Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflection: John 1: 1-18

Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas – John 1:1-18

“In the beginning was the Word." We know this Gospel well; these six words are the opening words in John’s Gospel. There is great power in these words, simple as they are. These few words tell us that Christ existed before all else came to be.
John then speaks about John the Baptist who was sent to testify to the Light.  Light is a wondrous gift – a gift we may take for granted. Here in the Midwest, winters typically do not have much light or sunshine!  Yes, in the winter we do have light but many days are gray and cloudy. The sun can seem to disappear for days at a time.
Ask yourself: what difference does light make in your life?  It may be light generated by the sun or light generated by a lamp or light fixture.  What would life be like without any light? 

Light and sunlight make all the difference in the world!  On sunny days, it is much easier for me to be optimistic and happy.  However, when the weather is gray and gloomy for several days, I struggle to be optimistic. The clouds seem to weigh me down.
The good news is we have Jesus the Light with us each moment of every day!  Sad to say, I am not always “in tune” with this reality.  Yet, it is true: Jesus the Light is with us – always!  However, we need to be awake, alert, and watchful.  Otherwise, we will miss him.  Jesus is with us always.  However, we may need to look for Him and expect Him!  Today and every day may we open our eyes, minds, and hearts and expect to see Jesus!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflection: Luke 2:36-40

Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas: Luke 2:36-40

The Gospel for today is the story of Anna the prophetess.   Anna was an old woman –84 years old.   Anna was quite the character.  She lived in the temple and she worshiped night and day.  Truly Anna was a “woman of God."
She must have had a gift of foresight because she began to prophesy of the coming of the child that all the people were waiting for.  She also gave thanks for the child that would come and who would redeem all people.  The Gospel doesn’t say whether the people believed her or not.  Did they believe?  Or were they skeptical because they had heard this prophecy before and it the “child” never appeared?

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflection: Luke 2:22-35

Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas – Luke 2:22-35

In this Gospel, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.  It was written in the “law of the Lord” that every firstborn son was to be consecrated to the Lord.  Part of the consecration ritual was to sacrifice a pair to turtledoves or two young pigeons when a child was presented in the temple.  

In Jerusalem, there was a man named Simeon.  He was a holy man, a righteous man.  Simeon had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord.  On the day when Joseph and Mary came to the Temple with their newborn son, Simeon saw them.  He immediately went to them and took Jesus in his arms.  Then he blessed God, saying: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace.  Your prophecy has been fulfilled”.  

Then Simeon turned to Mary and Joseph and also blessed them.  He prophesied to Mary that Jesus was destined to do great deeds.  He added that “a sword would pierce her heart so that the thoughts of many would be revealed.” I wonder how Mary and Joseph reacted to Simeon’s words.  Were they shocked?  Frightened?  Awestruck?  Did they wonder who and what their child would be?  Did they wonder why they had been chosen to be the parents of this baby?  

Nothing had been “normal” in their lives since the angel had appeared to Mary.  It all must have been surreal for Mary and Joseph.  And yet, they continued to trust in God.  They believed that the God who had brought them this far would continue to grace and strengthen them in the months and years ahead.  

At times in our lives, we also experience situations and circumstances that stretch us far more than we would like.  Take a moment and remember those times in your life.  It may have been an illness, a conflict within the family, financial difficulties, or the loss of a job.  These times are painful and the challenges that follow often create a great deal of anxiety.  We do not know what lies ahead of us, nor do we know how the situation will be resolved.  At these times, we can turn to Mary and Joseph.  They will understand.  Ask them to pray for you.  Ask them to intercede to God for you.  Mary and Joseph will not fail you!  They will companion you on your journey.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 2:13-18

Feast of the Holy Innocents – Matthew 2:13-18

Today’s Gospel begins with an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream.  The angel tells him: “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you." The angel warns Joseph that Herod is searching for the child and his plan is to kill the child.  

On hearing these words, Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus and they began the long journey to Egypt.  They stayed in Egypt until the received word of Herod’s death. 

When Herod realized that Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to safety, he was furious!  He vented his anger by ordering a massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and the region.  Any male child two years and younger was to be killed.  Thus, the prophecy of Jeremiah, written centuries earlier, was fulfilled:  “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing, wailing, and lamenting."

The “mystery of life” continues on in our life time.  Just as there was wailing, sorrow, and lamenting in Jesus’ day, there also is wailing, sorrow, and lamenting in our day.  Sadly, there are many places in our world where people are suffering significantly.  If we were ever to have true peace in our world, we might not recognize this planet as our home.  We might think that we have gone to heaven.

