being?

Perhaps this sounds like it's a bit excessive. Perhaps simple reverence and respect is enough for you. But it's not. Since the Eucharist is God Almighty, we must see Him there with the eyes of faith in our soul. We must profoundly adore Him as the angels do in Heaven. We must cry out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty." We must be moved to the deepest of worship as we enter into His divine presence.

The Christian life that neglect the Eucharist will end up in failure. We need the Eucharistic present in our lives and society more than ever today. We need the Eucharist now when the issue of racial injustice in our society is tearing us apart. As St Pio said, "it would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than for it to exist without the Eucharist".

Ponder the depth of your faith in the Eucharist today and strive to renew it, worshiping God as one who believes with your whole being.

I devoutly adore You, O hidden Deity, truly hidden beneath these appearances. My whole heart submits to You, and in contemplating You, it surrenders itself completely. Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of You, but hearing suffices firmly to believe. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 13, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING HONEST

Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the Evil One." Matthew 5:37

If we are always living a genuine Christian life, our actions and words should always point to that. We should always be truthful, and always do what we promise to do. As the saying goes, "actions speak louder than words." Our actions as Christians reflect not just on us, but on how well we uphold the truth of Christ.

The above Bible passage is interesting. At first it seems a bit extreme to say that "Anything else is from the Evil One." But of course since these are the words of Jesus, they are words of perfect truth. So what does Jesus mean?

This line comes to us from Jesus within the context of Him teaching us about the morality of taking an oath. The lesson is essentially a presentation of the basic principle of "truthfulness" found in the Eighth Commandment. Jesus is telling us to be honest, to say what we mean and mean what we say. Jesus tells his disciples that it is not enough to simply not take a false oath, but that they should not swear at all.

One reason Jesus brings this up, within the context of His teaching about taking oaths, is that there should be no need for a solemn oath regarding our ordinary daily conversations. Sure, there are some oaths that take on solemnity such as Marriage vows or vows and promises solemnly taken by priests and religious. In fact, in every Sacrament there is some form of solemn promise taken. However, the nature of these promises is more of a public expression of faith than a way of keeping people accountable.

The truth is that the Eighth Commandment, which calls us to be people of honesty and integrity, should suffice in all daily activity. We do not need to "swear to God" about this or that. We should not feel a need to convince another that we are telling the truth in one situation or another. Rather, if we are people of honesty and integrity, then our word will suffice and what we say will be true simply because we say it.

Reflect, today, upon how honest you are in all areas of life. Have you built a habit of truthfulness in both big and small matters of life? Do people recognize this quality in you? Speaking the truth and being a person of the truth are ways of proclaiming the Gospel with our actions. Commit yourself to honesty today and the Lord will do great things through your spoken word.

Lord, help me to be a person of honesty and integrity. For the times that I have twisted the truth, deceived in subtle ways, and outright lied, I am sorry. Help my "Yes" to always be in accord with Your most holy will and help me to always turn from the ways of error. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 12, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

AVOIDING SIN

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." Matthew 5:29-30

Does Jesus really mean this? Literally? In making this statement Jesus was teaching his disciples and us in a new way how to fulfill the old law. So let us be aware that Jesus has a way with words.

So, we can be certain that this language, which is shocking, is not a literal command but is rather a symbolic statement commanding us to avoid sin with great zeal, and to avoid all that leads us to sin. The eye can be understood as a window to our soul where our thoughts and desires reside. The hand can be seen as a symbol of our actions. Thus, we must eliminate every thought, affection, desire and action that leads us to sin.

The true key to understanding this passage is to allow ourselves to be affected by the powerful language that Jesus uses. He does not hesitate to speak in a shocking way so as to reveal to us the calling we have to confront with much zeal that which leads to sin in our lives. "Pluck it out…cut it off," He says. In other words, eliminate your sin and all that leads you to sin in a definitive way. The eye and the hand are not sinful in and of themselves; rather, in this symbolic language they are spoken of as those things that lead to sin. Therefore, if certain thoughts or certain actions lead you to sin, these are the areas to target and to eliminate.

Regarding our thoughts, sometimes we can allow ourselves to dwell excessively upon this or that. As a result, these thoughts can lead us to sin. The key is to "pluck out" that initial thought that produces the bad fruit.

Regarding our actions, we can at times put ourselves in situations that tempt us and lead to sin. These occasions of sin must be cut off from our lives.

Reflect, today, upon this very direct and powerful language of our Lord. Let the forcefulness of His words be an impetus for change and avoidance of all sin.

