Reflections and Meditations

SUNDAY, EASTER SUNDAY

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. (Sequence of Easter Sunday)

Reflection

On Easter Sunday, the Church is recollected in contemplation of the risen Christ. Thus she relives the primordial experience that lies at the basis of her existence. She feels imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ's tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus, deceived himself that he had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed! Two thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master's greeting: "Peace be with you.'"....
...Christ's Resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs. The acceptance of this truth, although the fruit of the Holy Spirit's grace, rests at the same time on a solid historical base. On the threshold of the third millennium, the new effort of evangelization can begin only from a renewed experience of this Mystery, accepted in faith and witnessed to in life.... Pope John Paul II

Lenten Fact

Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity. It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon Vidi aquam, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung. The fonts at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water. The tradition of celebrating baptismal Vespers on Easter Day with the singing of psalms during the procession to the font should be maintained where it is still in force, and appropriately, restored. The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday, whether at Mass, or at Morning and Evening Prayer. After the Easter season the candle should be kept with honor in the baptistry, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptized may be lit from them. In the celebration of funerals, the paschal candle should be place near the coffin to indicate that the death of a Christian is his own passover. The paschal candle should not otherwise be lit nor placed in the sanctuary outside the Easter season.

Prayer

God our Father, creator of all, today is the day of Easter joy. This is the morning on which the Lord appeared ot men who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his Father's glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

SATURDAY, HOLY SATURDAY

"He has been raised up; he is not here." (Mark 16:6)

Reflection

THE CROSS

The cross is the hope of Christians
the cross is the resurrection of the dead
the cross is the way of the lost
the cross is the savior of the lost
the cross is the staff of the lame
the cross is the guide of the blind
the cross is the strength of the weak
the cross is the doctor of the sick
the cross is the aim of the priests
the cross is the hope of the hopeless
the cross is the freedom of the slaves
the cross is the power of the kings
the cross is the water of the seeds
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen
the cross is the source of those who seek water
the cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross.

FRIDAY,  GOOD FRIDAY

Fast & Abstinence Today
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. (Isaiah 53:4)

Reflection

(1) It is related in the annals of Clairvaus that St. Bernard asked Our Lord which was His greatest unrecorded suffering and that Our Lord answered, "I had on my shoulder while I bore My cross on the Way of Sorrows a grievous wound which was more painful than the others which is not recorded by men. Honor this wound with devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through its virtue and merit, and in return to all who venerate this wound I will remit to them all their venial sins and will no longer remember their mortal sins. "

(2) At the crucifixion, a young soldier, Longinus, thrust a spear into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Water spilled forth, washing Longinus, and Blood followed, giving Longinus the grace of conversion. Having been touched by the healing contents of Our Lord's Sacred Heart, Longinus became a martyr, giving up his own life for the One he helped crucify. Longinus opened a Door into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Door stands open, ready to receive all. We each have many opportunities to cross this threshold, to enter this Door, to be immersed in the Love within. How we respond to that invitation is dependent on how much we love. This Door can be wide, but it is often hard to pass through.

THURSDAY, HOLY THURSDAY

"But if I washed your feet...then you must wash each other's feet." (John 13:14)

Reflection

In April of 1945 American artillery in the town of Siegburg, Germany, was shelling a nearby village, in which there were about 20 German soldiers. The natives were in constant danger of being hit by bullets from either side. Toward evening of April 12 the people persuaded the German soldiers to cease fire. Next morning the village priest carried a white flag to the American outpost to inform the commander that the German soldiers had gone and the civilian population had no desire to resist further. Instructions were given to fly white flags from all the houses. The question uppermost in the minds of the towns-people was: How will the Americans treat us?
They had heard terrible tales of cruelty on the part of the Russians. How would these conquerors act?
The Americans began a thorough search for weapons and German soldiers. Two soldiers armed with pistols came to a certain three- room home. They stopped short in the living room before a hand- carved family altar. Into the bedroom they went, to find there a beautiful crucifix. The soldiers noticed the cross. They stopped, took off their steel helmets, changed their automatics from right hand to left, and respectfully made the sign of the cross.
As a member of the family related, the members of that household feared no longer. Yes, the sign of the cross is the salute of the true follower of Christ whether he is conqueror or conquered, whether he is German, Chinese, American or Australian. It is the countersign of the Christian. In particular, it is the special salute of the Catholic.

Wednesday

I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none. (Psalm 69:21)

Reflection

PRAY IT AGAIN, SAM

My mom has prayed the daily rosary for as long as I can remember. We used to say it together as a family. At home, she always used a large wooden rosary she had owned for many years.
After we kids had moved away, she started praying with the devoted group of parishioners who said a rosary after each weekday mass. At church, she began using a new set of plastic rosary beads she kept in her purse. An elderly gentleman named Sam led the prayers, and the others faithfully responded.

The count of "Hail Marys" through five mysteries everyday was always accurate except for the third decade. Here, as my mom fingered the last "Hail Mary" bead, Sam would always say one more "Hail Mary" and naturally everyone would give the "Holy Mary" response. "There he goes again," she'd think to herself as he began the "extra" prayer. "Why does he always say eleven 'Ave Marias' in the third decade?"

That pattern continued for several years until one day when my mom left her purse in the car and had to borrow a pair of rosaries from the lady sitting next to her. Lo and behold, this time when my mom fingered the final "Hail Mary" bead of the third decade, Sam dutifully followed with the "Glory Be."

