Wednesday, September 30, 2015
26th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:57-62
In this Gospel, Jesus and his disciples are continuing their journey. Luke writes: “Someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’” Jesus warns this individual that his life is the life of an itinerant preacher who is always on the road. He puts it in these words: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Luke does not tell us if this person followed Jesus or not.
Later Jesus said to someone else: “Follow me.” However, this individual told Jesus that he had to go and bury his father. In reply, Jesus said to him: “Let the dead bury their dead. Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Then a third person said to Jesus: “I will follow you. However, first I need to go and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus looked directly at this person and said: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Clearly, Jesus desires that his disciples be wholehearted in their commitment to him and his mission. Jesus desires to be first in our lives. Yes, we will have family, children, friends and commitments. However, our primary commitment needs to be to Jesus. Most likely, this call is a great challenge for us. After all, our families and responsibilities are extremely important and rightly so. However, Jesus knows that if our primary commitment is to him, everything else in our lives will be in proper perspective: our families, jobs, finances, etc.
Even when we truly strive to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, it is easy to stray from the path. However, when we become aware that we have strayed from the path, we can correct our course. And we may have to do this several times a day. However, it only takes a second. This is all that Jesus asks of us! If we do so, most likely our day will be filled with graces. It is our choice!
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Feast — John 1:47-51
This is the feast day of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Now ask yourself: Is this feast meaningful to me? Do I believe in angels regardless of whether they are archangels or just regular angels?
Most of us learned about angels at a young age. There are angels in the Scriptures. In the past years, there have been books and TV shows focused on angels. Yet I suspect that many of us have not had a personal and upclose experience of an angel, a heavenly being, appearing to us.
Yet I also believe that if we take time to think about it, we hopefully could name several people in our lives who are angels to us. It may be someone who notices us and asks how we are. Or perhaps it is someone who anticipates our needs. Or it may be a person who surprises us with a simple gift or their time or attention.
Today take note of the angels that appear to you! And strive to be an angel to the individuals you encounter! It can be a simple gift to give.
Monday, September 28, 2015
26th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:46-50
Today’s Gospel presents a scene that likely is familiar to us. The disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest. Sound familiar? Jesus was listening to them. Luke writes: “Jesus realized the intention of their hearts.” Was Jesus disappointed or frustrated with his disciples? After all, these men had been chosen to be servants to one another and to the people. Yet, here they were having a petty argument about who among them was the greatest.
Power! Throughout history, power and acclaim have dominated politics, religion and social status. It is natural and healthy that all human beings desire a certain amount of power. We all need a moderate amount of power in order to make choices for ourselves. This enables us to choose to have loving, healthy and productive lives. Yet as we know, the desire for power often corrupts, be that in the family, the Church, institutions, business or politics. The intense desire for power often is the downfall of someone who has great potential.
Today Jesus is disturbed that his disciples are so concerned about who is the greatest among them, which could be translated as the one who “has the most power.” Jesus does not directly confront his disciples. Rather he brings a child into their midst and says to them: “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me also receives the One who sent me.” Jesus then continues: “The one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest.”
Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: Are we content with being among the least? Or do we strive for power or influence? Can we be satisfied to be “one with the people” rather than a star or a leader? Today I also invite you to be attentive to those individuals you encounter who truly embody Jesus’ call to be the “least” (in a healthy way)! They can be a living example for us.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
26th Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
This Gospel begins as John comes to Jesus and tells him: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name! We tried to stop him. After all, he is not one of us!” However, Jesus was calm and he had a completely different perspective than John. Jesus told John: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Did Jesus sense his disciples were concerned they might have to share “the glory” of being followers of Jesus with others who had not been directly called by Jesus?
Jesus tells his disciples that there is no one who could performs great deeds such as driving out demons or healing in Jesus’ name who would speak ill of Jesus. This would be a complete contradiction of the deed they had done. Jesus continues: “If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, that individual will not lose their reward.”
However, Jesus then says that anyone who causes one of His “little ones” to sin will reap his/her punishment. He continues: “It would be better for them if a great millstone was put around their neck and s/he was thrown into the sea.” Jesus continues in this vein for several verses. Clearly, Jesus wants his disciples (and us) to realize what a serious offense it is if we cause one of his little ones to sin. Jesus also gives several graphic examples of the punishment that might be handed out to the perpetrator.
Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: do we cause any of the “little ones” to stray from Jesus? We may not be deliberately inviting another person to stray. However, we may subtly or unknowingly invite another to do so. We may be talking with someone and we begin to gossip. Or perhaps we are complaining about work, our co-workers, or the behavior of our children, or perhaps we simply are in a bad mood. The reality is that our attitude and our words affect other people either positively or negatively.
Today may we strive to be a positive and loving presence to each person we encounter. Who knows? This also may help us have a good day!
Saturday, September 26, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:43b-45
Today’s Gospel reading is very brief. Yet clearly Jesus wants the full attention of his disciples. He says to them: “Pay attention to what I am saying to you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
Now put yourself in the disciples’ shoes. If a good friend or family member came to you and told you that they were going “to be handed over,” what would be your reaction: confusion, fear, or anger? Any of these responses would be normal. Luke writes: “The disciples did not understand this saying. Its meaning was hidden from them so they would not understand it. And they were afraid to ask Jesus what this phrase meant.”
Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus what his words meant? Did they simply want to close their ears to a message that was frightening to them? Did they believe that if they ignored Jesus’ words that everything would all right? Yet Jesus’ message is very clear.
I wonder how Jesus responded to the disciples’ silence. Was he disappointed by the disciples’ lack of response? Or did Jesus understand that his words had frightened them to their core? Perhaps they simply were unable to believe what he had said. Yet the disciples knew that the Pharisees were watching Jesus, monitoring his teaching and his behavior. The disciples also realized that Jesus was a great threat to the Pharisees and to their power over the people.
