Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflection: John 1:1-18

7th Day within the Octave of the Nativity – John 1:1-18

“In the beginning was the Word.” We know this Gospel well; these six words are the opening words in John’s Gospel. There is great power in these words, simple as they are. These few words tell us that Christ “was” before all else came to be!

John then speaks about John the Baptist, who was sent to testify to the “Light.” “Light” is a wondrous gift: a gift we may take for granted. Here in the Midwest, winters typically do not have much “light” or sunshine. Yes, in the winter we do have light but many days are gray and cloudy. The sun can seem to disappear for days at a time.

Ask yourself: what difference does “light” make in your life? It may be light generated by the sun or light generated by a lamp or light fixture. Imagine what would life be like without any light?

Light and sunlight can make all the difference in the world. On sunny days, it is much easier for me to be optimistic and happy. However, when the weather is gray and gloomy for several days, I struggle to be optimistic. The clouds seem to weigh me down.

The gift is: we have Jesus the Light with us each moment of every day! Sad to say, I am not always in tune with this reality. Yet, it is true: Jesus the Light is with us---always! I am the one who is not awake to His Presence.

Today and every day may we open our eyes, minds and hearts and expect to “see” Jesus! Jesus is with us always! However, we may need to “look” for Him and “expect” Him!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflection: Luke 2:36-40

Luke 2:36-40

The Gospel for today is the story of Anna the prophetess. Anna was an old woman –84 years old. Anna was quite the character. She lived in the temple and she worshipped night and day. Anna truly was a “woman of God.”

Anna must have had a gift of foresight. She began to prophesy of the coming of the child that all the people were waiting for. She also gave thanks for the child that would come and who would redeem all peoples. The Gospel doesn’t say whether the people believed her. Did they believe? Or were they skeptical because they had heard this prophesy before and the “child” never appeared?

Are we more like Anna, trusting and believing that this child would come and save all people? Or do we discount any prophecy we hear? We “have heard it all before” — and it never happened! Yet, Jesus does promise to come again! Yes, we say we believe that Jesus will come at the end of time. However, do we truly believe? Are we prepared for Jesus’ coming? Who knows? Today may be the day!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reflection: Luke 2:22-35

Luke 2:22-35

In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple and present Him to Simeon. It was a Jewish law and custom to take a newborn child to the temple. In this reading, we get a sense of one of the important rituals of Jewish life: presenting a newborn child in the temple.

As Catholics in this day and age, we also present a newborn child to God and the Church when we bring the child to be baptized. Baptism is not simply a ritual. In this day and age, the sacrament of Baptism continues the long tradition of the presentation of the child to God and to the Church. It is a sacred act and a transforming experience.

If you are a parent, do you remember your child’s baptism? Was the reception of this Sacrament meaningful to you? Or was it simply “something to do” because it was expected? Hopefully, your child’s baptism was a sacred and joyful experience for you and your family.

Ritual is a gift. However, for ritual to be a sacred gift (and not simply an action), we need to be fully present and aware of what is taking place. It can be so easy to go through the motions, yet not be mindful of the sacredness of the act.

Once we receive the grace and gift of Baptism, we will never be the same! The Baptism cannot be undone! Today, I invite you to reflect on the gift of your baptism. Do you experience it as a gift or as simply a gesture or a ritual? What do you want your Baptism to mean in your life?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflection: Luke 2:22-40

The Feast of the Holy Family – Luke 2:22-40

Today the Church celebrates the “Feast of the Holy Family.” This feast is a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the gift our “families” are to us. As we know, none of our families are perfect — just as we are not perfect. Families typically love one another but they also hurt and wound one another. The reality is: none of us are perfect. Thus, at times, we will fail, we will hurt one another, or we may forget a special occasion. And even though on a particular day, we may not like our brother, sister, parent or spouse, we continue to love them!

In this way we mirror the love Jesus has for us! I am certain that there are times Jesus is not pleased with me, with some of my actions, or my attitudes. Yet, Jesus continues to love me! What a gift it is to know that no matter what I may do, Jesus or my spouse, my child or my sister in community will continue to love me---no matter how I mess up! Yes, I may need to change my attitude or actions, yet the unconditional love I/we experience is a great gift!

This Feast of the Holy Family is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate and give thanks for the “holy family” we belong to. If we are lucky, we may realize that we have several “holy families” to celebrate: our birth family, our Church family, our neighbors, friends and any other “family” we belong to. Today I invite you to reflect on the “families” that love you and gift you with their love, care and challenge. Give thanks for the blessing they are to you! Also, give thanks for Jesus and “His” family!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reflection: John 20:1a, 2-8

The Feast of St. John – John 20:1a, 2-8

The Gospel today is a bit jarring after the readings we have heard in the past couple of days. This Gospel presents the scene that takes place right after Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the scene where Mary Magdalene comes running to Peter and John and tells them that someone has taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. Mary panics because Jesus’ body has disappeared!

