Which One Are You?

Ephesians 5 8-10 Photograph by Sharon Elliott

Daily Reflection – 3/4/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Reflection

Most of us analogize the parables, placing ourselves within them: we are the lost sheep, God is the shepherd; we are the beaten-up one, the person who helps us is the Samaritan. That usually helps to extend some meaning into our lives.

So, if we do that with today’s Gospel, who are we in this parable?

 Are we the rich man who is ignoring the poor man? Are we the poor man, Lazarus? It’s pretty clear we are not Abraham. Are we the great chasm that has been set up that keeps Lazarus and the rich man eternally divided?

Most of us will immediately respond that we are not the rich man. He was on a first-name basis with the poor man. And yet despite this, he still did little or nothing to help him. Every day the rich man feasted sumptuously, and then wiped his mouth and hands with bread (the ancient equivalent of a napkin), throwing aside the scraps.

Most of us are not like Lazarus either. We have food to eat, a car to drive, a little or a lot of discretionary income and, in our hearts, we try to think of those that have less.

So, I guess that leaves us to be the rich man’s brothers. And, if so, that could be the personal direction of this Gospel.

If we claim God’s mercy and love for ourselves, we must show that mercy and love to all who bear His image and likeness.  We have to be Christians not merely in name, but also in how we live, even when it is inconvenient or even painful. 

A wise rabbi once said that darkness does not end when the sun rises or when someone lights a candle; instead, darkness ends when you can look into a person’s eyes and see the divine.

When we look at another person and know that they are God’s creation, that’s when the darkness will end. We must see others not for what they’ve done, nor for what they can become, but for their status as a child of God.

All of the world’s money can be thrown at society’s poverty – literally and allegorically, — but none of it will make an ounce of difference if we persist in not understanding one absolute, fundamental truth: the ones we hate, the ones we resist, the ones we argue with, the ones we kill are God’s children and deserving of respect and life.

We are the rich man’s brothers. Abraham has somehow allowed Lazarus to come back to our gate to warn us so that we might be brave enough to look at those who are calling for our attention. We must look at them as the children of God that they and we are.

God doesn’t want us to be like most folks. He wants us to be like Him, to love others with a good and generous heart, and, with the help of His grace, persevere and bear fruit for His Kingdom.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you are my joy and my treasure. Make me rich in the things of heaven and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others the spiritual and material treasures you have given to me.”

Daily Note

“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) We may think that we know nothing about the man or woman accosting us in the parking lots of our nation and asking for our help. We may think we do not the names of the marginalized in our society. We may think we do not know the names of those treated differently because of their race, or gender. We may think we do not the names of those feeling the weight of discrimination because of the way they think, or dress.  But we do know something about them—we know their names. Lazarus.

THIS Cup Tastes Different

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Daily Reflection – 3/3/2021

Sacred Scripture

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:17-28)

Reflection

This Gospel is so appropriate for us during this Lent at this time in our world. The words that jump out at me are: “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

Can you?

Before you answer “of course”, then let’s be sure that we know what is in that cup and what it means for our lives. The cup that Jesus drank from contained Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Abraham’s lies. David’s adultery. Matthew’s greed. Peter’s denial. Judas’ betrayal. All of it was in that cup – and more…The sins of the past we are desperate to keep hidden – in that cup. The thoughts in our heads that would make Hollywood directors blush – they’re in the cup. The words we’ve spoken to intentionally hurt others – in the cup. And yet, the One who had no sin drank that cup and made our sins his very own.

So that he could be a ransom for our sins. Jesus put his life at our disposal so that every single person would experience fullness of life.

The catch is that we are called to take part in that same selfless act. In response to the request for James and John to have special favor, Jesus tells us how.

In the secular world, leaders exert power, domination and manipulation. They control people for their own ends. In Jesus’ world, it is altogether different. To be great is to put one’s talents totally at the service of others, to empower not to have power.

