A New Year Could Bring A New Life

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Daily Reflection – 1/3/20

Sacred Scripture

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God. (John 1:19-34)

Reflection

John the Baptist is alive!  He is alive whenever we think of repentance – whenever we think about that which we must do to know Christ in our life – today and for eternity.

His message is just as relevant for us today as it was some 2,000 years ago.  At the time he walked the Earth, he preached so as to prepare the immediate way for Christ.  He prepared the way for the Messiah to physically enter into our world and present us with the gift of eternal salvation.  But John continues to prepare the way for the Lord, if we are willing to listen.

John the Baptist had a very clear sense of who he is and who he is not, of his role in manifesting God’s work on earth, of God’s presence and revelation when he sees it, and of his life’s work as a testimony to that revelation. He baptizes not to cleanse people from sin but to witness to God’s presence in the world.

The John the Baptist we find in John’s Gospel shows how what we do reveals to others what we believe. Have we reflected on our individual identities enough to have a sense of the talents we have, and those we do not have, to carry on the work of God in our own particular contexts? Are we aware of the sort of God we reveal to the world by our words and actions? Do our acts witness to a God who takes away that which alienates people from God and each other, and does so not by militant violence but by sacrifice? Do they reveal a God who remains present in the world?

Every day there is a mirror held up to our soul. Every day the way we live our life testifies to how truly we believe in the presence of Christ in our lives. Every day is a reflection of whether we are Christian in name only or a true committed follower of Christ.

Think about your words today. Think about your actions today. A committed follower of Christ ends his/her day by reflection on whether he/she brought alive the words of Jesus Christ.

It is not only about attending Church. We know that. Yes, we are strengthened and confirmed by the communal presence of Christ. Yes, when we gather around the table to receive Communion, we are confirmed on the purpose of our journey.

But what happens 8 hours later? Twenty-four hours later? Two days later? What do you reflect? You? Or you plus Him?

Or do our acts witness to a different sort of God altogether? The presentation of John the Baptist in John 1:19-34 challenges us to examine how our actions testify to our beliefs and what beliefs it is that they present to the world.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, You came into this world out of perfect love for me.  You came to save me from all sin and You came to deliver me from all evil.  Help me to see that which has kept me from You this past year and to surrender it to You.  Help me also to have hope and vision for all that awaits and to all which You are calling me.  May I heed the words of the Baptist and make the road ahead straight so that I can follow Your perfect will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 Daily Note

We learn from John that the first step to a life of holiness is to “make straight the way of the Lord.”  How do we do this?  How do we make straight the way of the Lord?  We do it by humbly admitting those sins which get in the way of Jesus coming to us and transforming our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the year that is past as well as the year to come.  What is it that you need to let go of from the past and what is it that you need to focus on for the coming year?  Make a clear resolution to identify any obstacle to the coming of Christ into your heart and let yourself discover the new life that awaits you this coming year.

  

Who Are You ? What Have You Done?

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Sacred Scripture

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:19-28)

Reflection

“Who are you?” John the Baptist had no difficulty answering this question when the authorities came to investigate him. If someone challenged your identity — both naturally and spiritually, how would you answer? There’s an identity war going on today and many are in crisis or at least confused. We can try to manufacture identity, but it’s derived.  And its true source and maker is God who made us in his image and likeness.

John had no mistaken identity.  In all humility and sincerity, he said he was only a voice bidding people to prepare the way for the coming of the King. John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament Prophets who points the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. John saw from a distance what the Messiah came to accomplish — our redemption from slavery to sin and our adoption as sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father.  Do you recognize your identity as a child of God and a citizen of heaven?

John was the greatest of the prophets, yet he lived as a humble and faithful servant of God. He pointed others to Jesus, Messiah and Savior of the world. Do you point others to Christ by your witness and example?

