Thursday, January 31, 2013

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time "Living with Christ"

Jesus said to the crowds, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come." He said, "To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. (Mark 4:26-34)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe you have called me to strive tirelessly to extend your Kingdom throughout the world. I hope in you because you are the one the Father sent. I love you. Thank you for inviting me to be an apostle of your Kingdom.

Petition: Lord Jesus, make me an apostle of your Kingdom.

1. Kingdom of God: Christ returns to this theme again and again. It was the topic of his first public sermon. He gives us the image of the mustard seed which grows to be the largest of plants and in turn serves other creatures’ needs. The Kingdom of God is like this. God is king and his Kingdom, like the mustard tree, is a safe haven for us. We can dwell in its shade, rest on its branches, and find protection from evils. All we have to do is be faithful subjects of our King, following his commands and going out to spread the news of his Kingdom to all people.

2. Modest Beginnings: We should not get anxious when we do not progress in the spiritual life as fast as we would like. God moves us along little by little. The life of our relationship with Christ does not depend solely on us, but on him. We are like good farmers who do our part to make sure the conditions are good for the seed to grow, but it is the Creator who makes the growth happen. Often we do not perceive the work of God in our souls until much time has passed. However, he is constantly there, pulling out our weeds one at a time, and pushing our virtues to the surface.

3. Called to Greatness: Two thousand years ago, Christ’s Church started off like a small mustard seed. It has grown and matured to be a huge plant with many branches. I am one of those branches. Christ brings life to my branch and assigns me a specific task. He calls me to participate in the great mission of his Church. Do I realize and relish how great it is to be a Catholic, how much good the Church does, how I am called to be a link that will bring others to experience the same goodness I have experienced?

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am a member of your Mystical Body. I want to partake in your mission of bringing all souls to know and love you. I have found my joy in you, and now I have a burning desire to make it known to all people. Lord, I pray for the courage to keep going, never tiring from the mission you have given me.

Resolution: I will take a moment in prayer to reflect on how God has worked in my life, making me grow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" (He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!") He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed. (Mark 5:1-20)

Introductory Prayer: Father in heaven, my heart is hungry for your word. I believe that you want to speak a word of hope to me today. How good it would be if I were to see myself and my future as you do, but at least I do trust in you. I wish to take up your challenge to be holy, whatever the cost, and I am confident that you will accompany me closely and help me with your grace.

Petition: Lord Jesus, help me to abandon myself to your healing power.

1. A Hopeless Situation? The man possessed by a legion of demons seemed to the people around—and perhaps to himself—a hopeless case. Living there alone amidst the tombs, he could not help but harm himself, gashing himself against stones. Nobody could help him by restraining him. In our lives with God, some seemingly unsolvable situation may exist, perhaps some sinful state we got ourselves into, but from which we cannot seem to extract ourselves. Or we experience that we are always falling into the same sins, the same biting impatience, the same laziness, the same sensuality. Friends and family seek to help us, but we don’t have the will to change. Instead of rectifying the situation, we just make a pact with a kind of modus vivendi, saying to ourselves, “We can only live as best as we can.” But the result is that that one demon has multiplied in me and become a legion of demons.

2. Jesus Has Power: Jesus encounters the possessed man. The scene is intriguing: the man runs to prostrate himself before Christ, while at the same time the demons show fear and beg Jesus not to be harsh with them. How consoling to know that no situation can escape Christ’s power to straighten it out. It is also consoling to know that Jesus wants to free us from the power of the devil, from any sinful state in which we find ourselves. We can always turn to Christ to ask to be healed because no one is ever so sinful or so possessed to be totally repugnant to God’s love. Certainly, we may fear that Christ’s medicine may hurt, but we need to trust that the spiritual “treatment” is worth it. The treatment may be an honest and thorough confession, a brutally sincere self-examination, or the breaking-up of an unhealthy relationship.

3. Transformation into a Witness: Imagine the cured man, still with the scars of his gashes, but now in his full senses. What an amazing sight! It brings us to our knees in thanks to Christ for his power and mercy. Of course, the cured man is overwhelmed by the transformation. He gives no thought to going back to “ordinary” life. His thankfulness makes him want to accompany Jesus, his friend and savior. However, Jesus gives him a mission, sending him to his family and friends to tell the story of how Jesus cured him. Wherever the cured man goes, he will proclaim the marvels the Lord has done in him. When we experience absolution from our sins in confession, does our thanksgiving cause us to proclaim the power and love of Christ to our family and friends?

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you have set me free and kept me from so many vices and demons, addictions and grudges, materialism and indifference. You have given me the grace to know you and choose you. I want to thank you for your power and mercy towards me. I resolve to be a witness to your great love among my family and friends.

