Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wednesday of Holy Week "Unmasking the Betrayer"


One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ´The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."´" The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, "Surely it is not I, Lord?" He said in reply, "He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born." Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary.  If I were to contemplate you more often as you hang scourged and bloody upon the cross, I’m certain I would be able to rest in your love and base my actions on that one truth. I know that you have loved me with an eternal love: you have proven it there on the wood of the cross. So I long to respond with gratitude, peace and the firm determination to spread your love to everyone.

Petition: Lord Jesus, help me to stay strong in my faith.

1. One of the Twelve a Traitor? We often think that Judas must have been different, obviously worse than the other disciples. If that were true, everyone would have suspected him when Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” They would have thought: “It must be Judas. He’s always been bad. He’s capable of betraying Jesus. I don’t know why Jesus picked him.” Instead, Judas did not stand out as any worse than they were. If he did, they would have immediately suspected him. Each one of us, as well, could become a Judas little by little, first by giving up our principles on smaller matters and then later on more important matters. In the Christian life there always needs to be a healthy tension of straining forward and of watchfulness. The one who is trustworthy in small matters is trustworthy in greater matters.

2. Is It I? The apostles are all asking, “Is it I?” Why? Was there some widespread desire to betray him of which they were barely keeping control? No, but they were in a very dangerous situation. The Pharisees had decided to kill Jesus. The apostles know it. That’s why the whole group had gone to stay in Jericho for a while. Jerusalem was too dangerous. They can imagine themselves following Jesus to the Temple the next day, being singled out in the crush of the crowd and then having their life threatened to provide information about where Jesus can be found at night. They wonder what they would say. With my life on the line would I betray Jesus? This is why they ask, “Is it I?” When push comes to shove, what comes first in my life? Would I ever consider selling out on Jesus for something or someone else?

3. Vigilance of the Heart: Judas had everything he needed to be a great apostle. He had a magnanimous heart, which is why Jesus picked him. God never destines anyone for failure. So what happened to him? At some point he stopped working on his friendship with Jesus. Some would point to the moment of the discourse on the Bread of Life recorded in John 6. Judas couldn’t accept that he needed to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood. Jesus must be wrong, and therefore he is a false Messiah. John 6:64 tells us that Jesus knew who his betrayer would be. Jesus gives Judas a chance to leave the group and remain an honest man in John 6:67. Instead, he stays, becoming a hypocrite – a “devil” in Jesus’ words – and begins the path that will lead to betrayal. Knowing that my faith is the most precious gift I have received from God, do I watch over and nourish my faith so that it grows and is strong?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have betrayed you so many times, even when I do such a simple thing as not saying grace in a restaurant out of fear that others will realize I am a Catholic. May the experience of your Passion and death help me to have the courage to live by my convictions at all times.

Resolution: Today I will live all the demands of my faith, especially in the moments when they point me out as a follower of Christ. Today I will not betray him, even in the smallest way.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Tuesday of Holy Week "Peter’s Collision Course"

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus´ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus´ chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ´Where I go you cannot come,´ so now I say it to you.” Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can´t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary.  If I were to contemplate you more often as you hang scourged and bloody upon the cross, I’m certain I would be able to rest in your love and base my actions on that one truth. I know that you have loved me with an eternal love: you have proven it there on the wood of the cross. So I long to respond with gratitude, peace and the firm determination to spread your love to everyone.


Petition: Lord, help me to see and avoid the pitfalls of pride.


1. Trusts in Christ’s Love: Peter loves Jesus. Jesus is his best friend. Peter would do anything for him. Like us, it distresses Peter to think he might be separated from Jesus. He feels the strength of his love and doesn’t hesitate to proclaim that he is willing to die for Jesus. He means it. That same night in the Garden of Gethsemane, he will draw a rusty old sword and face a cohort of professional soldiers all by himself. With a mighty stroke (not much of a swordsman, but brave…), he will nick the ear of the High Priest’s servant. There really is love there and a serious intention to make sacrifices for Jesus’ sake. But like us, there is something he still lacks. At times I may feel so ready to take on anything for love of Christ. But as soon as the “anything” comes, I experience my weakness. There’s even the risk of giving into discouragement at my failures.


2. Making Poor Choices: We know that Peter can make a bad decision because he has done it often enough in the past. Five minutes after being named head of the apostles, he is advising Jesus to abandon the Father’s plan, a plan that involves going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Jesus reacts strongly, totally rejecting this insinuation: No one comes between him and the Father’s will. Peter has made a big mistake, and Jesus makes that clear: “Stumbling block,” “Satan,” “You think not as God thinks but as man” (Cf. Matthew 16:23). And this was only one in a series of mistakes; the Gospels list more. Part of Peter’s appeal is that he is so much like us. We make lots of mistakes every day. Like Peter, we think not as God, but as men. Yet as we know, Peter will succeed in the end to become humble and to serve his Lord steadfastly.