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when Jesus seems to have disappeared? A time when you felt the absence of Jesus in your life? These times can be very dark, frightening, and we may feel lost and alone. This experience may be brief or it may go on for days or weeks. How do we respond to this “felt loss” of Jesus’ presence? Do we panic and search for Him? Or do we trust that we once again will experience His presence? Are we able to stay grounded in Jesus’ love for us? Or do we give up and walk away?

In my life, when I experience the absence of Jesus, I usually come to understand that I am the one who has wandered away---not Jesus! And even if this is not the case for you, are we willing to stand firm and wait for Jesus to come? Can we wait peacefully, trusting that Jesus is with us? Or can we imitate Peter’s response to Jesus’ seeming absence? Are we able to see and believe---and trust that Jesus is with us?

May we pray for the grace to know that Jesus will not abandon us!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Reflection: Matthew 10:17-22

Feast of St. Stephen – Matthew 10:17-22

The Gospel for this feast of St. Stephen radically differs from the Gospel we heard yesterday. This Gospel opens with Jesus telling his disciples: Beware. What a contrast to the readings we heard on Christmas Day. Today Jesus is warning His disciples that if they continue to follow Him, they will be handed over to governors and kings. They also will be hated. However, if they remain faithful to Jesus to the end, they will be saved!

Imagine Jesus saying this to you! How do you think you would react? I suspect that I might quietly slip away from Jesus. The price for being His disciple is much higher than I expected it to be. It all can seem so glorious when we first decide to follow Jesus. He is so charismatic and inspiring. When Jesus speaks, His message comes straight from His heart!

Today however, Jesus is warning us that there will be a price to pay if we follow Him. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: What price am I willing to pay? Do I believe in Jesus and His message so completely that I will risk losing everything I have worked for? Or perhaps even risk losing my life?

The path of following Jesus is both gift and cross. There are abundant gifts and blessings we receive when we walk with Jesus. However, there also will be challenges or difficulties that we will encounter---simply because we do follow Jesus. What am I willing to risk? What are you willing to endure for Jesus’ sake?

Jesus will give us the grace and strength we need! The question is: will I follow Him? Will you follow Him? May we pray for each other that we will have the love, courage and strength we need to follow Jesus, especially when life is challenging!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Reflection: John 1:1-18

The Nativity of the Lord

Mass during the day – John: 1:1-18

The Gospel for Christmas Day may surprise you. This reading is not one of the familiar Nativity narratives. Rather, this Gospel is the opening section of John’s Gospel. This Gospel begins with the statement: “In the beginning was the Word.”

John speaks of the “Word” being with God from the beginning of all time. John tells the people that Jesus, the Word, always “was” and always “will be.” He even goes into some detail about what this “Word” would do. John tells his listeners that the “Word” would testify to the Light. John also said that the “Word” would prophesy to his own people but that they would not believe or accept Him.

Christmas typically is a busy time. People are traveling, shopping, baking Christmas cookies, writing Christmas cards and so much else. On this Christmas day, I invite you to stop for 10-15 minutes and ask yourself, Who is Jesus Christ to me? Who is Jesus “for” me? Is He real to me or is Jesus simply a character in the Gospels?

Today, I also invite you to take some time and ask yourself: Who do you want Jesus to be to and for you? Jesus is here with us! It is our choice to open our door to Him! Jesus is waiting for us! If we open our hearts and our minds, Jesus will be born in us today—and every day! What a wonderful gift to receive each day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:67-79

Fourth Week of Advent –Luke 1:67-79

The Gospel reading for this last morning of Advent is the prophecy of Zechariah. It is the continuation of the story of John’s birth. In today’s reading, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit. John also prophesies that a Savior will come to his people. The Savior not only will come, but He also will save them and set them free.

When Mary heard that Elizabeth was pregnant, she immediately hurries to be with Elizabeth. Just imagine the conversation these two women had! Both of them became pregnant in highly unusual circumstances. Yet both women were filled with complete faith and trust in God — and faith in the miracle they each were gifted with.

Joseph and Zechariah also had to be men of deep faith and trust in their God. Did they wonder what else their lives would hold? Yet they trusted the God they knew and loved! What faith these women and men had in their God!

These kinds of happenings are unusual in our day. Often if I hear of a miracle, I question it. I wonder if a true miracle really did happen since miracles seem to be in short supply today. Yet we have miracles around us all day long — if we have the faith and the eyes to see them and recognize God’s action.