Resolution: I will witness to some healing that the Lord has worked in my life with a friend or family member.

Wednesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time "Work for the Harvest"

On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, "Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." He added, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear." And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, "The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that ´they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.´" Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." (Mark 4:1-20)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I want to spend these moments close to you. I believe that you are here with me. Take over my life more and more and make it what it was meant to be. Lord, I put my trust in you.

Petition: Jesus, make the soil of my heart open to your word, so that it will bear fruit for eternal life.

1. Beware of the Thieves: What the Father has planted in our lives is good. Goodness can bear fruit. But Christ has shown us that there is someone who does not want us to bear fruit. The devil tries to take goodness from our lives through enticing us with evil, filling our hearts with selfishness, and making us insensitive to the movements of grace in our soul. We need to renounce Satan every day by fixing our will on the goodness of Christ. This is done through sincere prayer and generosity of spirit.

2. Dig Deep: The strength of our resolve is tested by the difficulties we face. If we go deeper in our prayer each day and build up the habit of letting go of our own ego, we can face the bad times with peace and trust. When our spiritual roots are not deep, we find ourselves disoriented, even defeated by the tribulations that are part of an authentic Christian life. Christ teaches us to dig deep. With him as our friend, difficulties become a way to show our love and to do something that has eternal value. If I don’t fight, how can I merit a crown of victory?

3. Fruit in Docility: In order to bear fruit we must be docile to God’s word. But being docile does not mean being passive. For a Christian, docility to Christ and the Holy Spirit means willingness to work and serve. We are followers of the One who came to serve. The Spirit that is self-surrender moves us. To hear the Word of God and accept it means to make our lives an imitation of Christ’s total self-giving—day in and day out. God will grant fruit to our lives if we are willing to be other Christs in the here and now.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for showing me how to bear fruit in my life. I want to imitate your self-surrender to the Father and to souls. I know that this requires a constant effort to go deep in my life and be docile to the Holy Spirit. Help me to live as a giver, not a taker. Your love will always be there to accompany me.

Resolution: Today I will offer up a small sacrifice to ask God for the grace of acquiring the virtue that I need the most.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is to be a prophet

I was preparing the homily for February the 3rd. I just wanted to share this thoughts with all of you. Please feel free to send me ideas or comments at the bottom or by email: frhumberto@saintmark-mn.org

This are the reading for that Sunday:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020313.cfm

"The paradox of the prophets"

It is a paradox that the prophets are the ones who announce the good news of the will of God and yet are treated like criminals. This occurs so regularly that our Lord announces: "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mathew 5: 11-12). It is a hard test for the prophets because of the loneliness, the ridicule they endure, and some were even tortured and put to death. And yet what gives us comfort is that foremost among this list of witnesses to the Good News is Jesus Christ Himself. The Church calls him "King of Martyrs" because He is first among prophets and first among those who were hated and persecuted for their witness to the Truth.

Are you called by God with a specific vocation? Are you listening? Are you responding?

Jeremiah tries to escape from what he knows God is calling to: his vocation (from the Latin vocatio – “called”). God is calling him but he feels little, he is afraid of a task that he knows is difficult. He knows also that to answer to the call is to give to God power and control over everything in his life. His excuse is very simple: "I am just a kid." Personally, I think that this is the same answer that many young people give God today. They see themselves as too little, too young to serve in the Army if God. The question I have for them is this: how come they don't see themselves "too young" when they learn to smoke, drink alcohol or have pre-marital sex?

People that love you will always lead you to fulfill your mission (no matter how hard is).

God didn't accept Jeremiah's excuse (nor does he accept it from youth in our day). What we can see is that He encourages him to begin doing what he was told to do (his mission) with more fidelity.

Fidelity

God helped Jeremiah to keep His way with more fidelity. What is fidelity? The foundation of true fidelity is to believe. God invites Jeremiah to believe in the One who is sending him. If he does that, then Jeremiah will have the courage to give his very life for God. If we trust God, we can do great things too. What is the ridicule of men, or even the persecutions of the wicked, when we truly believe we have the living God dwelling in our hearts? What is a little sand in your shoes, when you are already at the beach?

Jesus: a Prophet Rejected by the “Narrow Minded”

The Gospel today shows us that people first admired Jesus, then they were disappointed at His teaching, and then they rejected Him altogether. And that will be the life of Jesus until the end: admired, misunderstood, and rejected. All because He did not fit the pre-conceived mold the Jews had for the Messiah. He shattered that mold, because He was no mere man, but the Son of God.

