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“As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ And to another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ But he answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’ To him Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62).
 
When we are young and idealistic, we often find ourselves able to say with genuine enthusiasm, “I’ll go with you anywhere, Lord! Here I am, Lord, send me.” The first apostles dropped their nets and responded immediately to Jesus’ invitation to “follow me”.
 
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the first apostles thought their kingly Messiah was riding in triumph to claim his earthly throne. But it didn’t take long for the glory of Palm Sunday to become the terror of Good Friday. His followers scattered in fear. Peter, his chosen representative, denied his master three times. The apostles could not keep their promise to follow him wherever he would go.
 
Jesus’ sobering words to Peter should be sobering to us as well: Someone will “lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). The enthusiastic early promises we make are purified through suffering. Like Jesus and Peter, God will lead us where we would rather not go. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded in terror, “let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39). But Jesus was quickly consoled by God’s Spirit of Love, so that he could yield himself completely to his Father’s will, “not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Realizing that Jesus knows full well the fearful reality of embracing the call to sacrificial love, we can pray in confidence for the grace to follow him to the cross, and through the cross to Easter and the fullness of life.
 
If the fearful Peter, who denied his master three times, could be brought by the power of the Holy Spirit to embrace death by crucifixion, perhaps we can endure those lesser forms of persecution that we may experience when we say our “yes.”
 
– How do you respond when God leads you where you would rather not go?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store.
 
Illustration by Eugene Salandra.

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Father_SonA father’s first duty is to protect his children. That goes for not only earthly dads, but for our Heavenly father as well. His embrace encompasses even those furthest from him.
 
This is why the words we hear most often in Scripture are “Do not be afraid.”
 
Many wonder why a loving God of mercy puts up with evil, why bad things happen to good people while the sinful often seem to prevail. The world is what it is, because God has created us fully free.
 
A Carmelite writer describes God’s mercy this way:
 
“It is like a declaration of love from God to humanity, to each one of us; it is a pledge of fidelity that is relayed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, and finally comes down to us.”
 
We, too, have to pay attention to these words. After all, Jesus was not one to talk for the sake of hearing himself.
 
Through the ages, God’s message to Dads remains, “Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn” (1 Kings 2:2-3).
 
Our prayer today:
 

Heavenly Father,
your mercy flows from age to age
like a river through time.
Bless our earthly fathers
as we celebrate them on this, their day.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’ Then he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter said in reply, ‘The Christ of God.’ He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’ Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it’” (Luke 9:18-24).
 
Peter was able to proclaim Jesus as “the Christ of God,” but he had little understanding of what this messiahship entailed. Peter did not yet understand that the Messiah would sacrifice himself for the well-being of others, and that he would expect his followers to do the same for each other. Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. The key word in this phrase is “our”—“take up our cross.” Yes, we have to follow Jesus to the cross to get to resurrection, but our cross is not the same as Jesus’ cross. Yes, we will have to take up the cross of Jesus and accept his yoke on our shoulders, but we will not be overwhelmed. Jesus will never let that cross be more than we can bear.
 
Similarly, each time we receive the blood of Jesus in Communion, we are aware of Jesus’ question, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink” (Matthew 20:22)? We can say “yes” when we realize that each of us has our own particular “cup” to embrace. Each day we are asked to pick up our unique cup and drink it to the full. Where is the grace to do this? Among other graces, Jesus has given us his own eucharistic presence to inspire and sustain us.
 
– What supports or graces are available to help you with your crosses?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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King_DavidThe Second Book of Samuel tells of the great sin King David committed when he had one of his soldiers purposely slain in battle so David could take the man’s wife for his own.
 
Speaking through the prophet Nathan, God told David, “You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down”
(2 SM 12:12).
 
David confessed his crime aloud to the prophet Nathan, who answered, “The Lord has forgiven your sin; you shall not die.”
 
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we treasure in a special way the repentant King David’s beautiful Psalm 103, which expresses his acceptance of and gratitude for God’s mercy:
 

“The Lord is compassion and kindness, full of patience, full of mercy.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve; he does not pay us back for our wrongdoing.
As high as the sky above the earth, so great is his kindness to those who revere him.
As far as east is from west, so far he has put our wrongdoing from us.”

 
Our prayer today:
 

Divine God of Mercy,
help us always remember that you care for us
as a mother cares for her children,
even when we least deserve it.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.’
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The others at table said to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Luke 7:36-39, 44-50).
 
Every party has a guest list. Even the most open celebration has an implied set of “undesirables” who are not welcome. So we can imagine the reaction when a “sinful woman” from the city shows up at Simon the Pharisee’s by-invitation-only dinner party. To make matters worse, she makes a scene by crying and pouring a jar of scented oil over Jesus’ feet.
 
When Jesus fails to rebuke the woman as Simon expects, Simon begins to doubt that Jesus is a prophet. He assumes that Jesus must be ignorant, because no man of God would willingly associate with a sinner—nevermind let her touch him!
 
Both Simon and the woman have made mistakes, and Jesus accepts them both. The difference between them is that one has an appreciation for how much grace she has been given, while the other does not. Simon believes that any sins he has committed are far less than those of the penitent woman —in other words, that she has far more need of forgiveness. Accordingly, Simon’s interest in Jesus is strictly intellectual. He respects Jesus, he includes him among the dinner guests, but has little emotional attachment to him.
 
The woman, on the other hand, shows her love for Jesus devotionally. She cares for him and weeps over the sins that have damaged their closeness. Simon’s and the woman’s relationships reflect their awareness of grace. Simon clings to the idea that he is self-sufficient and has little patience for the grace Jesus shows the woman. The woman refuses to be put off by Simon’s judgment. She acknowledges Jesus’ grace, hears his call, and comes to him despite being the undesired guest.
 
When we take time to think about how much grace God has shown us, we too learn to love God devotionally and to see more clearly the physical and spiritual needs of those around us. The grace we receive enables us to become instruments of grace in the lives of others, and we set aside the notion that we shouldn’t associate with the “unworthy.” This is what Jesus taught Simon—since all are unworthy, all are worthy.
 
– How can you break the habit of judgment? How can you help heal the damage done by judging others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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