On this Christmas Eve may we open our minds, eyes and hearts and look deeply for God’s action in our lives and in the lives of the people we love! God is with us! God is acting! The question is: will we see and believe?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:57-66

Fourth Tuesday of Advent – Luke 1:57 – 66

Elizabeth is the principal character in today’s Gospel. This Gospel reading is the account of the birth of John the Baptist. As we know, Elizabeth conceived John at an advanced age. For many years Elizabeth and Zechariah had longed to have a child. However, it was not to be. Then, after giving up hopes of having a child, Elizabeth becomes pregnant and she has the child that she and Zechariah had longed for years!

Elizabeth and Zechariah knew that God finally had heard their prayers. Imagine the emotions they must have experienced: joy, wonder, gratitude. What a wondrous and unexpected gift!

Can you indentify with Elizabeth and Zechariah? Have you been praying for a special intention for a long period of time and not received any answer? Elizabeth and Zechariah can give us hope that God does listen to our desires and needs and that God will answer us and bless us. The timing is not ours to know nor is it our part to understand how all this will happen. Our part is to pray and to trust!

God will answer us. Do we trust that? However, it may not be the specific answer we expect, but God will gift us and grace us. We simply need to have an open mind, and a listening heart. Keep your eyes and heart open: God may come to you today in ways that you do not expect!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:46-56

Fourth Monday of Advent – Luke 1:46-56

The Gospel reading for today is the continuation of yesterday’s Gospel. In the opening words of this reading, Mary again proclaims the goodness and greatness of God. Despite the extreme and unusual circumstances of her call to be the mother of Jesus, Mary rejoices and proclaims that God has looked upon her with great favor.

I assume that all of us have had experiences in our lives when we did not understand what God was doing in our lives. How did you react in these instances? Did you continue to trust God? Did you draw closer to God? Or did you get angry or distance yourself from God?

Mary didn’t hesitate to question what God was doing in her life. She didn’t hesitate to wonder about the highly unusual circumstances of her pregnancy. However, Mary also must have had a very deep and personal relationship with God. Despite her confusion and fear, her trust in God and in God’s action was deep and heartfelt.

Each of us also can have the gift of an intimate, personal and trusting relationship with God. Today may we pray to Mary and ask her to give us a share of her faith and trust in God. Mary will help us. Mary will walk with us. And God will bless us!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:26-38

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Luke 1:26-38

The Gospel today is the appearance of the angel to Mary announcing that the Lord was with her. Luke writes that Mary was deeply troubled by the angel’s message. Who wouldn’t be? Mary was confounded by the angel’s message. Immediately the angel tells Mary not to be afraid. The angel also announces to her that she has found favor with God. Did Mary wonder if this angel was real? Or did she think she was going crazy?

Despite the confusion or fear Mary experienced, she immediately opened her heart to the angel. Mary trusted and believed the angel, despite the highly unusual and unexpected circumstances. Mary was a very young woman and a simple woman. However, she was a woman with an open and willing heart and mind. Clearly, Mary was a woman very close to God.

I assume that most of us have not had an angel appear to us. Yet at times, we also receive a message or a call that is frightening or confusing. What is happening in your life at this time that frightens you or confounds you? Do you truly believe that God is with you? Do you trust God to grace you with the faith, strength and courage to follow this path?

Mary has been down this path. Today may we turn to Mary and ask her to intercede for us, to pray for us and to walk with us on this journey. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:26-38

Third Wednesday of Advent – Luke 1:26-38

Today’s Gospel opens with the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. This reading is one of the most familiar stories in the Gospels. The details in the Gospel accounts vary a bit but the basics of the story are similar in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. This Gospel is a story that can easily capture our imagination, no matter what our age.

One of the most powerful statements in this passage is the angel’s message to Mary: “the Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Take a moment and ask yourself: When in your life have you experienced the power of the Most High overshadowing you? When have you sensed God’s presence in an almost tangible way? What were the circumstances of your life at that time?

The gift is Jesus comes to us every day! However, we need to be open, alert and attentive or we may miss His coming completely. Personally, I prefer for God to “skywrite” for me—so I know that the message truly is from God. Most likely we will not have an angel of God appearing to us as Mary experienced. However, we may have a friend, family member or a stranger appear when we need them the most. This person may be God’s angel for me today. Today open your eyes and hearts! Expect and welcome the “angels” God will send to you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:5-25

Third Wednesday of Advent – Luke 1:5-25

Today we hear the story of John the Baptist’s conception: the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. In this reading there are echoes of the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would bear a child. In this reading from Luke, an angel of God appears to Zechariah as he was praying in the sanctuary of God. The angel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth will conceive and bear a son.

Zechariah is very troubled by the angel’s message. Who wouldn’t be? For many years Elizabeth and Zechariah had longed for a child and they had never received that gift. Yet standing before him was an angel telling Zechariah that Elizabeth in her old age would conceive a child! Not only would she bear a child, but the angel also prophesied that this child would be filled with the Holy Spirit! Their son would be a prophet and he would prepare the way for the “One” who would come!