That is the measure of a person. Instead of looking for another Messiah, look for Jesus.

Jesus reverses the order and values of the world’s way of thinking. If you want to be great then become a servant for others. If you want to be first, then became a slave rather than a master. How shocking and contradictory these words must have rung in the disciples’ ears and in our own ears as well!

The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom – the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward.

The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self – even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers? For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom – the readiness to die for one’s faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations.
An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression “to serve is to reign with Christ”. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to love and serve others as Jesus did?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with your love that I may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.”

Daily Note

Ambition for greatness in Jesus’ kingdom will be shown not by positions of authority but by practices of service and ultimately by giving our whole life to rescue others from slavery to sin and death. Today, Jesus asks all of us whether we’re willing to drink that chalice. In an age in which many people speak continually of empowerment as if all of life depended on taking and exercising power, Jesus’ words about transformed ambition are ever relevant… and challenging.

If Only We Would . . .

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Daily Reflection – 3/2/2021

Sacred Scripture

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and begged him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, `Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5: 21-43)

Reflection

At first blush, today’s Gospel is a story of faith but it’s also much more.

It was faith that brought Jairus to his knees in front of Christ – and that faith raised his daughter back to life. It was faith that propelled the woman to touch Jesus’ cloak, and it was faith that cured her and gave her peace, after a dozen years of uncertainty and fear.

Jesus brings the woman out of isolation and into the family of faith. She belongs once again. Jesus brings the child to life and reinstates her in the family of life.

In both instances we see Jesus’ personal concern for the needs of others and his readiness to heal and restore life. In Jesus we see the infinite love of God extending to each and every individual as he gives freely and wholly of himself to each person he meets.

There it is. The Gospel tells us of great faith and it also tells us of the love and mercy that Christ had and has for us.

. . . that Christ has for us. Believing that then raises the question of the mercy and love we exhibit in our life.

Many in our society wither in isolation. Standing in a crowd, living in a neighborhood, or even sitting in a pew, some are deeply lonely, touched by no one. Why? Many reasons can isolate. Among them might be a difference in language, education, social status, physical looks, age, health, race, marital situations, even religion. All or any of these factors can isolate a person from the living waters of human kindness and love.

We, as the living Christ in our world, are obligated to turn to these hurting ones and say the word of relationship … friend, neighbor, my sister, my brother in Christ. Isolation flees.

BUT that does not happen enough. Too often, we are oblivious to the pain of others. We can be alarmed by someone who looks very ill. Maybe we are at risk. Or they can look different from us. They may be Muslim and we wonder if we are safe. Or someone with a shaved head and tattoos. Are they suspicious in our minds because they cause fear? Or does some strange behavior or vocal sounds by a person with developmental disabilities or a profoundly deaf individual cause us to step back?

Or perhaps we are one of those who are isolated, whether self-imposed or situational. We may be the ones who thirst for relationships with others. We may be the one whose heart hasn’t been touched for years.

Many people are dying of thirst in our world today. Through the power of Jesus, life-giving water is available to all. Can we reach out to give another a drink? Can we reach out to receive the water of life ourselves? Faith is the wellspring of courage, courage to seek what is needed for life.

If we are followers of His Way, we MUST see with eyes of mercy and love and have faith to act in His name.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you love each of us individually with a unique and personal love. Touch my life with your saving power, heal and restore me to fullness of life. Help me to give wholly of myself in loving service to others.”

Daily Note

In Jesus, God has a way of transforming our dismissive laugher into tears of joy, our skepticism into speechless amazement. When this happens for us, as it did for a desperate, grieving father and a sick, ostracized woman, we know what it is to be made whole. The gospel is full of promises that become our own when we take Jesus seriously. Touch the gospel promises and take them to heart.

