A Model For All Models

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Daily Reflection – 9/8/2020

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.” (Matthew 1:18-23)

Reflection

In the midst of all that is occurring in our world comes this beautiful Gospel. Beautiful because it tells of the birth of Jesus and beautiful, because second only to Jesus Christ, stands the model of Mary, His mother.

Theological anthropologists trace the lineage of human beings whom God has sanctified through the conduct of their lives and the imprint they left on the world. Therein lies the heart of today’s message. The story of Maru.

Mary was really the most ordinary person to come before Jesus. If you were to walk down a busy street in a large city, and Mary walked by you, you probably would never recognize her.  That’s because Mary lived out the Gospel so fully.  She lived out the Gospel even before Jesus became a human being.  It’s because Mary lived out the Gospel so completely that Jesus became a human being.  But living out the Gospel is really very simple, very quiet, and very ordinary.  It doesn’t mean being famous, or looking for attention from others, or wanting to be better than those around you.

Mary listened for God’s voice every day, letting His Will for her life sink into her heart, and carrying out that will with the love of her own human heart.

The Lord desires to come to you and make His dwelling within your heart.  But when He comes to you, what does He find?  What is the condition of your heart?  Some hearts are like a fragrant rose garden.  There is light, beauty, magnificence and radiance.  It’s a place of peaceful repose and a place made holy by the presence of our Lord.  Other hearts are like a dark prison cell, cold, isolated and dreary.  These are the souls who are trapped in a cycle of sin and have failed, over and over, to allow the Lord to enter in.  But He does choose to enter your heart, no matter the condition.  Be it a fragrant field of roses or the darkness and isolation of a prison, the Lord wants to enter.

Ponder the inner chamber of your heart.  Be honest and reveal this hidden place to our Lord.  If your heart is more like a dreary dungeon, cold, dark and isolated, then know that you, more than any other, are invited to receive the Mercy of God.  He desires to come to you and open the door to that prison in which you feel trapped and isolated.  He does not shy away from you in this darkness and will enter in.  But when He enters, He does so to break you free.  He desires to transform your soul into a place of sweet delight.  This takes work, surrender, honesty, humility and trust.  But God can do all things.  His Mercy produces the soil, the Sun, the seed, the water and everything needed to recreate the inner chamber of your soul. 

As a member of God’s family, you have an important role to play in God’s plan, just as Mary did. As a parent, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, he wants you to bear Christ to the people around you, just as Mary did.

Give yourself unreservedly to God – he will use you for greatness in his kingdom
When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not shrug back because we think that we have little or nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Is there anything holding you back from giving yourself unreservedly to God?

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Inflame my heart with a burning love for you and with an expectant faith in your saving power. Take my life and all that I have as an offering of love for you, who are my All.

Daily Note

Let us make this day a day to start practicing Mary’s virtues. For me, she models the virtues of a trusting Faith in the power of God (“nothing is impossible for God’); perfect obedience to the will of God, (“be it done to me according your word”);  the humility of “the handmaid of the Lord,” who surrendered her whole being to God unconditionally; the spirit of sacrificial and sharing love; and the acceptance of suffering. 

Is Doing Good Really Doing Good?

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Daily Reflection – 9/7/2020

Sacred Scripture

On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11)

Reflection

The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law. But Jesus shows the Pharisees that by wrapping themselves up in the letter of the they were blinded as to why the law was written.

He wanted them to see the person. He was saying, “Look, while you come up with your three simple steps to deciding whether you can heal on the Sabbath or not, here is a real, live human being who is hurting and in need of your help, and all you can do is sit there and debate about him like he was a log blocking the road. He’s a person!” He cares about the pregnant teenager. He cares about the prisoner. He cares about the homeless. He cares about the drug addict. He cares about the person.

He cares about you and me, our hurts, our worries, our struggles. And He wants to see each and every one of us healed and delivered from whatever has us in bondage. Whether it is a struggle with pride, with pornography, or materialism and greed, or tirades of anger, or lying, or stealing, or overeating.

When someone else struggles with their marriage, or their job, or their kids, we tend to sit back and say, “Well, if they had just done this or that, they would not have had the issue.” Oh, how we love the blinders of being judgmental.

