Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time - Opportunity Missed

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. 


Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this Sunday, the day we celebrate your Resurrection. I believe that you walk with us, Lord. I believe that you come into our “synagogue” today and bring your message of salvation. I trust that you will guide me to greater light today. Thank you for coming to look for me.

Petition: Lord, help me to have a heart and will open to your message.

1. God Can Surprise Us: Jesus was well known in Nazareth -- or so they thought. But there was something they had never seen in him: they never saw the power of God in him. He was too ordinary. Our life can seem too ordinary to us sometimes. We may not recognize the voice of God when he calls to us, when he asks for a deeper faith and commitment to him. We may not recognize him speaking through the example and words of others. We may not shake off our routine and truly listen to the Word of God. We can learn from the surprise the people of Nazareth showed at Jesus’ true identity, as it will help us to be more alert to God’s surprises.

2. “And They Took Offense at Him”: Jesus can offend us. He came to shake up certainties about the closeness of God. God becomes uncomfortably close in Jesus. He knows all about us. He “grew up” with us: he knows our whole history, our weaknesses and our inadequacies. He expects much more of us than what we have given up to now. I need to let God challenge me every day. Only in that way can I really discover Jesus, the miracle-maker. Only in that way can I work with him to change myself and the world around me.

3. “He was Amazed at Their Lack of Faith”: What is there in my life that I think Jesus cannot touch, cannot change? Am I willing to present it humbly to Jesus each day so that he can slowly transform me? Do I try to use my spiritual commitments to grow in faith? Do I trust in Christ? If not, I need to ask him to increase that trust. He wants to make me into a saint. He wants to change this world. He can. I simply have to put my trust in him.

Conversation with Christ:  Lord, you have shown me that you can overcome any obstacle. I know that you want to show your power in me. Help me to believe in you more today. Let me show others the confidence and joy that you bring. Your power is present in my soul, Lord. Help me discover the signs of your Resurrection. 

Resolution:  Today I will make an extra act of charity for my family.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time - Touched by Faith

When Jesus had crossed again (in the boat) to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ´Who touched me?´" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."  While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official´s house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child´s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.  He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. (At that) they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, who should I turn to first but you? You have given me another day. This gift calls me to come to you first, to hear you first. My faith tells me there can be nothing better than to follow your plan; my hope is to bring you into my life and to other people; my love wants to be fuller and better — it wants to be like yours, Lord. 

Petition: Grant me the grace of deeper trust and faith in all moments of hardship.

1. “…afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years”: When problems are prolonged, or reach fever-pitch levels, we can get the mistaken impression that God has lost interest.  Somehow he seems no longer moved by our misery.  All the signs say he has forgotten us, abandoned us and left us hanging. 

But God is only seemingly absent. He is creating a new set of circumstances wherein we can experience him at a wholly new level.  The long, hard and persevering fight to walk in hope enables God to bring about greater fruits of holiness in us.

In the woman with the hemorrhage and in Jairus, father of a dying daughter, we must contemplate a mature and vibrant faith, observing how it conquers pessimism and transcends the cold calculations and superficial tones of their peers.  Truly this is the first miracle we see that Jesus has worked for them, and the most important one.

2. “And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out”: The dismal voices of his “friends” come to the father. Though they have seen the miracle of the woman with the hemorrhage, they coldly say, “Your daughter is dead. Be realistic. It is no use to go on.” True, in the name of realism, we can dismiss hope and cooperation with Christ’s action in our life. We can ridicule Christ whenever he wants to work in mystery and outside our human limits. We can be tempted to abandon trust in God in the name of reaffirming control over our world. “Let’s be realistic,” we say. “It will never work.”  These phrases veil a weak faith, a poor faith, a sterile or compartmentalized faith that works only when everything makes sense to us, when everything is easy.  Where there is this lack of faith, Christ cannot work.  

