Friday, October 31, 2014

Solemnity of All Saints "Winning the Only Contest that Matters"

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. I love you, and I want to love you and those around me with a love similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, help me accept sacrifices and overcome difficulties in order to gain heaven.

1. The Beatitudes Don’t Make Sense: As we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints’ Day, the Church calls us to contemplate the promises Jesus makes to all those who follow him. At first, they don’t seem very attractive. Jesus lists a whole series of things that most people would probably avoid. They would see them as interfering with their wants and desires, Yet, Jesus says that we will be blessed if we have them in our lives. The word in the original Greek is makarios, which means “happy”. This doesn’t make sense. I am supposed to be happy when I am poor, mourning, meek, lacking righteousness, merciful, clean-hearted, a peacemaker, persecuted and insulted? That’s not what I see on TV, in the movies, on the Internet. It’s not what many of the people I know would recommend. So what is Jesus’ big idea telling me this? Is he out to make me miserable?

2. Sacrificing for Worldly Glory: We can see that the whole picture isn’t gloomy. Jesus says that if we accept these difficult things, there will be rewards. And the rewards sound pretty good. In fact, they sound great: the Kingdom of Heaven, comfort, inheriting the land, satisfaction in seeing righteousness done, receiving mercy, seeing God, being a child of God, a great reward in heaven. Who wouldn’t want these things? Don’t people work a lot harder for a lot less? Don’t athletes train for years, giving up all kinds of pleasures, submitting themselves to intense suffering at times only for a brief moment of glory in some competition? Don’t businessmen work long hours, giving up pleasures and making immense sacrifices just to make a few more dollars? Isn’t what Jesus offers us much better than any of that? Better than a gold medal or even a million dollars?

3. But I Am Not Interested in Heavenly Things: Anything worth having is worth making sacrifices for, and the more it is worth, the greater sacrifices we should be willing to make for it. Perhaps a gold medal is worth the sacrifices the athlete makes to win it. Perhaps a million dollars are worth the sacrifices that a businessman makes to gain them. If heaven is really all it is supposed to be, isn’t it worth all the sacrifices Jesus mentions here – and more? If people are willing to make such great sacrifices to gain things they cannot keep, shouldn’t I be willing to make even greater sacrifices to gain the eternal happiness of heaven? Of course, many people with the talent to do great things in this world never do them because they just aren’t that interested or motivated. Is that why I don’t do more to gain heaven? Just not that interested? What will it take to motivate me to really desire what Jesus offers?

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, I don’t do much to make the Beatitudes come to life in me. Help me to give heaven its full value. Help me to desire it more each day. Help me to meditate on what heaven will be like so I will love it more and more and be willing to do anything – whatever it takes – to get there and help many others arrive as well.

Resolution: I will spend at least five minutes today imagining what heaven will be like so as to increase my desire for heaven and enable me to make the sacrifices necessary to get there. Jesus is setting up a mansion there for me. He is going to put everything that he can in it to please me and make me happy.  


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time "You Are Being Watched"

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, "Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?" But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, "Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?" But they were unable to answer his question.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, may I be a witness to you in the face of a world that often does not care.

1. And They Watched Him: The Lord knows the thoughts of these men. With his question, he makes public their foolishness: God blesses on the seventh day, while they prevent good works on that day. It would seem that a day that does not allow the doing of good works is accursed. Let us be sure always to seek the will of God in our lives, so that we might use every minute of every day for the glory of God.

2. They Kept Silent: The man with dropsy does not ask to be healed, perhaps out of fear of the watching Pharisees, yet Christ knows what he desires in his heart. Jesus is not concerned that this good work might scandalize the Pharisees; he is concerned about doing good. The Pharisees keep silent because they know that Jesus will give this man something they don’t have – their hearts have become closed to the man. We need to desire good for everyone. A sign that our hearts are becoming hardened to Our Lord, perhaps like the Pharisees, is when we begrudge the good that befalls others or even wish others harm. When we are mindful that we are beggars before God, it’s much easier to be merciful with others.

3. Keep Your Eyes on Christ: In this Gospel passage, both the Pharisees and the man suffering from dropsy are looking at Christ. The Pharisees look at Christ with skepticism that will not be overcome by any miracle; the suffering man looks at Christ with the eyes of his heart. This man desires something that only Christ can give him, and Christ will not be outdone in generosity. We don’t know what becomes of this man. We can only imagine the great testimony he gives to all about Christ and how he cured him, even under the scrutiny of the Pharisees. As Pope Saint John Paul II told us so many times, “Do not be afraid!”

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to see with the eyes of faith all that you do in my life, especially when I don’t understand why you are doing it. Help me to witness to others all that you have done for me and my family. May I never take for granted the graces that you give me.

Resolution: I will say a prayer today for someone I know who has not opened his heart to Christ because of lack of faith or skepticism. Through my prayers and example, may I once again try to bring Christ into that person’s heart.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time "God Desires to Draw Us to Himself"

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, ´Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.´ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ´Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.´"

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, I want to be convinced of your personal love for me.

1. Persevering in the Mission: Jesus encounters opposition on his journey to Jerusalem. Pharisees come to warn him of Herod. Jesus is undeterred. He knows that the Father’s will is for him to go to Jerusalem and surrender his life on the cross. He doesn’t hide or seek to escape from his Father’s will. He knows that the cross lies ahead of him, but he also knows that death and the cross are not the end. Beyond death is the Resurrection: “On the third day I finish my work.” Christ’s example should give us confidence to move forward in the face of our own difficulties and struggles. We should turn to him because he knows how to persevere in the mission. And since he wants to be involved in our life, he will accompany us on our journey. He is always with us ready to give us the help of his grace and the strength of his hand.

2. A Heart Open to Others: Jesus wept for Jerusalem. His heart was not closed to others. He was not absorbed in himself or his own problems. He freely offered his life for others. Others rejected him, but he never rejected them. He was not bitter towards those who would make him suffer. He loved, and he never ceases to love. As a hen gathers her young under her wings, so does God long to draw all men and women to himself. We need to let God draw us to himself. 