What can you and I do to make our world more loving and more peace-filled?  Let us to strive to act and respond lovingly to the people and the situations that we encounter as we go about our daily routine today.  We may not be able to change the world, but we can strive to make our "little corner of the world” a more loving and joyful place.   Who knows?  The actions of one person may make your “little corner of the world” a brighter and more loving place.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reflection: Luke 2:41-52

Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:  Luke 2:41-52

In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph were taking Jesus to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover, as was their custom.  Jesus was twelve years old.  When the celebration was over, Mary and Joseph began their journey home.  After they had traveled several days, they realized they had not seen Jesus since they left Jerusalem.  However, this was not unusual.  They were traveling with a caravan and they assumed that Jesus was with their relatives.  They did not suspect that Jesus had remained in Jerusalem.

They spent the day canvassing the caravan looking for their son.  No one had seen Jesus since they left Jerusalem.   They finally determined that Jesus was still in Jerusalem, so they began the journey back to the city.  Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus for three days and they could not find them.  They talked with their friends and relatives but none of them had seen Jesus.  

They continued their search for Jesus.  Imagine the fear and panic they must have felt!  Where was their son?  Was he safe?  Who was he with?  This type of situation truly is a parent’s “worst nightmare.” After searching for three days, they still had not found Jesus.  They did not know what else they could do.  

Finally they went to the temple and found Jesus was seated in the midst of the teachers, listening to them but also asking the teachers questions.  When finally caught sight of Jesus, they must have experienced a number of emotions: great relief, deep joy, and most likely some anger at what Jesus had done.  How could he have done this to them?  Didn’t he realize how worried they would be?  And yet Luke writes: “They were astonished."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 10:17-22

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

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

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

The path of following Jesus is both gift and cross.  There are abundant gifts and blessings we receive when we walk with Jesus.   However, there also will be challenges and difficulties that we encounter if we choose to follow Jesus.  Today honestly ask yourself: What am I willing to risk?  What am I willing to endure for Jesus’ sake?  Am I truly ready to “give my all” to Jesus?  Be honest with yourself!

The gift is that no matter what you decide, Jesus will still walk by your side.  If we do choose to follow him, Jesus will give us with the grace and strength we need.  The decision is ours. Will I follow Him?  Will you follow Him?  

Today may we pray for each other that we will have the love, courage, and strength we need to follow Jesus every moment of every day.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflection: John 1:1-18

The Nativity of the Lord – John: 1:1-18

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

John speaks of the “Word” being with God from the beginning of all time.  John tells the people that Jesus, the Word, always was and always will be.  He even goes into some detail about what the “Word” would do.  John tells his listeners that the “Word” would testify to the Light and that the “Word” would prophesy to his own people.  However, the people would neither believe nor accept Him.

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

Jesus is here with us, however we have to open the doors of our hearts and minds to Him.  Jesus is waiting for you!  If you open our heart and mind to Him, He will be born in you today—and every day!  Could we ask for anything more wondrous?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:67-79

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent – Luke 1:67-79

The Gospel reading for this last morning of the Advent season is the continuation of the story of John’s birth.  In this Gospel, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit.  He is prophesying that a Savior will come to his people. The Savior will “save” them and “set them free”!  Did the bystanders in the temple believe Zechariah’s prophecy or did they wonder if he was deranged or drunk?  
When Mary heard that Elizabeth was pregnant, she immediately hurried to be with Elizabeth.  Just imagine the conversation these two women had.  Both of them became pregnant in highly unusual circumstances, yet both women were filled with complete faith and trust in God and faith in the “miracle” they each were gifted with. 
Joseph and Zechariah also had to be men of deep faith and trust in their God.  Did they wonder what else their lives would hold? What faith these women and men had in their God!

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:57-66

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent – Luke 1:57–66

Today we hear the account of the birth of John the Baptist.  For many years Elizabeth and Zechariah had longed and hoped for a child.  After many years of struggling to accept the reality that she would not bear a child, Elizabeth became pregnant.  
Elizabeth and Zechariah believed that God finally had heard their plea and had answered their prayer.  At advanced ages, God was blessing them with a child, a son whom they named John.  Imagine the emotions they must have experienced: joy, wonder, gratitude.  What a wondrous and unexpected gift! 
Can you indentify with Elizabeth and Zechariah?  Have you been praying for a special intention for a long period of time and not received an answer?  Have you received any indication that God is listening to you?  If not, Elizabeth and Zechariah may give us hope that God does listen to our desires and needs and will answer our prayers.  The timing is not ours to know, nor is it our part to understand how all this may happen.  Our part is to pray and to trust.

