Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Ash Wednesday – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Today we begin the season of Lent. Lent is a time to step back and examine our lives. Lent is a time to repent. Today is the day we receive ashes on our foreheads. The ashes are a symbol of the reality that we came forth from the earth and that when we die we will return to the earth. The words that accompany that the offering of ashes remind us that we are “dust.” We will have an end. We will die. However, death will not be the end of us. Hopefully, we will live eternally with God.
Jesus’ words in this reading may give us ideas about what we might do during Lent. Jesus warns his disciples not to do good deeds simply so others will think highly of them! Jesus wants his disciples to be aware of their motivation for what they do. He wants them to do what is right or good because they desire to help others, love others, and make the world a better place.
Jesus is not concerned primarily about the actions of his disciples. Rather, He is concerned about their motivations. Jesus hopes their actions and decisions will flow from love of the God, love of the Gospel, love for the people and love for the world. Truly, love is all matters.
How often do we stop and examine our motivations? It is easy to move through the day and simply go about our business. Are we concerned about others or are we too preoccupied even to notice the people around us? I believe that the majority of people in the world want to be good. Most people do care for others and desire to help them.
Our motivations, however, are not always clean and pure. At times, do I choose to do something so the other person will think well of me? Do I go to church because that is where I want to be or do I attend simply because I am supposed to? When I am tired, do I ignore someone who might need some help? If I am in a bad mood, do I take it out on other people?
I assume that all of us have made some of the choices listed above at times in our lives. However, if the majority of our time and attention is focused primarily on ourselves and our own needs, it might be a good idea to reflect on our choices. Most often the source of our happiness is in the people in our lives. Hopefully, most of the people around us bring us joy and love. Yes, there will be difficult times. However if love is present, difficulties can be worked out. In the daily, it is their presence, love and care that is the greatest gift we receive.
Today may we be mindful of our choices and decisions. We all have heard the saying: “What would Jesus do?” Today we might experience a choice or challenge as we go about our day. May we pause for a moment and thoughtfully ask ourselves: What would Jesus do? Listen for Jesus’ answer. He will respond.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Saint Scholastica, Solemnity – Luke 10:38-42 (transferred from Ash Wednesday)
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict. The Gospel for this feast is the story of Martha and her sister, Mary. This is a very familiar Gospel to most of us. Jesus came to visit Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. When he arrived, they all greeted him. They were thrilled that he had come to be with them.
In this passage, Luke paints a picture of the differing characteristics between the two sisters. Clearly, Martha was the practical one. In her view, hospitality was expressed by preparing a fine meal for Jesus. Mary, however, was the social sister. Mary’s natural response to Jesus’ arrival was to invite him to sit down and relax. Mary believed that if you had a guest in your home, then you should attend to the guest and make him/her feel welcome. Thus, Mary sat down and began talking with Jesus while Martha was slaving away in the kitchen.
As time went on, Martha became more and more upset that Mary was not helping her prepare the meal for Jesus. Clearly, Mary was not concerned about the amount of work that was needed to prepare a good meal for Jesus. I wonder if Mary sensed that Martha was aggravated that she was not helping her cook the meal. Did Martha give her a dirty look? Did Martha say something to Mary when Jesus was not around? We do not know. However, Luke makes it clear that Martha was upset with Mary.
Finally, Martha had had it! She goes to Jesus and asks: “Do you not care that I have to do all the work around here? Mary could be helping me. However, she just sits at your feet while I do all the work!” Then Martha adds: “Tell her to help me!” However, Jesus did not comply with her request. Rather, he looks at her sadly and says: “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
I wonder if Martha’s heart fell when Jesus spoke these words to her? Were his words like a knife in her heart? Was she angry that Jesus did not care about her? We will never know. What we can learn from this story of Martha and Mary is that Jesus wants you and me. Jesus hopes we will sit down and talk with him for hours. He will focus completely on us if we focus on him.