This prompted my mom to do something she otherwise wouldn't have thought of: to check the rosary beads in her purse - that set only contained nine beads in the third decade!

Tuesday

"I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me!" (John 13:21)

Reflection

A Simple Gesture

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder.
Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. Asthey walked Mark discovered the boy's name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history, and that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

They arrived at Bill's home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home. They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years.
Finally the long-awaited senior year came and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met.

"Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?" asked Bill. "You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn't want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mothers sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I relized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more, you saved my life."

Every little hello, every little smile, every helping hand saves a hurting heart. Pass it on.

Monday

Then she dried his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the ointment's fragrance. (John 12:3)

Reflection

Adoration

Jesus, my God, I adore You, here present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, where You wait day and night to be our comfort while we await Your unveiled presence in heaven. Jesus, my God, I adore You in all places where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and where sins are committed against this Sacrament of Love. Jesus, my God, I adore You for all time, past, present and future, for every soul that ever was, is or shall be created. Jesus, my God, who for us has endured hunger and cold, labor and fatigue, I adore You. Jesus, my God, who for my sake has deigned to subject Yourself to the humiliation of temptation, to the perfidy and defection of friends, to the scorn of Your enemies, I adore You. Jesus, my God, who for us has endured the buffeting of Your passion, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the heavy weight of the cross, I adore You.

Jesus, my God, who, for my salvation and that of all mankind, was cruelly nailed to the cross and hung there for three long hours in bitter agony, I adore You. Jesus, My God, who for love of us did institute this Blessed Sacrament and offer Yourself daily for the sins of men, I adore You. Jesus, my God, who in Holy Communion became the food of my soul, I adore You. Jesus, for You I live. Jesus, for You I die. Jesus, I am Yours in life and death. Amen.

SUNDAY, PASSION (PALM) SUNDAY

They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks across its back, and he sat on it. (Mark 11:7)

Reflection

..His coming is a revelation, a radical, total revelation of God's holiness."Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory...". Precisely this Week which humanly speaking is filled to the brim with suffering, humiliation, despoliation, in a word, with the kenosis of God this Week contains the revelation of God's holiness, the culmination of world history. "Holy, Holy, Holy.... Hosanna in the highest"....
To embrace the Cross on this day, to pass it from hand to hand, is a very eloquent gesture. It is like saying: Lord, we do not want to stay with you only at the time of the "Hosannas", but with your help we want to accompany you on the way of the Cross as did Mary, your mother and ours, and the Apostle John. Yes, O Lord, because "You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68), and we have believed that precisely your Cross is the word of life, of eternal life!

SUNDAY, FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Then a voice came from the sky: "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." (John 12:28)

Reflection

Prayer to be Freed of the Seven Deadly Sins

O meek Savior and Prince of Peace, implant in me the virtues of gentleness and patience. Let me curb the fury of anger and restrain all resentment and impatience so as to overcome evil with good, attain your peace, and rejoice in your love.

O Model of humility, divest me of all pride and arrogance. Let me acknowledge my weakness and sinfulness, so that I may bear mockery and contempt for your sake and esteem myself as lowly in your sight.

O Teacher of abstinence, help me to serve you rather than our appetites. Keep me from gluttony - the inordinate love of food and drink and let me hunger and thirst for your justice.

O Lover of purity, remove all lust from my heart, so that I may serve you with a pure mind and a chaste body.

O Father of the poor, help me to avoid all covetousness for earthly goods and give me a love for heavenly things. Inspire me to give to the needy, just as you gave your life that I might inherit eternal treasures.

O Exemplar of love, keep me from all envy and ill-will. Let the grace of your love dwell in me that I may rejoice in the happiness of others and bewail their adversities.

O zealous Lover of souls, keep me from all sloth of mind or body. Inspire me with zeal for your glory, so that I may do all things for you and in you.

SUNDAY, FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

"So must the Son of Man be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life in Him." (John 3:14,15)

Reflection

Faith always takes us on a journey beyond the obvious and tangible. This was often lacking in those who experienced Jesus and His teachings. When He spoke of offering His Body and Blood, they exclaimed: "How can this man give us flesh to eat?" They totally missed the spiritual dimension of His words and message. He was pointing them to a higher realm of understanding, while they chose to remain on an earthly level leading only to darkness and death.
Faith does not come easy. While we see and know people for whom faith seems like second nature, for many of us it is a gift that reveals itself only with the utmost diligence and care. It usually begins to appear in times of transition, distress and/or sickness, for it is in moments like these that the Lord is able to get our attention long enough, so that we can hear His voice above the noise and confusion of our daily lives. Whenever trouble breaks into the serenity of our daily existence, we can be sure the Divine potter is at work trying to mold us into something beautiful. ....Fr. Dominic P. Irace

SUNDAY, THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

"Zeal for your house consumes me." (John 2:17)

Reflection

" O Divine Truth, You give so much strength to the soul which clothes itself with You, that it never falters under the weight of adversity beneath the burden of troubles and temptations, but in every struggle it gains a great victory. I am wretched because I have not followed You, O Eternal Truth; hence I am so weak that in every least tribulation I fall" ...St Catherine of Siena

SUNDAY, SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

He was transfigured before their eyes and his clothes became dazzlingly white. (Mark 9:2-3)

Reflection

"This is the remedy to fix my gaze on You, Incarnate Word, hanging on the Cross. As soon as You see a humble soul looking at You in this way, you are quickly moved to look at it, and the effect of Your divine glance is like that of a ray of sunshine on the earth; it warms it and prepares it to bring forth fruit. This is the way You act, O Divine Word, who by the light of Your glance, drain my soul of all its pride, and consume it in Your fire. No one acquires humility if he does not fix his gaze on You, O Word, on the Cross." ... St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi

SUNDAY, FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

"I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." (Genesis 9:13)

Reflection

"The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and dost thou seek rest and joy? If thou carry the cross unwillingly, thou makest it a burden to thee. If thou fling away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another, perhaps a heavier" .... (Thomas de Kempis -- Imitation of Christ).

