Monday, November 30, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 4:18-22

Feast of Saint Andrew – Matthew 4:18-22  

In this Gospel reading, Jesus calls his first disciples.  These men were brothers: Simon, who also was called Peter, and his brother, Andrew.  Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee when he first saw the brothers.  They were casting their fishing net into the sea.  Fishing was their profession and their livelihood.  Jesus said to them: “Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of (women and) men.”  Immediately, the brothers put down their nets and followed Jesus.  

As they walked along, Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John.  They also were out in their boat with their father, Zebedee.  They were busy mending their nets.  Jesus also called to James and John and they also immediately rowed to shore, left their boat, their nets and their father and followed Jesus.  I wonder if James and John had a conversation with their father about their decision to follow Jesus?  (I assume their father had James and John to help him make a living for the family.)  Or did they simply row back to shore, say goodbye to him, and go on their way?  

How will you respond when Jesus calls you today?  And He will call you (and me)!  Will we be too preoccupied with our lives to hear his call?  And if we do hear his call, will we make excuses to him why we are unable to follow him?  Or will we joyfully drop everything and follow Jesus?  What will we choose?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

First Sunday of Advent – Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

On this First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  This season of Advent reminds us to be attentive of the various ways Jesus daily comes into our lives.  However, the Gospel reading for this first Sunday of Advent is a bit unsettling.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars.  And on earth, nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves!”  

Jesus tells his disciples: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory!  Be attentive!  These signs will tell you that your redemption is at hand!”  He then cautions his disciples: “Do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness or the anxieties of daily life.  If you do so, that day may catch you by surprise!”  Jesus’ words are spoken in an urgent tone of voice.  Clearly he hopes we will be alert and awake to his coming, not only at the “end of time” but today and every day.

Given the busyness of our daily lives, it is easy to “become drowsy” to Jesus’ coming.  Often there is much to be done and not enough time to do it.  Yet, do we want to miss the ways Jesus may come to us?   If daily we are attentive to Jesus’ presence with us, this daily attentiveness will ensure that we will be ready to meet Him when we come to the end of our lives.  Today be mindful of Jesus’ presence with you: in the laughter of a child, in the beauty of snow or simply in a quiet moment.  He is always with us!  However, often we are not present to Him!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:34-36

Saturday of the 34th Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 21:34-36

As we come to the end of our current Church Year, Jesus cautions his disciples to “beware.”  He instructs them: “Do not let your hearts become drowsy from carousing, drinking too much, or the stress and anxiety of life.”  He warns his disciples: “That day will catch you by surprise like a trap.”   Jesus then tells his disciples: “Be vigilant and alert at all times!  Pray that you will have the strength to escape the tribulations that will come.  Also pray that you will have the strength to stand before the Son of Man!”

Today Jesus also is cautioning us.  We do not know the day or the hour of our death.  Jesus wants us to be prepared for his coming.  Today he may come to us through an event that happens in our life.  Or perhaps he appears to us in the guise of a friend who is struggling.  Or he may come to us when we are sad, lonely or despairing.  Jesus wants us to be awake and alert to his coming.  He will come!  However, we do not know the day or the hour.  Be attentive!  Today Jesus will come to you!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:29-33

Friday of the 34th Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 21:29-33

This Gospel reading is sobering.  Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the fig tree.  He describes the natural cycle of trees from spring through winter.  Jesus uses the metaphor of nature to help us understand his teaching.  We know the cycle of the seasons and we understand the changes that occur with each season.  This analogy enables us to better understand what Jesus is saying to us.

Jesus tells his disciples that all created things will pass away.  However, his words will never pass away.  As we know from our own experience, life can change quickly.  The change may be a positive one.  However, change also can be difficult and painful.  A family member may get seriously ill.  Financial troubles may create great distress and fear.  Changing jobs or moving to another city is not an easy process.  Or perhaps your teenager is “hanging out” with the wrong crowd.  

However, Jesus reassures us that there is one reality we may always rely on: “Heaven and earth may not pass away, but my words (and my love) will never pass away!”  When life is difficult, painful or confusing,   Jesus is with us.  He pours out his love, grace and strength upon us.  He will not abandon us!  May we remember his words when we are struggling or afraid or feeling alone.  Jesus is with us always!  May we trust this wondrous reality!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reflection: Luke 17:11-19

Thanksgiving Day – Luke 17:11-19  

On this day of Thanksgiving, the Gospel reading is the account of Jesus healing the ten lepers.  Jesus was traveling through Samaria and Galilee.  As he entered a village ten individuals with leprosy came to meet him.  Naturally they kept their distances from him as they were considered “ritually unclean.”   In the book of Leviticus it is written: "The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his/her head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.  The leper is unclean as long as the disease is active and s/he shall dwell alone outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13: 45-56)  Sad to say, leprosy is still active in our modern world.  We also have modern day versions of leprosy such as AIDS and other severely contagious or disfiguring diseases.  These diseases typically isolate the men and women who have contracted the disease.  

