November 19th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (Luke 9:45-48)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.

Opening Prayer:  Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus pleased you by safeguarding the sacred place of the temple. I also am a living temple of the Holy Spirit. I believe that by the grace of your Baptism you dwell within me. Help me to enter into this moment of prayer and speak with you who live within me, heart to heart. 

Encountering Christ: Jesus had just entered Jerusalem for the upcoming Feast of Passover. He arrived in that holy city and then returned again the next day and entered the Temple area. As He witnessed the corruption of those selling animals for the Temple sacrifices, Jesus responded with fervent preaching in an attempt to cleanse the Temple from this corruption. He quoted the Prophet Isaiah and cried out, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Luke’s Gospel points out the reaction of the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people. They were “seeking to put him to death.” However, as the Gospel further relates, “they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.”

It’s important to consider this passage within its context. The words that Jesus spoke were words that sought to cleanse the Temple of corruption. With the approval of the temple priests, who benefitted from the temple tax, there were many people who were using the practice of divine worship to make a profit for selfish gain, turning the Temple into a marketplace. Jesus could see this clearly, and many of the people would have also sensed the corruption of these practices. Though they needed to purchase animals for the ritual sacrifices and Passover meal, many of them were most likely disturbed by this abuse. Therefore, as Jesus spoke with fervor and condemnation, it angered those who were responsible for the corruption but left the people with consolation. Hence, they were “hanging on his words.”

The Gospel is always consoling, and, for those who are open, it leads them to hang on every word that is spoken. It refreshes and invigorates, clarifies and motivates. Usually when we think of the Gospel, we think of words that are gentle and inviting—words of mercy to the sinner and compassion for those who are struggling. But sometimes the pure Gospel message from our Lord fiercely attacks sin and evil. And though this may be shocking to the evildoers, to those with pure faith, these words also refresh and strengthen.

Today, we need the full Gospel message. Many need to hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to conversion by which their heavy burdens are lifted. But many others need to hear His firm words of condemnation. And the Church as a whole needs both of these messages to be proclaimed if we are to fully participate in the apostolic ministry of our Lord. Only our Lord has the right to condemn, chastise, and call others to repentance. But we are all called to share in this mission of our Lord. And though we do not have the right to judge the hearts of others, when we see objective evil and disorder within our world and even within our Church, we must cry out with our Lord, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And when we do hear the holy and inspired words of God’s messengers who boldly and courageously proclaim the truth and call others to repentance, it should inspire, invigorate and console us as we find ourselves hanging on their every word.

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, just as you came into the temple with passion and enthusiasm to defend and claim what was your Father’s, remember also that I am yours and come to my defense before the lies and doubts which can sometimes plague me and those I love. You reveal that the name of God is mercy, that his face is love and forgiveness and life. I wish to welcome this grace into my life. Come, Holy Spirit, and speak your truth in these places where I need it most. 

Action:  Lord, today by your grace I will put my headphones aside and renew some of my interior headspace for God. 

November 18th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (19:41-44)

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you 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 because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord help us to look beyond the comforts of this world and strive for the true peace that comes with following your teachings and example.  Peace is not the absence of suffering and turmoil; it is the grace we receive when we accept and surrender our lives to you.

Encountering Christ: Have you ever felt so sad for someone you were overwhelmed with emotion to the point you wept?  As a parent, grandparent, spouse, friend we have all probably experienced these many times.  I can recall weeping bitterly and feeling so helpless when my children made decisions that caused them to suffer.  I can also remember times when I made decisions that caused others to suffer as the result of my choices.  However, with Christ, there is always the hope of making it through the storm to a better place.

Peace is often mistaken for a time or place that is free of anything that makes us uncomfortable or causes us pain.  Who in their right mind would not want to live a life of tranquility and peace without ever experiencing anything unpleasant?  Such a place does not exist.  Jesus never promised us such a life.

In today’s gospel we experience one of the few times, in scripture, that Jesus weeps.  He had brought redemption and salvation to the people of Jerusalem but many rejected or simply did not understand what was at stake and who brought this to them.  The consequence of this decision is ominous.  The language is frightening.  Like all Holy Scripture the message meant for the people of that time is directed to us as well.  Do we accept or reject the generous gift that God sent to us when the Son of Man, God made man, came to deliver us from sin and death?

