St. Peter, More Than Head of the Church

St. Peter in Rome

St. Peter has always been close to me.  When I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003, one of the exercises which meant a lot to me then and still is an important part of my faith life was to choose a saint we would walk “the journey” with.  I chose St. Peter, not because he was the one chosen to lead the Holy Catholic Church by Jesus, but because Scripture accounts his weaknesses more than his strengths.

Peter is a ‘weak and sinful man’.  He confesses this to the Lord on the Sea of Galilee when he realizes that he has not fulfilled the Will which God has called him to, and perhaps acknowledging his lack of worthiness in the presence of the Lord.  This is an area which Peter is a constant work in progress.  He focusses on his inabilities and doubts, but this made him real, at least to me and was why I chose him as a saint to walk with me and pray with me.  I became Catholic and discerned my own vocation with a very real sense of the greater part of my life having been lived away from God and here I am, God wants to have a relationship with me?  I have felt at times like saying ‘go away from me Lord, I am a weak and sinful man.  But we also know, Jesus did not leave Peter.

Peter loves the Lord.  There’s no question about this.  He is ready to kill for Him (even though Jesus rebukes him, it’s out of love he wants to protect Jesus).  He recognizes Jesus for who He is out of love.  The Father reveals it to Peter directly, but Peter could only be receptive to the Father and see Jesus as the Son of God if his love was pure and true.  Even his sense of unworthiness comes from loving Jesus so dearly that he realizes he can’t live up to it.  Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water towards His Lord.

Peter confesses constantly.  There are many reasons as an adult convert and new Catholic I had for not accepting or preparing myself to go to confession.  This is why in parish ministry as a seminarian and priest, I made it an important decision to teach the session on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Among many other reasons, I turned toward the intercession of St. Peter to help me in my fear.  Peter’s constant admission of his faults not only makes him very real and very human, but this (I think) is why he was an effective leader of the Church.  Peter could have been remembered in many ways, but the way he is remembered in the Gospels is as a passionate, loving man, totally dedicated to the Master, but who had to constantly admit his own faults and weaknesses and in this way is a model for us all.

Peter is a model for us all.  Today, as we reflect upon the ministry of Peter, let us look to him as a model, not only in his leadership, but his leadership by example of walking the walk, living his faith and picking himself up and carrying on.  This is what secures his place in heaven; that he truly lived in the way Jesus called him – and us to live.

In the Midst of Sorrow, A Little Glory


Many years ago now, I was sitting in a hospital room with my mother, about a week before her death.  Obviously, as you could well imagine, this was a painful time, where I was well aware every conversation was precious because it might be the last one.  My mother rarely told stories like the one she told me that day because she wasn’t one to talk about dreams or signs.  But for someone so sick with cancer, she was in great spirits as she told me this story.

The evening before, as she lay in her bed after a pretty restless and difficult day she drifted off to sleep and woke up to see her grandmother who had died ten years before.  She was sitting in the chair I was sitting in and they talked.  My mother said it seemed like hours; one of the longest and greatest chats they ever had.  They talked about old times, she told my mom what heaven and God were like, she told Grandma how scared she was of what she was facing – of dying and my mother told me Grandma held her hand and said “Lynda, don’t you worry, everything’s going to be okay”.

My mother told me how much peace she had about Grandma’s visit and I remember her telling it like it was yesterday.  I wasn’t a priest at the time, not even in the seminary; I had only been a Catholic for a few months.  My mom and I spoke a lot about faith and God and in many ways what I was learning and coming to realize about God and shared with my mother was all that she had at this trying time of her life; it was her only connection to God except for an occasional visit from a chaplain.  My mother strongly felt Grandma’s visit to her was a sign from God and so do I.

Before I became Director of Vocations, I spent time with people who were sick and who were dying in my parish, and as anyone who ministers to the sick and dying will tell you – there are many, many stories like my mother’s.  We can’t explain it.  But there is a much, much deeper meaning to my story here today and it connects this story and similar stories to the Gospel today, the Transfiguration of Jesus.

If you’ve ever been to Mount Tabor, you’ll know it’s a very high mountain and it would have taken hours to climb the mountain; Jesus and the Apostles would have had to stop and rest a few times along the way.  Those hours would have been filled with mystery and a sense of the unknown.  The Apostles didn’t know what was to come, very much like we don’t know what’s to come in life; we always await the unexpected.  They witnessed something there on the mountain they could not explain, but something that gave them so much peace and comfort.