3. Misjudgment of Situations: Peter is complacent. He thinks he understands the situation. Everything is going well. The people have finally acclaimed Jesus as Messiah. The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees are upset but powerless. They attempt to debate Jesus and show him up every day, but always end up bested by Jesus. It seems like it won’t be long now before Jesus has everyone convinced that he is the Messiah and from that point on, it should be clear sailing. Peter is about to be blindsided, but he doesn’t realize it. The only solution for him is to do what Jesus is urging him to do, but he doesn’t realize that. In spite of his respect for Jesus, he is still sure that he knows what it best for himself. I am convinced that my life must be rooted in prayer and union with God?


Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, like Peter I have fallen many times. Every time it was because I put my trust in myself rather than in you. Help me to listen to your inspirations and your inner promptings to prayer. Only with humility will I be able to avoid falls in the future. Please help me obtain it, Lord.


Resolution: I will start everything I do today with a prayer, offering its fruits up to God. When I finish each activity, I will give thanks to Christ, my friend, for all the help he has given me. I will offer him my successes and ask him to forgive my failings.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Monday of Holy Week "Blind Guides"

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days´ wages and given to the poor?" He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary.  If I were to contemplate you more often as you hang scourged and bloody upon the cross, I’m certain I would be able to rest in your love and base my actions on that one truth. I know that you have loved me with an eternal love: you have proven it there on the wood of the cross. So I long to respond with gratitude, peace and the firm determination to spread your love to everyone.

Petition: Lord,  grant me faith in your promise to raise everyone from the dead.

1. A Willful Blindness: Jesus produces one of his most convincing miracles – a sure sign that God sent him: He raises someone from the dead. The chief priests cannot deny this. The deed was not done far away in Galilee. Jesus is right there, in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. Lazarus is there too. Anyone who wants to see can travel the short distance from Jerusalem, over the Mount of Olives, and visit with Jesus and Lazarus. The chief priests, rather than give in and accept Jesus as the Messiah, reject him. Their rejection is complete. They should be able to see that Jesus’ miracle is obviously an act of God’s divine power, but they refuse to accept it. They can think of no way to convince people that he is not the Messiah except to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. Sometimes mere association with Jesus can bring about costly consequences. How ironic it would have been to be killed for the “crime” of being raised from the dead…

2. Harden Not Your Hearts: Logically, if anyone is to accept Jesus as Messiah, it should be the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees. They are the ones who know Scripture the best. They are the ones who are supposed to be on the lookout for the Messiah. By now they should realize that Jesus is doing everything that the Messiah is supposed to do. Yet with only a few exceptions (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea), they fail to acknowledge him as Messiah. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s plans and actions remain impenetrable to the rationalistic mind that demands scientific-like proofs even in the spiritual realm. Hardness of heart makes us see the good works of others as evil. Do I seek to attune my mind and my heart to God’s ways or do I demand reasons from him? Often times the cross in our lives does not make sense. However, we will one day understand it by first accepting and carrying it.

3. Pride and Envy Can be Our Downfall: The Pharisees’ problem is pride. They think they’ve got everything figured out. They think (because they don’t want it to be true) that Jesus cannot be the Messiah. He doesn’t fulfill their expectations and they are not prepared to change – to examine themselves to see if they might be wrong. They are so sure they have it all figured out that they overlook all that Jesus does to fulfill Scripture. They go even so far as to overlook his having raised Lazarus from the dead! They clutch at any feeble excuse to discredit him: “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him” (Luke 7:39); “Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee” (John 7:52). God doesn’t conform himself to our plans and ideas. He expects us to conform to his.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, faith comes so hard to me.  I should be aware of all the good you have worked in my life. Help me to look  with the eyes of faith that will bring me to an unshakeable belief in you, a faith like that of those who witnessed your raising of Lazarus.

Resolution: Today, I will look back briefly on my life and try to notice all the things Christ has done for me, so that by reflecting on these things my faith and trust in him will deepen.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion "The Messiah Finally Reveals Himself"

When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone should say to you, ´Why are you doing this?´ reply, ´The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.´" So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:

"Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!

Hosanna in the highest!"


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary. If I were to contemplate you more often as you hang scourged and bloody upon the cross, I’m certain I would be able to rest in your love and base my actions on that one truth. I know that you have loved me with an eternal love: you have proven it there on the wood of the cross. So I long to respond with gratitude, peace and the firm determination to spread your love to everyone.


Petition: Lord, Jesus, grant me the grace to proclaim you as Messiah and Savior.


1. A Different Kind of Messiah: Up until now, Jesus has never publicly accepted the title of Messiah. He had confirmed privately to his apostles that he is the Messiah, but he had commanded them to tell no one. When people had called him the Messiah, he had never accepted the title and most often tried to get away from them as quickly as possible. He had reasoned that the Jews don’t understand what the Messiah is really about. Knowing the Messiah is to be a great descendent of King David, they expect the Messiah to appear, raise an army and lead an uprising against the Romans that will drive them from the country and re-establish David’s kingdom. Several times we read of Jesus having to slip away because the people intend to make him king. He is not going to be what they expect and he cannot let their expectations get in the way of his mission.


