Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time - Touching the Lord


Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.  And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, this time of prayer should be everything for me: the moment that I long for, the food that sustains me, the comfort that strengthens me. I know that you are at work in me even when I don’t feel you and don’t even seem able to perceive your presence. I want to pray fervently and from the heart, not just with my mind.

Petition: Lord, help me to touch you in this moment of prayer. Help me to touch you in the Eucharist so that your presence will transform me.

  1. Was Jesus Afraid? In yesterday’s Gospel text, Jesus silenced the Pharisees in the synagogue. So incensed were they against the Lord that they began to plot with the Herodians to kill him. Now Jesus has retreated from the synagogues to the lakeshore and the open fields. Was Christ afraid? Was he running from his enemies? Hardly. The Lord was simply aware that his hour had not yet come. When it does approach, he will embrace it by marching resolutely to Jerusalem and his passion and death. The ones who really are afraid are the demons. They recognize that God is manifesting his power through Christ, and they tremble before him. The Son of God has come to win back what Satan’s lies have stolen. Does Christ’s power accompanying me in my life give me the courage I need to confront any situation as his witness?
  1. To Touch the Lord: In this vivid Gospel scene, the crowds of stricken humanity clamor around Jesus. Jews and gentiles journey from the far away regions of Idumea to the south, and Tyre and Sidon to the north, to catch a glimpse of the Master, to hear him speak words that no one has ever spoken before—to touch him and be healed of their infirmities. Oh, that we too had lived during the time of Christ in order to touch him and be cured of our sadness and selfishness, our heartache and egotism, our loneliness and lies, and even our physical ailments! Did Christ love those people who surrounded him by the lakeshore more than he loves us? No. He enables us to touch him more easily than they – every time we receive him in the Eucharist. Then why are we not yet healed? The disciples once cried out to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” And he replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed….”
  1. The Person of Christ: Irresistible: How can we grow in our faith in Christ? How can we, too, experience the irresistible attraction of his person like the crowds in Mark’s Gospel did? Nothing fills our life as much as contemplating the figure of Christ and perceiving the irresistible power of attraction he exercises through the centuries. Draw close to him, and in the depths of your souls contemplate him in all of the beauty of his human and divine stature. Along with the Eucharist, it is through prayer that we can come to touch Christ. Prayer is the most solemn moment for confessing our love; it is the raison d’ĂȘtre of our life, the ideal of our apostolate, the nourishment of our whole existence.

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for letting me catch a glimpse of who you are through this meditation. Help me to respond to the attraction of your person with my whole life and to hold nothing back from you.

Resolution: I will visit Christ in the Eucharist or make a spiritual communion to thank him for his love and to contemplate him in the beauty of his divine and human stature.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot - To Do Good or Evil?


Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you. Thank you for the gift of faith, more precious than life itself. I hope in you. May the dark waters of doubt never break through my dike of hope. I love you. I want to let you purify me, so that my love for you may be more ardent and more courageous.

Petition: Lord, help me to bear witness to you even in adverse circumstances.

  1. “They Watched Him Closely”: At the beginning of his public ministry, Christ already incurs the bitter opposition of the Pharisees. Having reduced them to silence in a wheat field, Christ bravely enters the synagogue to confront them once again. There the Pharisees are in the first places of honor, and they watch his every move, hoping he will cure against the laws of the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. The Pharisees were right about one thing. They did well to observe Christ closely. If only they had done so with the right spirit: to learn from him and to glorify God for the wonders he did through him. How closely do we watch Christ in our own lives? How readily do we perceive his actions through the circumstances of the day? How often do we glorify God for the great things Christ does and longs to do in us?
  1. To Do Good or Evil? Christ obliges the Pharisees. With fearless courage he calls the man with the withered hand forward, so that no one can mistake what he is about to do. Then he puts his antagonists in a dilemma with two clear questions. First: “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil?” “They are bound to admit that it is lawful to do good; and it is a good thing he proposed to do. They are bound to deny that it is lawful to do evil; and, yet, surely it is an evil thing to leave a man in wretchedness when it is possible to help him.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 68-69) Then Christ asks the second question: “Is it lawful to save life rather than to destroy it?” “Here he is driving the thing home. He is taking steps to save this wretched man’s life; they are thinking out methods of killing Christ. On any reckoning it is surely a better thing to be thinking about helping a man than it is to be thinking of killing a man. No wonder they had nothing to say!” (Ibid.)
  1. Angered by Their Hardness of Heart:Seldom does the Gospel show Christ angry. Here his anger is provoked by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their hardness of heart. They close themselves off from his message of salvation. What happens when someone definitively closes his heart to Christ? The Pharisees, the defenders of the law and Jewish customs, were bitter enemies of the Herodians, who collaborated with King Herod and the Romans. Yet this Gospel relates the chilling fact that these two joined forces to plot to kill Jesus. They are united not by the intrinsic force of goodness, but by the malignant power of evil. Do I at times make small concessions to hypocrisy, envy or even hatred? These could slowly harden my heart toward Christ. Am I willing to be courageous like Christ and endure even bitter opposition for the sake of the Gospel?

