Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reflection for the 2nd Week of Easter, Part 2

Thursday – Irony

Oh the irony of it! In today's first reading, the high priest tells the Apostles, “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this Man's blood upon us.” 

But the Apostles don't have to bring Jesus' blood upon the high priest and the other Jewish leaders, for they have already brought it upon themselves. They were the ones who cried out before Pilate, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” How quick the high priest was to forget that, to forget that he had led the crowd in calling for Jesus' crucifixion, to forget that he had sent an innocent Man (and so much more than a man) to His death.

Talk about irony.

Friday – Whom Should I Fear?

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” Our culture is permeated with fears of all kinds: fears of terrorist attacks and natural disasters, fears of financial collapse and governmental chaos, fears of sickness and death, fears of being young and growing old, fears of the multitude of sufferings that can befall fragile, weak human beings.

But if God is truly our light and our salvation, we need not fear any of these things. God is in control. He can bring good out of what seem like the worst possible circumstances. He may allow us to suffer, but it is only for our own good, that we may learn a lesson or be purified or help someone else along the way. Our sufferings always have meaning when we join them to Jesus' and allow Him to use them as He wills.

So what have we to fear then? Only that which could separate us from God, only sin. All the rest is in God's loving hands.

Saturday – Obedient to the Faith

We hear in today's first reading that a great many people were hearing and accepting the Gospel in the early days of the Church. Even many Jewish priests were, along with others, becoming “obedient to the faith.”

The word “obedient” is key here. In Greek, it is hupakouō, and it literally means “under hearing.” People who are obedient hear something from another who is in authority and place themselves under that hearing. They submit to someone else and choose to follow humbly rather than lead selfishly. They do not allow the words to wash over them but rather to enter deeply into their minds and transform into action.

All Christians are called to be obedient to the faith, to hear the words of Sacred Scripture, to listen attentively to Sacred Tradition, to receive the teaching of the Church's Magisterium, and then to act on what they have heard and accepted.

Lord, give us the obedience of faith that we need in order to hear and understand Your will for us and to live it in love. Amen.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from http://www.biblehub.com/.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reflection for the 2nd Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – Boldness

Lord Jesus, the members of the early Church spoke Your word with boldness. They publicly declared that You had risen from the dead. They opened themselves as channels so that Your healing power could flow through them. They regarded the threats of the Jews as nothing; no persecution could stop them from spreading the Gospel. Even the danger of death did not deter them from their mission.

But they knew that they could not speak Your word with boldness unless You gave them the grace to be able to, so they prayed. They raised their eyes and their voices and their hearts with confidence that You would hear them and grant them everything they needed to withstand whatever hardships they might face as they proclaimed Your Gospel.

You answered their prayer, Lord. You filled them with the Holy Spirit so dramatically that the whole building shook. They would speak with boldness, for You gave then the ability. You spoke through them. You healed through them. You reached the world through them.

Lord Jesus, give us the grace and the strength to speak Your word with boldness that we, too, may be Your instruments in spreading Your Gospel and Your love to the entire world. Amen.

Tuesday – Christian Characteristics

In today's first reading, St. Peter presents some key Christian characteristics. Christians are

1. Humble. Humble people are in touch with reality. They realize that without God they are nothing at all and that everything they have and everything they are comes from Him. They rely on God completely, placing themselves in His loving care.

2. Sober. Sober people are calm and self-controlled. They do not give themselves over to the indulgence of their passions, and they keep their wits about them. They are discreet in their words and actions and take care to follow God's commands in peace.

3. Vigilant. Vigilant people are spiritually awake. They patiently wait for the Lord and watch for signs of His will. They pray, read the Scriptures, and receive the sacraments with attention and devotion, knowing that they encounter the Lord every time.

4. Steadfast. Steadfast people keep going no matter how bad things seem. They persevere through trials and temptations, praying all the while and resisting the suggestions of the enemy. They remain firm and constant in faith, hope, and love.

If Christians remain humble, sober, vigilant, and steadfast, Peter assures, then “The God of all grace Who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion forever. Amen.” Amen indeed.

(Information about vocabulary and definitions comes from http://www.biblehub.com/.)

Wednesday – At All Times

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth.”
In times of joy and excitement, I will bless the Lord.
In times of sorrow and pain, I will bless the Lord.
In times of success and victory, I will bless the Lord.
In times of fear and anxiety, I will bless the Lord.
In times of wonder and amazement, I will bless the Lord.
In times of stress and upset, I will bless the Lord.
At all times, in all places, no matter what, I will bless the Lord.
His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
May it be so. Amen.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reflection for the 1st Week of Easter, Part 2

Thursday – A Little Less Than the Angels

Lord, You made humans a little less than the angels. You gave us the power to rule over Your creation, to order it and use it, to care for it and keep it safe. What's more, You watch over us and cherish us and attend to all our needs. You even pour Your own glory and honor upon us. We share in Your divine life. We live in covenant with You, in a family bond with You, our Father.