Those called and sent by God can expect to be treated the same way. People naturally admire and are attracted to the excellence God displays through His servants, yet we tend to focus more the gifts than the Giver. The gifts delight us, yet the commands of the Giver seem to constrain us, so we try to keep the first and reject the second. We want a vending-machine God, who does everything we want and never imposes into our lives. The Jews liked it when Jesus gave them free bread; they weren’t as happy when He gave them the Beatitudes. In the end however, the problem is not wanting too much from God; it’s not wanting enough. God does not want to give us the little objects of our passing desires: He wants to give us His very self, to fill our hearts, not just our stomachs. Yet God is so big that He needs to fill our whole lives; our thoughts, our desires, our plans, our decision-making. Our pre-conceived notions of happiness are too small for what God has planned.
Lord, I do believe in you, and I long to open my heart completely to receive your Word in total faith and trust. I seek you ardently in this prayer so as to know you better. I want to know you so as to love you more completely as my Savior and Lord.

Lord, grant me the grace of active and total faith in you.

Lord, I want to open myself to what you propose to me in prayer and to eliminate all pride and human calculation at work in my heart and mind. I trust in you, Lord, for you seek only to make me happy, never to hurt me. When my own reason becomes darkened and my natural enthusiasm wanes before the mystery of your design, help me confide in and walk by your holy power and wisdom.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time "Stronger Than Blood"

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

Introductory Prayer: Today I want to encounter you as a friend and brother, Lord. I believe that you want to encounter me and transform me. Thank you for working in my heart, calling me to a deeper identification with you. I trust that you will lead me along paths of growth and fruitfulness.

Petition: Lord, help me to put my will in conformity with yours.

1. Maybe He Needs a Break: Jesus was very busy. Perhaps he was tired. Perhaps his mother arrived to give him a bit of food or a word of encouragement. But we find in today’s Gospel a Christ who is strong. He has strengthened himself through intimate contact with the Father. He has filled his heart with a love for souls. He finds nourishment in doing the Father’s will. Surely his mother was encouraged by what she found. Do I let the will of God be my strength? Does prayer transform me to the point where charity and evangelization become my natural way of being?

2. Closeness for the Right Reason: As Jesus taught and healed, people were naturally attracted to him. Yet simply being physically close to him did not count. One had to open one’s heart to receive his message of conversion. He was looking to transform people, to make them capable of living as sons and daughters of God. If I am willing to learn Jesus’ standards and act as he does, then I can be close to him. He will allow me into his intimacy if I make God’s will mine.

3. Accompanying Christ: There is a mysterious reality here. I can actually bring consolation to Christ’s heart. I can accompany him on his divine mission. I must be willing to renounce my will and do only the will of the Father. Can Christ point to me and say, “He is my brother; she is my sister; she is my mother”? I must look at my life and see what is not in conformity to his will. I must make a firm resolution to show my faith and love in the very thing that is most difficult for me.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you give me this short life in order to become part of your family. I want to make the Father’s will my own as you did. Help me to put God’s will above everything else, so that it becomes what I most deeply desire. Then I will truly be yours.

Resolution: Today I will make an act of charity towards someone with whom I find it difficult to get along.

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:22-30)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are the source of all goodness. I know that your goodness is both a challenge and a promise. I trust that your goodness will envelop me if I allow myself to be found by you. I love you for wanting to fight the battle against evil for my sake.

Petition: Lord, help me not to be afraid of the battle against evil.

1. Not Indifferent: With Jesus on earth, another world becomes evident around us: the world of evil spirits. Jesus has come to take control of the kingdom. The devils are in a panic and begin to lose ground. Jesus is a threat to evil. His goodness, truth and holiness are capable of putting the devils into submission. When Christ takes a stronger hold on my life, things begin to change. Do I let Christ challenge evil in my heart? In the world around me?

2. Not One of Them: Jesus brings change. But change is not evil per se. The change that Jesus brings is good, since he comes to put demons in their place, bringing about good. This awakening of the good worries the devil. The conquest over evil is not always done in peace and tranquility. Does the spiritual opposition I face as I try to overcome evil in my life cause me to hesitate in the fight or to wish that Jesus and his teachings would not be so demanding? Do I realize that facing difficulties is a sign of growth in Christian authenticity? Do I let the goodness of Christ radically define my life? Even in the face of opposition?

3. Only Good: Think of the joy that people experienced when Jesus freed them from the power of the Evil One. Think of the joy we feel after making a good confession, attending a good retreat or progressing in virtue. Jesus comes into our life to bring the joy of freedom from evil. He is God’s goodness made flesh. Do I rejoice to have Christ as my friend? Do I try to listen to his teachings with a willing heart, thankful for the chance I have to abide in God’s heart by living the life of grace? What an amazing friend I have! I can trust in his power to lead me along the path of life.