At various times in our lives we also may not want to deal with reality. When a situation is painful or frightening, we often automatically shut down rather than deal with a difficult situation. Another way of dealing with reality is rejection. None of us wants to hear bad news or sad news. If we or someone we love receives bad news, we automatically want to close our ears to the words. We simply do not want to hear it. And yet the cross is central to our religion. How many times have we read or listened to the reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ? And yet our automatic response is to reject suffering!
Jesus was human and thus he would suffer. However, his suffering and death not only would affect his mother, brothers, sisters and disciples, it would impact the whole world. Today there are many refugees in the world. We hear of the horrors of the fighting in the Middle East. We listen to the radio and there was a shooting and a young man was shot and killed. We hear of a drunk driver who lost control of the car and hit a car. Several people died and others were injured.
We hear these stories frequently. Do we pray for the people who were hurt or killed? Or do we quickly let it go so we don’t get sad or upset? When you listen to the news or the radio, I invite you to say a quiet prayer for the person/s who were involved in the situation. And if the situation was caused by another human being, pray also for that person. This individual also needs prayer and support. What a wonderful gift to give the person! Who knows? One day a stranger may pray for you when you need it most.
Friday, September 25, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:18-22
Today Jesus is praying in solitude and his disciples were there with him. After a time, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked: “Who do the people say that I am?” Clearly Jesus wanted some feedback from the disciples. They said in reply: “Some say you are John the Baptist. Others believe you are Elijah or one of the ancient prophets who has arisen.” Jesus then asked: “But who do you say that I am?”
Today Jesus asks each of us the question: “Who do you say that I am?” I invite you to take a few minutes and seriously ask yourself: who is Jesus to me? Who is Jesus for me now? How does his presence impact my life? Does it?
Jesus doesn’t want us simply to believe in him. Jesus desires a personal relationship with each of us. He wants to be the center of our lives. Is this what we desire? Or is Jesus just a figure in the Gospels for us? Have we opened the door of our hearts to him? Only we can make this choice. What will we choose today? Jesus is waiting!
Thursday, September 24, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:7-9
The central character in today’s Gospel is Herod, who was the tetrarch of the district. Herod had heard about Jesus and his disciples. However, he was confused and perplexed about whom Jesus was and what he was doing. He had heard several rumors. Some people were saying that Jesus was John raised from the dead. Others said: “Elijah has appeared.” Still others believed that Jesus was one of the ancient prophets who had arisen.
However, Herod knew that John was dead. After all, he was the one who had ordered John beheaded. Clearly, Jesus was not John the Baptist. Still, Herod wanted to know who this Jesus was. And he wanted to see Jesus and hear him preach. Thus he would learn more about Jesus.
Many of us at a very young age learned about Jesus. Most likely our first introduction to Jesus may have been at Christmas time when the manger scenes were set up. This may have been the first time we heard of Jesus, saw an image of him as a baby, and heard the story of Mary and Joseph and of Jesus’ birth. Most likely we learned more about Jesus and his life as we grew up.
In Jesus’ time, however, Herod and many other people didn’t have a clue about who Jesus was. They knew he was a preacher. And they knew that he was a cousin of John the Baptist. Some people actually claimed that Jesus was John raised from the dead.
Today I invite you to ask yourself: At this point in your life, who is Jesus for you? Is Jesus present in your life? Is he real to you? Or is he simply a character in the Gospels? I pray he is an integral part of your life!
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:1-6
Today Jesus gives the disciples a wonderful gift: he gives them power and authority over all demons as well as the ability to cure diseases. He then sends them forth “to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” If we have chosen to follow Jesus, then we also are disciples of Jesus. Today he is sending us forth to heal and to proclaim the Kingdom of God to every individual we encounter.
Jesus instructs the disciples to travel lightly. He tells them to take nothing for the journey, not money, not a walking stick, not a suitcase , not even food. They are to depend on the kindness and generosity of the people they serve. (Many of us likely would find this a challenge.) Jesus also warned them that their message would not be welcomed by every person they encountered. If this was the case, they should simply move on and “shake off the dust from their feet in testimony against them.”
I wonder how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ instruction? Were they tempted to take some of their necessities with them? Or did they trust Jesus’ word that the people would feed and shelter them?
The disciples then set off, traveling from one village to another, proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
If we are Jesus’ disciples, today he also is giving us the same instruction he gave to his disciples. I invite you to put yourself into the disciples’ shoes. Imagine yourself setting out on a journey with only the clothes on your back, no toiletries, no clean clothes, no food, no money, or any of the other items we might consider essential. Today some of us tend to over-pack rather than minimally pack.
If we truly desire to journey with Jesus, we also have to travel lightly. Today’s Gospel may prompt us to ask ourselves: What do I not need any of? What is it that I truly do need? What can I let go of? This inventory can include our physical belongings as well as our emotional baggage. What is Jesus asking us to release or to leave behind? What do we no longer need? What no longer serves us well?
Today I invite you to take time and ask yourself: What do I choose to let go of today? What do I not really need? It may be small or it might be significant. If we are ready to let go of a physical and tangible item, this may encourage us to free ourselves of one piece of our emotional baggage. Today, ask Jesus to give you the wisdom to choose what to let go of. It may be difficult, but in the end you will feel freer and lighter. Traveling lightly has many advantages! Try it! You may realize that you like not having to lug around so much baggage!