SUNDAY, FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

While reconciliation is what God does, receiving it and celebrating it are what we do. For Catholics, the sacrament of reconciliation is a most natural way to celebrate God's reconciliation. We used to think of this sacrament as only about confession- it was like a dumping ground for our sins where we were forgiven and had to pay a toll. One of the great recoveries in our Christian history is the rediscovery of the meaning of this sacrament.  It is God who forgives sins. God forgives us the very moment we realize we need forgiveness, which itself comes through God's grace. At that moment, we feel sorrow and a desire for forgiveness and healing, and we are reconciled with God. The reunion, the bond, the connection, and the joy are all there. Three more things remain: forgiveness and healing deep within our heart, celebration of that forgiveness, and participation in the healing process. When I experience God's forgiveness and love, I am touched deeply. Experiencing compassion, patience, understanding, and forgiveness is itself transforming. If I fail to appreciate what I have just received freely and undeservedly, then I will take it for granted and risk moving on without real healing. We need to celebrate the reconciliation we have received. In the sacrament of reconciliation- individually or in common- we have the wonderful opportunity to ritualize that celebration. In the sacrament, our personal journey is joined with the mystery of God's saving love, as seen in the Scriptures and in God's desire to save us all. This is deeply personal. There, in ritual form, even if it is just us and the priest, we step forward and admit that we are sinners, express our sorrow, and name the places in our life where God is shining a light into what we have done and what we have failed to do. Then God's forgiveness is proclaimed out loud for us to hear and rejoice in: "May God give you pardon and peace." Part of the sacrament of reconciliation is healing. Often that will simply be prayer. Often expressing our gratitude to God is one of the most important steps on the road to recovery from our independence from God. Sometimes, we will need to practice a therapy that is more carefully focused on making choices about what I can practice doing and what I can practice avoiding.

May our Lord grant us all the gift of reconciliation, and may we all receive it and celebrate it well in the holy days ahead.

Ash Wednesday - Praying Lent This Year

Lent offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism.  In our busy world, Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our patterns, to pray more deeply, experience sorrow for what we've done and failed to do, and to be generous to those in need.  May Our Lord grant us all the graces we need and desire.

EASTER SUNDAY

Easter is significant because it reveals that love is more powerful than death. Death is what frightens us most. It hems us in and it sets the ultimate limit to everything. If death has the final word, then all the evil in the world wins and there's no hope because there's nothing after death. That's the end. But Easter is the declaration that God's love, the love that made the world and sustains it, is more powerful than death. That's a moment of liberation. It means death no longer enslaves us. The first Christians saw that the bursting forth of Christ from the tomb is the shattering of death's bonds. Even more, the Resurrection is God's great salvation of the world he has made. The God of the Bible doesn't despise matter--just the opposite. God makes everything good. And through the Resurrection, God ratifies, sums up, and valorizes his material creation. Therefore, Jesus' resurrection from the dead is not just about him. It's about all those who will participate in his Mystical Body, the Church, and it's about all of matter. In raising Jesus bodily from the dead, the Father is raising all of matter to new life. We see this as the Bible comes to its climax in the Book of Revelation. There we discover a New Heaven and a New Earth. Heaven is not just some purely spiritual space that our souls go to after we die. It's a new creation, God ratifying and elevating his whole work. That's the climax of the biblical revelation.  The God who made the world good has now, out of a passion to set it right, saved that world by raising it up to a higher pitch. The Christian Church gives witness to that great fact. And that's what Easter is about.

Holy Saturday

Today we commemorate Holy Saturday, the quiet, somber interlude between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Instead of sharing my own reflections I'd like to share this ancient homily, written by an anonymous source. It brings to life that stirring line in the Apostle's Creed: "He descended into hell."  What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled. Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son. The Lord goes into them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying:   "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."  I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.  I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.  For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.  Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.  See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you. But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God. The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.

Holy Thursday

Christianity is a revolutionary religion. It turns everything upside down, reversing the values and expectations of a sinful world. Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus tried to inaugurate people into this new world that he called the Kingdom of God. The nature of this Kingdom became especially apparent as Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room, a place of heightened awareness. There he did something extraordinary.  Jesus took off his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, poured water in a basin, and washed the feet of his disciples. He performed an act that was so humble, so lowly, that it was considered beneath the dignity even of a slave.  We catch the novelty and shock of it in Peter's response: "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" This is just too much for him; it is such a violation of the world that he had come to accept, a world in which masters were masters, slaves were slaves, where the dignified and important were waited upon while the lowly did the serving. In that world there was a clear demarcation between up and down, worthy and unworthy, clean and unclean. Jesus is putting his followers through a sort of initiation rite. Unless they pass this test, unless they begin to see the world in a new way, they will not get into the Kingdom. And this is why Jesus says to Peter, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." In the vision of the old world, one's life comes to its high point at a moment of honor, praise, glory, or recognition, at a moment when one's distinction and superiority over others is most evident. The old world is predicated on the great divisions between master and slave, superior and subordinate, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, included and excluded. Most of our energy goes into maintaining these distinctions, or trying to get from one side to the other, or keeping certain people on the far side of the divide. But in the vision of the Kingdom of God, the climactic moment comes when one is the lowliest servant of the other: yes, even despised, reviled, spat upon, and handed over to death. It is only when we have passed through this startling initiation that we are ready for the full manifestation of the Kingdom. "You call me 'teacher' and 'master' and rightly so," Jesus says, "for indeed I am. If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet."

