Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reflection: Luke 14:1, 7-11

Saturday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time–Luke 14:1, 7-11
On the Sabbath, Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a prominent Pharisee.  There were other guests in attendance and they were intently observing Jesus.  When he arrived, Jesus had noticed how many of the guests had vied for places of honor at the table.  After a time, Jesus said to the guests: “When you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit in a place of honor at table.  It may happen that a guest deserving of a place of honor may arrive and need a seat of honor.  Thus, the host may approach you and ask you to give your place to the honored guest.  And you would experience the embarrassment of having to move down to a “lower” place.
Jesus tells his listeners that it is better to take a lower place at table.  Then the host may come to you and say: "My friend, move up higher.”  The other guests then may hold you in high esteem.  Jesus concludes with the statement: “For everyone who exalts himself/herself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself/herself will be exalted.
In today’s world, every day individuals vie for fame, fortune, power and status. The people who have achieved any of these “gifts” typically are held in high esteem.  However, Jesus completely reverses this idea.  He proposes that it always is best to choose a lower place rather than a higher place.  Thus, you will never be embarrassed by being asked to move  to a lower place.  And possibly you  may be invited to move up to a higher place. 
Status-seeking is rampant in our world.  Many people seek fame, power and recognition.  However, there also are many individuals who live their lives quietly and simply.  They are content with God, family, friends and a simple lifestyle.  Fame may look glamorous.  However, almost every day in the newspaper or on television we hear stories of how the famous and the glamorous have fallen or been defamed, often by their own choices.
Today Jesus encourages us to be content with what seemingly is “lowly and least.”  Often it is in the  small and seemingly insignificant gifts of everyday life where we may experience the greatest love, joy, peace and contentment.  Today be mindful and notice the many small gifts you receive.  Thank the giver and thank God! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reflection: Luke 14:1-6

Friday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time – Luke 14:1-6

Today Jesus is dining at the home of a leading Pharisee. As always, the Pharisees were carefully observing Jesus. In the crowd close to Jesus was a man who suffered from dropsy. Jesus noticed the man. Jesus addressed the scholars of the law and the Pharisees in the crowd and asked them: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” However, they did not respond. They all remained silent. Then Jesus healed the man.

Jesus then asks them: “If one of you has a child or an ox fall into a cistern on the Sabbath, would you not immediately pull your child or your ox out of the cistern even though it is the Sabbath?” However, the Pharisees remained silent. They were unwilling or afraid to answer Jesus’ question.
Jesus realized that his hosts were trying to catch him in the act of breaking Sabbath rituals. And when Jesus gave his defense, they said nothing. Their response was silence. They were so ensnared in their own legalism that they could not or would not comprehend the love and compassion of Jesus. For Jesus, “love” was the supreme law. For the Pharisees, the “letter of the law” reigned supreme. Jesus is not denying that the Sabbath is important. Rather he simply states that God's intention for the Sabbath was: “to do good and to heal.” Jesus always followed the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law.” The “spirit of the law of God” is love! Thus, if we always strive to be loving, we also will do good and perhaps, we also may heal by our loving actions!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reflection: Luke 13: 31-35

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time – Luke 13:31-35
In today’s Gospel, several Pharisees approached Jesus and warn him: “Go away!  Herod is plotting to kill you!”  Clearly, this particular group of Pharisees was concerned for Jesus and his safety.  I wonder if they were secret followers of Jesus?  However, Jesus replies to them: “Go to Herod and tell that fox: Behold, I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow.  And on the third day I will accomplish my purpose.”  Jesus then prophesies that He, the prophet, will die in Jerusalem.
Jesus says to them: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets.  Many times I have yearned to gather your children to myself, as a hen gathers her brood under her wing.  However, you were unwilling!”  Jesus then sternly prophesies: “Your house will be abandoned,  and you will not see me until you profess: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Clearly Jesus realized that the Pharisees were not on his side.  Perhaps the  Pharisees were hoping that Herod would rid them of Jesus.  Jesus not only was a thorn in their side, he also was a significant threat to their power and control of the people.  However, Jesus was dedicated to the path that was before him.  The Pharisees could not and would not deter Jesus from his mission.
Today Jesus is saying these loving words to us.  He also longs to gather us to himself, close to his heart.  However, we need to ask ourselves: Am I willing to allow Jesus to gather me to himself?  Or do I stay at a distance from Jesus?  The good news is that even if we keep our distance from Jesus, he still walks with us every day and every moment!  Is there any love?  What a wondrous gift is ours!  The question is: Will we reciprocate by loving Jesus and daily walking by his side?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Reflection: Luke 6:12-16