2. A Suffering, Not a Political, Messiah: His entry into Jerusalem is exactly what the prophet predicted for the Messiah. He enters riding a donkey, for the Hebrews the traditional mount of royalty. Another thing that was supposed to happen when the Messiah entered Jerusalem, was that boys were supposed to be the first to begin to shout, “Hosanna, son of David.” This is exactly what happens. People were supposed to throw down branches and cloaks to pave his way into Jerusalem and this happens too. The Pharisees see all this and complain to him because they see that it is a fulfillment of the prophecy. They want him to tell people he is not the Messiah. Jesus refuses to do so. He will be the Messiah that was prophesied – the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. God can fulfill our deepest desires and needs in a way we least expect. Can I read the events in my life as his answer to my prayers?


3. The Messiah Rejected by the Experts: The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees are angry. They have already decided they don’t want to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Why do they wish to reject him? Is it because he doesn’t show the signs that the Messiah should show? No, he has fulfilled all the prophecies. Instead, they see that Jesus as Messiah will threaten their social and political positions. Jesus will be more important than they. They don’t want that to happen. They don’t want to lose power. In the end they allow themselves to be convinced that he cannot be the Messiah. Rather than consider all the evidence in his favor, they reject him because they don’t want a Messiah like that. Is there any way in which I, in my own life, reject something that God wishes of me or permits me to suffer because I don’t want God acting in that way in my life?


Conversation with Christ: Jesus, fill my heart with a love that knows no limits, the love that drew you from heaven to die on the cross for me. Fill also the hearts of all those who feel threatened by the modern Pharisees who reject you and want to erase your name from the world, so that they will witness bravely to you and to your sacrifice for us.


Resolution: Today, with the courage of my conviction that Jesus is the savior of the world, I will proclaim in some way that he is my Lord and God, especially through charity towards everyone I meet.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent "Whoever is not With Me is Against Me"

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him. So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the Temple area, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"


Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.

Petition: Help me to see your will, Lord, above and beyond my own will and my own plans.


1. No Middle Ground: Today’s Gospel opens with the response to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. Some eyewitnesses of the miracle believed in him, but others did not; in fact, they went to “pour fuel on the fire” with the adversaries of Christ who were seeking a reason to condemn him. Here we see the mystery of human freedom at work. The overt action of God in our lives obliges us, in a certain sense, to move to either side of the truth. To what side of the truth am I moved when I sense the manifest action of God at work in my life, in the voice of my conscience, or in the lives of others? Does it help me to believe ever more deeply in Christ? 

2. Is it All About Power? Why did the Pharisees so oppose the message and action of Jesus? One way of looking at the problem is to see it as the natural consequence of the human tendency toward control – even the control of things spiritual. The religious authorities of Christ’s time no doubt saw themselves as the custodians of the faith handed down to them by their forefathers. But it seems that slowly this custody became control. The authorities become less interested in the legitimacy of Jesus’ identity, message and mission and more interested in maintaining the established religious and political order. Yet even their resistance is incorporated into God’s plan. Their rejection leads Jesus to die for the nation, “and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” How much do I try to control God’s action in my life?



3. Willingly Embracing the Father’s Will: We can only imagine the inner thoughts and feelings of Christ as the events leading to his suffering and death begin to unfold, just as he knows they will. Instead of resisting the Father’s plan, we see Christ serene and composed as the tension builds. We see his sense of determination and decision increase. He is fully committed to the Father’s will. Jesus teaches us the wisdom of letting go of circumstances that are fully within the Father’s purview. He teaches us to embrace the divine will with total trust and serenity, no matter how difficult it may be for us.

Conversation with Christ: You know, Lord, what is best for me because you are my Father, immensely good, inclined towards me, attentive to my pleas, eager to give me the body of your Son ever present in the great mystery of your Eucharist.

Resolution: I will embrace with faith what I cannot – and should not – control.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent "Actions Speak Louder than Words"

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, ´I said, "You are gods"´? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ´I am the Son of God´? If I do not perform my Father´s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power. He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, "John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true." And many there began to believe in him.


Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.


Petition: Lord, help me to put my faith into action.


1. The Works Give Testimony: In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches us that our faith is based not only on what God has promised, but also on what he has done. Christ points to his works as the basis for faith in him as the Son: “Even if you do not believe me, believe the works….” The greatest of all these works is his resurrection from the dead, which we will commemorate a few days from now. Works are always more powerful than words. Words may convince the mind, but works move the will to action – to decision. Jesus still continues to do the works of the Father today, especially in the Eucharist and in sacramental confession, as well in the other sacraments. Do I see these works as they really are – true actions of Christ with the power to transform?  


2. The World Needs the Testimony of Holy Lives: We can never underestimate the importance and the power of personal testimony in today’s world. We are inundated with information and external stimuli of all types. Words and images and slogans abound. Yet against this cacophonous backdrop, the works of true holiness speak louder than ever before. Pope Paul VI said it best: “Contemporary man needs testimony more than arguments.” In our personal case, do our works match our words? Do our works speak for themselves of what we profess? Or are we “all words and no works?”


3. Let Your Light Shine in the World so that They Might Believe: God’s word has a special ability to penetrate the human heart and conscience. We need to trust the transforming ability of Scripture. When that word is assimilated in the lives of believers, its power is multiplied even more. The tremendous and even virulent opposition Jesus meets at the hands of his adversaries cannot keep others from believing in him. This mystery is repeated over and over again in the life of the Church. Where there is the greatest opposition to the Gospel message, there are also the greatest conversions. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more abundantly,” (Romans 5:20) to paraphrase Saint Paul. This proven truth should protect us from discouragement in our own efforts to evangelize.