In today’s Gospel only one of the lepers returned to thank Jesus for his miracle.  All 10 of the lepers were healed but only this man returned to Jesus with a heart full of gratitude and praise.  Jesus had given him a great gift, a gift he never expected.  How could he not thank Jesus?  Yet, there were nine other lepers who also were healed.  Why did they not return to thank Jesus?  

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving.  On this special day Americans typically gather with family and friends to enjoy a delicious dinner and one another’s company.  However, are we mindful of thanking Jesus/God/the Spirit for the many blessings we have been given?  Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday.  However, we may not always express our thanksgiving to the God who blesses us abundantly.  Today thank the people in your life who nurture you, love you and accept you for who you are.  What a great gift they give you!  And thank Jesus for the many ways He graces and strengthens you!  Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:12-19

Wednesday of the Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 21:12-19

Today’s Gospel is not easy to listen to.  Jesus continues his warnings to the crowds: “They will seize and persecute you, hand you over, and you will go to prison all because of my name.”  Jesus also instructs the people: “Do not prepare your defense in advance.  I will give you such wisdom that you will need.”  And also Jesus warns them that they may be betrayed by family members who may “hand them over” and “some of you will be put to death.” 

After these words, Jesus does speaks a few words of consolation to his listeners: “True, you will be hated by all because of my name.  However, not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By perseverance you will secure your life.”  Now ask yourself: are these last words of Jesus consoling and reassuring to you?  Or do they make you want to “slam the door on Jesus?”  Yet Jesus calls us to follow him!  And if we choose to follow him, the path also may lead us to the cross! 

These words of Jesus mirror the reality that we see and hear about in the world.  All over our world, people are being persecuted and killed because of what they believe, how they dress, or the belief that they are expendable!  We, in the United States, are not exempt from this behavior.  We see it on the evening news, read about it in the newspaper or online.  Supposedly we are a “first world country.”  However, our behavior and choices often negate these words.  At times, we also behave like “savages.” 

So what is the call of this Gospel?  Perhaps the call today is to be aware of how we interact with the people in our lives.  Are we inclusive of everyone?  Do we respect each individual we encounter?  Or do we savage one other with rumors, lies, or innuendos?  Today be mindful of your words and actions.  Be aware of your thoughts and “inner commentary.”  Today we have a choice to be negative and demeaning.  However, we also have the option to be accepting and respectful of every individual we encounter.  What will be our choice? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:5-11

Tuesday of the 34th Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 21:5-11

As the end of the current Church year comes close, the Gospel readings begin to focus on the “end times.”  Today’s Gospel begins with people commenting on the adornments of the temple and votive offerings.  After hearing their words, Jesus makes a statement that must have been unsettling to his listeners.  He said: “All that you see here, the days will come when there will not be left stone upon stone upon another stone.  All of the stones will be thrown down.” 

Naturally his disciples said: “When will this happen?  What signs can we look for so we will be prepared?”  Jesus then tells his disciples to “beware.”  He says: “Many people will come and try to deceive you, saying I am he or The time has come.’  However, do not follow them.”  Jesus also predicted that “one nation will rise against another nation.  And there will be earthquakes, famines and plagues.” 

Jesus’ description sounds like the state of our world today.  Nations are at war.  Men and women are starving and living in destitution.  Every day women, men and children are abused physically, sexually, and emotionally.  Numerous people are killed on the streets.  And as we well know, the United States is not an exception.  All of this and more happens every day in the United States.  Yet we claim to be civilized, a “first world country.” 

Today Jesus encourages us to “seek what will last,” to seek what is good and loving.  If each one of us did this, we might change our hearts, our country and perhaps our world.  What will we choose today?  Or will we simply maintain the status quo?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflection: Luke 21:1-4

Monday of the 34th Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 21:1-4

In this Gospel we hear the story of “widow’s mite.”  (It is helpful to remember that today’s Gospel is a continuation from Saturday’s Gospel when Jesus was in the temple and the Sadducees were monitoring him and his teaching.)  Jesus noticed that the wealthy people were putting offerings into the treasury. Then he noticed a poor widow who put two small coins into the treasury.  Jesus was deeply touched by her loving generosity.  He commented: “This poor woman put more into the treasury than all the rest!  The others gave from their abundance.  However, this woman offered what she had!”

Jesus is not interested in how much people give to the Church, schools, and other organizations.  Jesus is looking for generosity of heart, not simply “generosity of wallet.”  Compared to other donors, this widow’s gift was a pittance.  However, the little that she gave came from her “want.”  She was struggling to make ends meet, yet she freely gave her “mite” to the temple treasury.  Jesus commended the woman for her love and her generosity.

Often, those of us who have more at our disposal may not appreciate the richness we have: food on the table, a bed to sleep in, enough income to “make ends meet” and people who love us. Today Jesus calls out to us and says: “Be thankful for the ‘riches’ in your life: food on the table, a roof over your head and people who love you.”  And Jesus also calls us to be mindful of the many people in our country and our world who do not have enough, be that food, money, housing, or employment.  Perhaps today we can share our “mite” with the individuals we encounter who may need some time, attention, resources or care.  Our “mite” may be a great blessing to them.  And we may find that this individual also is a great blessing to us!   