The Big “J” Word

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NIV). | You are  the father, Mercy quotes, Gods mercy

Daily Reflection – 3/1/2021

Sacred Scripture

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:36-38)

Reflection

For Christians, one of the greatest mysteries we confront is how much God the Father never tires of showing his steadfast love and mercy to those who seek him. Scripture tells us that his mercies never cease.

One would think that only a fool would walk away from that.

Sometimes I think there are more foolish Christians that I can imagine. Why? Because we have to be open to receiving God’s mercy and pardon. Anger, resentment, an unwillingness to forgive or to ask for pardon can hold us back from the healing power and merciful love that has power to wash away guilt and condemnation, fear and anger, pride and resentment.

The Lord Jesus offers us freedom to walk in his way of love and forgiveness, mercy and goodness. We are called to be merciful towards one another just as our heavenly Father has been merciful towards each one of us.  

What makes true disciples of Jesus Christ different from those who do not know the Lord Jesus and what makes Christianity so distinct? It is grace – treating others not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with forbearance, mercy, and loving-kindness.

But too often, we can’t do that because we are too busy judging others – sometimes overtly and sometimes insidiously. We look at a “friend” and expect that friend to be us, to react as we do, to feel as we do and when that person does not, we fault them. Or we look at a stranger whose skin is a different color, or whose behavior is not up OUR standards and we judge; or we decide to “penalize” those whom we judge by subjecting them to gossip, or derision or totally shutting them out of our life.

The issue is we have forgotten what judgement is supposed to mean.

Our Christian progress in life only happens when we are capable of judging ourselves first. But we are all masters of self-justification. We explain away our actions and judgements by blaming others or events in the past or in the now. It’s much easier that way but it sure isn’t progressing in the imitation of Christ to which we are called.

Once we begin to judge ourselves as the sinners we are, we can open ourselves to God’s mercy because we’ll recognize how much and why we need it.

 C.S. Lewis once said that the two essential truths of Christianity are that we’re sinners and that Jesus has come to save us from our sins. We can’t appreciate God’s mercy unless we recognize how desperate we are for it. And once we recognize how much we need it, then we can be compassionate on others who need it to. The way we stop judging and condemning others is when we recognize that but for God’s grace we would be under the very same judgment and condemnation because we, too, are sinners who have murdered Christ through our sins just as much as others have.

God the Father doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, but treats us with the love he has for his Son who gave his life in justice and mercy to save our own. Can we imitate that?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom, pardon, and joy. Transform my heart with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, or make me bitter towards anyone.”

Daily Note

God always seeks what is best for each one of us and he teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and unkind towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

How Honest Can I Be With You?

The Criteria for Entering the Kingdom of Heaven – Matthew 5:20 | Kingdom of  heaven, Evangelism quotes, Heaven quotes

Daily Reflection – 2/26/2021

Sacred Scripture

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise, your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”(Matthew 5:20-26)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us something that should startle us, especially early in the morning: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” That’s a very tall order.  The Scribes were the experts of Sacred Scripture in its every detail. They consecrated their whole life to knowing the Word of God. The Pharisees were the ones who sought to live the Word of God expounded by the Scribes to the letter.

The issue though was that they were filled with “righteousness” because they judged themselves by their own external adhesion to the Mosaic law, and not by a faith-filled living relationship with God.

For all of us, that’s where we need to be – a living relationship with God which is marked by the love and compassion we have for those we meet.

The brutal truth is that most of us are not living our lives that way. Its not about how we look to others, or how pious we act, or even how many passages we quote from scripture. If our lives are not measuring up to His two great commands, then we are as righteous as the scribes and Pharisees. Our lives must be consistent with His words.

And, too often, its our words that betray the true condition of our relationship with Jesus. If there is discord in our hearts, it will spill out in our relationships with those around us. Words are an outward manifestation of what we have in our hearts. When we speak harshly to another, when we judge one another, when we criticize or deride another, when we write a hateful note to another, those are all signs of a heart that is not in accord with God.

