For the Memorial of St. Martha, the Church reflects on two encounters Martha has with Christ. The first encounter recalls Christ’s visit to the home in Bethany of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. As Christ teaches, Martha diligently prepares and serves food to Christ (and likely many guests). As her sister Mary sits at Christ’s feet in adoration and learning, Martha, frustrated and failing, complains to Christ and insultingly demands that He correct Mary. Surprisingly patient, Christ gently rebukes Martha for being anxious and troubled and for missing the importance of making God her highest priority; He does not assert that Martha’s work is not important, but that work must be subservient to faith. Rather than rebuke Mary, as Martha wished, Christ upholds Mary’s choice to adore and learn from Him as the one thing she needs that won’t be denied from her.

In Martha’s second encounter, Christ arrives after Lazarus’ body had been in the tomb for 4 days and Martha goes out of the house to meet Him. While Martha has grown in faith, believing Christ to be able to perform healing miracles (but not the ability to raise her brother from the dead), she expresses an imperfect faith, failing to understand that Christ is God. Christ corrects her, proclaiming, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Martha faithfully confirms her new understanding, calling Christ the “Son of God”, but she does not fully grasp Christ’s miraculous power for she will soon worry about the smell of death from the tomb.

Following Christ’s Ascension, tradition holds that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were set adrift on the Mediterranean without sail or oars and eventually landed in France where Martha evangelized many. St. Martha’s relics continue to be venerated in St Martha’s Collegiate Church in Tarascan, France.  St. Martha is the patron saint of housewives and domestic workers.

Awed by Jesus Christ – The Son of God, Christ inspires exceptional devotion by those like Martha and Mary who encounter Him. Divine Teacher, who is full of perfect Wisdom, Christ draws the willing to Himself for relationship and learning.  Divine King, Christ calls people to make Him their absolute priority and to fulfill their worldly duties.  Divine Mercy and the Perfection of Virtue, Christ patiently and gently corrects Martha.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) The dignity of women is assaulted by women who stigmatize the vocation of women as wife and mother and by men who abuse women by reducing them to objects. Marvel that Christ breaks religious and cultural norms by calling women into discipleship and upholds the dignity of women.

2) Like St. Martha, men in the hyper-competitive world often become stressed and obsessed with work. Others, mired in self-absorption and sloth, reject work and live off the labor of others. Reflect on the Catechism’s teaching about Work (CCC 378, 1914, 1193, 2172, 2184-2188, 2428) and pray for Christ to give you the wisdom and drive to balance work and leisure so as to grow in holiness.

3) In busyness and distractions of the world, men forget about the powerful champions Christ has given men in the Saints. Renew your understanding of the Communion of the Saints (CCC 946-962, 2683) and pray for Christ to help you to be strengthened by your patron Saint(s) (CCC 2165, 2156) and those Saints who can help you prevail over your life challenges.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Trinity

Virtue of the Day – Charity

Corporal Work of Mercy – To feed the hungry

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To admonish the sinner

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Friday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 13:18-23.

After describing to the disciples the mysterious reasons why He teaches in parables, Christ continues with His “Sermon in Parables” in Matthew 13 by revealing to His disciples an in-depth understanding of the Parable of the Sower. This magnificent parable describes the disposition of men to hear God, the Spiritual Combat, the confirmation of Satan’s work in the world and God’s high expectations of fruitfulness for His men.

Christ describes four different dispositions (Soils) to God’s (the Sower) announcement (Sowing) of the word of Kingdom of Heaven (the Seed). Men who hear about the Kingdom but because of their worldliness and hardness of heart (the path) fail to understand and are seduced by the Evil One/Satan (the birds). Men who hear but only have an initial shallow emotional reaction (rocky ground with shallow roots) fall away when tribulation/persecution (the scorching sun) occurs.  Men who hear but prefer and are choked by the pleasures of the world (the thorns) fail to bear fruit. Men who hear, understand and persevere to enter the Kingdom (the good soil), spread love and make disciples (bear extraordinary fruit) for God (the Sower).