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 8:19-21
The Gospel for today is extremely brief: only 3 verses. Mary and Jesus’ brothers came to see him. Yet they were unable to reach him. He was surrounded by a crowd of people. Jesus was told: “Your mother and brothers are outside. They wish to see you.” Jesus responded and said: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
These words of Jesus may sound harsh to our ears. After all, family typically is the center of our lives. However, Jesus is not denying his family. Rather, his statement broadens the concept of family. He states that “anyone who hears the word of God and acts on it” is his mother, brother and sister. Thus, if we strive to hear the word of God and then act on it, we also are part of Jesus’ family.
However, it typically is easier to hear the word of God than to act on it. To act on Jesus’ word calls each of us to love every person we encounter, even the individuals we may not like. He calls us to stretch ourselves and act in a way that may go against the grain. Yet, Jesus lived these words each and every day. And He calls us to do the same. Today be mindful of seeing every person you encounter as “a mother, brother or sister.” What a wonderful gift to give to the other person and also to yourself!
Monday, September 21, 2015
Feast of St. Matthew — Matthew 9:9-13
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew. The Gospel reading for today is “the call of Matthew.” Jesus saw Matthew as he walked by Matthew’s custom post. Jesus simply said to Matthew, “follow me,” and immediately, Matthew got up and followed Jesus.
Matthew then invited Jesus and the disciples to his home to share a meal. Many tax collectors and sinners also were invited to the meal and sat in the midst of Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they were scandalized. They asked Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” However, the disciples did not have a chance to respond to the question. Jesus had heard their question and said: “Those who are well do not have need of a physician, the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words: I desire mercy, not sacrifice!” Jesus continues: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Pope Francis is a wonderful example in our day of a man who truly follows in Jesus’ footsteps. He reaches out to the poor, the needy and disenfranchised. He is a man who embodies the grace of joy. Joy simply flows out from his being. Today Jesus is calling us to follow him. Will we follow him with a joyful and merciful heart? Today’s world is in desperate need of joy and mercy! If we share our joy and mercy with others today, we may find that joy and mercy will return to us 100-fold!
Sunday, September 20, 2015
25th Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 9:30-37
Jesus and his disciples are traveling through Galilee. He was teaching his disciples and he said to them: “The Son of Man will be handed over and will be killed! Three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” His disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying to them. Would what he foretold really come true? How could that be? Jesus was a great teacher and Rabbi. However, they hesitated to question him.
They arrived in Capernaum and when they were settled in the house where they were staying, Jesus asked them: “What were you arguing about during our journey?” However, the disciples remained silent. They were embarrassed. The topic of their conversation had been “who was the greatest disciple.” Most likely, they knew that Jesus would not approve of their conversation. What would Jesus think of them if they told him the truth?
Jesus then tells his disciples: “Whoever wishes to be first shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Jesus then calls a little child over to him and says to the disciples: “Whoever receives one child in my name, receives me! And whoever receives me, receives the One who sent me.”
Power and renown. In our world, this is what many people long for and strive for! Think of all the movie stars, rock singers, models and political candidates who vie for publicity, power and renown. Do they actually believe that this will bring them happiness? Or are they simply caught up in the world’s values? Jesus calls us to find our happiness and security in him, not in fame or fortune.
Naturally, we all desire that others think well of us. And in and of itself, this is not bad. We get into trouble when we are driven to look good or to achieve in order to achieve some status, honor or esteem. We believe that then people will approve of us and of what we have accomplished.
Today I invite you to take some time and ask yourself: How important is power, renown and admiration to me? Do I consciously or unconsciously strive to look good? To have others admire me? Or am I content to be simple, pure and loving like a child? There is no guile in young children. They simply are who they are. They trust. They love. They enjoy life. And yet we adults often consider them immature. And in many ways they are. Yet, they can be a great example to us of what truly is important in life. Today observe a child. Imitate a child. You may have a wonderful day!
Saturday, September 19, 2015
24th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 8:4-15
Today Jesus tells the large crowd gathered around him the parable of the ‘sower and the seed.’ Most of us know this parable by heart. As we know, a sower went out to sow his seed. Some of the seeds fell on a frequently used path. Naturally, when the seeds sprouted, the seedlings were trampled by the travelers who used the path or by the birds that ate the seeds before they could sprout. Other seeds landed on rocky ground. When these seeds sprouted, they withered from lack of rain. However, some seeds fell on good soil. These seeds grew and produced a rich harvest of a hundredfold.
Jesus then tells his listeners: “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” This parable is very familiar to us. Familiarity can be a good thing but at times, it keeps us from truly listening to Jesus’ word. Often, we are like children who know what their parent will say to them before they utter the words.
Today I invite you to reflect on the question: Has Jesus’ seed fallen on your path and been trampled on by a day full of activities? Or has his seed fallen on rocky and hard ground that has not been softened by the rain of his love, and the seed has withered away? Or has Jesus’ seed fallen on good ground that was moist and receptive to the seed? Each day we have the opportunity to receive the seed Jesus gives us for that specific day. He doesn’t give us the same seed every day. He knows what we need for this day. However, we are the ones who need to be attentive, open and receptive to the seed. We can nurture it and help it grow and blossom. Or we can ignore it and then it will never grow, develop and produce fruit. It is our choice! What will we choose today?
Friday, September 18, 2015
24th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 8:1-3
Today Jesus once again is on the road. He had journeyed from one town and village to another, always proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The Twelve accompanied him on this journey as well as several women whom Jesus had cured of evil spirits or infirmities. The women were Mary, also called Magdalen, Joanna, Susanna, and many others. These women provided for Jesus and his disciples from their personal resources.
Today we are reminded that Jesus was an itinerant preacher. He depended on friends as well as the generosity of the people he met on his travels for the food and shelter he and his disciples required. Typically when I think of Jesus’ disciples, I think of the twelve apostles. Yet, the men and women who chose to follow Jesus were from all the classes of society: the rich, the poor, the educated, and the beggars.