St. Peter acknowledges “it’s good to be here”.  I’ll bet you if we were to ask Peter why it was good to be there, he couldn’t exactly explain why, he just knew it was.  I knew it was good for me to be with my mother that day hearing that story, knowing it brought her peace and comfort, hearing her tell me someone she loved and trusted tell her it was going to be alright.  The parallels I’m drawing between my mom’s story and the beautiful Gospel account of the Transfiguration has many limits, and I wouldn’t imply that they are accounts of the same magnitude.  We also might wonder why only Peter, James and John went with Jesus that day.  Of course, we don’t know for sure.  But I’ve often wondered why I was the only one my mother told her experience to.  My sister didn’t know about it and heard it for the first time from me when my mother had passed away.

The Apostles shared faith with one another; as a priest I share this story and experience with others because it helped me find peace and comfort in my faith; knowing that the Lord was with my mother in her suffering and she had the experience of a trusted person in her life to help her.

We all have transforming moments of our lives, and we are all given a glimpse or foretaste of what God has planned for us.  We all have mysterious, unexplainable, glorious moments where God powerfully and personally reveals Himself to us.  I know the graces that take place in the midst of suffering.

Today’s Gospel requires us to stop and reflect.  St. Peter wants to set up tents; he wants to stay there, as anyone would want to remain in a wonderful place.  But that was not why they were there.  Jesus had to suffer His agonizing death to save humanity and that was yet to come.  This foretaste of heaven (surely that’s what it was) was to prepare the Apostles for what they too would undergo.  They would need to remember this day when times get tough, as they would in Jerusalem.  They would need to remember this day among others when their lives were demanded of them (as Peter and James’ were).  John would remember this day as he lived on to account to the next generation of believers.  Tougher days lie ahead for Jesus and the Apostles.

After this experience in my mother’s hospital room, she suffered and it wasn’t an easy week before her death, but I truly believe she found the peace, and I have no doubt that everything was alright.  Even though I mourned the loss of my mom, whom I loved, my faith was strengthened in God by this experience.  We need to hold on to the glorious moments we receive as a gift for the tougher days ahead.  My brothers and sisters in Christ, I offer this to you today for reflection; do you have those transforming experiences of your life whatever they may be; wrapped in mystery, peace; those “God” moments?  Let them be moments you reflect upon from time to time, because they are also the moments that will get you through the tough days when you’ll need them most.  May God bless you

Trying to Love our Enemies

love your enemies

Love your enemy! Jesus challenges the Christian today! He challenges us in a way that many of us fall short and perhaps wish we weren’t challenged. How many of us find it easy to love those who are mean to us, step on us or over us, those who hurt us with their words, their maliciousness, those who seem to be out to get us even? In the face of all the ugliness we face in the world we live in – retaliation, revenge, even indifference towards others, that seems far more palatable than to love those who stand against us in this world. We are told that this must be a part of who we are as Christians, but is this really that important? Can’t we just ignore rather than love our enemies?

Do as I say, not as I do. I remember this line well from my youth. I’m not convicting the adults in my life because there have been many times in my life when I have used the same principle in my own life; even as a priest, where I have encouraged the People of God whom I serve to be holy with very specific challenges and yet, I fall short in those specific areas myself. I think that this resonates with most of us; we struggle with being as true to our word as we’d like to be. Do as I say, not as I do – while it certainly seems like a ridiculous thing for a parent to say, it acknowledges a weakness that my parents had and there comes a point for most children when we discover our parent’s have faults & weaknesses. It this way of thinking may sound absurd, whether spoken or unspoken, it’s also a fairly absurd thing for a Christian to think too; especially since we are all aspiring to be Christ-like.

We may fall short (and we most likely will) but we can’t ever give up trying, striving for the ideal; to love our enemies, to really love them. To pray for them, if all we can do is fervently pray for them, we must do that – but we can’t be indifferent!  We can’t do nothing because if we do, we’re not being true to the Gospel, to Jesus. Anything other than fulfilling what Jesus tells us here in today’s Gospel is not to fulfil it! And we have our model. Jesus Himself and many who followed after Him (the early Christians) lived out this Gospel in a heroic and world-changing way. It seemed absolutely ridiculous to non-believers, to others like Saul of Tarsus (later St. Paul) to live in this way. Jesus wasn’t accepted by many of the Jewish people because they awaited a Messiah who would reign down fire and crush aggressors and destroy enemies, or assert such a power that enemies would “fall into line”. But let’s take a look at the world we all live in and the world we know through history from Galilee to today. Superpowers have risen and fallen; enemies were crushed by the Roman Empire yet the empire is gone, the Communist regimes stamped out opponents, even the supreme power the Americans have had I think we can objectively agree has not dealt, solved or fixed all the problems in the world, and power regimes rise and fall. But Jesus who loved His enemies to the very end – He prevails.

