Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time "Jesus and the Evil One: A Major Mismatch"

Then they came to Capernaum, 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.

Introductory Prayer: Oh, Holy One of God, what do you have to do with us?  We know that you have the words of eternal life and can command the evil one to depart. You have power over all evil and can conquer all sin. You are ready to do this because of your unconditional love for us, and I am ready to listen humbly to your word and respond, so that I may be healed and have life forever with you.

Petition: Jesus, help me to trust in your power to heal me of my sin.

1. His Way of Teaching: Jesus teaches with authority –– of course he does, because he is the Son of God! He is the one who has the words of eternal life. He has been at the Father’s side from all eternity. He has come to teach us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. So many voices in our world today can confuse us and make us doubt our faith. Can we not just listen with hearts of faith to the simple message that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

2. Jesus Is in Charge: Jesus commands the evil one, and he submits. The evil one fears Christ’s power. The evil one is silenced and chased out by a mere word from Christ. So often we worry and fear that sin and evil have a grip on us that we cannot break. We worry we cannot live up to what the Lord expects of us. Yet, his word makes that evil one flee immediately. He can do the same in our lives if we put our total trust in him.

3. The Evil I Cannot Overcome: What is the major evil or sin that I have not been able to expel? What is the primary fault or defect in my life? All my effort to improve has been blocked by this insidious power, greater than my virtue. I need to turn to Christ and put my trust in his word of life. I need to ask him to free me from that power which consumes me and holds me back from loving and giving myself to him and to others.

Conversation with Christ: Speak that word of life, Lord. Free me from the power of the evil one. Do not let him run my life or keep me from your love. Give me your grace and I will be satisfied.

Resolution: I will be bold and trust in the Lord’s power to help me overcome my faults and the power of the devil’s influence on my life.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Memorial of Saint John Bosco, Priest "On the Way There"

On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are in my boat. I want a stronger faith in you. I trust that you will lead me, sinful though I am, to your good harbor. I love you for always accompanying me in this life.

Petition: Lord, help me to grow in faith.

1. Crossing to the Other Side: We know that we will not remain on earth forever. There is another shore that is our home. Christ has come to remind us of this and show us how to get to that place. Do I take Christ into my boat and let him indicate what I must do in my life? Or do I hold myself back, not accepting the adventure of putting out into the deep with Christ? What is it that holds me back?

2. Teacher, We Are Perishing! Christ allows our boat to be tossed by difficulties that sometimes seem insurmountable. Having him in our boat is not a guarantee that things will go smoothly. We need to discover that he is working in the midst of difficulties. We need to ask what he is teaching us. If in the midst of trials we are drawing closer to him, there can be a real grace working. Yet many times we find that we let our confidence in him slip when things get rough. We have not yet learned that “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

3. The Lord of the Wind and the Sea: We need to keep in mind that Christ has the ultimate victory. He allows difficulties so that we can grow in abandoning ourselves to him. When life hurts and it makes no sense, we need to deepen our faith in the One who has conquered sin and death. He will write the final chapter in our life. He will bring us to the safe harbor. We can bolster our faith in him today by keeping our eyes on his promises and his presence. We can renew our confidence that he will not let our prayers go unanswered but will respond in his time with a power and efficacy beyond what we expect. In continuing to sail this boat in the midst of the storm, we are giving him the total control over our destiny. We can be in no safer hands.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know that when you allow difficulties in my life you are trying to strengthen my faith and make me see that I need to turn to you. Help me take advantage of these difficulties so I might abandon myself more totally to you. I want to learn to trust you as the Lord of my life. Bring me to safe harbor.

Resolution: I will analyze one of the greater difficulties in my life and see where I need to apply greater trust in God.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time "The Fruit of the Kingdom"

He said, "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.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come into your presence with openness of heart. I know that you want to plant your seed in me and help it to bear fruit. I trust that you will pour out your mercy on me as I spend this time with you. I want to love you more and become a better instrument of your love.

Petition: Lord, help me contemplate the action of your grace upon the world and fully cooperate with you.

1. Steady Growth: Jesus reminds me that his grace is working in the world. His message carries an interior dynamism that affects souls and brings about change in them. I think of someone who has surprised me by a sudden conversion or steady growth in Christian living. I see many people who are working on projects of evangelization or are full of Christian charity. I see many other people who are trying in their secular occupations to do their part to make this world better. I contemplate the many families that are striving to be places of love in which each person is valued as a unique gift. This is the seed of the Gospel that grows silently without our knowing how.

