Monday, December 5, 2016
Monday of the Second Week of Advent - Luke 5:17-26
Today Jesus tells His disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come, not to abolish them, but rather to fulfill them.” He reassures his followers when He says: “I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter of the law, not the smallest part of a letter, shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Then Jesus continues with these words: “That is why anyone who breaks the least of these commands and invites another person to break these commands will be called ‘least’ in the Kingdom of God. However, whoever lives and teaches these commands will be great in the Kingdom of God”. Jesus ends with: “I tell you, unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God”.
Today’s Gospel reading may prompt us to ask ourselves: How do I break the commandments? (I assume we all do this to some extent. We are not perfect.) Or do I strive daily to live according to the commandments? I assume that for many of us that the choices we make likely are a mixture of keeping some commandments and breaking other commandments. The reality is that some commandments are easier to keep than others. Take a moment and ask yourself: What are the commandments that I typically keep? And what are the commandments that are more difficult for me to keep?
Jesus then speaks about the serious offenses, such as: “Do not murder.” I suspect that most of us will never murder another person. However, all of us at times have made comments about a family member, a friend or a stranger that may have been demeaning, critical or degrading of this individual. Sad to say, many of us humans do this every day!
Jesus then uses another example: “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar. Then go and be reconciled with your brother or sister. And then go and offer your gift at the altar.” Jesus instructs us to make peace with any person we are at odds with. This may sound easy but most often, it is not an easy path to take.
Jesus is telling us that we need to make things right in our lives. This is not an easy path to take. It is not easy to say “I’m sorry.” Or “I made a mistake.” It takes humility of ask for pardon and forgiveness. What makes it more difficult is that most likely in a week’s time, I may have to ask for pardon and forgiveness several times. However, if we humbly apologize and we are forgiven, we have received a great gift. And hopefully, we share the gift of forgiveness with the people in our lives. May it be so!
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Second Sunday of Advent - Matthew 3:1-12
The main character in today’s Gospel is John the Baptist. As we know, John was Jesus’ cousin; however he also was a prophet. As John traveled through the desert, he proclaimed: “Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand”! It was of John that the prophet Isaiah said: “A herald’s voice in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path’”.
John was clothed in a garment of camel’s hair, he wore a leather belt around his waist and he ate grasshoppers and wild honey. Many people from Judea came to hear John preach. He baptized many of his followers in the Jordan River and they confessed their sins to God. However, when John realized that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to him to be baptized, he bluntly said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Give some evidence that you truly wish to reform your lives”! He spoke of Abraham then he adds: “Do not pride yourself that Abraham was your father”. John had the courage to be truthful with the Pharisees.
John came to pave the way for Jesus. He was called by God to prophesy to the people. He was popular with some people and not with others. I am sure that his preaching was disturbing to the people who feared his message and his popularity was also frightening to the people in power. Ask yourself: How would I respond if someone today were preaching the message that John preached? Most likely, I would respond as many did at that time. However, I would hope that I would be open-minded enough not to completely dismiss his preaching. I hope that I would examine his words seriously and sense his complete sincerity.
We never know when we might encounter a “John” in our lives. We still have prophets in our day! May you (and I) be open to their teaching and to the sincerity of their lives! Open your mind and heart today! You may receive an unexpected message!
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Saturday of the First Week of Advent – Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8
In this Gospel reading, Jesus was traveling to villages and towns, teaching and preaching in the synagogues. He was proclaiming the Gospel of his Kingdom. He also cured many people who were ill or in need. Matthew says: “When Jesus saw the multitudes He was filled with deep compassion for them.” Jesus recognized how lost, hungry, and alone the people were. Truly, they were sheep without a shepherd. They had no one to tend to them or care for them.
Jesus then called His twelve disciples. He gave His disciples the power and ability to heal, to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every disease. Jesus then instructed His disciples to find the “lost” sheep of Israel. I wonder how the apostles responded to Jesus’ instructions? Were they awed? Did they truly believe that they would be able to heal or drive out unclean spirits? Or were they skeptical and doubting? Even if the disciples had some doubts, they must have felt empowered and excited.
Today Jesus also gives us the power to heal. We may heal simply by listening to another person. Or we may heal by giving an unexpected gift of our time or ability. We may heal by truly “seeing” another person. We all have the ability to heal. The question may be: Do I truly believe this? And do we use our gift of healing?
Who will we reach out to today? We may heal another person with a touch, with loving words or perhaps by simply giving our full attention to each person we meet. And also be mindful of the individuals who share their time and love with you. It is a great gift to give and receive!
Friday, December 2, 2016
Friday of the First Week of Advent - Matthew 9:27-31
The principal characters in this Gospel are Jesus and two blind men. As Jesus was walking along, these two blind men began to follow him. They must have heard of the wonders and healings that Jesus had done. As the men followed Him, they continually cried out, begging Jesus to have pity on them. Eventually Jesus stopped and asked them if they truly believed that He had the power to heal them. They simply answered: “Yes, Lord.” In response, Jesus reached out, touched their eyes and said: “May this be done according to your faith.” Instantly their sight was restored; they could see clearly.
What is the healing that we wish to ask of Jesus? Do we cry out to Him? Do we follow Him? Do we truly believe that Jesus has the power (and desire) to heal us? Do we trust that Jesus will answer our prayer? Have you ever cried out to Jesus but He didn’t seem to hear you? If/when this happens, what is our response? Do we turn and walk away from Jesus? Or do we continue to cry out, trust, and follow Him?
Jesus does hear us and does respond to us! However, it may not be a direct answer to our prayers. At these times we need to attend closely to what Jesus may be saying or what He may be doing in our lives. His action may be very subtle—not an outright miracle!
Jesus may be working through other people or insights or gifting us with the strength that we need. Jesus does “hear” us and “touches” us! We need to be alert and attentive to how Jesus comes to us—for He will come! May we have the faith to place our trust and hope in Him!
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Thursday of the First Week of Advent – Matthew 7:21, 24-27
This Gospel passage is a very familiar one. Once again, Jesus is preaching about the Kingdom of heaven. He tells his listeners that any person who attends to His words and then acts on them will build their house on the foundation of rock.
We all know that there is a clear difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is much simpler than listening. When I hear the other person, I literally hear their words and the content. However, I may not hear the layers of emotion or meaning that the individual may be trying to convey. When we truly attend to what another person is saying, we not only hear their words, we also are attentive to their tone of voice, facial expression, anxiety level, or their sense of calm. We also may get a sense of what they have not said.
Much of our day is spent hearing what others are saying. And this is appropriate. Most of our conversations are functional or casual conversations. However, do we recognize it when another person needs us to truly listen to them? At times, we all need someone who will do more than simply hear our words. We need individuals in our lives who take the time to truly listen to us.
Jesus also wants us to listen to Him. He desires that we truly attend to what He is saying. In his Holy Rule, St. Benedict instructs us: “Listen with the ear of your heart!” Listening with our ears is second nature to us. However when we listen with our hearts, we are fully present and attentive to the other person. Today Jesus will invite you (and me) to “listen attentively with the ear of your heart.” Will we take the time and give Him the attention He desires?