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reflection: John 18:33b-37

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – John 18:33b-37

Today we begin the last week of our current liturgical year.  Next Sunday the Advent season and a new liturgical year will begin.  The Gospel chosen for this feast of Christ the King is a very solemn reading.  It is a reading from the Passion of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus had been arrested and was brought before Pilate. The first questions Pilate asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?  If so, what have you done?”  The dialogue between Pilate and Jesus continues from there.  The reality is: Jesus was a king.  However, Jesus was not a typical king.  Jesus was “a servant king.”  He came not to be served but to serve.  Jesus did not come to earth seeking power and influence.  Rather he preached God’s word, healed the sick and reached out to the poor, the lame and the outcasts of society. 

Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: How am I following in Jesus’ footsteps?  How do I reach out to the poor, the lame or the individuals who are on the margins of society?  Do I strive to be a servant to the people in my life?  Do I work to create peace and harmony? 

Perhaps the most challenging words in this Gospel are the last words of this reading: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” I invite you to take a few moments and ask yourself: How do I strive to listen to Jesus’ voice?  Do I allow Jesus’ voice to be drowned out by busyness, despair, worry or (you fill in the blank)?  Today make time to sit down, quiet down and listen for Jesus’ voice!  He will speak to you!  The question for us is: Will we be listening?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reflection: Luke 20:27-40

Saturday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 20:27-40

In this Gospel reading several Sadducees approach Jesus.  Now the Sadducees did not believe there was a resurrection.  They came to Jesusand asked him: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.”  Then they gave Jesus the scenario of a family of seven brothers.  The oldest brother married the woman but then he died childless.  In turn, the second brother married her.  However, within a short time he also died.  And then the third brother took the woman as his wife and he also died.  Imagine what this poor woman went through. 

However, the Sadducees were not concerned about the woman.  They simply were trying to trap Jesus.  They asked him: “At the resurrection, whose wife will this woman be?”   Jesus responded to them: “The children of this age marry and remarry.  However, those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  Jesus answered their question but he was determined not to get caught in their web.

Life after death is a completely different realm.  We simply do not have the ability to envision it.  It is far beyond us. It definitely will not be like this world.  However, if we live our life in a loving and whole-hearted way, we need not be worried about what is waiting for us on “the other side.”  Truly, love is all that matters!  If we always strive to love and accept one another, we can let go of our worries about our “end.”  Do we trust that?  Do we trust Jesus?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Reflection: Luke 19:45-48

Friday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 19:45-48

Today the Gospel reading is the account of Jesus driving out the merchants who were selling their wares in the Temple.  When Jesus realized what they were doing He was enraged.  He said to the merchants: “My house is a house of prayer!  You have made it den of thieves!”  I assume that the merchants also were enraged that Jesus had denounced them.  And after this incident, the chief priests, scribes, and the leaders of the people began to explore ways that they could put Jesus to death.  However, they were very cautious as the people were spellbound by Jesus and his teaching.

I doubt that any of us are “selling our wares” in our church, temple or mosque.  Yet when we enter our place of worship, are we mindful that we are in a sacred space, a place of worship?  Does our demeanor change when we enter this holy place?  Or do we come in, plop down and wait for the service to begin?  Or do we mindfully prepare our minds and hearts to worship God?

The next time you enter your church, I invite you to be aware of the sacredness of this “dwelling place of God.”  Also be mindful that God dwells within you.  Thus, you also are a sacred dwelling place of God!  Today may your words and actions reflect the reality that God dwells within you! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reflection: Luke 19:41-44

Thursday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 19:41-44

Today Jesus was traveling up to Jerusalem.  When he saw the city on the horizon, he wept over it and said: “If this day you only knew what makes for peace.  However, it is hidden from your eyes.”  He then warns his listeners of the devastation and pain that would be inflicted upon them. 

Today Jesus is saying these same words to us.  Look at our world.  There is so much pain, conflict, war, and strife in our world.  And the saddest reality is: we, human beings, create and perpetuate the devastation and pain!  Yes, there are many natural disasters.  However, most of the pain and sorrow in our world is a result of humanity’s inhumanity to one another.  Today Jesus looks down on us and asks:  Haven’t you learned anything?  Why do you perpetuate such pain and sorrow?  You not only hurt the other, you also hurt yourself and those you love.

Today’s Gospel reading might prompt us to stop and ask ourselves: How do I perpetuate pain or sorrow by my actions or by my inaction?  Most likely, I am not shooting another person or dropping a bomb.  However, I may make a snide remark or ignore an individual who would appreciate some of my time and attention. 

Today, strive to share peace and love!  This may sound trite.  However, if someone gives you the gift of love and care, you may realize that this seemingly small gift truly is a great gift! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reflection: Luke 19:11-28

Wednesday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 19:11-28

In today’s Gospel, the people who were gathered around Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God might appear at any moment.  Jesus tells his listeners another story.  He said: “A nobleman went off to a distant country.”  The man’s plan was to obtain the kingship for himself and then return to his home.  As he was preparing to leave on his journey, he called in ten of his servants and gave each servant ten gold coins.  He instructed them to trade with the gold coins until he returned. 

