A Season of Song

Luke 1:78-79 | Luke 1, Luke, Career quotes inspirational
Daily Reflection – 12/24/2020

Sacred Scripture

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” ( Luke 1:67-79)

Reflection

All of us know the Christmas season as one filled with song and joy. Two days ago, we heard Mary’s song – the Magnificat. Today, we hear Zechariah’s song, known as the Benedictus, because it’s first word is Blessing.

So much happened to Zechariah in his time of suffering. He could have easily lost hope and felt abandoned by God. But he didn’t. He waited on the fidelity of God and, when his time came and his tongue loosed, he spoke this beautiful and faith-filled song of praise of praise.

He came to realize that his little child (John the Baptist) was the one who would prepare the immediate way for the Lord. He came to understand this baby’s singular prophetic role in the salvation of the world. He saw his son as the “dawn” which was to announce the rising Sun. His prayer is a sign of assurance that God is and will always be with us.

In the darkness of our human destiny, his song proclaims something that will bring supreme comfort in the face of this ultimate disaster. “Because of the tender mercy of God, the daybreak from on high will…shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow…”

This is where the birth of Jesus comes to life in terms of trying to find enough meaning because he is a God who embraced the level of being human so that He could become one of us and that we will acknowledge such God as one who journeys with His people.

We prepare for the birth of God who created us not to die but to live. This is the good news of Jesus. So good and so true. He will teach and show us how to truly live in preparation for the loving embrace of the eternal Father.

Zacharias and his prayer of blessing evokes a thought that ties it all together. Like Zechariah, the Holy Spirit wants to give us vision, joy, and confidence in the knowledge of God’s merciful love, protection, and care. Like John the Baptist, we too are called to prepare the way that leads to Christ. Life is a journey and we are either moving towards the Lord or away from the Lord. The Lord comes to visit us each day with his life-giving Word and Spirit.

How humbled I am when I think of that three part message. As we approach the end of Advent, I am reminded of God’s love made manifest in this tender and compassionate child who will grow to liberate all of us from sin. I know that, every day, I must both internalize and act on His destiny by helping others see Christ in my actions. Every day, I am invited by God to move closer to Him.

That scenario, that invitation is extended every day to you and me. Christmas formalizes all of that and beckons us to take another step closer – closer to the invitation of God. The only question is whether will accept that invitation.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you have been gracious and merciful towards your people. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may bear witness to the joy of the Gospel to those around me.”

Daily Note

More beautiful or poignant words have never been spoken to foretell the ultimate event in all of human history–God becoming man and entering the world so as to die for our salvation.  Only a God with unfathomable “merciful compassion” would humble himself to the point of taking human flesh and “become obedient to death, even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:8)

But come He did on a cold December night almost 2020 years ago. Though He came as a helpless babe born in a cave,  the dawning light he would shine on the world sitting in darkness could not be contained, allowing each of us the chance to become partaker’s in God’s divine nature.  “God became a man so that following a man–something you are able to do–you might reach God, which was formerly impossible to you.”  (St. Augustine)

Now That’s AMAZING !

Luke 1:37 - Latter-day Saint Scripture of the Day
Daily Reflection – 12/23/2020

Sacred Scripture

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:57-66)

Reflection

I smile as I read the Gospels leading us to Christmas. They are filled with joy, wonderment and unbridled faith. And well they should. They are inspired words of God. And, as with any inspiration, they send a strong personal message to each of us. A message that is amazing.

The birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth and Zechariah was a true miracle from God. In the case of Zechariah, its prelude was somber. He doubted the message of the Angel when it was announced to him that Elizabeth would become pregnant. It reminds us that in our moments of weakness when we doubt where the Lord is, we need to listen more carefully and to respond. Those are the moments when we must persevere the most in our faith, those are the moments when we must pray for each other.