Lord, may we always appreciate these gifts. May we always remember who we are in You and never turn our backs on You and Your great love. May we always serve well as Your stewards and treat Your creatures with loving care. May we always reflect Your light and Your life and Your love to all the world. Amen.

Friday – No Salvation through Anyone Else

“There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit when he proclaimed these words to the Jewish leaders. They needed to know, to understand, to acknowledge that no one is saved except through Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, the Son of God, the Messiah.

This is the truth. If anyone gets to Heaven, it is only through Jesus. There is no other way. No other religion will save anyone. This doesn't mean that people of other faiths have no chance of going to Heaven. We trust in God's mercy, and we never know exactly what happens in the last moments of anyone's life. But we do know that if they are saved, it is only through Jesus.

We Christians, then, must appreciate the great gift we have. We know Jesus. We can meet Him everyday in prayer, in His Word, in the sacraments, and in the depths of our hearts. When we are in a state of grace, He dwells within our very souls. The only way for anyone to be saved lives within us and loves us. Isn't that amazing?

Saturday – Proclaim the Gospel

At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus tells His apostles to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

First they must go. They cannot remain in hiding, keeping this wonderful secret to themselves. It belongs to the whole world, so that's where they must go: to the whole world.

But going isn't enough. They must proclaim the Gospel. They must shout it from the rooftops, publicly, boldly, confidently, bravely. They must, by their words and actions, tell every creature about Jesus.

This command is not for the apostles alone. We, too, are called to go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. At every moment of the day, in every situation, with every person, we must publicly, boldly, confidently, and bravely speak of Jesus in word and action that the world around us may come to know Him. This may seems like a daunting task, but we can be sure that Jesus gives us all the grace we need to accomplish it. We just have to open ourselves to that grace and accept it.

So in this Easter season and always, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reflection for the 1st Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – The Bribe

The soldiers knew what they had seen. Angels. An empty tomb. A mysterious Man. They didn't understand it, but they knew something big had just happened. Could it really be? Could this Jesus have truly risen from the dead?

The soldiers ran to tell the chiefs priests everything. Then they waited while the Jewish leaders discussed the situation. Perhaps they were surprised by the priests' response, but they weren't about to turn down such a large amount of money.

Yes, of course, it was a bribe, but it was just so much money, more than some of them had ever seen in their lives. They still knew what they had seen, but the lure of wealth was greater then their commitment to truth. They took the money. They told the story the priests gave them. They spread the lie that Jesus' disciples had come and stolen His body in the night. Did their consciences poke them? Did their dreams still reveal the risen Man and the empty tomb? Did they ever regret their denial of the truth that had been right in front of them?

Tuesday – I Have Seen the Lord

“I have seen the Lord!” Mary was ready to proclaim it from the rooftops. But instead she ran and told Jesus' disciples.

“I have seen the Lord!” Indeed, Mary had seen the Lord, and she had heard Him speak her name, listened as He told of His coming ascension, and embraced Him.

“I have seen the Lord!” Mary's tears turned to joy the moment she realized that the Man she thought was the gardener was really Jesus. He was truly risen, just like He said. Death could not hold Him. Here He was alive.

“I have seen the Lord!” Praise God! Mary's heart soared. “I have seen the Lord!”

Wednesday – Expectation

The crippled man looked up at Peter and John with an expectation. He thought they were going to give him some money, and he certainly could use it. His disability made it impossible for him to make a living, and he was reduced to begging from passers-by.

But the man's expectation wasn't met; instead, he received a much greater gift. Peter and John looked intently at him, and Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”

The next thing the man knew he was on his feet, walking, jumping around, and praising God. His legs were strong and solid. He had never felt like this before, ever, and it was all because of Jesus. He didn't know much about Jesus, but he was determined to find out as much as he could. The formerly crippled man may not have received what he had expected, but he had something so much more, and his life would never be the same.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Reflection for Holy Week, Part 2

Thursday – He Loved His Own

“He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end.”

Jesus loves His own. We are His own. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us to save us from our sins and to open the gates of Heaven.

Jesus loves us so much that He gives us the sacraments. He washes us clean and fills us with sanctifying grace in Baptism. He forgives our sins and fills us with grace in Confession. He gives us Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist, entering our bodies and our hearts to fill us with His presence.

Jesus loves us so much that He gives us His Word in the Scriptures that we may know and love Him more. He deepens His Word through Tradition and guides our interpretation through the Magisterium that we may always grasp the truth.

Jesus loves us so much that He meets us in prayer. He always hears and answers us when we pray, and our prayers really do make a difference.

Jesus loves us so much that He wants to be with us for all eternity. May we always love Him and draw close to Him now and forever. Amen.