Lord, I am sorry for my sin and I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness. Please help me to avoid all that leads me to sin and to surrender all my thoughts and actions to You every day. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 10, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE PERFECTION OF LOVE

Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." Matthew 5:18

This is an interesting statement from Jesus. There are many things that could be said about it regarding the law and Jesus' fulfillment of the law. But one thing worth reflecting upon is the great lengths Jesus goes to identify the importance of not only one letter of the law, but more specifically, the smallest part of a letter.

The ultimate law of God, as brought to fulfillment in Christ Jesus, is love. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength." And, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is the ultimate fulfillment of the law of God.

Love is the center of all things. St John of the cross once said "at the end of time we all will be judged on love". The crisis and problem of racial injustice is actually based on lack of love. This is what is tearing our society apart. We were alarm at the rate of death of covid-19 but racial injustice has destroyed a lot of lives today both physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. What role have we played in Love?

If we look at this passage above, in light of the perfection of the law of love, we can hear Jesus saying that the details of love, even the smallest detail, is of grave importance. In fact, the details are what makes love grow exponentially. The smaller the detail one is attentive to in love of God and love of neighbor, the greater is the fulfillment of the law of love to the greatest degree.

Think, today, about those whom God has put in your life to love. This would especially apply to family members and especially to spouses, children, neighbors or even the homeless person of different color. How attentive are you to every small act of kindness and compassion? Do you regularly look for opportunities to offer an encouraging word? Do you make an effort, even in the smallest of details, to show you care and are there and are concerned? Love is in the details and the details magnify this glorious fulfillment of God's law of love.

Lord, help me to be attentive to all the big and many small ways I am called to love You and others. Help me, especially, to look for the smallest of opportunities to show this love and thus fulfill Your law. Jesus, I trust in You



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 9, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

BEING SALT & LIGHT IMPLIES MAKING A DIFFERENCE

You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world." Matthew 5:13a &14a

Salt and light, that's us. Hopefully! Have you ever pondered what it means to be salt or light in this world?

Let's start with this image. Imagine you cook some wonderful vegetable soup with all the best ingredients. It slowly simmers for hours and the broth looks very tasty. But the one thing you are out of is salt and other spices. So, you just let the soup simmer and hope for the best. Once it's fully cooked you try a taste and, to your disappointment, it's somewhat tasteless. So, you search until you find the missing ingredient, salt, and you add just the right amount. After another half hour of simmering you try a sample and are greatly delighted. It's amazing what salt can do!

Or imagine going for a walk in the forest and getting lost. As you search for your way out, the sun sets and it slowly becomes dark. It's overcast so there are no stars or moon. About a half hour after sunset you find yourself in complete darkness in the middle of the forest. As you sit there, you suddenly see the bright moon peek through the clouds. It's a full moon and the overcast skies are clearing up. Suddenly, the full moon sheds so much light your way that you are able to once again navigate the dark forest.

These two images provide us with the importance of just a little salt and a little light. Just a little changes everything!

So it is with us in our faith. The world we live in is dark in so many ways. The "flavor" of love and mercy is also quite void. God is calling you to add that little flavor and produce that little light so that others can find their way.

Like the moon, you are not the source of light. You only reflect the light. God wants to shine through you and He wants you to reflect His light. If you are open to this, He will move the clouds at the right time so as to use you in the way He has chosen. Your responsibility is to simply be open.

Reflect, today, upon how open you are. Pray each day that God will use you in accord with His divine purpose. Make yourself available to His divine grace and you will be amazed at the way He can use the small things in your life to make a difference.

Lord, I do want to be used by You. I want to be salt and light. I want to make a difference in this world. I give myself to You and Your service. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 8, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE BEATITUDES

…for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
...for they will be comforted.
...for they will inherit the land.
...for they will be satisfied.
...for they will be shown mercy.
...for they will see God.
...for they will be called children of God.
...for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
...for your reward will be great in heaven.
(See Matthew 5)

Listed above are all the rewards of living the Beatitudes. Read them slowly and prayerfully. Do you desire these good fruits? These rewards of the Beatitudes? Of course you do! It's a good spiritual practice to start with the reward, the effect of something, and to let the desire for that reward grow. The same is true of sin. It's a good practice, especially when one struggles with a habitual sin, to start with the effect of that sin (the negative effect) and ask whether or not you desire it.

But today we have the Beatitudes. And as we ponder the fruits of the Beatitudes, we can't help but conclude that we deeply desire them. This is a good and healthy realization to come to.