When the nobleman returned home, he called in the ten servants and questioned them.   Each servant reported to the nobleman the profit they had earned with their coins.  The first servant had earned ten additional coins.  Naturally, the master was very pleased.  He rewarded the servant by putting him in charge of ten cities.  Then the second servant stepped forward and told his master:  “Your gold coin has earned five more gold coins.”  The nobleman also was pleased with this servant and put him in charge of five cities. 

Finally, the third servant stepped forward and said: “Sir, I am returning your gold coin.  I know you are a demanding master so I stored your coin in a safe place.  I guarded it closely.  Now I am returning the coin to you.”  The master was irate!  He said to the servant: “You know I am demanding.  Why didn’t you put my money in a bank?  At least then, I would have received some interest on my money!”  Then the master took the gold coin from the servant and gave it to the servant that had ten coins.”  Then the master said: “To everyone who has, more will be given.  However, from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

What is the message for us in today’s Gospel?  One day we also will stand before Jesus.  And he will ask us: How have you used the many “talents” I gave to you?  Did you share your “talents” with others?  Or did you hide them or put them in layaway?  Or did you hold onto them for a rainy day?  Jesus has given us our talents and abilities to use every day of our lives.  He did not give us these talents for our benefit!  Rather, he has given us our talents and abilities to make the world a better and more loving place.

Today, if you or I die and we stand before Jesus, would he praise us?  Or would he reprimand us as he did his servants?  Today look for opportunities to share the many gifts God has given to you.   Your talents and your presence may brighten the day of a friend, family member or a stranger.  And in the process, you may realize that they also blessed you! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reflection: Luke 19:1-10

Tuesday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 19:1-10

In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of Zaccheus, the ‘short’ tax collector.  Jesus was passing through Jericho.  Zaccheus had heard about Jesus and he was curious about this man, Jesus.  So Zaccheus decided to join the crowd that had gathered to welcome Jesus.  However, Zaccheus was a short man.  He was not tall enough to be able to see Jesus when he walked by.  So he decided to climb a tree.  At least this way he would be able to see Jesus, even if he would not be able to get close to Jesus. 

However, on this day, Zaccheus received the surprise of his life.  When Jesus saw Zaccheus sitting in the tree, Jesus looked at him and said: “Zaccheus, come down, for today I will stay at your house.”  Immediately, Zaccheus scrambled down the tree and joyfully received Jesus into his home.   However, some of the bystanders became disgruntled and began to grumble.  Zaccheus was not intimidated by their sly comments.  He stood his ground and promised Jesus: “I will give half of my possessions to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone, I will repay them four times the amount.” 

Today Jesus also calls out to us: “Come down from your tree and take me to your home.  I wish to spend time with you!”  Will we immediately “come down from our tree” and respond to Jesus’ call?  Or will we sit there for a while trying to decide what to do?  Today Jesus will invite Jesus into our home!  The question for us is: Will we allow him into our hearts?  Our home?  Or will we ignore his request?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Reflection: Luke 18:35-43

Monday of the 33rd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 18:35-43

In this Gospel reading, we hear the familiar story of the blind man sitting by the road.  Jesus was on his way to Jericho and as he was traveling, he walked by a blind man who was begging on the roadside.  The blind man heard a crowd approaching and asked some of the passersby: “What is happening?  What is the excitement about?”  They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was coming down the road. Apparently, the blind man had heard about Jesus.  Immediately, he began shouting out in an extremely loud voice: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!

The people around the blind man tried to silence him.  However, he again shouted out in a louder  voice: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  Jesus heard the man’s cry.  He stopped and had the man brought to him.  Jesus asked the man: “What do you want me to do for you?”  The man simply replied: “I want to see.  Please let me see!”  And as we know, Jesus quietly said to the blind man: “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately the man’s sight was restored and he began praising and giving glory to God. 

What is the impairment you would ask Jesus to heal if he stood before you?  Take a moment and seriously ask yourself: what would I ask Jesus to do for me?   The challenge is we typically have more than one impairment that we would like Jesus to heal.  What is the “blindness” in your life that affects you and your loved ones the most?  Do you truly wish to be healed of this “blindness?”  Or have you become comfortable with this “blindness?”  Or does this “blindness” keep you from noticing aspects of your life that might disturb your sense of peace or equilibrium? 

Today is a good opportunity for us to ask ourselves: what is my blindness?  Am I ready to ask to be healed of my blindness?  Or does my blindness protect me in some ways?  The human reality is most of us have our sight.  However, every individual also has their “blind spots.”  It seems to be an integral part of all human beings. 

