Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:31-37

Tuesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:31-37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus travels to the town of Capernaum in Galilee. When he arrived there, he taught the people. His listeners were astounded at his teaching. As they listened to him, they realized that Jesus was different than any of the teachers they had heard before. Jesus spoke with great authority, authenticity and yet with humility.

There was a man in the synagogue that was possessed by an unclean demon. When the man heard the people talk about Jesus and the astounding deeds he had done, the man cried out to him: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus then rebuked the demon by saying: “Be quiet! Come out of this man!” The demon threw the man to the floor and then came out of his body. The man was not harmed.

All the people who witnessed this healing were amazed and astounded. They said to one another: “What is it about this man? Where did he get this authority? How does he have the power to exorcise unclean spirits?” And the news of Jesus and his power to heal and to drive out unclean spirits spread throughout the region.

Take a moment and ask yourself: What are the unclean spirits that possess you? How do these unclean spirits affect your life? Do you long to be free of these unclean spirits? Or have they become an integral part of your life? Have you asked Jesus to exorcise your unclean spirits?

If you desire to have these unclean spirits rebuked by Jesus, go to Jesus and beg him to rid you of the unclean spirit that is destroying your life. Every day come to Jesus and beg him to heal you. You may not get an immediate miracle. However, you may begin to notice a difference in your life, in your emotions and in your trust in Jesus. Jesus is with you! Open your heart and trust him!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:16-30

Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:16-30

Today Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth. It was the Sabbath day and as was his custom he went to the synagogue. When he entered the synagogue, Jesus stood up to read. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read this passage: “The Spirit of God 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 that is acceptable to the Lord! Then he rolled up the scroll and stated: “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Take a moment and put yourselves in the shoes of the people listening to Jesus. Remember, he was in his hometown of Nazareth. Many of these people had watched him grow up, watched him play and most likely corrected him at times. They knew Jesus very well. Since he was so familiar to them, it would have been easy for them to dismiss his words and his proclamation. However, they spoke highly of him and they were amazed at his ability to preach. Yet, they also said: “Is this man the son of Joseph, the carpenter? Where did he get all this knowledge and wisdom?”

Jesus was well aware that typically a prophet was not accepted in his home town. Yet he also desired to share his good news with the people he had known and loved from childhood. Sadly, the people did not open their minds and hearts to Jesus. He was far too different from what they expected him to be. After all, who did he think he was to come and preach to them? Did he believe he was better than they were? The townspeople became so angry with Jesus that they took him out of town, intending to hurl him off a cliff. He simply was too much for them. However, Jesus sadly yet calmly, walked through the crowd and went away.

Our initial reaction to this Gospel might be shock or dismay due to the reaction of his neighbors and friends. However, have you ever rejected Jesus because he was not who you thought he should be? Or because he did not do what you hoped he would do for you? If so, perhaps you can identify with Jesus’ neighbors. It may be easy to judge or criticize Jesus when he is not acting as we expect him to act.

Imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that Jesus must have experienced in these moments. These were the people who had watched him grow up, who supposedly knew him. He had grown up with them, played with them, eaten in their homes and worshiped with them in the temple. Yet, now they were rejecting him simply because he was acting in a way they did not expect him to act. And sadly they refused to listen to him because he had a wisdom and knowledge far beyond any individual in Nazareth. Luke writes: “He was too much for them!”

Can you identify with Jesus? Have there been times in your life when you were rejected because you were not the person a family member or friend expected you to be? I assume so. Even good people get jealous, envious and angry at times. And have there been situations in your life when you rejected another person because they were not being the person you wanted them to be? I would assume that all of us have been on both sides of this fence. Today I invite you to be mindful of your judgment of the people you encounter. It is true that judgment often is automatic and almost unconscious. However, when we become aware we are judging another, we then can choose to step back from judgment and let God be the Judge. It will not only free the other person, it also will free us!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflection: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sunday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees continue to scrutinize Jesus’ preaching and his behavior. Today they observe that some of Jesus’ disciples did not observe the purification ritual that was required before eating any meal. For the Pharisees, this gave them the perfect opportunity to once again criticize Jesus. For the Pharisees, the law always reigned supreme.

