November 12th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (Luke 17:26-27)

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, someone who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise one in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.” They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”

Opening Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of sacred Scripture. Please open my mind and heart to receive your word with humility and gratitude. Increase my faith, hope, and love so that your word may bear fruit in my daily life.

Encountering Christ: As we enter into the final weeks of the liturgical year, we begin to turn our attention to the final coming of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the example of Noah and Lot. In both of their stories, people were eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building up, until the very day that the floods came to destroy the earth at the time of Noah and fire rained down from the sky at the time of Lot. Both Noah and Lot were saved, but many others alive at that time met with sudden and unexpected destruction.

Jesus says that the “days of the Son of Man” will be similar to these previous two events. At an unexpected time, Jesus will return to earth, and the Final Judgment will ensue. So His message is clear: Be ready at all times.

Though we are familiar with this teaching of our Lord, spoken many times and in various ways in the Gospels, many people do not heed the message. It is easy to believe that you always have tomorrow to change, and so you give into temptation today. And then tomorrow comes, and the temptation is once again embraced with the thought that you will work on it tomorrow, and henceforth. We can easily go about perpetuating our sins and embracing our temptations while we have the ongoing good intention of changing tomorrow. This is a mistake for two reasons.

First of all, it always remains a possibility that our Lord will indeed come today and that today truly will be the end of the world. Or, it always remains a distinct possibility that your life will come to an end today, suddenly and unexpectedly. If that were to happen, would you be fully ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Most people would not, at least not fully ready. Thus, this should be motivation enough to work tirelessly today to be ready now and every moment hereafter.

But we should also see this prophecy of our Lord as applying to every present moment of every day. Jesus is always coming to us, suddenly and without warning, inviting us to serve Him by grace. This Gospel passage states that “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” That applies to the end of our lives and to the end of the world, but it also applies to every present moment of every day. If we continually seek to lose our lives, meaning, to choose the Heavenly realities over the temporal earthly indulgences we are daily tempted with, then we will also daily experience the grace of salvation, here and now, in every present moment of our lives. 

Closing Prayer:  Jesus, you come to your Church and to me in countless ways. I encounter you in Scripture, the Eucharist, Confession, prayer, and ultimately in all my daily experiences—both pleasant and challenging. Help me to see things as you see them, to value them as you value them. Give me the light and the strength to fulfill your will in all things—both now and at the end of my life.

Action:  Reflect, today, upon whether or not you regularly seek to lose your life for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Do you continually choose grace, mercy, Heaven, obedience, love, self-sacrifice, compassion, forgiveness and the like, every moment of every day of your life? If so, then our Lord will continually bestow the gift of His saving grace upon you here and now, preparing you for the ultimate moment of judgment. If not, then you will be more like the people of Noah’s and Lot’s time who met with sudden destruction when they least expected it. Live for God now, today, in this moment, and you will be eternally grateful you did.

November 11th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (17:20-25)

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’ Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”

Opening Prayer: Good and gracious God, as we spend time with your word help us to listen with our hearts so that we are moved by the grace of your message. You are present in your word and in all of us. May we hear you, see you, love you.

Encountering Christ: Isn’t it amazing how dense and ignorant many were while Jesus, the Son of God, was in their midst. Before we climb up too high on our horse let us remind ourselves that we too are guilty of either not recognizing the Kingdom of God around us or the Kingdom of God within us.

Back in 2018 when I walked the Camino de Santiago, we knew the first day would be grueling. We climbed the Pyrenes with full packs sixteen miles from the tip of France into Spain. I remember trying to focus on where I stepped because it rained heavily the day before and the ground was wet and muddy.  This continued for many miles until it dawned on me what I was missing. I looked up and realized I was walking through some of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen. There were green meadows, rolling hills, and occasionally a cottage or home nestled in a corner by a running stream with smoke billowing out of its chimney. From then on I would remind myself to look up, stop and enjoy God’s creation.

When will justice prevail?  When will wrong be made right? When will we reach the end our journey, our camino and be in the presence of the Prince of Peace and no longer have to struggle and suffer?  One day we will transition from our physical temples and leave all we have experienced in our mortal bodies behind. However, we do know when.