Our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.   There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom.  There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world.  Also, many feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized.  All these people are waiting for us to reflect the Light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity.  The joy of Jesus, the joy of Christmas can only be ours to the extent that we work with Jesus to bring joy into the lives of others. It means seeking out – not waiting for – daily occurrences where you can say I helped bring the joy of Christ to another today.  It’s not a weekly, monthly or annual responsibility. It’s not passive. Its active.

What will you do today? What will you do tomorrow?

Let us remember that Christmas is not complete unless we show real generosity to those who have nothing to give us in return. 

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, make me a herald of your word of truth and grace. Help me to be a faithful witness of the joy of the gospel and to point others to you as John did through his testimony.”

Daily Note

 John the Baptist reminds us that there is no bigger problem than our personal sins and so there is no bigger savior than Jesus. If you are a believer the enemy wants to block your relationship with Christ and preoccupy you with other saviors. Remember this, nothing can supersede our dependence on Christ. See every challenge that you face as an opportunity to get to know Jesus Christ more intimately than you have ever known him before. And you will overcome everything that the world will throw at you.

 

The Word That Binds

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Daily Reflection – 12/31/19

Sacred Scripture

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'”From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him. (John 1:1-18)

 Reflection

John’s Gospel is an eloquent missive to read as we end the Christmas season.  For the last seven days, we focused on the birth of Jesus Christ. In this Gospel we are reminded vividly of what that birth was about.

John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving Word that has come to earth in human form. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus is the wisdom and power of God which created the world and sustains it who assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus became truly man while remaining truly God. “What he was, he remained, and what he was not he assumed” (from an early church antiphon for morning prayer). Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother. From the time of the Apostles the Christian faith has insisted on the incarnation of God’s Son “who has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2)

Christians never cease proclaiming anew the wonder of the Incarnation. The Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. The Son of God …worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved.  Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin .The enormity of that statement is almost overwhelming.

If we are going to behold the glory of God, we will do it through Jesus Christ. Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of his divinity (2 Peter 1:4). God’s purpose for us, even from the beginning of his creation, is that we would be fully united with him. When Jesus comes God is made known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become his sons and daughters.

Repeat that for a moment. By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become his sons and daughters.

Do you thank the Father for sending his only begotten Son to redeem you and to share with you his glory? Do you thank the Father for sending His Son so that we are the children of God. That is what our faith is all about. How fortunate are we to become one family with our brother Jesus Christ and God as our Father.

Prayer of The Day

Almighty God and Father of light, your eternal Word leaped down from heaven in the silent watches of the night. Open our hearts to receive his life and increase our vision with the rising of dawn, that our lives may be filled with his glory and his peace.

Daily Note

Today’s readings are not just about endings: we call God the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. The Gospel focuses on this theme of new beginnings in the Lord. He will be with us at the beginning of each day, of each week, and at the beginning of this brand new year. By spending a bit of time in prayer, we can hear God’s voice directing us towards the right path to follow for the new year

 

 

You Too Are Called To Be Prophet

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Daily Reflection – 12/30/19

Sacred Scripture

There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.( Luke 2:36-40)

Reflection

What’s beautiful about Anna’s response is that she did not keep her joy to herself. Rather, when she saw the Christ Child, she “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” There is little doubt that her prophetic words were filled with joy and were also quite authoritative. She would have spoken as one who knew the truth of this Child and as one who eagerly wanted to tell everyone about Him.

Anna is an example of the type of prophet we are all called to be. Whenever we speak, we are being prophets of something or other. Are we prophets of the Good News?
We all have opportunities to speak about Jesus to those who are awaiting their Redeemer.
When You encounter our Lord in your life of faith and prayer, do you then eagerly desire to share your faith with others? Perhaps it is by your words, but perhaps it’s more often by your witness.

Is there anyone in our family, church or community who is in anguish, longing for deliverance from their troubles? Every time we open our mouths, we have a decision to make. We can either speak good news or curses; encouragement or complaints. But we need to internalize that it is His wish that we take the path of good news. It is from our mouths that we can offer words of hope. It is our ears that can lead us to compassionately hear anguish and despair. It is our shoulders that can offer a place for a burdened head to rest. And it is our hands that offer friendship and give a sign of peace.


