Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reflection for Christmas Week, Part 2

Thursday – Simeon

Simeon was on intimate terms with the Holy Spirit. He was a “righteous and devout man,” approved by God and reverent in every aspect of his life. He trusted in God's promises, and he waited with great anticipation for the time in which they were to be fulfilled. In fact, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen that fulfillment.

Now the time had come. The Holy Spirit guided Simeon to the Temple one day and drew his attention to a young family. Simeon immediately understood. He was here, the Fulfillment of all God's promises to Israel. He was here, a tiny Baby in His mother's arms. He was here, the One Who would be a light to the nations, the salvation of the world.

Simeon took the Infant into his arms. He looked into the Baby's eyes. Words of praise and prophecy burst forth as he held the Savior close to his heart. He could go to his God in peace now. The long awaited Messiah had finally arrived.

Friday – A Long Journey

It was a long journey, but they had no other choice. Their Child's life was in danger. They had to move quickly before it was too late. They would go far away, some place where no one would think to look for them. They would go to Egypt. It was hostile territory but not nearly as hostile as their home had become thanks to the king's jealous rage.

As they rode along, Joseph reflected on his dream. It wasn't the first time he had dreamed something like this. The first time he had learned the marvelous truth about the Child his betrothed carried. This time he was told to flee. Both times he had obeyed. God worked in mysterious ways, but Joseph trusted Him.

Joseph looked up at his wife. Mary was holding little Jesus close to her as she rode and singing a soothing song to the sleeping Baby. They would be just fine, Joseph told himself. God was in charge, and He was taking care of them. He would guide and guard their every step no matter how long their journey was.

Saturday – Word of God

Word of God, shine in the darkness of our world.
Word of God, pour Your light into our hearts that we, too, may shine.
Word of God, teach us to know You better.
Word of God, open our souls to accept You.
Word of God, dwell among us always.
Word of God, show us Your glory now and forever.
Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Reflection for Christmas Week, Part 1

Monday – St. Stephen's Vision

It seems strange perhaps that yesterday we celebrated a birthday and today we remember a martyrdom, but St. Stephen's death was really a birthday of another kind, a birthday into eternal life.

Stephen's vision shows us exactly that. As he is standing before his accusers, he looks up to Heaven and cries out that he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of His Father. In a few minutes, he will be with them, for when the crowd hears Stephen's words, they run at him, screaming, and begin to stone him.

Stephen, however, remains calm. Even as he dies, he calls out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He knows where he's going, and more importantly, he knows to Whom he is going. He doesn't seem to mind leaving the world behind. There's something more for him, something infinitely better. He is giving his life for his faith, but he will receive more life, better life, eternal life. Indeed, today we can confidently say that we celebrate the birthday of St. Stephen into the new life of Heaven.

Tuesday – The Empty Tomb

Today on the Feast of St. John the Apostle, we reflect on the empty tomb. Peter and John were stunned when Mary Magdalene ran to them, crying, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put Him.” Their first impulse was to run out and verify her claim. They wanted to see for themselves. Maybe then they could figure out what to do. Or perhaps they didn't even think that far. They may have been acting out of sheer panic. In any case, they dashed to the tomb.

And the tomb was empty. John got there first, and as he waited for Peter, he peeked inside and saw the burial cloths but no body. When Peter arrived, the two entered the tomb. Indeed, it was empty. Jesus was not there. John didn't understand, but he knew deep down that no one had taken Jesus' body. Something else was going on. He saw, and he believed.

Even though it's Christmas time, we ought to think about the empty tomb. Jesus was born that He might die to save us from our sins. But death could not hold Him. He rose again and opened the gates of Heaven for us. And the tomb was empty.

Wednesday – Acknowledge Sin

Again today we hear a reading that seems rather out of place at Christmas time. In his first letter, St. John tells us that we must acknowledge our sins rather than lying and covering them up and making excuses and pretending that we never do anything wrong. If we declare that we have not sinned, St. John continues, we make God a liar, and we chase Him out of our hearts.

So we must look our sin right in the face. We must call it what it is, bring it out into the light, and admit to it. Why? Only then can we truly repent for having done wrong. Only then can we place our sin in the hands of the One Who came to take it away.

That One is, of course, Jesus, the One born for us on Christmas, the One Whose Blood cleanses us, the One Who forgives us, the One Who stands as our Advocate, the One Who is the expiation for all our sins.

Even in this Christmas season, then, we must acknowledge our sins so that we can receive the forgiveness of Jesus, Who was born that He might die to take away our sins, fill us with joy, and bring us home to Heaven.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reflection for the 4th Week in Advent, Part 2

Thursday – Unexpected Opposites

Today's Responsorial Psalm features the song of Hannah from the First Book of Samuel. As Hannah thanks and praises God for the gift of her son, Samuel, she points out that God often deals in unexpected opposites.

Those who were mighty and strong find themselves weak while those who were tottering become strong. Those who had plenty of food must hire themselves out for a little bread while those who were starving suddenly have more than enough to eat. Women who have had many children find themselves abandoned while barren women rejoice to bear many strong sons. Those who are rich become poor while those who are poor become rich.

But none of this happens by random chance. Hannah recognizes God's hand in all of it. His plan is operating smoothly. He ordains or allows everything for a reason. He is in control and working for our good at every turn, even when the unexpected strikes.

May we rejoice with Hannah that our God holds us firmly in His hands. His plan is perfect. May we cooperate with it fully in all its twists and turns, knowing that God works everything for the ultimate good of those who love Him. Amen.

Friday – Who Is This?

Who is this? Zechariah and Elizabeth's neighbors wondered about the baby born to the elderly, barren couple. The circumstances surrounding his birth were absolutely amazing. Who would have thought that Zechariah and Elizabeth would conceive after all these years? And clearly something strange had happened when Zechariah was serving in the Temple. He hadn't said a word for nine whole months afterward, and he didn't seem to be able to hear anything either.

Then there was the business about the child's name. The neighbors thought to honor the father by naming the child after him, but Elizabeth was adamant that the boy's name was John. When they approached Zechariah to ask him about the child's name, he had simply written “John is his name.” Then his ears opened, and his tongue was freed, and words of praise for God poured out.

So who is this child anyway? The neighbors wondered. There must be something special about him. God's hand was clearly upon him. What would happen? They would just have to wait and see.

Saturday – Dawn from on High

Dawn from on High, break upon us.
Enlighten our minds.
Illuminate our hearts.
Let us shine with Your love and radiate faith and hope.
Glow within us, filing us with Your light and warmth.
Dawn from on High, break upon us.
Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reflection for the 4th Week in Advent, Part 1

Monday – Zechariah

Zechariah must have been scared half to death when the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple. A heavenly message was probably the last thing he expected, and it's rather amazing that he didn't fall over on the spot from the shock of it. Compound that with the content of the message (A son??? Really???), and Zechariah likely felt that the whole world was falling in upon him.

We can't entirely blame him for his response to Gabriel, then. “How shall I know this?” he demanded of the angel. He just couldn't quite grasp the magnitude of the situation, but his question was still a blunder on his part. Zechariah was focused on himself. How shall I know this? He was taking the wrong perspective by trying to measure God by his own human knowledge and understanding. He didn't open his heart in faith; rather, he doubted that such a miraculous thing could happen to him. Essentially, he was asking for a sign rather than trusting that God had a plan.

Gabriel did indeed give Zechariah a sign, but it wasn't one Zechariah wanted. The priest lost his ability to speak until the day his son was born. He had learned his lesson of faith and trust the hard way, but in the end, he fulfilled his role of bringing John the Baptist into the world.

Tuesday – May It Be Done

May it be done to me according to Your word, Lord. I join with Mary to make this prayer of faith and trust, firmly believing that whatever You allow to happen in my life will have purpose and meaning according to Your will.

Broaden my perspective, Lord, that I may see Your hand and your plan in every event. Increase my faith in You. Increase my hope in Your saving power. Increase my love that I may love You above all and love my neighbor as myself.

May I, like Mary, trust You even when I don't understand and give myself to You that I may be Your instrument. May I carry Your word and Your love to everyone I meet.

May it be done to me according to Your will. Amen.

Wednesday – Joy

“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!”

If Israel had cause for joy because God was in its midst, how much more should we Christians be joyful? Our God became Man and lived among us. He died and rose again to take away our sins and open the gates of Heaven. He remains in our souls and in our tabernacles, waiting for us to rejoice in His presence.

But do we rejoice? Are we joyful people? Or do we let our circumstances and stress overcome us and drag us down?

As Christmas approaches, let us pray for an increase of joy as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and all through the year. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reflection for the 3rd Week in Advent, Part 2

Thursday – Take Us Back

In today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah uses the analogy of marriage to describe the relationship between God and His people.

God is like the perfectly faithful husband of an often faithless wife. Sometimes He has to let her go her own way and experience the consequences of her infidelity. Hiding His face, He seems to abandon her for a time and allows her to feel His righteous anger at her behavior.