For faith is a gift, it cannot be earned, it cannot be bought, it is a gift from God. We should thank God for the gift of faith that he has given to us, and never cease to ask God for growth in our faith, in our trust, and in our understanding of who He is. He will always answer.

That’s Amazing!

Think of this. You were named by God. You were named at the time of your baptism. At baptism, you were signed with the name of the Holy Trinity, and so God’s name is upon you.  God has therefore claimed you for His own and desires to bless you as His child.  For if God has given you His name, then He has made you a member of His holy family.

You have a choice every day of whether or not to accept that holy and awesome name.  Every time that you believe and obey God, you are accepting His naming and claiming of you.   Baptized into the Body of Christ, we are members of a prophetic community called to work for peace and justice, announcing the good news in word and deed.

That’s Amazing!

In a few days, we will celebrate the wonderous miracle of God giving us His Son. The day is a day of prayer, joy and love. As incredible and glorious as The Feast of Christmas is that God would become incarnate for us and he would take on our flesh and come into this world as one of us, so that he would be able to save us from our sins. Nothing is more incredible except . . .that this is the mystery that we celebrate, in essence, every single day.

Every day He is with us if we but listen for His presence and acknowledge His role and constant presence in our lives. Every day we are invited to show God’s glory, justice, and peace in unique ways and in particular times.

He remains with us always.

Now that’s Amazing !!

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, I thank You for choosing me before the foundation of the world and claiming me as Your own.  I thank You for giving me Your name and making me a part of Your family.  Help me to honor Your name by believing You when You speak and obeying when You command.  Amen. “

Daily Note

Baptized into the Body of Christ, we are members of a prophetic community called to work for peace and justice, announcing the good news in word and deed. May we reflect on our own lives as did Isaiah, John, and so many others that have gone before us. And may we look at the newborn Christians in our communities of faith and ask the question shared by those inspired by John’s birth: “What, then, will this child be?” And help that child grow into the prophet God intended her or him to be.

The Magnificence of Her Song

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Daily Reflection 12/22/2020

Sacred Scripture

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46-56)

Reflection

Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas carols? Fortunately, they abound. Each has a message. Each of us has our favorite.

Our Gospel today reminds us of a very special one — Mary’s song. Called the Magnificat (from Latin meaning to magnify); Mary “magnifies” the Lord, by proclaiming God’s greatness and rejoicing in God as Savior. Though He has yet to be born, she wants to sing His praises and magnify His name.

As Mary experienced the joy and amazement of God’s plan for her, we too have an opportunity to experience this Joy and Amazement of God in our lives. We too are invited with this message of hope and promise. A message that is so needed as we see the pain in our country and the world.

We are invited to believe in that hope and seek out others to share that belief. We are invited to seek out those that have lost hope and, for a moment, bring light to their darkness by magnifying His presence. We are invited to recognize that, for too long, we have allowed our personal lives to take precedence in the way we live our lives – our needs, our wants, our anguish, our anger, yes, our pettiness.

Because amidst all of that lies the promise of His birth. The promise of His salvation for us. The promise that no matter who we are, where we are from, what we do, our birth, made possible by Him, ordains us to nobility in His eyes and His plan.

Can we do that? Can we believe that? Yes and Yes. Because we each share something in common with Mary. God chose Mary, by His grace, so that Christ might be formed in her, and then introduced to the world through her.

God wants the same in our lives.  By the Holy Spirit, Christ dwells in us, by grace, through faith. And by the same Spirit, Christ is introduced through us to those in our world; introduced in our words, our love, our service. And this astounding privilege should put a song in our mouth. Because of Jesus, we cannot help but speak.

You see, your calling and mine, is to magnify the great love that God has for us. Just think of the hope and promise contained in that. Just think how different it would be if you and I brought alive His light and promise to someone who is existing in the dark. How we could make this world less divided, more trustworthy and more hopeful. It’s a challenge but one that could truly happen because His Son came for that reason – to make us whole, to make us recognize how loved we are and to awaken us to the grace that lives in us which could change our world.