3. Pray for Those Who Persecute You: Jesus sets an example for us to follow. Our hearts should not be closed. We need to be open to the needs of those around us, even those who may attack the Church and persecute us. Jesus loved his enemies. He prayed for those who persecuted him. He blessed those who cursed him. He sought only their good, and he sacrificed himself for them. He shows us the way to live an authentically Christian life. To be faithful to him, we need to reach out in love even to those people who don’t think and act like us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to follow your inspirations always. Often there is good that I want to do, but I hesitate and draw back. Help me to keep giving even when I’m tired and worn out.  Teach me that you are always with me and that I am never alone.

Resolution: I will be open to what a family member or colleague at work might need, and I will seek to offer my help.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time "Up Against the Narrow Gate"

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ´Lord, open the door for us.´ He will say to you in reply, ´I do not know where you are from.´ And you will say, ´We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.´ Then he will say to you, ´I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!´ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.

Petition: Lord, grant me the humility and sincerity to enter by the narrow gate.

1. A Scary Question: This is a scary question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he gives some advice. It almost looks like Jesus is avoiding the question, as if the answer is too discouraging. He tries to be encouraging instead, but at the same time underlines the difficulty of success. “Strive” he says, “to enter by the narrow gate.” Strive is the key word, since apparently, many are going to try to enter and fail, because the gate is so narrow.

2. A Disturbing Reply: The words that many will try to enter and fail are troubling. What percentage? How many? Nowadays, we like exact statistics. Jesus doesn’t say, but we get the impression that it will be more than a few. The possibility of failure is very real. Who will fail? Probably, people who don’t take him seriously; people who don’t try hard enough; people who love something more than they love Jesus. In other word, lots of people will fail…

3. My Christian Credentials May Not Be as Solid as I Think They Are: He goes on to say that many who think they are doing enough are going to be surprised to find they didn’t do enough. They think their Christian credentials are solid, but they will be found wanting. They will tell Jesus that they ate and drank with him, that they received communion every Sunday. They will witness to how many times they heard him preach in their streets, how much they contributed to the collection, but that will not be enough. Yet others who did not seem so good in life will be entering the Kingdom before them. Which group will I be in? Jesus is warning me that just because I feel I am doing enough for him doesn’t mean I am going to be in the group to be saved. I need to follow him with as much sincerity and honesty as I am capable of, doing his will and not my own.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, your words are troubling to me. I see how often I fail in what I know I should be doing for you. I see that I cannot reliably guide myself in this matter. Send your Holy Spirit to help me open my eyes to see if I am falling short before it is too late. Help me to enter by the narrow gate.

Resolution: Today I will examine my conscience very honestly to see if I am saying ‘no’ to Jesus in any aspect of my life and to see if I am letting myself get too comfortable in any aspect of my life, since comfort, especially in the spiritual life, is a sign that I am not “striving to enter by the narrow gate.”


Monday, October 27, 2014

Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles. "Faithful to Our Lord"

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are my Creator and Redeemer. I hope in your goodness and mercy. I love you from the depths of my heart. I place this time of meditation in your hands. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to grow in love for your holy will.

Petition: Help me, Lord, to persevere, like the Apostles.

1. Impossible Cases: Saint Jude is known as the patron of impossible cases. He was a relative of Our Lord himself and wrote one of the letters in the New Testament. The fact that he is the patron of impossible cases means, of course, that nothing is impossible with God. What is that one “impossible” thing for me right now? What spiritual mountain do I think is too high to climb? Is it really so “impossible” or do I just need to trust more and work harder?

2. Zeal for the Right Kingdom: Saint Simon was called a Zealot. Zealots were a group of people known for politically agitating the Roman occupiers. If Simon belonged to that group, then he certainly had a steep learning curve to absorb Jesus’ message about the true, spiritual Kingdom of God. The fact that he’s listed among the Apostles means that Christ recognized his ability to change. Perhaps Saint Simon could be a patron saint for attitude change -- then his being teamed up with Saint Jude makes perfect sense. Getting over our own petty attachments and ways of seeing things can seem like a fairly “impossible case” in itself. But the Apostles are proof that Christ is more powerful than our defects, as long as we have the effective desire to follow him.

3. Supporting Roles: When we think of the apostles, Simon and Jude are never the first ones we name. However, not everyone needs to be a headliner to be a rock-solid contributor. That’s who Simon and Jude were: men loyal to Christ and who persevered in the mission that he entrusted to them. We don’t need to be stars, just faithful!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you didn’t pick superstars of this world to be your Apostles, but they became something infinitely greater: saints. Help me to believe in the power of your grace to transform me and make me holy!

Resolution: I will be humble and supportive today in the “supporting roles” that I have.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time "Jesus Blows me Out of my Comfort Zone – Again!"

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, "Woman, you are set free of your infirmity." He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.   

Petition: Lord, protect me from spiritual old age.

1. Jesus Is Showing his Messiah Credentials Again: Jesus’ opponents were desperate. They didn’t want to believe that he was the Messiah, and they especially didn’t want anyone else to think he was the Messiah. But there was the pesky problem of his miracles. They knew that when God sent someone to speak for him, he usually performed signs through the person so that people would believe in him. The sign was proof that the person (Jesus in this case) was sent by God. Jesus was doing plenty of miracles, which most people were taking as the sign that he was sent by God. What could Jesus’ opponents do? They could only try to discredit the miracles any way possible.

2. You Can Do a Lot More than You Think on the Sabbath: This miracle was done on the Sabbath. The head of the synagogue had a problem with that. Didn’t God himself rest on the sixth day? Oughtn’t we to do the same? How does this Jesus heal on the Sabbath if he is truly from God? In fact, there were many exceptions to the rules about the Sabbath. In another place, Jesus himself says that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Certainly, the observance of the Sabbath was always subject to the practice of charity, that it was always permissible to break the Sabbath rest in the case when needed to do some necessary act of charity for another. Jesus mentions situations when for practical reasons (necessary farm chores, like watering animals) work can be done without breaking the Sabbath rest.