But this doesn't last long. God the husband loves His bride too much to ever leave her. When she recognizes her sin and her grief overtakes her and leads to repentance, then God takes her back. With a wonderful tenderness, He reveals His great mercy and wraps her in His arms. All is forgiven. She need not blush with shame any more. God's love is securely enclosing her and will never fade. The covenant, the bond, between them is stronger than death. She is safe.

We are safe, each of us individually, in God's loving arms. When we are unfaithful to God, He may do with us as He did with His people. He may allow us to experience the consequences of our sin. But when we repent, He is more than ready to take us back. He wants to forgive us. He loves to forgive us. He will always take us back.

Friday – A Lamp

In today's Gospel, Jesus says that John the Baptist was a “burning and shining lamp.” John was on fire for God. God's word burned within him, and he spoke it with clarity and force. God's light radiated from him as he preached and taught and lived according to God's call. The fire and light that coursed through John illuminated all those around him and spread into their hearts if they were open to receive them.

We, too, are called to be burning and shining lamps. Like John, we must allow ourselves to burn with God's fire and shine with God's light so that everyone around us may be touched by the warmth and illumination flowing through us.

Thus may it be. Amen.

Saturday – O Wisdom

“O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!”

Today we hear the first of the Advent “O” antiphons. These magnificent little verses are specially designed to help us to look back to the Old Testament to see how God prepared for Christ's coming and to look forward to Christmas when we celebrate the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Incarnation.

Each day between now and Christmas, write the daily “O” antiphon on a sticky note and post it in a prominent place. Then throughout the day, stop now and then to read it and meditate on God's amazing plan of salvation and on His gift of Himself to you and to the whole world.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Reflection for the 3rd Week in Advent, Part 1

Monday – A Deed of Hope

In today's Responsorial, we hear an excerpt from the Book of Judith. This little book isn't quite as well known as other books of the Bible, but it tells an amazing story. The Israelites were in some major trouble. The Assyrians, led by the great general Holofernes, lay siege to the town of Bethulia and cut off its water supply. As the people became weaker and weaker, they began to grumble, telling their leaders that they should have just given in and made peace with Assyria and avoided all this suffering. Even now, they continued, they should surrender to the Assyrians and be done with it.

Uzziah, the chief magistrate, convinced the people to wait just a little longer and keep up their hope that God would save them from their peril. If, however, five days passed with no change in their situation, he would hand over the city to their enemies.

Bethulia was home to a beautiful and wealthy widow named Judith. She was disgusted with the people's cowardly behavior and Uzziah's back door promise to give up in five days. She scolded the magistrate, telling him not to put conditions on God, Who could save them whenever He pleased. Yes, the situation was serious, Judith acknowledged, but if they gave up their city, the Assyrians would be in Jerusalem in no time and the Temple would fall. They had to prevent that, and she had a plan.

Judith told Uzziah to allow her and her maid to leave through the city's main gate that evening. Then she withdrew and prayed fervently and hopefully for God to act through her and save the city. When she had finished her prayers, she dressed in fine clothing, packed up a sumptuous meal, and left Bethulia, heading straight over to the enemy camp and requesting to meet with Holofernes.

The beautiful Judith had no trouble at all getting an audience with Holofernes. She played her part perfectly, telling the general that she had come to help him defeat the cowardly Israelites. She kept up the charade for several days, attending banquets and sweet talking Holofernes until he trusted her completely. Then, when Holofernes was dead drunk after a grand banquet, Judith made her move. She beheaded the general, stuffed his head in a bag, calmly left the Assyrian camp, and returned to Bethulia.

The next morning, the Israelites hung Holofernes' head from the city wall, and the leaderless Assyrians broke down in panic and fled. Judith's deed of hope had won the day. Her cleverness and courage saved Israel. But the humble Judith took no credit for her victory. She knew that she was merely God's instrument. She had responded to His call and opened herself, with a hopeful heart, to His guidance and grace. He had done the rest.

Lord, please give us the hope and courage that Judith had. Give us, too, her trusting prayer and her humility. May we be Your instruments. Use us as You will. Amen.

Tuesday – The Remnant

The prophet Zephaniah didn't hesitate to call out the Jews for their rebellion against God. They would suffer the consequences of their sins, he warned, but all would not be lost. God would purify a remnant of His people to serve Him faithfully.

What will this remnant look like? Zephaniah tells us. It will be made up of humble and lowly people, those who know their littleness before God and rely on Him with trusting hearts. This remnant will take refuge in God, running to Him to protect them and hiding in His loving arms. The people of the remnant will do no wrong. They will forsake sinful ways and follow God's law. They will be an honest people, holding firmly to the truth, and they will live in peace, going about their business with a quiet confidence in their God.


God calls us to belong to this remnant, which we now know as the Body of Christ, the Church. This is how we Christians are called to live, as the humble remnant, standing in faith before the world, trusting in God, and doing all things for His glory.

Wednesday – No Offense


“And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me.” Do you take offense at Jesus?

Your initial reaction is probably, “No! Of course not!” But stop and think a moment. Do you ever get annoyed at God's moral law, especially when it “interferes” with something you want to do? When God says you're supposed to do something (like go to Mass on Sunday or share your material possessions with others), do you agree willingly or do you hesitate and complain? When God sets boundaries, do you stay within them or do you look for ways to escape and follow your own paths? Do Jesus' teachings ever rub you the wrong way, especially when they forcefully contradict the messages of our modern world that you are encouraged to accept in order to fit in?

Now ask yourself again: Do you take offense at Jesus? If you answer in the negative, excellent, but be careful not to fall into pride, for our success is always the result of God's grace. If you must now answer in the positive, pause a moment to repent and ask God to help you go forward willingly in the ways that God has laid out, trusting that He will always help you if you open your heart and your mind to His loving guidance.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reflection for the 2nd Week in Advent, Part 2

Thursday – The Immaculate Conception

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we see God putting the final stages of His salvific plan into motion.

The Savior was on His way. It wouldn't be long before God would become Man, an incarnate human being yet still fully divine. He may perhaps have just arrived on the scene as a full grown adult, but He didn't choose to do so. Instead, He decided to arrive as an infant, and for that He needed a mother.

It was only fitting that this mother should be special, the perfect vessel to carry the most perfect Person, and indeed, she is. Mary was conceived without original sin, without the deficiency that the rest of us have from the very moment our existence begins. From the instant Mary began to live at her conception, God's presence dwelt within her. What we receive (ordinarily) at Baptism, Mary never lacked.

What's more, Mary never once committed a sin. Her will was always perfectly aligned to the will of God. She never wavered. She never turned her back and walked her own way. Her entire focus was always on God.

She didn't do this by herself, of course. God gave her the grace, both sanctifying and actual, to begin and remain sinless. Her immaculate nature is just as much a gift as our redeemed nature. She was perfectly prepared to be the mother of God and perfectly preserved to accept and fulfill that role.

This is what we celebrate today. Mother Mary, pray for us. Amen.

Friday – Never Satisfied


People are never satisfied. Jesus observes this in today's Gospel. When His fellow Jews had a chance to be happy, they didn't take it. They wanted to mourn instead. When they had a chance to mourn, they wanted to celebrate instead. When they saw John the Baptist fasting, they criticized him harshly. When they saw Jesus eating and drinking, they criticized Him, too, just as harshly.

What did they want? They clearly didn't know.

We can ask ourselves the same question: What do we want? And when we receive what we think we want, are we satisfied or do we just want something else instead? When God gives us what we really need, do we accept it with gratitude or do we whine and complain?

Dear Lord, calm our restless hearts. Give us the wisdom to know what we really need and the grace to accept it from Your hands with thankful hearts even when it is difficult and painful. Amen.

Saturday – New Life

Lord, give us new life. Help us live for You and conform our wills to Your perfect will. Help us live in faith, hope, and love. Help us trust You and accept all things from Your hands with grateful hearts, for You know exactly what we need exactly when we need it. And when the time comes for us to leave this life, Lord, bring us safely home into eternal life where we will live more abundantly than ever, face to face with You. Amen.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Reflection for the 2nd Week in Advent, Part 1

Monday – Through the Roof

No obstacle would hold them back. Not crowds. Not even a building. These men were so sure that Jesus could help their paralyzed friend that they were willing to go to any lengths to make that happened. Even if it meant going through the roof.

The men climbed up on the roof of the house where Jesus was, lifted up their friend's stretcher, removed the roof tiles, and lowered the paralyzed man right down in front of Jesus.

Now that's love. That's dedication. That's creativity.

And it worked! The paralyzed man walked out of the house under his own power and, even more importantly, spiritually clean with all his sins forgiven. He had met Jesus, experienced His healing love, and came away a new person.

There's a lesson for us here. We need to do everything in our power to place our loved ones before Jesus. Prayer is key, of course. We must persevere in lifting up our friends and relatives in prayer. No matter how hopeless situations may seem, we can trust that our Lord always hears and answers our prayers, even if He doesn't always do so in quite the way we want.