Conversation with Christ: Christ, I know that you are more powerful than evil. Help me to face up to evil in my life, encouraged by your friendship and strength. In your name Lord, I will walk with confidence.

Resolution: I will do something to share my faith with others today.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time "Bringing Good News"

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to discover you more deeply today. I believe that you are really present in your word. I trust that you guide my life. I love you for taking the initiative to look for me by your Incarnation.

Petition: Lord, fill me with the joy of your presence.

1. Telling the Story: The Gospels tell us the truth about Jesus Christ: his life, teachings, death and resurrection. In Jesus Christ, God has personally become involved in human history. He has come to make a path to eternal union with the Father. We can thank Our Lord for becoming man and strengthening the relationship between God and man. We should read the Gospels with reverence and take seriously Christ’s invitation to become his followers.

2. Glad Tidings to the Poor: All of us are poor in God’s eyes. We all need his grace, friendship and mercy. Our spiritual neediness is a source of blessings. Christ has come to enrich each of us with the presence of his love, the love of the Father for his children. When we are in need, we can turn with confidence to Christ. We can learn from him how to make our life fruitful. Do I turn to him in confidence in my needs? Do I allow the greatness of his presence in my heart to fill me with joy?

3. A Year Acceptable to the Lord: For three short years Jesus walked among the people of Palestine. How many people really discovered him for who he was? We, too, have only a short time to come to know the Lord. Our human existence is short. Jesus gives us many ways to come into contact with him: his word in Scripture, the sacraments, the good example of other Christians, the providential circumstances of our life, etc. Christ is present for the asking. Do I attempt to discover him more deeply each day?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for singling me out. I know that you give me many ways to discover you. Help me to look for you more this day through the eyes of faith. I want to commit to following you.

Resolution: Today I will review my New Year’s resolutions and work on abiding by one in a particular way.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

Introductory Prayer: Another week has passed in your company, in your service. What a joy, what an honor, what a glory to be the subject of a king like you! Lord, I know that you make all things new and that through this moment of prayer you can give me new vision of faith to see you more clearly.

Petition: Lord, help me to strive to be a source of happiness for others.

1. Home life for Jesus Christ:We know that Jesus made his home in Capernaum. (“And leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum” Mt. 4:13.) Today’s short Gospel passage indicates that Our Lord did not find rest at home. From all over, the great crowds to whom he has been preaching have followed him to his doorstep. When we return home from a hard day’s work, we likely seek a well-deserved rest, but perhaps a spouse and children wait for us there. They need to be shown our love, which involves our time, service, compassion, and support. Members of our extended family, neighbors, friends and people in need also look to us for help and kindness. Those we love and those in need ought to pull us outside of ourselves, so that like Christ, we reach out and lovingly serve them throughout the entire day. When I come home, do I strive to be a source of happiness and support for the members of my family, or does my self-centeredness close me off to the needs of the others?

2. A Man for Others: “Jesus was a man for others. Such a crowd gathered around Jesus and his disciples that they had no time even to eat. Nothing mattered more to Jesus than feeding the souls of his neighbor with the nourishment of his love and his truth, so much so that he neglected to feed himself. This self-sacrificing attitude permeated every moment of his earthly existence, culminating in the complete oblation of his life on the cross at Calvary” (John Bartunek, LC, The Better Part, p. 375). To what extent is my desire to serve those around me, even to the point of sacrifice, the thermometer of my love for them? Have I ever been accused by anyone of “madness” because of my dedication to others?

3. Out of His Mind? Some of Jesus’ relatives, whose outlook was all too human, believed that Christ’s commitment to others was excessive. “The only explanation, they thought, was that he was out of his mind. On reading these words of the Gospel, we cannot help being moved, realizing what Jesus did for love of us: people even thought him to be mad. Many saints, following Christ’s example, have been taken for madmen — but they were mad with love, mad with love for Jesus Christ” (The Navarre Bible: St. Mark, p. 87). Do I long to love Christ in my heart and in my life, even to the point of madness? Is my one great ideal in life to be a saint — not for my own sake, but in order to be able to transmit Christ’s love to those around me, to help bring about his Kingdom in souls?

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith. It is a gift more precious than life itself. Help me to see others with the eyes of faith, to pour myself out in loving and serving them, just like you did. Help me to love you with madness as I serve each of my brothers and sisters.

Resolution: At the end of the day, I will pay special attention to fulfilling the needs and desires of my family members.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, apostle

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:15-18)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I renew my faith in the power of your word. I come to you today to listen to you and allow you to lead me. I renew my trust in your mercy: You are constantly looking upon me and the world with love. I want to love you in return and lead others to love you.