In our busy, digital world, there is a real danger of losing our personal connections. We text. We email. Even when we are in the same room, each person literally may be in a world of his/her own. When you sit down to pray, do you silence your phone or your iPad? Do you truly give yourself to this special time with Jesus? If we are not mindful, we may lose what is most importance to us: the individuals we love as well and our relationship with Jesus. Only we can safeguard what is most important to us.
Tuesday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 7:1-13
In this Gospel reading, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples because they ate their meals with unclean hands. It was a custom for all Jews to carefully wash their hands and thus purify themselves before eating. They also had many other purification rituals.
The Jews asked Jesus: “Why do your disciples not follow our tradition? Why do they eat with unclean hands?” Jesus answers their question by quoting a passage from the prophet, Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, however their hearts are far from me.”
If Jesus stood before me I wonder if he would say those words to me? It is easy to honor Jesus with our words. However, Jesus hopes that we not only will honor him, but also love him and give ourselves to him. For Jesus, empty rituals are not sufficient. Jesus wants each and every one of us. He longs to have an intimate and loving relationship with each of us.
What is the relationship you wish to have with Jesus? Is a superficial relationship with Jesus all you want or do you desire a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him? Jesus wants all of us: mind, body, and soul! Jesus is always waiting for us to take another step toward him. He patiently and lovingly waits for us! Today take one or more steps toward Jesus. Jesus is waiting to embrace you!
Monday, February 8, 2016
Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 6:53-56
This brief Gospel reading is only three verses long. On Saturday, we read that Jesus and the disciples were fishing. Today’s passage is a continuation of the story. When Jesus and the disciples had finished fishing, they landed at Gennesaret and tied up their boat. The people on the shore immediately recognized Jesus. They hurriedly spread the word of Jesus’ arrival. The people began to bring to Jesus their relatives and friends who were ill. In every town that Jesus entered, the people “brought to Jesus the individuals who were sick so they might touch the tassel on Jesus’ cloak.” Mark then writes: “And as many touched it were healed.”
Think of the multitude of miracles that are wished for every day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in this day and age, Jesus walked on this earth? Imagine the many people who might be healed. What is the healing that you would ask of Jesus? Would it be for you or would it be for someone you love? Would you ask for the healing of our planet or of the human race? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus would make us all whole again? Perhaps then, we might live on a peaceful and loving planet.
Today, I invite you to go to Jesus and quietly sit in his presence for ten minutes or more. If we wish to experience Jesus’ presence, we have to become still and aware. Jesus typically comes to us in subtle ways. If we are not quiet and attentive, we likely will miss His coming. Be alert throughout your day. Jesus may come to you in a surprising way!
Sunday, February 7, 2016
5th Sunday Ordinary Time – Luke 5:1-11
In today’s Gospel, Jesus called his first disciples. Jesus was walking by the lake of Gennesaret. He was standing on the shore when he saw two boats that were close to the shore. The fisherman had just finished their fishing for the day. They had gotten out of their boats and they were washing their nets.
Jesus brazenly stepped into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon. He said to Simon: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets. Simon replied, “Master, we have fished all night and we did not catch any fish. However, I will do as you ask.” As we know, Simon and the other fishermen caught so many fish that their nets began to tear. Everyone was astonished and amazed!
When Peter returned to the shore, he jumped out of the boat, went to Jesus and fell at his feet. Peter said to Jesus: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am sinful man.” Clearly Peter and the other fishermen realized that this catch of fish was extraordinary. Peter knew that Jesus had done an amazing deed and he was in awe of Jesus and his power. Then Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When all of them returned to shore, the disciples left everything and followed Jesus.
Today Jesus will call all of us to be fishers of people. You can count on it! However, first we have to live Jesus’ message. If we are not living his message, no one will take the time to listen to us. The men and women who decided to follow Jesus were captured by Jesus’ love for the poor and the needy. Jesus was humble and he cared for the poor, the sick, and the least ones. Let us strive to imitate Jesus in his compassion for others this day.