If the finish line becomes the focus then we will forget to look up and experience the grace of God present in our lives at this specific moment.  Jesus tried to explain that the kingdom of God is not restricted to a time or place. There, in their presence, was the one God sent to open the gates for all so we could have the opportunity to transcend time and space.  And, on a much deeper and significant level, He was trying to point out that the Kingdom was not only present but within them.

Since it has been more than two thousand years that the Son of Man walked the earth are we at a disadvantage because he is no longer among us? Again, look up. Jesus told us, showed us, made it possible for us to experience his love and presence at the last supper when He gave us His body and blood, food for the journey. God also sent the Holy Spirit to guide, teach and remind us of all Jesus said, did, and promised. And, since we are created in the image of God and we have the Kingdom of God within us then in every encounter we have with another person, even when we look in the mirror, we are in the presence of holiness.

We are all on a journey that one day will transition, not conclude, when we go home. Along the way, while doing what we need to do and want to do, let us never forget to look up and realize that we are already in the presence of the who not the when or where. Our destination is not a place it is a person. He is love, peace, mercy, and forgiveness. It is who we are. He is where we belong.

Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to recognize you in others and in ourselves. It is when we are most aware of our holiness that we can share the gift of your love and mercy as you have always intended.

Action for the Day: The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is within us. Spend time in prayer and meditation considering the significance of this reality then take that with you throughout your day and make this miracle a reality with everyone you encounter.

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November 10th, 2021

The Gospel According to Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” 

Opening Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, graciously keep from us all adversity, so that, unhindered in mind and body alike, we may pursue in freedom of heart the things that are yours. 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:

The lepers were able to recognize their need and call on Jesus to help them. The men who were healed all realized their good fortune and rejoiced in it, being aware of where it came from. Only one took time to address himself to Jesus. Prayer is good when it consists of asking, receiving, recognizing, and appreciating it, but something is missing when it does not involve a humble return to give thanks to anyone who helps, especially Jesus. We come back to Jesus not just to give thanks, but ready to receive our mission. Jesus’ healing is a gift but may be given to us for others. We should always listen through prayer to hear his plans for us.

The leper who was healed appreciated the gift that he had received. Let us take time to recognize where we have been helped and spend some time in quiet thankfulness.

Jesus recognized the faith of the leper who saw the source of the goodness he had enjoyed. I see that sometimes my faith in demonstrated in how ready I am to see God at work and to attribute blessings to their source.

The greatest agony suffered by those with leprosy in the time of Christ was the isolation. Fear of the contagion led family and friends to ostracize them from their communities. They had to live either with other lepers or alone. Those with leprosy had to face their dreadful fate daily. They knew they would need a miracle, but for most of them, however, miracles were in short supply. 

They all wanted to be made clean, and they had the faith to make their request. Our Lord responded simply and generously, our petition becomes emotional and urgent: “Lord, help me!” And Our Lord always hears us. 

‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?’” Perhaps the others became so excited by being cured that they immediately went to reintegrate with their family and friends to share their joy. While it may be somewhat understandable, the disappointment in Our Lord’s questions was evident. Jesus commanded that we come to him with our petitions, “Ask, and it will be given you” (Luke 11:9). However, when our needs are met, do we forget to thank him? Gratitude is a sign of humility. The attitude of gratitude draws us closer to God and can bring us great joy. 

Closing Prayer: Jesus, we have received countless gifts from your hands, some for which we have asked, and countless more for which we did not ask. Please forgive us for the times that we have taken your generosity for granted. May our gratitude toward you also move us to generosity towards others, and in so doing help us to reflect on your grace more completely. 

Action of the Day: Lord, today by your grace, help us to take the time to recognize where we have been helped and spend some time in quiet thankfulness. In addition to thanking you, I will also thank one other person in my life for what they have done for me.

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November 9th, 2021

The Gospel according to John (2:13-22) 

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
    Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to have zeal for You, and a deeper desire to share Your love with all whom I meet.  May I be Your hands, Your feet, and Your voice in the world.  Amen.

Encountering Christ:

Today, we remember the dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome.  Even though we think that St Peter’s Basilica is the Pope’s “home” church, it really isn’t.  Instead, St John Lateran is the “home” church of the Bishop of Rome.  I was blessed to visit it along with a group from our parish some years back, and it is an impressive place!