Martyrs who professed their faith and love of others until the very end are remembered throughout the world. These are people who by the shedding of their blood offer us encouragement in our own challenges, even if our challenges won’t be to shed a drop of blood. Our Lord and Holy Christian Martyrs model for us: “do as the Lord says, just as we do”. We all know that the example of a Christian is the best evangelization tool we have. Jesus concludes today’s Gospel not with a way out of this, but with comfort for the times we fall short. We hear Him say, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”. God knows we’re not perfect but He asks us to try anyway. A Christian man must strive for perfection, keep the bar raised high, as high as Jesus Himself kept it and admit when he has fallen short. Then we have the Sacraments (most especially the Sacrament of Forgiveness) to help us to keep moving in the right direction.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Anger

I know a few married couples who have a policy of not going to sleep at night hateful and angry with their spouse.  I admire this approach to life and the commit they make to resolve things; I also know how “human” it can be to hold resentments and to be angry for a prolonged period of time with other people.  The Gospel we hear tomorrow reminds us that one of the greatest challenges we’ve been given as Christians is to forgive others and to love our enemy.  Anger, resentment and an unforgiving heart are the chief obstacle to a deepening of love.  There will never be widespread evangelization and the spreading of the faith of Jesus Christ where love is stymied.  As I work with men discerning vocations to priesthood I can also tell you that unresolved anger, a lack of forgiveness and ability to deal with past issues is the greatest roadblock to good vocational discernment.

Letting go of things is of the essence in discernment of many things but most especially to discernment of one’s vocation.  Discernment of past hurts helps to free a person from the things that hold them back from a poor or distorted self-image.  One of the things many struggle with is self-hate.  Although this may seem not to be what Jesus is referring to in today’s Gospel when He says “leave your gifts at the altar and go forgive…” I believe it’s an important part of the Gospel.  The priest who suffers from self-hate will have a hard time not being hard on others and in the end there will be more who don’t measure up to the image he (we) create in our own minds of the ideal.  For those of you (us) who struggle with self-anger, think about it.  Isn’t it true?  Don’t we often displace our anger on others or other things?  I say us, because I know that when I am very tired, this is when I’m most prone to irrational thinking and when I am, I beat up on myself, and then most likely I get angry or beat up (verbally) on others too.

So we must work hard to radically forgive.  When I use that word, I mean forgiving people in the normal way is not enough.  We need to dig down deep within our own souls and probe and reflect, we need to find the places and people whom we don’t forgive and start there, and continue day by day, forgiving every step of the way, practicing “letting go” until it is seemingly a natural part of our daily lives.  At the same time, we need to reflect on how God will fill us right there, what we empty from our hearts in whom we forgive, the Lord our God will fill with love, love which we must give to each other and everyone we meet.  May God bless you.

Earnest Prayer Requires An Honest Self-Awareness

One of the greatest challenges I’ve had personally, but also a challenge I’ve had as a spiritual guide for others is to help foster a deep and committed prayer life.  A lot of this stems (I believe) from our image of God.  If God is for us an invisible or imaginary friend, we’re rightly disposed and apt to “grow out” of believing.  If God is only the Almighty Creator of the Universe, how would any of us really matter to someone so important?  Even if God is both; this too is going to provide us with contradictions and confusion.  Although it may seem as though I’m over-simplifying the “God argument” (for those who don’t believe) and I know there are many other layers – the way we view God has continued to be one of the greatest difficulties the world over.

But when we consider ourselves; knowing that there’s meaning to our lives and we are in this world with a purpose; perhaps one we’re well on our way to discovering or which remains yet hidden, we ought to know our God is awesome in wonder for the created world most especially each one of us are an amazing creation.  But we also know every other person is created with equal and great dignity.  Even though I studied a lot of theology in preparation and formation as a priest, I found I never went very far wrong to remember that I was created with no greater love by the same God who created all the majestic works of beauty in the world, but with all those great things, as great as they are, He chose only to have a deeply loving relationship with me, you and all of the human race.  With the help of others who He loved with equal dignity to me (my parents), the Lord loved me into existence and here I am, and you are growing in relationship with Him.

