After the Annunciation at which Mary gave her fiat to be the Mother of God and heard of the miraculous conception of her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth who was now six months pregnant, Mary (and likely Joseph) made the journey to the hill country of Judea to be with Elizabeth. Mary, the “handmaiden of the Lord” remained with the elderly Elizabeth for three months to help in the final trimester and probably to assist in the birth of John the Baptist; it is uncertain if Mary (and Joseph) were present at John’s circumcision.

Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy (she had been barren and was past child-bearing age) and the prominent Zechariah’s strange muteness (caused by his disbelief; Luke 1:20) attracted great interest; when John was born, all the neighbors rejoiced.

When John was to be circumcised on the 8th day, Elizabeth, who had been informed by the mute Zechariah through gestures of the name of the child, speaks for the mute Zechariah, saying “…he shall be called John” (Hebrew, meaning “God is gracious”).  Skeptical and perhaps surprised that Elizabeth has spoken for Zechariah (it was the father who speaks during the circumcision rite for their sons), those present are astonished when Zechariah confirms by writing John’s name. Immediately, Zechariah miraculously regains his speech and praises God, causing great fear among the neighbors. Even though still a newborn, John causes great commotion throughout the hill country as people wonder, “What then will this child be?”

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ causes the miraculous conceptions of both Mary and Elizabeth. Son of Man, Christ is likely present in Mary’s womb at the birth of John the Baptist. Divine Judge, Christ both allows the muting and un-muting of Zechariah.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Salvation History is full of unexpected and mysterious connections. Consider that Mary assists Elizabeth with the birth of her son John the Baptist and that John grows up to assist Mary’s Son by announcing Christ’s public ministry (Luke 3).

2) The people wonder, “What then shall this child be?”  The answer is given 30 years later: John the Baptist will be the fearsome “Prophet of the Most High”, the greatest prophet who prepares the way for Christ. Be awed by John the Baptist (CCC 523) and ask the Baptist to give you the courage to witness to Christ.

3) While the consequences for disbelief in every day life are less obvious than the muting of Zechariah, every man bears the loss of God’s grace for disbelief.  Pray for Christ to help you grow in Faith (CCC 26, 143, 150, 1814-1816, 2087-2089) and that you may unconditionally accept God’s grace in all aspects of your life.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virtue of the Day – Hope

Corporal Work of Mercy – To bury the dead

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To pray for the living and the dead

After severely rebuking the unrepentant cities (Matt 11:20-24), in His prayer to the Father, Christ now offers a privileged glimpse into the intimacy of the Trinity and provides hope for the men who obediently follow Him.  In just a few short lines, Christ’s prayer to the Father is a powerful blessing that reveals the closeness of the Father and the Son. He reveals the perfect love between the Father and the Son. He reveals His perfect obedience to and reverence for the Father. He expresses His heart-deep thanks for His Father’s blessings. He acknowledges the power the Father has given Him in the world. He confirms the Father’s dominion over Creation.

Christ’s prayer also reveals how men can draw closer to God. Through His example, Christ demonstrates how men can speak with God. He reveals that through the Father’s gracious will, God is hidden from the arrogant (self-proclaimed “wise”) and revealed to the innocent (infants); that only through humble obedience and dependence, men can be open to receiving Christ’s Wisdom. To receive Wisdom, He reveals that the only way to God the Father is through the Son.

Christ’s call to take on His yoke life-changing. The yoke is His yoke, through which men are united with Christ. Christ does not impose His yoke, but gives man free will to give himself to Him. Christ promises those men who commit (to “yoke” themselves to Christ) to draw closer to Him and the Father will receive rest for their souls from the heavy burdens of life; Christ will teach men how to live with humility, gentleness and love. His yoke becomes the vocation of disciples to labor for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ reveals glimpses of the relationship of the Father and the Son. Son of God, Jesus asserts that God has the power to influence the lives of men and does so. Almighty King, Christ reveals that only through Him can men be drawn to the Father.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is perfectly united with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Marvel at how Christ generously has allowed you to get a glimpse of His closeness to the Father in today’s reading.

2) On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church turns attention to Christ’s heart-felt closeness, reverence, gratitude and obedience to the Father and His deep desire to save all men. Renew your understanding and love of the Heart of the Incarnate Word (CCC 478) and pray for Christ to draw your heart to His.

3) To St. Margret Mary Alacoque was revealed the blessed promises to those who devote themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Research the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pray for Christ to reveal if He is calling you to this particular form of devotion.

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 daily Gospel reading from the Mass for Thursday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 6:7-15.

After condemning conspicuous piety and teaching men the appropriate way to pray, fast and give alms in the the Sermon on the Mount, Christ now gives men the glorious Lord’s Prayer. In preparation, Christ first condemns the mindless prayer of those who babble many words, ignorantly trying to appeal to their many gods with the hope of uttering a prayer that might be heard.

Assuring that God the Father knows what men need to give them confidence in prayer, Christ instructs men in the Lord’s Prayer so men may pray with right hearts and successfully petition God. Beginning with the communal, Our Father, Christ affirms the need for fraternity and for brothers to pray to God as the Heavenly hallowed Father who’s will is to be done.

Christ emphasizes man’s dependence on the Father in daily life, for salvation and for protection against Satan (the Evil One). He teaches that men are totally dependent on God for daily bread, including bodily nourishment (i.e. every day food) and spiritual nourishment (i.e. the supernatural bread of the Eucharist). A stunning call to perfection, Christ reveals that God will forgive men their trespasses in the same way that men forgive the trespasses of other men; men are not forgiven who do not first forgive other men.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ authoritatively asserts that God is to be addressed as “Father” and with special divine omniscience reveals that men must forgive if they hope for God to forgive them.  Almighty King, Christ denounces false prayer, commands men to pray the Our Father, holds men to the incredible standard of forgiveness and warns of the Evil One (Satan).