Christ seeks men who will hear, understand, have an absolute commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven and who bear much fruit (the good soil). All others in Christ’s parable who do not give themselves completely to Him face bad outcomes: some are seduced by Satan, others are “scorched” by troubles in the world and some are “choked” out by riches/pleasures and become sterile.  Only the “good soil” men will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Awed by Jesus ChristDivine King, Christ reveals the reactions of men to His Kingdom and accepts only men who understand and give themselves totally to bear signifiant fruit. Divine Teacher, Christ draws men to Him through parables that are memorable, approachable and mysterious. Divine Judge, Christ makes it clear that many men (the path, rocky ground, thorny ground) will fail to meet His expectations and will not enter into the eternal life of the Kingdom.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ’s description of the “soils” in the Parable of the Sower accurately describe today’s Catholic “man-crisis”; very few Catholic men (perhaps about 10%) fervently practice the faith and are passionate about making disciples. Marvel at Christ’s all-knowing and eternal understanding of the souls of men.

2) Christ condemns men’s sterile reactions (indifference, emotionalism, preference for the world) to His invitation to the Kingdom. Consider the Sins against God’s Love (CCC 29, 2094) and pray for Christ to give you a burning desire to give yourself completely to Him.

3) 3) Christ has extremely high expectations (100, 60 and 30 fold!) for the fruit men fit for the Kingdom of Heaven must produce, fruitfulness only possible for men who are moved by the Holy Spirit. Consider the need for Fruitfulness and Holiness (CCC 546, 2074, 2012-2016) and with a hard eye and Holy Fear, face your own fruitfulness and pray for Christ to send the Holy Spirit to help you to be more fruitful.

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

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Thursday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 13:10-17.

After giving the Parable of the Sower to the large crowd, Christ’s disciples ask why He is speaking in parables. In response, Christ reveals a glimpse of the supernatural mystery of how God calls all men, accepting that many men will refuse His gracious invitation. He blesses those who seek Him and allows those who reject Him to suffer the consequences.

The parables of Chapter 13 offer a small partial insight into Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven; the fullness of the Kingdom is beyond Man’s ability to comprehend. The Eternal King reveals “secrets” of the Kingdom of Heaven as a rite of initiation to those who are prepared and willing to accept the Kingdom. The “mystery” of the Kingdom is not a puzzle or problem to be solved, but a supernatural revelation that God offers to intrigue and inspire His men to continually commit to seek Him.

As Christ earlier taught the Apostles to deny His teaching to those who are unreceptive (Matt 7:6), He now has begun teaching with parables which make no sense to the unreceptive. For the disciples, and for all all men of good will who seek Christ and His Kingdom, He promises abundant blessings which include a growing peace and joy on earth and the eternal joy in the life to come. Those whom Christ has blessed to be alive and to be exposed to Him, but who reject Him, will lose everything, including their eternal salvation.

Awed by Jesus ChristDivine King, Christ purposefully established a hierarchy for the Church by giving authority, the Sacraments and deeper teaching to the Apostles.  Divine Judge, Christ selectively gives Himself to the willing and accepts that many reject Him (at their eternal peril). Divine Prophet, Christ reaffirms the insights He inspired Isaiah to write 700 years earlier.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) In Matthew 13, Christ, the Son of God, offers a glimpse into the Kingdom of Heaven (CCC 543-546). To grow in faith, spend some time reflecting on the truth that God really exists, came to Earth and reveals the supernatural reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.

2) Christ purposefully speaks in dozens of parables, knowing that some will be led to follow Him and others will fail to hear and understand His parables. Reflect upon Christ’s use of Parables (CCC 546, 2607) and commit to ponder Christ’s parables, beginning with the 8 parables found in Matthew 13.

3) After the Apostles were graced to be taught the hidden meaning of Christ’s parables, they passed Christ’s wisdom down through the ages in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Reflect upon the great blessing of the Magisterium of the Church (CCC 994-998, 888-892, 2032-2040), give thanks to Christ and pray that He helps you grow in understanding of His teachings preserved in the Church.

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

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Wednesday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 13:1-9.

After humiliating the Pharisees and withdrawing to avoid their murderous plans, Christ teaches the huge crowds that follow Him with a series of parables (Matt 13) about the hidden mysteries of His Kingdom present in the Church. A parable is short story that uses familiar images to draw the willing to ponder a cryptic deeper truth. Christ uses parables to draw the humble to ponder and hunger for God and to conceal His teachings from the prideful and to pronounce judgment on those who reject Him.