Let your words and actions magnify the Lord today and every day.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, help me to earnestly seek you with humility and confidence. Increase my faith in your promises, strengthen within me the hope of heaven and eternal life, and set my heart on fire with love for you and your kingdom. May I always praise and magnify your greatness and mercy.”

Daily Note

Mary sings about the God who saves not just souls, but embodies people. The God she celebrates is not content merely to point people toward heaven; God’s redemptive work begins here on earth. God fills the hungry not only with hope, but with food. Rather than being satisfied with comforting the lowly, Mary’s Lord lifts them up, granting them dignity and honor, a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. At the same time, God shows strength by disrupting the world’s power structures, dethroning rulers, and humbling the proud, the mighty.

Mary’s song magnifies the Savior who loves the whole world with a love that makes creation whole, that has given us the priceless gift of God’s salvation.

We Have To Believe . . .

THE VISITATION — July 2 (EF calendar). “We must here consider that the  greater cometh unto the lesser, Mary unto Elizabeth, Christ unto John. …  Elizabeth was the first to hear the
Daily Reflection – 12/21/2020

Sacred Scripture

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1: 39-45)

Reflection

And the Symphony of Christmas continues to its next movement – the visit by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.

As we read and reflect on this Gospel of joy and happiness, we need to take in its message of beauty and its declaration of hope.

The year 2020 has exhausted us physically and spiritually. The worldwide pandemic has taken more than lives. It has also changed the way we approach our lives.

In the United States, the meanness of politics has reared its ugly head and, for many, seeks on a daily basis to take joy out of life. Instead of a nation proudly proclaiming the majesty of our shores and the freshness of our liberty, we now proclaim political partisanship and for many invectives. The country now lurches and stumbles down the path of democracy.

Amidst this darkness, two women offer a light of hope, a light of joy, a light that says there is another reality – a reality from which we were created, a reality which holds the true meaning of life, a reality which is within us and which beckons us to our true home.

We continue the Symphony of Christmas with Mary. Around 1030 A.D. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke these words: “Without God’s Son nothing could exist; without Mary’s son, nothing could be redeemed.” Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. Her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises. Hold on to the magnitude of that faith as we listen to this Gospel.

Mary sets out on a treacherous road, crossing Samaria to reach Judea. She isn’t looking for just anyone with whom to share her joy: she’s looking for Elizabeth, she who can truly understand her; a woman that is living an experience similar to her own. There is no deeper experience than having someone that you feel understands you; someone with whom to read back over your past in order to discover how God continually touches your life.

Elizabeth represents the sterility of humanity which is now refreshed by the presence of God in her life. Perhaps Elizabeth, in her silence, has continued to hope. Perhaps she has also experienced that solitude which is the impossibility of sharing her last crumbs of hope with another person. But the last vestiges of her faith and hope prevailed and she was rewarded by the Lord. Hold on to that hope as we listen further to this Gospel.

There is still another with a message. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leaped for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born. Hold on to that joy as we near the end of this Gospel.

Mary’s journey belongs to each of us. Her visit with Elizabeth reminds us of the meaning of faith, of hope and of joy. In fact, the joy that Eve took away has been returned to us by Mary. All of that happened through the grace of God as He sent His Holy Spirit into these two women.

That in dwelling of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we too have been marked by Christ. We too have been filled with the Holy Spirit. It is God’s bond with us that unites us to Him in our salvific destiny. That should bring us joy. The joy that comes from recognizing the presence of Christ, is God’s Christmas gift to us.  It is a joy that comes from a faith that tells us that Emmanuel – God is with us – works mercifully in our lives in ways that we can see and ways that we cannot see. No matter if we are suffering or feeling elated, we can learn to recognize Christ’s presence, and feel joy.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me joy in seeking you more earnestly. Increase my faith in all your promises, my hope in the joy of heaven, and my love for You as my All.”