That’s the starting place.  Today’s Gospel in which our Lord Jesus encourages us to earnest and authentic prayer – ask, search and knock.  He compares our relationship with Him to our relationship with those whom we love.  If we give in love to others, then we can be certain the Lord who loves us more than any human being is capable of loving another, desires to grant us what will help us, strengthen us, will enrich us.  I think we all remember a prayer that wasn’t answered directly, so we have to allow our prayers and needs to be purified by love and faith, but we can be assured that if we are earnest and honest, what we ask for will be given us.


Show Me a Sign!

In June of 2003 I went on my first discernment retreat, a getaway to consider whether God might be calling me to the priesthood.  I had only been a Catholic for two months at that point, and like anyone discerning, I wanted a “sign” that I was at least on the right track.  I knew that the Holy Spirit alighted on our Lord in the form of a dove, and so while out for a walk, I wanted that sign, I prayed and prayed, and yet no dove.  As I was nearing the end of my walk, a seagull came down and landed in my vicinity and I just took that as a sign, thinking to myself “good enough”.  This little anecdote is a true story, and I don’t share it to make light of the seriousness of what Jesus’ message to us today must be.  I couldn’t articulate it then, and certainly if I hadn’t moved past it by the time I was seriously discerning my vocation two years later, I hope that my Vocation Director would have challenged me – but as we consider living as Disciples of Christ, and most especially discerning our vocation we must realize that the signs are before us and with us.  We ought not go look for other things.  We must be honest with ourselves.

I challenge any of the men I work with when they imply that discernment of priesthood is a sign given by God because they never met the right person.  I hear them out (because there might be something significant in doing so) but I challenge this because Priesthood, Marriage, Religious Life, the Generous Single Life in Christ; none of these vocations are a “fallback plan” a sign because nothing else worked out.  There are plenty of men who discern priesthood who may never have had a girlfriend or met the right person but if they are going to seriously discern they need to have a deeper sense of self-awareness, a realization that God may have been calling them to other things.

Viewing things in this way right now is also not a sign that you don’t have a vocation to a particular vocation; I would not want to imply that either.  It’s simply the job of a Vocation Director, a Spiritual Director as well as others to try to guide a faithful man or woman to see beyond these earthly signs to deeper, more divine signs.  We have our ways of helping people to grow in this way, to come to discover true signs the Lord has revealed already.  Signs that help us live the call He has already given us.

The greatest Sign is the Lord Himself.  We can never go wrong turning to Him.  We must know how much we are loved by Him, created by Him, in His beautiful image and likeness, be comfortable with that person.  That is the greatest sign, and if we stay close to Him and to His Church – realize that whatever is we have been put here on this earth to do, He is with us in that role, for that purpose.  And we seek to do it.  We ought not to wait for anything else, another task another purpose.  We must be open to the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit that is present and active in you by way of your baptism, enlivened at your confirmation and we must realize that the Lord is calling us…you…to Come, Follow Him.

Our Father…Leads Us to Try to Be Like Him

The Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father is the richest prayer we have as Christians because the Lord Himself gave us this prayer; it’s perfect in every way. Throughout the history of the Church there have been many profound and wonderful reflections on the Our Father that help form and deepen us in our own prayer lives. We are well underway in our Lenten journeys now, we are also well into our Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began for us on December 8. The Year of Mercy as many might know is important because we as a faithful people in addition to the many other ways we live out our faith, are mindful in a particular way of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

This is so important; our world especially needs this focus because the only way we will grow in relationship with God and with each other, the only way we will love more is when we allow more forgiveness and mercy to enter our lives. You may have heard more homilies mentioning the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of confession and its importance. You may have heard more about the emphasis on the infinite mercy of God and how it’s been given to us throughout human history. You may have heard more mention on the importance of mercy and forgiveness as its made manifest in the sacraments; Holy Baptism, confession, the Anointing of the Sick and of course Holy Eucharist.

My friends in Christ, these are so very important and I too have been inspired by blog articles and homilies given on these elements of our faith and try wherever possible to promote mercy and forgiveness in my own preaching. When I was first meeting with a spiritual director and seriously seeking to deepen my prayer life, the exercise he had me do was to take each line of the Our Father and meditate upon each line, to ask the Lord to reveal everything He wanted me to know about this beautiful and perfect prayer. It was a rich spiritual exercise I encourage everyone to try.