Holy Week Message Prayer and Action

The fruit of prayer in the Biblical tradition is action on behalf of the world. We are, essentially, a mission religion. Even the highest moments of mystical union are meant to conduce to doing God's work in the world, to becoming a conduit of the divine grace.  We have mystics, poets, contemplatives galore in our tradition--just think of Bernard, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton--but they all see the essential link between prayer and action. This is why Peter's line is so important at the Transfiguration: "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." As Luke, the author, points out immediately, "But he did not know what he was saying." The point of prayer is not to stay on the mountain. It is not to cling to mystical experience, however wonderful. It is to become radiant with the divine light so as to share it with the world.  And this is why, at the Transfiguration, the voice from the cloud identified Jesus and specified, "Listen to him." In other words, don't just admire him; don't simply worship him. Do what he tells you. Authentic prayer always leads to active discipleship.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1 : 24 - 28,Luke 1 : 46 - 56

As we draw near to the Feast of Christmas, our sacred scripture presents to us once again a central Advent personage.  Luke and the Church hold Mary in high esteem as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity.  Today, we hear her wonderful "Magnificat" echo through the ages down to our own time and place.  In our first reading, Hannah gives Samuel over to the Lord's service.  Mary follows in that glorious tradition and gave herself over to the Lord's service in every way by consenting to be the Mother of the Son of God.  When we think about it, Mary becomes for us the most impressive example of what Advent preparation is all about.  Essentially, when the Angel Gabriel asked her to become the Mother of Jesus, the angel was asking her to shift away from her planned life as wife of Joseph and enter into the mystery of God's plan for her life.  She had questions, concerns and confusion but said yes, I will live in the mystery of what God has in store for me.  She positioned herself in faith to be the handmaid of the Lord.  She went on to visit Elizabeth and was welcomed  with an amazing greeting.  How could Elizabeth know so much of what was happening.  She seemed to know more than Mary herself.  Mary's wonderful response reflects upon the greatness and goodness of God in her life.  She accepted Elizabeth's greeting and lived in the mystery it evoked.  Mary would go on to live the mystery.  As she raised the child Jesus, she had to have asked herself over and over who he really was and why was he here.  She helped him to grow in wisdom and age but was left to ponder so much in her heart.  She lived the mystery.  She heard Him begin to preach the good news of the Kingdom and wondered what it could mean.  She lived the mystery.  She saw him give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, strength to withered legs, wholeness to lepers, forgiveness to the sinner and life to the dead and was left to wonder about questions with no immediate answers.  She lived the mystery.  She watched her Son die on the Cross and received His body into her arms.  She lived the mystery.  She was present in the Upper Room when her Risen Lord revealed His glory and His victory over sin and death.  She lived the mystery.  In her final moment on earth, she was assumed body and soul into the heavenly Kingdom.  She lived the mystery.  Our Blessed Mother teaches us how to live the mystery of our own life, our own calling to walk with God and one another.  She teaches us Advent faith, to always expect God to enter our lives with His divine guidance.  She teaches us Advent trust, to place our lives in the hands of God and hope He will lead us to salvation.  She teaches us Advent love, to place another ahead of ourselves, to place ourselves at the service of God's Word in our lives.  She teaches us Advent perseverance, to walk with divine assistance through the questions, concerns, joys, and trials of the mystery of our lives.  She teaches us Advent courage, to always move forward in the mystery of life expecting that the birth of Jesus will bring us to the fullness of the life He was born to manifest.

Servant Leadership
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26b-28  Servant leadership is service to others. It is not jockeying for position, nor is it politicking for power. Instead, it is posturing for the opportunity to serve. This does not bode well for the insecure soul in need of abundant attention. Servant leaders avoid the limelight and serve in ways that many times go unnoticed. It is the little things that make a servant leader. It may be taking out the trash at home, or making the coffee at work.  No task is too menial for the servant leader, but there is something bigger than behavior that distinguishes a servant leader. It is attitude—an attitude of how to make others successful. He or she knows if those around them are successful then there is a good chance they will experience success. They are wise to want what’s best for others. Self-service on the other hand builds a culture of mediocrity. It is all about taking care of my little world, not giving any thought to the needs of other team members. It is every man for himself - survival of the fittest. This self-service contributes to a scarcity mentality. If I serve you then you may look better than me—you may get all the credit.  This fear of not being noticed facilitates competition instead of cooperation. Servant leadership on the other hand is not caught up with getting the credit. The servant leader has put to death the need for self-recognition. The attention and credit can easily flow to others. This is the place where it belongs, as our humility cannot handle the attention. Like a lily-white body in a tanning booth, our humility burns up. Servant leadership resists this temptation to linger in the limelight. Instead, the servant leader may give away opportunities that come his or her way. Seek to serve and let status find you.  Jesus served quietly on most occasions and boldly as needed.  No sincere seeker was neglected. His motive was to serve for the glory of God. His ultimate service was laying down his life for the human race. Consequently, followers of Christ can become a better servant leader because Jesus seeks to serve through you. You can’t, but He can.  Submit to Him and watch Him use you to serve. Die to getting attention and credit while celebrating the success of others. Quietly volunteer for the next lowly task. Set up others to succeed. Give away your life and you will find it. This is the way of Christ. This is the way to serve and lead. Submit to God, serve people—and others will follow!  “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me” (Matthew 10:39, The Message).  Prayer: Whom do I need to serve for Christ’s sake that does not deserve my service?