Daily Note

Each of us needs to keep our focus on the roadmap to joy through recognizing the presence of Jesus.  Let us live consciously in his presence. Think of him. Listen to him. Talk to him.  I pray that you will feel God’s nearness in a special way today, and through this Christmas Season. May His presence guide us to that special place… of happiness and joy, and set us on the pathway that we ultimately seek, the pathway to the kingdom of heaven!

Opening Ourselves To Give Birth

BRINGING FREEDOM | Tell the Good News | Romans 10:9-15 and Matthew 1:18-25  | Andrew Gardner | Fulwood Free Methodist Church
Daily Reflection – 12/18/2020

Sacred Scripture

Now 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

Today’s Gospel passage presents a defining moment in the life of Joseph and a compelling example of faith and obedience for each of us.

We learn that Joseph was a kind man. . . “unwilling to expose her to shame, he decided to divorce her quietly.” In his mind, he had to. His life, his religion, his ethics were shaken by learning that Mary was with child. We can surmise that, as a man of faith, he prayed intensely about it. Then, in his dream, an angel appears and invites him to participate in a larger story. . . to make a leap, to take an action that goes beyond how he would normally understand the law.

So, Joseph awoke in the morning and did what he had to do. He began emptying himself. He let go of fear. He let go of his doubts and questions. He let go of his own reputation and standing in the community. He let go of his ideas and hopes for what his marriage to Mary could have been. He let go of the law and punishment and trusted God.

Joseph was changed because of God’s plan for his life. The threads of God’s plan were laid long before Joseph was born and affect millions of people 2020 years after his death. Joseph yielded to God.

How many of us have yet to experience God’s plan for our lives? Is it because we all limit ourselves by our tried-and-true ways of doing things?. Many have their own unyielding ways of dealing with personal, spiritual, and professional matters. It’s my way, not your way.

While today’s Gospel is about Mary and Joseph, it is truly about you and me. It’s about you and I becoming more open and more receptive to God’s will in our lives. In a grueling year, as 2020 has been, it’s about you and I not becoming more rigid becaause of our self- imposed credo of right and wrong but allowing ourselves to listen to the whispers of God and recognize that we can change our immediate world by acting in love and obedience to Him. Only Him. Not our idea of who He is, or our interpretation of what He wants or even what He thinks! But listening to His words in scripture, digesting the flavors and meaning of the sacraments, finding His beauty and His grace around us. Yielding to those prompts and becoming refreshed and strengthened by them.

Yielding to God means letting go of the anger, the resentment, the judging of others, yes, even in today’s times, the refusal to further spread malicious comments and untruths. These are the things that lead to isolation and loneliness. These are the things that close us up, harden our nature and make us inaccessible. By definition, when we are closed, we are not open. Not open to receiving God’s love. How painful that is!

The very use of Emmanuel, in referring to Jesus, means that God is with us. That is the meaning of Christmas. Christmas offers the gift of faith; offers this gift with the very human realities of birth, joy, struggle, confusion and peace. Christmas is a gift given, and a gift to be shared, and sometimes a gift to be worked at.

In prayer we receive the peace and joy of the feast; in our kindness to others at Christmas we share his coming; and in our working in the world, or in the family and communities, for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and other qualities of the message of the gospel, we bring Christmas alive.

During this final week of Advent, we are reminded that His plan for us is to give birth to God’s Son in our time and in our culture. We need this message in a world of anger, polemics, pandemic and terror.

Christmas presents an alternate view, trust in God. Life may get in the way of our plans, but we will have the strength to survive and thrive because we trust the One who is really in control. We might not be in control. But God is. We can be truly grateful that the real gift of Christmas lasts forever, for this life and the next.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, you came to save us from sin and the power of death. May I always rejoice in your salvation and trust in your divine plan for my life.”

Daily Note

During these last few days of the Advent season, may you and I hear a word from that inner place, a word that banishes all fear and encourages us to take one tiny leap of action to draw nearer to something we do not fully understand. Emmanuel is God with us: do not be afraid.