Today Jesus will ask you (and me): “What do you want me to do for you?”  What will be your response?  What will be my response?  Open your heart to Jesus!  Bring your longings to Jesus!  He will not fail you!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Reflection: Luke 18:1-8

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Luke 18:1-8

In today’s Gospel, there is a clear sense that we are coming to the end of the current liturgical year.  The new liturgical year begins with the Season of Advent.  The readings of the final Sunday of the Church Year are somewhat unsettling. 

Jesus talks with his disciples about the “end time.”  He tells them that the “sun will be darkened, the moon will not give any light, the stars will fall from the sky and all the powers in heaven will be shaken.”  Now ask yourself: If you heard these words today, would you panic or would you take them seriously? 

At various times, we have heard predictions about the end of the world.   Yet, I would guess that many of us do not take these predictions too seriously.  When you get up in the morning, do you wonder if this day will be the last day of life in all of creation?  Or do you think: Will today be the last day of my life?  I know I don’t.  I simply assume that another day will come and then another and another.

Yet in this Gospel, Jesus clearly tells us the “end time” will come.  And when it does come, we will see “the Son of Man coming in the clouds in great power and glory.”  He will send his angels out to gather the “elect” from one end of creation to the other.  Primarily, Jesus wants his disciples (us) to be prepared for his coming. 

In an urgent tone of voice, Jesus instructs his disciples to notice signs.  He also tells them to “learn a lesson from the fig tree.”  Jesus uses images that the disciples are familiar with.  Thus, they might better understand what he is telling them.  He then says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  Jesus somberly adds: “But of that day or hour, no one knows: neither the angels, nor the Son, only the Father knows.” 

Clearly Jesus is telling us to be vigilant and prepared for his coming.  Ask yourself: Do you believe that Jesus is coming?  Do you believe that he comes to you every day?  Are we awake and alert for his coming?  Do we recognize him?  Or are we too preoccupied to notice him? 

Every day is a “good day” to prepare for Jesus’ final coming.  However, it may be more important to look for him throughout our day.  If we are not alert, we likely will miss the quiet and unobtrusive ways Jesus comes to us.  And what a loss that would be.  Today be vigilant and alert!  Jesus will come to you!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Reflection: Luke 18:1-8

Saturday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 18:1-8

In today’s Gospel we hear the familiar parable about the necessity of praying always.  There are two characters in this parable: a widow and a judge.  Luke writes: “There was a judge who neither feared God nor respected any human being.”  It sounds like this judge was a law unto himself.  The image Luke presents of the judge is not a favorable one.

A widow in the town came to the judge and said to him: “Render a just decision for me against my adversary.”  Luke does not give us any of the details of what had transpired between the widow and her adversary.  However, Luke makes it clear that the judge did not want to render judgment in this case. 

The judge put the widow off several times.  However, the woman persisted.  She would not let the judge rest.  Finally the judge realized that if he wanted any peace in his life, he would have to make a just decision in the widow’s case.  He was concerned that if he did not make a fair judgment, the widow might come and strike him. 

How persistent are we with God?  If I need or desire a gift, a healing or a sense of peace from God, how persistent am I?  How persistent are you?  Are we willing to patiently wait for God to act?  We know that God is not a ‘vending machine.’ However, at times, I approach God as I would a vending machine.  I come and place my petitions before God and then hope I receive an answer (preferably in the very near future).  However, God is not a vending machine.  And God’s timing is not our timing. 

Perhaps the question for us is: Do I truly believe that God is with me?  Do I trust that God hears my prayers and my longings?  Do I trust that God will grace me?  I doubt that any one of us truly wants a “vending machine God.”  Thus, are we willing to trust and believe in our God who loves us?  Today (and every day) God is gifting us and gracing us!  May we have the eyes, minds and hearts to recognize the many ways God will grace us today.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reflection: Luke 17:26-37

Friday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 17:26-37

The Gospel for today is a bit unsettling.  The reading begins with Jesus saying to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man.” They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah, his family and friends entered the ark.  The flood of water quickly followed and destroyed everything on the earth.  Jesus then talks about Lot.  In Lot’s time they also were eating, drinking as well as buying and selling.  On the day Lot and his family left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained down upon them from the sky.

What was Jesus trying to tell his listeners?  What is Jesus saying to us today? We all know that at some point, the “end of time” will come.  However, we do not know the day or the hour it will arrive.  Nor do we know what this experience will be like.  The stark description Jesus gives us is not an inviting nor a hopeful message.

The gift is: today and every day we have a choice.  Each morning, I can ask myself: How will I live my life today?  Will I choose to carouse as they did in Noah’s day?  Every day we have a choice.  If we live each day in a loving manner, we will have no need to be fearful of dying.  However, if we are hurtful or indifferent to the individuals in our lives and to the world, we may get some “fire and brimstone.” 