They came to Jesus and asked him: “Why don’t you and your followers observe the proper purification rites? They are eating their meal with unclean hands.” Jesus responds to them by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine what are human traditions and precepts.” Then Jesus bluntly tells them: “You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human tradition.”

Jesus then proclaims to the crowd: “Listen to me and hear me! Nothing that enters a person from outside can defile that person! It is what comes from within that defiles the individual.” Jesus then names fifteen emotions and acts that defile individuals.

Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: At times, do we judge or critique others because they are not following the law, be that the law of God or the law of the land? I assume we do. Many of our judgments are automatic. They may be leftovers from what we were taught as a child. Judgments simply are part of our human condition. And often we may not be fully aware that we are judging another person for breaking one of the laws or rules we consider to be important. Most all of us do not like it when another person judges us. Yet at times, we automatically judge others when we may not have the complete picture. It is not our place to judge others. This is God’s work to do.

If/when you find yourself beginning to judge another today, stop, breathe, and pray. Then go on about your day. You may find your day is lighter and brighter without so much judgment!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflection: Mark 6:17-29

The Passion of John the Baptist — Mark 6:17-29

On this feast of the Passion of John the Baptist, Mark writes of John’s arrest, imprisonment and death. It is a horrific story and it mirrors the atrocities that we human beings continue to perpetrate on one another. John’s crime was that he bluntly told Herod that it was not lawful for him to marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. When Herodias heard this, she harbored a grudge against John and she wanted to kill him. However, she did not have the authority nor the means to do so.

Herodias was a clever and conniving woman and she devised a plan. Herod had planned a great feast for Herodias’ birthday. He had invited many esteemed guests for this grand celebration. Herodias’ daughter performed a beautiful dance that enchanted Herod and his guests. Herod was so taken by her performance that he said to the girl: “Ask of me whatever you will and I give to you, even if you ask for half of my kingdom.”

The girl went and consulted with her mother. When she asked her mother what she should ask for, her mother immediately replied: “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl returned to Herod and told him that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was shocked and distressed. He admired John and respected him. Yet he had made a public oath. And all of his guests had witnessed his oath. What would they think of him if he did not keep his word? Herod truly was in a bind. Finally, he gave the order to have John beheaded. And so it was. John’s head was brought back to Herod on a platter. Herod gave it to the girl and the girl gave it to Herodias. And the feast continued.

I assume that at times all of us have been in a bind. Perhaps we were asked to do something that we knew was not right. And most likely, in the future we will be in a similar situation. It is difficult to stand up and do what is right, when there is pressure from others to please them or to conform. Do we have the strength and courage to stand our ground and do what is right and just? Or do we cave in to please others or to look good?

Today may we pray for the strength and courage to live what we believe, even if others may not approve of our choices and actions. May we strive to have the integrity and courage of John the Baptist, who stood firm in his beliefs even though it ended up costing him his head!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 25:1-13

Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 25:1-13

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the Ten Virgins. This is a familiar parable to most of us. The ten virgins took their lamps and went out to await the coming of the bridegroom. Jesus tells us that five of these virgins were foolish and the other five virgins were wise.

The custom in the time of Jesus was that the bridegroom typically took off to party with his friends after the wedding. Then late in the night, the groom would collect his bride and take her to his house. When the bridegroom finally appeared, the custom was for the bridesmaids to light the way to his house with lamps.

Jesus’ version is a bit different. At midnight, the virgins were awakened when the sentinel cried out: “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out and welcome him!” Immediately, all ten of the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. However, five of the virgins had not anticipated that the bridegroom would dally (party) so long. Foolishly, the virgins had not brought any extra oil for their lamps. Thus, when the bridegroom finally arrived, their lamps no longer had any oil in them. They were dark! The other five virgins were wise and prudent women. They had planned well and brought along some extra lamp oil, just in case it was needed.