Further, we must do our best to lead our loved ones to Jesus through our words and our example. We must speak the truth (even when people don't want to hear it) and live what we believe. Then our Lord will shine His light through us that it may fall on everyone around us.

The friends of the paralyzed man must have been thrilled to witness the healing that their efforts helped bring about. We can experience similar joy if we, too, refuse to give up on carrying our loved ones to Jesus no matter what obstacles seem to stand in our way.

Tuesday – Prepare

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Fill in the valleys, the voice continues; bring down the mountains and the hills. Make everything smooth and level. Get ready, for God is coming.

This is the critical message of Advent. We are to prepare our lives for our Lord's coming, at Christmas certainly but also in the Holy Eucharist and finally on that day when death carries us into His presence and we stand face to face with Him.

We are called to get rid of anything that could stand in the way of God's arrival. The crooked paths of sin and vice have to be replaced with the straight road of virtue. The valleys of fear must be filled in with trust and courage. The mountains and hills of pride and selfishness have to be cut down to size by humility and repentance. Our hearts and minds and souls should be smooth and level in faith and hope and love.

Our God is coming! Let us run to meet Him with hearts prepared and arms outstretched.

Wednesday – Bless the Lord

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

I bless You, Lord, for the love with which You surround me always.
I bless You, Lord, for answering all my prayers in the best possible way.
I bless You, Lord, for filling my heart with hope even in the darkest hours.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

I bless You, Lord, for the depth and richness of Your Word in Sacred Scripture.
I bless You, Lord, for the beauty and wonder of Sacred Tradition.
I bless You, Lord, for the guidance and teaching of the Church's Magisterium.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

I bless You, Lord, for Your perfect plan of salvation.
I bless You, Lord, for the covenants through which You make us Your family.
I bless You, Lord, for coming among us to die for our sins and open the way to Heaven.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

I bless You, Lord, for the sacraments that fill us with Your grace.
I bless You, Lord, for the saints who show us the way home.
I bless You, Lord, for all Your marvelous gifts of love.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reflection for the 1st Week in Advent, Part 2

Thursday – Refuge in the Lord

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” The psalmist is certainly correct when he says this. Let's face it; most people aren't all that reliable. They are weak and sinful and changeable, just like we are. They make promises that they don't keep. They disappoint us in many ways, even when they love us. It may not be good, but it is the reality of this fallen world.

God, on the other hand, is completely different. He is our refuge. We can turn to Him any time, and He will always be there. We can trust Him completely. His ever-faithful love surrounds us in all times and in all places. He protects us, nurtures us, guides us, and cares for us at every moment. He always keeps His promises, for He never changes. He is forever steady and strong.

This we believe. This we know. God, remain our refuge always, for we trust in You. Amen.

Friday – Do You Believe?

The two blind men wanted nothing more than to see, and they believed that Jesus could fulfill their deepest desire. So they followed Him as He walked through their town, and they cried out, “Son of David, have pity on us!”

At first Jesus seemed to ignore them. He just kept walking, but as He entered a house, the men approached Him, and finally He spoke, asking, “Do you believe that I can do this?”

The blind men didn't hesitate as they responded firmly, “Yes, Lord.”

Jesus then touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the two blind men could see.

Jesus had healed them, given them their hearts' desire, but He would not have, perhaps even could not have, done so if they didn't have faith in Him and in His saving power. It was faith that allowed Jesus' healing to have so great an effect in their bodies and in their lives. It was faith that allowed them to accept Jesus' gift of sight with open hearts and open minds.

When we pray for a special grace, then, we can expect Jesus to ask us the same question He asked the two blind men: “Do you believe that I can do this?” And we should be prepared to answer with a resounding “Yes!” Our faith in Jesus, in His love, and in His ability to give us exactly what we need exactly when we need it paves the way for miracles, just as it did for the two blind men.

Saturday – Jesus' Pity

Jesus' heart was moved with pity for the crowds who flocked around Him. He understood that these people felt helpless and hopeless, overwhelmed by their troubles and devoid of protection and guidance. They were like “sheep without a shepherd,” on their own and floundering miserably.

So Jesus gave the crowds exactly what they needed. He taught them about the ways of God and about God's love for them. He healed every illness and disease among them as a physical sign of the even greater spiritual healing He had to offer. He even sent out His disciples to extend His work, giving them a share in His mission to provide hope and healing.

Jesus has pity on each and every one of us, too. His heart is moved by our sufferings and our troubles. He longs to heal us in the ways we most need to be healed, whether that be physically or spiritually or both; He knows best. He reaches out to us, inviting us to embrace His gifts with faith, hope, and love, and to spread them to others. We need never be like sheep without a shepherd, for we have the best Guide, the best Healer, the best Protector, the best Friend in the whole universe: Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Reflection for the 1st Week in Advent, Part 1

Monday – The Lord's Glory

In today's first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Lord's glory. Just as God manifested His glory to the Israelites when they left Egypt and traveled through the desert, so will He cover Mount Zion and His Temple with that same glory in the same form, namely, the shekinah, the glory cloud that lit up with fire at night.

This glory of God, the prophet proclaims, will shelter and protect Israel, providing refuge from the parching heat and the destructive storm. From the midst of the shekinah, God will lead and guide His people, just as He did in ancient days. He will never leave them alone to fend for themselves, unless, of course, they reject Him. Even then, He will work to draw them back.

The Lord's glory covers us just as truly as it surrounded the Israelites and, in fact, in an even greater way. We may not see the shekinah, but we, who are temples of God when we are in a state of grace, are actually filled with God's presence. He dwells within our very souls, and His glory shelters and protects us from the dryness and destruction of life and the world. God leads and guides us. He does not leave us alone, and even when we turn our backs on Him, He reaches out to draw us back and wrap us again in His great glory.

Tuesday – Childlike


“I give You praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned You have revealed them to the childlike.”

Childlike. Here Jesus says that the childlike will receive the Father's revelation in a special way.

What does it mean to be childlike? Think about how children behave. Children run into the arms of their parents, knowing that they will receive comfort. We must do the same and run into God's arms. Children bring all of their problems to their parents, trusting that they will solve them. We must do the same and trust God with all of our problems and trials. He has solutions ready in His time and His way. Children are enthusiastic, eagerly sharing their joy and asking questions when they don't understand. We must do the same, confidently bringing our every joy and question to God. Children aren't afraid to cry when they are sad or scared or in pain. We must do the same, for God notices every one of our tears and consoles us.

Lord, make us childlike. May we trustingly run to You, lay before You all of our difficulties, enthusiastically share our joys and questions with You, and not be afraid to cry in Your arms. Then, when we are children in Your sight, may our hearts be ever more open to receive Your revelation with rejoicing. Amen.

Wednesday – They Followed Him


Peter and Andrew didn't hesitate for a moment. Jesus' call touched a place deep within their souls. They could have resisted, perhaps, but they would have been miserable, and they knew it. So when Jesus said, “Come after Me,” they followed Him.

James and John did the same. They were in the midst of their daily activities, mending their nets like they always did and visiting with their father, Zebedee, but when Jesus called them, they left immediately. The call was so strong that it drew them away from everything and everyone they loved, yet they went gladly.

How is God calling you? He wants you to follow Him in some way. What is He asking of you? How are you responding? Are you following Him immediately like Peter, Andrew, James, and John did, or are you hesitating? If you are hesitating, why? What might you do that you may better accept God's call in your heart and in your life?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Reflection for the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Raise Your Heads

“Stand erect and raise your heads...” In the worst of times, in the midst of persecution, when disaster strikes, when fear closes in...

“Stand erect and raise your heads...” For Jesus is right beside you pouring out His grace for your redemption...

Believe. Hope. Love. Trust. Look up to Heaven. Keep your eyes on God.

“Stand erect and raise your heads...”

Friday – New Heaven and New Earth


St. John's vision of the end of time in the Book of Revelation is truly amazing. Listen again to his description:

“Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

A new Heaven and a new earth... Our minds can hardly even grasp that concept. We can't really picture it because we are so firmly immersed in our current world. But we know that God has something marvelous in store for us, something perfectly beautiful and perfectly good and perfectly true.

In difficult times, we must hold on tightly to that promise of things to come, not because we're trying to escape where we are right now but because we're traveling toward something even better and ever striving to improve our current situation along the way. After all, we want to come as close as possible to Heaven even while we still live on earth and as close as possible to the new Heaven and earth even during this time of preparation.

Saturday – Rock of Our Salvation


God, Rock of our salvation, keep us firm in our faith.
God, Rock of our salvation, keep us steady in our hope.
God, Rock of our salvation, keep us solid in our love.
God, Rock of our salvation, may we stand strong in Your sacraments.
God, Rock of our salvation, may we hold tightly to Your Word.
God, Rock of our salvation, may we remain steadfast in Your moral law.
God, Rock of our salvation, pour out Your grace upon us at every moment.
Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reflection for the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Two Small Coins

Two small coins. They were all the widow had left, and she didn't know when she would get any more. She would probably have to beg in order to eat, but she wasn't too proud to do that. God had always provided for her. He had always opened people's hearts and inspired them to give her what she needed. She could rely on Him even when no one in the world cared about her.