Every choice we make is a significant choice!  Today (every day) is a good day to make thoughtful and loving choices and decisions.  If we strive to love each and every day, we will have no need to be afraid of dying!  The gates of heaven will be wide open and Jesus will be waiting for us and he will welcome us with open and loving arms!  It is our decision to make.  What will we choose?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reflection: Luke 17:20-25

Thursday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary TimeLuke 17:20-25

Surprisingly, today the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come.  Were they sincerely asking this question?  Or were the Pharisees once again testing Jesus?  As he often did, Jesus did not give them a straightforward answer.  Rather he said to them: “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed.  No one will announce:  ‘Look!  The Kingdom of God is here.’  Nor will someone say: ‘Behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and says: “The day will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.  However you will not see it.”  He then cautions his disciples: “There will be people who will say to you, Look, there is the Son of Man.  However, do not trust their prophecy.’”   He instructs his disciple not to pursue of the Son of Man.  Rather, Jesus tells them: “For just as lightening flashes and lights up the sky, so will the Son of Man be in his day.”  Jesus quietly adds: “But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.” 

What difficult words for the disciples to hear!  Did they want to ignore Jesus’ words?  Yet, the disciples clearly knew that the Pharisees were watching Jesus.  They realized that the Pharisees were hoping that Jesus would give them cause to have him arrested.  Perhaps then, they would be able to rid themselves of Jesus and destroy his influence with the people. 

Sad to say: people don’t change much!  Here we are in the 21st century, but all over the world there are people who plan, plot and scheme against others.  Their purpose most likely is similar to the Pharisees’ agenda: power, control and influence.   Although human beings have evolved since the time of Jesus, some things never change.  And even though we have advanced in many ways since the time of Jesus, we still are frail and fearful human beings.

I wonder if Jesus looks down on our world with sadness and dismay?  Does he ask himself: Have my human beings advanced at all?  Haven’t they lessons from past history?  Why do they continue to scheme against each other?  Don’t they realize that they are simply duplicating past history?  Does Jesus ask: Why can’t they simply love each other?

We all know that our world is in trouble!  We see it and hear it multiple times every day.  The good news is there also are innumerable women and men in the world who strive to make this world a more loving and peaceful place.  Today I invite you to ask yourself:  What am I doing to help make this world a more loving and accepting place for every human being?  Today I invite you to take time and ponder this question.  However, remember: even though what you are doing may seem insignificant to you, what you do or say may be a great gift to another person! 

Today may each of us strive to change our world simply by accepting and loving each individual we encounter.  What a great gift to give to that individual but also to our planet!  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Reflection: Luke 17:11-19

Wednesday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary TimeLuke 17:11-19

Today Jesus continues his journey towards Jerusalem.  He traveled through Samaria, as well as Galilee.  When he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came toward him.  Naturally, they kept their distance, in order to safeguard him from their disease.  However, all ten of the lepers shouted out to Jesus: “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  Immediately Jesus turned to them and said: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” 

At these words, the lepers left to go to the temple.  However, as they were walking towards the temple,  the lepers realized that they were cleansed!  They had been healed of their leprosy. Can you imagine the wonder and joy they experienced as they began to comprehend the fact that they had been healed?  Imagine the riot of emotions they must have experienced.  What a great gift Jesus had given them!  The lepers likely had expected to be outcasts in society for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, only one of the lepers returned to Jesus to thank him for the great gift Jesus had bestowed upon him.  The leper knelt at the feet of Jesus and praised him.  Ironically, this man was a Samaritan.    Historically, there were irreconcilable differences between the Jews and the Samaritans.  Thus, the Jews typically regarded the Samaritans as the worst of the human race.  The Jews refused to have any dealings with the lepers.  However, when Jesus saw the Samaritan, he did not see a leper.  Rather Jesus recognized a fellow human being who was suffering and who was in need.

Today Jesus reminds us to have open minds and hearts to every individual we encounter.  We may not like every person we meet.  Or we may consider them an “outcast.”  However, Jesus today reminds us to “see” the individuals we encounter today with his loving eyes.  And if we choose to do this, we may also receive the gift of being seen by the loving eyes and heart of another person.  Who knows: the gift we give, may also be the gift we receive. The question is: Will we strive to have open eyes and an open heart to see every individual we encounter as Jesus did?  May it be so!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reflection: Luke 17:7-10

Tuesday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 17:7-10

The Gospel for today is an interesting one.  It begins with Jesus saying to his Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who just came in from plowing or tending the sheep: ‘Come and dine with us.  You have worked hard today.’  Would you rather not say to the servant: ‘Come, put on your apron and bring me my meal.   Notice: the master completely ignores the fact that the servant had worked for many hours that day and most likely the servant also was hungry. 

Jesus then asks his Apostles the question: “Is the master grateful to the servant for bringing him his meal?”  Most likely, this is not the case.  In the master’s eyes, the servant was simply doing the job he was being paid for.  Then Jesus says to the Apostles: “So should it be with you.  When you have done what was commanded of you, say: ‘We simply are lowly servants.  We were only doing what we were obliged to do!’”

We also are the “servants” of Jesus.  As servants, Jesus expects us to do the work well that is our responsibility.  He also expects us to do it in a loving manner.   However, in this parable, there is no reward for the servant.  And we should not expect a “reward” from Jesus to fulfill our responsibilities.  Rather, Jesus simply expects us to “go about our business.” 