Naturally, Zechariah was skeptical and he doubted the angel’s message. (He actually may have thought he was going mad!) Zechariah then asked the angel how this was to happen since both he and Elizabeth were long past child-bearing years. The angel did not appreciate Zechariah’s disbelief and skepticism. The angel told Zechariah that since he did not believe the angel’s message, he would be unable to speak until all these happenings came to pass.

If we received a message from an angel, how would we react? Most likely, we also would respond with great disbelief and perhaps wonder if we were crazy! Yet at times in our lives, God indeed does act in strange and fantastic ways. Perhaps when we are disbelieving, we should re-read this Gospel passage. Who knows? Today God may desire to act in strange and wondrous ways in our lives. The question for us is: Will we believe? Will we trust? Will we continue to walk with God? If an angel appears to us, may we pray with Zechariah and Elizabeth! They will “come to our aid!”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 1:18-25

Third Wednesday of Advent – Matthew 1:18-25

Today we hear the story of how the birth of Jesus came about. This is a story we have heard countless times. There is the saying: “familiarity breeds contempt.” In this case, familiarity with this Gospel may prompt us to only hear the words and not listen intently to the message of this Gospel.

Do you ever put yourself in Mary’s place? Do you ever imagine what thoughts went through Mary’s mind when all this happened? Just imagine the riot of thoughts and emotions that must have flooded through her! What was she to tell her parents? And what was she to tell Joseph? The tale she had to tell was absolutely unbelievable!

How did Joseph initially react when he heard Mary’s fantastic story? Was he bewildered? Angry? Unbelieving? What did he think of Mary? Did he believe that she had been unfaithful to him? And then an angel of God appears to Joseph in a dream!

Being human, Joseph must have been overwhelmed and confused by all these strange happenings and tales. Yet despite the fantastic and unbelievable circumstances, Joseph had faith. He had deep faith and trust in God and in Mary. Joseph truly was a “man of God.”

How do we react when we are confronted with circumstances that throw us off balance or with situations that confound us or frighten us? Do we continue to trust in God? Or do we walk away from God?

Regardless of how we react, our “God who is with us” never leaves our side. Our loving God is with us in every moment (even if we don’t “feel” God’s presence). Just as God was with Joseph and Mary in this strange, difficult and confusing time, God also walks with us. And God graces us and gifts us with the strength, faith and trust that we need. The question is: are we willing to give God a chance? Will we stay open to God? Do we believe and trust our loving God?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 1:1-17

Third Wednesday of Advent – Matthew 1:1-17

The Gospel today is the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The Gospel opens by naming the many people in Jesus’ lineage. The list begins with Abraham and continues to the time of Jesus’ birth. Many generations are listed. Some of the names are very familiar to us. However, we also may hear names of people that we know almost little or nothing about. Genealogy has become a serious hobby for many people. As human beings, we instinctively are curious to know where we came from and who we belong to---even if they lived a hundred years ago.

We are shaped and formed by our families. Most of us don’t choose our family; we are born into a family. We begin learning from our family the moment we are born - (or perhaps even when we are in the womb). Jesus also was shaped by His family. Mary and Joseph were His first teachers. They taught Jesus about God, life, love, how to act, how to pray and so much more.

Take a moment and ask yourself: what did you learn in your family? What are the gifts that you received from your family? What do you consider the greatest gift that you received from your family? What did you learn in your family that was painful or disappointing? No family is perfect, just as we are not perfect. What were the challenges in your family? How did you deal with them?

Today I invite you to take time and reflect on your family: your birth family and also the family you belong to at this time. What are the gifts they give you? What do you appreciate about your family? What might be disappointing to you about your family? What is the greatest gift you receive/d from your family? What are the gifts that you share with them? I hope God is one of those gifts!

Today may we give thanks for our families and the many gifts they have given to us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 21:28-32

Third Tuesday of Advent – Matthew 21:28-32

This Gospel is a continuation of the reading we heard yesterday. Today Jesus presents the chief priests and elders with the parable of the man who had two sons. The father had vineyards. He asked the oldest son to go and work in the vineyards. However, this son absolutely refused to do so. However, later on in the day, he decided that he would go and work as his father had requested.

Later on in the day, the father also ordered his second son to go and work in the vineyards. This son agreed to do as his father asked. However, after he left his father, he decided he would not go to the vineyard. Nor did he tell his father that he had changed his mind!

Jesus told this parable because he knew that his listeners were trying to trap him. He bluntly tells the elders’ questions that tax collectors and prostitutes would get to heaven before they would! Can you imagine their reaction? How dare Jesus ask them that question! These were men who were faithful to the temple and to the Jewish customs and regulations!

