Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:23-27

Thirteenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 8:23-27

Today’s Gospel is a familiar story. It is the story of the storm at sea. As we know, Jesus’ disciples became very frightened when a severe storm came up. Despite the fact that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, the disciples were terrified. The storm was ferocious and waves were beginning to swamp their boat. And unbelievably, Jesus remained sound asleep in the boat while the storm raged all around him.

Finally, his disciples woke him up, begging him to save them. However, Jesus rebuked them and asked: “Why are you terrified, you of little faith?” Jesus stood up and rebuked the winds and the seas and immediately calm descended on the waters and on the disciples. Jesus’ disciples were awed and amazed! They asked themselves: who is this man whom the winds and waves obey?

Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you were extremely frightened. What was the “storm” that created such turmoil and fear in your life? Did you turn to Jesus and beg him to rescue you? Or did you simply hunker down in your little boat and hold on tight?

At times in our lives, Jesus may appear to be asleep in our boat when we desperately need his help and grace to get us through the ferocious storm we are experiencing. Despite his seeming absence or lack of concern, do we continue to trust that he truly is with us and that he is gracing us even if we don’t feel it? Often, it only is with hindsight that we come to know and believe that Jesus was with us every moment.

The next time you are in turmoil, I invite you to sit down and breathe slowly and mindfully for 3 or 4 minutes. Breathe in peace and exhale stress and fear. After your several minutes, check yourself: are you as agitated as you were before? Or are you calmer? Is your mind clearer? If so, then we know that Jesus is with us!

When we are upset or fearful, we automatically batten down the hatches, as the sailors would say. In our language we would say: “we shut down.” And perhaps we need to shut down momentarily. However, we need an additional step. We need to open our minds and hearts to Jesus’ presence. And if we truly do this, eventually we will become calm and peaceful. Practicing calm and peace will rebuke the winds and waves in our lives. Calm and peace are Jesus’ gifts to us! Today take time to consciously receive these wondrous gifts! It will change your day---and you!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 16:13-19

Saints Peter and Paul, Solemnity: Matthew 16:13-19

Today’s feast celebrates Saints Peter and Paul. These two men had a profound impact on the early church. They both were leaders in the “infant” Church. Today is a “solemnity” in our church. Thus, we have three readings today as we do on Sundays. The 1st reading for today focuses on Peter while the 2nd reading is the passage from Paul.

Paul did not have the privilege to know Jesus while he was alive. However, it is clear in Paul’s writings that he truly knows and loves Jesus deeply. Jesus is not an abstract person to Paul. For Paul, Jesus truly was alive! Is Jesus truly alive for us? In many ways, we are like Paul: we were not alive when Jesus was on this earth. Yet we also have his teachings. We have the Gospels and we also can come to know Jesus, just as Peter and Paul did. However, if we want to know Jesus, we need to read and ponder his words, his love and his actions.

On this feast of Peter and Paul, Jesus asks his followers: “Who do people say that I am?” They gave him various replies: John the Baptist, a prophet, even Elijah. However, Jesus then asks them another question: “But who do you say I am?” Today this is the question that Jesus is asking us: “who do you say that I am?”

I invite you to quietly sit with Jesus’ question for 15-30 minutes. Relax, be still and be patient. Allow your response to come from deep within. Don’t try to rush it, just sit patiently. It will come!

Cherish this sacred time with Jesus!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Reflection: Mark 5:21-43

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 5:21-43

Today’s Gospel includes two accounts of Jesus’ healing powers. The first story tells of a synagogue official who was desperate. His daughter was seriously ill and close to death. The official begs Jesus to come and heal her. Jesus did not hesitate. Immediately, Jesus went with the official to his house.

However, in the crowd around Jesus, there was another person who also longed to be healed. It was a woman who for many years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had tried all sorts of medications and treatments but nothing helped her. Her hemorrhages continually became more severe. She was desperate. There was no one else to turn to.

She had heard of Jesus. She also had heard stories of his preaching, his kindness and his power to heal. The woman’s faith in Jesus was absolute. She truly believed that if she was able to touch Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed. She didn’t need to talk with Jesus. She simply needed to touch his garment!

Thus, as Jesus was passing by, she did just that She quietly and unobtrusively reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak. And in that instant, she was healed! However, soft though her touch was, Jesus experienced power flowing out from his being into another! And he immediately asked: “Who touched my clothing?” Jesus was not angry. He simply wanted to see the face of the person who had touched him and had been healed.

The woman approached Jesus, uncertain and intimidated. Was Jesus angry with her? However, when the woman fell down at Jesus’ feet, he lovingly looked at her and said: “Go in peace! You are cured! Your faith has saved you!” What a wondrous and profound gift Jesus gave to this woman!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus would heal us as he did the woman with the hemorrhage? What is the “bleeding” that we are experiencing? Is it a physical illness, a difficult relationship, the struggle to make ends meet or perhaps the leftovers of shame in our lives? Will we come to Jesus and ask him to heal us, and to make us whole again?

I do believe that Jesus does heal us! However, it typically is not a miracle – an instantaneous act. Jesus more likely will heal us slowly but surely. Do we trust that Jesus is healing us, even if we don’t feel it? During these times we need to trust Jesus. We need to believe that he is at work in us, even if we can’t see it or feel it! At these times, we daily need to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak. His love and healing power will flow through us! And over time, we may realize that we have been healed! However, we have to have complete trust in Jesus and in his love and care for us! Jesus will not disappoint us!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:5-17

12th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:5-17

Today as Jesus is approaching Capernaum, a centurion soldier approached him. He told Jesus that one of his servants was paralyzed and he was suffering terribly. As soon as Jesus heard this news, he told the centurion to come with him to his home and cure the man.

However, the centurion did not agree to this. The man believed that he was not worthy to have Jesus come to his home. The man then told Jesus that he understood authority and how it worked. He truly believed that Jesus did not have to come and touch his servant. The centurion clearly trusted that Jesus could and would heal the man without ever seeing or touching his servant!