That's why the widow put the two small coins into the treasury. They weren't much, of course, when compared with the large donations of the wealthy. But they were her way of expressing her gratitude and her trust and her love for her Lord.

The widow never noticed the Man sitting opposite the Temple treasury. She didn't hear His words of praise. But she did feel especially loved right at that moment, and she knew she had done the right thing and that everything would be all right. God would never let her down.

Tuesday – Equity, Justice, and Constancy


Today's Psalm tells us that God governs with equity, justice, and constancy.

He governs all people evenly and uprightly (Hebrew meshar, equity), not giving special treatment to anyone without good reason and making sure that everyone has access to His grace in just the right proportion.

He commands with perfect fairness (Hebrew tsedeq, justice), knowing exactly what each of His people need and when they need it.

He rules with faithfulness (Hebrew emunah, constancy), remaining completely trustworthy and stable that His people may count on Him in all times, places, and situations.

Indeed, God is the perfect Ruler because His is the perfect Lover. He governs with equity, justice, and constancy because He loves us more than we can ever imagine.

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

Wednesday – Wisdom in Speaking

Jesus makes us a promise in today's Gospel. He begins by warning us that we will face persecution for our faith and be hated for following Jesus and living according to His teachings. Further, we will have to testify to our faith in the midst of hostile adversaries.

But, and here comes the promise, we don't have to worry about what we will say when we find ourselves in those situations. “I myself,” Jesus assures, “shall give you a wisdom in speaking.”

Think about that for a moment. Jesus will place ideas in our minds and words on our lips that we may explain our faith and stand firm in it.

And He goes even further by adding that our opponents “will be powerless to resist or refute” these ideas and words.

What a promise! What a consolation! Even in the darkest moments, Jesus is beside us and within us, guiding us, guarding us, and strengthening us. All we need to do is open our hearts and minds and welcome Him.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Reflection for the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – A Prophecy

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. He knows that in only a few years, the city will be destroyed. He also knows that the people of Jerusalem have brought their fate upon themselves because they failed to recognize the One Who could have saved them.

So Jesus speaks a prophecy over the city. “For the days are coming upon you,” He says, “when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you...”

No one in Jerusalem could ever say that Jesus didn't warn them about the consequences of their sin and lack of faith. The same goes for all of us. Jesus has given us plenty of warnings, too. We face the same choice as the people of Jerusalem. Will we listen to Jesus and change our lives? Or will we ignore Him and face destruction?

Friday – Sweetness

My Jesus,
May Your promises always be sweet to me.
May Your Word always be sweet to me.
May Your moral law always be sweet to me.
May Your sacraments always be sweet to me.
May Your Church's teaching always be sweet to me.
May Your grace always be sweet to me.
May Your gift of prayer always be sweet to me.
May I savor the sweetness of Your love for all eternity.
Amen.

Saturday – God of the Living

Our God is a God of the living. Those who have died physically are still alive spiritually if they are in Him. In fact, they are more alive than ever before. Even if they are being purified in Purgatory, they know that they are on their way to Heaven, and they rejoice in the depth and breadth of their new life. And those in Heaven experience an abundance of life beyond their wildest imaginings.

We who still live on this earth can also be more alive than ever if we allow the God of the living to live and move in us. Jesus proclaimed that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and He explained that He has come that we might “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In Jesus, we can begin living Heaven right now because we can share in the very life of God through His grace.

So let's choose life in every way. May we choose life for ourselves, the abundant life that God offers us in Himself. May we choose life for others, recognizing their human dignity from conception to natural death. May we choose life at every moment, for God is a God of the living.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reflection for the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Read, Listen, Heed

As we near the end of the Church year, we turn our attention to the Book of Revelation. After an introductory verse proclaiming the nature of the revelation (“what must happen soon”) and a nod to the author (St. John), we receive a threefold blessing.

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.”

While the blessing applies explicitly to the Book of Revelation, it can be extended to cover all of Scripture. We are blessed when we read Scripture, when we listen to the message God gives through it, and when we heed that message.

Let's look at each of these in turn.

The Greek word for “read” is anaginōskō. It literally means “to know again” with certainty. Isn't that exactly what we do when we read Scripture? We know again with certainty the message that God gives us, and we get to know it better and better each time we read it. The more we read Scripture, the more we know God and His love for us. And we are blessed.

The Greek word for “listen” is akouō. It implies more than just the physical sense of hearing; rather, this verb carries overtones of learning and understanding. When we listen to Scripture, we learn about ourselves, about our world, about our heritage, about our God, and about the divine plan for our lives. When we dip into Scripture's unfathomable depths of meaning, we come up with a bit more comprehension of reality every time. And we are blessed.

The Greek word for “heed” is tēreō. It literally means to keep or guard or preserve. When we heed Scripture, we allow it to burrow deep within our hearts and minds, and we keep it there. We make God's words a part of our very selves, and we refuse to let them go because we recognize their infinite value. And we are blessed.

May we, then, always read, listen to, and heed Sacred Scripture and open our hearts to the blessing that God longs to pour out through His words of love. Amen.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on http://www.biblehub.com/.) 

Tuesday – Reality Check

Have you ever noticed how often Jesus gives us a reality check? In today's first reading, Jesus tells the Church at Laodicea, “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

Apparently these folks were dedicated to the middle of the road. They weren't wiling to make a strong commitment to anything, one way or another, including their Christian faith. Perhaps they thought they would wait and see what happened as time went by. Maybe they thought they were doing just enough good stuff to squeak into Heaven. They were pretty good people after all. Shouldn't that count for something?

Jesus doesn't stop there. He reminds the people of Laodicea of their usual attitude: “For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything...’” But then He proceeds to tell them how He sees them: “...you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” So much for their pride! They may have plenty of material goods, but they are living in spiritual poverty.

Take a moment to examine yourself. Does either part of this reality check apply to you? Are you lukewarm about your faith? If so, what might you do to turn up the heat? (Hint: pray, pray, pray!) Do you think you're sitting pretty good in life? If so, are you talking about material stuff or spiritual necessities? Are you living in spiritual poverty? If so, what might you do change your circumstances. (Hint: ask God for an outpouring of His grace!)

Wednesday – King


Today's parable is a familiar one all about a master giving gold coins to his servants and telling them to use the money well. Two of them do so; the other one doesn't. It's a story with an important message.

But if we're not careful, we might miss another significant element in the tale. The master is leaving for a reason; he is going away to obtain a kingship for himself. But the people he wishes to rule over don't want him. They despise him. They want nothing to do with him, and they refuse to accept him as their king.

Why? Perhaps because he is a demanding master. He expects obedience. He makes claims. He exacts consequences upon those who oppose him.

But this is only one side of the master. He is also fair and generous. To those servants who obeyed him, he gave a lavish reward...much more than their small efforts would normally merit. He would even have been satisfied if the disobedient servant had merely put his coin in the bank, an action that would have required minimal risk and no effort at all.

So what is Jesus getting at here? Perhaps He is inviting us to reflect on whether or not we accept Him as the King of our lives. Jesus is like the master. He can be demanding. He expects obedience. He makes claims on us. He allows us to experience the consequences of our actions. But He is also fair and generous...far more than any human master ever could be.

Lord Jesus, be the King of my life, and give me Your grace that I may always be an obedient servant. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reflection for the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Brother, Not Slave

In today's first reading, St. Paul is writing to a man named Philemon with a very special request. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus...or at least he used to. Apparently, Onesimus had escaped and somehow become a companion of Paul. Paul feels it is best to send Onesimus back to Philemon even though he is loathe to part with him, but since Onesimus and Philemon are both Christians, Paul suggests a new arrangement. Onesimus is to be Philemon's brother, not his slave.

As we read and meditate on Paul's request, we should think about how we behave toward the people around us. Are they more like brothers or more like slaves? Do we value them for their own sake or use them for our own purposes? Do we see them as human beings with dignity, made in the image and likeness of God? Do we treat them accordingly? Are we all one family in God?

Friday – Treasuring the Promise

“Within my heart I treasure Your promise...” What has God promised us? Grace in this life if we accept it. Eternal life in Heaven if we remain in His grace here on earth. Love. Forgiveness. Truth. Beauty. Goodness. A place in His family. A relationship with Him. A share in His divine life.

What a promise this is! Can we really say with the psalmist that we treasure this promise? The Hebrew word for “treasure” is tsaphan, and it means to store or hide or protect. We, then, ought to store God's promise deep within our minds and hearts and protect it so we never lose it. We ought to reflect deeply on it in the hidden places of our being so that we can know its value and accept it as our own.

Take some time today to reflect on God's promise, to examine it in all its beauty, and to make sure that it is securely placed in your heart so that you may treasure it always.