Related Readings: Exodus 18:26; Zephaniah 3:9; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 4:10

Suffering Love

When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, the Nazi soldiers imposed their penalty. They took all of the prisoners from the escapee's barracks and lined them up, and then at random chose a man to be put to death in retaliation. When the man broke down in tears, protesting that he was the father of young children, a quiet bespectacled man stepped forward and said, "I am a Catholic priest; I have no family. I would like to die in this man's place." Pope John Paul II later canonized that priest, Saint Maximilian Kolbe. With brutal clarity, Kolbe allows us to see the relationship between suffering willingly accepted and salvation. He was consciously participating in the act of his Master, making up, in Paul's language, what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ. We see a similar example in Saint Francis. Among the many stories told about the joyful saint, one of the most affecting is that concerning his encounter with a leprous man. Young Francis had a particular revulsion for leprosy. Whenever he saw someone suffering from that disease, he would run in the opposite direction. One day, Francis saw a leper approaching, and he sensed the familiar apprehension and disgust. But then he decided, under the inspiration of the
Gospel, to embrace the man, to kiss him, and to give him alms. Filled with joy, he made his way up the road. But when he turned around he discovered the man had disappeared. Once again, suffering was the concrete expression of love. When a mother stays up all night, depriving herself of sleep, in order to care for a sick child, she is following this same example, suffering so that some of his suffering might be alleviated. When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love. We shouldn't be surprised when we are called upon to suffer in this world. We have been given the privilege of carrying on Christ's work in just this way.

Psalm 23

"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."   Psalm 23.  Lord, we so often hear this psalm and understand the connection between the sheep and their shepherd. This relationship is unique and special. As we live these days of Lent and evaluate our relationship with You, help us to grow in our dependency upon You for all of our needs. Amen.

Why Do You Doubt?

Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:25-26)

It is by faith that God’s mighty power is released into the life of a Christian (Heb. 11:33–35). The fact that you have doubts indicates that you do not know God as you should. If your prayer life is infiltrated with doubts, you have denied yourself the greatest, single avenue of power that God has made available to you. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). God never comforts you in your doubt. Jesus consistently rebuked those who would not believe Him. He had revealed enough of Himself for His disciples to have believed Him in their time of need. God wants to build your understanding of Him until your faith is sufficient to trust and obey Him in each situation (Mark 9:23–25). The moment you turn to Him with a genuine commitment to rid yourself of doubt, God will match your doubt with a revelation of Himself that can convince you of His faithfulness. When Thomas doubted, Jesus revealed Himself to him in such a way that every doubt vanished (John 20:27). You can only resolve your lack of faith in God’s presence. He must reveal Himself in such a way that any doubt you might have is removed. Jesus did this with His disciples. He involved them in a consistent, growing relationship with Himself. Jesus took them through teaching, to small miracles, to large miracles, and to the resurrection. Jesus knew that the redemption of the world rested on His disciples’ believing Him. What does God want to do in the lives of those around you that waits upon your trust in Him and the removal of  your doubts?

Faith

 "God is faithful and will not let you be tested beyond your strength." 1 Cor 10-13.  Lord, your love is unfailing, may our trust in you never fail us. Your mercy is boundless, may our hope in your forgiveness always grow stronger. Your desire for our salvation knows no limit, may our willingness to repent and be converted deepen during this Lenten season. By your grace, Lord, renew us and bring about in our hearts a true springtime of the spirit. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Temptation

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." --Matthew 4:1

A holy character does not avert temptation--Jesus was tempted. When Satan tempts us, his sparks fall upon tinder; but in Christ's case, it was like striking sparks on water; yet the enemy continued his evil work. Now, if the devil goes on striking when there is no result, how much more will he do it when he knows what inflammable stuff our hearts are made of. Though you become greatly sanctified by the Holy Ghost, expect that the great dog of hell will bark at you still. In the haunts of men we expect to be tempted, but even seclusion will not guard us from the same trial. Jesus Christ was led away from human society into the wilderness, and was tempted of the devil. Solitude has its charms and its benefits, and may be useful in checking the lust of the eye and the pride of life; but the devil will follow us into the most lovely retreats. Do not suppose that it is only the worldly minded who have dreadful thoughts and blasphemous temptations, for even spiritual minded persons endure the same; and in the holiest position we may suffer the darkest temptation. The utmost consecration of spirit will not insure you against Satanic temptation. Christ was consecrated through and through. It was his meat and drink to do the will of him that sent him: and yet he was tempted! Your hearts may glow with a seraphic flame of love to Jesus, and yet the devil will try to bring you down to Laodicean lukewarmness. If you will tell me when God permits a Christian to lay aside his armour, I will tell you when Satan has left off temptation. Like the old knights in war time, we must sleep with helmet and breastplate buckled on, for the arch deceiver will seize our first unguarded hour to make us his prey. The Lord keep us watchful in all seasons, and give us a final escape from the jaw of the lion and the paw of the bear.