3. “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured”: Many say they are near Christ, yet few are acknowledged by Christ as close to him. Many were brushing against him that day, many were verbally praising him, many were serving him, but only one touched him and got his full attention. Why? Only one made an act of unconditional faith. What is the secret? How can we really get his attention, truly speak to his heart? None are closer than those who trust him, who humbly depend on him, and who wish to live from him. The woman’s unconditional faith was open to whatever would happen, whatever would be Christ’s response.  Those who suffer and support themselves patiently with faith and prayer experience new levels of union with Christ.

Conversation with Christ: Lord let me use hardships to build newer levels of trust and intimacy with you. Open my heart to seek you on your terms.  

I do not ask you for happiness or sorrow,

Health or sickness,

Riches or poverty,

Freedom or slavery,

Goods or evils;

For goods are misfortunes if you do not come with them,

And misfortunes are goods if they arrive with you.

For goods without you, what good would they be?

And misfortunes with you, are they not the best goods? 

Resolution: I will acknowledge the presence of Christ in all the difficulties of today.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time - A Madman for Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Blessed Are You

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

 

Introductory Prayer: Father of love, source of all blessings, you have led me throughout my life, and you lead me still. Thank you for your paternal care. Jesus, Son of God, you died for me on the cross to pay for my sins and manifest your unconditional love for me. Thank you for showing me the way home to the Father. Holy Spirit, sweet guest of the soul, you heal me and strengthen me and set me on fire from the most intimate depths of my soul. Thank you for your loving presence within me.

 

Petition: Jesus, help me to love your beatitudes and adopt them as my standard for life.


  1. A Mountain as a Cathedra: Let’s imagine ourselves that memorable day, sitting with the multitudes on a sunny mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is preaching to the crowd from below, using the steep incline as a natural amphitheater. The soft breeze coming off the water and running up the hillside seems to carry his gentle voice to all of the hundreds of anxious listeners. We are impressed that the Teacher, despite the fact that he is authoritatively delivering a strong message, seems so happy and full of peace. He exudes an interior freedom that allows him to devote himself entirely to serving God and others. The world seems to have no hold on him. Listening to Jesus we are drawn to exclaim, “This man knows what he is talking about." He knows what heaven is like. He knows firsthand that heavenly blessedness far outstrips any worldly happiness I could imagine.”



  1. Going Against the Current: It could feel like we have just heard the most powerful sermon ever delivered, and yet it will take us a while to digest it all. It was absolutely counter-cultural, even shocking. And yet, as challenging as it was, it all seemed to ring true in our hearts. Jesus boldly proposed to us in the Sermon on the Mount a fresh, new roadmap to true happiness and blessedness. All of us have a deep desire to be happy and live in peace, and we had thought before that we had it all figured out. But Jesus’ ways are the very opposite of the ways of the world. He scorns all false beatitudes which make happiness depend on self-expression, license, having a good time, or an attitude of “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you shall die.” He knows that the results of these false beatitudes are mental disorders, unhappiness, false hopes, fears and anxieties.



  1. Contrasting Solutions: As the keys to success and happiness, the world often proposes to us one or more of the seven deadly sins. We hear the catchwords: “security,” “revenge,” “laughter,” “popularity,” “getting even,” “sex,” “armed might,” and “comfort.” Jesus, without batting an eyelash, just turned all of these shallow ideals on their head, calling them all a dead end. He bravely challenged the spirit of the world — accepting the fact that such a move would make him very unpopular with some, and even seal his fate at Calvary. In place of the worldly pleasure route, he offered us a better way, the only way to true blessedness, as expressed in the Beatitudes, one that he himself would walk until the day he died for us. Perhaps these words ring true in my heart…, but am I prepared to cut the strings that keep me running after the false beatitudes?


Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord Jesus, you dwell in heaven with all your blessed ones. You have called me to be holy. You have called me to be a saint, blessed and happy. Enlighten my mind today to know where true happiness lies. Grant that I may desire only this true happiness and reject all deceiving imitations that the world throws my way.