It comes down to integrity, a virtue rich in nuances and meaning. Integrity means being a person with only one face, a person who is the same on the inside and on the outside. Integrity is foundational for holiness, because it constitutes the very essence of personal honesty and sincerity.

Mercy, kindness, and forbearance spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness.  God has forgiven us and he calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us harm and grief.  In the cross of Jesus, we see the supreme example of love and the power for overcoming evil.  Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge.  Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships?  Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and truth.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, I want you to be the center of my entire life. Let me disappear and you appear more and more in my life so that, with a holiness that is genuine, humble and true, I will always be an instrument of your love.”

Daily Note

Jesus wants to transform the way we relate to others so that we will love them as he has loved us. The type of offering God wants from us is the offering of love, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of kindness, toward his beloved sons and daughters who are our blood or spiritual brothers and sisters. If we’re not loving our family member or neighbor, we’re really not loving God. If we focus on God without reconciling with our neighbor then we should recognize that we have a choice to make between the “kingdom of heaven” and a “prison” from which we will not be released until we have paid the last penny.

It’s All About The Ask

Ask, and it shall be given you; Seek, and ye shall find; Knock, and it  shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; And he that  seeketh findeth; And

Daily Reflection – 2/25/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel contains the words of a promise that have been debated, discussed and dissected through two millennia.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

But today’s Gospel is more about prayer and an invitation to pray than they are about a God who is like a Genie In A Lamp.

God won’t give us whatever we want – we need to align our will with his, and then we will pray for the right things.

Praying in the name of Jesus is not some sort of magic spell through which we can gain anything we want. Praying in the name of Jesus is a desire to see the world like he does, a desire to want the same things that he does, for ourselves and others, and then to ask God for those things in accordance with his will.

It is developing an intimate relationship. It is the basis of our relationship with God.

It is all about the active pursuit of God over a period of time, not a series of one-off requests. God wants us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. And then, as our relationship with God changes over that period of time and our intimacy with God grows deeper and we begin to ask for the things that God desires to give, then Jesus’ words in verse 8 come true for us: “Everyone who keeps on asking will receive, anyone who keeps on seeking will find, and the door will be opened to those who keep on knocking”.

Let’s think about the wording again: Ask, Seek, Knock.

First, Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive”. That sentence suggests that both parties are in close proximity with each other and that a conversation is already going on between them.

But then Jesus says, “Seek, and you will find”. That sentence suggests a distance between both parties and that the person making the request has to be more proactive in actually finding God. Sometimes, it is like that in our relationship with God. Perhaps we have to seek out his will before we ask for something.

And then, thirdly, Jesus says, “Knock, and the door will be opened”. That sentence suggests that we must formally ask for access to him. And that too can be the case in prayer where we really do need to be reminded that we are in a relationship with our Father but that, also, our Father is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

Underpinning each of these three sentences is something about where we stand in our relationship with God. The promise he makes is that he will always be there for us and will always hear us – but we must first consider our own proximity to God and how that will impact where we need to ask, seek or knock.

 Prayer is such a privilege – but it is a conversation, an intimate encounter with God and it is the bedrock of our relationship with him. God is always there for us; he will always hear us. But the question this passage asks us is about self-examination. Are you in a position to ask, or do you first have to seek, or even knock?

If we are proactive in pursuing God in a manner appropriate to where we currently are at, then our prayer lives will be transformed and our relationship with God will grow deeper and deeper as each day passes.

Prayer of The Day

“Dear Lord of infinite wisdom and knowledge, help me to always place my trust in Your goodness and care for me. Help me to daily turn to You in my need and to trust that You will answer my prayer according to Your perfect will. I place my life into Your hands, dear Lord.”

Daily Note

Jesus is saying to us that the driving motivation in our lives should be to develop our relationship with the Lord and to seek our happiness in Him. As we find our happiness in a relationship with God, then our desires in life will change and the things we pray for will change and our desires will become more aligned to the desires of God.

