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After revealing glimpses of His Kingdom of Heaven through a series of parables in Matthew 13, Christ returns to His “own country” (the literal meaning of the Greek is “fatherland”) of Nazareth to reveal Himself with “wisdom and mighty works.”  A Nazarene who speaks Aramaic with a Nazarene accent, Jesus desired that His own people of Nazareth would come to Him.

His townsfolk are impressed but cannot overcome their skepticism of the source of Jesus’ power, and ultimately, His identity.  Twice they ask, “where did this man get this”, unable to reconcile the miraculous with being neighbors with Jesus, Mary and Joseph for many years.  His hometown people’s response to Him is difficult to understand.  The three most holy people who ever lived, the Perfect Son, the Immaculate Conception and the Father’s hand-picked human father for His Son, have not been recognized for their holiness, despite living in Nazareth for 20+ years.  Worse, Mary and Joseph are insulted, demeaned as a couple incapable of being the parents of the Messiah. As Christ discloses elsewhere, many see and hear but fail to understand and believe (Matt 13:13).

In their hardness, the people are offended and reject God in their midst; they have disbelief, not just little faith. Christ, with sorrow, condemns their disbelief (“a prophet is not without honor…”). Unable to be constrained by men (or their disbelief), Christ chooses to not to perform additional miracles in Nazareth.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, full of Divine Mercy, Christ is mysteriously willing to remain hidden and to patiently accept rejection by His creation. Divine Wisdom, Christ’s powerful teaching is recognized and He confirms that He is the Divine Prophet. Divine Physician, Christ’s mighty healing deeds are recognized by all. Divine King, Christ rebukes the people’s disbelief.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ is confronted with resistance, disbelief and hostility and will be murdered by His Creation.  Be awed at Christ’s indomitable will and perseverance to overcome all obstacles in His desire to save all men.

2) Many men who have a conversion in Christ, face the challenge and heartache of family and friends who refuse to believe. Remember that Christ understands this rejection and gives the model for preserving in the Gospel to the end.

3) Like Jesus’ townsfolk, many men today overlook Mary and Joseph, whose holiness surpasses all but their Son.  Commit to develop a vibrant and steadfast devotion to the Immaculate Conception and Saint Joseph. Christ expects no less.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Sorrowful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ

Virtue of the Day – Faith

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the sick

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To forgive all injuries

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Completing the presentation of parables on the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13, in the Parable of the Dragnet, Christ reiterates the fearsome coming Judgment that all men will face.

The Dragnet uses the familiar imagery of fishermen and their catch on the nearby Sea of Galilee. The dragnet (the end of the age) is cast out on the sea (the world of men) and fish of every kind (all men and women) are gathered.  The dragnet is pulled ashore (the end of earthly life) and men (the Angels) sort (judged by Christ) and put the good fish (the saintly) into vessels (Heaven) and the bad (the evil) are thrown away (cast into Hell).

The Dragnet offers a number of insights. All men (of all ages, races, nationalities) are given the freedom to live, making choices for good and evil while on earth. All men will face the unavoidable Judgment at the End of the Age (and particular judgment upon their death).  All men will be infallibly sorted by Christ’s Angels using the same criteria: goodness (Greek word translates literally as “beautiful”) or badness (Greek word literally translates as “rotten”).  Christ, the Judge, will accept the good/beautiful/saintly men into Heaven and condemn the bad/rotten/evil men to Hell.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ has intimate knowledge of God’s plans for the future of Man. Divine Prophet, Christ reveals the coming Judgment and the existence of Heaven and Hell.  Divine Judge, Christ describes the sorting of men based on if they are good (righteousness) or bad (evil). Son of Man, Christ has inmate knowledge of daily life which He uses to craft impactful parables that resonate with His audience.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) The Incarnation is God’s deliberate act to live as a man and to draw men to Him. Look back at the parables in Matthew 13 and marvel at how Christ’s human nature provides Him with real world experience that appeals to men.