Saints Simon and Jude, Feast–Luke 6:12-16 
On this feast of St. Simon and Jude, the Gospel reading focuses on Jesus’ call of his disciples.   This reading begins with Jesus going up to the mountain to pray.  He spent the whole night in prayer.  Luke writes: “When morning came, he called his disciples to himself.”  Jesus then chose from them the Twelve whom he named apostles: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.
In Luke’s Gospel it is clear that there also were other disciples with Jesus.  I can’t help but wonder how the disciples who remain unnamed as disciples by Jesus reacted to this decision?  Were they angry?  Upset?  Disappointed?  Did they wonder if they were not holy or good enough to be chosen as one of the Twelve?
What about us?  If we are Christian, Jesus  has chosen us to be his disciples.  Each one of us has been called to proclaim the Gospel though our words and our deeds.  Today ask yourself: What is the message I proclaim by my words, my actions and my choices?  Am I proclaiming the message of Jesus?  Am I sharing his message of love in everything I do and with every person I meet?  Will these individuals recognize you and me as a follower of Jesus?  I pray they will!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reflection: Luke 13:18-21

Tuesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time – Luke 13:18-21
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue.  At one point he asked his listeners: “What is the Kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  Then Jesus describes the Kingdom of God by using different images. He tells the people: “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man planted in the garden.  When the seed was fully grown, it had many branches and the birds would come and dwell in its branches. 
Jesus then gives them another example to describe the Kingdom of God.  He tells the people: “The Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”   What was Jesus trying to say to his listeners
(and to us)?
Perhaps today Jesus is reminding us that we are called to be “leaven” in today’s world.  As Christians, we are called to share the love of Jesus with every person we meet.  The gift is there is a multitude of ways to be leaven in our world.  It may be by sharing a smile, offering to help someone with their grocery bags,  being a “listening ear” for a friend or family member who is struggling, or laughing with a friend who is struggling. 
Today Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst!  Today will we build up the Kingdom of God or will we ignore it?  The question is: will we be “leaven” in our corner of the world?  Only we can decide!  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Reflection: Luke 13:10-17

Monday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time–Luke 13:10-17
As Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, he noticed a woman who was there.  For eighteen years, this woman had been crippled by a spirit.  She was completely bent over and unable to stand erect.  Imagine: for eighteen long years, all this woman could see was the ground and the legs and feet of the people who passed her by.  Her world was horribly small and limited.  The little children must have been a gift to her.  At least, they were in her “sight range.
Luke writes: “When Jesus saw the woman he called to her and said: ‘Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.’”  Then he laid his hands on her and immediately she stood up straight.  The woman began praising and glorifying God for the wondrous gift Jesus had given her.
However, the leader of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath.  The leader said to the people: “There are six days when work can be done.  Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”  Jesus angrily replied: “Hypocrites!  Do you not untie your ox or ass on the Sabbath and water it?  Yet this woman has been bound for eighteen years!  Ought she not be freed from this bondage simply because it is the Sabbath?  Luke then writes: All of his adversaries were humiliated.  And the whole crowd rejoiced at the splendid deeds done by Jesus.
What has “crippled” your spirit?  Is it an illness?  A family situation or stress at work?  Is it  financial stress?  Today bring your “life challenge” to Jesus.  Stand before him.  Trust him to heal you just as he healed this woman.  It may not be an immediate healing but slowly and surely he will heal your spirit and your life!  He will not fail you!  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reflection: Mark 10:46-52

Sunday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time – Mark 10:46-52

On this 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man.  As Jesus was leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus was sitting on the roadside begging for alms.  When Bartimaeus realized that Jesus was passing by, he cried out to him: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  The people around Bartimaeus tried to silence him.  However, Bartimaeus was determined to get Jesus’ attention.  He continued to cry out: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
When Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ plea, he stopped and said to his disciples: “Call him.”  The disciples called to Bartimaeus: “Take courage and get up!  Jesus is calling you!”  Immediately, Bartimaeus jumped up, threw his cloak aside and went to Jesus.  Jesus quietly  asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?”  Bartimaeus replied: “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus then said to him: “Go on your way; your faith has saved you.”  And in that instant, Bartimaeus received his sight and he followed Jesus on the way.
Ask yourself:  What is the “sight” that you wish to ask Jesus for today?  What is it that you need to see?  Then be attentive throughout the day.  Jesus may give you your “sight” in an unexpected or unusual way.  Be attentive to each person you encounter.  Truly look at each person.  They may appreciate a few minutes of your time and attention.  Or perhaps they simply need some recognition that you have “seen” them.
And today give thanks for the people who notice and “see” you.  They have given you a great gift.  In return, share this small but loving gift with others! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Reflection: Luke 13:1-9