God won’t give us whatever we want – we need to align our will with his, and then we will pray for the right things.

It’s About You and Me

2365) Old News (part two of two) | EmailMeditations

Daily Reflection – 2/24/2021

Sacred Scripture

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” (Luke 11:29-32)

Reflection

The Ninevites recognized God’s warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented. The Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon.  Jonah was God’s sign and his message was the message of God for the people of Nineveh.  Unfortunately, today’s Gospel tells us the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes.  They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God’s Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message.

Sometimes, we realize that the more things change, the more they are the same.

It happens to all of us . . . we look for signs from God. Sort of “Just give me a sign that you . . . “. That is a common human reaction. The problem is that too often we revert to that instead of reverting to our faith. Our faith is that Jesus Christ came to us, to protect us and to save us to eternal life. That is our faith.

If we believe that, if we inculcate that into our lives, then perhaps it’s time that we show signs to Him. And Lent is the opportune period to reflect on whether we are a sign of Jesus Christ to those around us.

Do we ever proclaim that faith to others? Do we ever take a stance against abuse of others, whether the abuse is subtle or overt? Does the language of our heart show that we love each other because we are ALL children of God? Does the language from our mouth speak of kindness and caring or does it speak of disparagement and diminishment? Do we use sarcasm, nit picking and criticism of others to tear down rather than build up? Do we take the teachings of our faith and pervert them to justify a political stance?

These and so many more are signs that we are not at peace with the teachings of Jesus Christ. These and so many more signs are telling us that we are not un unison with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught us that to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength. We have no one to blame for not doing that but ourselves. We must look within and consider what is blocking the light of Jesus from entering our eyes. Why is the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection not moving us to love the Lord and serve him? What is interfering with our focused commitment to following Jesus?

This Lent could be the only opportunity we have to make straight the crooked path. Why not use this time to not only truly accept the teachings of Jesus Christ into our lives. To accept them by living them.

Then you and I can be living signs to our generation that Christ is alive in us.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, give me your wisdom and increase my love for your ways.  Help me to resist temptation and live my life doing all that I can reflecting your love.”

Daily Note

Today it’s important for us to become a “good and holy generation” in contrast to the receptivity of those whom Jesus was calling out in today’s Gospel. We’re called not only to accept the signs of Jesus’ call to conversion, his wisdom and his death and resurrection, but to become so united to him that we become signs of Jesus’ death and resurrection, signs of his wisdom, signs of his summons to conversion in the midst of the world, signs of his love.

The Best Instruction Manual You Will Ever Have !

Matthew 6:14-15 — A Reason for Hope with Don Patterson

Daily Reflection – 2/23/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:7-15)

Reflection

For so many of us, the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of our childhood. We learned it in Sunday School, we said it with our parents; it’s one of the few parts of the church life that some of us know by heart. If someone asks us to pray, most of us could muster up the Lord’s Prayer to say. But here’s the weird truth. It’s not a prayer. It’s teaching about prayer. If you look closely at Matthew chapter 6, you’ll see that Jesus is not praying, but teaching.

The Lord’s Prayer is in the section where Jesus is teaching his disciples how to develop a righteousness or spirituality that God approves. He does this by teaching The Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s prayer is not a prayer to say, but a way to pray. It’s the scaffolding for building a life of prayer.

Jesus is mindful that most prayers fall into two categories, attempts to impress people and attempts to manipulate God. So many of us approach prayer as if it is nothing but either ceremony or an opportunity to ask the Divine Genie to fulfill our wishes. Whether prayer is an act of public piety intended to enhance your reputation, or prayer is a set of incantations meant to tweak the universe to your liking, Jesus condemns both as falling short of real and true prayer.

That’s inviting Jesus to enter our lives, but only allowing Him as far as the entry way. We want him in our lives, but not too far in.