THE Family Tree

Gold tree with flowers on black ... | Stock vector | Colourbox
Daily Reflection – 12/17/2020

Sacred Scripture

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.( Matthew 1:1-17)

Reflection

For some, this Gospel might not possess a lot of interest. For many, it may be almost difficult to read in its entirety.

But for the Jews in the time of Jesus, it was the most important “document” to read or hear. This genealogy would have had more attention-grabbing power than headline news. It summed up all their hopes and expectations about what God had been promising to do in their lives ever since the time of Abraham. And it would have triumphantly announced that that plan had come to completion in their own lifetime!

The royal Child at the end of the genealogy is the answer to their heart’s deepest longings. Not only is He the Christ the anointed Davidic king who will restore the kingdom. And not only is He Jesus, the one who will save His people from their sins. He is Emmanuel God with us. God is with His people again!

For us, reading and reflecting on this Gospel, should also be  “big news.”

When the Son of God became a human being, he really did become one of us. When John says, “The Word became a human being and lived among us”, he said no less than the truth.

And, if Jesus was totally incarnated in the world so that he could communicate the message of God’s love to the world and for the world, then we, too, must be totally incarnated.

God’s love for us goes beyond words and defies human intellect. The supreme being cared so much for us that he sent His son to become flesh and ultimately die for our sins.

So how are we too “incarnated.” In order for us to be true to our calling we have to separate ourselves from a material and sinful world. That does not mean that we need to become a monastic or a hermit. Instead, it does mean that we need to step apart and say Jesus Christ means everything to me. God’s love means everything to me. I need to live that love. I need to be sure that every day, I am acting in His love and because of that love. I need to put aside those things of this world that separate me from Him and His love. No cause – no set of beliefs – no professed religion –no ideology – no person can ever have more prominence in my life. If that happens, I am diminishing the power of His incarnation in me!

His incarnation in me. Think about that. I am so important to God that He dwells in me. It doesn’t matter what I look like, what I have, how I have been educated or where I live. I am important to him. I am a vessel of His love and His word.

Internalizing that means that everything I have done to date and everything I plan to do must be examined to assure that I can fulfill his expectations of me. I must remember that it is not a question of “being worthy.” That has already been established.

Each of us is called to be the “salt” of the earth. Each of us is called to “flavor” the human condition by our thoughts, words and actions. It comes down to fully identifying the values and concerns of His kingdom and inculcating them into the very fiber of our earthly life. If we don’t then we are salt without taste.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, help me to let go of those ideas, words and desires that separate me from you. Help me to surrender more deeply, in trust, to all that You have prepared for me. Lord.”

Daily Note

The Old Testament prophesied that the anticipated Messiah would be the Son of David, and in the first line of the Gospel Matthew points to Jesus as the fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy. Matthew triumphantly proclaims that the royal child at the end of the genealogy is the answer to their hearts’ deepest longings. Not only is he the Christ — the anointed Davidic king who will restore the kingdom. And not only is he Jesus, the one who will save his people from their sins, he is Emmanuel — God with us. God is with his people again!

But There Is ALWAYS Hope

The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you'  Deuteronomy 31:6 #scripturesunday #scriptu… | Bible promises, Scripture,  Bible scriptures
Daily Reflection – 12/16/2020

Sacred Scripture

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time he cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And he said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:18-23)

Reflection

It seems to me that more people decked their houses more festively this year. More people are proclaiming holiday wishes.  It’s as if more people want to see some light rather than dark. And well they should. Fear and darkness shrouded most of 2020. The pandemic raged, and still rages, around the world. In the United States, an election went on and on. At a time, when we needed to heal, anything but healing prevailed. Our spirits and souls call out for peace but some don’t seem to want that.

In the midst of all of this, comes today’s Gospel passage. John the Baptist languishes in the darkness of his cell. He sends his clinging disciples to Jesus to find in him the one to whom John’s whole life — and even his incarceration and death — would point.