Today’s Gospel invites us to ask ourselves: Am I a wise or a foolish virgin? Or am I a bit of both depending on the circumstances? Within us, (male or female), all of us have a wise virgin (person) and also within us, we have a foolish virgin (person). Gender makes no difference. We also are waiting for the bridegroom to come to us. Do we have our lamps lit? Are we anxious and alert? Or has our oil been used up and our lamp is dark? Or have we fallen asleep?

Today Jesus will come to us, though we do not know when or how He will arrive! Are we prepared for His coming? Are we awake and alert? Or have we fallen asleep?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 24:42-51

Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 24:42-51

Stay awake! These are Jesus’ words to us today. He tells us that we do not know the day nor the time when the Lord will come to us. Thus, each and every moment we must be awake and watchful. This may sound impossible to do. However, I think of parents who have young children. I assume their radar is always tuned into where their children are and what they are doing. It becomes second nature. I assume that all of us also have our radar tuned into the individuals in our lives who are special to us.

Today Jesus desires that we also have our radar scanning for his coming or his presence. The reality is we do not know when or how or through whom Jesus may come to us or be present to us. However, staying awake and alert is not as easy as it sounds. Perhaps though, we can enhance our radar system to be more closely attuned to Jesus’ vibes, to his presence with us. If we truly desire to be attentive to Jesus’ presence throughout our day, we can train ourselves to do so just as first- time parents attune themselves to their new baby’s presence and needs. Today attune the ear of your heart to Jesus’ presence with you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:27-32

Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:27-32

Today in the Gospel, Jesus continues his diatribe about the Pharisees. He bluntly calls them hypocrites. He likens them to “whitewashed tombs” which look beautiful but deep within the tombs are nothing but bones and filth.

Place yourself in the Pharisees’ shoes. How would you react if someone accused you of the depth of hypocrisy that Jesus was accusing the Pharisees of? The Pharisees appeared to be righteous. However, Jesus accuses them of being filled with hypocrisy and evil. How dare he? Who did he think he was to make such critical and public remarks to the Pharisees? After all, they were the leaders in the temple. They were doing good, not evil.

The sad reality is that all of us have a “Pharisee” within us. I assume that most of us strive to look good. Naturally we desire to be esteemed and appreciated. We want to be competent, successful and happy. And this is natural and normal. However, we also may try to hide the vulnerable and fearful side of ourselves. We may try to hide what we consider our “bones and our filth.” We don’t want people to see this side of ourselves. We want to look happy, successful, fulfilled and satisfied.

Today Jesus is speaking to us. He realizes that we also are hypocrites at times. And he knows that we want to look good and be successful. These are natural desires and hopes. However, periodically we may need to ask ourselves: Am I being hypocritical? Am I presenting myself as good and holy, when at times I am a hypocrite? Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. However, he desires that we be who we are and not pretend to be holier, happier or more satisfied than in reality we are.

Jesus simply desires that we be authentic. He wants us to be the best we can be and trust that this is enough. Can we believe and trust this? I hope so!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 23:23-26

Tuesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 23:23-26

Today the opening words of the Gospel are: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Once again Jesus does not mince any words with these supposed religious leaders. Jesus criticizes these pious men for tithing but also neglecting the essential aspects of the law: judgment, mercy and fidelity. He scathingly calls the scribes and Pharisees “blind guides” who “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel.” These words were a powerful and public denouncement of the scribes and Pharisees.

However, we may be able to identify with the scribes and Pharisees. It may be easier to live out the letter of the law of God than to delve deeper into what Jesus is calling us to. Jesus desires that we be wholehearted and loving in all our actions. Yes, we may automatically judge others. However, will we also be merciful and understanding with them? Are we faithful to what we profess? Or do we choose which parts of the law we will observe? And does our understanding of the law include compassion and love?

Today I invite you to take some time and ask yourself: how do I approach the law? Do I simply live the letter of the law? Or do I strive to live the law from a compassionate and loving stance? The letter of the law is cleaner and simpler. However, we are messy human beings and at times much more is needed than the letter of the law. The most important law is the law of love. This is the law Jesus exemplified throughout his life. Will we choose to follow in his footsteps?