Stepping Forward or Slipping Back

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Daily Reflection – 11/20/19

Sacred Scripture

While they were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'” After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.( Luke 19:11-28)

Reflection

The parable told in the Gospel today was one way that Jesus was trying to tell his followers, impatient as they were for justice to be done to those who were oppressing them, that the Reign of God will come, but it will not come in the way that they are expecting. Instead it will come with the Son of Man’s return, when he will “settle accounts” with humanity, especially with those of us who have professed in this world to be his servants.

The parable reveals something important about how God works his plan and purpose with humans.  The parable speaks first of the king’s trust in his subjects.  While he goes away, he leaves them with his money to use as they think best.  While there were no strings attached, this was obviously a test to see if the king’s subjects would be faithful and reliable in their use of the money entrusted to them.  Third, the king rewards those who are faithful and he punishes those who sit by idly and who do nothing with his money.

The Lord gives his kingdom to those who are ready to receive his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And he entrusts us with his gifts and graces and he gives us freedom to use them as we think best. With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient grace and energy for using them in a fitting way. As the parable of the talents shows, God abhors indifference and an attitude that says it’s not worth trying. God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing good. Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have. There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you trust in God’s grace to make good use of the gifts and talents he has given you?

 Prayer of The Day

“Lord, your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.  Come and be the ruler of my heart and thoughts and be the king of my home and family.  Help me to make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources you give me for your glory and your kingdom.”

Daily Note

There are times in our lives when we ‘conveniently’ believe what suits us and reject many other truths. In doing so we are like the people of the city of Jerusalem who have closed ourselves to the revelation that God continually makes. We must develop the ability to find God in all things and all things in God

 

 

Leaving Our Comfort Zone

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Daily Reflection – 11/19/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Reflection

Instead of pushing his way through and demanding his rightful place on the street, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree to get a better view. The sight of a wealthy, powerful, and decidedly short man struggling to pull himself up into a tree must have been quite a sight. This never fails to make me smile, at least a little bit, and it probably made those who noticed it smile at the time, too.

But what happens with this good humor? Jesus sees Zacchaeus in the tree and greets him with love and at that point, Zacchaeus confesses his sins publicly and pledges to repent and redeem himself — because Jesus has chosen to come to his house.

The Lord does not overlook our sins because we repent; we can only repent because God gives us the grace to recognize our sins and the ability to repent of them. If we do not welcome the Lord into our houses, then we do cannot see clearly enough to recognize our sinfulness, nor understand that He strengthens us for repentance, and not the other way around.

To put it simply: God does not love us because we repent, or when we repent. God loves us, and so gives us the grace to repent — endlessly.

We all suffer from sin, from self-haughtiness and the blind illusion of self-sufficiency. We think we can live without the Lord and make our own way, but then we lose sight of our sins and the damage we cause to ourselves and others. The longer this goes, the less able we become to break out of that pattern. Only when we discard that false sense of pride and come to Christ like a child who would climb a tree in order to just get a passing glimpse of the Lord can we be open to His invitation.

And maybe — just maybe — the first step along that way is to laugh a little, mostly at ourselves and our own pretensions.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, come and stay with me. Fill my life with your peace, my home with your presence, and my heart with your praise. Help me to show kindness, mercy and goodness to all.

 Daily Note

Zacchaeus could have easily stayed among the crowd but he chose to go, quite literally, above and beyond. He got out of his comfort zone for Christ and was rewarded with the gift of purity of heart.

How often do we go out of our comfort zone for Jesus? It’s easy to serve him on our terms, but he wants us to serve him on his terms. This make us (me) uncomfortable, but it must be done. For it sets us on the road to repentance and purity.

PS:

We don’t know for sure but some in the early Church, like Clement of Alexandria, taught that Zacchaeus was named Matthias by the apostles, and that Zacchaeus—Matthias—was the one who took Judas’ place among the apostles after Judas betrayed Jesus and killed himself.  

 

 

You See, We All Need Healing

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Daily Reflection – 11/18/19

Sacred Scripture

Now as Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.( Luke 18:35-43)

Reflection

Seeking God is a matter of faith not sight.  Seeing is believing?  In the Gospel lesson, believing is seeing.

This is why Jesus spoke about those with a pure heart seeing God.  You can’t see the invisible God with your physical eyes!  You need to work on your inner self, your soul, the eyes of your heart to see God. Jesus gives to the blind man what the blind man already believes.  

Sometimes, however, we just don’t want to be healed. We’d rather hold on to the spiritual and emotional hurt we carry — for example, a negative image of ourselves from our youth that we hold onto, the hurt from a friend or the abandonment we felt when our spouse walked out.

The first step to healing is realizing how much we are loved. It is so moving to watch how Jesus treats those who are disfigured and broken. Jesus pays special attention to them and treats them with amazing reverence.

Healing comes to us when we stop blaming ourselves for the bad things that happen to us. When God reaches out with healing grace, it is not just for the sake of making us whole. God heals us from something so that we might be able to extend that same healing to the world beyond us. The kindness and compassion of Jesus embrace the blind man so that he in turn may become kind and compassionate toward others.