The question for us may be: are we content to do what we have to do?  Many of the activities and responsibilities of daily life are mundane and boring activities and chores.  Yet, if we do our work well and in a pleasant manner, we can be satisfied that we have been responsible servants.  Often, the work we do may never be acknowledged by anyone.  However, if we have worked hard and done our job well, we will have the satisfaction of having been a “good and faithful servant.”  What more can we ask?  Jesus will recognize that we have been a faithful and responsible servant.  And Jesus will reward us!  Is this enough for us? 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Reflection: Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome – John 2:13-22

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome – John 2:13-22

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  If you have not been to Rome, it is the City of Churches.  No matter where you go in the city, there is at least one church in the vicinity and at times, there may be several churches in close proximity to one another.   Originally, the Lateran Basilica was dedicated to our Savior Jesus Christ.  However, in later years the church was named in honor of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

This church has a rich history.  Five of the ecumenical councils were held in this Church.  Also, from the 4th to the 14th century, several Popes resided at the Lateran Basilica.  This church often is considered as mother and head of all the churches of the city of Rome.

The Gospel reading chosen for this feast is a sobering one.  Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem to prepare to celebrate the Passover.  As was his custom, he went to the temple.  When he entered the temple area, it was filled with money changers and sellers of oxen, sheep and doves, who would be used for sacrifice.  Jesus was enraged!  He made a whip out of cords, and taking the whip, he drove out the money changers.  Then he forcefully instructed  the vendors who were selling doves: “Take these out of here!  Stop making my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Churches are all around us.  No matter where we live, most likely there are several churches in the vicinity.  Yet each church, no matter what denomination it is, is a sacred dwelling place for God.  However, churches are not the only place where God dwells.  God also dwells within each one of us.  We are not a “church.”  However, every human being is a sacred vessel, a home for God.  Today I invite you to ponder this reality.  Do you treasure the fact that God dwells within you?  Do you care well for the temple of your body, mind and spirit?

Today thank God for the gift of God’s presence within you and around you.  And today remember: you are “a temple of God.”  If we truly believe this, we may realize that our day is filled with love, generosity  and peace.  Today thank God for sharing his life and love with you and for making you (and every one human person) “a temple of God.”  May we strive to live each day as a temple of God!  If we do so, our lives will change and perhaps the world may change.   

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:38-44

Sunday of the 32nd Week of Ordinary Time – Mark 12:38-44

This Gospel begins with Jesus warning the people about the scribes.  He tells the crowd to “Beware of the scribes who dress in long robes, who love the greetings they receive in the marketplaces and the seats of honor they have at banquets and in the synagogue.”  Jesus then accuses the scribes of “devouring” the homes of widows as they recite lengthy prayers.  Jesus is blunt when he says that the scribes will receive a severe condemnation.  Clearly, Jesus was neither a friend nor an admirer of the scribes.

Jesus then sat down opposite the treasury.  He took notice of the individuals who were putting money into the treasury.  Many wealthy individuals put in large sums of money.  However, a poor widow came and put in two small coins that amounted to just a few cents.  Jesus took notice of this woman and her small gift.

Jesus then called his disciples and said to them: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put more into the treasury than all the other contributors that were giving to the treasury.  Most people gave from their wealth while this widow gave from her poverty.”  The woman contributed to the treasury much of her small income.  What a generous and loving gift! 

Clearly Jesus was rebuking the wealthy who often took from the poor for their own gain.  Jesus then lifts up and praises the poor widow who freely gave to God from the little that she had.  Today may we ask ourselves: Do I give from my abundance or from my want?  How do I share my time, my talents and my treasure?  Or do I have a tendency to hoard my time, talents, and treasure?

Jesus has blessed all of us with many gifts.  However, most of our gifts are not monetary.  How do we share our gifts of joy, love, time and talents?  Do we share these gifts freely?  Or do we hoard them?  Today may we share our abundance throughout our day.  The gifts we give may be simple and yet they may be extremely valuable to the person who receives your gift.  Trust that God, the giver of all good gifts, will use you and your gifts today.  Give thanks for the gifts you have to share with others.  And give thanks for the gifts that others share with you!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reflection: Luke 16:9, 22-27

Saturday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time - Luke 16:9, 22-27

This Gospel begins with Jesus instructing his disciples in a very unusual manner. He tells them: “I tell you, make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails you, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus then says: “The individual who is trustworthy in small matters also will be trustworthy in important matters.” He continues on: “The individual who is not trustworthy in small matters most likely will be dishonest in dealing with important matters.”

Trust is one of the most important values to human beings. If we do not trust another person, we likely will keep our distance from that individual. If we have been hurt or wronged by a family member or friend, it may take us a long time before we trust that individual with our thoughts and feelings. Now ask yourself: do you consider yourself to be a trustworthy person? When are you trustworthy and when do you slack off? Are there times when you realize that you also are serving two masters: God and man?