3. Lord, Please Let me Keep my Mediocrity: And so, there is really nothing to the objection. The head of the synagogue does not want to believe because what Jesus says and does seems threatening to him. If Jesus is the Messiah, he foresees having to change his life, and he does not want to do that. He may not even realize that this is his real objection, but it is. We can be this way, too. We don’t want to accept something Jesus teaches us through his Church because it would mean that we have to change our lives, and we don’t want to. We are comfortable the way we are. If we had to do what Jesus asks, it would take us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it is mere fear of something different. Jesus always is offering us something different, but we don’t want it. We want to stay in our rut. We have surrounded ourselves with limited horizons and are afraid to stretch them.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, help me to accept you fully. If I am rejecting you or your teaching without realizing it, show me. Help me to overcome my attempt to construct my own little universe in which I am God. If I have grown old spiritually, renew my youth and help me break through my restricted, shrunken horizons that exclude you.

Resolution: Where in my life have I settled into spiritual routine and old age? Do I habitually skip some prayer I should be saying, telling myself it isn’t that important? I will make an extra effort to pray it today. Is there some other aspect of my spiritual or moral life that I have removed to make life “more comfortable” for me? Time to start doing it again!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time "Putting God First"

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "´You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.´ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ´You shall love your neighbor as yourself.´ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown me.

Petition: Lord, give me the strength to put you first in my life and others second.

1. Putting God First: Jesus gives a twofold response to the question about which of the commandments is the greatest. He first turns to Deuteronomy 6:15: “You shall love the Lord your God …” This was familiar to the Jews, for they recited this passage in prayer (called the “Shema”) several times a day and wrote it on all their doorposts. For us, as well as for the Jews, it is a constant reminder that God must be first in our life. As our creator and redeemer, God has an absolute claim on us. We owe him everything. Everything we have is a gift from him. Too often we shelve God, ignoring him until a convenient moment arises or it suits our mood. Putting God first means setting aside the best part of our day for prayer to him and seeking to live his will at every moment out of love for him.

2. Becoming “Other-Centered”: Jesus next turns to the commandment found in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor …” He combines the two commandments in such a way that one cannot be fulfilled without the other. There can be no love of God without loving other human persons, made in his image. Nor can love of neighbor exist without a pure and purifying love for God. Love for neighbor requires putting others ahead of ourselves. Self-love and self-absorption lead only to loneliness and isolation. Being “other-centered” is the key to our happiness and fulfillment. To love others means to seek their true good, to serve them out of love for the Lord. We need to come out of ourselves and look beyond the narrow interests of our egoism and self-love. The more we love authentically, the more fulfilled our life will become.

3. Praying for Those Who Harm Us: It is not easy to break out of selfish habits. Because of sin, we have the tendency to inflate self-interest in a disordered way. This is not good. We need to ask for the power of grace to purify our hearts and give us the interior strength to put others ahead of ourselves. God is ready to give us this grace, but he wants us to ask for it. Difficult circumstances and relationships need to be faced by prayer and sacrifice. We need to pray even for those who harm us and to ask God to give us the grace and strength to love them as God loves them. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to put you first in my life. So many times I find myself putting other things ahead of you. I make time for the things I want to do, but I find little time to pray. I find time to talk to my friends, but little time to speak with you. I need strength from you to love you. Help me also to see and love others as you do.

Resolution: I will pray during the day for someone who bothers me and seek to put their good before my own.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time "The Fig That Was Almost Toast!"

At that time some people who were present there told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them -- do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!" And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ´For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?´ He said to him in reply, ´Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.´"

Introductory Prayer: Lord, who am I that you spend time listening to me in my prayer? Who am I that you speak with me? You have given humanity such dignity by assuming our nature and giving me personally so many gifts. Time and time again you have been patient with me and received me back into your embrace when I have strayed from you. Thank you for your kindness to me. I hope to receive it always in the future and especially at the hour of my death. Your kindness and patience are a manifestation of your love for me. I want to return that love, because the only fitting response to love is love.

Petition: Lord, help me to be as patient with others as you are with me.

1. The Fig-less Fig: The owner of the fig tree in the parable, which many spiritual authors see as an image of God the Father, comes for three years in search of fruit. How often our Heavenly Father comes in search of fruit on the fig tree of our lives. And what does he find? He has given us the “soil” and so many elements that are conducive to being fruitful. He has made known his desire for us to bear fruit, and his Son has explained to us how the fruit is to be produced. There are no excuses. Let’s take notice of the lesson of the parable: When the Father comes to us looking for fruits, it is because it is the time for fruit. What will we say to the Father if he has given us ten, twenty, forty, sixty years to bear fruit but finds none? It’s not just about looking nice, as a fig does. It’s about bearing fruit – fruit that will last – according to the Father’s plan.

2. The Fig That Was Almost Toast: There is an American idiom referring to something that is destroyed and no longer what it was: “It’s toast!” The fig tree in the parable was in danger of becoming “toast.” “Cut it down” was the order given by the owner. “Why should it exhaust the soil?” What a terrible accusation! It was useless and only sapping nutrients from the soil for no purpose. When we apply this parable to our own lives, it is ghastly to think that our life, or the lives of others, might be just as useless. Cut it down. Take it away. It serves no purpose. The judgment is just. But it was a judgment that was soon to be lifted, both in the case of the fig tree and in the application to our own lives. Am I sufficiently grateful for God’s continual mercy towards me and others?