It is not difficult to be God’s prophet. All it takes is a desire to help. We have good news to share! We don’t have to be theologians to share it. By getting in touch with our own day-to-day need for the Savior, we can compassionately recognize the needs of others and respond with the gift of uplifting words that reveal Jesus’ saving power. And by peeking out of the shell of our own self-enclosed worlds to notice that others have an emptiness that is similar to what Jesus has healed in us, we can figure out what to say that will make a difference in their lives. In doing so, we will be pointing them toward their Redeemer so that they, too, will find his help.

The bottom line is that the true meaning of Christmas must be shared. It must be proclaimed far and wide so that all will understand the joy of the coming of the Savior of the World.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, may I always remember the reason for Christmas. May I always keep the joy of Your coming among us at the center of my celebration. You, dear Lord, are the greatest Gift ever given. I thank You for Your life and I pray that You will help me to share the Gift of Yourself with others. Jesus, I trust in You. 

Daily Note

Reflect, today, upon Anna the prophetess. Try to imagine the joy in her heart as she spoke of this newborn King. And pray that her joy and prophetic example will inspire you to continually proclaim the Lord to all whom God puts in your path.

 

 

 

 

The News That Floods Our Soul

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Daily Reflection – 12/25/19

Sacred Scripture

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:15-20)

Reflection

Every Christian has heard the timeless story. It’s the story of an extraordinary event that changed the world forever, perhaps the most significant event in human history: the life and resurrection of Jesus. On Christmas Day, billions of followers throughout the world will celebrate the beginning of this story, the birth of God’s only begotten son.

We all know the account, how Mary gave birth to Jesus in the town of Bethlehem and laid him in a manger, how three Wise Men followed a star to Jesus and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, how a holy angel told a group of men about this amazing event and how word of His birth quickly spread far and wide. The birth of Jesus went viral (about two millennia before the birth of social media), thanks to the persistent effort of the first people outside of the manger to learn about it: the shepherds.

Why shepherds? Why didn’t God choose a king, any number of powerful dignitaries or people of great wealth? Why didn’t the three Wise Men, the angels sent by God Himself, or the Holy Family share the news of Jesus’ birth? How Christians live based on their understanding of the answers that follow help form the very foundation of their spiritual lives.

Shepherds were humble men with very little status. As such, they were looked down upon by almost everyone at that time. Angels appeared to these lowly people in the middle of the night to show that Jesus came into the world for everyone: the wealthy and the destitute, the educated and the ignorant, people of every race. Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds, and God made promises to them about future deliverance. God honored this promise by announcing the coming of the Messiah to the shepherds first. Their key role was to spread the news of Christ’s birth as quickly as possible. History tells us that they did this very well.

These simple and lonely souls were very close to the Lord and could more easily see Him. The Wise Men represented those with social standing and fame – but they arrived in Bethlehem much later. Maybe sometimes being too smart or famous can get in the way of seeing the Lord. Shepherds were more likely to be the first on the scene since they were always on watch to protect their sheep.

Protection. Vigilance. Dedication. Christian clergy and other Church leaders have for centuries been called to “shepherd” their “flock”: to lead them, teach them and love them. It’s not by accident that the word “pastor” means “shepherd,” or that the 23rd Psalm begins with, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

According to the second chapter of Luke, one angel gave the shepherds the news of Jesus’ birth, and thousands, maybe even millions, of more angels appeared. What these shepherds heard, what the first angel had to say to them, was totally out of the ordinary. It changed the world, and they knew that nothing else could be more important than receiving this message.

On this day, the most beautiful of all, the whole community of heaven joins with all believers of good will on earth in a jubilant song of praise for the good news proclaimed by the angels on Christmas eve.