Transparent Behavior

So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid. Nehemiah 2:2  Transparent behavior is authentic action. What we do matches who we are in our heart. The opposite of transparency is hypocrisy. A hypocrite hides behind a mask to manipulate their image into something it’s not. A transparent person, on the other hand, gives a true representation of themselves, what you see is what you get. The good, the bad and the ugly. Authenticity does not conceal real feelings to keep up a false identity. Transparent behavior is comfortable being real.  Nehemiah normally was full of joy, but on this day his countenance communicated distress. His family and friends were in trouble. We can chose to stuff our pain with a plastic smile or we can express our hurt with a saddened face. Trust is what facilitates our transparent behavior. If we trust God and others we take the risk to be real. There is freedom in letting go and letting the Spirit lead the conversation. Transparent behavior trusts God to work through honest interaction.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7  Do people feel comfortable around you? How can you make them feel safe to be themselves? One way is to be open about your own struggles and challenges. When someone hears of your temptations and need for accountability they feel you understand them. As individuals are understood they open up and feel the freedom to share their true feelings. Your love and confidentiality give people permission to be real. Acceptance encourages transparent behavior. A person’s vulnerability is an opportunity for us to help them, not hurt them. Reward being real. Furthermore, we are wise to not hide who we are with those who know us the best. When we are afraid, angry or hurt, ‘fine’ is not an acceptable answer to “How are you doing?” It blesses our spouse, family and friends when we let them in on our heart. Transparency deepens authentic relationships. A word of caution: being real does not mean to emotionally throw up on someone, but it does mean to prayerfully share struggles, dreams and joys. Let’s be honest with ourselves and God. He already knows, but it honors Him and helps us when we share our heart in prayer.  

I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. Psalm 142:1

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to be real so others feel comfortable being themselves around me.

Related Readings: Psalm 15:2; Proverbs 22:21; Matthew 6:16; Luke 22:42; Ephesians 4:15, 25

For the Lord, Not Men

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. (Colossians 3:23)

There is an important difference between doing something for people and doing something for God. God always deserves our best effort. People will disappoint us, betray us, neglect us, and mistreat us. Some will constantly ask for what we can give while offering nothing in return. From our human perspective, these people deserve our minimal effort at best. What then should motivate us to serve people, except our love for God? God deserves our love, and He demands that we love others in the same way He does. We are to love our spouses, not as they deserve, but as God commands (Eph. 5:22–33). We are to treat our friends, not as they treat us, but as Christ loves us (John 13:14). We are to labor at our jobs, not in proportion to the way our employer treats us, but according to the way God treats us. God is the One we serve (Eph. 6:5). 

Mediocrity and laziness have no place in the Christian’s life. Christians must maintain integrity at home and in the workplace. Working for God, as opposed to working for other people, changes our perspective as we view our endeavors in light of what He has done for us. Our toil then becomes an offering to God. We not only worship God at church on Sunday, but our labor throughout the week is an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the One who has given us everything we have. When people do not measure up to our expectations and we feel our efforts are being wasted, we must keep in mind that we are toiling for holy God. He is worthy of our best effort.

Sharing in the Atonement

 

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . -Galatians 6:14

The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. When you act in confident faith in what our Lord did on the cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place immediately. And you will come to know through a higher knowledge that your old life was “crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). The proof that your old life is dead, having been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.  Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for Him. This is a confirmation of what He said— “. . . without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That is why the underlying foundation of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the joy of our first introduction into God’s kingdom as His purpose for getting us there. Yet God’s purpose in getting us into His kingdom is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.

Intercessory Prayer by Chambers

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up . . . [with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colosians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.  As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth.  Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.  What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

"His ways are everlasting." HAB 3:6 by Spurgeon

 

What he hath done at one time, he will do yet again. Man’s ways are variable, but God’s ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following—the Lord’s ways are the result of wise deliberation; he ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than he has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One himself can undergo change, his ways, which are himself in action, must remain for ever the same. Is he eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?—then his ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, his ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of his people. Who can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God’s ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish.  Today let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever, and in him the Lord is ever gracious to his people. 

Individuality by Chambers

 

Jesus said to His disciples, ’If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself . . .’ —Matthew 16:24

<:section class=entry-content>Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. We see it as the primary characteristic of a child, and rightly so. When we confuse individuality with the spiritual life, we remain isolated. This shell of individuality is God’s created natural covering designed to protect the spiritual life. But our individuality must be yielded to God so that our spiritual life may be brought forth into fellowship with Him. Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself, but individuality corrupts that human nature for its own purposes.

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. We hinder our spiritual growth more than any other way by continually asserting our individuality. If you say, “I can’t believe,” it is because your individuality is blocking the way; individuality can never believe. But our spirit cannot help believing. Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. The Holy Spirit narrows it down every time to one thing (see Matthew 5:23-24). It is your individuality that refuses to “be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24). God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “. . . let him deny himself . . .”— deny his independent right to himself. Then the real life-the spiritual life-is allowed the opportunity to grow.