3. Leave It… Thanks to the gardener in the parable, the fig lives and is not cut down. The axe does not bite into the trunk of the fig, wrenching from it the beauty of its leaves and meandering branches. In our case, Jesus Christ the Good Gardener steps in and asks the owner, the Heavenly Father, to “leave it;” he, the Good Gardener, will take care of things. And how he does it! The Gardener himself is cut down in a bloody way and crucified. We who indeed should justly be cut down are saved, while the axe is put to the trunk of His body. All for love of us! Archbishop Luis Martinez has a beautiful image in his book, The Secrets of the Interior Life where he speaks of suffering as a manifestation of love: “It is said that the myrrh tree allows its perfume to escape only when it is bruised.” The perfume “flows drop by drop through the lacerations of the bark that enfold them.”

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus Christ, how patient the Father is with me! Thank you for coming to save me, for laying your life down for me, for suffering what I should endure because of my self-centeredness and sinfulness. But with you, there is hope.

Resolution: I will exercise patience today with everyone I meet, thinking of the patience that God has had with me.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time "Spiritual Weather Reports"

Jesus said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain -- and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot -- and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are here with me. I have come to honor and adore you. Your love sustains me. I want to love you more in return.

Petition: Lord, allow me to comprehend your providence more deeply.

1. Seeing Signs: Jesus expresses some indignation with the spiritual obtuseness of his listeners; in other words, they don’t get it! When it comes to earthly matters, they can put two and two together in an almost infallible manner. A dim dullness, however, has the upper hand when the spiritual realm is broached. Why? Possibly because they were not bothering to ponder what the sign of Jesus’ presence, miracles and words really meant. They remained on the superficial level without plumbing the depths. Superficiality inhibits our own spiritual progress as well. Seeing signs isn’t so much a matter of being able to pick out the shape of a tabernacle or cross in a passing cloud, but of deep and prayerful consideration of the love of God in our lives.

2. God’s Presence: People who live a life of consistent prayer are much more in tune with God’s presence. Where others see coincidence, they see providence. This gives them a profound sense of peace. They know that God is in charge and that they don’t have to figure out everything for themselves. The world doesn’t rest on their shoulders, but on God’s. So instead of complaining or worrying, they live in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance.

3. Paying Attention: God’s providence guides all things. We know this through faith and sometimes he sends a sign to say, “Yes, I’m indeed here.” Once a priest was driving down the road and his thoughts were taken up with a difficulty he was having with a particular person. “How should I handle this?” he asked himself. A car pulled out in front of him. The license plate read “CARITAS”, which is Latin for “charity.” Was it just a coincidence? He couldn’t deny that this was the answer he was looking for. The signs that invite us to be more Christ-like are the ones to which we need to pay the most attention.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, the times I really don’t pick up on the signs you send me are when they challenge my resistance to your grace. Help me to overcome my spiritual superficiality and perceive your presence in my life.

Resolution: I will try to be prompt in following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time "Jesus’ Fire Must Be My Own"

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Introductory Prayer: Father, I place myself in your presence. I firmly believe in you and love you with all my heart. I entrust myself completely to your merciful but demanding ways, knowing that you only seek to lead me home to heaven.

Petition: Lord, help me to ignite awareness of your love all around me.

1. The Spark That Must Become a Blaze: Jesus’ intensity and passion break out in radical expression in today’s Gospel. He yearns for a divine conflagration in the hearts of his disciples. Jesus endured a true baptism of immersion, steeped in the pain of Golgotha, precisely so that our own baptism would not be a mere ceremony. Rather he wanted our baptism to be a holy spark of divine life that, with care and formation, would become a growing flame of authentic Christian holiness. Indeed, let us fan that flame and never allow external pressures, or our own mediocrity, to extinguish it.

2. Peace, at Any Price? Jesus corrects a misperception in some of his listeners. Some no doubt expected him to usher in the messianic peace, when the lion would lie down with the lamb (see Isaiah 11:6-9). No, the time for that peace will be at history’s end, when God’s Kingdom is established in all its fullness. Till then, Christianity will often find itself in conflict with the powers of the world. We want to be considered nice people, yet our convictions will at times bring us conflict. May the spark of our soul be a strong-enough flame to accept those moments and avoid the cheap peace of acquiescing with the world.

3. Put Up Your Dukes? Should Catholics be people spoiling for a fight? Not if they want to be good Catholics! Those who love fighting and arguing may very well find themselves in divided households, but not for the reasons Jesus really means. Courtesy, gentleness, and the finer details of charity should characterize the person who wants to be like Christ. These kinds of people seek to unite, not divide. When they are dividers, it is because they have to be. They know when the point arrives that if they bend any further, they’ll break—where flexibility would degenerate into infidelity. There are tough, sad moments when being faithful to Christ means a head-on collision in a very important relationship, such as the ones Jesus mentions. But when it’s a question of where our first loyalty lies, there is no debate. Christ must come first.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you are the center of my life. I thank you for my family and pray that I will never be a stumbling block for their faith. Give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Help me, so that I will never compromise the Gospel, nor needlessly alienate those whom you have sent me to serve.

Resolution: I will strive to set a good spiritual example for my family and will invite someone who has strayed to consider coming back.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time "It’s So Hard to Get Good Help"

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ´My master is delayed in coming,´ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant´s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master´s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master´s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer, everything good comes from you. You are the one source of peace and happiness. Thank you for bringing me into existence and insuring I received the inestimable gift of the faith. Thank you for accompanying me in every moment. I am grateful for your mercy and love and wish to respond more generously to you in my life.

Petition: Lord, help me to be a faithful and prudent steward.

1. Wanted: Faithful and Prudent Stewards: Anyone who has had a management position knows that one of the riskiest parts of the job is hiring. Very often, it can seem like rolling dice, especially when there is a conflict between what’s read in the resume and what’s felt in the gut. Nevertheless, to make a good hire, you need to have a clear idea of what you want. The Lord has a simple job description for the stewards he is looking to bring on. They must be faithful and prudent. In being faithful, they don’t seek to impose their own vision or desires over his, but rather serve the Master who has given them their commission. Their will is such that they are confident in assimilating the desires of their master. They are able to perceive how to adjust and adapt to the multitude of circumstances that arises. These stewards are constantly applying the old wristband test, “WWJD,” i.e., What Would Jesus Do?