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

Saturday – A Negative Comparison

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the judge and the widow. The judge doesn't care about justice for anyone. He clearly practices his profession for himself alone. But the widow won't give up. She knows that she's right and that she's going to get a favorable response if she just keeps on bugging that judge. Finally, the judge gives in, fearing that the widow will wear him out with all her stubborn pleas. He renders a just decision for her, and she is satisfied.

When we first hear this parable, we might wonder what Jesus is getting at. Surely God isn't like that unjust judge, is He? He doesn't hold out on us just because He doesn't feel like answering or is busy with other things, does He? He doesn't get tired of our pleading and give in just to get rid of us, right?

God, of course, doesn't do any of these things. Jesus is using a negative comparison here. God is the opposite of the unjust judge. He is perfectly just, and He doesn't hold back good things from His people. When we pray to Him, He always hears and answers.

It's just that sometimes He doesn't answer quite the way we would like. Sometimes He says “No” to our prayers or “Wait.” Then, like the widow, we have to persevere. We have to keep praying, asking God to do what is best for us and to help us understand that whatever He is doing is for our good even when we don't see it.

The widow couldn't trust the judge to do the right thing, but we can always trust our God because He always has our best interests in His mind and heart. We just have to remember (and be reminded) that prayer is far more about getting Someone than about getting something, and that's why we must “pray always without becoming weary.”

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reflection for the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Rebuke and Forgive

“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” This is what Jesus tells His disciples (and that includes us) in today's Gospel. Let's look closely at both parts of this command.

First, Jesus tells us to rebuke people when they sin. This might seem a bit harsh to those of us who live in a culture that preaches toleration and acceptance, but we have to remember that we don't have to tolerate sin, and we certainly shouldn't accept it. The Greek word for “rebuke” is epitimaō, and it literally means to point out a correct value on something. In other words, when we rebuke someone, we call a sin a sin. We tell it like it is, and we warn the person that he or she is on the wrong path.

In order to follow Jesus' command here, we must acknowledge the objective moral law. Certain actions are right, and certain actions are wrong, and that's God's truth. Further, when we rebuke people according to the moral law and in the spirit Jesus intends, we are really acting with love. Love wants the best for another person and acts in order to help achieve that best. Sin is never what's best for another person, and love recognizes that and says so.

The second part of Jesus' command is about forgiveness. When someone repents (i.e., has a change of mind and heart), we are to forgive that person. After all, this is exactly what God does for us, and we are to imitate him. Even if the person sins and repents seven times a day, we are to keep right on forgiving. We would want the same for ourselves.

Both halves of this command are challenging, but they are both necessary for the spiritual good of ourselves and those around us. But don't worry; God gives us grace to both rebuke and forgive if only we ask Him.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on http://www.biblehub.com/.)

Tuesday – Temperately, Justly, and Devoutly

We live in a challenging world. Surrounded by sin and death on every side, we can easily lose sight of who we are and how we are to act. So St. Paul, in his wonderful, succinct way, reminds us of how we must live in Christ: “temperately, justly, and devoutly.”

When we live temperately, we act with moderation. We are prudent people, who think before we speak or act and who consider the consequences of our words and behavior.

When we live justly, we try to do the right thing in every circumstance, according to God's moral law. We are mindful of other people and their rights and dignity, and we remember our own dignity and value as God's beloved children.

When we live devoutly, we stay as close as we can to God. We pray, we read Scripture, we receive the sacraments, and we strive to imitate our Lord in all that we do. We put God at the very center of our lives and focus our attention on Him continually.

Temperately, justly, and devoutly... If we strive to live in this way, we will be much better able to navigate the crazy world in which we live.

Wednesday – Cleansing the Temple

Many people these days like to think of Jesus as a quiet, gentle, tolerant person who didn't like to give offense to anyone. But is that really how the Gospels depict Jesus? Or do people tend to shape Him as they would like Him to be?

Today's Gospel reveals a side of Jesus that people don't always like to think about. Jesus could be tough. He got angry and fed up with sin and irreverence, and He acted accordingly.

People were misusing the Temple. Instead of a sanctuary of prayer and God's dwelling place on earth, the Temple had become a busy marketplace for animal dealers and moneychangers. And Jesus wasn't about to tolerate it for one more minute. He made a whip out of cords and drove the merchants out of the Temple, overturning their tables and telling them in no uncertain terms to take their business elsewhere.

This is indeed another side of Jesus, and if it makes us a little uncomfortable, it's supposed to. Jesus isn't going to pat us on the head and excuse our bad behavior. He forgives us, but He also demands that we change our ways, boot sin out of our lives, and clean up our acts. He doesn't hesitate to offend us in order to save us. He loves us that much.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Reflection for the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – The Coin

A woman had ten coins, silver drachmas, each representing a day's wages for a laborer. Somehow the woman lost one of the coins. She certainly couldn't afford that, so she lit her lamp and searched the whole house until she found the coin. Then she rejoiced with great relief and called her neighbors to celebrate with her.

God has many more souls than just ten, but like the woman, He cannot bear to lose even one. So when even one soul slips away and gets lost, He turns on the lights and searches diligently for it. Of course, God always knows exactly where we are, but because we can, by our own free will, turn away from Him and remove ourselves from Him spiritually, He does everything possible to entice us back to Him. God wants us infinitely more than the woman wanted her lost coin.

So next time things are going wrong and you wonder where God is in the mess of your life, remember that He wants you, He looks for you, and He turns the bright light of His grace on so you can make your way back to Him.

Friday – Citizenship in Heaven


“Our citizenship is in Heaven...” Think about that for a moment. We may live on earth now, but we are pilgrims. We are passing through on our way home to Heaven.

This means that our perspective should be heavenly. We see the things of this world for what they are, temporary, and we use them to do as much good as we can for as many people as possible. We work to make this world a better place so our fellow pilgrims can travel more securely and easily.

Further, we keep the lines of communication to our homeland open and active through constant prayer. We read the letters our Heavenly Father has sent us (i.e., Sacred Scripture). We accept the guidance of the Church that God has given us to lead us home. We even make little visits in spirit as we partake of the sacraments and receive our Lord in the Eucharist. The Mass, after all, is our earthly participation in Heavenly worship.

So we enjoy our journey, and we do the best we can during our lives here on earth, but more than anything, we look forward to getting home to Heaven.

Saturday – The Secret


St. Paul has learned a secret. It's a secret that allows him to be indifferent about material things. If he eats, well and good. If he goes hungry, he can manage. He can cope equally with abundance and need. Nothing seems to bother him.

What is this secret? Paul is eager to share it: “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”

The secret is Christ. He is why Paul can go hungry or eat well, live abundantly or be in need, and still keep going in his mission. He can get by very well in any circumstances because his focus is completely on Christ.

There's a lesson for us here. If we imitate Paul, we, too, can cope with any situation that might come up in our lives by keeping our eyes on Christ and making sure that He is the center of our lives. When we do this, we will be better able to draw on the strength that our Jesus is always willing and able to provide.

This is a secret we can share. Through Christ we can do all things, handle everything this life throws at us, maintain our balance, and carry out our mission in this life and all the way to Heaven.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reflection for the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Unity and Humility

In today's first reading, St. Paul reminds us of two key aspects of the Christian life: unity and humility. “Complete my joy,” he says, “by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.”

The same mind... We embrace the truth as God reveals it in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and guides our interpretation by the Church's Magisterium. 


The same love... We sincerely will the best for one another and do our utmost to help each other achieve that best.

United in heart... We truly care about one another, and we are cautious of each other's feelings. Even though we often have to admonish one another, we do so with love.

Thinking one thing... We discipline our thoughts so they conform to the truth rather than trying to force the truth to conform to our thoughts.

To do all of these things, we must practice humility. This doesn't mean putting ourselves down; it means seeing ourselves realistically. We recognize that everything we have and everything we are comes from God. Without Him we can do nothing good, so we rely on His grace for all. We also realize that God endowed each and every person with dignity, and we treat them accordingly. We put God first in our lives, then others, and finally ourselves.

Lord Jesus, help me live this unity and humility each and every day. Amen.

Tuesday – The Great Multitude


On this Solemnity of All Saints, we remember and honor the great multitude of saints who are waiting for us in Heaven. They are constantly praying for us, cheering us on, and encouraging us by their examples.

The saints are some of our greatest friends, but we have to ask ourselves how well we really know them. And after we've admitted, “Not nearly well enough,” we ought to make an effort to remedy that.

Here are a few ideas that might help:

1. Read a little about a different saint each day either online or in a book of saints' lives.

2. Choose a saint as a prayer partner, and regularly ask him or her to intercede for you.

3. Select a book written by a saint, and read a bit each day.

4. Ask your friends, relatives, and fellow parishioners if they have favorite saints. Get the conversation going!

5. Pull out your old holy cards, and pray some of the beautiful prayers on the backs of them.

Whatever you choose to do, just be sure to develop a relationship with some saints. After all, they will be our companions in Heaven, so we might as well start getting to know them now.