Resolution: I will get myself back on track to true happiness by getting to the sacrament of confession this week.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church - 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 26, 2017

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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 25, 2017

Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops - 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 24, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, apostle - Caught by the Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church - Stronger Than Blood-Here is my Mother

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?
  1. 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.
  1. 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 22, 2017

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children - 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.

Spiritual Snack: (Almost a full meal :)


My dear brothers and sisters…I think we can say that the message in today’s readings is a simple one…we are given a contrast between light and darkness.  Both exist in this world, and we will experience both as we travel the path of life.  One way to understand today’s readings is as God’s help for us in knowing the attitude we should take when we experience deep darkness, and also great light.  

 

It’s an important reminder, because many fall into the temptation of giving too much attention to the problems or difficulties of life…to the darkness.  And doing this can blind us to the light that is there, and make it hard to see the solutions and opportunities God wants to give.

 

It’s not as simple as saying that my personality makes me a “glass half empty” or a “glass half full” kind of person.  The person who gives too much attention to the difficulties and dark is in danger of becoming a hopeless soul…a sad soul who let’s themselves be enslaved by resentment and anger.  On the other hand, the person who is able to recognize the many gifts they have received (and there are no exceptions…we have all received gift upon gift from our God), is able is experience supernatural joy and to share with others what he has received.

 

So maybe it’s not as simple as it looks at first glance.  We know that it’s easy to distinguish between light and dark.  But it’s not as easy to have the correct attitude when we are in the midst of the darkness that is present in this world.  Let’s ask the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding.  There are many problems in this world that seem larger than us, and too big to overcome…poverty, injustice, politics, etc.  The origin of darkness is ignorance, and also bad intentions.  I have seen that is can fill the soul who makes the decision to dwell in the darkness…to pay too much attention to it.

 

There is another perspective that is needed.  Not a perspective that ignores the reality of darkness, but one that gives the proper attention to the light that is always there.  It can feel impossible at times, but ultimately it is our choice to give our attention to either the light or the darkness.  Do we really believe that the light is more powerful than the darkness…because it comes from God?

 

It is interesting that when Jesus was in the most difficult and painful situations, He always focused on the light in His Heart.  He always focused on the good He could do.  He never focused His attention on the cruelty or pride of the Roman Empire, or centered His preaching on the negative aspects of life, like sickness or poverty (which, by the way, was an overwhelming reality in His time).  His preaching wasn’t focused on the racial or political divisions that were prevalent, even though it was true that His Jewish brothers and sisters were divided, and there were real prejudices between the Jews and Samaritans of His time.

 

Jesus made a choice to put His whole Heart into spreading the light.  The end of today’s gospel summarizes the way Christ lived His life…”teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and illness among the people.”  Our Lord doesn’t ignore evil, but combats it by always asking, “What is the good I can do?  What is the good that can come out of this situation?”  This was His motto for life.

 

Maybe it will help for me to relate what I am trying to say with my experience in coming to America years ago.  One of the first things I noticed was that there is a difference between the way someone lives their faith in the United States, and the way it is lived it in South America.  It is true that we have our own problems in Peru, but the many warm expressions of our faith life, the groups and apostolic movements that are present, the many activities that happen during the week in one small parish…I saw that they were not present here in the same way.

 

To be honest, coming here (first to California in 2012, and then to Minnesota) felt like entering a long winter…almost like a winter that would never end.  Maybe it was something like what CS Lewis describes in his Chronicles of Narnia.  At least in my mind, it was a little like entering a world where the evil witch was keeping the world in constant winter.  I thought that, because the ways of living the faith that I was used to were not as present here, it was a place of winter.

 

Of course the bad thing about having this perspective is that one can quickly become negative.  One can begin to critique everything and get accustomed to looking only at the bad (not just in the situations we find ourselves in, but in our own hearts).  And when we do that, we essentially train ourselves to spend our strength on what is negative, without moving to a focus on how we can use every situation to do good and to find light.  I need to confess that I failed in this when I first moved to California years ago.  