In our life, we will come across people who are in need of God’s compassion and healing mercy. Before they can hear about God, they need someone to speak words of encouragement, a friend to hear the hurt they are carrying, or a faith pilgrim who’s willing to share his or her own journey of faith. Great healing can come in sharing our hurts with someone who has also known pain, hurt, and misfortune. Our willingness to pass on the compassion of God is the way we give thanks for the healing that’s come to us.

Today you are hearing the Word of God, about a Savior who invites you to come to Him for mercy. Jesus is passing by, and He may never pass so close to you again! He is the only one with the power to open eyes that have been blinded by sin. Call out to Him while He is near!

 Prayer of The Day

Dear, gentle Jesus, my faith is tender. I come to You needing to know that You love me. Only in your presence can I find the courage to look at my brokenness and to see myself as You see me. Help me to let the power of your love, reach into those painful places in my heart that are bruised and need healing. Let me rest for a moment in the comfort of your embrace. 

Daily Note

Just as Bartimaeus had his opportune moment to cry out to Jesus, and then it would be gone, so it is with you. Today is the day of salvation; you may not have tomorrow! Today you are hearing the Word of God, about a Savior who invites you to come to Him for mercy. Jesus is passing by, and He may never pass so close to you again! He is the only one with the power to open eyes that have been blinded by sin. Call out to Him while He is near!

 

 

 

To Be Rooted in Him

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Daily Reflection – 11/15/19

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.” They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”( Luke 17:26-37)

Reflection

What’s the point of this analogy?  It’s inevitable that a thing will happen when the necessary conditions are fulfilled.  The return of the Lord is certain, but the time is unknown. The Lord’s judgment comes swiftly and often unexpectedly.  Jesus warns his listeners to not be caught off guard when that day arrives.

What does Jesus mean when he says that one will be taken and another left? Intimacy with a godly person does not guarantee that one will enter heaven on the day of judgment.  God’s judges each person individually according to how they have lived their life and responded to his grace.  No one can discharge his or her duty by proxy or association. 

The good news is that God gives grace, security, and refuge to those who seek him with faith and contrition.  He gives us the grace to know him personally and to accept his lordship over our lives.  And he gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to live each day for his kingdom, and the readiness to receive him when he returns.  God’s judgment is good news for those who are ready to meet him. Their reward is God himself, the source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love and everlasting life.

The people in Noah’s time ignored the Lord’s warning of judgment. They missed the boat, literally! Whose boat are you taking — the world’s boat to success and happiness or God’s boat to heaven and bliss with him? Those whose hope is firmly anchored in heaven will not be disappointed when God’s judgment comes. They rejoice even now that they will see the Lord in his glory! Is your hope firmly placed in God and his kingdom?

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus Christ , you are my hope and salvation.  Help me to never lose sight of the goal of heaven and give me fresh joy and zeal to live each day for your kingdom.”

Daily Note

The time of God goes by invisibly in our time, but independently of us and of our time. We cannot interfere in time, but we have to be prepared for the moment in which the hour of God becomes present in our time. It could be today, it could be in one thousand years. What gives us security is not to know the hour of the end of the world, but the certainty of the presence of the Words of Jesus present in our life. The world will pass, but the word of God will never pass.

 

 

The Seeds of the Kingdom

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Daily Reflection – 11/14/19

Sacred Scripture

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’ Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first, he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.( Luke 17:20-25)

Reflection

Jesus surprised the Pharisees with the answer that the kingdom or reign of God was already here! Jesus spoke of the coming of God’s kingdom as both a present event and an event which would be manifested at the end of time.

How does the Lord Jesus make his presence and his kingdom known to us today? Like a seed planted in fertile soil, Jesus, the sower of the soul, plants God’s kingdom first in our hearts. The kingdom begins from within and transforms our hearts to be like God’s heart — a people who know the power of his love, mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus reveals himself in many countless ways to those who seek him with eyes of faith. When we read the word of God in the bible Jesus speaks to us and reveals to us the mind and heart of the Father. He promises unbroken fellowship and freedom from the fear of being forsaken or cut off from everlasting life with God (John 6:37). And he offers us the hope of sharing in his resurrection.

Is your hope and desire to see God face to face?

Jesus identified himself with the “Day of the Lord”. “Son of man” was understood as a Messianic title for the one who would come not only to establish God’s kingdom but who would come as Judge of the living as well as the dead. Jesus points to his second coming when he will return to complete the work of restoration and final judgment. While we do not know the time of his return, we will not mistake it when it happens. It will be apparent to all, both believers and non-believers as well. In Jesus we see the power and the glory of God’s kingdom. His power overthrew the powers of darkness and sin. Jesus knew that the only way to victory was through the cross. On that cross he defeated death and canceled the debt of sin for us. The victory of his cross opens the way for us to become citizens of God’s kingdom.

Do you seek the coming of God’s kingdom with joyful hope?