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for your goodness and courage. How small I feel when I compare myself with you in the Gospel. What an infinite distance separates us! Thank you for calling me — with all of my weakness, sins, and limitations — to be your apostle. Help me never to surrender to evil in my heart, but to grow in goodness of heart in order to be more like you.

Resolution: I will do a good deed for someone today, even if it is difficult, in order to bear witness to Christ.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time - Mankind in Dire Need


As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, the most important moment of my day has arrived. I am alone with you for a heart-to-heart talk. Who am I that you should want to spend this time with me; that you should want to pour yourself out to me? What a joy, what an honor, what a glory to be the follower of a king like you!

Petition: Lord, help me to pray for and serve those who persecute me and  to win them over to the Gospel through love, just like you did.

  1. “Unlawful on the Sabbath”: How dire was mankind’s need for a Savior! The Jews were God’s chosen people; they had received God’s own revelation in the Old Testament. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jewish people. Yet they buried God’s law so deeply beneath layers of man-made precepts that hungry men were not allowed to pick grain in order to eat on the Sabbath. The law had become an end in itself and had taken precedence over persons in need. How could mankind ever be led safely along the true path to salvation without becoming hopelessly entangled in the thickets of false rituals and arbitrary precepts? The Son of God, the Eternal Word of the Father, humbled himself to become the Son of Man in order to bring us the fullness of truth. But Christ did much more than bring us the fullness of God’s revelation. He gave us the strength, through his own life of grace within us, to live out that truth in our lives. Am I sufficiently tapped into that source of grace in my life?
  1. Seeking to Win over Enemies: If we were in Christ’s place, what would have been our reaction to the Pharisees? Perhaps we would have yielded to their imposing presence. Maybe we would have summoned up our courage and dismissed their intransigence without even deigning to reply. Christ reveals both his fearlessness and his goodness of heart by seeking to win them over. He quotes the Scriptures that they believe in and cites 1 Samuel 21:1-6. David and his men, fleeing from Saul, eat the holy bread of the Presence: twelve loaves placed each morning on the table in the sanctuary, as homage to the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel. When they were withdrawn to make room for fresh ones, these loaves were reserved for the Levitical priests. Christ seeks to reveal to the Pharisees, in a way they can accept, that they have gone astray from true religion, in which love of God and neighbor takes precedence over following rules. Christ sums up the nature of true religion and points out the Pharisees’ error in one sublime sentence: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Do I perceive the burden Christ has given me as light? That is what he intends and promises. If I do not, why not?
  1. Lord of the Sabbath: Christ does not stop with revealing the nature and purpose of true religion. He makes a bold proclamation, one which must have stunned the Pharisees, and perhaps even widened the eyes of his own disciples: “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Christ declares in no uncertain terms that his authority is equal to that of God himself, who instituted the Sabbath at the dawn of man’s creation. Christ wants from the Pharisees nothing less than an act of faith in his own divine person. His heart longs to save them. Christ yearns to bring to salvation everyone he encounters, including his enemies. Does my own zeal for souls bring me to reflect something of Christ’s courage and love when I am faced with opposition? Do I desire and seek what is good for everyone regardless of their attitude towards me?

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for becoming a man to save us in our dire need for you. Thank you for loving even your enemies and seeking to win them over to your new life. Help me to love more like you did. Help me to realize the value of a single soul.

Resolution: I will pray and make sacrifices for someone who is persecuting me or the Church. Forgetting about myself, I will look for ways to bring them to experience the love of Christ.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time - The New Joy of the Bridegroom


The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, what a joy and what a gift to have this time to be alone with you! I want to know you more deeply. I want to hope in you more firmly. I want to love you with greater constancy in my daily life. Only you can give me these gifts. Only you can make me a bold and joyful apostle of your Kingdom.

Petition: Lord, help me to experience the new joy that comes from carrying the cross alongside you.