2. When the Grain Is Ripe: God, in his mercy, often adds years to our life so that we can learn wisdom and produce in our actions fruit that is worthy of eternity. How much do I value the opportunities I have each day to do simple acts of charity or leave messages that have a beneficial effect on others? How often do I pray for others? Each day I should be attentive to the small and big opportunities the Lord gives me to help establish his kingdom more deeply in my soul and in the souls of others.

3. Disproportionate Strength:Like the image of the mustard tree in the parable, Christ’s grace sustains many men and women throughout the world. People discover in Christ’s friendship the true home their hearts seek and the communion with all men they intuitively desire. What a great gift we have in the Church! Let us try to make it a true home for all people. Let us partake deeply of its teachings and its grace and become more deeply a gift for others. The strength of love sustains us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the workings of your grace in so many souls. I want to be united with your grace throughout this day and throughout my life. Help me to use this day in such a way that I will be planting your love around me.

Resolution: Today I will take time to say a special prayer or make a special sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time "Let Christ’s Light Shine"

He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear." He also told them, "Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for reminding me today of my dignity as a Christian. By your grace in baptism and by your teaching in the gospels and in the Church, you have put light in my soul. Lord, you are my light.

Petition: Christ, help me to be a sincere witness of your light.

1. Transparency in Our Lives: God sees us. This is a simple truth—an extremely powerful truth. God looks at us with love. We cannot hide from God. We cannot hide from ourselves. We cannot even hide from others. We need to live in the presence of God. God lets light shine on our lives so that we can see the truth about ourselves, and so that we need not be ashamed that others see the truth about who we are. True happiness is preserved and increased by the tenacious living of sincerity.

2. Light for the World: Our life is not just for ourselves. We are called to be a gift for others, a gift that leads them to God. This is the greatest thing about our life: We are called to give life. We are called to participate in the fruitfulness of God. We give life by enlightening others. We help other people come to the light by trying sincerely to go clearly towards the light and by not fearing to show people the truth. The light shed by our lives produces a real effect in souls. Vatican II reminds us that modern man needs reasons for hope. A Christian carries hope. Will I keep it hidden; perhaps even kill it by being afraid to share it? Or will I let the world receive hope? Will I let the world see that we all can be much greater than we think because our Father is greater than we think?

3. Standing up for the Light of Truth to Be Lived: Moral relativism seems to be the norm for our times. Many people think that they can decide what principles they will live by, instead of seeking to form their consciences by principles in accordance with God’s loving design for the human person. Am I content merely to follow what I know to be right, or do I also look to enlighten the consciences of others, prudently and charitably? Have I ever given the impression of condoning actions that are wrong? Do I take an interest in promoting the value of life in all of its stages? Am I courageous in nobly defending others when people criticize them behind their backs?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for this calling. You have given light to my soul so that I can be a light for others. Lord, help me to have confidence in the power of your light: the power of your truth and grace. Let me be brave enough to allow this light to penetrate my soul even more today. Let me be brave enough to not hide from your light; let me be brave enough to give it to others.

Resolution: I will  enlighten my conscience better about a point of our faith or morals by looking it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (It can be found on-line at http://www.vatican.va if needed).


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church "Fertile Ground 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."

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.A Sabotaged Plan: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.Make Your Furrows 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.Docility, Not Passivity: 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.

Monday, January 26, 2015

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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops "Identity Confusion"

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."

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.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time "Come Follow Me"


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.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I adore you. You alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father. Lord, I love you and wish to know you more intimately, since you are goodness and mercy itself.

Petition: Lord, grant that I may follow you faithfully all the days of my life.

1. Repent and Believe in the Good News: There is no time to waste. We have one life to live and only one chance to live it. Jesus is trying to tell us that we have to make the most of it. We have heard about Jesus before. Perhaps we have been going to church and listening to his word for decades. However, have we allowed Christ’s message of love and mercy to penetrate our heart? Have we turned away from all attachment to sin in our life and really followed the Gospel?

2. Follow Me and I Will Make You Fishers of Men: We can’t forget that the essence of Christianity is following Jesus, the Son of God. As his mother Mary told the waiters at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Jesus is the real protagonist in our lives. He takes the initiative to call us to himself and to follow him more closely. He invites us to follow him in proclaiming the Good News to the whole world. It is not enough to know Christ. We have to share our faith with others and let the Gospel direct our decision-making process.