God will answer us!  It may not be the answer we had hoped for, but God will gift us and grace us.  We need to have an open mind and a listening heart.   It is likely that God will come to us in ways that we do not expect.  Thus, be alert and attentive today and everyday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:46-56

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent –Luke 1:46-56

The Gospel for today is a continuation of yesterday’s reading.  In the opening words of this Gospel, Mary proclaims the goodness and greatness of God.  Despite the highly unusual circumstances of her call to be the mother of Jesus, Mary rejoices and proclaims that God has looked upon her with great favor.  She is not overwhelmed by fear or panic.  Is this how you or I would react?  
Mary’s immediate and heartfelt response to God’s call makes it clear that Mary had a deep, personal relationship with God.   She must have been somewhat confused by this call, yet Mary trusted the God who called her.  Mary believed that God would guide her and grace her.  While Mary was very young when God called her, she had a depth of faith and trust in God that many people never develop.  What a wonderful gift!
We also can experience the gift of a personal and intimate relationship with God.  Our relationship with God develops in the same way that any personal relationship develops: with time and experience.  I assume that most of us do not place a great deal of trust in someone we just have met.  True trust grows over time.  It is our personal experience of the person that enables us to begin to trust that individual.  This also is true in our relationship 
with God.

Take a moment and ask yourself: What is going well in my life?  Do I take these blessings for granted?  Do I thank God for the many blessings I receive each day?  When/if  life is painful, confusing, or difficult, do I still praise and thank God?  

On some days, I thank God for giving me the strength to keep going.  At other times, I am grateful to God for the multitude of blessings I have received.   Sad to say, there also are some days when I forget to thank God.
Today, let us ask Mary to give us a share of her faith and trust in God—and of her love for God.  Mary will walk with us and show us the way.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:39-45

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent –Luke 1:39-45

Today Mary sets out on a journey.  She travels to the hill country to the town of Judah.  She was anxious to see her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary had strange and yet wondrous news for Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting to her, immediately the infant within her womb leaped for joy.  Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she cried out to Mary and said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth then asked Mary: “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Then Elizabeth told Mary how the child within her womb had leapt for joy as Mary approached her.  Elizabeth added: “Blessed are you who believed what God had spoken to you.”  God’s Word had been fulfilled!

Imagine what emotions these two women who were “with child” had when they came together.  The path for Mary and Elizabeth had been strange and yet wondrous.  Imagine the conversations they had as they compared their experiences.  Did they share their fears and concerns?  Did they joyfully prepare for the coming of the new born babes?  What a gift it must have been for these two women to be together at this special time in their lives!   

The sons of these two women changed history and the world.  Did Mary and Elizabeth even conceive that this would be a possibility for their children?  Did they praise God?  Did they ask God to bless their children with good health, a strong mind, body and heart?  Did they dream that their children might accomplish great and wondrous things?   If you are a parent, you can imagine the many conversations that Mary and Elizabeth had.  They must have talked about their dreams and hopes for their children.  Little did they know that their sons would change the course of history forever!

God (or life) also may call us in ways that we would never imagine.  At these times, may we pray to Mary and Elizabeth and ask them to companion us on this journey.  They truly understand the fear, the confusion, as well as the great joy that life may gift us with.  Today bring any situation that confounds or frightens you to Mary and Elizabeth.  Pray to be graced with great trust in God.  Believe that God is with you!  God will strengthen you and God will guide you!  And eventually, you will be filled with joy!  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:39-45

Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent – Luke 1:39-45

This Gospel begins as Mary sets off to travel in haste to the hill country to the town of Judah.  When she arrived there, Mary went to the house of Zechariah and greeted her cousin, Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant Elizabeth was carrying “leaped in her womb." In that instant, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  

Elizabeth said to Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Was Elizabeth astonished at the words that she uttered?  Where did these words come from?  Clearly, Elizabeth had received this revelation from God.  She knew that the child that Mary was carrying a very special child.  She realized that this child would be her Lord.

Do we take Jesus’ coming into the world for granted?  Or are we amazed, astounded, and filled with joy that our Lord Jesus came to earth as a small, fragile, baby boy?  He was born to peasants, not royalty.  He wanted to become “one of us."  He wanted to walk among us.

Today Jesus will come to us.  Most likely, he will come to when we least expect him.  He may come disguised as a friend or he may come to us in the helping hand of a stranger.  Perhaps Jesus simply will come in quiet and peace.  