  1. The Joy of the Bridegroom: The Old Testament prophets, especially Hosea and Isaiah, describe the relationship between Israel and Yahweh as a marriage covenant. Israel is the bride, often an unfaithful one, and Yahweh is the bridegroom. When Christ refers to himself as the bridegroom, he is appropriating a title that had been reserved to God alone. Clearly, Jesus is much more than an ordinary rabbi. What experience do we most associate with a bridegroom and the wedding feast? Joy! “Although it is true that the cross is never absent from an authentically Christian life, it is equally true that the God who meets us on that cross is the same God who created the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the mountains, laughter, sunlight, and every earthly delight” (John Bartunek, LC, The Better Part, p. 365). Christ came to bring us joy, a joy that would last into eternity.
  1. Should Christians Fast? Christ says that when the bridegroom is taken away, then his disciples will fast. This is his first reference in the Gospel of Mark to his coming passion. Fasting is a way of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Fasting, sacrifices, and acts of self-denial are also means to detach ourselves from earthly goods in order to cling more firmly to Christ himself. They make us aware of how much we need God. But these ways of sharing Christ’s cross should not make us glum followers. “Some Christians give the impression that following Christ is a somber affair, or that the Christian life consists above all of dour sacrifices and boring obligations. Joyless, dreary, dull. No wonder their friends want to stay as far away from Christianity as possible!… If our friendship with Christ does not fill us with contagious enthusiasm, we’re probably being a half-hearted friend” (John Bartunek, LC, The Better Part, p. 365).
  1. “Behold, I Make All Things New”: The movie The Passion of the Christ puts this phrase from Revelation on Christ’s lips when he meets his mother Mary as he carries the cross to Calvary. Christ’s “narrow gate” of the cross leads to a radically new way of life. It brings an abundance of joy, a new vigor, interior peace. The new wine of the life of grace that Christ pours out on his followers must change not only their way of life, but even their internal attitudes and consciousness. As St. Teresa of Avila once put it,  “A sad saint is a bad saint.” What obstacles in my life do I need to overcome in order to follow Christ with greater joy and to radiate that joy to others?

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for the new life you came to bring — your own divine life of grace inside me and each of your followers who is faithful to you. Help me to share that joy with others. I long to be a true apostle of your joy.

Resolution: Today I will forget about myself and seek only to help make those around me joyful.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time - The Right Word at the Right Time


John was with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” which is translated Peter.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Lamb of God come into the world to save us. Thank you for revealing yourself to us. I humbly offer you now my mind and heart to focus on your Divine Word, so I may better know and understand your will for me.

Petition: Jesus, help me to put you first in my life and strive to help others to know you.

1. Knowing When to Let Go: Here, we see St. John the Baptist in action and the fruits of his fidelity to God’s plan. As he discreetly redirects two of his best disciples to follow Christ, his humility is in full play. Not only does he accept the fact that he must take second stage to Jesus; he actively works for this to happen. It can be very difficult for us to seek only God’s glory and the good of those around us. Our hearts easily attach themselves to people, to areas of responsibility and to the attention we may get because of what we do — whether it be in our profession, private lives, parish or in a volunteer religious organization. However, if we really want to do God’s will, we have to know when it’s time for us to let go. Like John the Baptist, the only thing we should have our hearts totally set on is establishing Christ’s kingdom.

2. Facing the Consequences: Thanks to St. John the Baptist’s faithfulness to his mission, two men — Andrew and John — meet Jesus and recognize that he is the Messiah. John the Baptist never knew the final results of his actions, but he trusted in the Holy Spirit and did what he felt God wanted. The one phrase he spoke in that moment — “Behold the Lamb of God” — had repercussions for the history of the Church and the world. Without those words spoken at that moment, we might never have had the Gospel of St. John, his letters and the book of Revelation, or the evangelizing work of St. Andrew. Jesus might have called Andrew and John some other way, but they would have lost precious time. We ourselves do not know how much is hanging on our fidelity to God’s plan in our life. Before saying “no” to God, we should ask ourselves if we’re willing to risk the consequences for ourselves and for others.

3. Sharing the Treasure: Andrew, in turn, went to share the news of meeting Jesus and recognizing him as the Messiah with his brother Simon. Simon might well have laughed at him or ignored him. Jesus was not considered a likely figure for Messiahship — he was a carpenter’s son from a little town that another future apostle, Nathaniel, referred to with scorn. However, Andrew knew that he’d found a treasure and felt the need to share his discovery with his family and friends. Thanks to his enthusiasm, Simon, the future St. Peter, met Jesus. The rest is history. We should ask ourselves: Have I really discovered Jesus in the light of faith? Have I discovered the hope and joy that come from knowing him as my savior? If so, have I overcome any fear, timidity or human respect that might keep me from sharing this treasure with others?

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, my Lord, for helping me to see the way to serve you better. Thank you for the saints, who show us of how to be your apostles in the world. Give me the wisdom to know your will in my life and the strength and trust to follow through with it!

Resolution: From now on, I will try to be more courageous in sharing my faith with others and in getting them involved so that they can have a life-changing personal encounter with Christ.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time - Discipleship

Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them that, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Introductory Prayer: God our Father, in your eyes I am like a little child whom you tenderly watch over. God the Son, in your eyes I am like a poor, helpless sheep whom you gently pick up and carry when I’m worn out from my sins. God the Holy Spirit, in your eyes I am like a dry piece of wood that you wish to set ablaze with the fire of your love. Thank you, Holy Trinity, for wanting to bring me into your holy friendship. I am completely unworthy of your love but so grateful to find rest and a true home in you.