Saturday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time – Luke 13:1-9
In today’s Gospel, several people come to Jesus and tell him about  the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.  Jesus asks his listeners: “Do you think these Galileans suffered because they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?  By no means is this so!”  Jesus then tells his listeners: “If you do not repent, you also will perish just as they did.”  Jesus then gives them the example of the people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them.  He asks his listeners: “Do you believe that they were more guilty than all the other people in Jerusalem?
Jesus then tells his listeners the parable of the fig tree that a man planted in his orchard.  When the man came to pick the fruit, there was none to be found.  The tree had not born any fruit. The owner said to the gardener, “For three years I have waited patiently for this tree to bear fruit.  However, it has not produced any fruit at all.  The owner then instructed the gardener to cut down the tree.  However, the gardener politely protested.  He said to the owner: “Sir, leave it for one more growing season.  I will work the ground and fertilize the tree.  Then if it does not bear fruit, I will cut it down. 
Today may be a good opportunity to ask ourselves: How am I bearing fruit?    Am I producing tasty fruit?  Or is my fruit small and somewhat tasteless?  Am I producing an abundant crop or a meager crop?  And what are the fruits that I  share with the people in my life and with the world? 
We may consider our fruits small or insignificant.  However, often a simple act of kindness may be a loving gift to the individual who receives your kindness.  Today, trust that you will bear fruit.  And be thankful for the “fruits” other people share with you!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:54-59

Friday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time - Luke 12:54-59
Today Jesus says: “When you seen a cloud rising in the west, you know that it is likely that rain soon will fall.”  At a young age, we all learn to be attentive and alert to the weather.  One of the first things I do in the morning when I get up is to look out the window to see what the weather is.  Then as I get dressed, I listen to the radio for the weather forecast.  The forecast tells me how to dress appropriately for the day. 
However, Jesus is upset and frustrated with the crowds who have gathered to listen to him preach.  He is angry that they do not know how to interpret the present time.  Are the people blind, deaf or dumb?  Jesus expresses his anger and frustration when he asks them:  “Why do you not judge for yourself what is right?”
Jesus then uses the example of taking your opponent to a magistrate for a fair judgment.  It would be wise to try and settle the matter before you get to the judge.  If you end up before the judge, it is likely that your accuser will turn you over to the judge.  Then the judge may send you to the constable.  And it is possible that you may be thrown into prison until you can pay your accuser all the money you owe him.
Jesus simply wants us to be attentive to the many signs in our lives.  Some of the signs we receive are from God.  Other signs or clues may come from the people in our lives, be they family, friends or strangers.  Then there are the signs we can glean from all the turmoil and pain in our lives and in our world.  Though many of these signs are violent, painful and tragic, there also is great beauty, love and self-giving in the midst of all the pain and tragedy. 
Ask yourself: how do you interpret our present time?  Do you ignore it?  Or do you strive to make sense of it?  Do you pray for the many people in our world who every day struggle in the midst of violence, terrorism, starvation or poverty?  Or are we tempted to ignore the pain and suffering in our world as we go about our day?  Today may we be mindful of  the multitudes of people in our world who are in dire need of love, care and prayer.  If we are not mindful and caring of them, we may be judged for not acting in a right and loving manner!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:49-53

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time - Luke 12:49-53

Today’s Gospel is a bit sobering.  In his opening words, Jesus tells the disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”  He continues talking about the baptism with which he would be baptized and the anguish he would experience in this process.  He also warns his disciples that he has not come to establish peace on earth but rather division.  He says that a household of five people will be divided.  Father and son will be divided against each other as will a mother and daughter, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law.  What difficult words these must have been for the disciples to hear.  Were they confused?  Or were they simply frightened by Jesus’ words?
Then Jesus asks his disciples a question: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  He then talks about households being divided and family members turning on each other.  What is the message Jesus is trying to convey to the disciples (and to us)?  Is he trying to open our minds and hearts to the reality of our world and the reality of our human condition?
In today’s world, every morning we see and hear multiple stories of division and violence: in families, cities and countries.  Perhaps the most frightening stories are the acts of violence and destruction that take place in our own country: our cities, our neighborhoods and perhaps  within our own families.
What is the message Jesus is trying to convey to us?  Is he trying to frighten us?  Or is he simply hoping to awaken us?  Is Jesus trying to motivate us to live peacefully, lovingly, cooperatively and respectfully with each and every person on earth?  Even the individuals we may not like or agree with? 
Now, take a moment and imagine a world where every single person was respected and honored simply because they are a human being whom God created in love.  You are one of those individuals and so am I. Every individual on earth was created from God’s loving heart.  And yet, we “war” upon one another with our words, our actions, and violence. 
Today I invite you to think of an individual you struggle with.  It may be someone who has hurt you or angered you.  Or it may be a person you simply don’t like or one who grates on you.  Now, quiet yourself and image that person in your mind for a moment or two.  Then surround that person with acceptance, peace and joy.  Stay with this image or thought for 2 or 3 minutes.
You have given this individual a loving gift today.  True, they may not consciously recognize what you have done.  However, their “spirit” will know that someone has gifted and graced them today!  And be alert and attentive!  Perhaps you will receive a similar gift!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:39-48


Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 12:39-48

Today Jesus tells his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the hour had known when the thief would come, he would have not let his house be broken into.”  Jesus then instructs his disciples always to be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.  He will come at an unexpected time!  There will not be an announcement of his arrival.  He simply will appear when he wishes. 
The question is: Will we be ready when the Son of Man comes to us?  Jesus comes to us in many ways every day.  He is at our side when we are struggling or in pain (be that physical or emotional pain).  He also is with us when life is good and peaceful.  He is present to us as we go about our humdrum day.  However, we have to be awake and alert to His presence.  If we are not looking for his presence we may miss His quiet, peaceful and loving presence.   
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: Do you strive to be awake and alert to the myriad ways Jesus may appear to you today?  It may be during your prayer time.  Perhaps you experience his presence when you receive a phone call from a friend you have not heard from recently.  Or it may be when you are enjoying time with your family.  Most likely, Jesus will appear to us in quiet and subtle ways.  Strive to be awake and alert today.  Jesus will come to us.  The question is: will we be awake enough to notice his presence?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:35-38

Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 12:35-38

This Gospel begins as Jesus says to the disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding.  Be ready to open the gate when he comes and knocks.”  Jesus then adds: “Blessed are the servants whom the master finds waiting for him on his arrival.”  Take a moment and ask yourself: Are my loins girt?  Is my lamp lit?  Am I waiting for my master’s arrival today?
Today Jesus will come to you (and to me)!  The question for us is: will we patiently wait for Him?  Will we be watchful and awake to his coming?  Or will we become drowsy, lethargic and fall asleep?  If we are alert and awake, Jesus not only will come to us, He will serve us at table.  And we will receive the great gift of his presence and love! 
Today, be alert!  Gird your loins!  Light the lamp of your heart!  Await his coming!  Jesus will not disappoint you!  You will receive the gift and pleasure of his company!  What more could we ask for?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:13-21

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 12:13-21

Today’s Gospel begins with an individual in the crowd asking Jesus:  “Teacher, tell my brother (or sister) to share his/her inheritance with me.”  Jesus responds to this person’s statement by saying: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge or arbitrator?”  Then he adds: “Take care to guard against all greed.  For though a person may be rich, one’s life cannot be measured by the number of possessions the person has accumulated.
In today’s world, we hear or see numerous ads every day on television, radio, the internet and bulletin boards.  We are bombarded with messages enticing us to buy clothing, electronics, a new car or a new computer.  Count the number of commercials on TV or radio today.  The sad thing is: many of us have come to believe that “more” is better or the newest computer or car is essential for the good life.
Today Jesus tells the crowd the story of the rich man.  This rich man had a great deal of land and it typically produced a bountiful harvest.  This year’s crop was such a good yield that the man did not have a barn large enough to store his crop.  After giving it some thought, the man decided to tear down his barns (notice the plural) and build larger barns.  This would give him room for the grain and he also could store some of his numerous possessions.  Stockpiling this wealth would ensure that he would be able to “eat, drink and be merry” for many years.
Sounds like the good life, doesn’t it?  The reality is that many people work very hard to ensure that they will have a good life.  However, God says to this man: “You fool!  This night your very life will be demanded of you!  And everything you have worked so hard to accumulate will belong to others.”  Jesus then adds: “Thus will it be for the person who stores up earthly treasures for him/herself but who is not rich in what matters to God.
In today’s world, we are enticed on every front to accumulate wealth, possessions and status.  Yet today Jesus reminds us that when we die our wealth, our possessions and status will not matter.  The only criterion we will be judged on is whether we have worked to accumulate the riches only God can give.  Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: Who and what is most important in my life?  Is it money, status, possessions, esteem?  Or is it the people that I love or the many individuals who are in need?  Do I strive to make a difference in our world by my love, care and generosity?  Do I freely share the many gifts that God has given me?
Today and every day we are paving our road to heaven.  What is the path we will pave today by our choices?   Will Jesus approve of this path?  I pray so!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reflection: Mark 10:35-45

