January 7th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (4:14-22) 

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region.  He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day.  He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.  He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my heart to your Spirit in this time of prayer. I wish to be with you, to hear what you would like to say. You know better than I how much I need you. Here are my distractions, my worries, and my concerns. I open this space in my heart to you, that you may fill me with yourself. I believe in you; bolster my faith. I put all my hope in your unfailing goodness. And I love you. Enter the synagogue of my heart now, as you entered that synagogue of Nazareth. May I receive the word you want to share with me today.

Encountering Christ: As a child I was the classic “fly under the radar” kind of guy; a solid “C” student, not very athletic, not very noticeable.  People did not think much of me and neither did I.  I wonder if the people I grew up with would think any different if they saw me now.  In today’s gospel I imagine Jesus experienced something similar.  As a child, did Jesus go largely unnoticed, not garnering much attention because he was thought to be unremarkable.  He returned to a place where he was perceived one way but completely turned everything upside down.  This poor carpenter who no one thought would amount to anything announced he was the Messiah by saying that what had been written by the prophet Isiah had come to fruition.  The King of Kings was in their midst to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, and sight to the blind.

I am sure we all had a variety of experiences growing up.  Maybe you were a fellow “fly under the radar” type or not.  But one thing is for certain, we are not the same as we once were.  In our faith journey we have each been called to bring glad tidings, liberate captives, and help people see.  Our baptism blessed us with an anointing as priest, prophet, and king.  Let us receive these gifts and actively pursue a meaningful relationship with God that will provide us with the grace to accept and declare that we, like Jesus, are messengers of faith, hope, and love.  And not only messengers but also devoted servants who put our faith into action so that anyone who encounters us encounters Christ.

Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the encouragement you offer us as we experience the beginnings of your ministry and realization of your divinity.  May this be a rich source of grace that sustains our ministry to serve our sisters and brothers today and every day of our lives.

Action for the Day: Look for an opportunity to bring joy to someone with a smile, positive text, email, or phone call.  Provide some form of assistance to someone in need.  Share an insight, lesson, or realization with someone in an effort to help them see the goodness of God.

January 6th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew 6:45-52

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, please grant me a listening heart as I enter into this moment of prayer. May I be attentive to your word and to whatever light you wish to impart to me today.

Encountering Christ: The disciples had witnessed two great miracles that day: first, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and second, Jesus walking on water. And yet the Gospel says that they were not able to understand the significance of these miracles because “their hearts were hardened.” During difficult moments in our lives, we might feel the temptation to harden our hearts in order to protect ourselves from pain and suffering. We might become so overwhelmed by our own anxieties that we are unable to perceive or understand the miracles that Christ might already be performing in our lives. But as Our Lord says in Ezekiel 36:26, he can remove our “hearts of stone” and give us “hearts of flesh” so that we can remain open to him in faith, hope, and love, even in the midst of the most difficult trial.

Closing Prayer: Lord, thank you for being with me during the storms that have passed in my life. Come into my heart today that I may experience your peace—the peace that the world cannot give, and that no one can take away.

Action of the Day: Lord, today by your grace I will make a simple act of trust (“Jesus, I trust in you.”) whenever I encounter a trial or difficulty.

January 5th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (6:34-44) 

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go 
to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” 
He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men.

Opening Prayer: Loving Lord, You yearn to shower us with blessings.  Let us be open to those blessings that You have for us, that we may not only receive what we need, but even more what You desire.  Let us know that You care for our needs and for the yearnings of our hearts.

Encountering Christ:

God longs to bless us.  He longs to be near us, and for us to know that He is right beside us on our journey.  Sometimes, though, we may get overwhelmed by the stress of our lives, and we fail to remember that God never leaves us.  We may wonder, though, what exactly is the blessing that God wishes us to have?  It may be a physical blessing – a healing, something to satisfy a physical need – or it may be a spiritual blessing, where we have a better sense of God’s peace and presence with us.  Whatever that blessing is, we still need to pause and watch for it.