Petition: Fill me with the power of your good news, Lord.

1. The World Needs Messengers of Hope:Jesus Christ is the message that everyone vitally needs. He is God’s message to man, the message that tells people that God loves them deeply and offers them a way to true life and salvation. Our world often looks for love in the wrong places; it needs to find the answer to its deepest desires in Christ. But who will spread this message? Those like St. Paul who take Christ’s love seriously and see that they, too, can become messengers of hope. Am I meant to be a messenger of hope?

2. God Acts Powerfully in Those Who Trust Him:St. Paul is an example of what God can do through someone who trusts in him. St. Paul valued the grace Christ gave him. He put his life totally in the hands of Christ and was not afraid to proclaim him to everyone he met. Even though Paul faced many difficulties, his work produced enormous fruit and helped extend the number of Christian communities. Do I believe that Christ can work through me as I participate in the New Evangelization? In what ways can I trust him more?

3. Our Opportunity Is Now:St. Paul and the first apostles did not wait until all the circumstances were right before beginning evangelization. Once Christ had touched their lives and once he had given them the command to begin, they began right away. The Church has asked us to begin again today. Like St. Paul, we must feel that the fire of Christ’s love impels us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14). We cannot wait until the circumstances are favorable; we must do whatever we can now. We have already experienced Christ’s love. Why are we waiting to share it? What holds me back from a greater surrender to the work of evangelization?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, like Saint Paul I have been touched by your love, and I have heard your command to go out and spread the good news. I renew my trust in your companionship, and I resolve to do all I can to bring your Gospel to others. Help me to keep my eyes on you.

Resolution: Today I will share a thought from the Gospel or from the Holy Father’s teaching with at least two people whom I enco

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

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?

2. 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….”

3. 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 22, 2013

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time "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. (Mark 3:1-6)

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?


2. 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.)


3. “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 21, 2013

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." (Mark 2:23-28)

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?

2. 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?

3. 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 20, 2013

Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr

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." (Mark 2:18-22)

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.

2. 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).

3. “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 19, 2013

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time "Do Whatever He Tells You"

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. (John 2:1-11)

Introductory Prayer: My Jesus I believe in you. Your goodness overflows: I long to imitate you more in my life so that others can catch a glimpse of you shining through me. I want to do whatever you tell me. I know this moment of prayer in my day is a chance for an intimate dialogue with you, so here I am: ready to listen and respond with an active faith, hope and love.

Petition: Lord, give me ears to hear your words to me. Give me the faith and trust to act on them.

1. They Have No Wine: Before anyone else, Mary sees the potentially embarrassing situation that faces the families of the bride and groom. She was sitting next to Jesus so she could say to him quietly, mother to son, “They have no wine.” She asks this of him even though his public life is not yet launched. Mary is constantly interceding before her Divine Son on behalf of her children. How often do I turn to her for a favor? Do I realize that there is no greater intercessor in heaven than our Blessed Mother?

2. Do Whatever He Tells You: At his mother’s words, Jesus’ public ministry is launched. Mary’s faith-filled words to the servers are repeated to me today, “Do whatever he tells you.” The servers are given most unusual instructions. They are told by Jesus to fill jars used for the ritual cleansing of feet with water and then draw some out to be taken to the headwaiter to taste. Surely they must fear the angry reaction of their boss, or mockery from the guests. Sometimes when Jesus tells us to speak up for him in unfriendly territory, our human respect and fear of rejection can paralyze us. When was the last time I experienced this fear? Did I overcome it with faith and speak up for the Lord? Or did I silently succumb to the fear of rejection or mockery?

3. Coworker in the Redemption: Jesus addresses his mother as “Woman,” signifying that she is the new Eve who, together with her Divine Son, will crush the Serpent’s head, releasing human beings from the bondage of sin. This moment launches a holy partnership, a mutual acceptance of sacrifice for the salvation of souls, for so the Heavenly Father has willed it. Do we comprehend Mary’s love for each of us? She willingly sacrificed her beloved Son for our redemption, cooperating with him, uniting herself to him every step of the way until she stood beneath the cross. The Holy Eucharist foreshadowed by the feast of Cana is a gift of both Christ and our Lady. Let us ask Mary to purify our hearts for the reception of this Most Holy Sacrament.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, just as your Mother did at Cana, you ask us to have the same eye for detail as we seek to charitably look after the needs of others. Help me to forget about myself, so that I can quickly and efficiently do whatever you ask of me. Help me to trust in your guidance and love. Mother Mary, teach me to welcome sacrifice as you did, so I too can be faithful and follow Jesus to the cross and be a coworker in the redemption.