Wednesday – Words of Hope


As we pray in a special way for the holy souls in Purgatory today, we take comfort in the words of hope Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel. “Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me,” He says, “and I will not reject anyone who comes to Me...For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Jesus wants us, each and every one of us. The Father wills that everyone be saved. They do not reject anyone who comes to Them with faith and a sincere heart. They turn no one away.

God loves everyone single person who has ever lived and ever will live. We were all created to live in Heaven forever, and we all have access to all the grace we need to get there. God doesn't hold back.

But sometimes we do. We reject grace and turn away from God. We refuse the salvation He offers because we want sin more. But we can still have hope because right up to the last moment of our lives, we can keep turning back and casting ourselves into God's arms. He always accepts and heals a repentant heart.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Reflection for the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Spiritual Armor

The spiritual life is a battle. We're attacked on all sides by the enemy, by the world, and by our own disordered passions. We are constantly fighting against temptation so that we don't sin and fall away from God.

But we are not left without armor and weapons. God provides us all we need to fight and win our spiritual battles. First, we possess the truth. That is one of our greatest weapons. We know the truth about God and His plan for us. We know the truth about our enemies and their tactics. And we know the truth about ourselves and our weaknesses. We know that we can never win without God, so we rely on Him completely.

Second, we possess the breastplate of righteousness. When we are in a right relationship with God, we can withstand anything because we are in a position to take full advantage of His grace.

Third, we possess the firm foundation of the Gospel. We stand on the solid ground of God's Word.

Fourth, we possess the shield of faith. Our faith protects us from the arrows of the enemy, arrows of doubt, arrows of confusion, arrows of fear. Our faith guards us from the trickery and deceit that the enemy shoots at us from all directions. When we are firm in our faith, when we truly believe in God, not just that He exists but that He truly is Who He says He is and does what He says He does, then we are covered by a protection that can withstand any attack.

Fifth, we possess the helmet of salvation. Our heads are covered by God's saving grace. When this helmet is in place, the enemy can't mess with our minds. We recognize who we are in God, and we have confidence that He will get us home to Heaven if only we remain close to Him.

Sixth, we possess the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We fight with God's Word. We use Scripture and Tradition, under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium, to proclaim God's message of salvation to the world and to refute those who attack us.

With these weapons and this armor, we can fight our spiritual battles with confidence, assured that God is always by our side, pouring out His grace and healing our wounds, that we may be victorious.

Friday – The Household of God

You are a member of the household of God. When you are in a state of grace and in communion with the Church, you are a full-fledged member of God's family. At your baptism, you entered into a covenant with God, and covenants are family bonds. They create kinship.

You renew that covenant every time you receive a sacrament. When you partake of Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist, you renew your covenant oath. When you go to confession, you renew your covenant oath. When you are ill and accept anointing, you renew your covenant oath. You proclaim to the world that you are a member of the household of God, part of His family, and one of His beloved children.

Now reflect for a while on the following question: Do you act like a member of the household of God?

Saturday – Thirsting for God

“My soul is thirsting for the living God.”
I long for the living water of Your grace, my God.
I reach for the outpouring of faith, hope, and love that only You can give.
I need to hear Your words in Scripture and to meet You in the sacraments.
I strive to keep Your moral law with love and to grow in all virtues.
I desire to stand in Your presence all the days of my life and then perfectly in Heaven.
“My soul is thirsting for the living God.”
Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reflection for the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Thanksgiving

In today's first reading, St. Paul tells us what we should and should not talk about. First let's look at the “should not.” We should not even mention immorality or impurity or greed. Immoral words (the Greek word here refers to sexual immorality) must not cross our lips, nor should impure words (the Greek word can refer to lust but also uncleanness or luxuriant living). We should not speak with an attitude of greed (I want; I want; I want.). Further, we ought to avoid obscenities or any talk that is foolish or crude.

Now pause and think for a moment. Have you always observed Paul's “should not” list? Most of us would have to answer with an honest no. Often words flow from our lips before we even stop to think what we're saying, and then we say things we shouldn't.

We should be grateful that God forgives our slips and stumbles and always allows us another chance.

What kind of talk, then, is on Paul's “should” list? Thanksgiving. Our speech should be filled with thanksgiving. We must recognize our blessings and express gratitude for them. And Who is it that gives all these blessings? Who gives us everything we have and everything we are? God of course! So this talk of thanksgiving (in Greek eucharistia – look familiar?) is really talk about God. We thank Him; we praise Him; we pray for more blessings to be thankful for; we speak to Him about our daily lives, our joys and sorrows; we proclaim Him to others. And we do all of this with well-trained tongues and grateful hearts that the whole world may learn to thank God, too.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on http://www.biblehub.com/.) 

Tuesday – Husbands and Wives

Today's first reading tends to make many modern women rather annoyed. What's all this talk about submitting to a husband? It's simply more than a liberated woman can tolerate.

Or is it?

Unfortunately, many women see the word “submit,” take offense, and quit reading right there. And so they miss Paul's whole point.

If we read a little further, we discover the husband's duty, and he has the more difficult task. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. And what did Christ do for the Church? He died for her. A husband, then, is to love his wife so completely and so strongly that he would do anything for her, even die for her. This is true self-giving love, love that puts the other person first, wills the absolute best for her, and does everything possible to help her achieve that absolute best.

What wife wouldn't want to be loved like that? What wife wouldn't put her self under such a love? What wife wouldn't be willing to submit to a husband who truly loved her like that? How could she not trust that her husband would only want and do what is absolutely best for her, that he would protect her and love her even unto death?

This is love and marriage as God designed it.

Wednesday – The Narrow Gate

Lord, guide me on the path that leads to the narrow gate.
This is the path of the sacraments; may I always receive them worthily.
This is the path of prayer; may I pray continually.
This is the path of the Scriptures; may I read them with devotion and an open heart.
This is the path of the moral law; may I follow it unfailingly.
This is the path of virtue; may I grow strong in every virtue.
This is the path of intimacy with You; may our relationship become ever deeper.
This is the path of love; may I love You and my neighbor with an ever increasing love.
This is the path to Heaven; lead me to eternal joy.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reflection for the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – A Blazing Fire

In today's Gospel, Jesus proclaims that He has come to set the world on fire and He wishes that “it were already blazing.”

What is this blazing fire that Jesus wants to kindle?

There is likely more than one answer, but Jesus doesn't give any, indicating, perhaps, that He wants us to reflect deeply on the question and come up with our own responses.

So let's brainstorm. This blazing fire could be God's love, which is often described in terms of fire. God's love could certainly set the world ablaze. It might also be the Holy Spirit, Who is God's Love in person. It may refer to faith or spiritual enthusiasm or salvation or justice. It could even refer to purification. Or, maybe, Jesus is talking about a combination of all of these and more. Whatever this fire is, He longs to light it in the world, and, as He hints by His next words, He will accomplish that by His suffering and death.

Friday – Interpretation

How well do we interpret the signs of the times? We listen today as Jesus chides His audience for their lack of attention to the spiritual environment around them. Although they are quite good at interpreting the weather, they are clueless about what really counts. They don't recognize Jesus for Who He is. They don't give any mind to the prophecies He fulfills. They don't care about the new order, the new life, He brings.

Doesn't this sound like the world today? People are very good at interpreting earthly things like the weather or business cycles or entertainment trends, but they are clueless about spiritual realities. They don't read the signs of the times. They don't recognize what God is doing. They fail to heed His warnings. They don't think about the consequences of their actions.

But there will be consequences. Many members of Jesus' original audience suffered when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. What will we suffer if we fail to interpret the signs of our times?

Saturday – Grow Up

Today Paul tells the Ephesians (and us) to grow up. “Living the truth in love,” we must grow in Christ so that we know our faith well and resist being swept away by every new wave of false teaching and doctrinal confusion.

If he were standing before us, Paul may indeed ask us how well we are doing with this. Do we make any effort at all to grow in our faith, to learn more about God and His plan of salvation? Do we study and pray the Scriptures? Do we delve into the richness of Church teachings? Do we read the writings of the saints? Do we take advantage of faith formation classes and study groups?

Or are we too busy? Does our faith take a back seat to everything else in our lives? Do we learn more about our jobs and our hobbies than about God? Do we even know how to respond when someone questions our faith?

It's time, then, for us to grow up, to learn the truth and to live it in love, to really know our faith and understand its rich beauty, and most of all, to come ever closer to God, Who longs to bring us to full maturity in Him.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reflection for the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Saved by Grace

Protestants often misunderstand Catholic beliefs about salvation, claiming that Catholics try to earn their way to Heaven and other such nonsense.

Indeed, Catholics firmly hold that we do not save ourselves. God saves us by grace. His grace is a free gift that He pours into our souls. We do not earn it. We cannot claim it by right.

But we can and must respond to God's grace. God is a gentleman; He never forces Himself upon us. Instead, He waits for us to accept Him, and we do that through faith. Faith is our yes to God. We believe in Him and in His revelation. But even more, we enter into a relationship with Him.