Our journey of faith, our choice to follow Jesus is not a one-time event.  There is no point when we can claim we have finished the race, that is, until God calls us home.  In the meantime, our conversion is ongoing.  It will not end until we take out last breath in our bodies, the temples of our souls.

For us to know peace we must pick up our cross and follow the one who makes our burdens light; he does not to take them away.  Our journeys take us through as many dark valleys as they do beautiful mountains.  They are filled with sorrow and joy, turmoil and peace.  Our struggles and joys and not mutually exclusive, they co-exist.  This message in scripture is always in plain sight.  Time and time again the people of God, the followers of Jesus forget that the Messiah did not come to establish a kingdom on earth.  He came to open the kingdom of heaven to all who accept his gifts of mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life by responding to love with love and sacrifice.

Love came to save us.  Remember this the next time you are overwhelmed with emotion because you love someone so much you are moved to tears for want of nothing more than their well-being.

Closing Prayer: Good and gracious God, thank you for loving us so much you hold nothing back.  We continue to receive all the gifts we need to live in the peace your son offers that the world cannot give.  May we share these gifts with our families, friends, strangers, and especially those who need this peace the most.

Action for the Day: As the time for gatherings of family and friends approaches, we have reason to celebrate.  We will also experience the pain of those who are no longer with us.  Today make the peace of Christ available by beginning the work and prayer needed to appreciate each other with all of the good and bad, turmoil and peace we each will bring.

Photo by Samuel Theo Manat Silitonga on Pexels.com

November 17th, 2021

The Gospel According to Luke (19:11-28)

While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well-done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ He replied, ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’” After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

Opening Prayer: Grant us we pray, O, Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Encountering Christ: 

Today we are asked to reflect on the special gifts that God has given to each one of us. How are we using them for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in need? Where do we invest our gifts and our talents?

The message is clear: the more we invest, the more we will gain. We cannot stand still or just cling to what we have. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. Good examples of this would be St Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. Many feel that life consists of amassing more and that security is in how much we have. But Luke’s Gospel says that it is not in the collecting but in the sharing that generates wealth, the wealth that really matters – freedom, security and peace. Is that true for us?

In this passage, Christ presents himself as this nobleman who goes off to obtain the kingship for himself and will one day return. His mission is to redeem his children, as our Universal King. Our mission is to receive this great gift and to collaborate with him in making his Kingdom present. Each Christian should consider him or herself counted among these ten servants, charged with the care of “talents” in the service of our King.

In this gospel, Jesus talks about the talents. We have all been given gifts. If we use these gifts wisely, not only for our own benefit and the benefit of others, we grow and blossom. If on the other hand we fail to use them, we remain stuck and stagnant. It is in the order of things to grow and develop, and as we do so, we open our minds and hearts to all the goodness that God wants to give us.

The ending of the passage hints at an answer: These coins could represent the life of grace, the dwelling of God in the soul. This sanctifying grace comes from Baptism, we know; it is wounded by sin but grows with every act of openness and surrender, of trust and self-giving to God. In a word, love causes this life to grow, because God is love. And all authentic love comes from him. Fear, doubt, clinging to one’s own insecurities—these can make us like the fearful servant, unwilling to take the risk of love. 

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, we place ourselves at your feet. You are our King and King of the whole world. You invite us to share in your mission, to make present your Kingdom here, within our own life, home, family, school, office, and circles of influence. This is a great mission and you know that sometimes we are afraid and we hold back. Open our hearts to a greater trust in you so that we may keep giving of ourselves to others with love, as you do, every day. In this way, may your grace, through your life, increase in us. 

Action of the Day: Lord, today by your grace we will seek to strengthen ourselves as we live in the spirit of the gospel in our daily lives. Help our souls to develop by showing grace to those that we encounter in our daily lives.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

November 16th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (19:1-10) 

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature. 
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, 
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” 
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, 
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for being willing to stay at my house, even though I fall short of being a worthy disciple of Yours.  Please help me to recognize Your voice calling my name, and do all I can to listen to Your word and act on it today.  Amen.