Resolution: I will overcome my hesitancy and longing for human respect in order to share my faith with someone today.

Option B

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that before you left this earth you gave me the Eucharist for my food and Mary for my mother. I believe in your Real Presence and choose to receive you reverently and often. I trust that Mary will be there for me and accompany me in whatever I need. I love you, Lord, for giving me a mother who is so concerned about me that she is willing to do whatever is necessary to help me in my mission and vocation.

Petition: Help me, Lord, to foster a tender and personal devotion to your Mother.
1. “They Have No Wine”: A good mother is always on the watch to make sure that all is well, and Mary is no exception. Before anyone can react, she recognizes that the newlyweds are out of wine. They are talking among themselves, and they are in a panic. She can’t do anything about it but she knows someone who can, so she acts. She believes in the power of her son. Since he is the Son of God, he can solve the problem. Mary does not let the fact that she is a guest keep her from working. She acts on faith. She does not wait for someone to tell her to do something. She intervenes. We need to believe like Mary and be willing to take that bold step into the unknown, confident in a God we do not see.

2. “My Hour Has Not Yet Come”: Christ knows his mission. He is called to go to the cross and suffer for our sins. Yet he has not begun his public life. To perform a miracle now would be to anticipate his hour – to accelerate his mission to suffer for our sins. The time for him to accept the cross has not yet come. But Mary knows that something must be done. If she does not intercede, it could be a “disaster.” At the time of Our Lord, wedding feasts lasted for a week. What would become of the wedding feast if there was no more wine? Mary knows this. She hears the newlyweds’ cries and worries, and she brings them to her son, knowing that he can do something. She is certain that he will calm the fears of the newlyweds and remedy the situation. Do we have a deep conviction that Mary watches over us and constantly intercedes with Our Lord for our sake?

3. A Son Will Never Say No to His Mother: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator” (Lumen Gentium, 62). Mary understood her mission and vocation. She intercedes for us constantly, is willing to help us, and wants to bring our petitions to her Son so that he can help us with whatever we need of him. Do I have a filial relationship with Mary, my Mother, and do I turn to her confidently with my concerns and needs?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I trust that you will give me the grace to imitate Mary. You are willing and ready to help me. You want the best for me, and you desire very much to assist me. Help me to learn from Mary’s example of acting in faith so that I, too, may be a person of faith like her. Help me to turn to her often so that she can bring me closer to you.

Resolution: I will make a special visit our Blessed Mother asking for greater faith and confiding myself and loved ones to her tender care.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

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." (Mark 2:13-17)

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 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 17, 2013

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

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.” (Mark 2:1-12)

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?

2. 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.

3. 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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this time together. I need you in my life and the life of my family. It is easy to let activities overwhelm me so that I lose track of you. You fade into the distance, and sometimes sin grows closer. But I know you are always there for me with your unconditional love. Thank you. I love you and long to put you first in my life.

Petition: Lord, wash me from my sins and help me to be detached from them.

1. If You Choose: A leper approaches and falls before Jesus. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” This leper couldn’t free himself from his disease any more than we can free ourselves from our sin. Leprosy was a fatal disease. It separated a man from his family and drove him outside his village to lonely places. Leprosy is a symbol for sin. Sin separates us from God and from others. We need to approach Jesus with that same humility and trust we see in the leper. This story is for us, to show us Christ’s heart. It reveals his love and his desire to free us from sin. Am I convinced of the ugliness of all sin and how it defaces our souls?

2. I Do Choose: Jesus chose to heal the leper. Not only did he heal him, he touched him. He reached out to the loneliness of that man, and he touched his life to cure him of the disease. This reveals Christ’s heart so beautifully. Our sin never drives him away from us. He is always ready and willing to come to our aid if only we would cry out for his help. Am I capable of opening all of the inner wounds of my sins to Our Lord so that he can heal me, wash me clean and make me whole again?

3. Jesus Wants Us Free: Sin keeps us from being who we were meant to be. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Jesus was free from sin and so was free to love and serve others. He wasn’t compelled by greed or anger. He wasn’t moved by pride or impeded by laziness. He was free to love, and he loved to the extent of dying on a cross. Sin closes us in on ourselves. We get absorbed in ourselves and others take the back seat – or no seat at all. How often do we say “no” to others and turn a blind eye to their needs? Isn’t it sin that blinds us and selfishness that impedes us from loving others as Christ loves us? Christ can free us from sin so that we are empowered to love as he loves.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I want to be free, but I need your help. Without you, I can do nothing. Help me to trust you and to turn to you. Don’t let me go off on my own as if I could keep fighting without you. Free me to love you. Free me to love others.