This faith, however, doesn't stand alone. It must flow outward into love. Faith is only alive if it leads to good works. This is why Catholics believe that good works are necessary. We don't earn our way to Heaven by doing them, but we express the faith that accepts the grace of God that does bring us salvation. And of course, God is right there all along, giving us grace, inspiring us to faith, and urging us to work in love.

Tuesday – Deserted

Paul was completely deserted by his so-called friends. Standing before the Romans, putting his life on the line for the Gospel, he was all alone. No one came to his defense. No one turned out to support him. No one seemed to care.

But did Paul hold it against them? Definitely not. And he prayed that God wouldn't do so either. He was determined to excuse those who had hurt him, to understand and forgive.

How could he do this? Paul knew that he was never really alone. Humans may have deserted him, but the Lord was right beside him through it all, strengthening him and giving him everything he needed to proclaim the Gospel. And this was enough.

So when we feel alone, deserted, abandoned by people we thought were friends, we need only to remember that we are never alone. Another One stands by our side, One Who will never leave us.

Wednesday – Confident and Unafraid


“God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.”

Confident and unafraid. Can we truly proclaim these words and mean them? If not, why not? What is keeping us back from placing our full trust in God and letting go of our fear?

Do we really believe that God is our savior? That He wants to pour out His grace upon us? That He stands ready to give us everything we need to get to Heaven if only we stand ready to open our hearts and receive it?

Lord, make me confident and unafraid. Fill me with faith that I may boldly proclaim that You are my Savior. Fill me with hope that I will trust You throughout my whole life and all the way to Heaven. Fill me with the perfect love that casts out fear. May I stand before You open and ready, confident and unafraid. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Reflection for the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Sing

“Sing to the Lord a new song!” Have you ever noticed that the Scriptures are filled with music? Someone is always singing praise to God or lamenting in song or even working out difficult problems through music (check out Psalm 49).

Do you ever sing to God? And I don't mean mumbling your way through the songs at Mass but really singing out from the heart in praise or even in pain. We are all called to make music before God. It doesn't matter how good your voice is or if you have any musical ability at all. Music is an integral part of human life, and like ever other element of human existence, it should be used to draw us closer to God.

So find a song you love, and sing it to God, or maybe even compose a brand new song in His honor. Whatever you do, see if you can follow the Psalmist's advice and sing to God. It's good practice for Heaven!

Friday – Sparrows

God keeps track of every little sparrow. He knows each one. Even though humans don't value these insignificant birds very much, God does.

How much more, then, does He know and value us? He has even counted every single hair on our heads.

Therefore, we shouldn't be afraid. God is in charge, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He cares for us. He sees everything that happens to us. He guides us on the paths He wants for us, but we have to cooperate with Him. We have to open our hearts to His grace. We have to accept His guidance and help. We have to embrace His love and remember what Jesus says: “You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Saturday – Knowledge of God

How do we come to know God? We can know Him a bit through our reason, at least that He exists and is the first Cause and Creator of the universe. But our reason is limited by our human nature and marred by sin, so we need something more.

We need the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” that St. Paul mentions in his letter to the Ephesians. In other words, God must reveal Himself to us and give us the wisdom to receive the revelations if we are to truly know Him, at least as much as our human minds ever can. He must enlighten us, pour His brilliance into us, if we are to understand His characteristics and His actions.

But the good news is that God wants us to know Him! He wants to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation. He wants to enlighten us. He wants a real relationship with us. For that's what the word “knowledge” means here. In Greek, it's epignōsis, and it doesn't refer to simply knowing about someone or being acquainted with the facts. It denotes a personal knowledge received through direct contact. This is the knowledge of intimacy, the knowledge of love, the knowledge of a life lived in communion. This is the kind of knowledge God wants to give each one of us. He is willing and able to do so. Our job is to open our hearts and minds and drink in all we can of the knowledge and love that God so generously and lovingly provides.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on http://www.biblehub.com/.)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reflection for the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – The Sign of Jonah

In today's Gospel, Jesus is confronted by a crowd that demands a sign. The people want to see some kind of miracle, something that will “prove” Jesus' claims and teaching. Clearly, they are far more interested in witnessing something spectacular than in learning about God and His plan.

Jesus responds quite cryptically. No sign will be given, He announces, “except the sign of Jonah.” This must have raised a few eyebrows. The sign of Jonah? How could that stubborn, pouting prophet be a sign of anything?

We might wonder that, too, so let's look closely at Jesus' meaning. Jonah was sent to warn the Ninevites that they were on the path to destruction. Of course, he went in the exactly opposite direction and ran from his mission, only to be swallowed by a giant fish. And here is where Jonah first becomes a sign. He remains inside the fish for three days and three nights. Sound familiar?

When the fish finally spits Jonah out onto the shore, the prophet wipes himself off and finally undertakes his mission. He goes to Nineveh and proclaims that in forty days the city will be destroyed for its sin. The Ninevites, even though they are Gentiles, actually take the prophet seriously, repent, and begin acts of penance. Because of their humility, God saves them and their city. Again, Jonah has become a sign. He prefigures another Person, Who would come to sinful people, even Gentiles, with a warning and an invitation to repentance and salvation.

The sign of Jonah, it seems, is a pretty good pointer for Jesus' original hearers and for us, too.

Tuesday – Freedom


Our culture holds some odd ideas about freedom. Modern people often think that to be free means to be able to do whatever one wants to do whenever one wants to do it. Freedom, for many, denotes a lack of restraint or rules or supervision and the ability to determine one's own actions independently. This kind of freedom is freedom from interference and restriction.

But this isn't God's definition of freedom. The freedom we receive from God is perfectly compatible with rules and regulations because it is far more freedom for something than freedom from something. It is freedom for truth, beauty, and goodness. It is freedom for intimacy with God. It is freedom for love, a strong, active love for God and our fellow human beings. It is freedom for faith and hope. It is freedom that helps us let go of everything that holds us back: sin, weaknesses, flaws, faults. God's freedom helps us live the best lives we can here on earth that one day we may be free to enter Heaven. Now that's the best freedom of all.

Wednesday – Fruits of the Spirit


St. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These fruits grow in us as we grow in Christian living, as we open ourselves more and more to the grace of God, and as we allow God to work in and through us.

Take a few minutes today to reflect on these fruits of the Spirit, and ask yourself the following questions for each.

1. What does this fruit mean to me?
2. Where does this fruit manifest itself in my life?
3. Where is this fruit lacking or weak in my life?
4. What is one concrete thing I can do this week to help this fruit grow in my life?

Lord, may these fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, grow and flourish in me through the help of Your grace, for by them I will show You to the world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reflection for the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – The Friend

Doesn't the friend in Jesus' parable today seem just a bit annoying? First, he has nothing on hand when he receives a guest. We can, however, sympathize with him a bit there, for we all know the kind of panic inspired by an unexpected visitor. But it's already midnight, and instead of just tucking his guest into bed and promising a nice breakfast in the morning, this fellow goes galloping off to his friend's house and bangs on the door. He must know that the family would be in bed and asleep, but he bothers them anyway.

And he won't quit! He probably gets his loaves of bread in the end, but he might also have lost a friend or at least ticked him off.

What is Jesus trying to tell us by this parable? First off, we must admit that we're often just as unprepared as the friend in the story, not just materially but spiritually. We don't have what we need when we need it, and we don't always realize that until it's quite late in the game. That's usually when we discover that we need to ask for help.

Unlike the awakened and annoyed friend in the parable, however, the One we need to ask is always prepared to answer our requests. Yes, He wants us to persevere in our prayer. Yes, sometimes it seems like He takes a long time to answer. Sometimes He even says no. But He is always listening and always responding. He is our best Friend, the One we can always turn to in time of need. We can trust Him to hear us, answer us, and give us exactly what we need exactly when we need it. And He won't even be annoyed!

Friday – Children of Abraham


In today's first reading, Paul explains to the Galatians that, when they have faith in Jesus, they are children of Abraham. This might have come as a surprise to them, for the Jews claimed that designation for themselves and weren't about to extend it to Gentiles like the Galatians.

God, however, was perfectly ready to expand the meaning of “children of Abraham.” After all, He had once promised the patriarch himself that his descendants would be more than the stars or the sands on the seashore. All nations, in fact, would be blessed through Abraham.

And when Jesus, a physical descendant of Abraham in His incarnation, became man and died for our sins, He made us the adopted children of God and also of Abraham. He brought those who believe together into one big family, initiated by a covenant oath and held together by bonds of love.

We, too, then, can and should claim Abraham as our father. He is our ancestor in faith, our patriarch in salvation history, and, as we hope and pray, our companion forever in Heaven.

Saturday – Look, Seek, Recall


Today the psalmist tells us that we must do three very important things.

1. “Look to the Lord in His strength.”
2. “Seek to serve Him constantly.”
3. “Recall the wondrous deeds that He has wrought, His portents, and the judgments He has uttered.”

As we look to the Lord, we focus our attention on Him. We remember His constant presence. We lean on His strength to carry us through bad times and good. We pray and worship Him with faith and love.

