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.

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

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.

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 

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: “ 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

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

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.