Jesus was astounded at this man’s faith, trust and belief in him and in his power to heal. Jesus then told the centurion that he had not encountered anyone who had such trust in him! Jesus then instructed the centurion to return home. And at that hour, the centurion’s servant was healed!

What is the healing we desire from Jesus? Do we have the centurion’s depth of faith in Jesus? If we ask Jesus to heal us, do we trust that healing will take place in us? The healing may not be an immediate miracle. Also, the healing may not take place in a manner or the timing that we hope for. However, this does not mean that Jesus is not at work in us. Jesus is always gracing us and healing us. Perhaps we actually need a deeper healing than we are longing for. Jesus desires to make us whole. Today, may we open our minds, bodies and hearts to his healing power! Jesus will not fail us!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 8:1-4

12th Friday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:1-4

In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes down from the mountain. As always, a great crowd followed him. A leper approached Jesus. He paid Jesus homage and then said: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean!” Apparently, the leper had heard of the miracles and cures that Jesus had done.

Without any hesitation, Jesus responded to the leper’s request. He reached out his hand and gently touched the man and said: “I will do as you ask. Be made clean!” Immediately, the leper was cured! Jesus then told the man not to tell anyone what had happened. He instructed him to go to the temple and show himself to the priest to prove that he truly had been healed of his leprosy. Then the priest could declare that this man once again was “clean.” This would enable the leper to return to his family, his community and his livelihood.

Jesus also instructed the man to “offer the gift that Moses prescribed.” This gift would serve as a reminder to the people that this outcast once again was in full communion with Israel. After many years of having to separate himself from his family and community, the healed leper once again could worship in the temple. And with this healing, the leper also regained his self-respect and his dignity.

What is your “leprosy,” your “dis-ease?” What keeps you or separates you from others? I assume we all have some form of “leprosy” or “dis-ease.” What is the healing you desire? I am sure we would love to be healed instantly. However, most healing is slow and natural and it takes time. And typically, it takes much more time than we would like.

Have you gone to Jesus despite your “leprosy?” Or do you stay separated from Jesus and others out of shame or fear? Jesus longs for us to come to him. Jesus loved the “untouchables.” He sought them out and often made them whole again. He healed not only their leprosy, He also healed their shame, fear and pain!

Today, may we have the faith to reach out to Jesus and ask him to heal us! Jesus will gently touch us and heal us with his love and healing power! Jesus will not fail us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 7:21-29

12th Thursday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 7:21-29

Today Jesus tells us that it is not enough to ask to enter the kingdom of heaven. We need to be women and men who truly do the will of His Father. This is the single criterion we will be judged on. If we wish to end up in heaven, then we need to “do the will of His Father.”

Sound simple? However, how do we discern what “the Father’s will” is? I don’t think we will find the answer on the internet, in a book or perhaps not even in church. We will find the answer by listening to Jesus’ words, not just once but every single day. We may find the answer in the Gospel reading. Or perhaps it may be by spending time with someone who needs a listening ear. Or it simply might be in silence and stillness!

If we truly listen to Jesus’ words and then act on them, we will be building our inner house on the solid rock of Jesus. And no matter what happens to us, if Jesus is at our side, we will be able to withstand any storm, flood or disaster. However, if Jesus is not our “rock,” our inner house will be washed away! It simply will not withstand a fierce storm.

Is Jesus truly your “rock?” Is he the one you depend on every single day, even in small matters? I hope so! It is trusting Jesus in the small matters that enables us to trust him when we are caught in a hurricane or tornado!

Today, examine the foundation of your house, your life. What/who is your foundation? There is always the opportunity to strengthen our foundation! Today may be a good day to do so!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:57-66,80

The Nativity of John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-66, 80

Today we celebrate the solemn feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Naturally the Gospel reading is the story of John’s birth and naming.

Elizabeth had longed for a child for many years. However, it was not to be. Now at an older age, Elizabeth and Zechariah finally received a great gift from God: the gift of their son, John. After John was born, the relatives of Elizabeth and Zechariah gathered to celebrate the birth of their son. What a wondrous gift they had received!

The custom was to circumcise a male child on the 8th day after his birth. When they gathered for this rite, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s family and friends assumed that the child would be named after his father. This was the custom at that time. However, when the family members and neighbors asked what the child’s name would be, Elizabeth responded that he would be named John. Everyone was astounded! Why would this child be named John? None of Zechariah’s nor Elizabeth’s relatives had this name.

It may be helpful to remember that at the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah was in the temple. One day an angel appeared to him. The angel’s message was that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear him a son, even though she was far beyond child-bearing age. Zechariah had difficulty comprehending and accepting this message. After all, he was far advanced in years. Zechariah had the gall to question the angel how this would happen. As a result, the angel struck Zechariah dumb. The angel told him that he would remain silenced until the child was born! And so it was!

When the baby was born, it was a son as the angel had foretold. On the 8th day, Elizabeth and Zechariah took their child to the temple to have him circumcised. Their family and friends asked them what the child’s name would be. Elizabeth immediately replied: “John.” The family was not pleased. The custom was to name a newborn child after a relative. The family members then turned to Zechariah and asked him the same question. Zechariah wrote on a tablet: “His name is John.”

Immediately Zechariah’s speech was restored. His tongue was freed. And he spoke blessing God for the gift of their child. Everyone was confounded by this event. They did not know what to make of it. The friends and neighbors of Elizabeth and John asked: “Who, what will this child be?” They believed that the hand of God was upon this child!

Have you ever been confounded by something that God has done in your life? Take a few moments and ponder that question. How has God surprised you? How has God gifted you? Remember a time in your life when you received a great gift from God that you never expected? What was your response to God’s gift?