You know what? Those are the questions and comments of Pharisees. They had all the answers, but none of the love. And sometimes we get caught in that trap. We measure our Christianity by how many times we go to Church, or how many Church projects we accomplish, or how well we can quote scripture. Nothing wrong with any of those but they are not what Jesus meant by doing good.

We are not doing good when we think we are doing good. When we start focusing on the law, we miss the people that the law was supposed to help. Jesus says later that the entire law can be summarized with one word: love. Love God, and love others. If we do that, we are fulfilling the entire law. Look at people through the loving eyes of Christ.

We don’t progress through life on a gentle slope that will end with us somehow adding Jesus to our lives. The gentle slope we begin life on is most often tilted in the other direction –we show that our hostility is growing with each and every wrong thought we entertain and each and every wrong deed we perform.

Are we like Jesus who always seek to do good ? That is the challenge that confronts us, we who profess to follow the greatest man who ever walked this earth.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, you can see my heart, as you read the hearts of the Pharisees. I also have a tendency to be critical and not always constructive. Make my heart be more like yours, desiring good, being generous despite the criticisms that might come my way.

Daily Note

(In preparing this commentary, I came across the following reflection, written by Amy Carmichael and titled “Calvary Love.”)

“IF I belittle those who I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting [that God made us different and He has given me all that I have], then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself, they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

WHAT? More Change?

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Daily Reflection – 9/4/2020

Sacred Scripture

The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wine skins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'” (Luke 5: 33-39)

Reflection

The pandemic has certainly shown us the resilience of humankind. The world that we knew was turned upside down. Daily routines were no longer. Friends and families were suddenly encased behind glass.

We did it because we had no choice. I wonder why when the “had to” is still operable in terms of spiritual life, we nonetheless resist – and sometimes resist vociferously – the need to change. Is it because we think it cam be put off until tomorrow? Is it because we are so set in our approach to our spirituality that we don’t think we need to change? And corollary to the preceding thought, is it because we rigidly believe that our brand of Christianity needs no change?

Yet to follow Christ and his “Good News” truly, we need to leave behind what St. Paul called the “old self” in order to be new creatures in Christ. It’s not unlike dying. It is painful at first. Unless one recognizes himself or herself as a sinner in urgent need of God, there will be no progress, there will be no death to self, there will be no new wine. Recall that, as Christians, we are not here to enjoy constant pleasure or live the life of ease, power and wealth. We must willingly die to those things, for we are here to die for Christ. We are here to unite ourselves to his cross: the way of self-sacrifice and love. The aim and goal of human life is to become one with Jesus Christ and make his story our story. That does not happen overnight. It is a journey that has no end.

The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives.  He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins — open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit. And just as life changes – sometimes gradually or sometimes monumentally – we have to be a creation in process. As a minister, how saddening it has been for me to confront so many that believe they have arrived . . . so many who belief they have figured “it” out . . . who have formed their opinions and perspective and there is nothing else to change.

So often it is the case that we erect an impervious shelter of pride around ourselves! In doing so, we make of ourselves stationary, immovable and unfeeling boulders, adamantly resistant to the Spirit’s divine impulses. Humility, then, which is the clear recognition of who we really are before God, is key. Is the old wineskin permeated with pride? Throw it out.

Making a break with our old self is difficult – the “old wine” is what we’re used to – but we have to take the step of recognizing in what our old self consists and deciding to leave that behind to embrace Christ’s message, which is always challenging, ever new.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth.  Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and willfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you.”

Daily Note

To become a new wine skin, we must become a new person, a new creation. Such a wondrous and saving event, mysterious as it is impossible for us to accomplish by ourselves alone, is brought about only with the help of God and his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who re-creates, transforms, heals, elevates and purifies. It is the Spirit of Love who re-makes us into a new creation and lifts us on the Divine Wind to heavenly places.

Are You Listening?

Love Notes: Because You Say So
Daily Reflection – 9/3/2020

Sacred Scripture

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel details the call of Jesus to Peter and some of the disciples. They were struck by His teaching and they were struck by the miracle he performed.

But this Gospel is not simply about a famous moment 2000 years ago by the Sea of Galilee. It’s about right now, in the defining moments of our daily lives. God is always touching us and calling us—warts, weakness and all—through Jesus, with his words, “Follow me.”

