January 13th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark 1: 29-39

 On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Opening Prayer: Attend to the pleas of your people with heavenly care, O Lord, we pray, that they see what must be done and gain strength to do what they have seen. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Encountering Christ: Jesus entered Peter’s home and immediately healed his mother-in-law, who was seriously ill to the point of death. Peter had witnessed Christ’s miracles already, but this healing under his own roof of a member of his family must have moved him deeply. Not only was she completely restored, but also she began to wait on them, as we can imagine she had before she got sick. In our own lives, we can read about Christ, share insights with others, and even preach about him, but our souls change forever and irrevocably when Christ touches us personally. We can delight in the truth that Our Lord wants family intimacy with each of us. He wants to “make it personal.” 

I personally have been blessed by several encounters with Christ, starting several years ago, through the Eucharist. I have continued to have these close experiences with Christ when I am on the alter during mass.

No sooner had Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law than the whole town showed up for healing or exorcism. Jesus had become a very popular preacher. He taught with authority. He showed great compassion. And he had powerful healing gifts. His ministry was moving forward with great momentum and he was entering the dynamic, busy, interpersonal, exhausting yet exhilarating period of public ministry. For three years, Jesus would work tirelessly, often not even stopping to eat (Mark 3:20). When our ministry is tiring, when we have given all we have, when we’re so exhausted we’re tempted to discouragement, we can learn from Jesus. Although he tired, his heart was constantly “moved with pity,” or “moved by compassion,” so that he never ceased to do the Father’s will, which was to bless, heal, restore, and redeem mankind. In our limited way, we are called to do the same in the short time we have to give to Jesus, remembering that we do our best work when we rely on Jesus, not on our own strength. 

The crowds had come to Peter’s house after sunset for healing, likely staying until very late, and still Jesus got up “before dawn” to pray in a deserted place, a haven of silence and solitude. Do we need any further encouragement to set our alarms so that we have time to pray, each morning? I take the first part of my day when my mind is free and clear and not cloudy from the day’s work and the day to day struggles with life to pray and share my thoughts and hopes and disappointments with Jesus. Whatever in our lives prompts us to start the day; Our Lord is calling us clearly to begin beforehand with prayer. Notice, he didn’t rouse his disciples to join him at that early hour. He wants us to make a decision out of love to rise in time for prayer. 

Closing Prayer: May God, the source and origin of all blessing, grant you grace, pour out his blessing in abundance, and keep you safe from harm throughout the year. Amen.

Action for the Day: Each night examine your conscience on the day that has ended. Ask God for the grace and wisdom to see where you missed His presences.  

January 12th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark (1:21-28) 

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet!  Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to recognize Your voice in my life.  Help me to see that reaching out to those around me in love is how I make Your Kingdom present right now, right here.  Give me Your wisdom to know where You are calling me, and help me to try more and more every day to walk in that path with You.  Amen

Encountering Christ:

Even from the beginning of His Gospel account, Mark highlights that Jesus was always about action, demonstrating that the Kingdom of God was truly at hand.  It is interesting that Mark’s focus on action also was on the teaching power of Jesus and how different it was from the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His time.  This story today reminds us of that fact.  Yes, the people were amazed at how Jesus healed the man possessed by evil spirits, but the comment they made is specifically about His teaching and the authority with which He spoke.  Mark’s Gospel account shows that Jesus’ followers had to act boldly to share His Good News.

Jesus calls each of us to live a life that stands out.  We are called to love others and to care for them at least as much as we do ourselves.  That life and love must be demonstrated by our actions.  We are called to forgive and to go out of our own “comfort zones”.  Jesus did not promise that life as His follower would be easy.  Truly, He calls us to give and love even (and especially) when we don’t have the energy or ability to do it.  Being able to do that is the gift that God gives to us.

Many of us likely looked at the unrest in Washington DC this past week, or at the many protests around the country from this past summer, with the same sense of alarm and concern.  That is a very natural human response.  We naturally want to live a life of peaceful tranquility, and know that we can focus on our own lives and not worry about the underlying structure of our society.  Both events may have caused us to wonder about that underlying structure.  What can each of us do to make a difference when there is such pain, and such unfair treatment in our world and in our country?  We may feel powerless, or guilty, if we haven’t always demonstrated the equality of all in God’s eyes.  

Let us not be discouraged, though.  We need to start by focusing on Jesus, and prayerfully asking Him to show us the actions He wants us to take to make the world a better place.  We may not think that just praying can make a difference.  Prayer can change everything, if only we trust in the One to whom we pray.  And, let us do as St Teresa of Calcutta once said, and strive not necessarily to “do great things, but to do small things with great love.”

Closing Prayer: Lord, I am faced with a world filled with violence, greed, hunger and evil. I struggle to believe that you have overcome evil.  Help me to see that you are at work in the small signs of love, justice and truth around me.  Amen.

Action for the Day: Think about what word you would like to hear God speak.  Take a few moments this week to listen to God and prepare yourself for his loving touch.

January 11th, 2021

The Gospel according to Mark 1:14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Opening Prayer: Lord, I come before you as I am, with the gifts you have given me, aware of my weaknesses and dependent on you. Help me see the world the way you see it and to love accordingly.

Encountering Christ: “Fisher of Men”, this really hits home for me from a couple of viewpoints. One, I have been an avid fisherman for most of my life and two, I work for homeless men at a place called Mary’s Village which is a Transitional Living facility in San Bernardino. 