Today, several of the women who were traveling with Jesus are named: Mary (Magdalene), Joanna and Susanna as well as many other women. Jesus had ministered to these three women by driving out evil spirits and healing their infirmities. In gratitude, the women traveled with Jesus and provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their personal resources. In a very concrete way, through their financial support, these women were a vital part of Jesus’ ministry.
As we all know: money is essential. Without sufficient resources, we are handicapped and not able to provide for our families, communities and the poor. These women truly gave Jesus a great gift. Their belief in Jesus as the Son of God came from the depths of their hearts. They were not only loyal to him, they became his disciples. They followed him around the countryside and provided for his needs and also for the disciples’ needs. These women also were disciples of Jesus, even though they are not named as disciples.
Anyone who chooses to follow Jesus is a disciple. Today we are the women and men who have chosen to follow Jesus. And today we are called to provide for the people in our lives who are in need. We may do this by making a donation, helping a neighbor by mowing the grass, working in a food pantry, or simply by lending a listening ear to an individual who needs some support. If we claim to be disciples of Jesus, will the people we encounter today recognize us as his followers?
Thursday, September 17, 2015
24th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 7:36-50
This Gospel begins with a Pharisee inviting Jesus to dinner. Jesus entered the Pharisee’s home and reclined at table. Then unexpectedly a woman appears behind Jesus. Luke writes: “She was a sinful woman.” The woman had heard that Jesus was in the city and when she found out that he was at the home of the Pharisee, she immediately went to the house and entered.
The woman had brought an alabaster flask of ointment. She stood behind Jesus at his feet, weeping. The woman began to bath Jesus’ feet with her tears. She then wiped his feet with her hair and anointed them with ointment. Simon, Jesus’ host, watched all of this. And as he was watching, he also was judging Jesus and judging the woman. Finally, Simon said to himself: “If this man truly is a prophet, surely he would recognize that the woman bathing his feet and touching him is a sinner.” And most likely Simon’s disapproval was written all over his face.
Jesus was well aware of what Simon was thinking. Jesus looked at Simon and gave him the familiar scenario of the two debtors who owed money to a creditor: one five hundred days’ wages and the other fifty days’ wages. Neither creditor was able to repay the debt. When the creditor realized that neither one had the money to repay him, he generously forgave their debt. Imagine the shock the debtors must have experienced at the creditor’s generosity. They must have been overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude.
Then Jesus asks Simon: “Which one of these men will love him more?” Naturally Simon answered: “The one who owed the most money.” I wonder if the Pharisee truly grasped the point Jesus was making? Did he even begin to comprehend what Jesus was saying to him? Or was he so entrenched in his own belief system that what Jesus said was ludicrous to him?
I wonder how we would react if this scene were reenacted in our lives? Would we also be shocked by Jesus’ actions? Would we comprehend the great gift Jesus gave to this woman? Would we criticize Jesus just as Simon did? Or would we be astonished by Jesus’ gentle loving and forgiving spirit, no matter how great the woman’s sin had been?
The good news for us is that when we are the sinner, Jesus will love and forgive us just as he lovingly forgave this woman. Do we believe and trust this reality? Let us come to him and be forgiven!
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
24th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 7:31-35
This Gospel begins as Jesus speaking to the crowds. He says to them: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?” Jesus then continues: “They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call out to one another: ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge for you, but you did not weep.’”
I wonder what Jesus would say about the people of our generation? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Do we see signs of Jesus’ presence and action in our lives? Most likely, the signs of his presence will not be miraculous or spectacular. However, that does not mean that Jesus is not present to us. Perhaps we need to attune ourselves to the small happenings in life, such as a beautiful sunrise, an unexpected call from a dear friend, or your spouse or child helps you with a chore. Or perhaps we are gifted with some unexpected time to simply “be.” If we choose to, we can see these happenings as simply a random occurrence. Or we can trust and believe that these happenings are a sign of Jesus’ presence with us.
Most typically Jesus comes to us in subtle and ordinary ways: through a sunrise, an unexpected phone call from a friend or perhaps simply some time to “be quiet.” The challenge is to always be awake and alert for Jesus’ coming. If I am not looking for him and expecting him, I may completely miss the fact that he was right beside me. Today keep your eyes, minds and hearts open. Jesus will appear! I hope you don’t miss him!
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Our Lady of Sorrows — John 19:33-35
Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Thus, it seems fitting that on this day we celebrate this Marian feast. The Gospel for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is the familiar scene of Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mary’s sister and Mary Magdalene standing at the foot of the cross. They were keeping vigil with Jesus as he was dying.
Clearly, Jesus was concerned for his mother and for her future. When Jesus saw his mother and the “disciple whom he loved,” he said to his mother: “Woman, behold your son.” Then Jesus looked at the disciple and said: “Behold your mother.” How typical of Jesus to be concerned with Mary. John took Jesus at his word. And from that time, he took Mary into his home.
Imagine the pain, turmoil and suffering Mary must have endured as she stood at the foot of the cross. Her child was being crucified with criminals. She was losing her only son! How could this be?
We all realize that life is not always easy. There are many gifts that we receive and experience each day. However, the time will come for all of us when we also will endure a significant and perhaps tragic loss. These times in our lives truly are times of sorrow and suffering. If our loss is not “age appropriate” or if it is tragic, we likely may be angry with God (and understandably so).
