Thursday, July 24 ~ Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Sharbel Makhloof, Priest

Holy Gospel: Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Meditation

Saint Augustine of Hippo once said: “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.” Both faith and understanding are gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to hear God’s word with clarity so we can know God better and grow in the knowledge of his love and truth. Jesus, however, had to warn his disciples that not everyone would understand his teaching. The prophet Isaiah had warned that some would hear God’s word, but not believe, some would see God’s actions and miracles, and remained unconvinced. Ironically some of the greatest skeptics of Jesus’ teaching and miracles were the learned scribes and Pharisees who prided themselves on their knowledge of scripture and the law of Moses. They heard Jesus’ parables and saw the great signs and miracles which he performed, but they refused to accept both Jesus and his message. How could they “hear and never understand” and “see but never perceive”? They were spiritually blind and deaf because their hearts were closed and their minds were blocked by pride and prejudice.

Prayer

O God, who called the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhloof to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion, grant us, we pray, that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Contemplation

There is only one thing that can open a closed, confused, and divided mind – a broken heart and humble spirit! The word disciple means one who is willing to learn and ready to submit to the wisdom and truth which comes from God. Psalm 119 expresses the joy and delight of a disciple who loves God’s word and who embraces it with trust and obedience. “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:97-99). God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges their need for God and for his truth. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach God’s word with indifference, skepticism, and disbelief, then we, too, may “hear but not understand” and “see but not perceive.” God’s word can only take root in a humble and receptive heart that is ready to believe. If we want to hear and to understand God’s word, we must listen with openness, humility, reverence and faith – nothing else will suffice. Do you believe God’s word and do you submit to it with trust and reverence?

About Saint Sharbel (Charbel) Makhloof

Joseph Makhloof was born in 1828 at Beqa-Kafra, Lebanon. His peasant family lived a strong faith, were attentive to the Divine Liturgy, and had a great devotion to the Mother of God. At the age of 23, Charbel (the name he chose when entering Novitiate) left his closely knit family to enter the Lebanese-Maronite Monastery called Notre-Dame de Mayfouk. Following studies and profession at St. Cyprian de Kfifane Monastery, he was ordained in 1859. For the next seven years, Charbel lived in the mountainous community of Anaya. After that he spent the next twenty-three years in complete solitude at Sts. Peter and Paul Hermitage near Anaya. He died there on Christmas Eve, 1898. Charbel had a reputation for his austerity, penances, obedience, and chastity. At times, Charbel was gifted with levitations during prayer, and he had great devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament. In all things, Charbel maintained perfect serenity.

Make a Pilgrimage

Visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon located in North Jackson, Ohio, just west of Youngstown. For information visit www.ourladyoflebanonshrine.com, or call (330) 538-3351.