Be awake today! God, once again, may gift you with an expected present! When you receive it, be sure to praise and thank God!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 7:6, 12-14

12th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 7:6, 12-14

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses an image that most of us may never have used in our lives. Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not give to dogs what is holy. And do not throw your pearls before swine.” Jesus cautions his disciples that “the dogs and swine” may turn on you and perhaps they even may tear you to pieces.

Jesus then moves into a more positive message. He instructs his disciples to treat others as they want others to treat them. Jesus’ teaching correlates with the familiar saying: “Do unto others as you want them to do to you.” However, this is not always as simple as it sounds. Think of someone who ignores you or a person who criticizes you. Or it may be a person you don’t like. Perhaps it is someone who gets on your nerves or desires more from you than you wish to give.

Today Jesus has a countercultural message for our world: treat others as you desire to be treated. Ask yourself: how do you want others to treat you: with sincere respect, acknowledgment and interest? This may sound easy but it often is not as easy as it seems. It seems like our world turns and moves at a fast pace. People have places to go and people to see. As a consequence of the fast pace of life, we may lose some of our care and attention for one another. And what a loss this would be!

Today I invite you to truly be present to the people you encounter. It may be that you only have a minute but you can make the most of that minute. You never know: it may not only make the other person’s day, it also may make your day! That is what Jesus would do! What will we do?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 7:1-5

12th Monday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus’ challenge for us today is not an easy one. He tells his disciples (and us) to “Stop judging.” Now that is a difficult challenge for most of us. “Judgment” comes from deep within us. Someone may do or say something that violates what we believe or hold sacred. Or it may be something as simple as someone not putting an item back where it belongs. Or someone may say something to us that cuts us to the core.

We all have standards. Most of them we began learning at a very young age (perhaps even in the womb). At such a young age, we didn’t even know we were learning standards. Thus, our family standards typically are unconscious. These standards often lead us to automatically judge another person’s behavior or attitude.

Most of what we learned as children was essential to us. However, we also learned attitudes of judgment that may hinder us in some way. Can you name 2 or 3 attitudes or standards you learned as a child that you now consider unhealthy? What are the leftovers from childhood that continue to plague you, even as you strive to eradicate them?

Today, ask Jesus to “take the wooden beam from your eye” so that you may have more compassion and understanding with yourself when you automatically see the “splinter” in your neighbor’s eye. The gift is: when we realize that we are judging, we have the opportunity to step back and release our judgment! After all: who are we to judge? We don’t appreciate it when other people judge us without knowing the whole story. I doubt that anyone appreciates being judged.

Today I invite you to set judgment aside (as best you can). Strive to be mindful of your judgments. And when you realize that you are judging, simply “let it go.” Judgment is God’s work, not ours! Today, let “God be God!”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:35-41

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:35-41

In the opening scene of today’s Gospel, evening is drawing near. Jesus tells his disciples: “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” There were several other boats with them. As they were crossing the sea, a violent storm arose. Waves were breaking and the boat was beginning to fill with water.

Despite the violence of the storm, Jesus was asleep in the stern. However, his disciples were becoming quite concerned. True, they were excellent fishermen. However the storm was becoming more and more fierce. Jesus, however, remained sound asleep. The storm did not disturb or awaken him. As the disciples’ fear increased, they decided to awaken Jesus. Immediately they voiced their fear, concern, as well as their anger. They asked Jesus: “Don’t you care that we might perish?” Jesus immediately rebuked the wind and sea by uttering three small words: “Quiet! Be still!” And in an instant, the wind stopped and the seas once again were calm.

Jesus then confronts his disciples. He asks them why they were so terrified. Then he asks: “Do you not yet have faith?” I wonder if the disciples sheepishly looked at one another? They had been filled with such great fear during the storm that for a moment, they had lost their faith. Now the disciples were filled with awe with what Jesus had done. Even after all the time they had been with him, they were astonished at his great power. They looked at each other and asked: “Who is this man who even winds and seas obey?”

Now, take a moment and remember the last time you experienced a fierce storm in your life. What were the emotions you experienced during that time? Did you turn to Jesus for help or strength? Did you ask Jesus: “Do you even care that I am perishing?” How did Jesus respond to you? I assume that he did not work a miracle and immediately calm the storm you were experiencing. However, did he fill you with some calm, trust or peace? Did he give you some sign that he was present to you?

When your storm finally calmed down and dissipated, were you grateful for Jesus’ presence and grace with you? Were you filled with awe that Jesus brought you through the storm? Were you thankful that once again there was some peace and calm in your life?

When storms arise in our lives (and they will arise), we need to trust Jesus despite his seeming lack of presence or action. In the midst of the storm we cannot see clearly. We often are buffeted by wave after wave of pain and confusion. Gradually the storm begins to subside and our seas are calm once again. Typically it is only when the storm is over that we can look back and realize that truly Jesus was at our side every moment.

Today thank Jesus for his presence with you. Thank Jesus for helping you survive such a horrific storm. And later on, you even may thank Jesus for the gifts that you may have received through this horrific experience. However, it may take some time for these gifts to manifest clearly to you!

Today may we pray for each other that we will trust Jesus. And may we ask for the patience to wait for our gifts and graces to manifest in our lives. They will come! Trust Him! He will not disappoint us!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 6:24-34

11th Saturday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 6:24-34

Matthew’s Gospel today begins with a very strong statement: “No one can serve two masters.” Now, take a moment and calculate how many masters you strive to serve in one day’s time. How many masters do you have? Who and what are your masters? Note: a master does not have to be human. It may be helpful to write down who and what your masters are.

A master can be anything or anyone. Today cell phones seem to be the master of many people. No matter where they are or who they are with, the phone is right with them. And they might even feel lost when they don’t have their phone with them. If you have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that everyone seems to be on the phone, Ipad or computer. These days the need to be constantly connected almost seems obsessive. Ask yourself: do you feel “lost” or “naked” when you don’t have your cell phone or Ipad?