At these times, we can turn to Mary. Mary experienced many joys but also deep sorrow. Yet Mary continued to trust God’s presence with her and within her. Mary had been through so much in her lifetime. She had experienced great confusion and fear when the angel appeared to her. Despite her amazement and fear, she remained open to the message the angel delivered to her. Then she had to face Joseph with the news that she had become pregnant by the overshadowing of the Most High. She had to have been afraid that Joseph would cast her aside. Yet Joseph, being a good and upright man, stood firm in his commitment to Mary. Together, Mary and Joseph watched their beloved son grow and mature into adulthood.
At various points in her life, Mary must have been amazed, confounded and confused. Yet she continued to trust God and believe that God would grace her with the insight, courage and strength that she needed in each particular situation. Mary is the perfect model for all of us, whether we are male or female. Today I invite you to spend some time with Mary. It may be to reflect on today’s Gospel passage. Or perhaps you want to have a conversation with Mary. Or you may simply ask Mary to be your companion as you journey through life. Mary will not disappoint you!
Monday, September 14, 2015
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross — John 3:13-17
The Gospel for this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross begins as Jesus is talking with Nicodemus. Jesus tells Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man, and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up! Then everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Did Nicodemus understand what Jesus was saying? Or was he wondering what on earth Jesus was talking about? However, Jesus continued: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world so that the world might be saved through him.” What a wondrous gift God and Jesus have given us and continue to give us! The love God and Jesus have for us is beyond our comprehension. On this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I invite you to meditate on God’s love for you. Then also reflect on Jesus’ gift to humankind. He literally gave his life for us. However, do we truly appreciate his gift? Or do we simply take it for granted?
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Sunday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 8:27-35
On this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples set out to journey to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Perhaps he also was curious to know what people thought and said about him. The disciples replied: “Some say John the Baptist. Others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets.” Jesus then shifted the focus. He asked: “But who do you say that I am?” Naturally, it was Peter who answered his question. He simply said: “You are the Christ.”
Then Jesus began to teach his disciples. However, the words he spoke must have been shocking to the disciples. He told them that the Son of Man would suffer and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. He then would be killed. Yet he would rise after three days! Imagine what was going through the disciples’ minds and hearts as they listened to Jesus. They must have been shocked, dismayed and afraid. And what did Jesus mean when he said: “He would rise on the third day?”
Peter could not tolerate hearing all of this. He took Jesus aside and rebuked him for saying all these wild things. Jesus looked directly at his disciples and then he turned back to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking as God thinks but as human beings think!”
Jesus said to the disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny him/herself. Then take up their cross and follow me! If you strive to save your life, you will lose it. However, if you lose your life for my sake and for that of the Gospel, you will save your life.”
Today Jesus asks us: “Who do you say that I am?” Take a few moments and seriously ask yourself: Who do I say Jesus is? Who is he to me? Is he simply a man that lived over 2,000 years ago? Or is Jesus real to me? Ask yourself: How does Jesus and his teaching and example of self-sacrificing love, affect my daily choices and actions? Is the impact significant? Or is it minor?
Answering Jesus’ question may clarify for us who Jesus is for us today! Hopefully we will reiterate Peter’s response: “You are the Christ.”
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Saturday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:43-49
In this Gospel, Jesus is talking with his disciples about bearing fruit. He tells them: “Good trees do not bear rotten fruit. Neither does a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Jesus continues on, saying: “People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.”
Jesus then says to his disciples: “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ but do not do what I command?” He then tells his disciples (and us) what the individual is like who “listens to his words, and acts on his words.” Jesus then describes how the man or woman who listens to Jesus and then acts would do. He likens this person to an individual who is building a house.
Naturally, the first step is to create a solid foundation for the house. This would be done by digging deeply into the earth and then laying the foundation on solid rock. Then when floods come, the house would not be shaken because it had such a strong and solid foundation. On the other hand, if a house is built on sand or ground that was not solid, when the river flooded, the house would not be able to withstand the assault. The house would collapse and it would be destroyed.
Today’s Gospel is an invitation to us from Jesus. He invites us to closely examine our “inner house.” As we do so, we might ask: is my inner ‘foundation’ strong? Has there been any erosion of my inner foundation? Do I strive to keep my inner foundation solid and secure?
Today and every day: Be mindful! Be alert! Erosion typically begins in small and imperceptible ways. If we don’t regularly monitor our inner foundation, one day we may wake up and find ourselves with a terrible inner flood, or that we have been washed downstream!
Friday, September 11, 2015
Friday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:39-42
In this Gospel, Jesus uses a variety of images. He asks his disciples: “Can a blind person guide another blind person? Most likely they both will fall into a pit.” He then uses similar examples of disciples and their teachers. He talks about our human tendency to have splinters and wooden beams in our eyes. These objects keep us from “seeing” the whole picture. And Jesus wants his disciples to be fully aware of their natural tendency to automatically judge others.
The difficulty is that for most of us, our tendency to judge is automatic. Often, I judge someone and I may not be consciously aware that I am making a judgment. The gift is: if we choose to, we can work at freeing ourselves of judgment. Most likely we will not become 100% “judgment free.” However, if we choose to release a judgment, we release the person we were ready to judge and we also release ourselves.
Today I invite you (and me) to practice not judging others. Throughout the day, be alert and aware. If you realize that you are judging another person, consciously release your judgment. At the end of the day review your progress in letting go of judgment. Be patient with yourself. We have been judging others most likely since we came forth from the womb. It takes practice (and more practice) to refrain from judgment. However, as you progress in this effort notice: Are you more content? Was your day more peaceful? And who knows, perhaps the other person also may have been more peaceful and content!
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Thursday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:27-38
Jesus gives his disciples a challenge. He tells them: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you.” However, Jesus does not stop there. He continues: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer your other cheek to them as well. If a person takes your cloak, give him your tunic also.”