He comes not only in worship, but in the frustration of hard work where we catch nothing, in the times where it seems we are sinking; God comes not only in washing our nets but in washing our dishes and waiting to pick up the kids from soccer practice; He calls us in the people we love and in people who drive us crazy, even those we call our enemies. He calls us to hear his voice, to bring the compassion and justice of God to a world that needs it desperately.

God’s calling to us continues to this very minute as you read this reflection. It is not an invitation! It is not “hey, y’all wanna come over here?” God’s call throughout history is one of command; sometimes subtle and gentle and sometimes violent.

Sometimes that call is to radical vocation and sometimes it is a call to feed God’s sheep right where we are, in our families, at our work, in our church and in our communities.

God’s call is not a single event, it is a lifelong process filled with much failure punctuated with occasional bright points of success.

Stop and reflect on this tired, beat up world. Beset by the pandemic, rattled by recession, its future clouded by the unknown. But always there is hope. Hope that it can and will be made better. But that will not happen if each of us do not recognize that it is time that Christ take priority in our lives. Not a political party. Not one issue about which we are passionate. Rather it is about the issue of humankind and its relation to Christ. That is not something decided by an election. Rather it is defined by our self- election to a group of people whose lives are defined by Jesus Christ and ALL that he teaches. It’s defined by Jesus Christ talking primacy in our life – not a person or a party. Its defined by our obedience to His word and our willingness to recognize that our voice, our touch and our presence can be a drop of love which fills the heart of another to overflow in hope.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, fill my heart with love and compassion for those who do not know you or follow you. May I be a good witness of your truth and salvation to my family, friends, and co-workers.

Daily Note

God chooses ordinary people, like you and me, as his ambassadors and He uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and work situations to draw others into his kingdom. Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will “catch people” for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the Gospel. Paul the Apostle says, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him

Never Forget The Power of Love

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Daily Reflection – 9/2/2020

Sacred Scripture

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ. At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:38-44)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel is one of the most tender passages in scripture. It always evokes a swallow in my throat.

Here was Jesus using His love to heal. He knew that His mission was to save them and us. He saved them through the power of His touch which healed their bodies and their minds. If you close your eyes, you can almost feel his gentleness, care and concern for those who were ill or suffering in any way.”  His hands were gentle, loving, and healing.

That is the beautiful thing about Jesus’s healing in today’s gospel.  He touched people.  He physically touched them.  This is such a basic human need.  Human beings need to be touched.  There is no human being who is excluded from this need.  It is so often neglected because people fear the intimate act of touching another person, especially someone they do not know very well.

Too often, in the United States of today, gentleness is often replaced by stridency. Voices are raised in anger. Divisions abound. Families are weakened because of political beliefs. Emotional barriers are raised separating friend from friend.

Now more than ever, we must hold on the tenets of our Christian faith. We were created by God and each one of us was given special talents so that we can serve His creation in that special way. These talents that we were given are meant to serve all people regardless of their faith, creed, political belief, race, tribe, social status or gender.

Each of us has been called to be His light to others. Many people have come to know that God exists, because of simple, personal acts of love, especially the human touch.  A smile, a hug, a handshake, some unexpected help, or a visit when they are sick can really make a difference in their lives.   Just someone that cares that they are sick, like Simon’s mother in law in today’s gospel, can mean all the difference in a person’s day and it can affect their life for a long time afterwards.  This applies to something pretty minor, like a cold or the flu, all the way to cancer, and those who live with chronic pain.

Sometimes you have to look through the negativity, the bitterness, a person’s lifestyle, or major character flaws, and just love the person.  To do this, is to be like Christ. Jesus knew the whole person and He continued to love each even to those that crucified Him.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus Christ, you have all power to heal and to deliver. Set me free to serve you joyfully and to love and serve others generously. May nothing hinder me from giving myself wholly to you and to your service.

Daily Note

Disease literally means “not at ease.” Disease is disharmony, disturbances, dysfunction, derangement, delusions or disunity of the parts of the whole.