Leaving the house (likely Peter’s), Christ goes out by the Sea of Galilee and sits, assuming the honored posture of a rabbi. Because of the crush of a great crowd that followed Him, He went out in a boat to teach those standing on the shore. Using His knowledge of natural acoustics and His robust voice, the thousands on the shore can hear Him.

Christ begins the teachings about the Kingdom of God with the Parable of the Sower, using imagery very familiar to the crowd; all were familiar with agriculture and Jews would recall that the “Sower” often refers to God in the Old Testament (Isa 55:10-11; Jer 31:27-28). This magnificent parable describes the disposition of men to hear God, the Spiritual Combat, the confirmation of Satan’s work in the world and God’s expectations of men to be fruitful.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of Man, Christ uses His immense physical power and stamina to be heard by large crowds. Divine Teacher, full of Wisdom and the Greatest Orator, Christ uses compelling and memorable parables that draw on everyday experience to selectively teach those willing to hear. Divine Judge, Christ uses parables to reveal the truth about eternal reward and eternal punishment.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) From HIs Divine Conception until now and forever, Christ draws the multitudes to Himself. Be awed at the mysterious power of Christ to convert the hearts and minds of billions of people. To draw closer to your King, commit to take a Holy Hour in Adoration this week.

2) With the myriad of human knowledge, trivialities and perversion on the internet, many men fritter away hours a day, saturating their minds with useless information and damning filth. Reflect upon the Wisdom of Christ (CCC 215-217, 426-429) and pray for Christ to help you saturate your mind with wisdom that helps you grow in holiness.

3) With the Father from the beginning, Christ created the world and, during the Incarnation, Christ spent time in solitude in nature and used nature extensively in His parables. Reflect upon God’s Creation of The Visible World (CCC 299, 337-354) and ask Christ to turn you from the “virtual world” of the internet and to regularly spend time in communion with Christ in His Creation.

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

The Gospel reading for the Feast of St. James is Matthew 20:20-28.

After Christ describes His coming Passion which will include being mocked, scourged and crucified, rather than shocked and prayerful sorrow, immediately the mother of the “Sons of Thunder”, James and John, kneels before Christ and selfishly asks Christ to “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.” Instead of a harsh rebuke for her ill-timed demand to glorify her sons, Christ addresses James and John, probably because they have put their mother up to the request. Christ patiently confirms their ignorance and asks if they can “drink the chalice”; this is a mysterious reference to His Crucifixion. Christ confirms they will indeed “drink my chalice”, a reference to their own suffering (James is martyred and John is exiled), but defers to the Father’s Will as to how each will be rewarded.

The 10 other Apostles are indignant at James’ and John’s desire to be honored by Christ above them. Christ, aware of their anger, summons the Apostles and rebukes their desire for honor. Comparing their desires for glory to the lust for power of the Gentiles, Christ directs the disciples to instead model their behavior on Him and aspire to be a servant and slave for the salvation of others.

Following Christ’s Ascension, James spread the Gospel across Israel and in Spain. Returning to Jerusalem, James is the first Apostle to be martyred when he is beheaded by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2). After his death, the relics of St. James were taken to Spain where they continue to be venerated at the Cathedral in Santiago (from the Latin for “St. James”); thousands walk the the famous pilgrim’s Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) which ends at the tomb of St. James, a distance of some 500 miles. St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Awed by Jesus ChristDivine Leader, Christ forms and leads the Apostles to witness His Passion and Resurrection in Jerusalem.  Divine Prophet, Christ accurately provide details of His own death and the suffering of the disciples. Divine King, Christ talks tough to His disciples, rebuking their indignation and foolish desire for honor and directing them to imitate His humility and service.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Despite forming the Apostles for three years and clearly describing His imminent betrayal, torture and murder, the Apostles selfishly vie for honor. Be amazed at Christ’s merciful patience.

2) The 10 Apostles’ anger at James and John is due to their envy of the honor the Sons of Thunder have requested. Review the 10th Commandment (CCC 2534-2557) and pray for Christ to help you eradicate envy of others.

3) In busyness and distractions of the world, men forget about the powerful champions Christ has given men in the Saints. Renew your understanding of the Communion of the Saints (CCC 946-962, 2683) and pray for Christ to help you to be strengthened by your patron Saint(s) (CCC 2165, 2156) and those Saints who can help you prevail over your life challenges.

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