Don’t get me wrong. The reality today is that technology is an integral part of most people’s lives. Technology is useful in a wide variety of ways. However, the question may be: is technology ruling our lives, be that personal, professional or spiritual? Has technology become our “God?” Have we lost a sense of the “Sacred” in our lives?

Today Jesus warns his disciples to keep their priorities in order. He doesn’t want them to worry about the little things. Jesus reminds them that life is more than food or shelter. We can have all the money in the world and still not be satisfied. Jesus is reminding his listeners that only God has the ability to give us true and lasting peace and happiness. Yes, there are many gifts in our wonderful world, but without God, there is no meaning! Yet so often, I continue to look for love (or satisfaction) in all the wrong places. Do you?

Today may we look to God for our peace, our grace and our happiness! Everything else is short-lived!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 6:19-23

11th Friday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 6:19-23

Today Jesus warns his listeners not to store up treasure for themselves while they are on earth. The reality is that our earthly treasures may be stolen or they decay or we may get bored with them. Look around the room you are sitting in. Is there an item in that room that truly is a treasure for you? Or is most of it simply what we need to live in some comfort?

The day we die, we will leave all of our earthly treasures behind. We cannot take them with us to heaven nor to hell. Jesus’ desire for us is that we store up what is lasting, what will never decay. Jesus desires that we store up the treasure that will never fail us: the gift and grace of love! God is made for love: love of God, Jesus and the Spirit and love of other frail human beings!

Why is it that so many of us accumulate stuff? Is it for our comfort, security, pleasure or status? Why do I think I need so much? Deep within, we realize that earthly treasure truly does not give us love nor security. Only God can give us true security! Our greatest need is love: love from God and from the people in our lives. A diamond, a large house or a fast car can never love us. Yet many of us continue to desire “more.”

Today, stop and ask yourself: who and what is the real treasure/s in your life? I invite you to write these treasures down. It may be only a few people or things. However, it is a gift to appreciate the true and lasting treasures in our lives. Then give thanks to God for these wondrous gifts you have been gifted with. God appreciates a simple “thank you!”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 6:7-15

11th Thursday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 6:7-15

In today’s Gospel Jesus gifts us with the Our Father. The passage begins with Jesus telling his disciples that they should not babble their prayers like the pagans do. The pagans may think that more words are better and they hope that many words will bring them a favorable response from their gods.

Then Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. He teaches them the simple yet profound prayer: the Our Father. This is a prayer we can recite without even thinking about it. However, when was the last time you (and I) meditated on this wondrous gift Jesus has given us? As I write this, I realize it has been a very long time since I have truly meditated on the Our Father! However, I pray (say) it every day at Mass. And often, I am thinking of something else as I pray this beautiful prayer!

This short and simple prayer is rich and profound in its simplicity. Today I invite you to find a quiet place and pray (truly pray) the Our Father slowly and deliberately. Be aware of the words. Pray them from your heart, not your head! Then sit quietly for 3-5 minutes.

As you go about the rest of your day, notice: is there something different for you today? I pray there is! You may even sense Jesus’ presence with you and within you throughout the day! What a gift that would be!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

11th Wednesday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today Jesus cautions his disciples to be discreet. He instructs them not to put on a religious show in front of others. If they do so, there will be no recompense for them in heaven. If they choose to do a good work, Jesus instructs them to do it quietly and discreetly. There should be no fanfare. They are not to blow trumpets to draw attention to their good works, nor are they to desire praise from others.

Jesus wants his disciples to “do what they do” for the right reason. He wants them to help others, simply because there are many people who have needs. They are not to do good acts simply to gain praise or acclaim for themselves.

Jesus then instructs his disciples not to go and pray in the temple or on a street corner where they will be seen by others. Rather they should pray in the quiet of their home. He tells them to pray in secret. This solitude will help us focus and quiet ourselves as we enter into God’s presence. Clearly Jesus does not want us to be like the Pharisees who prayed in public areas so that everyone in the vicinity would note their supposed “holiness.”

Hopefully, when we give alms, pray or fast, we do it in a prayerful manner: quietly and simply. Today may we be attentive to God throughout our day. We might silently say the name of Jesus. Or simply lift our minds and hearts to God for a moment or two. Try it for a day and notice if this makes a difference to you. Blessings!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reflection: Mark 5:43-48

11th Tuesday in Ordinary Time – Mark 5:43-48

Jesus continues to astonish his listeners by contradicting many of the ways of old. He instructs his listeners that they should love their enemies, not hate them or try to destroy them. Rather, they should pray for their enemies. His listeners were astounded! Why would they want to act in this way?

Ask yourself: who are my enemies? Why are they my enemies? What have they done to me that I put them in the category of an enemy? How does my seeing them as an enemy affect them? Or does it? Most likely, my feelings and attitude toward them affects me more significantly than it affects my enemy. This individual may not even be aware that I consider them an enemy.

Are we keeping ourselves in bondage with our hurt, anger or desire for revenge or by waiting for an apology? If so, we may end up being in bondage for the rest of our lives. Truly we are the only ones who can release ourselves from the bondage to our enemies. At times, our enemies may not have a clue that they have wounded us in some way.

However, Jesus asks much more of us! Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Now that is a huge leap! Also, we are to pray for those individuals who persecute us. Jesus desires that we love others as he loves us. No matter what we do in life, Jesus will never walk away from us when we have disappointed him. No, he stays at our side and continues to love us!

This is the “love” Jesus wants us to have for our families and friends. However, Jesus also desires more for us. Jesus wants us to love every single person as he loves us. Wow! This is asking more than most of us are willing to do!

Take a moment and ask yourself: who is the person in my family that I struggle with? Do I still “love” this person even when I don’t like him or her? We do have the ability to choose to love someone we do not like or a person who has hurt us in some way. True, this is not easy nor does it come naturally. However, we can make this choice. And only we can make this choice!