The joy of Christmas is not for a day or a season. It is an eternal joy, a joy that no one can take from us because it is the joy of Jesus Christ himself made present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which no pain nor sorrow can diminish, and which neither life nor death can take away. On this day, let the joy of your salvation resonate within you and allow His peace to flood your life. May all the blessings of Christ be with you and those you love.

Prayer of The Day

Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, your glory breaks on the world. As we celebrate his first coming, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us when the fullness of his glory has filled the earth.

 

Daily Note

God wants to fill our hearts anew with joy and gratitude for the greatest gift he could possibly give us – his beloved Son Jesus. What can we give thanks for in this great feast of the Incarnation? We can praise and thank God our Father for the fact that the Son of God freely and joyfully assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Jesus came to release the captives from slavery to sin and to open the gates of paradise once again. This day the Holy Spirit invites us to make haste – as the shepherds of Bethlehem did – to adore Jesus our King and Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ  is our eternal good shepherd who guides and cares for us unceasingly and who gives us abundant everlasting life and union with the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Preparing Our Hearts

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Daily Reflection – 12/24/19

Sacred Scripture

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high  to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.(Luke 1:67-79)

Reflection

 Here are few thoughts to fill this moment on the eve of Christ’s birth.

What would Christmas be like without Christ? Meaningless. In fact, everything would be meaningless. A compass without a terrestrial north or south or east or west would be pointless. A watch without arms would be useless. A life without God would be hopeless.

A Christmas without Christ would be a never-ending Advent!

Advent is magical because it comes to an end. The Magi find their King. Their journey has an ending, a happy ending. An Advent without Christmas is worse than the worst imaginable joke! It is like being told that there is a surprise but no surprise ever comes. It is like a child waiting for gifts that never arrive, or a young lady who waits and waits but never hears, “Will you marry me!”

John’s very existence was dependent upon the Lord. You, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High…You, my child, will go before the Lord to prepare his way…The Lord guides our feet. The Lord shines in our darkest hours…The Lord gives his people knowledge and forgiveness. Christ is better than a compass; He is the sun. He rises from the East, no ifs ands or buts. He rises and I wake up. He determines the day, the night, the hour and the season. I live through Him. He shines, I see. He is the sea, I navigate. He is the rock, I stand on Him. He points, I follow. He walks me through all of life’s long sequences. Advent is holy because Christ awaits us.

Is this true for only Zechariah? Not at all. His canticle is my song. Two weeks ago, I celebrated the 48th anniversary of my ordination. I cannot even begin to express in words the joy that is in my heart for this marvelous and mysterious vocation! The Lord has been kind and merciful to me.  He has blessed me beyond belief to minister in his name to those who are suffering and dying. I thank God for having called me. I thank God for the continual courage and the strength to follow Him. I thank God for sending me, like one of his apostles, to enter into the lives of His people.

Christmas is fast approaching. May the Lord continue to be in Christmas, and may He find us ready and willing for Him to enter into the inn of our heart, mind, body and soul.

 Prayer of The Day

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord we thank you for your abundant love and mercy, help us to never stray from your goodness. Lord, you alone are the good and right thing for us to follow, help us to stay focused on you. Lord, you are our God and we are your people, may we never forget this and live our life as you would have us. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Note

In giving praise to God and spreading His love to prepare for His kingdom we are giving God that which He desires of us. What more perfect way to prepare for our Lord’s coming than in telling of His goodness and preparing His way in the hearts of all those we meet? In this high season of the church, let us all take courage in the Lord and seek to draw closer to Him that we may act in complete confidence and trust of His divine plan for us. May we cast aside the tensions of this world and rest peacefully knowing that the hand of God is guiding us through this life and closer to eternity with Him.