Do we also “play games with God” at times? Do we ask God a question and hope for a particular answer? When we ask Jesus a question, is it a trick question? Or when we ask, do we wait expectantly and listen for God’s response? It is our choice! What will we do today? May we pray for open and listening hearts! God will answer!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 21:23-27

Third Monday of Advent – Matthew 21:23-27

The setting for today’s Gospel is the temple. When Jesus entered the temple, the elders and chief priests approached Him. They immediately began questioning Him. They asked Him who it was that gave Him authority to heal and preach?

Instead of answering their questions, Jesus turns the table on the elders and priests by asking them where they believed John’s baptism was from? Did they believe it was from heaven or did they think it was of human origin? The elders and priests were in a quandary. They realized that if they said they believed that John’s baptism was from heaven, Jesus then might ask them: “why didn’t you believe John?” However, if they told Jesus that they did not believe in John’s baptism, Jesus then would ask them why they did not believe that John was the man “sent by God to testify to the truth?”

Can you imagine the frustration, fear and anger the elders and priests experienced? They were in a quandary! No matter how they answered, they would be in an awkward position. The temple officials were silent for a time. Finally one of them answered and simply said: “We do not know.” In turn, Jesus responds by refusing to tell them where His authority came from.

What do we believe? Do we sincerely and honestly say we believe in Jesus? How deep is our belief in Jesus? Or do we believe simply because we were taught to believe? Or do we believe because we have had personal experiences of Jesus? The danger is: we may become complacent or even lax in our belief! Advent is a wonderful season to ask: What do I believe? Who is Jesus to me? What will be your answer?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Reflection: John 1:6-8, 19-28

John 1:6-8, 19-28 – Third Sunday of Advent

The main character in today’s Gospel is not Jesus. It is John the Baptist. In the Gospel we hear John’s testimony to the “light.” In his preaching, John makes it clear that he is not the light. John’s role is to prepare the people for Jesus’ coming so that when he comes, they will recognize Him and believe in Him.

The people continued to barrage John with questions. They ask if he is Elijah or is he the Prophet that was to come? Finally, John quotes a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice crying out in the desert.” He simply says that he is the “herald,” the one who is to foretell the coming of the Lord.

The Jews continued to bombard John with questions: asking why he was baptizing people if he was not the One who was to come? The Jews would not let him rest. They asked why he was baptizing and preaching if he was not the Christ or Elijah? Finally, John clearly and simply tells the people that his role is to prepare the way for Jesus. He tells them that he, John, is not worthy to even untie the sandal strap of the One who is to come.

The people asking the questions of John were hungry to know more about the “Messiah.” They were hungry to have their questions answered. They wanted to have a sense of what would come. Of “Who” would come! They had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries! Perhaps they were beginning to wonder if the Savior would even come! They looked to Jesus to affirm their hope that the Savior would return.

What are the questions we have for Jesus? Are we hungry to know more about Jesus? Are we anxious for His coming? Do we recognize the ways He comes to us each day? May we open our eyes and hearts to Jesus this day! He may appear in surprising ways!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 17:9a, 10-13

Matthew 17:9a, 10-13 – Second Week of Advent

Elijah, the prophet, is the central character in today’s first reading as well as in the Gospel. The reading from the Book of Sirach describes Elijah as a man who was bigger than life. He would be a great character for an adventure movie. The reading from Sirach also says that Elijah’s words “flamed like a furnace.” What a powerful image! He also brought down fire to the earth and did many other astonishing deeds.

Today the scribes are doing what they normally do: they were teaching in the temple. On that day they were preaching about Elijah, the prophet, and they were predicting that one day Elijah would return to the earth.

Jesus’ disciples did not understand this prophecy. They asked Him if Elijah would return to earth in the future. Jesus told them that yes, Elijah would return. However, Jesus continues by saying that Elijah already had come to the earth. However, no one recognized him. Elijah was rejected by the people!

In speaking of Elijah, Jesus is predicting His own death. He is preparing his disciples for what will come. Jesus tells them “the Son of Man will suffer.” However, the disciples assume that Jesus is talking about John the Baptist. As usual, Jesus’ disciples did not understand.

At times, we also do not understand what Jesus is saying to us. At times, it may be difficult for us to hear Jesus’ voice. The busyness and noise in our lives can make us deaf to what Jesus may be saying to us. Today may we open our ears, our minds and our hearts! May we listen attentively for Jesus’ voice! Jesus will speak. Will we listen? Today, may we listen with the “ear of our heart.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 1:26-38

Our Lady of Guadalupe –Luke 1:26-38

This Gospel from Luke is one that is a very familiar to us. It is the story of Mary’s Annunciation when the angel appeared to her and revealed to her that she would conceive and bear a Son.

Every time I hear or read this Gospel, I wonder how Mary reacted to the angel’s appearance and even more so, how she reacted to the angel’s announcement that Mary would have a child? Luke says that Mary was extremely troubled at the angel’s news. What did all this mean? How was it to come about? What would she tell Joseph? This was too fantastic for him to believe! Would he believe her or reject her? Put yourself in Mary’s place: how would you react?