Today’s Gospel points to how special a place the House of God is.  At Jesus’ time, the Jewish worshipers were expected to sacrifice animals as part of their worship, so there were those there who sold the animals to be used for that purpose.  I’m sure it began as a service, to make sure that all could fully participate in worship.  But, over time, those who sold were more interested in how much they made from the sales, and less interested in the reason why they were there in the first place.  That brings us to today’s passage, where Jesus reminds them quite forcefully about what the real purpose of people being present really was.

That same lesson can apply to us, even if we don’t have to sacrifice live animals (and I’m very happy about that, I will definitely say).  It comes down to what is in our hearts when we arrive for the celebration of Mass.  Are we there out of obligation only (“we have to go to Mass every Sunday”)?  Or, are we there, just to be seen (“if others see me, they will think I’m holy and it makes me feel better to know that”)?  If either of those are the case, then we are missing the point.  

We come to worship and to pray because we are acknowledging that it is God who gives us everything.  He doesn’t demand our worship, but He longs for it.  Can we not give an hour back to Him out of the 168 hours in a week, where we shut out the world and can just “be” in His presence?  Can we be open to whatever He may wish to say to us through the words of the priest and of His Holy Word?  Can we be vulnerable enough to say that we can do nothing on our own and to ask the God who created us to guide us?

If we do truly give that hour to the Lord, there is no doubt at all that we will be incredibly blessed for it.  Let us ask for the grace to be able to be truly present at Mass this week, and then watch how God works through us as a result!

Closing Prayer: Jesus, I am so thankful that You are with me through all I do.  May I be Your disciple fully today, and be available to You to use to share Your love and Your peace with someone today.  Let me be at Your disposal, and know that You can do amazing things through me! Amen.

Action for the Day: Ponder the words of the Gospel today and ask how you can be an instrument of God in the world and in your own community today.

Jesus cleanses the temple

November 8th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (17:1-6)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur.  It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Opening Prayer: My most compassionate Lord, You love the sinner and deeply desire that they turn to You in their need. Please give me Your heart of compassion so that I will be free to love them as You love them.

Encountering Christ: Working at Mary’s Village I learned how to not only to forgive but to forgive with the compassion that Jesus has taught. But the truth is that these men don’t know or haven’t been forgiven in many years. These men have been in trouble most of their lives with the law, their families, their friends and even society. They are immediately judged and condemned. There is no pause. They are just thought of as a menace and that they are “Wrong”. 

Why is it that we are taught to remember all the bad things that happened to us, but we don’t remember all the good things? To be able to tell these men that I forgive them and that I still Love them just blows them away because they haven’t heard any of those words for a long time. Now I do explain there are consequences to their action because that’s the way society is, but they understand. The truth is when you forgive someone, life goes on and you live your life in a much richer and joyous environment. Furthermore, your relationship with that person you forgave (your brother) becomes much stronger. Forgiveness is not saying “I no longer feel the pain.” Rather, forgiveness is saying “I no longer feel the need to hold on to your involvement in my pain.”

Let’s clarify that no one can actually cause us to sin. Sin is our own free choice, and we, and we alone, will be held accountable for our own sin. One thing that Jesus is pointing out here is that even though every person must take responsibility for their own actions and their own sins, we must also take responsibility for the ways that we act as tempters of others. Here’s a shocking statement, “We are all sinners”. Sometimes we will tempt people to sin by provoking them to anger. At other times we will tempt others to sin by setting a poor example. And on the contrary, we also have the ability to “tempt” people to virtue. Or more properly speaking, to inspire and encourage them.

With that said, Jesus explains that the fate of those who act as tempters of others, especially the “little ones,” will suffer consequences graver than an untimely death. The little ones of which Jesus speaks should be understood as those who are weak in faith, overly sensitive, particularly vulnerable at that time in their life, and susceptible to outside influence. This could be a child, or it could be someone who is currently teetering on the edge of despair, confusion, anger, or any serious sin. When you encounter people like this, how do you treat them? The simple truth is that Jesus loves those who are weak, vulnerable, and sinful, and He wants us to love them too. 

Closing Prayer: Holy Father, May I never become an instrument of temptation for them to fall further away from You but, instead, become an instrument of Your unfailing mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Action of the Day: Pray for the person or persons in your life that appear especially vulnerable, sinful, confused and lost at this time. Who is it that struggles with anger, or an addiction or some sinful lifestyle? 

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