From there, we only need to add one extra step. Once we've concluded, with a deep conviction, that we desire the fruits of the Beatitudes, we then only need to add the first step. We insert the Beatitude into this desire so that we can understand and believe that the Beatitude is good and desirous. But what about the Beatitudes? Do you desire...

To be poor in spirit,
to mourn,
to be meek,
to hunger and thirst for righteousness,
to be merciful,
to be clean of heart,
to be a peacemaker,
to accept persecution for the sake of righteousness, and to be insulted and persecuted and to have every kind of evil uttered about you falsely because of Jesus?

Hmmm, perhaps or perhaps not. Some seem desirous while others seem burdensome. But if these Beatitudes are properly understood in the context of their fruits (i.e., the blessings they produce), then our desire for the means to that good fruit (the Beatitude) should grow as well.

Perhaps, today, you can look at which Beatitude is most difficult for you to want and desire. Once you find it, look at the fruit it produces and spend time looking at that Beatitude within that context. It will help you grow in blessedness!

Lord, help make me humble and meek, pure of heart and merciful, a peacemaker and one who accepts any persecution that comes my way. Help me to receive all with joy and with a longing for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 6, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

GIVING FROM LITTLE

"Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." Mark 12:43-44

All she put into the basket was two small coins worth only a few cents. Yet Jesus declares that she put in more than all the rest. Are you buying that? It's hard to accept that it's true. Our tendency is to think of the monetary value of the large sums of money being deposited before this poor widow's. Those deposits are far more desirable than the two small coins she put in. Right? Or not?

If we take Jesus at His word then we should be far more grateful for the widow's two coins than the large sums of money deposited before her. That's not to say that the large sums of money were not good and generous gifts. They most likely were. God took those gifts also and used them.

But here Jesus is highlighting a contrast between spiritual wealth and material wealth. And He's saying that spiritual wealth, and spiritual generosity, is of far greater importance than material wealth, and material generosity. The poor widow was materially poor but spiritually rich. Those with the large sums of money were materially rich, but spiritually poorer than the widow.

In the materialistic society we live in, it's hard to believe this. It's very hard to make the conscious choice to embrace spiritual wealth as a far greater blessing. Why is this hard? Because in order to embrace spiritual wealth one must give up everything. We must all become this poor widow and contribute all we have, our "whole livelihood."

Now, some may immediately react to this statement as extreme. It's not extreme. There is nothing wrong with being blessed with material wealth, but there is something wrong with being attached to it. What is essential is an interior disposition which imitates the generosity and spiritual poverty of this poor widow. She wanted to give and she wanted to make a difference. So she gave all she had.

Each person must discern how this looks practically in their lives. This doesn't mean that everyone must literally sell all they have and go become a monk. But it does mean that everyone must have an interior disposition of complete generosity and detachment. From there, the Lord will show you how to use the material things within your possession for your greatest good, as well as the good of others.

Reflect, today, upon the contrast of these two forms of wealth and choose that which lasts for eternity. Give all you have and all you are to our Lord and allow Him to direct the generosity of your heart in accord with His perfect will.

Lord, please give me the generous and selfless heart of this poor widow. Help me to look for ways that I am called to give completely of myself to You, holding nothing back, seeking above all the spiritual riches of Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 5, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

DELIGHT IN THE LORD

The great crowd heard this with delight. Mark 12:37b

This passage comes from the end of today's Gospel. Jesus just gave a teaching to the crowd in the temple. He asked how could the scribes speak of the Christ as David's son and they people listened to it "with delight." Jesus' teaching produced much pleasure in their souls.

This is a common reaction to the teaching and presence of Jesus in our lives. The Psalms are filled with images like this. "I delight in the Lord." "How sweet are Your words." "I delight in Your commands." These and many other references reveal one of the effects of Jesus' words and presence in our lives. His word and His presence in our lives is extraordinarily pleasurable.

This fact begs the question, "Do I delight in Jesus' words?" Too often we see the words of Christ as a burden, restriction or limitation to what we want in life. For that reason, we can often see the will of God as something difficult and burdensome. Truth be told, if our hearts are rooted in sin or in the pleasures of the world, then the words of our Lord may sting and feel like a burden to us. But that's just because we find them in contradiction to the many unhealthy things to which we have become attached.

If you find that the Word of God, Jesus' words, are hard to hear, then you are starting to head down the right road. You are starting to let His Word "do battle," so to speak, with the many other lures and enticements that ultimately only leave us dry and empty. This is the first step to being able to delight in the Lord and His words.