2) Christ’s parables which call men to seek the Kingdom include “carrots” (hidden treasures, valuable pearls) and “sticks”  (fiery furnace, weeping an gnashing of teeth). Reflect and make a mental list of what is most compelling to you about Heaven and what is most frightening about Hell.

3) Death is a certainty for all men; for some, death is expected; for others, death comes unexpectedly.  Reflect on the truth that at the moment of death, your case is closed and presented to the Divine Judge who will find you worthy of Heaven or not. Pray for Christ to make a persevering commitment to sainthood. Go to Confession.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Luminous Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Holy Eucharist

Virtue of the Day – Fortitude

Corporal Work of Mercy – To shelter the homeless

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To bear wrongs patiently

Continuing with the “Sermon of Parables” about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13, Christ describes the experience of conversion and commitment when a man discovers Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christ describes two ways by which men have a conversion experience when they discover the immeasureable value of the Kingdom of Heaven which is always present and mysteriously hidden. Some men, not actively searching, stumble upon the Truth of Christ and His Kingdom like the man who finds the treasure buried in the field by accident. Other men diligently search for the Truth of Christ as the pearl merchant searches for a pearl of great value. Upon finding that thing of highest value, both men are converted; they recognize their treasure and their lives totally change.

Following true conversion, men make a commitment to break with the past to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven. Both men in the parables urgently spring into action. Both are emotionally charged and full of zeal; the pearl merchant is overwhelmed with joy after his arduous search. Both men make the “all in” commitment, sacrificing their old lives by selling everything to take possession of the treasure/pearl; Christ reiterates the need for “all in” commitment to obtain the treasure of Heaven when He tells the Rich Young Man to sell everything (Matt 19:21).

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of Man, Christ’s hand’s-on experience of His human nature gives Him deep insights into what men value, their emotional states and how to motivate them. Divine Teacher, Christ develops short powerful parables that intrigue men across time. Divine King, Christ reveals the Kingdom of Heaven and a model for how faithful men should value and react to the Kingdom.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) In Matthew 13, Christ zealously offers 7 different parables that give mysterious glimpses into Beatific Vision of the Father in the Kingdom of Heaven. Marvel that Christ’s great zeal that comes from personal experience and His willingness to reveal aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven to you.

2) Many men are casual in their faith and almost all men go through periods of being lukewarm. Reflect on Christ’s own zeal for the Kingdom and today’s parables as a model for your own conversion and commitment and pray for Christ to fill you with joy and zeal.

3) A key driver of the Catholic “man-crisis” is the Church’s failure to follow Christ’s clear priority to evangelize men: Christ selects men as Apostles for He knows that men follow men; almost all of Christ’s parables have male characters and masculine themes which men can relate (e.g. builders, fishermen, farmers, wars, enemies, shepherds, kings), etc. Commit to work within your parish to help your priest to evangelize men.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – Saint Joseph

Virtue of the Day – Temperance

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the imprisoned

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To comfort the sorrowful

 

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Pausing in His “Sermon of Parables” about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13, Christ responds to His disciples’ request in private to explain the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat.  As with all Christ’s parables, mysteries are revealed in short, somewhat cryptic stories.

In the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat, the Householder (Christ) sows good seed (the sons of the Kingdom) on His field (the world). The enemy (the Devil) sows weeds (the sons of the Devil). The Householder (Christ), unwilling to sacrifice the wheat (the sons of the Kingdom), will send His reapers (the Angels) at the harvest (the Judgment) to bring the wheat (the sons of the Kingdom) to His barn (Heaven) and to bind up the weeds (the sons of the Devil) and cast them into the furnace of fire (Hell) “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