Demons in Judaism were supernatural beings with the power to cause harm to humans. We don’t know what demons are today; but we do that that they are and how some of they work. Demons always try to divide what God has put together. They divide the health of the body from the body. They divide the health of the spirit from the spirit. They divide love and incubate hate and bitterness.

Healing means restoration of the unity of the body, the mind, and the spirit. You and I have the power to heal through the gift of our love which supersedes everything.

Standing Tall

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Daily Reflection – 9/1/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus then went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. (Luke 4:31-37)

Reflection

This Gospel passage described the dramatic inauguration of the public ministry of Jesus in His home-town, Nazareth. Initially, there was a lot of amazement, wonder and awe that was expressed by the people. But when the Lord, began to explicate His Mission, especially of being a Savior of all the nations, there was a change in attitude of the people. The shift from a “goody-goody” expectation of the Messiah to a “challenging” presence, caused them discomfort. But the Spirit-filled Jesus had no stopping. He knew His mission and He knew what needed to be done.

Here we are two millennia later. Evil is still around us and probably even more so. Like the townspeople in Nazareth, too many have grown accustomed to its presence. So much so that we are losing the focus on our values and His teachings. Others are simply tired and beat up for confronting evil, speaking against it and finding there is always another evil. So much so that many of the “champions” are growing old in spirit.

But they remind us that it is up to you and me to pick up the cudgel if we have not done so already. What we cannot do is look for another savior.

Political groups, community organizations, and health professions have struggled to find means for eliminating these evils. They  inaugurate new programs, put up new buildings, and invent new medicines to help eliminate the problems. When the dust settles, some good has been done, but the evil still stands because its roots were not taken out.

That is where our challenge and task arise. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to become “people of authority and holiness”. We are called to let our lives be beacons of hope to others. Just as the United States was “the light on the hill,” we must become that light. How do we do that?

It requires the tremendous infilling and a constant seeking and doing of God’s Will in our lives. It starts with listening in prayer for His direction. No, it will probably not be another voice. But if we are praying every day, reading His word, and asking Him to lead us where we can do the most good. That is the first step. To be submissive enough to listen for Him to speak to us.

The second is to be sure that we have not grown complacent about the presence of evil. We cannot hide in our bubbles and assume that if we ignore it, evil will either not exist or it will go away. We must allow the risen Jesus within us to speak to the demons of our time and help people become free by speaking up, demonstrating through our lives that we are beacons of Him. If we are those beacons through the actions of our lives then we allow others to have the courage to speak up, cry out and find a way to slay the demons of hate, of despair and of selfishness.

For all of us who profess our belief in Jesus Christ, the time is now and the need is great.

Prayer of The Day

 “Lord, your word is power and life.  May I never doubt your saving love and mercy, and the power of your word to bring healing, restoration, and freedom from sin and affliction.”

Daily Note

When Jesus went about his work preaching the Kingdom of God, he began to chop down the “tree of evil.” He moved confidently among a broken people to heal the sick, cleanse lepers, give sight to the blind, and even raise dead people to live In proclaiming the gospel, he even attacked the evil of despair and assured people that the Kingdom of God was in their midst. The torch has been passed to us. Are you willing to help carry it?

To Fail, To Rise, To Carry

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Daily Reflection – 8/31/2020

Sacred Scripture

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will he give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.” ( Matthew 16: 21-27)

Reflection

All of Sacred Scripture is relevant. All of Sacred Scripture offers us insight.

Today’s Gospel is a double feature. There is so very much here. There are two insights I wish to share. The first is the concept of personal failure and the second deals with personal burden.

Let’s talk about failure. The story of Peter tells us what failure is and what failure is not.

Failure is a reminder of our human weakness. Each one of us has our own particular flaws. We all have an array of self-inflicted wounds: a disastrous decision , words spoken in anger, a variety of flaws, lost opportunities and fractured dreams.

Our failures are a sign of our human weakness. But they are not the end of the line. Our God is a God of compassion, a God of forgiveness. God is always willing to give us a second chance.

Our failures show us our human weakness but they should never be the end of our story. We can move beyond our sins because of God’s unfailing compassion and forgiveness. Jesus knew this truth. God will do the same for us. Pick any failure you wish, name your greatest sin. As profound as they may be. God’s compassion is deeper. We, like Peter, must get up and try again, believing that the same God who forgave us, will be with us.