 

 

 

Humility Brings Joy

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Daily Reflection – 12/23/19

Sacred Scripture

Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:57-66)

Reflection

The Church does not celebrate the birthday of the saints, except that of Jesus’ mother.  Generally, their special day in the calendar is the date of their death.But there is one notable exception.  Since we celebrate the birthday of the Word, we also celebrate the birthday of the Voice.  We’re referring to Jesus’ cousin of course, John the Baptist, the Voice crying out in the wilderness.

John plays a unique role in the history of salvation.  We call him the Baptist.  Eastern Christians call him the Forerunner.  Only Luke’s gospel tells us of the marvelous circumstances surrounding his birth.  But each of the four gospels tells us of his essential work in preparing the way for Jesus.  But they also tell us something further – that John was a model of the key virtue of humility extolled by the first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount – Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.

In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue.  Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. The humble man does not sheepishly look down on himself.  Actually, he does not look at himself at all.  He looks away from himself to the Lord.

At one time or another, every human being battles a nagging sense inadequacy. Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this.  Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors. 

Humility brings freedom from this frantic bondage.  Trying at every turn to affirm, exalt, and protect oneself is an exhausting enterprise. Receiving one’s dignity and self-worth as a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden.  Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such.  We can even be free to recognize God in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor God’s goodness this person.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, you are gracious and forgiving towards us. Renew in me the gift of faith and humility that I may believe your promises and obey your word.

 Daily Note

When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. When we respond to his word with trust the Lord fills us with the joy of the Holy Spirit and renews our hope and gratitude for the mercy and gift of new life and salvation he gives us through Jesus Christ. Do you make your life an offering of thanksgiving to God, along with your family and all that you have and hope to accomplish? God wants to fill us with the joy of his saving presence all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favor towards you.

 

A Faith That Inspires

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Daily Reflection – 12/20/19

Sacred Scripture

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.( Luke 1:26-38)

Reflection

When Mary gave her full and knowing consent to the angel of the Lord, she placed all of her trust in the Lord, willingly and without any reservation, even though she knew full well what the difficulties that assent would likely produce. An unwed teen mother in those days would have been much more than just an embarrassment; it would disgrace the family and could have led to her death.

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?

Although this gospel reading of complete faith and trust is literally a part of the Advent narrative, it belongs here for another reason, too. Advent is about preparation and formation, as well as anticipation. The cultural celebration of Christmas takes us away from what should be the real preparation and formation of the Advent season. And that is to follow the example of Mary’s Fiat and make ourselves into willing and joyful disciples of Jesus, with complete trust in the Lord as to His will.

We have the gift of free will, which means we have our own ideas about how our lives are to go. That is our gift from God, and the manner in which we are made in His image. But free will leaves us with constant choices about how we live our lives, and whether we live them only for ourselves or for the Lord.

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!

Prayer of The Day

Lord, I know that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love

Daily Note

We are all, like Mary. But more often than not, we are all resisting and offering objections. We are all experiencing push back from God, as God objects to our objections. We are all being offered the reassurance that “Nothing will be impossible with God” We are all called to prepare for the birth of the baby and then, as he grows and becomes strong to follow him all the days of our lives. For that journey, we need a mother’s wisdom.

 

 

 

To Trust AND Believe

Image result for free photo of Luke 1:5-25

Daily Reflection – 12/19/19

Sacred Scripture

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.  Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”( Luke 1:5-25)

Reflection

Today we see the salvation story unfold within the parameters of the relationships of a childless couple.

In the Gospel it is the husband to whom an angel appears with words that are just as amazing. Although he is a “righteous” man from the “priestly division of Abijah,” Zechariah finds the message hard to believe. He is “an old man,” and his wife “is advanced in years.” The angel quiets Zechariah’s fears by literally silencing him.

Astonishment and uncertainty often mark the ways in which Christ comes into our lives. In times of confusion and in periods of doubt, silence can be a welcome companion. It allows us to consider not only the mystery of God made man but also the mystery of man becoming God.