The ultimate call from Jesus is: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Today Jesus is calling us to examine ourselves and ask: Do I do unto others as I would like them to do unto me? I assume we likely have varying responses. “I try to live this way, however, there are some people who simply drive me crazy.” Or I might say: “I can do that with most people but there is one person who deeply wounded me, and I simply am unable to forgive that individual.”
Jesus then says: “If you love the people who love you, what credit is that for you? Even the pagans do this. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Quit condemning others and you will not be condemned!” Jesus then states: “Forgive and you will be forgiven. The measure you give will be the measure that is returned to you.”
These bluntly spoken words are difficult to hear. They may challenge us at the deepest level of our being. Most likely, each one of us has been wounded, betrayed or rejected at differing times in our lives. If this person was a friend, this wounding typically is amplified since we trusted this individual. However, each one of us also has wounded or betrayed individuals in our life. It is all part of our human condition.
When Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, he does not mean that this person should become one of my best friends. Jesus understands that forgiving is first a decision. However, it also is a process. The path to forgiveness may take a long time, and understandably so. However, we have to choose to take the first step. No one can force us to take this step; we are the only ones who can make this decision. And in reality, it may take a long time before we are ready and willing to begin the process of forgiveness.
Jesus doesn’t ask for miracles nor does he want “play” forgiveness. He continually invites us not only to free the individual who wounded us, but also to free ourselves from the pain, anger and hurt that binds us. Jesus is patient and yet persistent. He continually invites us and calls us to forgive. Perhaps today we can take one small step in this direction.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Wednesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:20-26
In this Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who are hungry. Blessed are you who are weeping. Blessed are you when people hate you, insult you and denounce your name as evil.” Now honestly ask yourself: do you consider yourself blessed when you experience poverty, hunger, or other trials? Do you feel blessed if someone hates or dislikes you?
I doubt that any of us feel blessed when we have pain, sorrow, loss and confusion in our lives. It is more likely we may feel cursed or betrayed. We may be sad, afraid or angry with God. Yet Jesus tells us to rejoice and to leap for joy on that day. He reassures us that we will have a great reward in heaven. However, this assurance most likely will not ease the pain, the sorrow or the suffering we may be experiencing.
Jesus then continues with the “woes.” He says: “Woe to the rich, you have received your consolation. Woe to you whose bellies are filled, you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now; you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when people speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the prophets in this way.”
It is easy to take our blessings for granted until the difficult times come and we begin to experience the woes of life. Now take a moment and ask yourself: Do you consider it a blessing when you are hungry for love, joy, hope, companionship, spiritual nourishment or (fill in the blank)? Or at these times do you feel abandoned by God or angry with Jesus? During painful and difficult times, it is almost natural to lose sight of the many ways we also are blessed. If we are struggling and in pain, our focus immediately shifts to the difficult or the frightening aspects of life.
Yet, even when we experience woes, we are blessed. We may have a spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, our Church community, a religious community, as well as other people who love and care for us. Hopefully, we have a roof over our heads and enough food on the table. And even during our times of woe, God is right beside us. However, we may not always feel God’s presence. And hopefully, during the woeful times, we have the family and friends who love and care for us.
When we are struggling with the woes, it may be helpful to sit down and focus on the blessings we are experiencing at this time. This may give us some perspective. We may realize that even though life may not be what we would like it to be, we receive many blessings every single day. True, they may seem like small blessings: a smile, a phone call from a friend, the beauty of the sunset or a hug from someone you love, but they still are blessings.
When you are in the woes of life, look for beauty, laughter, or quiet, or ask God for a hug! Who knows: you may be surprised what gift you may receive!
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast — Tuesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
This Gospel begins with the words: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” Matthew then details the story of Mary’s betrothal to Joseph and the appearance of the angel announcing to Mary that she would bear a child. However, her child would be not conceived with Joseph, Mary’s spouse. Mary truly was a woman of faith. Here she is listening to the angel that appeared to her and yet Mary accepted this bizarre announcement with seeming equanimity. Mary had to have had a deep faith. She also must have had a loving and trusting relationship with God long before the angel appeared to her and announced this good news.
Would we have such faith if an angel appeared to us and made such an astounding announcement to us? Or would we believe we were going crazy? How we respond likely would depend on the relationship we have with God or the lack of a relationship we have with God. Mary’s almost immediate assent to the angel’s pronouncement clearly speaks of the deep and trusting relationship she had with God. True, she asked the angel a question. Yet Mary did not hesitate to trust the angel’s announcement. And more importantly, she readily assented to God’s call and promise.
Mary is a model for us, no matter what our gender is. Mary was a woman of deep faith. She knew God and she trusted God. She was willing to place herself in a very awkward position when she responded to God’s call to bear God’s Son. She did not know how this would come about. Nor did she know what her future would be, but she did not hesitate in her response to the angel. She didn’t say to the angel: “I need to think about this and pray about this.” She simply said: “Let it be done to me.”
Each one of us also is called to bear Jesus Christ to our world every single day. Do we do believe that God can and will do amazing deeds through us? Do we trust that God walks with us each and every day, in good times and in difficult times?
Mary was chosen by God. However, we also have been chosen by God! Ask yourself: Do I truly believe this? Take some time today to sit quietly and several times say to yourself: “I am God’s chosen one.” Repeat that sentence several times and let this reality soak into your being!
Monday, September 7, 2015
Monday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:6-11
On the day of the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and he began to teach. There was a man in the synagogue whose right hand was withered and useless. As was their custom, the Pharisees and scribes were closely observing Jesus, hoping that he would heal on the Sabbath.