Today Jesus is reminding us of what we as Christians are called to be and to do. He is reminding us to be true to what we profess and then to live out what we profess in our daily lives. Today I invite you to take some time and examine yourself: Do I truly live what I profess in my words, my actions and my attitudes? In what arena/s of my life am I not living what I profess? Do I follow through on what I have promised to do? What do I want to change so that I truly am “walking my talk?” Today I invite you to be mindful throughout your day! It is so easy for us to begin to slack off, especially in the seemingly small matters of life. Today may we strive to be our best and truly live what we profess!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Reflection: Luke 16:1-8

Friday of the 31st Week of Ordinary Time Luke 16:1-8
This Gospel begins with Jesus telling his disciples another parable.  He says to the disciples: “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property.  Upon hearing this report, the rich man immediately summoned his steward and said, “What is this I hear about you?”  Then the rich man demanded that the steward immediately give him a full account of his duties and his accounts.  The rich man also told the steward that he was fired for misconduct.     
The steward was worried about what his future would hold.  Physically the steward was not strong.  He had never done any labor with his hands.  And he realized that his employer would not give him a good reference.  He was not strong.  He did not have any skills with his hands.  Nor was he a farmer.  However, the steward did have one skill: he was a wily and cunning man. 
After giving the situation some thought, the steward came up with a plan.  He decided to call in each of his master’s debtors.  When the first man came in, the steward asked the man how much money he owed the master.   The man replied: “One hundred measures of olive oil.”  The steward then told the man to take his promissory note and to change the amount of the note to fifty measures of olive oil. 
Then the steward called in the next debtor.  This man held a promissory note for one hundred measures of wheat.  The steward instructed this man to change the amount of his note to eighty measures of wheat.  What a wily man this steward was.  Was he hoping one of these men might hire him if/when he was fired for stealing from the rich man? 
When the master found out what the steward had done, he commended the steward for being so enterprising.  In today’s world, the man immediately would have been arrested and put in jail, brought into court on charges and he likely would have ended up in prison.  What is Jesus telling us in this parable?  Is he encouraging us to be sly and to feather our own nest at the cost of others?  Jesus is not condoning what the steward did although the master does praise the steward for being clever, creative and inventive.  However, this does not give us leeway to perpetrate fraud in order to gain more for ourselves.  I wonder if Jesus is inviting us to be clever, creative, inventive and enterprising in how we live our lives?  This does not necessarily mean we have to cheat someone else. 
Some of the individuals that I have met who “color outside the lines” often are happier, freer and more peaceful.  Today I invite you in one small way to “color outside the lines.”  Then notice: How did that feel?  Often in our lives, we may be living as if we were in a straight-jacket.  And we may not even recognize that we are wearing a straight-jacket.  Today take an hour and remove your “straight-jacket.”  Enjoy the freedom!  Play!  Dance!  Be happy!  (And chances are good that you won’t be hurting anyone else!)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Reflection: Luke 15:1-10

Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time Luke 15:1-10
Today Jesus is surrounded by sinners and tax collectors.  They had gathered around Jesus to listen to him preach.  There were many Pharisees and scribes also in the crowd.  After a time, they began to complain.  They said: “This man welcomes sinners.  Not only does Jesus welcome sinners, he also eats with them.”  Naturally, Jesus clearly heard their comments (as the Pharisees had intended).
Jesus then addressed a parable to them:  “If a shepherd has 100 sheep and one of the sheep wanders off and gets lost, would the shepherd not leave the 99 sheep to go and find the lost sheep?”  Jesus then continues:  “And when the shepherd finds the lost sheep, will he not put the lost sheep on his shoulders and lovingly carry it back home, and share this good news with his family and friends? 
Jesus changes course and uses another example: “What woman having ten coins and then losing one of the coins, would not light a lamp and search her home looking for the precious coin?  And when the woman finds the coin, will she not call her relatives and neighbors and say: Come and rejoice with me!  I have found the precious coin that I had lost!”  Jesus then says to his listeners: “In the same way, there will be great rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Ask yourself: How many times in your life have you wandered away from Jesus?  I assume all of us have done, at the very least, some minor wandering away from Jesus.  However, there also may have been times in our lives when we were estranged from Jesus.  This may have been caused by a tragedy in your life, perhaps the loss of a loved one, the loss of work, financial problems, or perhaps estrangement from a loved one.   Or perhaps over time you became disenchanted with Jesus.
Today I invite you to be mindful of the individuals you encounter today who might be a considered an outsider or a “lost sheep.”  The person may be a homeless man or woman.  Or perhaps it is an older neighbor who lives alone, someone who would appreciate some of your time and attention.  Or it may be a family member who lives on the fringe of the family system.  And also ask yourself: In what way/s might I be considered an outsider by the people in my life?   
Jesus loves and values every person on this planet (and perhaps other planets)!  Jesus does not look at an individual’s talents, intelligence, salary, or status.  Each and every individual is loved and cherished by Jesus. 
Jesus calls us to follow him, to live as he did.  Today will we consciously choose to follow in his footsteps?  If we decide to do so, we may give another person a loving and special gift!