2. Tasting One’s Own Medicine: Having been “hired” by the master, it would be foolish not to expect to be held accountable for the trust that he bestows. Nevertheless, the irresponsible steward indulges his appetites and abuses his authority. The master’s “delay” gives him a false sense of security. Without the natural brake of his master’s watchful eye, his pride gets out of control. Yet the master is bound to return, and the servant eventually experiences the results of his own arrogance: the taste of his own medicine is bitter indeed. The Lord is inviting us to have a greater awareness of his constant presence. His absence and “delay” are only apparent. He is very much present to those who wish to live their God-given charge with integrity and responsibility. His grace is always available to those who live their lives in his presence.

3. Management Styles: The two types of stewards have very different management styles. One beats the servants; the other “distributes the food allowance at the proper time.” We all want to be counted among those faithful and prudent stewards who take good care of those entrusted to us. Yet at times, the responsibility we have seems more burdensome than desirable. While the bad steward indulges his passions, the good steward is in danger of giving into his fatigue and impatience. Frustration is a distinct possibility when it comes to forming others. If the Lord died such a cruel death for our salvation, who can measure the value of a single soul? By contemplating that example, we need to learn to put aside our petty annoyances and instead be faithful in caring for those entrusted to us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you have given me such great responsibility. I am sorry for the times I have offended you, and for when I have not lived up to the trust you have bestowed on me. I promise you that I will strive to reflect your love for those to whom you have entrusted to my care.

Resolution: When my patience is tested, I will pause and ask myself, “How does the Lord want me to handle this situation?”


Monday, October 20, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time "Spiritual Readiness"

Jesus said to his disciples: "Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master´s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you watch my every action, know my every thought, and guide my every path. I love and trust in your will. Thank you for this time of prayer. From it may I receive the spiritual energy I need to keep my eyes firmly planted on you today and to remain confident that you are always at my side.

Petition: Lord, help me always to be alert to the needs of others.

1. Watch and Pray: Being blindsided is no fun. Those unexpected surprises are particularly annoying when we feel someone should have warned us. “Please make sure you tell me about this next time” is a familiar refrain. When it comes to the questions about the afterlife, if we are blindsided we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Christ has given us more than adequate warning. Neither death nor his coming in glory to judge humanity should catch us off guard. The key to preparedness lies in his admonition to his disciples: “Watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41).

2. Master or Servant: Imagine Jesus’ joy in welcoming one of his “good and faithful servants” into heaven. He said that he will sit us down and serve us dinner. That beautiful image reminds us that the hard work of being faithful will not lack its reward. More than anything, it points to Jesus’ gratitude: the Master becomes the servant for his loyal disciples. After all that the Lord has done for us, what else would we rather do than to give Christ the joy of our faithfulness?

3. The Long Haul: Jesus talks about the master of the house possibly arriving at the “second or third watch of the night.” Being faithful isn’t a fling or a flash in the pan. We know that there will be “ups and downs,” moments of two steps forward and one back. Through it all we are called to persevere. Going the distance is not easy, but how beautiful it is! Pope Saint John Paul II gave us an indelible example of perseverance. When we heard that he had passed away, all of us felt sadness until we considered the joy of imagining the embrace between him and the Lord he loved so much. May our own example bear witness to our desire to persevere — to stick with the commitment of fidelity until the Lord calls us home.

Conversation with Christ: Whether life is long or short, Lord, I have to be ready for whatever your providence brings. I want to persevere, but so often my love is undermined by my fears and frailty. Give me the strength I need.

Resolution: I will review my life choices to make sure that I am persevering in all that I have promised Christ.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time "Bigger Barns?"

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me." He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one´s life does not consist of possessions." Then he told them a parable. "There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ´What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?´ And he said, ´This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!" But God said to him, ´You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?´ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God."

Introductory Prayer: O God, I come to you today with all my human frailty. You know me better than I know myself. I am in your presence to accompany and console you, not to seek consolation or a nice feeling for myself. Even if I get distracted during our time together, I offer myself to you completely.

Petition: Lord, give me wisdom to understand what is truly important in this life.

1. The Scorecard of Life: Driving down the road, a bumper sticker is often seen: “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” This is a contemporary rendition of the mantra of Jesus’ rich fool: “Eat, drink and be merry.” Juggling credit cards and all kinds of financing schemes, many people live life like the rich fool in today’s Gospel. Is the drive for material pleasure, or security, impoverishing my soul?

2. A Bigger Barn vs. a Bigger Heart: What will truly make us happy? Glossy magazine ads are, for some, a source of inspiration on this point. Basically, they are about “bigger barns”: a hotter car, redder lipstick, spectacular vacations. The rich fool believes that by increasing his capacity for material pleasure, he will be happier. But it’s an illusion. Like the running wheel for a gerbil, it is lots of movement without getting anywhere. We invest energy and effort acquiring things, but the bigger barn brings us little joy. That’s because our hearts--not our barns--are what really need to be enlarged. Our heart longs for love. That Augustinian restlessness will never leave us in peace until we have encountered the Lord who loves us and discovered him in the relationships ordained by his providence.

3. When the Final Curtain Is Drawn: At the end of this parable, Jesus in essence says, “You can’t take it with you.” There’s a place in Rome in which this is graphically depicted. The Capuchin church of St Mary of the Immaculate Conception, on Via Veneto, is affectionately known as the “Bone Church.” Inside there is an amazingly designed and arranged display made completely out of the bones of four thousand Capuchin friars! While it may strike at modern sensitivities as somewhat morbid, like today’s Gospel it teaches an important lesson. All those bones look alike. Unless you are a forensic expert, you cannot tell who was fat or thin, smart or dull, handsome or homely. Death is the great leveler. Earthly advantages dissolve. Material goods stay in this world. We go to the Lord to render an account of our lives at death. As the little sign on the wall of the Capuchin ossarium says, “One day, we were like you. One day, you will be like us.”