Conversation with Christ: 

I believe in you, Lord, 

when I cast out my nets one and one hundred times, 

and I draw them in wet, empty, almost broken.


I believe that you test your chosen ones,

because when the seed is sunk down into the earth

then it can better take root in God.

I want to abandon myself to you,

that you may place me near you,

as a seal on your heart.


Resolution: I will strive today to make my works match what I profess to believe.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent "Keeping His Word"

Jesus said to the Jews: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." So the Jews said to him, "Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ´Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.´ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ´He is our God.´ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the Temple area.


Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.


Petition: May I hear your voice, Lord, and not harden my heart to that which you ask of me today.


1. The Real Enemy: Today we find Jesus in animated conversation with the Jews. They seem to discuss the same topic – death — but in fact they refer to two very different understandings of one reality. The Jews speak of death in a material way, whereas Jesus speaks of it in a spiritual way, with his description of death of far greater consequence than the former. Christ warns us about the gravity of spiritual death, which is the consequence of serious sin. This is why the Church traditionally prays, in the Litany of the Saints, to be freed from mors perpetua (everlasting death), the spiritual death which Jesus warned against. Lent is the time to eradicate all forms of this evil from our lives, especially through the positive practices of prayer, penance and almsgiving.  


2. Only the Spirit Gives Life: Jesus’ interlocutors are never able to penetrate the meaning of his words because they think in a purely material way. Only with a spirit of faith and the aid of the Holy Spirit can we understand the things of God. Today’s world is rife with what we could call a spirit of materialism. It looks to material things and values as the solution to everything. But have you noticed how it seems that the more our material wealth and technical capacity grow, the emptier we become on the inside, and the more hollow our western culture becomes? Material things are necessary, for we are part matter. But a purely material explanation will never be able to address the deeper needs of the human person. As Christ said: “Only the Spirit gives life” (John 6:63).We must strive to adopt a spiritual or supernatural way of living and see ourselves and our world from this point of view, so as not to become blind to a truth that transcends matter.  


3. Open to a Challenge: Jesus’ challenge to raise the eyes of the heart and soul to a spiritual level is met with fierce opposition. In fact, his listeners want to stone him! Christ always challenges us to go higher. And he does this as a manifestation of his love. How do I respond to this challenge in my own life?  


Conversation with Christ: 

You have spoken, Lord,

in the silence of my night

and your word has engraved your will in my heart.

Because you spoke,

there is a will in you that I know:

It is the will of your commands.


I want to fulfill that will, Lord.

I want to believe according to your doctrine.

To hope according to your promises.

To love and live according to your guidance and laws.


Resolution: I will foster a more spiritual way of seeing myself, others and the world.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord "The Power of Personal Freedom"

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin´s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Introductory Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have given Mary to us as our Blessed Mother. Thank you. I know that she constantly intercedes on our behalf and that you listen to her prayer. I am confident in your mercy and love. You are guiding me home to spend eternity with you. I place all my trust in you. I offer you my weak, but grateful love in return.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to embrace you in faith, hope, and love.

1. “Sent from God”: Too often we attribute too much of our achievements to our own doing. Our education, wealth, or technological ability can lead us to have a false sense of security in our ability to shape our world. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s plan for the salvation of the human race is his own initiative. He sends his Son into the world at a precise time and in a precise place. He prepares Mary beforehand with everything she will need to fulfill her mission as Mother of the Redeemer – a mission that she accepts in freedom and through faith. I do well to realize more and more that God is also the true protagonist of my own life.

2. “Do Not Be Afraid”: One of the constant refrains of the Gospel is Jesus’ admonition: “Do not be afraid.” When the Lord draws near, our natural tendency is to be afraid. We can be afraid of his presence. We can be afraid of what he might ask of us. We can be afraid of our own limitations in the face of the call to true conversion and holiness of life. We can be afraid of the apparent obstacles along the path of Christian discipleship. Like Mary, we need to overcome our fear by embracing God’s will with faith and love. As our confidence in God increases, our fear decreases. As our love increases, our fear disappears. Of what am I afraid in my relationship with the Lord? Am I surrendering my fear by giving myself in faith?

3. “May It Be Done to Me”: What a truly incredible thing it is to make the salvation of the human race dependent upon the free response of Mary! Mary’s “yes” to God shows us the power and transcendence of personal choice. It also sheds light on the importance of our own personal “yes” to God with regard to his plan for our lives. Mary’s loving, faith-filled consent to a plan she did not fully understand becomes the model of our own daily consent to the divine will as it manifests itself in our daily lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.

Resolution: I will embrace God’s will today as Mary did -- with faith and love.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent "A Life Pleasing to God"

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come." So the Jews said, "He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ´Where I am going you cannot come´?" He said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world." They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him." Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, by doing your holy will the Church grows and becomes more faithful in your service. You are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.

Petition: Lord, help me to please you in what I think, say and do.