Sunday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time: Mark 10:35-45

This Gospel reading opens as James and John come to Jesus and say: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  What bold words!  Did James and John actually believe that Jesus would simply obey their command?  However, Jesus does not seem to be ruffled or upset.  Rather he simply asks them: “What do you want me to do for you?”  They responded: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”  Jesus warns them: “You do not know what you are asking!” 
Jesus then asks them: “Can you truly drink the cup that I drink?  Are you willing to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  James and John blithely respond with the words: “We can!”  Jesus then says to them: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and the baptism with which I was baptized, you also will be baptized.  However, your request to sit at my right and left hand is not mine to give.  Rather it will be given to those for whom it has been prepared.” 
Remember: this conversation takes place in the presence of the other disciples.  Now put yourself in the place of the other 10 disciples.  What are the emotions you think they may have experienced as these two men boldly make their request to Jesus?  After all, each one of the disciples had left their families, homes and work to follow Jesus.  Did James and John truly think they were better than the other disciples?   Or were they simply trying to gain a higher position and also have more influence with Jesus? 
The desire for power and status is an inherent longing in most human beings.  Each one of us needs to know that we do have a certain amount of power and status.  Power gives us some control in our lives.  We also have a natural desire for the people in our lives to love us, care for us and admire us.  However, we get in trouble when our desire for power, love or status begins to control us.  This is why Jesus sternly warns his disciples.  Jesus desires that we serve others rather than to be served.  He wants us to use our energy to serve those in need, rather than striving for first place, for acclaim or for power. 
Every day in our world numerous people jockey for power, esteem and position.  This need is so inherent in us human beings that often we do not recognize the subtle ways we strive for power, esteem or position.  I wonder if our need to serve others is as natural to us as our need and desire for recognition and power.   Today take a few moments and ask yourself: How strong is my need for power and acclaim?  How deep is my need to serve others?  Which need comes first in my life?
Jesus’ primary desire is that we quietly and simply love and serve the individuals in our lives as he did.  If we do this well, we will receive the acclaim we desire from Jesus.  Can we be satisfied with this?  I pray we can! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:8-12

Saturday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 12:8-12

In this Gospel reading, Jesus warns his disciples.  He tells them that every person who acknowledges Jesus before others will be acknowledged by him before the angels of God.  Jesus then states that anyone who denies him before others will be denied before the angels of God.  These are very strong words!
I doubt that most of us deny Jesus by our words.  However, we more likely may deny Jesus by our actions and our inaction.  Jesus not only desires that we practice what we preach.  He hopes that we truly practice what we profess to believe.   Today I invite you to take 10-15 minutes and ask yourself: Do I practice what I preach?  Do I truly live out of the values I profess?  Where are my weak spots?  In what areas of my life do I want to strengthen my authenticity? 
Take one small step each day to become more authentic and strive to practice what you preach.  Who is the person you yearn to be?  Today be the person you desire to become.  Who knows?  It may become a pattern in your life.  Turn to Jesus and he will help you to become all you long to be.  Jesus will not fail you!  However, patience and commitment is required!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Reflection: Luke 12:1-7

Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 12:1-7

Today Jesus warns his disciples: “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.”  The Pharisees were extremely religious and they lived out the letter of the law.  However, the “spirit of the law” and the “law of love” was not always part of their “lived” belief system.  Jesus understood this when he realized that they were plotting to destroy him.  Thus he became even more wary of the Pharisees. 
Jesus then warns his disciples about fear.  He tells them not to fear the individuals who may have the power to “kill” them (and us).  Rather we should be mindful of the people in our lives who strive to kill our souls and separate us from Him.  Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: who are the “Pharisees” in my life?  Who and what separates me from Jesus?  Is it another person or an addiction?  Or is it my need to always look good in other people’s eyes?  We also need to examine ourselves: How am I a “Pharisee” to the people in my life? 
As we know, the Pharisees were legalists. To these important men, the letter of the law always took precedence over anything else.  Today ask yourself: what “law” takes precedence in your life?  Is it the law of love?  Or is it the letter of the law?  Jesus does not want us to ignore the law.  However, law has a hierarchy.  As we know, the consequences for getting a speeding ticket is not nearly as serious an offense as stealing money, injuring someone or discrediting another person. 
Today Jesus is inviting us to examine ourselves.  Today may we ask ourselves: How am I a Pharisee?  Do my words and actions flow from love and care for others?  Or do I simply want to look good in the eyes of others?  The reality is: we all have a Pharisee within us.  However, we also have a generous and loving person within us.  Be mindful today!  Which person will you choose to be today?  Only you can decide!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:47-54

Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:47-54

Today Jesus continues his tongue lashing of the Jews.  He says: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed!  By doing this, you bear witness and give consent to these deeds of your ancestors.  Your ancestors did the killing but you do the building!”  Jesus continues berating them throughout today’s Gospel reading.  And Jesus tells it as he sees it.  
Jesus primarily is outraged by the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law.  In the time of Jesus, the law placed extremely heavy burdens on the people.  The Pharisees had no compassion or concern for the people who were carrying these burdens.  Now, put yourself into the shoes of the Pharisees.  How would you react to such a tongue-lashing? Most likely, we would not like it and we might not tolerate it.  We might even want to retaliate!
Jesus was concerned for the people: the ones who daily carried these heavy burdens of laws and requirements.  The Pharisees were concerned only for the “letter of the law” and for the money they might make through the law.  Jesus was appalled at all the Pharisees expected from the people.  Naturally, the Pharisees took great offense at Jesus’ words and condemnation.  After this embarrassing encounter with Jesus, the Pharisees began to plot against Jesus.  They had had enough of him.  Also, Jesus had a great deal of influence with the people.
Law is important and necessary.  However, the law is developed to protect and help people, not to enslave them.  How do you view the law, be that the law of God or the law of the land?  Are you a literalist in regard to the law?  Or do you take into consideration the people and the situation?  
Jesus wants us to judge rightly.  This requires that we pause and seriously consider each situation.  The danger may be that we do not understand the nuances of the situation.  We only may see the surface of what is happening.  And if we are not involved personally, it may be best just to “let it be” and allow the individuals involved to work it out with one another.  However, there will be exceptions to this, especially if someone is in danger physically or emotionally. 
Jesus primarily desires that we pause and take a breath before we automatically judge another person.  And who knows, if we do this, a person who is ready to judge us also might take a breath and let their judgment go.  Our gift may be returned to us!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:42-46

Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:42-46

This Gospel opens with attention-getting words.  Jesus scathingly says to the Pharisees: “Woe to you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue but you pay no attention to judgment and love for God!”  What strong words!  And to make it worse, Jesus says this to the Pharisees in a public forum. 
Jesus then accuses the Pharisees of enjoying “seats of honor in the synagogues and deferential greetings in the marketplace.”  He likens the Pharisees to unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.   Finally, one of the scholars spoke up and said: “Teacher, you are insulting us.”  However, this does not stop Jesus.  He continues: “Woe to you scholars of the law.  You impose heavy burdens on the people that are difficult and painful.  Yet you do not lift a finger to touch them!”
Now take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of the Pharisees.  How would you react to such a public and scathing tongue lashing?  Jesus does not mince any words.  The reality is: we all have “a Pharisee” within us.  It naturally comes with our human condition.  The challenge for us is to recognize when our internal Pharisee is activated.  When we become aware that we are judging another, we then have the opportunity and choice to release our judgment.  If we can do this, we not only “release” the person we were prepared to judge, we also release ourselves.  And most likely, we may find that by not judging others, we are happier, more peaceful and more content.  Judgment will “poison” us if we do it frequently.  The choice is ours to make.  What will you (and I) choose today?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:37-41

Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:37-41

This Gospel reading begins with a Pharisee inviting Jesus to his home to share a meal.  When Jesus arrived at the man’s house, he reclined at the table to eat.  Now the Pharisee was watching Jesus closely.  He was amazed that Jesus did not observe the customary washing before a meal.  Jesus was well aware of the Pharisee’s thoughts.  Then Jesus said to the man: “O you Pharisees!  You cleanse the outside of cups and dishes but inside you are filled with evil and greed!”  Imagine the Pharisees response to Jesus’ criticism!  I wonder if the Pharisee was angry with Jesus.  Or did the Pharisee realize that Jesus had seen through him?  Or was he perhaps a bit ashamed that Jesus read him so clearly? 
Now: imagine how you would react if someone accused you in this manner.  How do you think you would react to the accusation?  Most all human beings naturally want to look good to the people around them.  Thus, we typically strive to hide our weaknesses and failures from the people around us.  I doubt that any one of us enjoys looking fragile, upset or needy.  Yet our human reality is that we all have parts of us we try to hide or ignore.  However, Jesus wants us to be clean and transparent.  He tells the Pharisees (and us) that if we give what we have as alms, “Behold, everything will be clean for you.
“Alms” most likely is not a word that most of us use frequently.  Alms often is defined as money or food given to help the poor.  I assume that all of us give “alms” in various ways.  It may be money, food, housing, or perhaps we help build a Habitat House.  There are many ways to “give alms” that do not require money.  However, at times it may be easier for us to give money rather than to give of our time to an individual in need. 
Today be mindful of the people in your life who may need alms.  It may be monetary.  However, it also might be an individual who needs companionship, help with a project or a ride to the grocery store.  Also be aware of the individuals who today share their alms with you.  They are giving you (and me) a great gift!  Alms are a great gift to give and to receive.  Pray for the individuals who gift you with alms today!  And pray for the people with whom you share your alms!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:29-32