Today, what will we choose? Will we strive to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? If we strive to do this, we may find that we experience more joy, happiness and peace. We also may feel less burdened. This may be a choice only we can make. And we have to make it consciously throughout our day. What will you and I choose today?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Reflection: Mark 5:38-42

11th Monday in Ordinary Time – Mark 5:38-42

Today Jesus is talking with his disciples about nonviolence. He tells them that even though they had been taught from a young age to retaliate when a person injures, robs or accosts them, that regardless of the injury or loss they should not retaliate or punish the offender in any way. I wonder what the disciples were thinking and feeling as they listened to these words of Jesus?

Jesus’ message was counter-cultural and mind-blowing! These strong and independent men were being told that they simply should let go of another person’s offense or insult. And not only should they ignore the insult, they were to “turn their other cheek” to the offender! If they did this, the offender might do more harm to them. Also, the perpetrator likely would think that Jesus’ disciples were wimps and cowards!

Jesus continues by saying if someone presses you to do something, you immediately should do as they asked. Again, Jesus does not stop there. He then tells his disciples not to turn their backs on anyone who makes a request to them. Wow! Can you ever imagine yourself never using the word no? This seems impossible as well as unhealthy. At times, we all need to say no for very good reasons. Perhaps Jesus is asking that we stop and think before we answer yes or no. At times, when I may say no to someone it may not be because I cannot do what they are asking. Rather, the truth may be: I simply don’t want to do it!

Jesus continually calls us to move beyond ourselves and our world. True, I may be busy but I possibly may be able to do what this individual is asking. Today we most likely will need to say no to someone. However, may we only say no when we truly are not able to do it. This is all that Jesus desires from us: that we freely and lovingly give what we are able to share with others!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reflection: Mark 4:26-34

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 4:26-34

Today Jesus is once again talking about the kingdom of God. Today he describes God’s kingdom in a unique way. He tells his disciples that the kingdom of God is like a man who scattered his seeds in his fields. Then the farmer would go about his daily chores, trusting that the seed would grow of its own accord. The farmer is not overly concerned about the seeds knowing what to do. The farmer knows that the seeds will do what is natural for them: they will sprout and grow. When the crop is fully grown, the farmer harvests the crop.

In this parable, Jesus compares the farmer’s and his seed to God’s kingdom. He tells his listeners that the kingdom of God works in a similar manner. The kingdom of God is like the tiny mustard seed that is planted in the earth. It is the smallest of seeds, yet when the plant is fully grown, it is one of the largest plants on earth!

Do we see ourselves as one of God’s “mustard seeds?” We also are creatures that God created. And if God created the tiny mustard seed to provide food and shelter for the birds to spread life, we also are to share our gifts with the people and the world around us. Now ask yourself: what is the “fruit” that you are bearing? What are the gifts that you share in your world? Can you name them? If not, you might risk asking someone you trust what gifts they see you sharing.

Today be mindful of the ways that you strive to share life with the people you encounter throughout your day. Who knows? One of them may be a “mustard seed” that produces more than we could ever imagine. And may we look for the “fruits” of other’s mustard seeds. It may be an abundant and fruitful day in multiple ways! Celebrate God’s goodness to us!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 5:33-37

10th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:33-37

In this Gospel Jesus instructs us to “say what we mean and mean what we say.” Jesus desires that we simply be who we are. Today he tells his disciples: “Do not take a false oath.” Jesus also tells his disciples (and us) to “follow through” on what they have said they will do. Often this is not as easy as it sounds. We need to do this not only with the people in our lives but also we need to follow through in our relationship with Jesus.

However, it is not always easy to always have our “yes” truly come from our hearts. Can you remember a time when you told someone yes when you honestly wanted to say no? I suspect we all have done this. If you say yes to someone, do you typically follow through with what you promised to do? When we say yes to someone is it a wholehearted “yes” or is it more of a “maybe?”

Jesus desires that we be women and men of integrity, even in the small things. At times, the small things may seem insignificant. However, when we follow through on the small things, trust in our relationships grow and deepen. The reality is that most of us do not automatically trust every person we meet. It takes time to trust another person. In a sense, we have to prove that we are trustworthy. And if a individual follows through on what they say they will do, we begin to trust them.

Trust is a great gift: both to give and to receive. Trust is a gift that grows as individuals come to know each other. Ask yourself: who are the individuals in your life that you trust? Who is the person you trust most deeply? Now ask yourself: Do I trust God? How deep is my trust in God? Take a few moments to ponder these questions.

Has life dealt you a blow that has affected your trust in God? If so, most likely you are not alone. Our trust in God typically is affected by painful or difficult situations in our lives. For many of us, it almost is automatic to blame God for the bad things that happen in our lives. After all, God is all-powerful. When we experience frightening or difficult situations in our lives, our trust in God may become fragile. And we may find it difficult to rebuild our trust in God. Hopefully, in time, we will trust God once again.

Today I also invite you to remember and thank God for the many ways that God has sustained you, carried you and enveloped you in God’s wondrous and never-ending love. This is a gift we receive every moment of every day. May we also give thanks for the individuals in our lives who by their love and concern for us, also manifest God’s love and care for us. These individuals also are a great gift.

Today may we consciously give the gift of love to everyone we encounter. It may be as simple as a smile, a compliment or simply noticing them! Also take notice of the people who gift you with God’s love. What a small, yet great gift!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Reflection: John 19:31-37

John 19:31-37 – The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnity

Today’s feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is a high holy day in our Church. Since this feast typically falls on a weekday, many of us may not be aware of this feast. Yet, today we celebrate the depth of love Jesus has for us. Jesus loves us so deeply that he willingly gave his life for us!