Be awake throughout this day.  You may encounter Jesus several times and others may meet Jesus through you.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:5-25

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent – Luke 1:5-25

Today we hear the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and of John the Baptist’s conception.  In this reading there are echoes of the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would bear a child.  An angel of God appears to Zechariah as he was praying in the sanctuary of God.  The angel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth will conceive and bear a son.   
Zechariah is very troubled by the angel’s message.  Who wouldn’t be?  For many years Elizabeth and Zechariah had longed for a child and they had never received that gift.  Yet standing before him was an angel telling Zechariah that Elizabeth in her old age would conceive.  The angel also prophesied that this child would be filled with the Holy Spirit and their son would be a prophet, one who would prepare the way for the “One” who would come.

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

If we received a message like this from an angel, how would we react?  Most likely, we also would respond with great disbelief.  And we might wonder if we were going crazy.  Yet at times, God does act in strange and fantastic ways.  Perhaps when we are disbelieving we should re-read this Gospel passage.  Who knows, God may desire for us to do wondrous deeds in our lives.  Will we believe God?  Will we trust?  Will we say yes to God’s request?   If (when) this happens to us, may we pray to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They will “come to our aid.”  They will help us trust and believe that God is calling us!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 1:18-25

Friday of the Third Week of Advent – Matthew 1:18-25

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

Take a moment and put yourself in Mary’s place.  Imagine what thoughts and emotions Mary might have experienced given all that the angel had told her.  What would she say to her parents?  And what was she to tell Joseph?  The tale she had to tell was unbelievable!  

When Mary finally told Joseph that she was pregnant (by the Holy Spirit), I wonder how Joseph initially reacted?  What did he think of Mary?  Did he naturally think that she had been unfaithful to him?  What were the emotions he experienced: shock, anger, disbelief?  What was he to do?  

Then an angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream.  Did Joseph think he was losing his mind?  Being human, Joseph had to have been overwhelmed and confused by all these strange happenings.   Yet despite the fantastic and unbelievable circumstances, Joseph had faith.  He had faith and trust in God and in Mary.  Joseph truly was a man of God.  

How do we react when we are confronted with circumstances that throw us off balance or situations that confound or frighten us?  Do we continue to trust in God?  Or do we walk away from God angry or despairing?  Regardless of how we react, our “God who is with us” never leaves our side.  Our loving God is with us every moment (even if we don’t “feel” God’s presence).  Just as God was with Joseph and Mary in this strange, difficult and confusing time, God also walks us.  And God graces and gifts us with the strength we need!  The question is: will we continue to believe and trust in our loving God?  I pray we will! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 1:1-17

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent– Matthew 1:1-17

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reflection: Luke7:18b-23

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent – Luke 7:18b-23

Today John sends two of his disciples to go to Jesus and ask him: “Are you the One who is to come?  Or should we look for another?”  When the men found Jesus they told him that John had sent them.  They added that John wanted some information from Jesus.  They asked him: “Are you the One who is to come?  Or should we look for another?”  

Jesus had healed many people of diseases, sufferings and evil spirits.  He also had been proclaiming the “Good News” throughout Judea.  Thus, Jesus told the men: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard!   Lepers have been cleansed; the blind see; the lame walk; the deaf hear, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them!”  Jesus then adds: “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

If Jesus was walking and healing on this planet today, I wonder if we would be astounded by his deeds?  Or would we wonder if he was a charlatan?  The reality is that Jesus is walking on this planet today.  He is in our midst!  Perhaps we may not “see” Him with our physical eyes.  Yet he does walk among us and with us!  Jesus never leaves our side.  He is continually teaching us and healing us.  He is our companion though we may not “see” him with our eyes.
We may not receive the “healing” or “teaching” we yearn for.  However, this does not mean that Jesus is not with us!  Jesus may be “healing” us in ways that we do not understand nor comprehend.  

Jesus will never leave us!  He is always beside us, leading us, guiding us, and gracing us.  Today be attentive!  This attentiveness may open your mind and your heart.  Thus we may be more open and recognize “little signs” that Jesus truly is with us.  Be alert and attentive.  Don’t miss Jesus today!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 21:28-32

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent – Matthew 21:28-32

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 21:23-27

Monday of the Third Week of Advent – Matthew 21:23-27 

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:26-38

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Luke 1:26-38

This Gospel from Luke is one that is very familiar to us.  It is the story of Mary’s Annunciation when the angel appeared to her and revealed to her that she would conceive and bear a Son.  Ask yourself:  how do you think Mary reacted emotionally to the angel’s appearance and to the angel’s words that  Mary would have a child, even though she had not been” with a man?  