Yet somehow Mary was able to trust God and she consented. I believe that it was Mary’s personal relationship with God that enabled her to trust and say yes to what God was calling her to. Mary must have trusted God in all things, even this surreal and frightening situation.

And how was she to explain her situation to Joseph? Would he be angry and humiliated? Would he spurn her? Yet, she had to tell him this fantastic tale. Otherwise, he would draw his own conclusions and naturally believe that she had been with another man. Imagine the storm of emotions that this young Mary must have experienced!

At times, Jesus (and life) presents us with difficult or painful situations that stir up a storm of emotion in us. How do we respond? Do we get angry, fearful or anxious? Or do we simply distance ourselves from God? If so, do we work and pray to trust God and also to move through our fear and anger? Eventually do we come to believe and trust that God is with us and that God will guide and grace us?

We need to keep ourselves grounded in the God we know and trust! If we do this, then we truly may be able to believe that we have the grace, strength and trust that we need. This will bring us peace! God will bring us peace!

Today may we ask Mary to pray for us! She has “walked in these shoes.” She will walk with us also!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 11:11-15

Second Week of Advent – Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus continues his preaching to the crowds today. He is speaking of John the Baptist. He tells the people that no one has been born who is greater than John. Jesus follows this statement by saying that the “least one” in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John.

Who is the “least” in our world? In our town or city or family, who is the “least” among us? Do we see these individuals or are they simply part of the background of our lives? It also may be more comfortable for us to see only what we want to see. It can be natural to try to block out what is painful or difficult.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus sees the lost and the “least” and He is attentive to them. Jesus also wants us to have eyes and a heart that we will see the “little ones,” the “least” who are in our lives. Do we look for them? Are we attentive to them? Do we truly see them and then do what we can to help them?

Today may we pray that we will have the eyes to see the poor, the little ones, the least. May we also have the grace to help or console them in whatever way we can. It may be as simple as greeting them or listening to them! Or it may be helping them in some small way. To us, these acts may seem to be insignificant. However to the “other,” it may be a great gift! Who will we notice today?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 11:28-30

Second Week of Advent –Matthew 11:28-30

This Gospel is one of my favorite Scripture passages. In this reading Jesus invites “all who are weary and burdened” to come to Him. Jesus also promises to give us rest, rest that will restore us and renew us.

Ask yourself: What in your life wearies you? What wears you down or exhausts you? At this time, what do you need rest from? It might be worry about your loved ones, health concerns, financial concerns, feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities or perhaps feeling alone.

I assume that many of us are weary to some degree. What do we do at these times? How do we handle the weariness? Do we take our burdens, anxiety and weariness to Jesus and ask for the grace and rest that we need? Or do we ignore it, “stuff it” and just keep on going?

It would be wonderful if simply taking our worries and weariness to Jesus immediately and magically made everything right again. However, we know from experience that this typically doesn’t happen. Our concerns are still with us. However, if we come to Jesus, He will grace us with the strength we need to keep going and also to keep hoping. The question is: do we trust Him?

Ask yourself: what are your concerns, worries or anxieties today? I invite you to place them in Jesus’ hands and heart and simply trust. Jesus will grace you! Simply spending time with Him also will give you rest and lighten your burden! Trust Him! He is waiting!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 18:12-14

Second Week of Advent – Matthew 18:12-14

The Gospel reading for today is extremely short: only three verses. Yet Jesus has a powerful message in these verses. Today’s Gospel is the parable of the man who has 100 sheep that he is tending. One of the sheep wanders off.

Despite the fact that the shepherd was tending 100 sheep, he instinctively knew that one of his sheep was missing. He was determined to find it and bring it back to the flock. As we know, the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep and goes in search of the lost sheep.

We know that Jesus is the shepherd and we are the “sheep.” At times in our lives, we also wander off or stray from the Shepherd and from the flock. Do you remember a time in your life when you were lost? When you were distant from God? What was going on in your life at that time? Take a moment and reflect those days or months. Did you sense Jesus seeking you out, looking for you? What brought you back to Jesus? And what did you learn from that experience?

When we feel lost and alone, we may not feel Jesus’ presence as we would like to. Yet Jesus is with us! Jesus never leaves us! Typically, we are the one who wanders away from Him. Hopefully at some point we realize that we are lost and we decide to return home to the One who loves us unconditionally! If you notice, the shepherd did not reprimand the sheep, he looks for the lost sheep until he finds it. He then takes it back to the flock. The shepherd also rejoices more about finding his lost sheep.

At various times in our lives, we are the “lost sheep.” Do you remember one of those times in your life when you were lost? What was happening in your life at that time? What did you experience during those days, weeks or months? Did you sense Jesus calling you back to Him? How did you respond?