The Gospel for today is the scene immediately after Jesus’ death. Jesus’ body is still on the cross. However, since the Sabbath was upon them, the bodies of Jesus and the two men crucified with him needed to be taken down and buried. John tells us that the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of Jesus and the two men who were crucified with him. However, when the soldiers came to Jesus’ body, he clearly was dead so they decided not to break his legs. Rather they chose to pierce his side with a lance! And as we know blood and water flowed out. This fulfilled the prophecy in Exodus 12: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” Thus, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. Jesus truly was the “Lamb of God” who had been sacrificed for us!

Do we truly appreciate what Jesus did for us? Is Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection personal to us? Or do we simply think of it as a nice story? Do we deeply appreciate Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice his own life so that we can live fully?

This feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gives us the opportunity to ponder all that Jesus freely chose to do for you and for me. Do we realize how much Jesus continues to grace us today? Whether we are aware of it or not, we live deep in Jesus’ heart. Truly there is no greater love than the love Jesus has for us!

Today I invite you to sit quietly with Jesus for 10-15 minutes. Thank Jesus for the depth and the tenderness of his love for us. What a wondrous and enduring gift He continually gives us! Today may we truly celebrate his “sacred, loving heart.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 5:20-26

10th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:20-26

Today Jesus tells us that our “righteousness” needs to surpass the “righteousness” of the righteousness of the Pharisees! He tells us that if we are not righteous, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“Righteousness” most likely is not a word we use every day. We are more apt to use words such as upright, honest or decent to describe a righteous person. Take a moment and ask yourself: who are the people you consider righteous in the best sense of the word? What are the qualities that you admire in them?

Now ask yourself: Do you consider yourself a righteous person? If so, what are the righteous qualities that you strive to cultivate in yourself? (honorable, upright, honest, respectable, decent, moral, good, loving, generous, forgiving?)

A righteous person is a good person. A righteous person is a loving person, an honest person. If we are at odds with anyone, Jesus desires that we settle our differences. A righteous person is the one who seeks out the individual with whom s/he needs to be reconciled with and makes peace with them.

To be truly righteous is not easy. First of all, we have to have an open and willing heart. We have to be willing to be the one who says: “I am sorry” or “Please forgive me.” Every day we need to work on our righteousness. Anger, hurt, and pain slowly eats at our righteousness and ultimately may destroy it. If we are carrying anger, hurt or pain, eventually this will erode not only our righteousness but also our peace of mind and heart.

As always: we have a choice! Do we desire to truly be righteous in the best sense of the word? Do we desire to be like Jesus? If so, what is one choice you/I can make today to move in the direction we desire? Will you, will I, take one step forward today? I pray we will!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 5:17-19

10th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:17-19

Today Jesus is stern with his disciples. He tells them that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets. Rather, he has come to fulfill their prophecy. He emphatically tells his disciples that until the earth and heaven pass away, not even a part of a letter of law will pass from the law until “all things have taken place.”

Jesus also warns his disciples that anyone who breaks the law or entices another to break the law will be called “least” in the kingdom of heaven. He then tells his disciples that everyone who obeys and teaches the commandments will be called the “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven.

Which category do we fall into: the breaker of the law, one who entices another to break God’s law? Or do we teach the commandments of God by our word, our love, our actions and our attitude? It can be fairly easy to keep “the letter of the law.” However, Jesus desires more from us! Jesus calls us to live the core and foundation of the law and his teaching every day of our lives. Jesus also hopes that we will be “lovers” of everyone, even the people whom we don’t like and the individuals who may have wounded us!

God, Jesus and the Spirit are pure Love. Love is the law and the gift that we are called to live and to share. It may sound easy but we know that it is not as easy to do. Love is difficult and it may be very painful at times. Yet love is the greatest gift to receive and a tremendous gift to give!

Yes, we need law to keep our world somewhat in order. However, we cannot live a full and satisfying life without love! Love is what gives life meaning. If we do not have love and if we do not love others, we are horribly impoverished. Today share the gift of love to every person you encounter. It may be a smile, a kind word, a loving look or a gentle touch. Truly there is no greater gift than the gift of love!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 5:13-16

10th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:13-16

Today Jesus coins a phrase that we continue to use today. He tells his disciples: “You are the ‘salt of the earth.’”

What does that phrase mean to you? What characteristics would you use to describe a person that you consider to be “the salt of the earth?” Down to earth? Practical? Sensible? Caring? Most likely all of us are “salt of the earth” in a variety of ways. However, Jesus also says that if we lose our “saltiness,” we also lose our tastiness and then we are not good for anything! Is that what we desire?

Jesus also tells his disciples (and us): “You are the light of the world.” This is a powerful and yet perhaps an intimidating statement. Light is essential in many ways. Plants would not grow without light. Light enables us to see more clearly. If we do not have “light” we stumble and struggle through life. And if we take Jesus’ words seriously, we need to share our light with everyone we encounter.

As yourself: Do you truly consider yourself “the light of the world?” If you answer yes, how do you share your “light?” What acts do you do that bring light to other people? What are the “gifts of light” you share with others: a smile, a kind act, noticing someone who needs some help or encouragement, reaching out to someone who is lonely, sitting with a friend who is ill or simply sharing a flower or fresh tomato from your garden? These are small acts but they are filled with “light!”

Now, let’s shift the focus. What are the arenas of your life where your “light” may be dim or perhaps even extinguished? What is the cause of the loss of light? Do you sense any glimmer of light beginning to shine in this arena of your life? How do you experience God in this situation?

Our “light” is not our creation. God chose to make us creatures of “light.” Our light is not ours. It is a share of God’s light! Nor is our light to be hoarded. Our light has been given to us to share with our family, friends, the strangers we meet and our world. Today may you consciously and generously let your light shine! After all, our light comes from God, thus it truly is God’s light that is shining through us!