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:29-32

Today Jesus picks up from where he left off in yesterday’s Gospel.  Today Jesus bluntly tells his listeners: “This generation is an evil generation!  The people seek a sign, yet no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah.”  Jesus then likens himself to Jonah.  He says that just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, he, Jesus, is the sign for this generation.
I suspect that we human beings at times also ask Jesus or God for a sign.  Perhaps we hope Jesus will affirm a decision we are making.  Or we simply would like to receive a sign that Jesus is present with us.  Personally, I always want my sign to be clear and evident!  Yet Jesus tells his listeners that, he, Jesus, will be the sign to the present generation just as Jonas was the sign for the Ninevites.  Is Jesus enough of a sign for us?  Or do we desire something more visible or tangible?  Or will we trust that Jesus is present to us now and every moment of our lives?   Today and always may we believe that Jesus is the sign given to us by God!  And may we trust that Jesus is with us every moment of the day! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reflection: Mark 10:17-30

Sunday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time: Mark 10:17-30

In this Gospel, we hear the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Instead of answering the man’s question, Jesus asks him: “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.”  Jesus then names several of the commandments.   After Jesus had finished speaking, the young man told Jesus: “I have observed these commandments since I was young.”  Mark writes: “Jesus, looking at the man, loved him.”  Jesus then said to the man: “You are lacking one thing.  Go, sell all you have and give the money to the poor.  Then, come and follow me.”  When the young man realized what Jesus was asking of him, Mark writes: “At Jesus’ statement, the man’s face fell, and he went away sad for he had many possessions.
Now ask yourself: How would you (and I) respond if Jesus looked at us and asked us to sell everything we have, give our money to the poor and then leave home and follow him?  Would we truly be willing to “give our all?”  Or would we respond as the rich young man did?  Would we also walk away from Jesus, sad and troubled?  Possessions and wealth have a dangerous potential to possess us if we are not careful and mindful.  Every ad we hear on TV and the radio encourages us to buy, buy, buy!  For many people in the first world countries the slogan “more is better” is lived out every day! 
Yet Jesus clearly understands that our “need” for more possessions or upgraded possessions may begin to “possess” us!  If you ever go to a mall the day after Christmas, you see people buying items that are a great bargain.  However, do they truly need those bargains?  Or do they buy the item simply because it is a bargain?  I confess that at times, I am one of those shoppers.  However on these occasions do we buy only what we truly need? 
If we are not mindful, our possessions may begin to “possess” us.  Today Jesus warns his disciples (us) to be mindful and aware!  Jesus wants us to be completely free to follow him.  The question is: are we willing to give up all we have and follow Jesus?  What is your (and my) answer? 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:15-26

Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:15—26

This Gospel begins with Jesus once again “driving out a demon.”  Some of the individuals who witnessed Jesus’ power to drive out demons were critical and suspicious of him.  They accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub.  There also were other unbelievers in the crowd who wanted to test Jesus.  So they asked him to give them a sign from heaven.  However, Jesus knew their thoughts and their motivation.  He realized that they were testing him. 
Most likely Jesus reply was not the answer they expected or hoped for.  Jesus tells them: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.  And house will fall upon house.”  Then he asks: “If Satan is divided against himself, will his kingdom stand?”  Jesus continued, saying: “Some of your members also drive out demons!  From whom do they get their power?”  Jesus’ questioners did not answer him.
Ask yourself: what are your demons?  We all have them.  No one is exempt.  When we read the daily newspaper we may read stories of individuals who were driven by demons.  Perhaps they broke into a house and stole several items.  Or perhaps it is the story of a child, woman or man being abused.  Or the headline of the evening news may be on the never-ending fighting in the Middle East. 
Our human reality is: we all have our own personal demons.  Ask yourself: what are my demons? Can you name them without pausing?  Or do you have to sit and think about it?  No human being is exempt from demons, not even the saints.  However, the saints testify to us that with God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our lives, with the grace they gift us with, we can control our demons.  And hopefully over time with God’s grace, we may be able to “dis-empower” our demons.  Most likely they will not completely disappear from our lives.  However, we will be better able to recognize them and control them, rather than our demons controlling us.
And with our more powerful demons, only the grace of God or Jesus’ grace will do.  Today be attentive to your demons.  Take your demons to Jesus!  He will drive them out!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:5-13

