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God’s First

  • June 22, 2022 (readings)
  • Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
  • Janet McLaughlin
  • Matthew 7:15-20

    Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

    Opening Prayer:  Jesus, I am filled with gratitude that I have this time with you. At times I struggle to settle myself before you, but here I am, and I know you are here as well. As I quiet my heart, I am struck by your great love for me. You choose to be here for me. You want to know my thoughts and feelings, my struggles and successes. I believe that you hear and answer me. I trust in your goodness and kindness; my life is in your hands. Thank you, Lord, for your love that allows me to love you in return.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. The Fruit of Martyrdom: Each year, during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB holds up the example of the saints whose feast days we celebrate today: St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. These men were martyred for their opposition to the divorce of King Henry VIII of England and the king’s claim to be the supreme head of the Church in England. Their fidelity to their consciences would not allow them to accept the king’s claim. These men “show us what faithful citizenship looks like. They loved and served their country. In the moments just before his execution, More is said to have stated, ‘I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first’… These men gave their lives for the freedom of the Church and for freedom of conscience” (USCCB website). Does our identity as an American in any way take precedent over our identity as a Catholic? 

    2. By Their Fruit You Know Them: This Gospel teaches us that, “Words are not enough to reveal the true state of the human heart; rather, faith expressed in deeds of charity reflect the inner good of the person. Those who profess right beliefs but do not live out the Gospel message do not exhibit a true picture of Christ” (CCC 2005). St. Thomas More was a married layman, a lawyer who rose to the position of Lord Chancellor of England. He resigned his post when work for the king became untenable because of the king’s faltering faith. Their relationship was strained by Thomas’s refusal to endorse Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. St. Thomas More was able to face the conviction of treason with subsequent imprisonment and beheading because he had lived the strength of his convictions throughout his life. He lived the duties of his state in life well. He was a man of prayer and penance. His life was a testament to his faith in Christ, and the fruit was a charity that enabled him to stand up for the Gospel message rather than acquiescing to a distortion of that message. How do we face the challenges to the Catholic faith that occur during our daily life? 

    3. To Be a Prophet: As part of the rite of Baptism, we are anointed, and this anointing unites us with Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king (cf. CCC 1241). Being a prophet means bringing the truth of God to our reality—into the circumstances of our daily lives and to the people we encounter. This prophetic role requires both that we are faithful to daily prayer and that we make the effort to form ourselves. We need to prepare ourselves to authentically proclaim the Gospel in a way that meets the needs of our times, impacting the society in which we live. This means sharing the truths of the faith and our love for Christ with our children and godchildren, and with our grandchildren. We need to live lives that give visible testimony to our faith. 

    Conversing with Christ: Jesus, as I consider St. Thomas More, I reflect that you call me to holiness. You call me to make you the center of my life and to place nothing above you. Lord, give me the courage to walk boldly in faith, willing to live my faith visibly and to speak out when led to by your Holy Spirit. Help me remember that I am yours above all else. Help me remember that the world needs witnesses. Make me a faithful witness, Lord. 

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will review my daily schedule to compare the time spent in leisure activities like watching television or pleasure reading with time spent in formative activities and service/apostolate, and I plan to implement one change that will enable me to give more of myself to God.

    For Further Reflection: Watch the classic 1966 movie “A Man for All Seasons” which dramatizes the story of St. Thomas More or this clip. Another option is to read “Priests, Prophets, Kings” by Bishop Robert Barron. 


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