The good news is that if you can allow His Word to cut through the many unhealthy attachments you have in life, you will begin to discover that you greatly love His Word and delight in His presence in your life. Delighting in the Lord is something we can experience at all time when we spend time with the Lord, reflecting on his Word and his goodness in our lives. We are living in a very difficult time in our history. The Covid-19 pandemic and the many injustices and violence around us. The racial discrimination and many homeless people suffering. We can still feel the Lord's presence and delight in him.

You will begin to discover that the pleasure and delight you experience from His presence in your life far outweighs any other passing attachment or pleasure you may have. Even sin can produce a false sense of satisfaction. In that case, the satisfaction is more like a drug that soon wears off. The delight of the Lord is something that continually draws you higher and fulfills you more deeply every day.

Spend time, today, pondering whether or not you truly do allow yourself to be filled with delight in the Lord's presence and His words. Try to taste their sweetness. Try to let yourself be drawn in. Once "hooked," you will seek Him all the more.

Lord, I desire to delight in You. Help me to turn away from the many attractions and enticements of this world. Help me to seek You and Your Word always. In the discovery of Your Word, fill my soul with the greatest delight. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 4, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

LOVE MUST BE CONTIGUOUS

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:30-31b

It's interesting to see how these two great commandments go together!

First of all, the commandment to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength is pretty straight forward. The key to understanding this is that it's an all-consuming and total love. Nothing can be held back from loving God. Every part of our being must be fully dedicated to the love of God.

Though much could be said about that love so as to understand it in a deeper and deeper way, it's also important to see the link between the First and Second Commandments. Together, these two commandments summarize the Ten Commandments given by Moses. But the link between the two is essential to understand.

The Second Commandment says you must "love your neighbor as yourself." So this begs the question, "How do I love myself?" The answer to that is found in the First Commandment. First and foremost, we love ourselves by loving God with all we have and all we are. Loving God is the best thing we can do for ourselves and, therefore, is the key to loving ourselves.

The connection, then, between the two commandments is that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves means that everything we do for others should help them to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength. This is done by our words, but especially by our influence.

When we love God with everything, our love of God will be contagious. Others will see our love of God, our passion for Him, our desire for Him, our devotion and our commitment. They will see it and be attracted to it. They will be attracted to it because love of God is in fact very attractive. Witnessing this sort of love inspires others and makes them want to imitate our love.

So reflect, today, on how deep your love of God is. Just as importantly, reflect upon how well you let that love of God shine forth for others to see. You should be very free in letting your love of God be lived and expressed in an open way. When you do so, others will see this and you will be loving them as you love yourself.

Lord, help me to follow these commandments of love. Help me to love You with my whole being. And in that love of You, help me to share that love with others. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 3, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

STEPPING BACK AND ALLOWING JESUS TAKE THE LEAD

Jesus said to them, "Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" Mark 12:24

This Scripture comes from the passage where some Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus in His speech. This has been a common theme in the daily readings as of late. Jesus' answer is one that cuts to the heart of the problem. He does clear up their confusion, but He starts by simply laying down the clear truth that the Sadducees are misled because they do not know either the Scriptures or the power of God. This should give us reason to pause and look at our own understanding of the Scriptures and the power of God.

It is easy to try to figure life out on our own. We can think and think and think and try to analyze why this happened or that. We can try to analyze others actions or even our own. And often times in the end, we are just as confused and "misled" as when we began.

If you find yourself in such a confusing situation about anything you are trying to understand about life, perhaps it's good to sit and listen to those words of Jesus spoken as if they were spoken to you.

These words should not be taken as a harsh criticism or rebuke. Rather, they should be taken as a blessed insight from Jesus to help us step back and realize that we are often misled about the things of life. It's very easy to let emotion and errors cloud our thinking and reasoning and lead us down the wrong path. So what do we do?

When we find ourselves feeling "misled" or when we realize we do not really understand God or His power at work, we should stop and take a step back so that we can pray and seek what God has to say.

Interestingly, praying is not the same as thinking. Sure, we need to use our mind to ponder the things of God, but "thinking, thinking, and more thinking" is not always the way to the correct understanding. Thinking is not prayer. We often do not understand that.

A regular goal we must have is to step back in humility and acknowledge to God and ourselves that we do not understand His ways and will. We must strive to silence our active thoughts and set aside all preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. In our humility, we need to sit and listen and wait on the Lord to take the lead.

If we can let go of our constant attempts to "figure it out" we may find that God will figure it out for us and shed the light that we need. The Sadducees struggled with a certain pride and arrogance which clouded their thinking and led to self-righteousness. Jesus attempts to gently but firmly redirect them to clear thinking.