To answer, Jesus reached back to Isaiah and used the  language about the Messiah and his service to the lost, forgotten, and needy to remind John that he, Jesus, is the Christ of God. Jesus was what he said, and Jesus did what the prophets proclaimed he would do. He did it then and He does it now. Amidst all of this darkness, Jesus continues to work.

God’s hands are around us, like a potter’s hands around the clay—holding, shaping, and transforming the troubled clay of our lives into something useful and good. And it is in that action that we find hope.

God is in the midst of all of 2020, somehow guiding events to God’s own purposes. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that God sent a pandemic for a divine purpose. I am not suggesting that God desires Democrats and Republicans to attack one another and pit neighbors and family members against one another, Disease and divisions do not come from God. But when they do come, we believe that God is active and capable of drawing out of these difficult situations gifts that will be good for us.

And it is in that action of God that we find hope. So, the challenge of Advent is not to turn our backs on 2020 with disgust, but dare to ask how will God use the difficult events of this past year to make something beautiful? We can’t do that by clinging to the barnacles of this year. By continuing to use words that hurt, allowing our anger to rage inside while we present a fixed smile to the outside, by demonizing those who do not agree with us!

We have to level the mountains of pride, self-righteousness and egocentrism in our lives. We have to fill in the valleys that come from a shallow prayer life. We have to straighten out crooked paths: if we’ve been involved in some dishonest practices or living a double life, we’re called to straighten them out and do restitution; if we’ve been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to reconcile with others, now’s the time to clear away all the debris now is the time to get our priorities straight.

This is why Advent is coming at just the right time for us. Advent is a season of hope, hope not in the things that have happened but in what God is doing. Today John continues to point out Jesus to us and wants us, like his emissaries in today’s Gospel, to go to Jesus and enter into deeper conversation with him, to consider all of his works, to be blessed for our faith in him. He wants us to go thirsty to receive the outpouring of God’s living water from above.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, help me in the Advent season to continue to prepare my heart for You. Help me to listen to Your Word and to heed all that You have to say. May I follow You in all things and above all things and never be offended by Your Word. Jesus, I trust in You. 

Daily Note

Reflect, today, upon how completely open you are to the full truth of the Gospel. Are you ready and willing to listen to everything Jesus proclaims? Are you ready and willing to accept the full Gospel in your life? Let Advent be a time when you deepen your resolve to listen and heed all that our Lord wants to say to you. And if you see yourself “offended” in any way, know that the area of offense is most likely the area you need to work on the most.

Let’s All ‘ Fess Up

Matthew 21:28 But what think you? A certain man had two sons; and he came  to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
Daily Reflection – 12/15/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)

Reflection

OK, let’s squirm a bit today!

It’s quite clear that the Lord wants all of us to reflect on not only what we say to God, but especially how we follow through on our commitments.

The second son was disobedient, but so was the first. It does not take too much introspection to realize that every follower of Jesus shares something in common with each of the two sons. It is hard to admit, but too often we are like the first son. We confess as Christians that we want to follow the will of God, and yet every time we sin, we do the opposite. How many times each day do we turn away from our Heavenly Father through the words we speak or the deeds we commit or fail to commit? How many times a day do we pray and then go off and say (or post) something that is contradictory to Him?)

None of us are perfect. None of us have been good all our lives. We all sin. Just like we should take note that God does not play favorites, we should do well to remind ourselves that all of us have failed God.

Yet, just like the first son, who initially flunked the test, there is always a chance to repent. We can turn around our relationship There is never a time when we cannot start honestly working in the vineyard for Jesus.

And what do we do in that vineyard? It’s all about answering His invitation.

It is an invitation to a life of love of the other. It is a life that desires to love perfectly. All of these things are at the heart of what love is about. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, he answered that upon one commandment hung all the law AND the prophets: to love God, and the second was like it, to love your neighbor.