Now let’s talk about carrying the cross. Some suggest that what Jesus is saying is that in order to be a disciple, we have to go out and find pain or suffering to prove that we really believe.  Or worse, some suggest that God sends us pain or suffering to test us, and to prove our discipleship. 

What Jesus is saying is that, if we want to be a disciple, we must believe in Him on the level of the cross.  Any cross, after all, is personal.  A cross is not an abstract idea or a concept.  Carrying a cross affects us in the deepest and most intimate part of our being.  Jesus is saying that we will never know what it means to be a disciple unless we allow our faith to operate in our deepest selves.  When Jesus says that we must take up our cross and follow him, he is not saying that we must go out and look for pain so that we can be disciples.  He is saying that we will only realize what it means to be a disciple when our faith is personal enough to allow us to carry our pain.

Whatever pain you are carrying, know that God is aware of your struggle and will  not abandon you. God will not to let you carry your cross alone.

This is what it means to be a disciple.  It is more than knowing the Ten Commandments or going to Church or knowing theology.  It is allowing your faith to operate on the level of your living, on the level of your pain, as you carry your cross.  Only this is real faith.   

Prayer of The Day

Lord, help me grow in my faith. Teach me to focus on your love and compassion. Teach me to believe that I am never alone as log as you are in my life.

Daily Note

The death of on the cross won, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death makes possible our freedom to live as the adopted sons and daughters of the merciful Father in heaven. His death enables all of us to know of His abiding love and His constant presence in our lives.

And Then The Music Stopped

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Daily Reflection – 8/28/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)

Reflection

The point of the parable is obviously not about weddings.  

Jesus used that imagery as the background to communicate to us how we should be living our life in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, at the end of our life or at the end of the world, whichever comes first. It is about being ready.  

Perhaps a better way to understand the Lord’s point is if we consider playing musical chairs.  You remember how to play musical chairs, right?  You walk around the chairs, carefully situating your self  just waiting for the music to stop, hoping that you can get to a chair before a slower person. 

Consider Jesus telling the parable of the kids playing musical chairs, and then turning to you and to me and asking, “Where are you going to be when the music stops?”

Jesus wants to make it clear that a time will come when each person is either welcomed into heaven or finds the door barred before them. He wants to warn us so that no one gets left out.

But what about the virgins’ supply of oil? That’s the oil that determines whether we are ready to meet Jesus. We could call it our faith or the Holy Spirit or the grace of God. Whatever it is, it’s something that we can’t borrow from a friend. We have to be prepared with our own supply. Our preparedness to meet the Lord is something that is ultimately only our responsibility. No one can say “Yes” to Christ on my behalf.

So, while the foolish virgins went off to make up for lost and wasted time, “those who were ready” went into the wedding hall and “the door was closed”. All are invited, but not all get inside. All are called but few are among the chosen ones. This is not due to any partiality on the bridegroom’s part but because of the tardiness of some in responding to the invitation. The closed door means that access to Jesus is not automatic or to be altogether taken for granted.

The best way for us to stay alert for the return of the Bridegroom is for us to be ready, with hearts burning with love, for the presence of the Bridegroom NOW. The more we will long to share eternal communion with him. The more we attentively listen to his Word in Sacred Scripture, the more prepared we will be to hear even the softest footsteps of his advent. The more we seek to recognize him in the persons and events of each day, and love and embrace them as we would love and embrace Christ, the more ready we will be ready to embrace Christ when he appears without disguise.

Prayer of The Day

“Help me, Lord, to seek, to find, and to respond to you in every person and every experience of this day.”

Daily Note

There is absolutely no better way to prepare for the final call than, first, to put it completely out of one’s head, and, second, to learn to spend each and every day in the company of Jesus. “I am with you always.”

Maybe Napping Is Not A Good Idea!

Of Sound Mind and Spirit: Advent is Here - Are You Awake?
Daily Reflection – 8/27/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”( Matthew 24:42-51)

Reflection

Jesus’ parable of the thief in the night vividly reminds us of the the necessity for watchfulness and being on guard to avert the danger of plunder and destruction, especially under the cover of darkness and secrecy! But what plunder? What destruction?