God always is bigger than our imagination, our categories, our understanding. God is seeking to transform our lives today in ways we cannot imagine, if we will only let him. The love of Christ changes everything, transforming what is surrendered to him in love.

Reflect, today, upon whether you are struggling in any way with misleading and confusing thoughts. Humble yourself so that Jesus can redirect your thinking and help you to arrive at the truth.

Lord, I do want to know the truth. At times I can allow myself to be misled. Help me to humble myself before You so that You can take the lead. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 2, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

OVERCOMING THE SNARES OF LIFE

"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion. You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." Mark 12:14a

This statement was made by some of the Pharisees and Herodians who were sent to "ensnare" Jesus in His speech. They act in a sneaky and cunning way to draw Jesus in. Their question about the census tax was turnd into a question of identity. The denarius has Caesar's image, but we have the image of God inscribed on our very being. What claim, then, does it have on us when Jesus says to return to God what is God's?

They are trying to get Him to speak in opposition to Caesar so that they can get Him in trouble with the Roman authorities. But interestingly, what they say of Jesus is quite true and is a great virtue.

They say two things that highlight Jesus' virtues of humility and sincerity: 1) "You are not concerned with anyone's opinion;" 2) "You do not regard a person's status." Of course they went on to then try to trick Him into breaking Roman law. Jesus does not fall for their trick and does outsmart them in the end.

However, these virtues are good for us to reflect upon because we should strive to have them alive in our own lives. First, we should not be concerned with others' opinions. But this must be properly understood. Sure, it's important to listen to others and to consult them and to be open minded.

Other people's insights can be crucial to making good decisions in life. But what we should avoid is the danger of allowing others to dictate our actions out of fear. Sometimes the "opinions" of others are negative and wrong. We can all experience peer pressure in various ways. Jesus never gave in to the false opinions of others nor did He allow the pressure of those opinions to change how He acted.

Secondly, they point out that Jesus does not allow the "status" of another to influence Him. Again, this is a virtue. What we have to know is that all people are equal in the mind of God. A position of power or influence does not necessarily make one person more correct than another. What's important is the sincerity, integrity and truthfulness of each person. Jesus exercised this virtue perfectly.

Reflect, today, upon whether these words could also be said about you. Strive to learn from the statement of these Pharisees and Herodians; strive to live a life of integrity and humility. If you do so, you will also be given a share in the wisdom of Jesus so as to navigate the most difficult snares of life.

Lord, I do want to be a person of honesty and integrity. I want to listen to the good advice of others but not be influenced by the errors or pressures that may also come my way. Help me to always seek You and Your truth in all things. Jesus, I trust in You.



REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
June 1, 2020

By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA

THE CROSS, THE EUCHARIST AND THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27

The memorial we celebrate today is new in the Church liturgical calendar. On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis announced that a new memorial would be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, entitled "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church." Henceforth, this memorial is added to the General Roman Calendar and is to be universally celebrated throughout the Church.

The Gospel chosen for this memorial presents to us the holy image of the Blessed Mother standing before the Cross of her Son. While standing there, she heard Jesus say the words, "I thirst." He was given some wine on a sponge and then declared, "It is finished."

Jesus' Blessed Mother, the Mother of the Redeemer, stood as a witness as the Cross of her Son became the source of the the redemption of the World. As He took that last drink of wine, He completed the institution of the New and Eternal Passover Meal, the Holy Eucharist.

Additionally, just prior to Jesus expiring, Jesus declared to His mother that she would now be the "Mother of the Redeemed," that is, the mother of each member of the Church. This gift of Jesus' mother to the Church was symbolized by Him saying, "Behold, your son…Behold, your mother."

As we celebrate this new and beautiful universal memorial within the Church, ponder your relationship to the Cross, to the Eucharist and to your heavenly mother. If you are willing to stand by the Cross, gaze at it with our Blessed Mother, and witness Jesus pour forth His precious blood for the salvation of the world, then you are also privileged to hear Him say to you, "Behold, your mother." Stay close to your heavenly mother. Seek her maternal care and protection and allow her prayers to daily draw you closer to her Son.

Dearest Mother Mary, Mother of God, my mother, and Mother of the Church, pray for me and for all your children who are so deeply in need of the mercy of your Son as it was poured out from the Cross for the redemption of the world. May all your children draw ever closer to you and to your Son, as we gaze upon the glory of the Cross, and as we consume the Most Holy Eucharist. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You!