Prayer is the avenue for asking God, who is our Father to bring his will to our lives. And then through our lives he begins to fill our world with his love and grace, truth and peace.

Do you believe that? I do. But here is what that says about you and me.  If we take on the reign and rule of God, we become adopted by God. And as God’s children we are called to work with our Father in the “family business” of spreading His love and Holy Will.

Ooops. Look where that leads us. We are supposed to live our lives as His children. Loving others . . . AND . . . forgiving others.

Forgiveness must become for us as much a lifestyle as grievance collecting tends to become a lifestyle for the unforgiving. Once is not enough!

The way of forgiveness is not one decisive battle. It is a running fight. We will constantly be confronted by occasions in which we must forgive and forgive again.

In this season of Lent, let us remember that forgiveness is a path that we take.  A path that takes us on a journey of reflection, deepening our self-knowledge, strengthening our relationship with Christ and most importantly increasing our love for God, for ourselves and for our neighbors.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, teach me to pray simply, sincerely, and with an open heart. Give me the grace to surrender to you in prayer”.

Daily Note

Forgiveness. That is the point of our secret spirituality, becoming a person who can forgive those who have harmed us, because forgiveness is the activity that is most like Jesus himself.

When Jesus invites us into his Kingdom, he calls us to turn from our ways of living without God and to now live under his reign and rule. Jesus then invites us into a deep spiritual relationship with Him that absolutely transforms our lives. Prayer is about making us Kingdom people who are like Jesus in every way, the hallmark of our lives being our forgiving others the way we have been forgiven.

Now, THAT Is Who You Are

Image result for free photo of Matthew 16:13-19
Daily Reflection – 2/22/2021

Sacred Scripture

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. “Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”( Matthew 16:13-19)

Reflection

We all have “step back” moments. That’s when we stop and reflect on our lives. We ask or review many different areas. Where am I? What am I doing? Where am I heading?

In a similar way, Jesus begins asking the disciples step-back questions. He asks: “What are people saying about me?” 

How easy it would have been to stop there. Jesus was trending and going viral and lighting up social media in his first-century world. It all looked so positive. What more could he have wanted?

Yet, Jesus wasn’t taking a poll. Jesus was trying to take the disciples to a deeper place. And that’s why he turned to them and asked a more penetrating question. He said: “But who do you say that I am?

That is also a question that biblical scholars and theologians reflect on. Thomas Merton said that Jesus was a like a great magnifying glass, and through him the light of God came to the world in a concentrated and beautiful way; and when we place our dry and brittle lives under that light, the spirit of each person comes ablaze with newness

I like that as both a reflection and direction. The Italian writer, Ignazio Silone described it another way: “If we treat one another, in the same way that Jesus treated people, it will be as if Jesus never left this world.” I think it is so true.

As followers of Christ, we receive that energy and we are expected to share it. For two reasons.

First, we are all broken by the challenges of life. We’re lonely. Or we’re insecure. Or we’re anxious. We’re hurt or we’re angry or we’re bitter. Yet, to believe in the great bursting energy of Christ is to believe that love is at the heart of life. And so is grace. And so is forgiveness. And so is kindness. And we are all desperate for it. Every one of us.

To share that energy means that we need to ways that are right for us to release Christ into the universe. Every time we treat another person with dignity and respect and every time, we bring a little compassion to another human being, especially a human being that is hurting and broken, and every time we offer love as a way of life, we bring Christ to others.

Here is the second reason. The invitation that Jesus holds before us is the possibility that we too as human beings can be the temples of God’s presence, the vehicles of God’s action. We can enter into the realm of God in the world. We can become the body of Christ. If we affirm God in Jesus, we are opening to the possibility of God in ourselves.

That’s incarnation. We are only human; we do not feel worthy or able, but by some miracle of grace, it is the human that God uses. God whispers in our ear, “don’t quit, keep on playing,” and as we continue, we are lovingly enfolded, graciously inspired, and from our feeble efforts something wonderful can emerge.