3. Leaving Their Father in the Boat, They Followed Him: We naturally want to be comfortable and do things familiar to us. In fact, most ads we see appeal to our desire to rest and be secure. However, Jesus breaks the mold and commands us to leave our comfort zone. Unless we first change ourselves, we cannot expect to change the world. Until we first dedicate ourselves to knowing Christ better and more intimately, we will not be ardent apostles of his kingdom. Only after we have had a personal encounter with Christ can we experience the bliss of loving him more and cooperating in his saving mission. As Pope Saint John Paul II so often encouraged us, echoing the words of Christ himself, “Be not afraid!” Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone to serve Christ in love.

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I want to follow you more closely. Help me to know you as you are so that I can love you as you deserve to be loved. Eternal Father, grant me the fullness of your grace, which consumes all weakness, so that my heart will be lifted up with an indescribable enthusiasm to embrace my cross and follow faithfully in the footsteps of your Son.

Resolution: Today I will perform an act of charity that I have neglected or been afraid to do for some time.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor "Through the Eyes of Faith"

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.”

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 during his public ministry, Jesus made his home in Capernaum (Cf. Mt. 4:13). Today’s short Gospel passage indicates that Our Lord does 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 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 22, 2015

Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time "Christ Chooses Me"

He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: (he appointed the Twelve:) Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that through baptism you have invited me to share in your friendship. I trust in your Church, Lord. You have given us this institution as the guide to help us in our salvation. I love you, Lord, because you have loved me first. I love you, Lord, for calling me to be your friend and apostle. I may be a mere sinner, but with you, Lord, I believe that I can do great things.  

Petition: Lord, help me to collaborate in your work of salvation.

1. Christ Summoned Those Whom He Wanted:   Christ has chosen to need our assistance. He wants our help with the great work of the New Evangelization. As great and powerful as Christ is, he has willed that man collaborate with him in his plan of salvation. He wants to involve others in helping people to come to know, love and serve him. He makes use of man’s free and responsible collaboration in order to carry out his plans. Therefore, even though man is a creature of very limited possibilities, he can achieve truly unimaginable things when he lives and works for God.

2. He Calls Me by Name:   Christ does not haphazardly choose me to collaborate with him in the New Evangelization. He knows me. He knows me better than I know myself, and out of love he invites me to be with him. When he calls me by name, he reaches into the depths of my heart and soul. He delves into the depths of who I am, and he identifies with me. When he calls me by name, he calls me out of love; “he calls me to share in his own divine life” (Lumen Gentium, 2). He calls me by name because he knows how great the gift is that he wishes to share with me.

3. He Gives Me a Mission:  “He sent them to preach and to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). Christ doesn’t call me just to enjoy the present life. He has created me for a purpose. He has given me a specific vocation that only I can fulfill. I am irreplaceable; there will never be another me. The opportunity that I have to share in this friendship with Our Lord is an invitation to do something with him and for him. Christ’s love for me invites and beckons me to collaborate with him. Who can resist an invitation to collaborate with someone so great, and with an offer so challenging and yet so fulfilling?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you have wished for me to enter your friendship. You have called me by name to be your friend. You have invited me to help you in the New Evangelization. I want to help you and do my part. Give me the strength to be close to you and to collaborate with you in this great undertaking.

Resolution: I will bring up the faith in a conversation with someone.  


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children "Touching the Lord"

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

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

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

1. Was Jesus Afraid? In yesterday’s Gospel text, Jesus silenced the Pharisees in the synagogue. So incensed were they against the Lord that they began to plot with the Herodians to kill him. Now Jesus has retreated from the synagogues to the lakeshore and the open fields. Was Christ afraid? Was he running from his enemies? Hardly. The Lord was simply aware that his hour had not yet come. When it does approach, he will embrace it by marching resolutely to Jerusalem and his passion and death. The ones who really are afraid are the demons. They recognize that God is manifesting his power through Christ, and they tremble before him. The Son of God has come to win back what Satan’s lies have stolen. Does Christ’s power accompanying me in my life give me the courage I need to confront any situation as his witness?

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 20, 2015

Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr "To Do Good or Evil?"

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

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

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

1. “They Watched Him Closely”:At the beginning of his public ministry, Christ already incurs the bitter opposition of the Pharisees. Having reduced them to silence in a wheat field, Christ bravely enters the synagogue to confront them once again. There the Pharisees are in the first places of honor, and they watch his every move, hoping he will cure against the laws of the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. The Pharisees were right about one thing. They did well to observe Christ closely. If only they had done so with the right spirit: to learn from him and to glorify God for the wonders he did through him. How closely do we watch Christ in our own lives? How readily do we perceive his actions through the circumstances of the day? How often do we glorify God for the great things Christ does and longs to do in us?