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Jesus Christ, the Almighty King, taught men how to pray 2000 years ago; billions continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Be awed by the Son of God’s life-changing impact on the daily behaviors of billions of people across time.

2) Christ emphasizes prayer through His preaching and His own prayer life.  He specifically asserts the Our Father is at the at the center of a man’s prayer life. Commit to grow in understanding of the Our Father (CCC 2759-2865) and to pray it every single day.

3) As Christ teaches the Lord’s Prayer to the disciples (Luke 11:1-4), the very first word is the collective “Our”, underscoring the critical importance that Christ places on fraternity in prayer among men. Renew your understanding of the importance of Catholic Fraternity (CCC 361, 1931,1939-1942) and commit to seek out other Catholic men to build fraternity, strengthening each other, like “iron sharpens iron” (Prov 27:17).

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 daily Gospel reading from the Mass for Wednesday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time is Matt 6:1-6; 16-18.

After confirming how His New Covenant requires men to pursue a much higher state of inner holiness than required by the Old Covenant, Christ continues His  Sermon of the Mount by instructing men as to how to engage in religious practices. Christ teaches the correct way to give alms, pray and fast, rebuking hypocrites who seek self-glorification from others through prideful conspicuous acts of piety.

Christ confirms the importance of religious piety but instructs men to perform their acts of religious piety with humility and secrecy. Christ reveals the Father knows even the most secret of acts by men, confirming the Father’s omniscience; nothing is hidden from the Father including secret acts, both pious and evil. Christ reveals the Father rewards those acts done with a spirit of humble piety but will not reward acts taken for self-glorification.

Warning men, Christ condemns the hypocrites who make a public spectacle of giving alms to bring attention to themselves. While Christ desires for men to do good deeds to proclaim Christ (Matt 5:16), He also directs men to give anonymously to avoid the temptation to self-glorification. Christ confirms God the Father sees all and rewards men who selflessly give to the poor. Similarly, Christ suggests avoiding showy prayer in public, urging men to practice deep private prayer as He demonstrated numerous times (Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35); elsewhere, Christ and His Church emphasizes the practice of communal prayer (Matt 18:20; Acts 1:12-14). God desires and rewards men for their humble prayers. Christ also emphasizes the need to fast, promising that God sees and rewards humble fasting and ignores fasting by hypocrites who seek praise from others.

Awed by Jesus ChristAlmighty King, Christ has Divine Authority and commands His disciples to rigorous disciplines that put love into action.Son of God, Christ reveals the Father’s omniscience and how the Father rewards humble piety and ignores the false piety of men. Divine Mercy, Christ asserts His special concern for the poor. Divine Judge, Christ rebukes hypocrites who pervert good deeds for self-glorification and promises the Heavenly Father repays men for their good deeds.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ makes a public authoritative correction of the standards of piety of some of the most powerful religious men in Jerusalem. Be awed by Christ’s Divine Authority, boldness, courage and clarity in correcting the vain sins of powerful men.

2) Many hypocrites seek glory and honor by conspicuous “charity”, and many more fail to give adequately to the poor. Review the importance of almsgiving (CCC 2447, 1430) and pray for Christ to help you to grow in generosity.

3) The majority of Catholic men do not pray or fast on a regular basis. Refresh your commitment to Daily Prayer (CCC 2659-2660, 2744-2745) and regular Fasting (CCC 1434, 1969, 2043, 2742) and pray for Christ to help you to draw closer to Him through daily prayer and regular fasting.

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 daily Gospel reading from the Mass for Tuesday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time is Matt 5:43-48.

Christ continues to reveal the New Covenant in the Sermon on the Mount with the stunning command for His followers to love everyone, including enemies. He begins by summarizing a common understanding of the Old Covenant (Lev 19:18; Deut 20) as, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Many Jews restricted the definition of “neighbor” to Jews only, hating or shunning the occupying Romans and other Gentiles.

Christ makes a shocking commandment that men must love and pray for enemies who persecute them if they are to be children of God. He puts men in their place, calling them “children” while reminding them of their own dependence on the Heavenly Father (for rain and sun) and that it is God’s mysterious will to allow the evil to exist.

Christ denounces men’s lukewarm attempts to love, comparing them unfavorably to tax collectors and pagans, revealing men gain no merit without loving enemies. So there is no confusion about the the extraordinary love He commands His followers to live out, Christ insists they must be “perfect” using God’s perfect love as the standard.

Awed by Jesus ChristAlmighty King of all Creation, Christ commands that those who wish to be children of God must love their enemies with perfection.  The omnipotent Divine Teacher, Christ confirms the Heavenly Father’s willingness to allow both good and bad men to survive and confirms man’s absolute dependence on God.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1)  Christ is often falsely portrayed as kind of a permissive mother who makes no demands and whose mercy tolerates any and every unrepentant sin. Be awed by Christ’a manly demand for perfection in love as a requirement of those who wish to be children of Father.

2) Christ specifically calls Catholic men to love enemies; to be a disciple of Christ, men must love every single person. Reflect upon the Catechism’s teaching on the Love of Enemies (CCC 1825, 1933, 1968, 2262, 2303, 2647, 2844) and ask Christ to help you specifically Identify, forgive and love those who have done evil to you.

3) Many Catholic men are not only failing to aspire to perfection but are failing to keep even the basic Precepts of the Church (CCC 2041-2043). Reflect on Christ’s non-negotiable Call to Perfection (CCC 1693, 2013) and pray for Christ to help you to grow in holiness each day.

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