Petition: Lord, grant me a generous heart.

1. He Got Up and Followed Him: “‘He rose and followed him.’ The conciseness of the phrase clearly underlines Matthew’s promptness in response to the call…. In this ‘rising’ one can see the detachment from a situation of sin and, at the same time, the conscious adherence to a new life, upright, in communion with Jesus” (Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, General Audience, August 30, 2006). Holiness of life is not simply separation from what is sinful, but a participation in the love and holiness of God. It is not just separation from something, but transformation into the someone God has created us to be. When he calls, Jesus never gives us a map, only a compass. We do not see the full picture, we simply know the direction. Each day he invites us to follow him, to deepen the communion of love with him, and to keep our eyes fixed on him as on a “lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). Matthew really had no clue where his life would end up. But he did know that it had to change and where that change needed to begin. Matthew was so utterly convinced that Jesus was worthy of his trust that he surrendered his life to him. We must daily choose to follow Matthew’s example of how to follow Jesus.

2. While He Was at Table in His House:“Behold! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20). They are celebrating Matthew’s vocation to follow Jesus. Matthew could have said “no” or “not yet” or “not now.” But consider the effects if such a refusal had taken place. For starters there would have been no dinner feast, and consequently many of Matthew’s friends would have missed an intimate encounter with Jesus that night – an encounter that forever changed some of their lives. Jesus knocked at the door of Matthew’s life, and Matthew opened it wide to Jesus. Then, like the Samaritan woman, he ran to get others so that they too might meet Jesus. By way of Matthew’s “yes,” Jesus started touching the lives of others. Whenever we say “yes” to Jesus, he will work not only in us, but also through us. Once again, today he will invite us to say “yes” to his will and thereby be his instrument of grace for others. “I am standing at the door, knocking.…”

3. Why Does Your Teacher Eat with Tax Collectors and Sinners? He does so that we might learn two lessons: the depth of his love for every soul, and how we must love others unconditionally. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Loving a person unconditionally does not mean that we blithely accept their sin. We love them despite their sin and in the hope that one day they will leave it aside. Mercy is the one form of love that we can never directly exercise toward God, yet it is his greatest expression of love for each one of us. Through Jesus’ dying on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins, God has revealed the pinnacle of love. Thus, when we practice mercy, forgiveness, patience, etc. towards those around us, we are imitating the highest form of love. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners for the same reason he called Matthew to follow him: because he loves us and wants to share his life with us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, the call to follow you is a call to conversion of heart. Touch my heart with your grace in such a way that my thoughts and actions may always reflect my desire to imitate your example of love. Make me patient in each situation and capable of forgiving those who may cause me harm or create difficulties.

Resolution: Today I will speak to someone – whether a family member, friend, coworker, acquaintance or stranger – about my gratitude to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time - Man and His Friends


When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, thank you for this time to be with you. I humbly offer you my intention to set all my distractions aside so that I can encounter you, my Lord and my God. I hope in you and know that you could never let me down. I love you and long to love you with all of my strength. Aware of my misery and weakness, I trust in your mercy and love.

Petition: Lord, increase my zeal for souls.

  1. The Paralytic: One day, four men carried a friend to Jesus. It made all the difference in the world to the friend, for he was paralyzed and was unable to approach Jesus on his own. He had heard of the miracles Jesus had performed, but had never seen them. His own healing was out of the question: he couldn’t go to Jesus on his own. Had his four friends not stepped in and brought him to Jesus, he would never have been cured. Their faith and love made his healing possible. Who does Jesus want me to bring to him? Do I invite people to prayer and adoration? Do I invite people to Mass and confession?
  1. The Four Friends: These four men were not stopped by the obstacles in their way. How long they traveled isn’t mentioned, but even a short distance is tiring when carrying a man on a mat. When they arrived at the house, it was full of people who had traveled to hear and see Jesus and to be cured by him. It was impossible for the men to get inside the house through the door, but they didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. They carried their friend up to the rooftop and lowered him down into the house. By persevering we can achieve anything. Love knows no boundaries or limits.
  1. Jesus: God wants to save so many people. He wants to bring real healing into their lives, but he wants to heal them through us. Jesus could have found the paralyzed man. He chose, rather, to let the others bring the man to him. Jesus wanted to heal him, but without the charity in the hearts of the four men, the healing might never have been accomplished. Who does Jesus wish to encounter through me? How can I be a better instrument of his love?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to realize more deeply that you want me involved in salvation history. I’m on the front lines. You entrust souls to me, and you want to bless their lives through my prayers, my sacrifices and my work. Increase my love for these souls. They need my help and my fidelity. I don’t want to let them down. Help me to be faithful.

Resolution: I will make a sacrifice today for the person most in need of God’s grace.