Jesus comes to us across the years, yet still vividly, powerfully, beautifully, and the question remains, “Who do you say that I am?” If we affirm Him as one in whom God is present and active, we are not only saying something about Jesus. We are opening ourselves to a possibility. We are standing at the threshold of the most exciting adventure of our life!

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Make my faith strong like the Apostles Peter and Paul and give me boldness to speak of you to others that they may come to know you as Lord and Savior.”

Daily Note

Our fractured world needs to be filled more with His love and His peace. You and I are instruments of that.  We exhibit it  by sharing His gift of love, by removing the rancor from our lives and from around us, by letting others know that we are brother and sister to them.

 In the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

How Hungry Are You ?

Image result for free photo of Matthew 9: 14-15
Daily Reflection – 2/19/2021

Sacred Scripture

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15)

Reflection

Fasting is as old as our faith and as new as today.

In just one line of scripture, Jesus speaks to us about the fasting of the ancients and its relevance today. For you and me.

Unlike the Pharisees who sought to entrap him, John’s disciples had a genuine interest in the truth about what they needed to do and were shocked that Jesus and his disciples seemed to be lax when it came to this spiritual discipline. Delicately and respectfully, they asked Jesus why his disciples were not fasting, as if Jesus himself, the Lamb pointed out by John, might be an exception to any discipline followed by others.

Jesus answered them as He did. He tells them that the fasting isn’t the problem; it’s the motivation and the timing of the fasting that is the problem.

The coming of Christ initiates what St. Paul called “a new and living way.” (Hebrews 10:20) And this new and living way doesn’t dismiss the discipline of fasting but transforms the motivation for fasting from mere rote habit to an actual participation with the Holy Spirit in the deifying work of God in my life. Let’s remember the word “deifying” because it is at the heart of today’s scripture.

God then tells them what he hungers for and instructs them to the type of fast that will get them to hunger for the same things. “This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, … setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”

God wants us to be starving for what he starves, for us to release his sons and daughters imprisoned unjustly, breaking the yokes that bind them to slavery and servitude, feeding his hungry children, clothing the naked ones, and in a particular way caring for our family members. Jesus himself would say that he had come to set the captives free. He would personally identify with all of those in such circumstances, reminding us we would be judged on how we responded to him in disguise when he was hungry, or naked, or imprisoned, or sick.

At the beginning of Lent, we are reminded  that our fasting is meant to help us unite with those who fast everyday not be religious choice but by poverty and circumstances. It’s not only meant to help us to understand their lot better and engender compassion but also meant to help us to feed them. The food we don’t eat on a given day is not meant just to remain in our refrigerator for tomorrow but shared with those who have no food today. 

The purpose of our fasting is to unite with Christ those parts of us that are not yet hungering for what God hungers and through the Prophet Isaiah God tells us very clearly what he hungers for. God wants us to be hungrier to care for the poor, needy and oppressed than someone who hadn’t eaten for days would be for a piece of bread.

Our fasting is to increase our hunger for what God hungers for, until every cell of our body desires what he desires. That is what we mean when we talk about the deifying work of God in our lives.

Prayer of The Day

Come Lord, work upon us, set us on fire and clasp us close, be fragrant to us, draw us to your loveliness, let us love, let us run to you.” (Prayer of St. Augustine)

Daily Note

What kind of fasting is pleasing to God? Fasting can be done for a variety of reasons – to gain freedom from some bad habit, addiction, or vice, to share in the suffering of those who go without, or to grow in our hunger for God and for the things of heaven.

Basil the Great wrote: “Take heed that you do not make fasting to consists only in abstinence from meats. True fasting is to refrain from vice. Shred to pieces all your unjust contracts. Pardon your neighbors. Forgive them their trespasses.” Do you hunger to know God more, to grow in his holiness, and to live the abundant life of grace he offers you?