Jesus realized that the Pharisees were watching him, hoping that he would break one rule or another. Thus they would have cause to accuse him of breaking the Sabbath. However, Jesus was wily. He told the man with the withered hand to come to him. Jesus then rose and asked the bystanders: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, to save a life than rather destroy it?” No one responded to his question. They all remained silent. Jesus looked around at everyone in the crowd. Then quietly he said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” The man did so and his hand was completely restored!
The Pharisees were incensed at what Jesus had done. He had worked on the Sabbath. He had broken Jewish law. How dare he? The Pharisees were legalists and if the law said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath, in their minds, this meant no work should be done, even if it meant that you possibly lose your crop, your animals or your home. And clearly, the Pharisees considered healing as work. Thus, Jesus had broken the law.
Yet for Jesus, love was the supreme law. Love for the person outweighed any other consideration, even the law of not working on the Sabbath. Luke writes: “Jesus is looking at everyone, then he says to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” And his hand was completely restored.”
What is the condition that you would ask Jesus to heal? What is the restoration you long for? I assume that all of us have several conditions that we wish Jesus would heal. Today spend some time with Jesus. Look to him. Open your heart to his love and his healing energy! He will not fail you!
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Sunday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 5:31-37
Today Jesus travels to the Sea of Galilee and then to the district of Decapolis. When he arrived there, people brought to him a man who was deaf and who also had a speech impediment. They beseeched Jesus to lay his hand on the man. Jesus took the man away from the crowd, put his finger in the man’s ear, spit and touched the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and uttered the word: “Ephaphatha!-- that is, “be opened.” Instantly, the man’s ears were opened and his speech impediment no longer existed. He could speak plainly!
Jesus ordered everyone not to tell anyone about the man’s healing. However, the people did not do as Jesus instructed them. They told everyone they met that Jesus had healed the deaf man. They praised Jesus saying: “He does all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!” And word of this miracle spread throughout the town and the territory.
What is the impediment we long to be healed of? It may be a spiritual, psychological, physical or relational impediment. How does your impediment affect you, the people in your life and the quality of your life? Today beseech Jesus to begin healing your impediment. You may not receive a miracle, however, you may begin to notice a difference in your life in small and simple ways. Healing is a process. It happens gradually and over time. Be patient and yet persistent with Jesus. He will grace you!
Saturday, September 5, 2015
Saturday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 6:1-5
Imagine this: The disciples are walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath. As they talk together, they automatically pick some of the grain and begin to rub the shell off of it and eat the wheat. I doubt that they decided to do this but it was a natural thing for them to do. However, some of the Pharisees who were watching Jesus and his disciples accused them of breaking Jewish law. After all, the law clearly said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath.
Technically, it may be true that the disciples may have broken the law. However, they did not make a deliberate decision to pick and eat the grain. It simply was an automatic action. However, the Pharisees constantly were looking for reasons to criticize Jesus and his band of followers. This gave them the perfect opportunity to do so.
Jesus simply said to the Pharisees: “Do you remember when David and his companions went into the house of God, took the bread of offering and ate it? They were hungry and no food was available. Yet according to the law, this bread was only to be eaten by the priests.” Jesus’ next statement must have riled and perhaps confused the Pharisees. He simply said: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Law is essential in our world. If we did not have laws, anyone could do what they wanted to do and there would be no consequences for harming another person, stealing what does not belong to us or swindling people out of their life savings. Law serves a higher purpose. The purpose of the law is to ensure that our world is to protect the rights of the individual, states, countries and the world.
However, today the Pharisees are nit-picking. As always, they were watching Jesus for any possible infringement of Mosaic Law. When the Pharisees realized that Jesus’ disciples had plucked a few of the grains and automatically eaten them, they had the perfect opportunity to accuse Jesus and his disciples of breaking the law of Moses. And they immediately did so!
Jesus did not hesitate. He forcefully reminded them: “Have you not read that when David and his companions were hungry, they went into the house of God, took the bread of offering and ate it? Under the law, only the priests could eat the bread.” Jesus then said: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Do we begin nit-picking when it serves our purpose? I am sure that most of us do not like it when others scrutinize our behaviors, attitudes or actions. Yet, it is extremely easy to fall into this pattern. However, when we become aware that we are judging another, we can stop, breath and then release the judgment. Jesus is the judge and the jury, not us.
Today and every day, strive to practice non-judgment. We may find that our day flows more smoothly and that we may be happier and more relaxed!
Friday, September 4, 2015
Friday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 5:33-39
The scribes and Pharisees come to Jesus and say to him: “The disciples of John fast and offer frequent prayers, as do the Pharisees. However your disciples eat and drink.” Again the scribes and Pharisees were criticizing him. If you were in Jesus’ sandals, how would you respond? I am sure I would be a bit angry.
However, Jesus answers them: “Do the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” I wonder if the Pharisees were confused by Jesus’ question. Did they look at each other in confusion and wonder what in the world Jesus was talking about? Or did they realize that he was using this analogy of the bridegroom as a reference to himself?
Jesus then tells them: “No one patches an old cloak with a new piece of cloth.” Jesus knew that anyone with sense would realize that if a new piece of clothing was sewn onto an old, worn cloak, it would tear. Then Jesus uses another image: wine and wineskins. Everyone knew that if you put new wine into an old wineskin, the wineskin would burst. It simply did not have the elasticity of a new wineskin. If wine was being made, it needed to be put into a new and pliable wineskin.
Jesus is sending a message to the Scribes and Pharisees. He will not be following in their footsteps. Rather, Jesus is doing something new. The Scribes and Pharisees are controlled by the letter of the law. For Jesus, the law of love always reigns supreme. Jesus is creating waves that disturb and unsettle them. And the Pharisees do not like it. Perhaps they also are jealous of Jesus’ popularity with the people.