With directness, Christ confirms reality. God has complete dominion over the world. God loves and protects His men. God allows Satan and his “sons” to exist. In the Spiritual Combat of life, men are attacked by Satan and Satan’s men. God promises to judge the good and the evil, with Angels playing a key role. God’s sons, the righteous, will be blessed in the Father’s Kingdom. Those who follow Satan will be condemned to an excruciating Hell. God wins and Satan loses.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ confirms the reality of God’s absolute dominion, Satan, Heaven and Hell, Spiritual Combat, Angels, Judgment and eternal joy and punishment. Divine Judge, Christ will save the righteous and condemn the evil.  Divine King, Christ builds His Church and the priesthood by instructing the disciples privately.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1)  Much of what Christ says in this passage is downplayed or ignored in the Church. Reflect on the Awed by Jesus Christ section above, letting the truth Christ’s grave warning about the Last Four Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell) permeate your soul.

2) In rebellion against God, the modern culture has “dumbed down” Satan: as a goofy Halloween character, as a good guy on TV and movies, fictionalized for entertainment in horror films, etc. The result is that many deem Satan to be a myth and ignored; this suits Satan’s purposes. Christ directly reveals the reality of Satan; a man who doesn’t take Satan seriously doesn’t take Christ seriously. Ask Christ to protect you from Satan and Satan’s converts.

3) Elsewhere, Christ instructs men not to judge (Matt 7:1-3), meaning to not condemn another person in their heart.  Here, Christ reassures men that He will judge all men, with the righteous given Heavenly reward and the evil given eternal punishment.  Pray for Christ to fill you with mercy to avoid judgment of others.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Sorrowful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Guardian Angels

Virtue of the Day – Justice

Corporal Work of Mercy – To clothe the naked

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To counsel the doubtful

Christ continues His “Sermon of Parables” about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13. The Parable of the Mustard Seed is the third time Christ refers to seeds and growing to describe the Kingdom.

Christ again demonstrates His understanding of nature (which He created), the common experiences of living in the Middle East and His mastery of Scripture. The “mustard seed” was a common rabbinical proverbial reference to the smallest seed. Christ describes that the mustard seed grows into the greatest of shrubs, becoming as large as a tree that birds can nest in it. The parable builds on Old Testament references to a coming kingdom that would be a great tree that gathers many nations (Ezek 31:2-13; Dan 4:17-18).

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is powerful on multiple dimensions. The parable inspires hope among the disciples that Christ’s Kingdom will come despite starting small (Acts 1:15 numbers the disciples after Christ’s Ascension at only 120!). Like the mustard tree provides a home and savory seeds that feeds the birds, the Church will be home to multitudes (birds is an allusion to the Gentile nations), feeding them with most savory of food, the Eucharist. For the individual, the parable reveals that while most start with a small faith, with time and persistence of prayer (see Luke 11:1-13) every soul can grow into sainthood.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ uses common themes (of trees, in this example) that were “planted” in the Old Testament. Divine Teacher, Christ reveals the Kingdom of Heaven with innovative parables that still draw men two millennia later.  Divine Prophet, Christ accurately describes the worldwide growth of the Church. Divine Leader, Jesus inspire His disciples with parables that instill lasting hope, overcoming uncertainty about the promise of the Kingdom.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) From the small band of only about 120 early disciples, the Church has over 1 billion members; there are another billion+ Christians who are not yet in full communion with Christ’s Church.  Marvel at Christ’s divine confidence and accurate prediction of a worldwide Church.

2) Dwelling on the spreading cultural decay and the turmoil and apostasy in the Church can lead to despair. Return to hope, holding firm to Christ’s promise that the Kingdom of Heaven continues to grow in mysterious ways.

3) It is difficult to develop the virtue of patience in a convenience culture where books/videos can be seen “on-demand” and purchases can be delivered the same day. Virtue and the spiritual life takes time to develop. Pray for Christ to give you patience and persistence in the pursuit of sainthood and His Kingdom.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Souls in Purgatory

Virtue of the Day – Prudence

Corporal Work of Mercy – To give drink to the thirsty

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To instruct the ignorant