Resolution: I will pray Psalm 51 for myself and my loved ones.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon´s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed and Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this time we will spend together. I wish to step away from the world and all its activities to be alone with you now. You are my beginning and my end: you created me, and you are leading me home to you in heaven. Thank you for your love. I know I deserve nothing from you and that my sins compound my unworthiness, yet you would still enfold me in your unfathomable love.

Petition: Lord, increase my love for prayer and the interior life.

1. A Man for Others: Here is Jesus in action. He works tirelessly from morning to night. He never thinks of himself. He never says he’s too tired or too busy to serve someone or to give others part of his time. He is there for everyone, and he keeps pushing himself to do more and more. He loves, and his love compels him to give himself to everyone around him without counting the cost. The whole city gathers to see him, and he opens his heart to all. He teaches. He heals the sick. He casts out demons. He is a man for others.

2. A Man of Prayer: After a full day of work, Jesus rested for just a little while, and then he rose early for prayer. There was a balance between his apostolic work and his life of prayer. Jesus wasn’t too busy to seek the solitude necessary to speak heart-to-heart with his Father. He found strength in prayer. He strengthened his resolve to follow his Father’s plan in prayer. He was absorbed in prayer for so long that the others began to go in search of him. Prayer wasn’t just a one-time activity: it was part of his daily routine.

3. Everyone Is Searching for Him: “Everyone is searching for you,” they said when they found Christ. They expressed the desire of every person. We all need God. He is the deepest desire of the human heart. God is searching for us, too. Jesus gets up from his prayer and heads out to the next town. We are searching for Christ, and he is searching for us. Where do we meet him? In prayer. In prayer we speak heart-to-heart with the one whom we know loves us. In prayer we can speak about the things that are important to us and about those things that are most important to him. This vital encounter gives light and strength to every other encounter we will have during the rest of the day. Through prayer, our love for others is enkindled so that we can spend ourselves tirelessly for others as Jesus did. Through prayer, we can be a men and women for others.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to put you first in my life by giving you the best of my time. Help me not to give into laziness, but to rise early in the morning so that I can be with you. I need you in my life. Help me to experience your love so that I can share it with others. Help me to give myself to your plan of salvation and to reach out to those who are searching for you. Help me to hunger for you alone so that you will satisfy my hunger.

Resolution: I will invoke Our Lord in short and simple prayers throughout today, telling him I love him and asking for the grace of a greater intimacy with him through prayer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “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, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I long to put you first in my life. It is easy to get caught up in daily activities. But you are not just another activity: you are my Lord and my God. I do believe in you, but I know that I need to believe in you more strongly. I do love you, but I must still strive to love you more than I love myself and my plans. I wish to offer you the best of myself right now in this time of conversation with you.

Petition: Lord, may I understand that you are the truth. May I love you as Truth-made-incarnate in my heart.

1. Truth and the Good Interwoven: “For he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” In his encyclical The Splendor of Truth, Pope John Paul II reminded us of the necessary link between freedom, truth and the good. He went so far as to say that a correct understanding of this link is essential for the salvation of the world. Jesus taught with authority because he was both the Truth and the Good. Our freedom consists in recognizing this and living accordingly. Do I sincerely seek the truth in my life? Do I sincerely seek what is truly good, or am I conforming myself in some way to the hedonistic and self-seeking standards of the world?

2. Multiplying Our Good: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” When our freedom refuses to recognize that Jesus is the Truth and that our greatest good consists in loving and following him, we feel threatened. We try to hold on to the good we imagine that we have apart from him. He does not want to take away the good we have, but rather he wishes to increase and multiply it. But to do so we must allow lesser goods we now have to die so that greater goods might rise with strength. Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a seed. But if it dies it rises to new life (cf. John 12:24).

3. The Demands of Truth: “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority.’” Today we live in a relativistic world, where truth is whatever we want it to be. “Whatever makes you comfortable” is the motto of the day. We are amazed when Jesus breaks the mold of relativism, revealing the lie hidden within it and proclaims that he is the Truth. When the Gospel makes demands on my life, do I shift into relativism and believe that it makes no difference how or if I respond? If the Gospel makes me comfortable I will obey, but if not…. Truth can be demanding, but what a blessing it is that, in the person of Christ, truth is also love, mercy, goodness and joy. Do I love the truth and strive to live in the light?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know how easily I excuse myself from meeting your demands for my life. I do so even while knowing that when I fulfill them I always discover new strength, hidden energy and untapped resources of love within me. Help me to give myself to you in love, to meet your demands, and to experience the power of grace unleashed within me.