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, so often I find my eyes looking on the good things of this world more as ends than means. I need to keep my priorities straight always: you first and then everything else, inasmuch as they lead me to you. Give me the wisdom to realize that life is short and it must be lived for you alone.

Resolution: I will live charity today as fervently as if I knew this day were my last.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time "Signed, Sealed and To Be Delivered"

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The Emperor´s." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the Emperor the things that are the Emperor´s, and to God the things that are God´s."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer, everything good comes from you. You are the one source of peace and happiness. Thank you for bringing me into existence and insuring I received the inestimable gift of the faith. Thank you for accompanying me in every moment. I am grateful for your mercy and love and wish to respond more generously to you in my life.

Petition: Lord, may I remember who I am: one who bears the name “Christian.”

1. Signed: How often do we reflect on what we are doing when we make the Sign of the Cross? In The Spirit of the Liturgy, the future Pope Benedict said: “to seal oneself with the Sign of the Cross is a public and visible ‘yes’ to him who suffered for us, to him who in the body has made God’s love visible, to a God who reigns not by destruction but by humility of suffering and love which is stronger than all the power of the world and wiser than all the calculating intelligence of men.” We are saying that we believe in the power of the cross and particularly in what it means for our own life – our own bodies will rise again. We sign ourselves as belonging to the one who has won our redemption by his blood on the cross, as belonging to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are signed and we belong to God. The Sign of the Cross is a daily reminder that we are to give to God what is God’s, that is, our very selves.

2. Delivered: Christ prayed at the Last Supper, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.... Father, I desire that those also whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17: 16-24). And so it is that we are to be delivered to where we will see his glory and be with him. We bear an inscription as those baptized into his life, and we outwardly recall this when we make the Sign of the Cross with water from the fonts in the entrances to our churches. It is up to us then – with the thoughts, words and actions of our lives – to live this truth coherently, giving to God what is God’s.

3. Detached: Pope Saint John Paul II, reflecting on Psalm 145, writes: “Man therefore finds himself facing a radical choice between two contrasting possibilities: on the one side is the temptation to ‘trust in princes,’ adopting their criteria inspired by wickedness, selfishness and pride. In fact, this is a slippery slope, a ruinous road, a ‘crooked path and a devious way,’ (Proverbs 2:15) whose goal is despair. Indeed, the Psalmist reminds us that man is a frail, mortal being, as the very word ‘adam’ implies; in Hebrew this word is used to signify earth, matter, dust. Man – the bible constantly states – is ‘like (…) a strip of grass that is green at dawn but has withered by evening (Psalms 89:5-6).’ With this in mind, we “give to the emperor” what is of this world by relinquishing or simply detaching ourselves from it. We give what is eternal, namely our souls, over to God because we belong to him.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, Jesus Christ, sometimes I am attracted by the things of this world and influenced by those who try to convince me to trust only in the world’s ways. May I not be hoodwinked by this world but keep my heart set on the world that will never pass away. Only in your world will I be filled with your grace forever.

Resolution: Today I will examine my conscience to do some “house cleaning” of my soul. I resolve to treat the goods of this world only as a means towards holiness, stepping stones to communion with God.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist "Me? An Apostle?"

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ´Peace to this house!´ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ´The kingdom of God has come near to you.´"

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith so that in any trial I will trust in you.

1. Amazing Graces: Luke, whose feast we celebrate in today’s liturgy, is the only gentile author in the New Testament. It was part of God’s design that he be chosen by God to be the author of one of the Gospels and the Book of Acts. “Who am I to receive such a grace?” Luke might easily have said to himself, marveling at the gratuitousness with which he received his role within the Church. An honest look at the great grace we have received in being called to be part of God’s Church should bring us to say the same thing: Who are we to receive such an incredible blessing?! Why did we receive this grace and our next-door neighbor did not? Why have so many souls in the history of the world never had the opportunity to know about Christ, but we have? Only one answer comes close. God wants it, and it is part of his plan of love for all mankind.

2. More Hands on Deck: Here is a true situation at a parish on the West Coast: After five draining hours in the confessional, the priest climbs out to verify that no one else is in line. This is the normal Sunday morning routine there. During those hours the priest was witness to several powerful conversions, souls finding peace after years of struggle, other saintly souls whose delicate consciences were cause for admiration, and still others moving along with a “more-or-less” attitude in their response to God, but who were helped by the grace of reconciliation. Many more confessions could be heard, but there simply aren’t enough priests to meet the need. The more confession is offered, the more the faithful take advantage of the opportunity, and the more the Church grows in holiness. Do we pray that God send more laborers to the harvest?

3. A Lamb without Sandals: Christ’s comparison almost seems cruel: “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals….” If he considers the apostles to be like lambs, why on earth would he send them among wolves? As always, Christ wants to stretch the faith of the apostles. “My Father’s providence will take care of you and protect you” is the message he wants them to accept and live. Later he tells them to take these items with them (cf. Luke 22:36), but he also reminds them, “‘When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’” He wants us to rely on him, not on our own skills or talents. While we always need to apply all our God-given human intelligence and prudence, we still need to rely on God to bless our work and fill in for what is lacking.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, so much of what I’m faced with each day seems to be beyond my capabilities, yet I see clearly that you want me to continue pushing forward, trusting in your providence. This isn’t easy! Help be to have confidence in you.

Resolution: If faced with an obstacle today, I will pray for God’s assistance rather than rely only on myself.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr "Into the Lion’s Mouth"

At that time: So many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. He began to speak, first to his disciples, "Beware of the leaven-- that is, the hypocrisy-- of the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, give me courage to keep following you even in the face of temptation.