Luke says that Mary was extremely troubled at the angel’s news.  She must have had many questions and concerns:  What did all this mean?  How was this to come about?  What would she tell Joseph?  This tale was too fantastic for him to believe!  Would he believe her or reject her?  Yet somehow in the midst of her turmoil, Mary was able to trust God.  And she freely consented to what God was asking of her.  

Mary had to have a deeply personal relationship with God.  And it was this relationship that enabled her to trust and say “yes” to what God was asking her to do.  Mary from a young age must have trusted God in all things.  And thus, she would trust God even in this surreal and frightening situation.  Yet, how was she to explain her situation to Joseph?  Yet, she had to share this fantastic experience with him.  How would he react?  Would he be angry or humiliated? Would he spurn her?   Or would he draw his own conclusions and believe that Mary had “been” with another man?  Imagine the storm of emotions that this young Mary must have experienced!

At times, Jesus (and life) also presents us with difficult or painful situations that may stir up a storm of emotion in us.  How do we respond?  Do we get angry, fearful or anxious?  Do we distance ourselves from God?  Do we gradually come to believe that God is with us?   Do we trust that God will guide and grace us?  

We have a wonderful model in Mary.  Like Mary, we need to keep ourselves grounded in the God we know, trust and love.  If we do this, then we may believe and trust that we will receive the grace and strength we need.  This will bring us peace.  God will bring us peace!

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 11:16-19

Friday of the Second Week of Advent – Matthew 11:16-19

Today Jesus says to his listeners: “To what shall I compare this generation?”  He then states that this generation is “like children who sit in the market place 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 mourn!’’   Jesus then shifts gears.  He talks about John, who was holy and ascetical.  However, the people criticized him, saying: He is possessed by a demon.”

Jesus then says: ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking” and they accuse Him of being a glutton and drunkard.  They also criticize Him for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners.  Then Jesus quietly says: “But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”  No matter what Jesus did, in the eyes of the Pharisees, they criticized him.  Everything he did was wrong!  

Jesus’ words to the Pharisees must have angered them and perhaps solidified their belief that this man needed “to be taken care of.”  How dare Jesus criticize them publicly!  Yet I wonder if one or two or three of the Pharisees took Jesus’ words to heart?  Did Jesus’ critical words penetrate into their minds and hearts?  Did his words stay with them and prompt them to look deeply into their lives, their motivation and perhaps their superiority?  

It is so very easy to criticize another person.  We see their actions, we hear their words and we read their expression.  However, we cannot “see” the individual’s heart.  We do not appreciate it when another person criticizes us.  Thus what a great gift it is to “catch” our criticism of an individual and release our criticism of the person.  In this process, we not only give a gift to that person, we also give a gift to ourselves.  Today may we strive to be non-judgmental, loving and gracious.  Who knows?  We may receive a similar gift! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 11:11-15

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent – Matthew 11:11-15

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

Who is the “least” among us?  Who is the least in our world, town, city or family?  Do we truly “see” these individuals or are they simply part of the background of our lives?  Typically, it is more comfortable for us to “see” only what we want to see.  It may be natural for us to try and block out what is painful, uncomfortable or difficult.  
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus sees the lost and the “least.”  He not only sees these individuals, he is attentive and present to them.  Typically He gives them His full attention and care.  Jesus longs for us to have eyes and hearts that see the “little ones,” the “least” in our world.  Do we look for them?  Are we attentive to them?  Do we reach out and help them in some way?  

Today may we pray to have eyes to truly see and attend to the poor, the little ones and the least.  And may we ask God to grace us with the gift of compassion.  May we strive to help and console them in some way.  It may be as simple as spending a few minutes with an individual or truly “seeing” or listening to them or helping them in some small way.  These acts may seem insignificant to us.  However, to the other person it may be a great gift! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent – Matthew 11:28-30

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

Ask yourself: What in your life “wearies” you?  What wears you down or exhausts you?  What do you need “rest” from?  It might be worry about your loved ones, health concerns, financial concerns, feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities or perhaps you feel alone.  I assume that many of us are weary to some degree.  What do we do at these times?  How do we handle the weariness?  Do we carry our burdens alone?  Or do we take our burdens, anxiety and weariness to Jesus and ask Him for the grace and rest that we need?  