Resolution: Today I will offer Christ something that is good but not necessary. By doing this, I will show my love for him and grow in self-detachment, so I can be more open to the good that he wishes to give me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel." As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I thank you for this time to be with you. I don’t deserve your close friendship, and yet you offer me the intimacy of your heart. I trust in your goodness and hope in your infinite mercy. I love you and wish to give up anything that would keep me from you.

Petition: Lord, give me compunction of heart and the grace of a true conversion.

1. Prerequisite of the Kingdom: “The kingdom of God is at hand,” “The kingdom of God is within you,” and “You are not far from the kingdom,” are all expressions of Our Lord. He came to establish a kingdom, one that would begin here on earth and continue on into eternity. We build the kingdom within ourselves by practicing virtue; we allow God’s grace to purify us from selfishness and vice and to build us up in faith, hope and charity. There is, however, a pre-requisite for grace to begin and continue to work its ongoing miracle: acknowledgement of our failings and belief in Christ. We must “repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Am I aware of my constant need to turn to God and turn from my daily sins? Can I truly say that I’m striving to overcome my sins and faults so that I can be more like Christ and closer to him?

2. Interior Sackcloth and Ashes: The type of penance that Jesus seeks must begin in our interior. When Peter becomes aware of who Christ is, he falls on his knees and exclaims, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at conversion of heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1420). The best “expression in visible signs” of conversion and penance is our imitation of Christ. The apostles “abandoned their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18).

3. Venues of Conversion: In Number 1434 of the Catechism we learn that conversion and penance are not things we embrace only once or only after serious sin, by going to confession and then leaving them aside. “The interior penance of a Christian,” rather, “can be expressed in many and various ways.” Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are mentioned as venues for expressing our ongoing conversion. Other more specific ways are “efforts at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity ‘which covers a multitude of sins.’” Does my heart resonate with these ways, and if not, why not? What could be more important than an intimate friendship with my Lord and God, with whom I hope to spend all eternity?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, my days are booked up with so much activity and noise that it’s extremely hard for me even to reflect about my need for conversion of heart. Please help me to turn away from my sins and bad habits by turning to you and imitating you. Wash me of my sins, and draw me close to you.

Resolution: I will meekly apologize for having offended someone without touching on anything negative about that person.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)

Introductory Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, you are high above us in the heavens, and yet you are so near to me. I know that you love me infinitely. I rest in your love; I find my strength and hope in you alone. Thank you for loving me despite my sinfulness and complete unworthiness. In return, I offer you my whole self, along with my intense desire to put you first in my life.

Petition: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.

1. One Mightier Than I Is Coming:John knows who he is not. Proper self-knowledge is an essential step on the path to sanctity. John is attracting the attention of the multitudes in Israel. Many people would be flattered or even intoxicated with this notoriety. Yet John is not grasping for power, nor does he seek to be someone he is not. He is preparing people’s hearts for the true Christ. The Evil One will continually try to get us to look to ourselves and our own talents in an attempt to distract our eyes from God and his plan for us. John gives us a shining example of the triumph of humble self-knowledge over the wiles of the devil. When we are totally oriented toward God, we give rise to the desire to eliminate from our personal life any lie, vanity, and inflated opinion of ourselves. We begin to live in the truth, giving all the gifts God has granted us their real value. We use them for the service of his Kingdom, without taking anything for ourselves, since everything is his.

2. I Am Not Worthy to Loosen the Thongs of His Sandals: There is no holiness without humility. Simply understood, humility means living in the truth. This humility is born of a proper understanding of our relationship to God. It has nothing to do with a lack of self-respect – Jesus was humble, yet with utter self-possession and strength! Humility is the awareness that even our greatest talents come from God and are meant for his glory. In the end though, even John’s humility will pale in comparison to the humility that Jesus models for us in his life. “The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world — the cross — and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid” (Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Love, 35). Once again we see that Jesus asks of us only what he himself has been willing to embrace. He is the source of the strength I need to practice this humility in my daily life.

3. Jesus Was Also Baptized: By being baptized, Jesus associates himself with sinful humanity. He has taken our flesh in the Incarnation. Now he sets out on the path of taking our sins upon himself so that he might redeem us from them. If it was a scandal for the Jewish people that God would become a man, how much more scandalous was it that he would be baptized, a manifest sign of repentance for sins? So great is God’s love for us that even this act is not beneath him. It is one of many steps by which he will allow his love for us to lead him even to the ignominy of the cross. Have I truly contemplated how important I am to Jesus?

Conversation with Christ: Blessed Lord, you went to the extreme of the cross to prove your love for me. You have borne my pride, and with your love and humility, you have proven yourself stronger than my greatest sin. Give me the strength and courage to follow you down the path of self-giving and humble service to those around me. Free me from the shackles of pride.

Resolution: Today I will read and reflect upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1262-1270.