Mary’s Village is a place where the men can be at peace, while having a place to lay their heads and a place to fill their belly. “We joke about this being a place where you can sleep with both eyes closed” and that isn’t far from the truth. I have heard numerous stories of the men getting mugged and robbed while living on the streets. At Mary’s Village, we also teach them life skills so they move forward in life, so we customize their programs to accomplish specific goals such as education, employment, responsibilities etc. Their personal stories that I hear from them are tragic and it’s no wonder they are in this situation. But I have realized that they are also training me, opening my eyes, and helping me to understand their world. Just like today’s scripture, all of these men still BELIEVE in God and carry Bibles. They are not mad at God for what they have encountered but are grateful because God helped them get to The Village. WOW! 

I have been fishing mostly in the Eastern Sierras for over 50 years, and there was a time when all I wanted to do was fish and didn’t recognize the beauty that surrounded me. I fished until I dropped and that was all that mattered. Today, when I visit the trout streams, I see scripture all around me. I see the “shoots of Jesse”; “roots to the water”; the high mountains; etc.  My life is consumed by this beauty and I am haunted by all my surroundings. From the pebbles in the river to the boulders in the ground; there are no two alike. And then I think that they represent Our Lord, Our Rock and Our foundation. Henry David Thoreau says, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”. 

When I go fishing, I take all my gear including a small Bible and a rosary. These are tools that are necessary for me when I fish. I say this because I now take the time to sit by the river and read and pray and meditate. Sometimes that leads to some of the greatest naps I have ever had. I recall a time I took some good friends with me. I told them I will be walking downstream for a couple of miles and I will see them at lunch. At some point, after fishing a few hours, I decided to sit under this old oak tree that had high grass under it. I thought that I would lay on top of the grass and take a nap and did I ever. The next thing I remember is waking up to a slight drizzle hitting me in the face but when I woke up, I realized my two buddies (one on each side of me) were sleeping right next to me. I guess you can say that they were baptized by the river. 

My brothers and sisters, we are born in the image of God who is our creator, we are also called to create goodness and love and friendship in that very same image.  

Closing Prayer: Lord, you are great indeed, and holy is your name. Thank you for this time with you. Help me to trust you, love you above all things, and follow you according to your holy will. Never let me be separated from you.

Action of the Day: Today by your grace I will entrust my work to you, and consciously offer my labor as a sacrifice of love for those dearest to me and to that stranger I have been talking to.

January 8th, 2021

The Gospel according to Luke (5:12-16)

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.  Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, in this moment of prayer I come before you and place myself at your feet. Give me the patience to gently set aside the rushing distractions in my mind and heart and open that space within me to you. I believe that you are happy I am here, that you wish to give yourself to me, and that you are faithful. Cleanse my heart today and strengthen me by your grace. 

Encountering Christ:

Imagine the smell, the sight of this man full of leprosy so far progressed. It was a human illness that the healthy could do nothing about but shun, hide from, and shamefully and quietly try to forget. This man was someone’s brother, someone’s son. Yet, according to the law, he had to be cast out and left to this infirmity’s painful progression. Now, the physical disease is rare and curable, yet spots of spiritual leprosy within us are all too common. Do we have a soul-sickness, something within that needs healing, but which cannot be healed on our own? Do we shun, hide from, or shamefully and quietly try to forget these sore spots, binding them tightly under layers of metaphorical bandages? Or do we, like this leper, prostrate ourselves before the only one who has the power to heal our leprosy? 

It’s almost uncanny to think about this gospel and the people of that day. Lepers were required to yell out and warn people as they approached or passed by. Sound familiar? We see people today that test positive for Covid-19 and we immediately want to place them somewhere else away from us and from any contact. We don’t ask any questions – nor do we know when and where did they test positive – only that they are the “lepers” of today. Our homeless on the freeway on and off ramps or those sitting on the bus benches do we see them as lepers as well and avoid them at all cost?

Do we translate that type of behavior into our daily spiritual lives as well? When we see that homeless person who is dirty by our standards or who smells different than we do; are we quick to send them away, ignore their presence or very existence, or move them far away from us so as to not to have to deal with them or speak with them, much less offer them help?

This is but one example of how we can find ourselves passing judgment OR ignoring others and forgetting that we are called to embrace others and see Christ in them. We ourselves ARE called to bring Christ back to the center of our own lives, and when we do, hopefully we put Christ on display for others to see and to marvel at.

We are not called to keep our faith and knowledge of Jesus and the Father to ourselves. We are called to take them boldly in our daily interactions with others around us and hopefully we will return back home at 

the end of our day falling on our knees thanking God for the opportunity to share His love with others and help make our world a better place for all humanity.

Let us be the modern day leper, recognizing our own personal faults, failings and acts of omission each day and give thanks to God for His gift of love, which heals us and forgives us, allowing us to start “new” tomorrow.

Closing Prayer: Gracious God, help me to recognize the many gifts you give me today and grant me the strength to openly display those gifts and share them who I meet this day. Never let me falter by not seeing an opportunity to bring you to the very forefront of my day.  AMEN

Action for the Day: Today as I go about living my day, I will stop 3 times to give thanks for the multiple gifts you are asking me to share with others. I pause to give thanks for your infinite love for me and those whom you put in my path this day. They are like the many petals of beautiful flowers.

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.