Encountering Christ:

Today’s Gospel is one of the most well-known stories of Jesus, His encounter with Zacchaeus, the short tax collector who climbed a tree to see Him.  I remember it well from my pre-Catholic childhood.  I think it especially resonated with me, because I was about the littlest in my class all the way from kindergarten until my sophomore year in high school.  

The part that I find most striking is how it was that Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name!  I mean, Jesus was only planning to “pass through” Jericho.  We have no reason to think that He would ever have met Zacchaeus before.  And yet, here He is, calling Zacchaeus by name.  It’s a great reminder of how it is that Jesus knows each of us by our name as well. And, He calls to us every day to share His love and His light with the world.

Would that we would respond like Zacchaeus did in today’s Gospel.  He truly reformed his life, and became a brand-new person.  It was almost as if Jesus baptized Zacchaeus just by inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house!  Surely there was more than that, but just being in Jesus’ presence was enough.

Each of us, by virtue of our Catholic faith, is a descendant of Abraham, and as such, is worthy of Jesus’ attention.  We don’t do anything to earn it (and truly, we can never earn it on our own merits).  I, for one, am thankful that grace is not dependent on anything I may try to do to earn it.  I just don’t think I would ever do anything good enough to merit that kind of grace.

Thanks be to God that He loves me and gifts me with that sort of grace, just because of that love that He has for me!  Now, all I have to do is to share it as freely and unconditionally as it is given to me.  And, know that Jesus calls each of us by our name, wanting to spend time in our house.  Would we be as willing as Zacchaeus to reform our lives so totally?

Closing Prayer: Lord, thank You for all the grace You give to me.  May I share it as willingly as You share it with me!  Help me to be a sign of Your love, and to share Your light so that someone else may come to know You as I do!  Amen.

Action for the Day: Prayerfully think of the one person who most needs God’s grace today and offer a prayer for that person.

Jesus & Zacchaeus

November 15th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (18:35-43)

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe that your desire to spend this time with me is infinitely greater than mine. Even still, let my desire for you grow just a bit more today. 

Encountering Christ: In my Reflection last Monday, I spoke about the men at Mary’s Village; how they are ignored in society; and it’s only when they do something wrong or illegal it is only then we give them attention but it’s normally a negative response. We don’t want to forgive them or attempt to help them. So, I ask you how do you feel when you are ignored? Or mis-treated? What would it feel like if people walked right by you as if you are invisible?

In this state of humility, just as it happened in this Gospel story, you can be certain that “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” So, as you sit in your humble and needy state, wait and be attentive to Jesus passing by. Wait upon His gentle voice, His quiet inspiration, His calming and unmistakable presence. BUT … Why do we have to sit and wait for Jesus? What if Jesus is sitting and waiting for you to walk by? Spiritually speaking, as Jesus passes by, He waits for you to call to Him. He desires that you call to Him. And He desires that you do it with firm confidence and perseverance.

Life isn’t easy but if you encounter hindrances then there are hidden lessons for us learn from. Notice that as Bartimaeus cried out, there were obstacles put in his way. The people “rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” But even this was a gift because it enabled Bartimaeus to cry out more. So also with us, when obstacles arise in our lives, such as distractions, temptations, a lack of consolation, or any other challenges, we must see these obstacles as hurdles that must be overcome. Doing so will deepen our union with Jesus, turning that apparent obstacle into a source of blessing.

Even though his world was filled with darkness, perhaps he alone, among all those scurrying the streets of Jericho that day, had true sight, the sight of faith. Perhaps his very blindness kept ever before his eyes the real desire of his heart: His Faith. And it was this faith which allowed him to recognize the Savior as he passed by. This faith gave him the confidence to ask for what he needed. The cry from the depths of your heart in prayer and in life’s challenges must come as a result of Jesus “passing by.” 

Closing Prayer: My compassionate Lord, I come to You in my weakness and poverty, I come in need of Your divine touch and healing. As You do pass by, I acknowledge Your presence and call to You. Jesus, please do come to me, have pity on me.

Action of the Day: Reflect on the blindness, darkness, or struggles that weighs us down, tempting us to squelch our faith in loneliness and doubt? Open your eyes and see what is around you, then get up and run to Jesus.