Friday – Man of Suffering

On this Good Friday as we reflect on how much Jesus suffered for us, take some time to read the Passion Narrative in John's Gospel (18:1-19:42), focusing particularly on Jesus' response to His suffering. At each stage of the Passion, meditate on Jesus' words and actions. Take them into your heart and allow Jesus to speak to you about how you should imitate Him in the midst of your own sufferings and trials. End with a prayer of thanksgiving to your God who loves you so much that He died for you.

Saturday – Quiet Waiting

Holy Saturday is a day of quiet waiting. Jesus lays in the tomb. The world is still. We are still as we anticipate His resurrection.

Quiet your mind today. Enter into the stillness of God's presence in your soul. Close your eyes and spend some time in silent prayer. Learn to wait in peace and patience. Our God will arise. He will come to us, and joy will reign.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reflection for Holy Week, Part 1

Monday – To See Lazarus

The Jews didn't just come to see Jesus; they also came to see Lazarus. Lazarus was a novelty, a man who had come back from the dead. That wasn't someone the Jews ran into everyday, and they were curious. Did he remember what it was like to be dead? What did he see and hear beyond this world? What could he tell them about the great unknown?

If Lazarus could answer any of these questions, he didn't seem to be talking. At least his words aren't recorded in Scripture, and most likely, Jesus had advised him to say nothing of his experience. Jesus wasn't in the business of satisfying people's curiosity about the mystery of life after death. He was much more concerned about saving their souls so they could experience the very best of eternity. He wasn't about to have His saving message drowned out by the demands of spiritual sightseers.

This leaves us with some questions. What would we have done if we had lived in the days of Lazarus? Would we have given in to our curiosity and gone to see him? Would we have swamped him with questions? Or would we have tried to look beyond the miracle to the Miracle-worker and focus our attention on Him? When we hear of miracles happening today, even honest to goodness, legitimate ones, which attitude do we take? Do we seek the strangeness of the miracle or the love of the God who performed it?

Tuesday – It Was Night

It was night. Judas takes the morsel of food from Jesus and leaves. And it was night. Jesus tells His apostles that they cannot follow Him where He is about to go. And it was night. Peter announces that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, but Jesus predicts that before the cock crows, Peter will deny Him three times. And it was night.

Darkness surrounds Jesus and His apostles. Jesus' hour approaches. Soon the soldiers will come for Him. Soon He will be led before the courts. Soon He will be condemned to death. Soon He will hang upon the cross. Soon He will die.

And it was night.

Wednesday – A Well-trained Tongue

Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may comfort the weary and depressed.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may provide hope to the hurting.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may teach Your ways.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may spread Your word.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may speak words of love.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may express my faith.
Give me, Lord, a well-trained tongue that I may always proclaim You.
Amen.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Reflection for the 5th Week of Lent, Part 2

Thursday – I Am

The words don't seem all that shocking to us. “I am.” So simple. To us perhaps rather vague. They might elicit a response of “You are what?”

But the Jews had a very different response when Jesus spoke those words. They picked up stones to throw at Jesus.

Why? What was so important about those words “I am”? What made the Jews take such offense?

“I am” is more than a short sentence; it is also, in Hebrew, the divine name God revealed to Moses from the burning bush. Yahweh. The name was sacred. The Jews wouldn't even pronounce it, but here was Jesus saying it right out loud and, what's more, applying it to Himself.

We recognize the truth of those words. Of course Jesus can speak the divine name and even apply it to Himself. We know that He is God. He is perfectly within His rights. But the Jews didn't see it like that. They didn't believe in Jesus' divinity, so all they heard was blasphemy, and they reached for their stones.

Friday – Believe the Works

In today's Gospel, the Jews say that they don't believe Jesus' claim that He is the Son of God sent by the Father Who remains in Him.

Jesus responds by inviting the Jews to examine the evidence before them. “If I do not perform My Father's works, do not believe Me,” He says, “but if I perform them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works...” What are these works? People receive healing from long-term or even lifelong ailments. The dead come back to life. Sinners repent. The crowds hear God's word. Love flows out from all sides. How could these wonders not come from the Father? How could they not be signs that God has truly come among His people?

Many of the Jews still stubbornly refuse to believe, but some are convinced. They see the works, and they begin to believe Jesus' words of life.

Saturday – Hear and Proclaim

Hear the word of God, and proclaim it. Thus says the prophet Jeremiah in today's Responsorial Psalm. Hear and proclaim.

The first step is to hear, in Hebrew shāma. This is more than merely letting the words wash over one's ears. It implies paying close attention, giving heed, understanding, and obeying. In this kind of hearing, the words enter into the depths of the hearer and take effect. They change something in the hearer's mind and heart, and that change leads to action based on the words heard.

Part of that action is proclamation, in Hebrew the verb nāgad. The words heard become the words spoken and shared. The hearer becomes a messenger who boldly stands up and announces what he knows to be true. Nothing remains hidden. The truth springs forth clearly, vividly to meet and transform the next hearer.

(Information about Hebrew vocabulary comes from http://www.biblehub.com/.)