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus Christ, may your kingdom come and my your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Be the Ruler of my heart and the Master of my life that I may always live in the freedom of your love and truth.

Daily Note

Our mission is to bring men and women into the Body of the Savior which is the seed of His Kingdom. As with all seeds, it has the entire genetic composition of what it will be within it. The Kingdom will be manifested in its fullness when Jesus returns as King to “make all things new”.  (Rev. 21:5) Yet, it begins now – as we live our lives as its seed and sign in the Church on mission. 

How Quickly We Forget

 

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Daily Reflection – 11/13/19

Sacred Scripture

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”(Luke 17: 11-19)

Reflection

Two words jump out at me when I read this Gospel . . .  gratitude and love.

Gratitude stands out in this parable as well. “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” 

Gratitude is an enormously important human virtue. It starts with the realization of our blessings, an intentional act that requires effort and attention. The healed leper then “returns.” He changes the direction of his journey and returns to the one who bestowed great mercy. The next move is to glorify God, acknowledging that God is the source of this precious grace. The newly cleansed leper thanks Jesus from his knees. This is a striking expression of gratitude. 

Finally, Jesus turns to this humble, faith-filled, thankful human being and says, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Go. Go tell your family, friends and neighbors the marvels God the Father has done for you. Go proclaim my mercy to those who do not believe. Go live a life full of faith and gratitude. Go be merciful, in turn, to your neighbor. 

Today, a leper invites us to ask God to increase our faith. Today, a leper models for us the beauty of genuine gratitude. When was the last time you pondered your many blessings, fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him?

Jesus cannot resist a cry for pity. For him, a soul in need is an obligation to help. He needed no convincing, no cajolery – these lepers cried out to him from the depths of their hearts and automatically his heart was moved. We see it over and over again in the Gospels – his heart being moved to miraculous action by the needs of those around him. Of course, that same sensitivity was the motive for his coming to earth in the first place – love simply can’t hold back when it sees others in need. This truth about Jesus can be the source of our confidence in him, but it should also be the source of our own activity in the world.

Gathered together each week, we hear the words of Jesus that challenge us to be healed of our pride, selfishness, anger, apathy, laziness and deceit. We are reminded to serve the needs of others, particularly the poor among us. Then we are sent out into the rest of the week to witness to all that we have known in Jesus. We work, we serve, we pray, we love, we remember and give thanks for all God’s gifts until we are drawn to gather around his table.

 Prayer of The Day

I love you my Lord, because you are love itself. Forgive all that is in me that does not come from your love and does not reflect your love. If I am to become what you want me to be, it will happen only if I allow you to act in me.

Daily Note

The human race was infected with mortal selfishness by original sin. Christ saved us, not with a mere command, but by his Incarnation, life, suffering, and painful death on a cross. How many of us render him sincere, heartfelt thanks for all he has done for us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You BE A Servant ?

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Daily Reflection – 11/12/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the apostles: “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'” (Luke 17:7-10)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, we receive a reminder of humility that we so often forget. So often I find in the American culture that we rarely even think to acknowledge those who serve us, much less thank them or offer them an invitation to our table. There seems to be this innate feeling of deservedness within our culture which can taint us as Christians and keeps us from remembering that we too are servants of God, no more valuable than those we so carelessly cast aside.

God calls us all to service, not selfishness; and our attitude (or mindset) makes all the difference in this. It is our attitude that is a direct reflection of what is truly in our hearts. I think that most people today would read this Gospel and feel outraged, saying things like “that’s not fair!” I would ask, why isn’t it fair though? Isn’t it the place of the servant to wait on the master? Shouldn’t the servant first take care of their responsibilities before they are to pursue their own interests? I see this passage not as a master/servant power struggle; but rather a reminder of who’s will should go first … our will or God’s will?

We must remember our role in this life. We are not the master, we are not the kings; these are God’s place; and we are His. God blesses each of us more than we deserve, for this we should feel thankful … not entitled.

Someone once told me that those of us in wealthier nations should be envious of those living in third world poverty. She explained: “Because the poor fulfill their servitude to God in the daily sufferings that a life in poverty presents to them. It is we, the rich and privileged of the world who must deny the materialistic life that lies before us and counter-culturally live an unprofitable life for the poor.” Her point reminds us that we, too, are servants, unprofitable servants, who are obliged not only to serve God, but to serve one another.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, thank you for all that you have given to us and for all that you have given us .Lord, without you, we would not be the men and women that we are; may we always remember your sacrifice for us and may we sacrifice for you while here on earth. We pray that your will be done in our lives and that we seek nothing more than to be faithful servants of you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen

Daily Note

When I read the word ‘servant’ from Luke 17:7, I think of those who serve us every day; those who exist to us without a name or face. I think of those working in the United States at jobs most would reject only to be called ‘illegal’ and ‘alien.’ I think of Ethiopian coffee farmers growing the very product that has become so profitable around the world who cannot even feed their children. I think of these ‘servants’ and wonder why the majority of us living in the first world have so easily excluded ourselves from being servants as well.