To be obedient to God is to ask in every situation, what is the loving thing? What is the thing that shows the greatest concern and care for the person standing right in front of me? Sometimes that means giving a little more mercy than is called for. Sometimes it means standing sadly and lovingly firm. Whatever it is, it is to love.

The point of this parable is that we are to serve God out of love, not out of a sense of weaseling out of what we don’t want to do for the Father who loves us so.

So here is one way of assuring that when we say we are going to do or say something for Him, we really do. 

I invite you to join my Club of the Squirm. Each night, before falling off to sleep, I go through a recap of my day. I think through the good things I may have done or said but I also review the actions and words to see where I may have sinned against God (there is the squirm part). I do that but not because I want to wallow in my disobedience and disappointment. Instead, I do this so I might recognize the ways that the evil one leads us astray and more easily be on guard against his future attacks. In essence, the more I feel uncomfortable about my day, the better the chance is that the next day will be better.

Each day brings us the chance to be in a constant state of conversion, always seeking to live more faithfully so our actions match the faith we confess.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, change my heart that I may only desire that which is pleasing to you. Help me to respect your will and give me the strength, joy and perseverance to carry it out wholeheartedly.”

Daily Note

May we, in humility, recognize how often we imitate the first son whose promises are not matched by his actions. Then, may we rejoice that our Father in heaven calls us in love to return to Him daily like the second son, that He may forgive us, restore us and draw us closer to living the faithfulness we seek.

So, Who Is Your Boss

The Authority of the King - ppt video online download
Daily Reflection – 12/14/2020

Sacred Scripture

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

Reflection

Now I know where politicians get their dance – you know, the dance where they don’t answer the question. Where a lot of words are spoken but no one of them makes sense! Today’s Gospel has the chief priests and elders squirming and dancing as they try to come up with an answer to Jesus’ question.

They also missed the true meaning of “authority”. They and we think that “authority” has to do with power–the power to do this or that. But it’s more than that: authority is also a matter of permission. To have authority is to have permission from some greater authority to speak or act in a particular area.

The exercise of genuine authority is not to control but, on the contrary, to be an agent in releasing the potential that is in people, to be an empowering agent. Jesus did not wield coercive authority. He invited people to follow him. He came to serve not be served. He came to give life, life in its fullness. He came to lead people into the full development of all they could be and were meant to be.

Our leaders exercise power but very few exercise authority. In the exercise of power, we look to our own interests but in the exercise of authority we look to the interests of others.

Think about the people who hold authority for you. They are not concerned about themselves. They do not dominate or control you. They inspire you. They call forth from you faith, hope, and trust. They expand your world, open new possibilities, and bring forth life and gifts in yourself that you never knew were there. They cause you to reevaluate your life, change your mind, and live differently. That sounds an awful lot like Jesus and it’s very different from those who exercise power.

Every day God authorizes us to enter and sends us into his vineyard, to act in this world with his authority and on his behalf through the gifts he has bestowed upon each one of us. God shares his authority with us. The authority God shares with us is nothing less than his own divine attributes. It is the expression and manifestation of God’s life in and through our own.

There is no one without authority. The difference isn’t that some have authority and others don’t. The difference is that some recognize and exercise their authority and others do not. Regardless, God knows and sees the authority he has given us and waits for us to see and know it too.

If you wonder what has happened to our world, to our society, all you need to do is look around. Too many have rejected the life fulfilling authority of Jesus to grow and be His beacon. Too many have twisted His words and the Christian faith so it suits their beliefs, prejudices and needs. Too many have made Church a market place where they barter their prayers and actions for a gift from God.

So here is a simple question: What do you care about? What do I care about? Are we like the religious leaders to whom Jesus is talking, whose primary care is for social standing and personal reputation and twisted perspectives as well as the comforts that come with a lifestyle of privilege? Or is our primary concern going to be for the honor of our Father God who authorizes us to go out and work for him in the vineyard of his Kingdom? Who authorizes us to live only His words? Is your answer “ I will?”