Our world is in desperate need of “light.” There is a tremendous amount of darkness, pain, tragedy, loneliness and sadness in our world. Today and every day, the world needs your light and my light! Together we can “light up” the world with God’s light and love!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 5:1-12

10th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:1-12

Today Jesus is teaching his disciples. In his teaching, he gifts them with the Beatitudes. We all are familiar with the Beatitudes. However, do we take the time to sit with these eight beautiful teachings and ask ourselves: “How do I strive to be a living example of this beatitude?”

Today is Monday, the beginning of a new week. I invite you to read the whole Gospel and reflect on it. Then I invite you to simply reflect on the 1st “Be-attitude” for 5-10 minutes. Ask yourself: how do I live this beatitude in my daily life? What does it mean to you to be “poor in spirit?” Do I strive to be “poor in spirit” as I go about my day? Whom do I comfort? How do I strive to show my concern and comfort to others? Whom do I ignore when they need comfort?

If you have sufficient time, you may continue with the other six “Be-attitudes.” Another option is to take one “Be-attitude” a day for the next six days. This will enable you to reflect deeply on each of the beatitudes and also on how you strive to live this beatitude out in your daily life.

Jesus does not want us to simply “act.” Jesus wants us to act mindfully, deliberately and lovingly! Will we choose to do this today? We may not only give a great gift to another, we may receive a great gift as we share the little that we have!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reflection: Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Today we hear a passage that hearkens back to Holy Thursday. It is Mark’s version of the Last Supper and the institution of the Body and Blood of Christ. What a wonderful gift Christ has given us! He not only gave his life for us, he remains alive and present to us in the celebration of the Eucharist! Jesus has not left us; He remains among us “alive and well.” He continues to love us, nourish us and grace us!

Jesus also calls us to live as he did. Jesus works among us in many and varied ways. And Jesus works through you and me. He calls us to pour out our lives and love to the people and the world around us!! We all have gifts to give. They may not be extraordinary, unusual or astonishing. Most likely the greatest gifts we have to give are our love, care, attention, time, listening, support and hope.

Today may be a good day to ask: what are the gifts that God/Jesus has given me? How do I share them with the people around me and with our world? Do I share them freely and spontaneously? Or do I only share them when I am asked to?

Each day we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. He calls us to freely share what we have, even though it may seem insignificant to us. What we think is insignificant or small may be a great gift to someone we encounter today! Truly, we are the Body and Blood of Christ in our world today! We are to “pour ourselves out” as Jesus did! The question is: will we?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:38-44

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:38-44

Today Jesus warns his listeners to beware of the scribes. This is a very strong term. If we have to “beware,” there typically is some danger involved. Jesus describes these men as individuals who liked to wear long robes and sit in the best seats at banquets. True, they did recite lengthy prayers. However, they did not help the poor, the lost or the sinner! They primarily were concerned with their positions of honor and power. They were pleased that many people deferred to them and held them in esteem.

As we all know, power often corrupts. And being held in high esteem also may corrupt. If people look up to us, we may come to believe that we are better than we truly are. In this Gospel, Jesus is an advocate for humility. He does not use that specific word but most humble people work in a quiet manner. They do not need or want the limelight. They are content to give of themselves in an unobtrusive way and simply go about their business.

Jesus then praises the poor widow who quietly gave from her “wont.” She put two small coins into the treasury. For this widow, two coins most likely were a significant part of the amount of money she had to spend within a week’s time. Yet, this reality did not stop her from sharing the little she had. She gave freely and unselfishly. She wanted to do her part.

How generous are we, not only with our money but also with our time, talent and attention? It may be easier to give a donation rather than spend an afternoon with someone who is lonely or ill. Many of us would rather give money than to give our time. Time often is the most precious commodity we have. Yet, we are surrounded by people who are in need and who would be extremely grateful for a few minutes of our precious time and attention.

On some days, we may be the person who yearns for someone’s attention and care. Perhaps if we share our “two cents” with others, it will return to us! Who knows? The individual we spend our time with may be our gift for the day!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:35-37

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:35-37

Today Jesus once again is teaching in the temple. Jesus continues his sparring with the Pharisees. This Gospel is very brief, just 3 short verses. Jesus asks the Pharisees: “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?” He put this question to them as a challenge. The Pharisees looked at the coming of the Messiah in mere human terms. They did not have the Old Testament understanding of the Messiah.

The Pharisees believed that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero. They also believed that the ceremonial rites such as the shedding of the blood of a bull or a ram somehow set the captives free or gave hope to the downcast and the oppressed. For many of the Pharisees, their relationship with God seemed to consist of these “rites.” True, they were doing what was required. However, did they truly know God? Or did they simply know “about” God? Or did they have a personal and loving relationship with God?

Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: Do I truly know God? Do I love God? Do I go to church to worship God and to celebrate my relationship with God? Or do I simply attend Eucharist because it is something I am supposed to do?

I invite you to take a few moments today to reflect on the quality of relationship you have with God, Jesus or the Spirit. Is this relationship loving, intimate and healthy? Or is it simply a habit or pattern? Do you desire a deep, loving and personal relationship with God, Jesus or the Spirit? Today may be the day to take one more step and deepen into relationship with God, Jesus or the Spirit! They are waiting for us!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:28-34

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:28-34

Today a Scribe approaches Jesus and asks him: “What is the first of all the commandments?” Naturally Jesus replied what he had learned as a small child: “The Lord our God is Lord alone.” And we are to “love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul and mind.”

I assume these words are very familiar to you. For most of us, these words were etched on our minds and hearts at a very young age. Hopefully, this continues to be true today. However, these words are so very familiar to us that we may not even “hear” them! In essence, Jesus asks only 2 things of us: to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves! Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The challenge in this statement may be our ability to love ourselves as well as we love our neighbor! Most often I find it easier to love and accept another person as they are. However, I often struggle to “love myself as I am.” Perhaps I am alone in that. However, I believe that many, if not most of us, struggle to love and accept ourselves as we are. It often becomes automatic to criticize ourselves. Take a moment and list how you criticize yourself. What do you criticize yourself about: looks, choices, abilities, intelligence or (you fill in the blank)?