As we seek to serve the Lord, we listen closely to learn His will and strive to carry it out with the help of His grace. We shine His light as we perform whatever tasks He wants us to do.

As we recall the Lord's deeds, portents, and judgments, we remember what amazing things He has done in the past and trust that He will continue to do so in the future. We marvel at His care for His people. We turn to Scripture to jog our memories and hear God's words.

Today, then, let us look at, seek, and recall our loving God.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reflection for the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Pleasing God not People

What is your first priority: pleasing God or pleasing people? St. Paul makes the correct choice quite clear when he says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” But how would you have to answer that question if you were being truly honest?

It's easy to fall into a habit of pleasing people. After all, we want to be liked and appreciated. So perhaps we go along with something we aren't really comfortable with, or maybe we fail to speak up when we know something is wrong. We keep our mouths shut and our eyes down even when realize that pleasing people means displeasing God.

So how do we break this habit? First off, we have to recognize what we're doing, hence Paul's reminder. Second, we have to make a firm commitment to put God first in our lives no matter what the cost. Third, we have to pray for God's grace to fulfill that commitment. Fourth, we have to jump in and act. Speak the truth. Live the faith. Please God not people.

Tuesday – The Better Part

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” What did Mary choose? What is this better part?

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen to Him, to talk to Him, to give Him her full attention. Martha was doing important tasks, too, of course, but those tasks took her eyes off of Jesus. She was serving Him, or preparing to serve Him, but she wasn't focused on Him. She had to concentrate on the jobs at hand. Mary, however, kept her eyes on Jesus. And this is the better part.

What's the message for us here? Should we just give up everything we're doing and enter convents or monasteries? No. Not everyone is called to that kind of life. But we are all called to choose the better part at least regularly. This means taking the time to sit at Jesus' feet in prayer and focus our attention on Him. This means listening for His voice in our hearts and being quiet enough to hear it. This means going to Mass on Sunday. This means reading and meditating on the Scriptures. We should all be choosing the better part, no matter how busy we are and how crazy our lives get because the better part is Jesus.

Wednesday – Father

Today Jesus teaches us to call God “Father.” This may not seem like a big deal to us. Many of us have been brought up praying the Lord's Prayer and have called God “Father” since we were tiny children.

But to Jesus' original audience, this teaching was new, fresh, and even shocking. Sure, the Jews recognized God as a Father, but He was the Father of their nation, not of individual people. Claiming God as one's personal father just wasn't done, for the Jews just didn't have that knowledge of His immanence and intimacy.

That's why Jesus had to teach them Who God really is. He is a Father. He is Jesus' Father because the First Person of the Blessed Trinity has begotten the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity from all eternity. Then, when Jesus became human and died for us, He became our Brother. We received a share in His sonship and become adopted children of God, sons in the Son, heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, we can confidently call God “Father” and mean it with our whole hearts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reflections for the 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – The Archangels

Today we celebrate the feast of the archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. These great messengers worship continually before God's throne even as they serve Him faithfully by carrying out every task He assigns to them.

Do we do the same? We are called to imitate these archangels. Our worship, too, ought to be constant. We should always recollect that we stand in God's presence, and we should pray to Him frequently throughout the day and keep our minds focused on Him as much as possible. Further, we are called to serve God faithfully in every task He assigns to us. We must determine His will in every situation and then fulfill it as well as we can and always with the help of His grace.

Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us that we may always share in your worship and service both here on earth and someday forever in Heaven. Amen.

Friday – Hand over Mouth

We have to give Job credit, for he knows when to shut up. God has just been rebuking him rather vigorously with a series of pointed questions. Have you ever walked in the depths of the abyss? Do you know where light and darkness live? Yeah...didn't think so...

Job realizes that he has far overstepped his bounds in his questions and complaints to God, and he stops short. Knowing that he can't answer God's questions, he puts his hand over his mouth and falls silent. He is humbled but in a good way. He has recognized his sin and repented of it. Now he stands quietly and openly before God, waiting in trusting humility for His next move. Job has learned his lesson. It may have taken a little while, but he has passed the test.

Saturday – Restoration

We've followed Job all week, watching as he suffered, wrestled with the question of why, and finally submitted to God in humility and trust. Now we see him restored. And what a restoration it is!

Job's health returns; his property is double what it once was; and he has a new family with seven sons and three beautiful daughters who, unlike other women of their time, actually get to share in their father's estate. Job lives to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, his most precious legacy, and he dies at 140 years old, content with his life.

God has made everything good in the end. We must trust that He will always do the same for us if we allow Him to do so.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Reflections for the 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Poor Job

You just have to feel sorry for Job. It's one thing after another for the poor fellow. First the oxen and donkeys get carried off in raid. Then the sheep are struck by lightning (that must have been some lightning!). Then the camels are kidnapped. Finally, and worst of all, Job's sons and daughters all die when the oldest brother's house collapses in a windstorm.

Think for a moment what you might have done if you were in similar circumstances. How would you have responded?

Satan thought that Job would blaspheme God to His face. God knew otherwise. He knew that Job was faithful and trusting. So He allowed these things to happen in order to prove Job's mettle. This may seem a little cruel on God's part. But we must remember that God needs to be first in our lives before everything and even everybody. That's what God is trying to show here.

And Job proves God right. Look at his response to all these calamities:

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back again.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Far from cursing or blaspheming, Job actually blesses God. This is a statement of great faith. Job realize that God owes Him nothing, and he trusts that God has a reason for whatever He allows to happen, no matter how bad it seems.

Could you make a statement like this in your darkest moments? If not (or even if so), spend some time today praying for God's grace to strength your trust and enable you to bless God in every situation, even the worst ones.

Tuesday – Fire from Heaven

James and John were horribly miffed. How dare that Samaritan town dare to refuse welcome to Jesus? Those people deserved to be punished, they decided. So they went to Jesus with a suggestion: “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” That would show those Samaritans.

Did Jesus roll His eyes and groan? Had these fellows learned nothing? Sigh...

Jesus turned and rebuked James and John. The Gospel doesn't record what He said. We can imagine that there may have words about loving enemies and controlling one's temper. In any case, James and John were probably pretty sheepish by the end.

Perhaps we, too, should be a little sheepish as we think back on our own responses to people who oppose us. If so, it's time to ask Jesus' pardon and move with Him onto the "next village" or the next stage in our lives.

Wednesday – God's Transcendence

Today Job, in the midst of his great suffering, reflects on God's transcendence. God is the One Who commands all of creation. He can shake the mountains and make them fall. He can make the sun and stars fail to rise. He does marvelous things beyond our imagining. He is simply all-power and all-wise.

Who, therefore, Job asks, can contend with God? Who dares to question Him? Who can stand before Him? Who can answer His demands? Job even wonders if the mighty God could answer his prayers.

Here, however, Job makes a mistake. In his reflection upon God's transcendence, he forgets about God's immanence. The God of the universe does indeed answer our prayers. He does draw near to us, for He loves us. So we, along with Job, need to learn how to balance our perception of God's transcendence with our faith in His loving immanence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reflection for the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Nothing New?

Is Qoheleth right? Is there really nothing new under the sun?

It may seem like that sometimes as we go through our daily routines. We may feel stuck in a rut. We may even look back on our own history or history in a broader sense, see common patterns, and wonder if perhaps everything is merely repeated over and over again.

But there is something new. God did something new. He became Man and lived among us. He died for our sins. He rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. He comes to live in our souls when we are in a state of grace. He gives Himself to us Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. If we have remained faithful and repented of our sins, He welcomes us into Heaven at the end of our earthly lives

So Qoheleth was wrong after all. He couldn't have known it at the time he wrote, but he understands now that there is indeed something new under the sun.

Friday – Important Information


Jesus imparts some highly important information to His disciples in today's Gospel: “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.”

Only if the disciples understand these words will they understand Jesus' true character and mission. Only if they grasp these words will they be able to face the future with full faith, hope, and love. Only if they embrace these words will they be able to fulfill their own roles in God's plan of salvation.

But they don't understand what Jesus says. They don't understand, grasp, or embrace Jesus' words...not until much later. Today the question becomes, “Do we truly understand Jesus' important information and its meaning for our lives?”

Saturday – A Hidden Meaning


Yesterday we heard Jesus' prediction of His death and resurrection. Today we learn more about the disciples' lack of understanding. Luke tells us, “But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it...”

The Greek word for “hidden” here is parakaluptō. It is made up of a root word meaning “hide” and a prefix that indicates “from close-beside.” So the word suggests something that is hidden in plain sight, something that is missed because people are trying to look too far out.

So the disciples missed the point because they weren't looking or listening closely enough. Their thoughts were actually traveling too far afield. Perhaps they had grand visions of an earthly kingdom or a political revolution. They couldn't focus in on reality. So they didn't understand Jesus' words.

Jesus, help us focus in on You and on the true meaning of what You have to say to us. May we not miss Your message because we are concentrating too hard on what we want to hear. Amen. 

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on http://www.biblehub.com/.)