Three Temptations by Blackaby 

 

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matthew 4:3)

Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned (Heb. 4:15). Jesus began His public ministry with His baptism. As John the Baptist raised Him from the water, Jesus heard His Father’s affirmation, “Well done!” Immediately afterward, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness. There, Satan met Him and presented three temptations.  First, Satan enticed Jesus to use His divine power to transform stones into bread. It seemed like a logical thing to do. Jesus was hungry, but He had a much greater need to follow His Father’s leading. The Father had led Him to fast; Satan sought to persuade Him to eat.

Next, Satan tried to convince Jesus to use Satan’s means to accomplish the Father’s ends. “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus understood that this would be presumption, not faith. It would be attempting God’s work in the world’s way. The world looks for spectacular displays; God uses a holy life.

The final temptation Satan proposed for Jesus to achieve God’s will was by worshiping Satan (Matt. 4:8–9). In return, Satan offered to give Him all the kingdoms of the world. By compromising, Jesus could gain a powerful ally, and achieve His mission without suffering the cross. Jesus knew that only God was to be worshiped and to do this would not bring instant success, as Satan promised, but devastating failure.  As you seek to follow God, temptations will inevitably come. Sometimes they will come to you immediately after a spiritual victory. Jesus relied on God’s Word to see Him through the temptations that could have destroyed Him and thwarted God’s plan. He has modeled the way for you to meet every temptation.

There’s No Shepherd like the Good Shepherd by Fr. John Doyle

Matthew 18:12-14 Jesus said to his disciples: “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

 

Introductory Prayer: Dear Jesus, my Lord and God, I open my heart to your infinite love. I wish to listen and respond to the inspirations that you wish to give me this morning. I believe in you. I hope in you. I love you. Lord, you are my shepherd and the true meaning of my life.

Petition: Jesus, Good Shepherd, give me the grace to open my heart to your mercy.

1. Not All Shepherds Are the Same: In today’s society, the image of the shepherd doesn’t say as much as it did in Jesus’ time. Psalm 23 was probably one of Christ’s favorite psalms, for he uses the image of the shepherd frequently: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Sheep have a trusting relationship with their shepherd. Instinctively they know that the shepherd will care for them. Christ is our shepherd who loves us. In our lives, other people or material possessions can seem to promise to bring us happiness, causing us to follow after them as if they were our shepherd. But when the real trial comes, they abandon us just as a hired hand leaves the sheep when the wolf appears. Let us renew our commitment to Christ, the Good Shepherd, since he is the true shepherd of our souls.

2. Searching Out the Lost Sheep: In every group of animals there is at least one that seems to get distracted and eventually lost. In our lives we, too, can get distracted and stray from the security of Christ and his way. Sin is what separates us from Christ. If we are not careful, we can be easily seduced by the world, by the fascination of material goods or pleasures, and then mistakenly place our security in them. Then, when we experience the emptiness and spiritual hunger that comes from wandering from the Good Shepherd, we need only to recall that he is waiting for us, his wayward sheep, to carry us back into the safety of his fold. It is comforting and heartening to know that he longs for us to be reconciled with him, just as a shepherd goes out in search of the lost sheep.

3. Let the Celebration Begin! Anyone who has children and has temporarily “lost” one of them can empathize with the joy God experiences when one of us is found once again and reunited with him. We may try to outdo him in love and generosity, but that cannot happen. His love surpasses all our imagining. Today, let us take a moment to talk to God about our state in life and resolve to let him be actively present in our everyday living. Could there be any better way to prepare for Christmas than to open the doors of our hearts? Christ is there, knocking, asking to be allowed inside so he can heal us and make us whole again. It’s almost shocking to discover that we can please him simply by turning to him and letting him pick us up from where we’ve fallen and restore us to full friendship with him. Shouldn’t we permit Our Lord that pleasure, especially when the only cost is admitting our tremendous need for him, confessing our sins and inviting him back into our hearts, where he belongs?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know my countless falls provide me countless occasions to encounter you as the Good Shepherd, since without fail you come to pick me up again. Instead of wallowing in a sterile self-pity at the misery of my sinfulness, I intend to delight more in your tender mercy. I know this trusting attitude will please you.

Resolution: Each time I fall today, I will get back up again immediately, because I will have confidence in my Good Shepherd’s loving mercy.

Small Things Are Not Despised by Blackaby


For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10)

The world loves the spectacular. God has proven that He is certainly capable of the extraordinary, but He often chooses to work through the ordinary and seemingly insignificant. In this way He demonstrates His love and His power.  Throughout history, God’s answer to a critical time was to send a baby. Isaac, Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus were all born as answers to a time of need. When God delivered the Israelites from the Midianites’ oppression, He intentionally used an army of merely three hundred men to defeat a vastly larger army. He had more soldiers available, but He preferred to demonstrate His power in the way He accomplished His purposes. When Jesus selected His first disciples He could have enlisted a multitude to follow Him, but He chose twelve. It was not the number of disciples but the quality of their walk with Him that would determine how they affected their world. When Jesus fed a multitude, five loaves of bread and two fish from a boy’s lunch were sufficient in the hands of the Lord.  Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31–32). The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jews, yet it grew into an enormous tree. He also likened God’s kingdom to leaven that is hardly noticeable but raises the entire batch of dough (Matt. 13:33). When children came to Jesus, His disciples assumed they were an annoyance and chased them away (Matt. 19:13–15). But Jesus said that in order to enter His kingdom, people must approach God as a child. Christians often accept the adage “the bigger the better.” We measure success by the number of people involved in our ministry. We seek spectacular displays of God’s power. We must learn to view success as God does. God is interested in the heart; He is pleased with obedience.