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 19, 2015

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

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

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

Petition: Lord, help me to pray for and serve those who persecute me and  to win them over to t 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 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

1. The Joy of the Bridegroom: The Old Testament prophets, especially Hosea and Isaiah, describe the relationship between Israel and Yahweh as a marriage covenant. Israel is the bride, often an unfaithful one, and Yahweh is the bridegroom. When Christ refers to himself as the bridegroom, he is appropriating a title that had been reserved to God alone. Clearly, Jesus is much more than an ordinary rabbi. What experience do we most associate with a bridegroom and the wedding feast? Joy! “Although it is true that the cross is never absent from an authentically Christian life, it is equally true that the God who meets us on that cross is the same God who created the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the mountains, laughter, sunlight, and every earthly delight” (John Bartunek, LC, The Better Part, p. 365). Christ came to bring us joy, a joy that would last into eternity.

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 17, 2015

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time "The Look That Leads to Deeper Commitment"

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

Introductory Prayer: Lord you know my heart. You know all of my thoughts, desires and intentions, whether they are good or bad. You love me despite all of my failings and dark corners. Thank you for your patience and forgiveness. Thank you for the countless graces that you shower on me daily, though I do not realize it. Thank you for revealing your love to me so that I can stand tall and continue on in the hopes of embracing you forever in heaven. I now dedicate these precious moments to you so that I can know and love you more and be transformed into you.

Petition: Lord, grant me a lively faith that seeks your grace and presence in my daily routine.

1. Worth the Wait: Sometimes it seems that it takes forever for God to answer a prayer. When he does, though, the results exceed all expectation. Ever since Abraham’s time, the world was awaiting a savior. The Book of Genesis records that God tested Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Isaac, unaware of his father’s intention asked, “‘My father! … Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham responded, ‘God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’” John the Baptist announces the good news, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), as he points out Christ by the Jordan River. The prayers of fallen creation are answered as the Savior of the world – God’s lamb – takes the field in salvation history. Is my faith in God willing to endure the test of time? Does my faith wane when my prayers are not answered as fast as I would like?

2. What Are You Looking For? Whom Do You Seek? After the Fall, God promised a savior who would restore to man his communion with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator” (No. 27). In today’s Gospel passage, Simon Peter and Andrew entrust themselves to Christ. The course of their lives undergoes a radical change for the better. Do I seek Christ every day? Do I entrust my whole life to him? Are there areas in my life that I haven’t turned over to Christ: my financial concerns, my time, my family?

3. The Courage to Leave Yourself Behind: Peter and Andrew experienced Christ more deeply and intensely when they left their previous ways behind. Too often we become inordinately attached to things, ways and lifestyles that do not fit our Catholic faith. Do we have the courage, like Peter and Andrew, to give up our past sins and sinful habits? Can we be generous enough to leave behind even some good things so that we might follow Christ in a relationship that requires a deeper commitment of time, resources or talent? What is holding me back? Do I lack faith and trust in Christ? Is my love up to the challenge? Christ invites us all to “Come and see” what new meaning our lives can have when we deepen our commitment to him.

Conversation with Christ: Oh Lord, teach me not to be afraid, but to have courage in taking on a real commitment of my time, resources and talent. I want to help you extend your Kingdom in the hearts of people. Strengthened by faith and emboldened by your love, I know I won’t be disappointed.

Resolution: I will set aside time each day this week to sit down and study my faith more, especially those areas which I find difficult to explain to others.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot "Discipleship"

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

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

Petition: Lord, grant me a generous heart.

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, January 15, 2015

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

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

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

Petition: Lord, increase my zeal for souls.

1. The Paralytic: One day, four men carried a friend to Jesus. It made all the difference in the world to the friend, for he was paralyzed and was unable to approach Jesus on his own. He had heard of the miracles Jesus had performed, but had never seen them. His own healing was out of the question: he couldn’t go to Jesus on his own. Had his four friends not stepped in and brought him to Jesus, he would never have been cured. Their faith and love made his healing possible. Who does Jesus want me to bring to him? Do I invite people to prayer and adoration? Do I invite people to Mass and confession?

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 14, 2015

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time "To Be Free to Love"

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.

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.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time "Jesus at Prayer"

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 12, 2015

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time "The Steep and Thorny Road of Truth"

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.

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 Saint 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 11, 2015

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time "A Humble and Contrite Heart"

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.

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.