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11: 5-13
Today Jesus once again is criticized by the crowd for driving the demon out of a man who was possessed.  Some of the people said: “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons.”  Others tried to test Jesus in a variety of ways.  However, Jesus could read their thoughts and hearts.  Finally Jesus says to them: “Every kingdom, city and house divided against itself will be laid waste and eventually will fall.
Sad to say, Jesus also is warning us about Beelzebub.  Typically Beelzebub appears to us in a friendly and disarming manner.  For children, Beelzebub may appear in the guise of a playmate who invites them to steal a candy bar or to throw rocks at a neighbor’s window.  Or perhaps it may be a friend who encourages us to taunt a playmate who is shy or backward.  For adults, it might be a co-worker who encourages us to criticize the boss.  Or it may be a neighbor who seems to aggravate us just for the pleasure of it.  The reality is that we typically have more than one “Beelzebub” in our lives.  Thus, we have to be consistently alert to how these “Beelzebubs” strive to divide us.
Can you remember a time in your life when you experienced being divided?  It may have been a personal struggle.  Or perhaps you were caught between two friends who were “at war” with each other.  Or your parents were concerned about the friends you were running around with.  Yet, they were your friends!  Or at work, you were asked to do something that seemed shady or dishonest.  As you remember, what was that experience like for you?  Most likely, it was not a peaceful or easy time for you.
Today most people do not talk about “demons.”  However, the “tempters” are all around us.  Their temptations often seem minor or insignificant.  Yet if we give into these small and seemingly insignificant temptations, our life may evolve in a way that is not healthy for us, our families or our communities.  The reality is: we do need to be vigilant.  Most every day we receive an invitation to stray from the path we have chosen.  The invitation may come through the internet, a TV show or another person.  Be especially alert to your personal demons.  They can “get us” before we realize it! 
Today Jesus reminds us: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; know and the door will be opened to you.”  Jesus is always with us.  And Jesus will grace us and lead us.  True, we may have Beelzebub/s in our lives.  However, we are never alone!  Jesus will grace us and gift us with the insight and strength we need!  What more can we ask?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reflection: Luke 11:1-4

October 7th: Wednesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 11:1-4

In this reading from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus presents a scenario to his disciples.  Suppose you have an unexpected guest who shows up in the middle of the night.  Now this friend has traveled quite a distance and is hungry.  However, you don’t have any food in the house.  It’s late and all the markets are closed.  Thus, the only option available was to go next-door and ask a neighbor for some food . 
However, in this scenario when the man goes to his neighbor’s house and says: “I need some bread,” this neighbor tells him to leave him alone!  After all, it was the middle of the night and everyone was in bed asleep.  However, the man persisted.  He did not leave but rather continued to ask!  Finally the neighbor opens the door and gives the man some bread.  He did this not because he wanted to but rather he simply wanted to silence this neighbor so he could get some sleep.  And so it was!  The neighbor was grateful for the food and the man finally went back to bed.  As we know, if the man had not been persistent in his request for food, he and his guest would have gone to bed hungry.
Jesus encourages us to be persistent as well as patient.  He tells us that if we ask, we will receive.  And if we knock, eventually the door will be opened.  And if we are steadfast in our seeking, we will find.  The question for us may be: Will we patiently wait?  Do we truly trust that Jesus will open the door to us?  Do we believe that Jesus will satisfy our hunger?  Only we can answer those questions.  Do we trust that Jesus will gift and grace us with what we truly need?  I pray we do!  He will not fail us!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reflection: Luke 10:38-42

Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 10:38-42

Today we have the familiar story of Martha and Mary.  As we know Martha was the workaholic and Mary was the contemplative.  When Jesus came to the town where Mary and Martha lived, he went to their home.  Martha welcomed him and then immediately went to the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal for him.  Most likely Jesus had not had a home-cooked meal in quite a while.
Mary, however, sat down at Jesus’ feet.  She talked with him and listened attentively to him.  Over time, Martha began to get angry.  She was doing all the work!  In Martha’s mind, the least Mary could do was ask her if she needed some help.  However, Mary did not do so.  Martha was upset and angry.  Here she was slaving away at the stove while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. 
Finally Martha’s anger escalated to the point where she had to express it.  She says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that Mary has left me to do all the work?  Tell her to help me!”  However, Jesus does not respond to Martha as she anticipated.  Jesus gently scolded Martha for being so anxious and worried.  He then tells Martha: “There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” 
Now put yourself in Martha’s shoes.  How do you think you would respond to this seeming reprimand?  Would you react as Martha did (at least initially)?  Or would you pause and reflect on Jesus’ statement and your reaction to his statement?  Or would you think to yourself: am I jealous of Mary’s relationship with Jesus?  Or are my priorities out of order?’ 
Today Jesus is asking each of us: What takes priority in my life?  One way to answer this question might be to ask ourselves: How do I use my time?  Do I fritter it away?  Do I work 12 hours a day?  Do I spend quality time with the people I care about?  Do I make time for prayer?  Do I spend time with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? 
No one else needs to know the answers to these questions.  However, your answers to these questions may give you some insight into your life.  In our busy and distracting world, it is very easy to get “off-track.”  Today Jesus is inviting us to come away and spend time with him.  What a wonderful invitation!  Will we accept this invitation?  Or will we ignore this invitation?