1. In the World but not OF the World: We profess in the Creed that Jesus Christ came down from heaven “for us and our salvation.” This truth colors everything about the Savior. He comes into the world without being of the world. His doctrine appeals to our highest and most noble aspirations. His way, his lifestyle, clashes with the way and lifestyle of the children of this world and therefore is never without resistance. In my innermost thoughts, in my words and deeds, am I striving to belong to “what is above”?

2. Lovingly Telling the Truth:  When we truly love someone, we tell that someone the truth about the things that really matter, even when the truth could be perceived as inconvenient, painful or demanding. God the Son has loved us from all eternity. His love compels him to tell us the truth about the Father, which is a message of infinite mercy and love. His love compels him to tell us the truth about our relationship with that merciful Father: how it should be filled with gratitude and loving obedience and devoid of anything that could separate us from him. In order to belong to Jesus and to what is above, I must strive to open my heart and mind to his truth, especially in those areas of my life where he is asking for change and conversion.  

3. Seeking to Please the Beloved: Love transforms our intentions and desires. When we love someone, we want to please that person in everything. Jesus loves the Father, and therefore he does what is pleasing to him, even though the Father’s will leads Jesus to embrace suffering, rejection, and death. He endures this agony so as to bring us the gift of resurrection and eternal life. If I love Christ, then I necessarily wish to do what is pleasing to him. And what pleases Christ? My faith, hope and love; My obedience and my humility; So also my selfless service to him in those who are materially, morally or spiritually needful of my attention and support. 

Conversation with Christ: 

I will love all my brothers, Lord.

The small ones, lowering myself to their abyss;

the clean of heart, becoming as they;

the naked, clothing them;

the sick, consoling them;

the imprisoned, visiting them,

my brothers of every tribe, language, and race,

spilling my sweetness as a gentle perfume

because kindness in love 

is the strongest of all chains.

Resolution: I will strive to please Christ today in all my thoughts, words and deeds.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"


Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more."


Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you though I often forget to exercise my faith. I trust in you, though I often lose my peace over little matters. I love you, though I miss so many opportunities to exercise my love throughout the day because I get wrapped up in myself. I am so grateful to realize that you smile on me in my weakness and misery and only desire the good for me in return.


Petition:  Lord, help me to be faithful in my marriage.


1. “They Have No Wine.” The words of the Blessed Mother — “they have no wine” (John 2:3) — have a relevance that is as permanent as it is poignant. The wedding feast ran out of wine for the same reasons as many marriages do: lack of awareness, a failure to anticipate needs, taking things for granted. Few events manifest the “lack of wine” more profoundly than adultery. We cannot know all the circumstances surrounding the act of adultery of the woman in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps she was “more sinned against than sinning.” But whatever emotional pain, neglect or temptation brought her down, Jesus’ formula is simple: “Go and from now on do not sin any more.” Easier said than done for a marriage now beyond repair? Jesus isn’t just a therapist. He is God. Remember that he turned water into wine.


2. The Blessing of Accountability: The woman probably felt dead already, filled with terror as she was led through the streets to the taunts and whistling of bystanders. We feel compassion for her, precisely because we know that we, too, are sinners. Jesus’ mercy towards her inspires us, because love stirs our hearts at a far deeper level than fear. But we also know that, as disagreeably self-righteous as those elders were, getting caught was a good thing for the woman. Through it, she was able to experience the mercy of Christ and have another chance. Marriages don’t thrive when there are dark corners and hidden places that are off-limits to one’s spouse. Accountability and transparency, on the other hand, continually engender that most precious of marital virtues: trust. The daily and consistent effort to be accountable, to embrace “mutual submission” (Cf. Ephesians 5:21), and constantly to make “trust deposits” in the love bank account are the best insurance against marital shipwreck.


3. Second Chances: “Go and from now on do not sin any more”: words both stirring and challenging. What happened after that? That’s a complicated question because second chances in marriage involve two people. Having received a vocation to become “one flesh,” both spouses need to embrace the need to accept God’s grace, accept responsibility, forgive, and work together to overcome whatever wound has been inflicted on their relationship. This mutual work can only begin with oneself. That’s why Jesus says, “Do not sin any more.” In fact, changing one’s own heart, centering it on God and then striving to be the best husband or wife one can be, is frequently the best way to stir things up positively for the relationship as a whole. Jesus is all about second chances. When two people stand before the altar to pledge their love, it is indissoluble. But that’s not only about the bond between them. It’s also the bond between them and Christ. “Do whatever he tells you!”


Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know how many tests and temptations we are subject to. Give us strength! Don’t allow the corrosive effects of time to wear down our relationships. Help us to be faithful to each other and to you.


Resolution: I will make a special spiritual sacrifice today for my marriage (or for the faithfulness of married couples if I am unmarried.)


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Faith: First and Last "Faith: First and Last"

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. 

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, "Master, the one you love is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 

The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." He said this, and then told them, "Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him." So the disciples said to him, "Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved." But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, "Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him." So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go to die with him." 

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, "The teacher is here and is asking for you." As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Sir, come and see." And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him." But some of them said, "Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?" 