1. Lion Food: St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was arrested and then transported to Rome, where death by lions awaited him. In a letter, he urges the Romans to do him no “untimely charity” of interceding with the emperor to spare him from execution. He writes to them, “I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable goodwill towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God” (Letter to the Romans). When Christ speaks of having no fear of those who kill the body but after that can do no more, he means it quite literally. If we encounter a situation in which we must either be faithful to Christ or cave in to pressure and abandon the path of the Lord, we should never hesitate. Follow Christ. Do not fear those who might “kill” by their criticism or disapproval of our rectitude of conscience. Do not be afraid.

2. Becoming Eucharist: St. Ignatius continues, “I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God” (Letter to the Romans). He is drawing a connection between his own coming martyrdom—wheat ground by the teeth of wild beasts—and the Eucharist—the pure bread of God. These words are not just grisly yet pious analogy; rather, they touch on the most profound meaning of the mystery of the Eucharist and our participation in it. The Eucharist is the most complete worship given to God the Father: It is the Incarnation of God among us, it is Christ’s sacrifice of his body on the Cross, and it is his Resurrection from death to eternal life. Through the Eucharist we become an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. We need to offer the struggles and challenges of each day in order to remain united with Christ in the Eucharist.

3. More than Birds: In our daily life we take many small things for granted because they seem to have little import in the grand scheme of things. “What were the high and low temperatures a year ago today?” “What does it matter now?” we might as well respond. “Where will the four sparrows I saw in the park two weeks ago get food to eat?” It’s not even a question that occurs to us. We have many other things of immediate importance that require our attention and action. Yet such a question is important enough to occur to God. Christ tells us in Luke 12:24, “They do not sow or reap; they have no storehouses and no barns; yet God feeds them.” He continues, “And how much more are you worth than the birds!” If God would make time to think about something so insignificant among all the goings-on in the world, how much more will he be taking care of our needs!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, when I look at the difficulties and rough spots I know I will be facing today, I worry about the sacrifices I’ll have to make. Maybe events won’t turn out as I hope. Help me to have confidence and trust in you like St. Ignatius. Help me realize that you have taken care of every minute detail of all that will occur today.

Resolution: When faced with any worry today I will pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.”


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time "History Need Not Repeat Itself"

The Lord said: "Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ´I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute´ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter." When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to follow your example and set a good example for others.

1. History Will Teach Us Something: Israel’s response to God’s love, as seen in the Old Testament, is pocked and pitted with infidelity, abuse, and ingratitude. At times the people outright reject God and whomever he sends to guide them back to his loving care. These falls from God’s grace are instructive for us today. We see the grandeur of what God did for the people of Israel and marvel at it. We should be aghast at how a people who received so much could respond so little. But more than this, we need to use this history of Israel as a mirror in which to regard our own lives: to recognize the same patterns of failure and lack of fidelity in our own lives and use this self-reflection to inspire us to return to the Lord. If we fail to admit our weaknesses and failures, however, we will be like the Pharisees to whom Christ spoke, who brought the blood of the prophets upon their own heads because of their stubbornness and hardness of heart.

2. History Repeats Itself: On one occasion Christ warns the disciples that if this is the way he is treated, they should expect no less themselves (cf. John 15:20). Do we honestly expect not to have to face some difficulty as disciples of the Lord? Of course not. But what if that difficulty comes from within? This is from where the most serious menaces to our discipleship come. Our pride, our vanity, our love of comfort: these are the battlegrounds and the martyrs’ fields where first and foremost we need to suffer for being a disciple of the Lord. The prophets and martyrs who suffered for their zeal for the Lord did so even up to the cost of their lives. He might not need us to lay our lives on the line in quite the same way, but an interior sacrifice is what Christ does ask of everyone whom he calls.

3. Stoppage Time: One of the key moments in Edith Stein’s conversion happened when she went into a Catholic Church to see what it was like, and as she sat there in silence, an older woman came in to spend a few moments with Christ in the Eucharist. She had groceries in her hand and was obviously on her way home to prepare dinner. For young Edith, still struggling with belief in God, it was an example of just how grounded in day-to-day reality the Catholic faith is. There is little chance that woman ever knew the importance her example played in helping form this future saint and patroness of Europe, but the woman’s authentic faith was just what Edith needed to see. Our living witness is critical for those around us, whether or not we ever see or hear of the consequence. We can serve as an occasion of grace, or we can be a stumbling block on the path that delays someone from arriving at the place God wants to lead them.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know that I am an integral part in your plan to save souls. You have the confidence to use me as a channel of your grace for those around me, particularly those closest to me. I offer you my life today. Use me as a channel of grace and a testimony to your love.

Resolution: I will offer to God today the sacrifice necessary to change something in my behavior that might be an obstacle for someone else coming to know Christ better.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church "The Grumpy Catholics Guild"

"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it." One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too." And he said, "Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, make my heart more like yours.

1. Falling into the Same Trap: Do we ever find ourselves rooting for Jesus in this Gospel passage? “Give it to ‘em hard, Lord! They deserve it!” We imagine ourselves there in the scene—our arms sternly crossed, our heads shaking in disapproval of those oh-so hypocritical Pharisees. Soon our thoughts turn to someone we know who “should also receive a good verbal lashing!” Even a priest or a bishop might be the subject of our mental reprimand. Yet we now find ourselves right in the shoes of the very Pharisees we so deplore: Our hearts are embittered and dry. Although we are able to condemn with the Lord, we do not love with the Lord. We forget that Christ would lay down his life for these Pharisees he is calling to conversion—even if they were the only ones who needed to be saved. Pointing the finger is easy, but a call to conversion can come only from a heart that loves.

2. The Grumpy Catholics Guild: Is there anyone who can’t find at least one thing wrong in their parish or diocese? One thing is to see, pray for, and help resolve these difficulties. Another matter is to dwell on them. That is what the members of the “Grumpy Catholics Guild” (GCG) do. This Gospel passage is the one exclusive lens through which they view everything. For the Rosary, members of the GCG pray the “Vengeful Mysteries”: Jesus curses the fig tree, Jesus clears the temple, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees. Might I be an anonymous member—or at least a supporter—of the GCG? Christ used hard words, but they were only fruit of an intense love and longing for the scribes’ and Pharisees’ salvation, not an intense bitterness toward them. If I have any bitterness in my heart, I need to ask Christ for the grace to forgive and to forgive as Christ forgives.