 

My attitude was off.  For a moment, I thought I was coming to a part of the world that didn’t believe in God…a place with empty Churches for Mass…a Church that doesn’t have anything to say to young people…a Church with irrelevant leaders, irrelevant speeches…a place where the media makes fun of God and the Church (remember that 12 years ago I was a young and inexperienced, newly ordained priest).   At that time, it looked to me like the Church in America was under attack and that none of her baptized children were standing up to defend her.      

 

It’s not surprising that, over time, this way of thinking started to make my perspective more and more “dark” with respect to the time God was going to ask me to remain in America and even with regard to the future of the Catholic faith.  But even though the problems were real (this was the beginning of the crisis and the scandals), my perspective made me extremely short-sighted…blind to all of the goodness to be found in souls and all the beauty to be found in many, many hearts.  It made me miss all of the joy to be found, even in the midst of a cold winter.  That sort of attitude can make us miss the heroic perseverance found in souls who find themselves in the midst of persecution or difficulty and still proclaim the sovereignty of Christ.  That sort of attitude can make us miss so many beautiful opportunities that Christ has for us…new initiatives for evangelization that are happing right now in this country.  

 

As you can see, this is humbling for me.  I invite you, my brothers and sisters, to pay better attention to the gifts you have received at your baptism.  Yes, there are many bad things in the world and in the Church…but also many good things…many initiatives and apostolates that are only going to start if you are a part of them.  The light God wants to bring will never happen if you are focused on the negative.  Each of you is given a torch and it is your responsibility to pass it to the next generation, still burning brightly…strong with the love of God.  

 

I assure you that you have received blessings that I don’t have.  God loves originality…He is an artist who is always creating what is new.  You have received many blessings and they are not meant to be kept for you.  If you can pronounce the name of Jesus with faith, hope and love, that means that the Holy Spirit is at work in you.  Never forget that God invites you (and asks you) to take the light He has given you and follow the example of Jesus, who never wasted time focusing on the negative or engaging in criticism and complaint.  He was focused on the light and on solutions.  He took what He had and put it to work.

 

In the famous Parable of the Talents, He makes this clear to us.  He reminds us…you have received many talents (many gifts from God)…what are you going to do with them?  Let’s not fall into the temptation of thinking that things are too bad and there is nothing that can be done.  Doing that would make us like the servant who put what he had in a hole and just waited around for the master to return.  Let’s take the risk of trying to do something good, with trust that God will bless our efforts and make them bring light into the world.  

 

 Mary, don't let me lose hope... like your Immaculate Heart, help me see the effects of the power of the Blood of your Son when it touches me and through me many other souls, Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Passing of the Torch

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.


Introductory Prayer: My heavenly Father, you made me out of your infinite love. Even though I have failed to love you as a good child should, still you send me gift upon gift. You sent your Son to redeem me and to make me one with you, in and through your Son. You and your only beloved Son sent your Spirit of love and truth, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in me. Thank you for bringing me into the intimacy of your Triune love. In return, I offer you my own heart and my desire to respond generously to whatever you ask of me.


Petition: Jesus, help me to open my heart to you.


  1. The True Light Is Here: John the Baptist did all that the Father had asked. Through it all he remained humble. The people thought he was the Christ; however, he would not allow the winds of pride to extinguish the light of truth, so he proclaimed that he was not the Christ. The world rewarded John the Baptist with silence and death. On the contrary, what treasure did God bestow upon him for his fidelity? Acclaim – “Welcome my good and faithful servant” – and eternal life. John was merely the voice calling people to repent and convert. Now the Word himself proclaims these words. John was a voice in the wilderness. Now the Word who is light and life itself enters the public scene. May the light of truth open our hearts to the true and everlasting Kingdom. Am I able to distinguish between what is gold in God’s eyes and what glistens so attractively yet is merely “fool’s gold”? Is this capacity consistent with what I preach by my word and example?