The gift is Jesus searches for us until He finds us and we allow Him to bring us home! Jesus never gives up looking for us or longing for our return! Are you “lost” in some way at this time in your life? Have you wandered away from Jesus? Today Jesus is searching for you and for me! It is our decision to allow ourselves “be found” by Him. Will we let Him carry us back to His flock?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Reflection: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Take a moment and ask yourself: Who is Mary to you? Is she simply a character in the Gospels? Or is Mary someone you have a personal relationship with? I know several people who have a deep and intimate relationship with Mary. When I hear them talk about Mary being so present and real to them, I long to have a similar relationship with her!

Mary was an amazing woman. Talk about the personification of faith! How many of us would have believed the fantastic prophecy of the angel? I wonder what thoughts and emotions Mary experienced when the angel appeared to her. The Gospel tells us that “Mary was greatly troubled by the angel’s message.” I assume that her confusion would be the natural reaction of anyone who had an angel appear. The angel’s message may have made it even more unbelievable to Mary!

However, Mary was deeply rooted in God. Even though she didn’t understand how this plan of God’s would unfold, Mary’s heart was open and receptive to God’s message. She simply and wholeheartedly said yes to God’s plan for her!

At the same time, Mary was human. She experienced all the emotions and turmoil we experience at times. Mary must have wondered what all this would mean for her and her life? How would this unfold? What was she to tell her parents? Would they believe her? Trust her? Mary must have known that life as she knew it would never be the same! Yet, she trusted God! And she trusted God to give her the grace she would need!

Most likely, we will not have an angel appearing to us asking us to bear God’s child! Even if an angel does not come to us, we also are called to be “Christ Bearers.” How will we respond to God’s call?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reflection: Mark 1:1-8

Second Week of Advent –Mark 1:1-8

The Gospel for this 2nd Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Mark begins this Gospel by quoting a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. This prophesy speaks of the coming of a messenger, a prophet. This messenger would herald the coming of the Savior, Jesus. This messenger was John the Baptist. Today’s Gospel describes John and his ministry.

John must have been a mesmerizing preacher. People from all walks of life had heard about him and they wanted to see John for themselves. Seekers from all the areas of Judea as well as the citizens of Jerusalem gathered to listen to John preach. John was a powerful orator, a holy man. First and foremost, John truly was a “man of God.” After hearing John preach, many people came to be baptized by him.

John was a prophet whose lifestyle was extremely ascetic. He lived in the desert, wore camel hair and ate locusts and wild honey. John did not desire any acclaim for himself. His call was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. John told his listeners that “one mightier than I” would come after him. John also said that this man would also baptize but He would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Ask yourself: How would you react if a prophet in your town began proclaiming that “one mightier than I” will be coming? Would we automatically discount this prophecy? At times we have heard prophecies telling us that the “end of the world” was coming — and yet we are still here on this planet.

Yet, one day Christ will come again! However, Christ comes to us every day of our lives! Are we aware of His coming? Do we notice His presence as we go about our day? I know that on days I “miss” Christ’s coming. Perhaps I am too busy or my mind or heart was closed. Or I have been sleepwalking through my day, going through the motions but not truly present.

Today is a good day to consciously look for Christ! Christ is among us! However, our eyes, minds and hearts must be awake and alert if we are to see and experience His coming. Today Jesus is coming! Will we be too busy or too preoccupied to notice Him? Or will be awake and alert? I pray we have eyes to see and hearts to trust!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

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 was curing 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 them or care for them.

Jesus then called His twelve disciples. He gave them the power and ability to heal, to drive out spirits and to cure every disease. Jesus then instructed them to find the lost sheep of Israel. He gave them the power to heal and to drive out unclean spirits.

I wonder how the twelve apostles responded to what Jesus said? Were they awed? Did they believe that they would be able to heal or to drive out unclean spirits? Or were they skeptical? Doubting? They must have been excited and felt empowered. However, I would guess they also must have had some doubts! Were they asking themselves: “who am I to work wonders like this?”

Today Jesus also is giving us power to heal! We may heal by listening to another person. Or we may heal by giving an unexpected gift of our time or ability. We simply may heal by truly seeing another person. We also have the ability to heal. Do we believe this? Do we use our gift of healing? Who will we reach out to today? We can heal with a touch, with loving words, or perhaps by simply listening to another with our full attention!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 9:27-31

First Week of Advent – Matthew 9:27-31

The principle characters in this Gospel are Jesus and two blind men. As Jesus walks along, these two blind men begin 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 Jesus for? 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 4, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 7:24-27

First Week of Advent – Matthew 7:24-27

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 acts on His Word will be building their house on the foundation of rock.

We all know that there is a clear difference between hearing and listening. “Hearing” another is much simpler than listening. When I simply hear the other person, I literally hear the words and the content, but I don’t hear the layers of emotion that the individual may be experiencing.