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

Today ask yourself: what concerns, worries or anxieties are on my mind today?  Then I invite you to sit quietly with Jesus for a few minutes.  Just simply “be” with Him.  You don’t need to say anything since Jesus already knows what you are thinking and feeling.  Place your anxieties, fears or worries in His hands.  Simply spending time with Him will give you “rest”  and it also lightens your burden.  Trust Him!  Jesus is waiting for you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Reflection: Luke 1:26-38

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – Luke 1:26-38

Today is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  Naturally the Gospel for this feast is Luke’s version of the angel’s announcement to Mary that she was to bear a child.  However, this child would be conceived in an unusual and unexpected way.  We all know the story of the angel’s appearance to Mary, the message that was proclaimed to Mary, as well as Mary’s response.  It is clear by her immediate response to the angel that Mary was a woman of deep faith and trust.  Yet, being human, she also had to be puzzled, shocked and uncertain about what the angel’s pronouncement would mean for her.  

Can you imagine the thoughts and concerns that must have raced through Mary’s mind in that moment?  She had to be shocked, anxious and unnerved.  Yet, she trusted the God who knew her and loved her.  Mary’s trust in God enabled her to willingly place herself and her life in God’s hands.  And in that instant, her life took a completely different path than she expected.  

What a model Mary is for us!  Mary truly was an amazing and holy woman.  Yet she was very human.  Luke writes: “Mary was greatly troubled by the angel’s message.”  What were the thoughts and emotions that raced through Mary’s mind and heart when she heard the angel’s words?  Did she think she was going crazy?  The whole situation was unbelievable.   

However, Mary was deeply rooted in God.  Even though she was confused and most likely unnerved, Mary was open and receptive to God and to God’s call.  Mary must have wondered what this would mean for her and her life, as well as for her betrothal to Joseph.  How would this unfold?  What was she to tell her parents?  Yet Mary simply had complete faith and trust in God.  She freely and willingly assented to God’s plan for her!  

Most likely, we will not have an angel appearing to us asking us to bear God’s child.  However, even if an angel does not come to us, we also are called to be “Christ Bearers.”  How will we respond to God’s call?  Will we trust the God who is calling us?  Will we believe that God will walk this road with us?  When we are fearful, we can turn to Mary.  She will journey with us.  And she will remind us that our God is a God who is completely trustworthy.  Today and every day, may we ask Mary to journey with us!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Reflection: Mark 1:1-8

This passage from the Gospel of Mark focuses on John the Baptist.  The first few verses of this Gospel identify who John is.  The opening verse of this Gospel names John as the one who was “sent from God.”  John’s role was to testify to the “Light,” not to be the Light!  John is humble in the best sense of the word. He does not demean himself, nor does he exalt himself.  John understood his role at this time in Israel’s history: he was to point the way to the One who would come! 
The priests and Levites kept asking John: “Who are you?” John made it clear to them that he was not the Christ.  They asked if he was Elijah or the Prophet.  John simply responded to their question with three simple words: “I am not.”  John was a man who knew who he was and what he was called to do.  He was not the Christ.  However, he had an important role to play in Jesus’ life and ministry.  First and foremost, John was a “man of God.”  His role was to be the forerunner for Jesus.  He was to point his followers to the way to Christ. 
John must have been a mesmerizing preacher.  People from all walks of life had heard about John.  They wanted to see for themselves!  Seekers from all areas of Judea as well as citizens of Jerusalem gathered to hear John preach.  He was a powerful orator but he also had a powerful presence.  First and foremost though, John was a “man of God.”  Many people came to him to be baptized.
John did not desire acclaim for himself.  His knew that his call was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.  John told his listeners that “one mightier than I” would come after him.  John also said that this man also would baptize but He would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  Ask yourself: How would you react if a “prophet” in your town began proclaiming that “one mightier than I” will be coming?  Would we automatically discount this prophecy?  At various times we have heard prophecies telling us that the “end of the world” was coming---and yet we are still here on this planet.
Yet one day Christ will come again!  We don’t need to wait for that day to come.  Christ comes to us every day of our lives. Are we aware of His coming?  Do we notice His presence as we go about our day?  Today be attentive: Christ will come to you! 
I know that on some days I “miss” Christ’s coming.  Perhaps I am too busy or my mind or heart is closed. Today is a good day to consciously and deliberately look for Christ as we move through our day.  Christ is among us!  However, we must be awake and alert for his coming! Or will we be too busy or too preoccupied to notice Him?  I pray we have eyes to see Him and hearts to trust Him!