3. Helping Hand: Our Lord was the greatest teacher, the great pedagogue of the fullness of life: the love of the Father. He knew how to bring souls along little by little, at their pace and to the extent they were capable. The opposite is true of the lawyers at the end of this Gospel passage. They would load restrictions, unwieldy responsibilities and weighty sacrifices upon the people, but would not reach out a helping hand to assist the people in carrying the weight. As Christians we are called to help illuminate the consciences of those around us so that they might have a closer relationship with God. However if illuminating their consciences is merely our euphemism for “throwing the book at them”, we need to stop and see if Christ’s words don’t apply to us as well: “For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.”

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, at times I look at my heart and see that it is hard and bitter. It is ready to jump self-righteously at the first opportunity to condemn someone else, but only so as to assure myself of my own moral superiority. Grant me a heart, meek and humble like yours.

Resolution: If I find myself thinking critically about someone today, I will pray for them and look for two good qualities in them.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time "Laws That Bind or Free"

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, grant me this grace of conversion.

1. Law for the Law’s Sake: The Mosaic Law was intended to free them for worship, delivering them from slavery to pagan gods and from slavery to sin. When the Law (and the added customs and regulations) became an end in itself, it was truncated and severed from the One to whom it was meant to lead. Today in the Catholic Church there are enough laws, customs and regulations to make even the most rigorous Pharisee proud. The danger is that we can fall into one of two traps. First, we can adhere to them with such vigor that we lose sight of the One they are freeing us to worship. We don’t allow our hearts and minds to be educated and formed by them, we just follow them blindly. We wind up cleaning the outside of the cup and stopping there, without going on to see God’s love and let it purify our hearts.

2. The Second Trap: The second trap we can fall into is at the other extreme: to give ourselves an easy pass by presuming that “if my heart is in the right place, I don’t need to worry about all these rules and such.” With a lax attitude we permit ourselves to ease up on fulfilling these laws which in truth will free us. “I know today is Sunday and I should go to Mass, but it’s vacation! God knows I’m a good person.” Yet it is in the Sunday Mass that we receive the many graces necessary toward our being that “good person”. The commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, as with any of the Ten Commandments and customs of the Church, is there to lead us to God. These free us from our often confused subjective conclusions about how we should worship God and live our lives.

3. Cleaning the Cup: “Charity covers a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8). The law of love is the most important of all the commandments of the Lord. In Chapter 12 of the Gospel of Mark, Christ responds to a scribe’s question about the first of all the commandments: “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Love of God and neighbor is both the source and the summit of the Law of the Old Covenant and of the New. Living these two greatest commandments purifies and cleanses our hearts—the inside of the cup. So when Christ says to give alms, he is telling the Pharisees to love their neighbors. Then their hearts will be clean.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I want my heart always to be focused on you. I need your guidance, for I can’t do it alone. I need you to teach me how to love you, how to worship and serve you. The laws you give me free me and guide me toward you. Help me to see your hand leading me ever closer to you.

Resolution: If there is a rule or custom of the Church that I don’t understand or don’t practice, I will read up on it to come to understand better how it frees me and guides me in my relationship with Christ.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time "The Queen, the Ninevites and Me"

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, help me to recognize the signs of your presence in my life.

1. Three Days in the Fish: When Jonah is swallowed by the whale he dies, and when he is spit out onto the shore, he comes to life again. This is the only sign that Christ promises to his listeners who seek a sign. Christ will be seen by them as truly dead, swallowed by the tomb of the earth. Then, after three days, he will come to life again in the Resurrection. As Jonah preached conversion to the Ninevites after coming back from the dead, so Christ would bring conversion and peace to some of the very ones who abandoned him or cried out for his crucifixion. Even in rebuking the “evil generation”, Christ promises them a sign that will bring hope to any of them who—like the Ninevites—later repent. If later in life they realize their evilness, Christ himself will be there to guide them back to friendship with his Father.

2. Even the Queen Came: Christ is reminding his unbelieving listeners that the Queen of Sheba traveled from afar to hear Solomon’s wisdom. The distance from the Kingdom of Sheba in southern Arabia to Jerusalem would have taken weeks to traverse. It would have been an exhausting and expensive journey, especially considering the entourage that would have accompanied the Queen. She recognized the gift of God in him and relished the pearls of divine wisdom that he shared with her. We need to reflect on how often we avail ourselves of all that God offers us that is not a journey of weeks away, but is just a few miles away: Christ in the Eucharist. Closer still, the Bible on the shelf is filled with Christ’s message of love. All this is within easy reach and is much more than anything Solomon could share with us.

3. Greater than Jonah: The whale was greater than Jonah. It swallowed him whole. Yet that violent death and subsequent resurrection was the key moment in Jonah’s life and mission. It was necessary not only for Jonah’s own salvation (he had been running from God), but it also was necessary for the salvation of the whole city of Nineveh. Christ makes this reference to Jonah as a forewarning to his listeners: He is greater than Jonah. He is greater than the death that would swallow him. This should inspire our faith and confidence in Christ. There is nothing greater than he. There is no greater prophet; no greater event can consume him. All things are under his dominion except one: our free will. That he doesn’t force; that he doesn’t conquer. He leaves it perfectly intact, so that we might respond freely to his call to ongoing conversion, just like the citizens of Nineveh.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, the sign of love that you give is your willingness to die a cruel and humiliating death. Yet that is not everything: You give me your Word in the Gospel. You give me your Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Help me to appreciate these great gifts and to make the most of every opportunity to receive them.

Resolution: At some point today I will offer a prayer of thanksgiving, thanking Christ for the blessings received over the past few days.