To attend to another person has a much deeper meaning than simply to hear their words. When we attend to what the other person is saying to us, we listen deeply. We strive not only to hear their words but we also strive to hear what their emotions or concerns may be. We also may listen for what they are not saying.

Most likely, much of our day is spent hearing what others are saying. And this is appropriate. Many of our conversations, however, simply are functional or casual conversation. However, do we recognize it when another person needs us to truly listen to them? We all need someone who will not simply hear us! We need people in our lives who will not only hear us but who also will listen to us!

Jesus also wants us to listen to Him. Jesus 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 or to God.

Today and every day Jesus invites us to listen attentively with the ear of our heart! Will we take the time and give Him the attention He desires? Yes or No?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Reflection: Matthew 15:29-37

First Week of Advent – Matthew 15:29-37

The opening scene of today’s Gospel is Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After a time, He went up on the mountain. A multitude of people followed Him. When Jesus finally stopped and sat down, the people came bringing the sick, the lame and others with all sorts of illnesses and diseases. When each of these individuals approached Jesus, He quietly healed them. He didn’t make a “big to do” about it. He simply had compassion for them.

Naturally the crowds were astonished when they realized that the mute were talking, the blind once again were able see and the lame were walking. Just imagine what a wondrous experience this would be.

All of us are in need of healing! What is the healing you desire? How would you respond if Jesus did heal you?

In today’s world, there may not appear that many miracles are happening. We know that it is rare for a person who has a serious disease or illness to be cured. Yet if we look with eyes of faith, if we look deeply, we may see the miracles that happen every day. They may be small miracles and yet what a gift they are!

We all are lame or ill in some way. Today may we bring our request, our longing for healing, to Jesus. May we pray for eyes to see and hearts to trust Jesus!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 10:21-24

First Week of Advent – Luke 10:21-24

This Gospel begins with Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit and praising God. Ask yourself: how often do you praise God and the Holy Spirit? I have to confess that much of my communication with God and Jesus is to ask for what I need. With all my needs, I often forget to thank God for the many blessings I have received. I have a great deal of abundance in my life! I have good friends and a loving family, food on the table, heat in this cold weather, warm clothing and medical care. I am not “rich” in the world’s eyes, yet I am very “rich.” I am blessed! How sad that I usually take these “riches” for granted!

The numbers of people in our country and our world who every day are hungry, cold, lonely or frightened, is overwhelming and tragic. Yet, I may complain about the least inconvenience. And yet we all lack something! It may be a shortage of emotional support, education, money, good health or healthcare coverage. You can fill in the blanks. Today however, may we stop and reflect on our blessings – small though they seem to be! We are blessed! Our blessings may look small or insignificant, yet still they are a blessing and gift. Yes, we also have our pain, loss, or difficulties. Despite the difficult or painful circumstances in our lives, can we still rejoice, give thanks and praise God? I pray we can!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Reflection: Luke 8:5-11

First Week of Advent – Luke 8:5-11

The Gospel for this first Monday in Advent is the story of the centurion who approached Jesus asking him to heal his servant. Jesus quietly agreed to go with the centurion to his home. The centurion, however, was uncomfortable for Jesus to come into his house. He told Jesus that did not feel that he was “worthy” enough for Jesus to enter his home. The man believed that Jesus had the power to heal his servant without seeing the man or touching him.

Jesus was astounded at this man’s faith in Him. The centurion was not a Jew yet he clearly believed that Jesus had the power to heal his servant. The centurion must have heard that Jesus had healed others and performed miracles. Regardless, the centurion trusted that Jesus had the ability and the power to also heal his trusted servant.

The centurion was very concerned that Jesus would refuse his request. Perhaps he was worried that Jesus had heard about his past or his reputation. Jesus quietly replied: “I will come with you and cure him.” And we know that Jesus did heal his servant. Jesus also praises this man for his faith and trust in Him. Jesus told the centurion that thus far he had not experienced such deep faith in Him by anyone else in Israel!

Is our belief and trust in Jesus as strong as the faith that centurion had? Do we believe that Jesus does hear our prayers? Do we trust Jesus enough to honestly ask Jesus for what we need or desire? Do we continue our trust in Him even when we don’t get an immediate response?

At times, I assume that all of us have desire and hope for a miracle at different times in our lives. We may pray for physical, emotional or spiritual healing. Or we may ask Jesus to heal someone or to resolve a difficult situation. The reality is that we may not get the “miracle” we prayed for. However, Jesus will respond to us! We may have to trust and wait for His response!

Will we continue to listen and trust that Jesus does hear us and will answer us? Will we wait with open hearts, open minds, open eyes, and open ears?

Today let us pray for one another that we truly may trust that Jesus is working in us — even if we don’t have the evidence to prove it! Today may we pray to have a share of the centurion’s trust and faith in Jesus!