Today’s Gospel shows the generosity of God.  It also shows that we need to have a perspective where we allow ourselves to see when God touches us.  If we take time to pause, and to ask God what He wishes to bless us with, He will show it to us.  Another point is that the blessings we receive are those that God wants us to have.  We are encouraged to pray for what we want, but the other side of that is to know that God will give us what we need.  What we want and what we need are not necessarily the same things.  Part of our journey as followers of Jesus is to know that God ultimately wants what is best for us.  We may *think* we know what is best, but often don’t have all the facts.  The story of the feeding of the five thousand and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes shows that God can do anything, and all we have to do is trust that He will guide us on the path He knows is the one to which we belong.

One of the great wonders in my life is to encounter those who seem to have so little, but they often have the greatest joy.  That is because they know that they don’t need a lot to be happy.  The material world doesn’t tell us to be happy with what we have – no, it tells us that we need more to be happy!  That’s the challenge of life as a Christian.  Jesus calls us to be happy with what we have, and to share our excess with those who are in need.  It can be something physical, like donating clothing or other things to places that can pass them along to the needy.  Or, it can be the act of extending love and charity to others in our lives.  Listening to a friend who is in trouble.  Being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Praying for our needs, and for those of the whole world.  

Closing Prayer: Jesus, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.  Fill me with gratitude for your blessings.  Give me a generous heart that I may freely share what you have given to me.

Action for the Day: Reach out to one of the organizations in your community that assists the poor and homeless and offer your time, or something you no longer need, so that others may benefit.

January 4th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew (4:12-17, 23-25)

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.

Opening Prayer: Lord, a great crowd followed you during your ministry. Allow me, Lord, to stand among them and hear your voice as I recollect myself to pray.

Encountering Christ: As we all anticipated the New Year and by the most part was looking forward to saying goodbye to the year 2020. Most of us were looking forward to putting some type of symbolic distance between the past with hope for our future. 

The number 2020 is a number which is symbolic to many things: Such as

  • It is an “even” number as opposed to an odd number.
  • It indicates that you have perfect vision which a lot of us don’t have these days.
  • In the Bible, the number 20 symbolizes the cycles of completeness, but often it is connected to a perfect period of waiting, labor or suffering that is compared to a trial and rewarded. 
  • The number 20 is associated with a trial, a period of waiting and if it is successfully completed, the reward is generous and full of God’s love, in other case the punishment is just and right.

But instead, the year 2020 brought us chaos, pandemonium, aggravation, loneliness, heartache, and sadness. We have unfortunately witnessed death by this pandemic. We all sought out some type of relief. Throughout life we were taught by all our mentors to be “positive” but instead we hoped and prayed that we are to be “negative”. 

The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that the primary reason for our lives is to give to God the greatest glory we can. In other words, to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven. But he also goes on to say that this can only be accomplished when we turn away from sin and all unwarranted attachments in our lives so that the one and only focus of our lives is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the goal of repentance. In your own life, it is essential that you place before your mind and heart the call to repentance. It is essential that you daily hear Jesus saying those words to you: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Do not only think about Him saying this many years ago; rather, hear it said to you, today, tomorrow and every day of your life. There will never be a time in your life when you do not need to repent with all your heart. We will never reach perfection in this life, so repentance must be our daily mission. 

No matter what is going on around us, it’s important to remember that God keeps transforming creation into something both good and new. Instead of hurtling us towards catastrophe, God always wants to bring us somewhere even better. A helpful word here is “evolution.” God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the good. That might be hard to see sometimes in the moment, but it’s nevertheless true.

Closing Prayer: Lord, you are all-powerful, generous, and good. I could spend the rest of my days striving to know you better and not have scratched the surface. Thank you for opening my mind and heart to repent of my wrongdoings, confident in the knowledge that you love me and created me for heaven, by your grace.

Action of the Day: Today, I will stop for 10 minutes and focus on heaven. I will listen to what God wants me to do, or say, and I will take ACTION.