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the dead man´s sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you created me, you love me, and you call me to your service. So I hope in you, in you steadfast love, and in your persistence in spite of my weaknesses and sins.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith in you and my reliance on you. Help me to live in the world as a traveler on a journey, never becoming caught up with things of this world but thinking and striving for glory with God.

1. Faith or Courage? Imagine the scene: the disciples stood frozen when they heard Jesus wanted to re-enter enemy territory. Only Thomas spoke up. His guess that going with Jesus to Judea meant instant martyrdom is not so remarkable for the weak faith it shows, but for the courage Thomas exhibits. The disciples all knew that returning to Judea meant that they might face death at the hands of the Jewish authorities, and indeed, Jesus’ miracle there signed his death warrant. The natural light of reason does not allow us to penetrate God’s designs; faith is the torch that lights our way to Jesus Christ, for he simply demands that we trust him and continue walking along the path he marks out for us.

2. Now But Not Yet. Martha indeed believes her brother will rise, but later, off in the distant future. This scene repeats my experience of God: like Martha, I believe that someday, somehow, Christ will reign and will come to meet each human being. Christ responds to me: “I am the resurrection. I am standing before you. The future is today.” Jesus Christ is the only answer for each and every man and woman, whether they want to accept that truth or not. We have to work and evangelize knowing that Jesus wants to burst into every person’s heart today, not tomorrow, not at the end of the world, not when the Judgment Seat is already warm.

3. Jesus Unchained. “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” Do not make the mistake of living your faith in the past, thinking that had you seen Jesus during his earthly life, your faith would be secure. Do not live your faith in the future, thinking that God will only reveal himself once your life has ended. The Gospel speaks truth, so the way Christ operated 2000 years ago is how he operates today — he simply demands faith. Jesus is God of the living, not the dead, so he lives in many people, and works everyday miracles in them. Unchain Jesus through faith, and allow him free reign to move you to do his work.

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, there are so many times when I have missed opportunities to live my faith and to give my faith. Make yourself come alive to me in the pages of the Gospel and in the experience of the sacraments so that I will love you passionately as my Way, my Truth, and my Life.

Resolution: I will strive to see Jesus Christ active in my day, and to give him to someone in an act of “faith-courage.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent "Openness of Heart"

Some in the crowd who heard Jesus speak said, "This is truly the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But others said, "The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David´s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?" The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this one." So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed." Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, "Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?" They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."  Then each went to his own house,


Introductory Prayer: Christ, you are the most open-spirited person in history.  You are open to all who sincerely seek you. So I seek you now, Lord, through this meditation. I hunger for your friendship and grace. I love you, but I long for my love to grow so I can be ever closer to you and more and more like you.  


Petition: Lord, open my heart to you who are truth itself.


1. The Openness and Sincerity are Convincing: Just some moments prior, Christ has spoken of himself as living water (John 7:38), and some in the crowd react much the same way as did the Samaritan woman at the well.  At first they thought of him as a prophet, but now they begin to believe that he is the Messiah.  “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me…” (John 6:37).  Even the temple guards could not bring themselves to arrest him, so compelling were his words.  Christ tells his apostles not to prepare any words in their defense when they are dragged before judges and magistrates (Cf. Mark 13:11).  Living in the truth is our best preparation for communicating it in a compelling way.


2. Willful Blindness: The leaders however, as Nicodemus points out, are not even willing to encounter Christ and hear him out.  Their obstinacy leads them to error:  “Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (What about Jonah and Hosea?)  It also leads them to malice . They are not even willing to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt that he simply might have been delusional about his identity; instead, pushed by jealousy, they have already made up their minds to accuse him of willful deception.  Do I knowingly and willingly shy away from the truth, any truth?  Do I realize where this could and will lead me?


3. The Truth Will Set You Free: The truth is often difficult to swallow. In particular, the truth about Christ in relation to my life—he is my Lord, he is my Redeemer, he deserves my all––seems somehow fanatic, irrational, and unnatural in a world which values technological progress, political correctness, and looking-out-for-number-one. But Christians worthy of the name, in all centuries and in all walks of life, have discovered that believing in the person of Jesus Christ, who meant every word he said, is an experience of real freedom. It is a freedom from the dead-end world of materialism, sin and death. It is a freedom to live a life of love, truly human and divine, a love like Christ’s love for me, up to death on a Cross!


Conversation with Christ: Lord, no one has ever spoken like you.  You have given us your Word in the gospels.  I realize that I need to have much more frequent contact with your words so as to free me from my blindness.  Let my understanding of your Word never serve me as an occasion of vainglory or arrogance, rather as a tool to help others come to know you better.


Resolution: I will break down a prejudice that I still harbor in my heart against some aspect of Christ’s message.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent "Trust; A Lenten Resolution"

Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the Temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.


Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I truly believe and hope in you and your Gospel. You have touched me by the example of trust you had in your Father’s plan. I adore you and thank you with my whole heart.


Petition: Lord, help me to trust more in your divine providence.


1. A Way Out When Cornered: A cornered bear reacts by the instinct of self-preservation and fights until death. Christ, however, shows an altogether different attitude when challenged. He seems always to be calm and in control of every situation. He knows that a not single hair will fall from his head unless the Father deliberately permits it to occur. Many times our fears corner us to the point that we get spooked. To conquer our fears, we need to believe more, hope more, and love Christ much more. 