  1. Jesus Preaches with More Than Words: Our Lord Jesus went about doing only good: healing the sick, comforting the lonely, forgiving sinners, and preaching the Gospel. Our faith tells us this, and we can visualize it as we read the Gospel. But do we really encounter our Lord like those who crossed his path 2,000 years ago? I can answer this question by looking at my life: Do I live more and more like Christ, or not? Do I appreciate and thank Christ for all the good he has done in my life? Do I want with all of my heart to be with Christ forever, on earth and in heaven? Where my heart is, there is my treasure. Like Christ, I am called to preach with more than words.


  1. People Respond to the Truth: A disciple of Christ can never be discouraged, because people do respond to the truth, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see this throughout the Gospels and throughout the history of the Church. When our efforts to evangelize seem to fall on hard ground, we need to examine how we will react. Christ commanded us to preach his gospel in word and deed. He demanded that we produce fruit. Christ also said we would do greater things than he did. We also know that Christ has defeated sin and death. Knowing all this, how can we be discouraged by the lack of fruit in our efforts to evangelize? We do the work, and Christ takes care of the rest. It’s that simple.


Conversation with Christ: Lord, you came to save sinners; enter into my life anew on this new day. Remove all fear that I have of you, Lord Jesus. Teach me that you are a God of compassion and that you are meek and humble of heart.


Resolution: I will develop a simple plan to help my parish in its efforts to evangelize.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Approaching Jesus with Faith - Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

He came home. 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."

Goal: A faith in Christ that overcomes my prejudices.

1. There are two very different reactions to Jesus’ actions. The crowds, the average people, have no preconceived notions about Jesus. The first thing they may have heard was about some wonder-worker, perhaps an itinerant prophet, in a nearby town. They go to see him out of curiosity. He goes beyond their expectations. He preaches the Good News and their hearts are set on fire. He cures and drives out demons and they marvel at his works. Faith is kindled in their hearts. They don’t have the training of the Pharisees and scribes to know exactly what this all means, but certainly here is a man sent by God - a prophet, perhaps the Messiah. They are excited.

2. Jesus’ family reacts very differently. They have known Jesus all his life and he had never done anything remarkable. Living in Nazareth, he had concentrated on doing his daily duties to perfection. He never did miracles. Perhaps he occasionally said something penetrating about God or the observance of the Jewish faith in their presence. These things made the family uncomfortable and a little suspicious. The rabbis never said anything like this. Cousin Jesus was the nicest person you could ever meet, but a little strange.

Now it is obvious to them that his strange tendencies have gotten out of hand. All this talk of miracles is too much. They must act before he does something outrageous and brings shame on the family. Their hearts and minds are closed to his sayings and miracles. There is no room for faith.

3. Do I have the faith of the crowds or the prejudice of Jesus’ relatives? Many of us grow up with Jesus – like one of the family. He has been a part of our lives as far back as we can remember. Perhaps, he has never done anything remarkable in our lives and we secretly like it that way. We worry when he tries to preach in our hearts or work wonders in our lives. We live in a kind of Nazareth where Jesus could work no wonders because of the lack of faith of the townspeople. We are upset when Jesus begins to work wonders in the lives of others and they get excited about him. It makes us uncomfortable. This is not the faith we are living. “They must be mistaken,” we think. We decide that something must be done and we try to silence Jesus’ voice like his family did. Our hearts and minds are closed by our familiarity with him and there is no room for a living faith.  

Petition: Lord, help me to examine my life to see if it allows you the room to do great things. Help me to remove whatever I am comfortable with if it holds me back from accepting your wonders in my life.

Resolution: I will make room for faith in my life. I will examine myself to see if I have a ‘comfortable’ Christ. I will open my heart to expect wonders in my life. I will think my faith is cold if I don’t feel excited about Jesus.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time - Christ Chooses Me – He calls

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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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