When I was preparing for today’s homily, speaking with a brother priest, he reminded me of the beautiful connection between the Our Father, the Lenten journey and the Year of Mercy to be found in the line, “…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Friends, it’s of great importance that we are truly mindful of how the Lord loves us and forgives us of the many things we do in our daily lives. God knows we’re not perfect and we aren’t loved any less because of it; that is mercy! That is love! We’re not perfect but He asks us to try to be anyway always knowing His love and mercy keep us going. But in the second part of this line, “as we forgive those who trespass against us” is very important too. We are called in this Year of Mercy to extend mercy to others, to forgive others, to let go of grudges, resentments, dislikes and distastes for our brothers and sisters.

Maybe it’s a friend who’s betrayed us; maybe it’s husband or wife who we’re separated from or divorced from; maybe it’s a person at the office or in our lives whom we find disagreeable or distasteful. Maybe it’s a mother, father, brother or sister who has sinned against us. Maybe it’s just someone who annoys us – most of us have issues with someone, and most of us have a hard time letting go for a wide variety of reasons. But if we savour the words of the Our Father, and especially the invocation of forgiveness; then we must try.

Throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto we have many sets of Holy Doors where our faithful are making their way to and entering through for the indulgences or special graces given. We can trust in God’s grace in this special Year of Mercy, that if we ask for the courage and strength to forgive more, we will be granted this request. The extent to which we extend mercy through Lent and beyond makes a great difference. We can’t pick up a newspaper, watch a TV news program without seeing that unforgiving hearts are causing more strife in the world that is most definitely obstructing the Good News from spreading. My friends in Christ, each one of us can change that with the manner we offer mercy and forgiveness to the people near and dear to us in our lives. It’s in this way that we make perfect the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father as we apply it to our daily lives. May God bless you.

Doing For Others Important for Every Vocation

One of the most important and most telling signs of good vocational discernment is discovered when a discerner is asked what they seek to do for others.  In fact, I believe many men are somewhat shocked to discover that this is a greater sign of God’s authentic calling more so than their theological or intellectual prowess, more than their comfortability around the altar.  Those things can be learned, but a desire to love and serve others is innate and although I would contend it’s an integral part of every vocation, it has to be a driving force in the life of a priest.

I spend a lot of time with seminarians and men discerning in our programs in the Archdiocese of Toronto The Associates and Quo Vadis.  In these programs men are discerning or beginning to discern priestly vocations.  Not all of them will choose to become priests, and in the midst of discernment, through self-discovery and working with myself and others they come to see the Lord calling them in a way particular and unique to each one of them.  Obviously, men want to know soon after meeting with me whether they’re called to be priests so that they are not wasting their time moving in the wrong direction.  I tend to encourage discerners to realize that if they are meeting with me, then the Lord has already spoken to them but what I can say is that if there is little or no desire to serve others, to be with others in the good times and bad times (especially the bad times), in the midst of their joys and sorrows (especially their sorrows) and be fully invested in that – this too is a sign.

That’s not to say that there aren’t various layers to this.  Sometimes we have to overcome our own shortcomings.  Being nervous or anxious about helping others in troubling times, being uneasy or unsure isn’t a sign that you don’t desire to serve.  Our seminarians are given many opportunities to serve the poor at the Good Shepherd Centre, to be engaged in many different settings to “exercise their spiritual care muscles”.  Men, myself included deal with their insecurities and reservations, learning and growing in the process of formation.  I know that journeying with my mom when she had cancer and was dying in the hospital, I saw many others who were suffering as much and more than my mom.  By the time she passed away, I never wanted to go to a hospital again, unless it was me dying there and I had no choice.  In those intense moments of my life, I developed a fear which would have very much affected my own discernment of priesthood (can anyone imagine a priest who would not go to the hospital to be with one of his people, or anoint someone?)  I was honest enough about this fear when I was discerning, and by the time I was in my fourth year of formation, I was ready to face that fear and spent a whole term in a Toronto hospital where my chaplain supervisor taught me many things, but being with people who were sick and dying and knowing the only thing I could do was to hold their hand and pray with them or for them – this helped me.  I know many similar stories for the men who respond to the Lord, seminarians and future seminarians.  I am amazed and the honesty and sincerity in these men, and I thank God He continues to call men and women to serve the Church through our sisters and brothers.  I pray that every Vocation Director for every diocese and religious community experience an abundance of labourers ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work in the vineyard, serving those most in need, the first we should serve.  May God bless you.