2. The Force of Love: It is interesting to note that Jesus originally planned to stay behind in Galilee. But out of charity and trust in the Father’s will, Jesus set out on the perilous journey to Judea. Once there, he forgot the danger that loomed before him. Christ felt a renewed strength as he had compassion for the lost sheep in Judea. Nothing could diminish his resolve to feed the spiritually hungry, cure the sick, and teach the ignorant. Love gave Christ the capacity to give himself more. Love protects life from prejudices and complaints.


3. Proof of God’s Love: The soldiers tried to arrest Jesus, but they were thwarted. The Father had decided that his Son was not to be given up yet. Cancer, global warming, the nuclear bomb, terrorism and natural disasters – things that might seem to be threats to us – should not make us fearful. Trust is really trust! Jesus invites us to trust, and this is powerful. Saint Paul says, “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).  The important thing in life is for us to keep our thoughts and efforts focused on God’s will and to go about doing good, generously serving others. “Seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides” (Luke 12:31).


Conversation with Christ: My Lord and Savior, I know that my vision is often short-sighted. Teach me to love and to trust. Enlarge my heart so that I can endure adverse situations and predicaments for the sake of my eternal salvation. Jesus, I trust in you! 


Resolution: Today when contradictions flare up at the workplace or at home, I will not sigh in despair. Rather, I will make an act of hope: “Long live Christ the King!”


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary ""

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, in spite of difficulties I trust in your love and mercy. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I love you above all things. These ingredients – faith, hope and love – will help strengthen me for today’s battle. Lord, I entrust myself to you unconditionally.  

Petition: Lord, grant me a clean conscience like that of your foster father, Joseph.

1. My Situation: A danger could exist on our spiritual journey. When everything is quiet, works well and is intelligible, or when others esteem our efforts, our life seems to flourish. On the other hand, when everything is tough, humiliating or painful, a repugnance seems to cast a gray cloud over us. We may even begin to wonder if God still loves us. We need to keep our faith in God strong always. Joseph is a good example for us to emulate, for he did not become discouraged easily when undergoing trials.

2. A Clean Conscience: Joseph, a just man, wanted to believe Mary’s story, but the facts were too harsh to comprehend. He loved and cared for Mary, but he felt betrayed. Since he had a clean conscience, he tried to dismiss the perfect dream of taking Mary to be his wife and decided to divorce her quietly. God, seeing Joseph’s honesty, communicated to him the truth about Mary’s integrity. A message in a dream was enough to convince his willing heart. How willing am I to believe the works of God in my life? How willing am I to fulfill God’s will?

3. Not All Is Easy for a Just Man: God chose a man of great integrity and detail to shoulder the daunting responsibility of raising his Son. Would Joseph ever have imagined that five months after taking Mary into his home he would have to take her to Bethlehem without any comforts or security during the journey? Would he ever have imagined that he would have to flee to Egypt, dodging swords and soldiers? This was the price he paid for being an honorable man. However, the Lord rewarded Joseph with being the foster father of the Creator of the Universe, with all the blessings and satisfactions that this would imply.

Conversation with Christ: O Christ, King and Lord, your foster father Saint Joseph provides me with an example of courage in bearing serenely the weight of life’s crosses and difficulties. Help me to see the beauty of giving limitlessly and surrendering my life to you.

Resolution: I will chat with Saint Joseph at some moment during the day, asking him to teach me how to be serene in times of trial.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent "Greater Deeds Still"

Jesus answered the Jews, "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. "I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me."

Introductory Prayer: Christ, I certainly believe in you, because in baptism you gave me the gift of faith. I believe for all those who do not believe in you. See my effort, Lord. I trust in your divine plan, and I hope in your saving grace.  

Petition: Lord, grant me the gift of piety.

1. Like Father, Like Son: “I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does.” The relationship between Christ and his Father was one of total respect and love. It wasn’t marred by the breakdown so frequently and tragically experienced in our modern family. The intensity of filial love that Jesus lived toward his Father was so powerful that it provides a path for all of us to follow. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of piety. Piety lavishes the soul with the capacity for considering God as our Father and all men as our brothers. A forgiving heart, which prevails over any rancor for injuries received, is one of the fruits of this gift.

2. The Requirements of Piety: Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.” There is no need to squander time in hatred for our brothers and sisters. Only God can judge their hearts. Our duty is to treat everyone with respect and love; this is the best way we have to foster the gift of piety.

3. Humility is The Key: Jesus said, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Believe it or not, the humble are the only ones who can lead a peaceful coexistence with all and, at the same time, stalwartly uphold truths and principles. Who can imagine a sunny day without the sun? Who can imagine the gift of piety without the practice of humility? I should examine those times when I blame everyone else for my impatience. Are they not a result of the difficulty I experience in shouldering someone else’s plans over my own or in accepting God’s will at the expense of my preferences?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, so many times have I come to you on my knees. I come now, confident that you will pour into my heart an abundance of the gift of piety through the infinite merits you won for me on the cross. Help me, Lord, to see you in everyone I meet.