Our adversary the devil seeks to rob us of the very treasure which the Lord freely offers us. It is the treasure of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus himself – who is our greatest gift and portion in this life. That is teh greatest gift we have ever been given and one which we don’t want to lose.

Since none of us knows when our last day on earth is and since Jesus did not reveal the day and the hour, then we should live each day as our last. If we did that, how different your life and mine would be.

Central to that last day would be the love in our hearts and how that translates into the actions of our day. That love requires us to embrace all people, including those who are not one with us and those who cannot seem to accept us as their equal in Christ.

That is a tall order indeed. But it is no less than His call. As believers we should be faithful and far-sighted servants who care for God’s people. We have to be able to spend our lives for the interests of others. When we have love in our hearts, we fulfill God’s foremost command to love Him above all and our neighbor as ourselves.

The call is for each of us to be a “person for others” who regards self as second and last in the distribution of benefits, who sacrifices self for another and forgets self for love of God and neighbor. Is that possible? Yes and yes. It’s  possible because the grace of God which has been bestowed on all of us in Christ Jesus has enriched us in every way.

We are called to be faithful and to follow his will every single day. This is the path to holiness and union with God; there is no other way we can be close to God except by doing his will, out of love and gratitude.

Every day we need to renew our spirit of faith in God and in his constant presence, living each day to please him, no matter how long the delay seems to be. We need to live in his presence through faith in him and his revelation, which guides us along the pathway to eternal life. That is not pulpit talk. That is the reality of being Christian!

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, take my life and all that I possess so that I may see you as my treasure and joy. Make me strong in faith, steadfast in hope, and generous in love that I may seek to please you in all things and bring you glory.”

Daily Note

The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit so that we may have the wisdom, help, and strength we need to turn away from sin to embrace God’s way of love, justice, and holiness. The Lord’s warning of judgment causes dismay for those who are unprepared, but it brings joyful hope to those who eagerly wait for his return in glory. 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.

Authenticity Requires A Match

Matthew 23:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ...
Daily Reflection – 8/26/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”( Matthew 23:27-32)

Reflection

Jesus used strong language to warn the religious leaders and teachers about the vanity of outward appearance and pretense while wearing a mask that hides the true intentions and thoughts of the heart.

Through His words, we are reminded that Jesus equates true beauty and goodness with a clean heart and mind that is set on God and his way of love and goodness. He warns that what truly corrupts a person is the impurity of wrong and sinful attitudes that come from within a person’s mind and heart – these are what produce sinful habits and ways of speaking, acting, judging, and treating others.

In our world today, there are far too many who are not different than the scribes and Pharisees. They are presentable outside but they neglect the more important aspect of life which is interior cleansing, renewal and transformation. Going through a periodic self-audit to check on whether our inner self matches the exterior self is critical for each of us.

We have no less a helper than God himself who knows our hearts so well. He knows our dreams, our hopes, our fears, and our desires. He knows what delights us, what saddens us, what worries us.

With God, we don’t have to pretend. When we come to prayer, we can be confident, because we are approaching a God who not only created us but is intimately aware of our every thought or feeling.

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we may keep up our guard, wary of letting anyone get too close to us, even the Lord.

But God is our biggest fan. He won’t ever betray us, and he won’t be scandalized by our faults. So, open your heart to God! Don’t hold anything back! Tell him what’s on your mind. Share with him your struggles with bad habits or sins, and ask for his forgiveness and grace.

Remember Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but to save us, to shower us with mercy and love. God, our Creator, accepts us just the way we are, even as he longs to see us transformed. He delights in you. He knows you as he intended you to be for all eternity. And with that image in mind, he will always treat you with the utmost of love and respect.

Prayer of The Day

“Father, what a great God you are! You have searched me and know me, and still you love me. Without hesitation or fear, I open myself to you.”

Daily Note

As Christians, we are called to love and serve God, and to spread the good news of the gospel. That starts with our own behavior, and our own responsibility to be good spiritual role models to all those around us, especially the youth in our lives. In our own lives, we have a choice, we can be good spiritual role models and lead others to Christ, or we can be like the scribes and pharisees and lead people away. The choice is ours.