Ask yourself: are you a legalist? Do laws and rules reign supreme in your life? We definitely need laws and rules. These help make life more humane and structured (in a good way). Yet, love is the supreme law. Today I invite you to be mindful of what law reigns in your life. Will it be the law? Or will it be love? This is a decision only we can make. And it always is our decision!
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 5:1-11
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples. Jesus was proclaiming the word of God at the Lake of Gennesaret. As he was standing by the lake, he saw two boats on the shore. The fishermen had just come in from the lake. They were washing their nets and cleaning their boats.
Jesus went over to them and climbed into Simon’s boat. I wonder how Simon reacted to this man climbing into his boat without saying a word to him. In today’s world, it would be like a stranger getting into your car when you are stopped at an intersection. Jesus boldly asked Simon to row out a short distance from the shore. Simon did so. Then from the boat, Jesus began to teach the crowds.
When Jesus finished his teaching, he told Simon to put out into the deep water and then to lower his nets. I wonder what Simon’s inner reaction was when Jesus told him what to do? After all, Peter was a professional fisherman. He had been doing this for years. Simon’s response to Jesus implies that he was a bit aggravated. He skeptically tells him: “We fished all night long and caught nothing. However, I will do as you command.” And as we know, they caught such a great number of fish that their nets were unable to bear the weight of the catch and they began to tear. Simon and the other fishermen called out to the men in other boats to come and help them. They had caught so many fish that the fishermen were afraid that both the boats would sink.
All of the men were amazed at the size of the catch. They had never caught such an enormous number of fish at one time. Simon Peter was filled with awe and wonder. He fell at the knees of Jesus and said: “Jesus, depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus responded to him and said: “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men (and women).” The disciples were so astonished at this miracle that they left their families and homes to follow Jesus.
Most likely, we will not be fishing today (at least for fish). However, if we keep our eyes and hearts open, we may recognize the abundance of Jesus’ gift to us. It may be the love and care we experience from others. Or it may be that your day goes well and you experience satisfaction at all you were able to accomplish. For many human beings, it almost is a natural tendency to focus on what goes wrong in our day rather than what our blessings have been. True, something may go wrong but there may be many more instances of what has gone well. Be alert and be thankful!
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:38-44
Today we experience the healing power of Jesus. After leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon. When he arrived, Simon’s mother-in-law was very ill with a high fever. Her family was hoping that Jesus would pray with her, but ultimately they were hoping that Jesus would heal and fully restore her health. When Jesus arrived at the home, he went to the woman. He rebuked the fever and immediately the woman was fully restored. She got up from her bed and began to serve them.
At sunset, many people who were ill were brought to Jesus. They had a variety of diseases. Jesus laid his hands on each of them and they were cured. Demons came out from some of the people and they began to shout at Jesus: “You are the Son of God.” However, Jesus firmly rebuked them. He did not allow them to speak because they recognized that he was the Christ.
At daybreak, tired and weary, Jesus left town to find a deserted place. He needed some time to rest, pray and be alone. However, the crowd came looking for him and tried to prevent him from leaving. (Who wouldn’t want a healer close by?) However, Jesus firmly told them that he must go and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.
Jesus calls each of us to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. We are his disciples in our world and we are called to share his love and message with our world. I invite you to take ten minutes or so today and ask yourself: Do I proclaim the good news of the Kingdom in my small corner of the world? Or do I ignore Jesus’ call and depend on others to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom?
As Christians and disciples of Jesus, each one of us is his messenger. Today I invite you to share Jesus’ good news in small and simple ways. Most people typically don’t like being preached to. However, they may appreciate a subtle reminder of what we all are called to be and to do. Spread the good news today! You may find that you enjoy sharing good news with the people you encounter.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
This summer, we had a group form Illinois come for a week for a “Mission Trip.” As with many mission trips, there is always painting to be done… and sometimes the weather doesn’t always cooperate. They were supposed to paint railing and banisters around the grounds, but rain was all around.
Time passed and they felt like they never finished the project, so the weekend before school started, seven young ladies came back to finish the job.
That weekend when they had lots to do to get ready for school, they choose to “zag.” They came, painted, played, prayed, and, of course, ate with us here at the Monastery. When the world was zigging that weekend, they zagged!
—Sister Teresa Gunter, OSB
Learn more about how the Sisters of St. Benedict "zag" on our web site!
Tuesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:31-37
In today’s Gospel, Jesus travels to the town of Capernaum in Galilee. When he arrived there, he taught the people. His listeners were astounded at his teaching. As they listened to him, they realized that Jesus was different than any of the teachers they had heard before. Jesus spoke with great authority, authenticity and yet with humility.
There was a man in the synagogue that was possessed by an unclean demon. When the man heard the people talk about Jesus and the astounding deeds he had done, the man cried out to him: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus then rebuked the demon by saying: “Be quiet! Come out of this man!” The demon threw the man to the floor and then came out of his body. The man was not harmed.
All the people who witnessed this healing were amazed and astounded. They said to one another: “What is it about this man? Where did he get this authority? How does he have the power to exorcise unclean spirits?” And the news of Jesus and his power to heal and to drive out unclean spirits spread throughout the region.
Take a moment and ask yourself: What are the unclean spirits that possess you? How do these unclean spirits affect your life? Do you long to be free of these unclean spirits? Or have they become an integral part of your life? Have you asked Jesus to exorcise your unclean spirits?
If you desire to have these unclean spirits rebuked by Jesus, go to Jesus and beg him to rid you of the unclean spirit that is destroying your life. Every day come to Jesus and beg him to heal you. You may not get an immediate miracle. However, you may begin to notice a difference in your life, in your emotions and in your trust in Jesus. Jesus is with you! Open your heart and trust him!