1st Sunday of Lent: Where Are We Weak?

Jesus Tempted

Fasting and abstinence on Wednesday. Abstinence on Friday.  As we follow our traditions in Lent most especially on the prescribed days, we might notice we are ‘tempted’ in various ways on these days.  Our bodies are not going to shut down, we’re not going to experience total shock or total withdraw, but we might experience enough to find our mouth watering when we see a TV commercial with a big juicy steak or we might find ourselves really focussed on what we might otherwise glance over in the refrigerator.  As disciples, these are moments when we should really try to think of Jesus.  As wonderful as it might be, our minds are usually not disciplined enough to reflect upon our Lord on the Cross, but we should intentionally think of Him in the desert as we hear in today’s Gospel.

Jesus fasted to prepare Himself for what was to come.  He took on a weakened state to test His strength.  In weakness, the Evil One preyed upon Him.  Jesus, fully human and fully divine welcomed His humanity to be tested.  “God humbled Himself and became man” we hear St. Paul say in his letter to the Philippians.  Not only in the act of becoming man did He humble Himself, but as a man he fasted in humility to test the strength of His humanity.  That was Him, and here we are, fully human, with the same Holy Spirit within (given to us through Baptism, enlivened at Confirmation) need to joyfully and willingly accept fasting into our lives, and allow our weaknesses to be tested.  And as St. Paul often noted too, in our weaknesses we find our strength.

We may not be tested in the exact same way Jesus was, but our weaknesses are all different.  But we will be tested, and through fasting and prayer we can be assured that if we reflect upon our trials, our weaknesses, if we seek to encounter the Lord when we’re tested we too can be assured that by faith and with courage, we too will find our strength within.

Jesus had greater tests to come than the forty days of fasting.  We’ll be keenly aware of those tests as we head into Holy Week.  We will likely have many greater tests in our lives than the fasting and abstinence that we undergo adhering to the practices of our faith tradition.  But just as for our Lord, so too for us are we preparing ourselves through these sacrifices we make for the greater challenges that lie ahead.  Today, as we reflect upon our Lord’s temptation, may we grow in holiness and commitment to our faith through our own temptations and challenges.  May God bless you.

The Call of Levi:A Relatable Call?

Matthew's Call

The Call of Levi is one which many who discern religious vocations (to priesthood & religious life) can relate to; but it’s important that we reflect upon it often, because we also know that Levi who is Matthew, did not only get up and follow Jesus, but he followed him to the Cross eventually as an Apostle.  Although this passage is a powerful one for reflection, there are two things that often strike me about it.

First of all, would Levi have been able to follow Jesus, if the Lord Himself had not made the effort to come to him?  Jesus was chastised for eating with “tax collectors and sinners”; the ‘low-life’ types.  But He did choose to spend time with the ‘low-life’ types, and while it teaches us how we ought to live our lives as disciples, it’s also important to note that Jesus didn’t just come to those who weren’t deemed worthy then – He comes to this very day.  Just go to some of the RCIA classes, you’re bound to find someone there that could tell you a story about how Jesus encountered him or her in the midst of the darkness of their life.  That’s my own story too, so I know it well – but I know many others who acknowledge the same.  And then through the Sacrament of Confession Jesus continues to come to us, freeing us from what holds us back in being the best possible disciple of Christ we can be.

Another thing that we must take away for reflection from today’s Gospel is this: Levi followed the Lord and to the Cross.  Unworthiness is not a one time feeling overcome.  Even though he was with the Lord, surely Levi would again and again feel a sense of unworthiness and his former life would re-present itself.  While Jesus saved him from himself, if he’s anything like the rest of us (and I’m pretty sure he was) he will come to rehearse past acts and sins and regret will consume him again and again.  This would be his temptation, as it is ours.  Just as Satan tempted Jesus in the desert at his weakest moments (when he was starving) he gets us where we are weak; temptation for sinners often can be in their past sins.  The only remedy for that is to realize the Lord released us from those sins, not so we could revel in them again, not so we could sin some more – but so we could live and commit our lives to Him!  And on days we are weak, just as for Levi, we must carry on, push through it and keep our minds focused on Jesus.  If we fall, as we may, as long as we have a regular practice of confession in our life then we must keep our minds and hearts on the mission.  In this way, we follow the Lord as repentant and converted sinners; to do God’s will as He desires us to.  May God bless you.