Resolution: I will be a pious friend and a forgiving neighbor. I will humbly offer my services to the neighbor who interests me the least.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent "The Desire to be Cured"

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." He answered them, "The man who made me well told me, ´Take up your mat and walk.´" They asked him, "Who is the man who told you, ´Take it up and walk´?" The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the Temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.


Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I look to you with faith, knowing that you are the Lord of all. I hope in your boundless mercy, since without you I can do nothing. I want to love as you deserve, so I come to you in this prayer to console you and bring you the joy of this moment together.


Petition: Lord, help me to be humble of heart so you will heal me.


1. Christ´s Power is Stronger: The man in the Gospel was ill for 38 years. His sickness serves as an example of a life of sin. In 1 John 2:16 we read about a triple spiritual sickness: “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” However, not even a sickness persisting for 38 years is able to escape Jesus’ curing power. Christ’s power is stronger still. We should therefore take hope, for no sickness, no sin – or life of sin – is too great for him to cure. All that is needed is that we turn to him with a humble and contrite heart: “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”


2. Revealing Our Weaknesses: Nothing is impossible for Christ. He can heal the sick; he can also forgive their sins, as he forgives the paralytic who is lowered from a rooftop (Cf. Mark 2:1-12). All it takes is for this sick man to reveal his weakness – and he does so with detail, like a true confession: how he has attempted to enter the pool, how as he has tried, someone else has beaten him to it. Perhaps without this detailed account of his failure, he might not have been cured. The sick man’s admitting both his personal weakness and desire to plunge into the pool moves Jesus to compassion. This is the remedy to all of our illnesses: presenting ourselves to Christ as we truly are, with all of our weakness, and thus moving him to compassion.


3. “Go and Sin No More” Jesus says, “Look, you are well, do not sin any more.” It would be a pity if this man, who is deeply moved by Jesus and made whole, afterwards dedicates himself to a life of vice. From the Gospel passage, it would seem that Jesus has cured him in order to allow him to utilize his time and energy for the benefit of the Kingdom: Christ warns the sick man that if he misuses his new health, he could be worse off than before. Hopefully, his healing will produce a conversion and make him a herald of the Kingdom. This happens also in the sacrament of reconciliation: After forgiving our sins, Christ tells us, “Go in peace and proclaim to the world the wonderful works of God who has brought you salvation.”


Conversation with Christ: O Jesus, the only way that I can be like the man at the pool of Bethesda is to be grateful for the gifts you have given me, to fight against a life of sin, and to clothe myself with the “new man.” I am ready to embrace your will with love, even if this means dying to myself.


Resolution: As Easter approaches, I will humbly recognize my sinfulness and seek God’s healing grace in the sacrament of confession.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent "The Royal Official’s Request for a Miracle"

At that time Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. For Jesus himselftestified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast. Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While he was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, "The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon." The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live," and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Introductory Prayer: Father, I come before you with faith, hope and love. I will give my best effort to be attentive to your grace and inspiration during this time of prayer.

Petition: Lord, help me to have greater fortitude and faith.

1. No Prophet Has Honor in His Native Place: Pay careful attention to how St. John the Evangelist introduced this saying of Jesus. “At that time Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.” If Jesus knew there were no honors awaiting him in Galilee, why not go somewhere where the reception would be better? Jesus is trying to give us an example: he is not interested in “honor”, but rather in carrying out the mission. He is the Prophet par excellence. He himself is the message the Father has for humanity, and personal considerations will not keep him from his appointed task. We must be committed in our own personal mission, whether or not we can expect to be honored, or even appreciated. Our purity of intention is a good thermometer for following Christ.

2. Signs and Wonders: Jesus does the miracle, but not without reminding everyone that true faith cannot simply be based on “signs and wonders.” Why is this? Perhaps what Jesus is criticizing is the jaded religious outlook that can experience the presence of the divine only in the spectacular, while failing to perceive it in the quiet and small ways that God makes his presence known. With deeper faith, we can see God all around us. That beautiful sunset – isn’t it a masterpiece of God’s creative power on display? The unexpected apology – wasn’t that the working of grace? That helping hand stretched out to us just when we needed it – wasn’t that Christ in our midst? The person whose faith doesn’t need “signs and wonders” is precisely the person who sees so many more signs and wonders – the everyday, loving presence of the Lord.

3. “He and His Whole Household Came to Believe.” No grace given is strictly personal, just between “me and Jesus.” Everything is meant to radiate beyond the individual to build up the entire body of Christ. The royal official received the miracle he requested, but afterwards it wasn’t simply a return to business as usual, now that his son was back in action. Indeed, the healing was the occasion for something far bigger: “His whole household came to believe.” This grace has borne abundant fruit. At the outset, our Lord had remarked about the lack of honor given to the native son-prophet. This entire family and household coming to faith is the confirmation that sacrificing honor is more than compensated by saving souls.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, what joy this family’s conversion must have given to your heart! Their faith was a marvelous sign of the efficacy of your grace. Help me to have greater faith, to see you present in the small and big things of life, and to draw others closer to you.

Resolution: Like the royal official, I want to help my family to have a deeper faith. I will bring up a spiritual topic at family dinner and try to encourage a more faith-filled perspective.