The child Elizabeth will conceive will be “great in the sight of the Lord,” because he will go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Not only will Zechariah’s son bring joy to his parents, but he will “turn the hearts of fathers toward their children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous.” He will “prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Zechariah knows that his son will be stirred by the spirit of the Lord.

Every human heart contains a prayer not yet answered and a desire yet to be fulfilled. Like the couple in today’s Scriptures, the ways in which God responds to us can be truly unsettling and his purposes difficult to comprehend. Our couple longed for a child, but the life they conceived was more than just answers to personal prayers. John entered the world in order to show the splendor and the glory of God the Father. He was set apart, “taking no wine or drinking strong drink,” because he was inebriated by the mighty works of God.

In Jesus our disgrace has been removed. God has seen fit to do this in a way far greater than any we could have fashioned for ourselves. His very Son has entered our lives, His spirit is in each of us. Our mouths should sing of God’s glory, for he has rescued us from the hand of the wicked and been our strength even from our mother’s womb.

When God draws us into his presence, he wants us to be still and quiet before him so we can listen to his voice as he speaks to our hearts and reveals his mind to us.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord and do you ponder his word in your heart with trust and confidence? When we do, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus.

 Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and restoration to your people. Restore and strengthen Christian family life today. Help me to love and serve my family. May your love rule in all my relationships and remove any barriers to peace and harmony.”

Daily Note

Sometimes we feel like God punishes the righteous. We must realize in these circumstances that God has a plan for our life. In spite of the unbelief and punishment, Zechariah and Elizabeth trusted and cooperated with God. That led them to joy and gladness as foretold by the angel.

 

 

 

 

The Faithful Witness and Model of Faith

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Daily Reflection – 12/18/19

Sacred Scripture

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Reflection

Unlike Luke, Matthew doesn’t begin the story focused on Mary, but with Joseph.

Here is a man who loves the woman he is betrothed to, who, as it turns out, is pregnant. Even in today’s world this would be quite a demand, for a man to marry a woman who was pregnant with a child that is not his own. But Joseph loved her, and even when he wanted to send her away, he wanted to do so quietly in order to protect her. But this incredible story doesn’t end there because God interceded. In a dream, Joseph was told what to do. When Joseph awoke, he knew he must trust in God and take Mary as his wife.

Wow, what faith in God! There are so many opportunities in this situation for Joseph to slip away quietly, and who would blame him? But his faith in God was greater than his fear of the unknown, and as a result, he played a key part in ushering in Emmanuel. Joseph was able and willing to set aside everything he knew and risk the unknown in order to surrender more fully to God.

He was not hasty to judge or to react with hurt and anger.  God rewarded him not only with guidance and consolation, but with the divine assurance that he had indeed called Joseph to be the husband of Mary and to assume a mission that would require the utmost faith, confidence, and trust in Almighty God.  Joseph believed in the divine message to take Mary as his wife and to accept the child in her womb as the promised Messiah.

Like Mary, Joseph is a model of faith for us. He is a faithful witness and servant of God’s unfolding plan of redemption. Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when faced with perplexing circumstances and what seems like insurmountable problems?  God has not left us alone, but has brought us his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Let us look forward to Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, with joyful hearts and let us renew our faith and hope in God and in his redeeming work.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, you wonderfully invite me to help you in your mission to save souls, Lord. You respect my freedom, and you want me to respond out of love. Let me appreciate that truth fully and let me be generous with you.

 Daily Note

This Gospel passage could be called a second Annunciation. At the first Annunciation, Mary said “yes” to the angel. Now, Joseph’s “yes” was needed in order to ensure that Jesus would have the appearance of an earthly father (and a reputable lineage). Jesus often wants to come back into the world, so to speak, to touch lives: through a work of charity, a word of kindness ― or even a new baby. He counts on our help though. What help could Jesus be asking of me so as to carry out his plans? Could I be thwarting his plans because of laziness, stubbornness, or selfishness? Is he asking me to cooperate with someone? With a loved one? A classmate? A co-worker?