Gospel for March 27, 2011 — Eternity

peppermint marshmallow squares
Image by Jocelyn | McAuliflower via Flickr

The Gospel for March 27, 2011 is from John 4:5-42 where Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well.  Jesus talks about how He offers water from which someone will never thirst and He has food the world has never known.  One interpretation of Jesus’ words is that He is talking about His body and blood found in the Eucharist which we pray about in the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the rosary.  The Eucharist provides us spiritual energy so that we have the power to focus on what should be the goal of our lives — to one day live in eternal happiness in Heaven.

Jesus compares physical bread and water to spiritual ones.  He explains that when people consume physical bread and water they will be hungry and thirsty again.  But spiritual bread and water are eternally sustaining.  But Jesus is not just talking about being hungry or thirsty.  Jesus essentially compares all our physical wants and needs against our spiritual ones.  It is too often that we tend to focus on our physical needs and neglect our spiritual side.  For example, many of us spend so much time and energy handling finances, world events, politics, social problems, family issues, and work anxieties.  But how often do we focus on our relationship with God?  Do we only give Him one hour a week at Mass if that?  And yet, how much more important is our spiritual health considering that it will determine whether we will spend all eternity in the happiness of Heaven or suffer the misery of Hell?  And even when we do focus on our spiritual needs, do we have the energy and courage to follow the Holy Spirit and do what is right?

Unfortunately, we often are not even putting our physical needs in front of our spiritual ones.  More often, we put physical wants ahead of everything.  We focus on our jobs and finances, not to provide for ourselves and our dependants, but for our wants.  We work for iPods and iPads, expensive clothes, flat screen TVs, movies, and smart phones.  And while none of these are inherently bad (we all need ways to relax), problems arise when we put those wants in front of our spiritual needs.  Like the women in the Gospel who had five husbands, we often live in pursuit of moments of temporary happiness.  We can probably picture this Samaritan woman choosing husbands for all the wrong reasons and getting involved with people mostly because they provided her with some short-term happiness.  But like many things rooted in worldly happiness, they are shallow and it is not long before we crave something newer, different, and better.

In contrast to what this world can provide, Jesus offers us eternal happiness.  But to obtain that we have to look past the temporary joys of this world even if that means temporary suffering.  Unfortunately, many times we lose site of that long term goal of Heaven and settle for shallow, temporary happiness.  Our challenge is to see past our temporary wants and live for eternal joy.  After all, what’s 80, 90, or 100+ years of life compared to an eternity of love and happiness?

Life is basically a much longer and tougher Marshmallow Test.  Watch the video below and notice how difficult it is for the children to forgo the smaller reward (one marshmallow) and wait for a larger one (two marshmallows).  Yes it is humorous to watch and wonder why it is so difficult for kids to wait for a better reward.  But as adults we really are not any better.  Instead of marshmallows, we often settle for worldly happiness at the expense of eternal joy.  We so easily accept what the world offers even when it goes against our faith.  We do this because it makes our life easier, makes us popular, and avoids confrontation.  It is amazing how we so easily throw away that grace through sin or just not putting a lot of effort into growing our spiritual endurance.

The Eucharist gives us the spiritual energy we need to live for the long term goal of eternal joy in God’s Heavenly kingdom.  That is why we should receive it with a heart and mind focused on doing Jesus’ will.  If we truly have the desire to live in God’s grace then the Holy Spirit will show us the way and the Eucharist will provide us the energy.  When you pray The Fifth Luminous Mystery of the rosary meditate on this Sunday’s Gospel.  Ask yourself, are you living for the temporary happiness of this world at the expense of eternal joy?  This week and throughout Lent may we all pray for the strength to focus on what’s really important — living for God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

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Gospel for February 6, 2011 — Let It Shine!

A lamp in the night
Image via Wikipedia

The Gospel for February 6, 2011 is from Matthew 5:13-16 where Jesus tells His apostles to be a light to the world and not to hide it.  In Mt 5:15 Jesus says, “Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house.”  The Fifth Luminous Mystery of the rosary, The Institution of the Eucharist, reminds us how that sacrament makes us a light of grace and goodness to the world which we must not hide.

As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist.  When we receive the host in the sacrament of Communion, we literally receive Jesus.  That means that we receive His grace and that is what sustains us spiritually throughout the week.  Much like how our body needs food and water to survive, our soul needs Jesus through the Eucharist.  And we use that grace and spiritual energy to be a “light to the world” as Jesus says in the Gospel.  We must remember that we not only receive a gift of grace in this sacrament but also the obligation to live our faith for all the world to see.

Often we forget our spiritual obligations of receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist.  We may receive Jesus, but we negate any of the sacrament’s benefits when we choose to sin.  Much like the light under the basket in the Gospel, the grace of Jesus Christ can be hidden by our lust, gluttony, greed, envy, or any other sinful behavior.

Our behavior can have a ripple effect.  Jesus calls us to do good deeds so that other will see them and be influenced to do good as well.  This should be easy since, much like how a lamp radiates light, someone in God’s grace should just radiate goodness and love.  For example, we probably all know some good, solid people in our lives who are just a pleasure to be around.  They don’t need to try to be good but instead goodness just comes out naturally from them.  Those people are good examples for us since they are guided by the Holy Spirit to show God’s love.  However, be careful not to mistake living your faith with showing off.  Jesus says later in Matthew’s Gospel that He does not want us to show off good works for the sake of receiving praise from others.  Instead, our good works should always be directed towards giving glory to God.

When you hear this Gospel or meditate on the Fifth Luminous Mystery while praying the rosary, ask yourself if you are glorifying God by living according to His will.  What type of example are you setting for those around you?  Will your behavior lead others to do good or to sin?  Do you proudly proclaim and live your faith publicly or is it something you hide from the world?  And if you do live your faith, do you do it to win the praise and glory of others or to glorify God?  Throughout the week, remember this Gospel.  Do not be afraid.  Go out and be brave by living your faith for all to see.  If you receive God’s grace during the sacrament of the Eucharist, show it off!

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