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let your light shine in my heart and in my mind that I may grow in understanding the truth of your word and find joy and freedom in living according to it.”

Daily Note

The coming of God’s kingdom or reign on the earth inevitably leads to conflict – a conflict of allegiance to God’s will or my will, God’s justice or the world’s way of playing fair, God’s standard of absolute moral truth or truth relative to what I want to believe is good and useful for the time being. How do you respond to Jesus’ claim to be not only the Messiah, but the source of everlasting life and truth as well? Do you submit to his word and stake your life on the coming of his kingdom? Jesus promises that those who seek to live according to God’s truth will find true joy, freedom, and happiness both now and forever.

PLEASE Change The Channel !

Manly Worship: 3 by Josh Tabuena
Daily Reflection – 12/11/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (Matthew 11:16-19)

Reflection

They didn’t listen. They missed the point. They didn’t like the music that was played. So they turned away from John the Baptist and they ultimately conspired to murder Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we too are like those that rejected them.We want the gospel to fit our beliefs, desires, and agendas rather than shaping our beliefs, desires, and agendas to fit the gospel.

That is what happens with truth. Truth in all its forms is often less regarded than the lie told to meet the wishes of those who hear. We often prefer to be deceived rather than to face a difficult reality that requires us to change.We often prefer to deny or be blind to the character or morals of another if they help our agenda.

We take passages from the Bible and twist them to make a point. We take the word of God and use it as window dressing – disguising those thoughts and actions which are contra to His teaching. We use religion to dress up tortured thoughts and actions of others – to make them appear more pleasing.

The fact is that Christianity is not supposed to be a religion!

Following Jesus is not about following guidelines or rules but living a new reality. We follow Christ not because he established a new religion, but because He is the end of religion. He transcends religion. He is above religion. Christ did not come to institute new laws, but to fulfill the law. We spread the call of Christ not for ourselves, but rather so that we can exist beyond ourselves. It all comes down to how we weave the threads of our being. Are we weaving them in His likeness or an image that we choose to project?

You don’t need to be wise and intelligent to find Jesus. We don’t need to be a theologian or scholar to know who He is. No amount of knowledge or intellect will ever compare to the rest that we can find through faith in Jesus. Following Christ is about humbling ourselves like a child, living into a new and blessed reality, looking upon the world in an unbiased manner, loving those around you, and experiencing God as you experience life.

If we are going to call ourselves Christians, we must fully yoke ourselves to Christ. He must be the primary and determining yoke. We cannot simply come to church, hear the gospel, say our prayers, and then go to lunch. The gospel of Christ demands a response. That’s why Jesus is so harsh with his words. The people have seen God among them, they have witnessed the signs. Jesus has cleansed their lepers, healed their sick, calmed the sea, cast out their demons, forgiven their sins, preached and taught in their cities. Still, they reject Jesus and, before him, John the Baptist.

So, today, we need to make a decision or re-confirm our decision. The decision is about the threads of our life. We can either dance, celebrating and giving thanks for the coming of God among us in Jesus, or we can mourn our sins, the brokenness of our lives, and the pain of the world. But we must respond. We must choose one or the other. Either one is to wear the yoke of Christ. Both will reorient our lives and priorities and prove the truth that we follow only Him.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, open my ears to hear the good news of your kingdom and set my heart free to love and serve you joyfully. May nothing keep me from following you wholeheartedly.”

Daily Note

To what or whom are we yoked? To what or whom do we give ourselves? What or who takes priority in our lives, orienting how we live and relate to others, how we make decisions? We all harness our lives to something: another person, work, family, success, reputation, our country, our political party. Sometimes our yokes are more interior like fear, anxiety, anger, particular beliefs and opinions, the losses and tragedies of our lives. Regardless, they are the relationships and attachments that we depend on for meaning and, for better or worse, they give us our life’s direction. We’ve all got them and usually more than one.