Today I invite you to examine the many ways you strive to “love your neighbor.” Then examine the ways you “love yourself.” Are you as loving and understanding with yourself as you are with your neighbor? If not, I invite you to consciously be loving, accepting and gentle with yourself today. You may find out that you will have a much better day when you maintain a loving stance toward yourself. Try it! You may find out not only that you like it, you also may realize that “loving yourself” makes life more grace-filled and peaceful. What a wonderful gift to give yourself as well as others!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:18-27

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:18-27

Today the Sadducees come to Jesus and question him. They begin by quoting Moses, who wrote: “if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the brother must marry the widow who then is to bear his children and raise up descendants for his brother.” Then the Sadducees give Jesus a specific scenario they wanted him to respond to.

This is the scenario they proposed: There was a family that had seven brothers. The oldest brother married and after a few months of their marriage, he died. Now, the custom at that time was that if a brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the second oldest brother was to marry his brother’s widow. This was the custom as the Sadducees only believed in what they could see. Thus, they could not conceive of heaven. Nor did they believe in an afterlife. They simply were trying to trap Jesus!

However Jesus does not fall into their trap. He realizes that they are testing him. Ask yourself: do you ever try to trap Jesus by asking him a trick question? Or perhaps we ask for a “sign” so that we truly will know that Jesus is at work in us?

Do we trust Jesus? Do we truly believe that He only desires the best for us? Do we trust that He always is with us, regardless of how difficult life is at times? Or do we only believe that Jesus is with us when something good or wonderful happens to us? Do we need a sign of his presence? Or do we truly trust that Jesus is with us always and He will grace us with all we need?

The next time you are tempted to “test” Jesus, stop and remember how He has been with you in the past. This will help you (and me) trust that He truly is with us now. Jesus is trustworthy! He will not let us down! May we wholeheartedly believe and trust this reality!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:13-17

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:13-17

Today the Pharisees try another tactic to trap Jesus. Some of the Herodians and Pharisees come to Jesus and try to soften him up. They tell Jesus that they know that he is a truthful man. They also know that Jesus is not concerned about what other people say about him. Nor does he judge people by their status in society.

However, after all of this praise, they finally ask Jesus their trick question. They ask him if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar. Their hope is to trap Jesus with this question. However, Jesus realizes what they are doing. Recognizing them for the hypocrites they are, Jesus asks them why they are testing him.

Then Jesus asks a bystander for a denarius. When he has the coin in his hand, Jesus asks the Pharisees: “Whose image is on this coin?” Naturally they reply: “Caesar’s.” Jesus then tells them to “pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” He does not argue with them. Nor could they argue with his answer! Mark says: “They were utterly amazed.” However, I wonder if the Pharisees were angry with Jesus “turning the tables” on them?

Do you ever try to trick God or Jesus by asking a trick question? I have a feeling that we all do this at some point or another. However, do we give to God, Jesus and the Spirit what belongs to them? Ask yourself: what do you give to God, Jesus or the Spirit? What do you believe belongs to them? Is it your money, time or the gift of yourself? Truly all that God, Jesus and the Spirit desires is us: you and me! Do we wholeheartedly give ourselves to God? Or do we do what is easier and give money or a ‘bit’ of our time? Or do we do give what is more challenging as well as satisfying and give of ourselves to God, Jesus and the people around us?

Be mindful today: give of yourselves to the people you meet and interact with. It may be a hello, a listening ear or a helpful hand. What a simple, yet loving and generous gift!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Reflection: Mark 12:1-12

9th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 12:1-12

Today’s Gospel reading is the story of a man who planted a vineyard and planted a hedge around it. He also dug a wine press and built a tower. This man must have lived in an area that was not safe! Why else would he plant a hedge around his vines and then build a tower? You only need a tower if you need protection or you desire a view of your surroundings.

Thinking that all was safe, this man leased his fields to tenant farmers and left on a journey. After several months, the owner sent a servant back to his vineyard. This servant was to obtain the owner’s share of the vineyard’s profits. However, the tenants severely beat the servant and sent him back to the owner, empty-handed! The owner decided to send a different servant to deal with his tenants. However, the tenants treated this man in the same manner. The owner was extremely frustrated and angry. The master sent several other servants but they all were killed by the tenants.

At this point, the owner did not know what to do. Eventually he decided to send his own son to deal with his tenants. His reasoning was that the tenants surely would respect his son. However, they did not. The tenants were thrilled that the owner had sent his son. They believed that if the son was dead, his inheritance would be theirs. So the tenants killed the owner’s son! In response to the loss of his beloved son, the father had all of the servants put to death!

Jesus then speaks of what will happen to “the Father’s Son,” the One who is “the stone that the builders rejected.” Jesus tells his listeners that the very same thing will happen to this Son. Jesus’ listeners were the scribes, the chief priests and the elders. Through this parable, Jesus is telling them that he realizes the path that is before him. He knows what his future holds! However, Jesus also tells the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees that His Father (the owner) will come and put the “tenants” to death for what they have done to his son!

I wonder how his listeners reacted to this parable? How do we respond to all the violence in our world? No matter where we live, we hear of horrific acts that are perpetrated on innocent people. Humankind has not advanced in the past centuries. Daily we hear stories of murder and abuse!

Do we contribute to the violence in our world in major or minor ways? Or do we consciously strive to create peace in our lives and in the lives of the people around us? I assume that most of us would never think of killing another person! However, do we periodically “abuse” another person by our words, actions or indifference? Today may we consciously open our hearts to God’s peace and love! And may we share this love and peace with every person we encounter today! Today and every day may we be women and men of love and peace. What a great gift to give to our world!