Jesus is the Bread of Life by Fr. John Doyle, LC

 

Matthew 15:29-37

At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I now turn confidently to you, who are my friend and savior. You are always watching over me and protecting me, whether I’m mindful of you or not. Thank you. I love you, and I’m grateful for these moments to refresh myself in your presence.

Petition: My Jesus, give me an unshakeable confidence in your unconditional love.

1. Jesus on the Mountain: Jesus is the focal point of history and of all human aspirations. Even when he goes to out-of-the-way places, as is the case in this Gospel passage, he is sought after. He strides by the Sea of Galilee and scales up the mountain, and all humanity seeks him out. He doesn’t interrogate them about their past or condemn them for their sins. He simply gives to each what he or she needs: to the blind, sight; to the mute, the gift of speech; to the deaf, hearing. Imagine for a moment this poor mass of humanity around the Master. Place yourself with them. Your turn comes, and suddenly it is as if the crowd disappears and you are alone with Jesus. He looks into your eyes with loving concern and asks what you are seeking––even though he already knows it. My Jesus, it is you that I seek. Heal me, and do not let any sin separate me from you today.

2. “They Have Nothing to Eat.” Love is not always very practical. Jesus’ heart is moved with compassion for all those who have sought him out. He knows the sacrifices that they have made in searching him out, and he is not going to leave them disappointed. The disciples saw only the practical problem, but in his charity towards his neighbor, Jesus all but ignores it. What can I learn from Christ’s attitude? Will I ever be let down or not be satisfied if I seek Christ with a sincere heart?

3. The Bread of Life: The miracle that Jesus works in multiplying the loaves is a prelude to an even greater miracle he plans to bring about. Jesus knows the longings of our hearts, and he knows that material food has its limits, even when it is abundant. St Augustine states, “You made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” How can I not trust that Jesus will always provide for what I truly need, after his lowering himself to appear as bread so that we can feed on him and be satisfied?

Conversation with Christ:My Jesus, I have a very wayward heart. I know that you are the only one who can fulfill the longing of my soul; yet so often I put my confidence in the fleeting things of this world instead. Reassure my heart that you will always provide for me if I put all my trust in you. Keep me going up the mountain towards your heavenly Kingdom, where you will be all in all.

Resolution: I will pause sometime during the day––perhaps before lunch––and make a spiritual communion by inviting Christ into my heart. I will thank him for the gift of himself in the blessed Eucharist and renew my confidence in him.

Small Things Are Not Despised by Blackaby

 

The world loves the spectacular. God has proven that He is certainly capable of the extraordinary, but He often chooses to work through the ordinary and seemingly insignificant. In this way He demonstrates His love and His power. Throughout history, God’s answer to a critical time was to send a baby. Isaac, Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus were all born as answers to a time of need. When God delivered the Israelites from the Midianites’ oppression, He intentionally used an army of merely three hundred men to defeat a vastly larger army. He had more soldiers available, but He preferred to demonstrate His power in the way He accomplished His purposes. When Jesus selected His first disciples He could have enlisted a multitude to follow Him, but He chose twelve. It was not the number of disciples but the quality of their walk with Him that would determine how they affected their world. When Jesus fed a multitude, five loaves of bread and two fish from a boy’s lunch were sufficient in the hands of the Lord. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31–32). The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jews, yet it grew into an enormous tree. He also likened God’s kingdom to leaven that is hardly noticeable but raises the entire batch of dough (Matt. 13:33). When children came to Jesus, His disciples assumed they were an annoyance and chased them away (Matt. 19:13–15). But Jesus said that in order to enter His kingdom, people must approach God as a child. Christians often accept the adage “the bigger the better.” We measure success by the number of people involved in our ministry. We seek spectacular displays of God’s power. We must learn to view success as God does. God is interested in the heart; He is pleased with obedience.

Not Quarrelsome by Blackaby

 

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient. (2 Timothy 2:24) There should be no quarrelsome Christians. The truth of God is within us; we need never  be intimidated or frustrated by those who do not accept God’s truth. At times people may disagree with you regarding God’s Word. Perhaps they question the way you say He is leading you, or they may challenge your faith in God. At times like these it is never helpful to argue. You will never debate anyone into the kingdom of God. You will never persuade someone that God has spoken to you by out arguing them! Only God can convince others of the veracity of His word to you. If you will allow God to vindicate you in His time, and in His way, a time will come when the wisdom of your choice will be evident (Luke 7:35). If you find yourself often quarreling with others, you need to ask God to clearly reveal your motives and to forgive you for your disobedience to His clear command. If your motivation for arguing comes from your desire to be right, or to be exonerated, or to gain the esteem of those listening to you, you are acting selfishly, and God will not honor you. God is not interested in how right you are. He is interested in how obedient you are. God’s command is not that you win arguments, but that you are kind and forgiving when others mistreat you. You bring God no honor by winning a dispute in His name, but you reflect a Christ like character when you demonstrate patience to those who mistreat you or misunderstand your motives. Arguing may never win people to your view, but loving them as Christ does will win you many friends over time!

The Kingdom Is Near by  Father Edward Hopkins, LC

 

Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable. "Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

Introductory Prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe in you and in the Kingdom you are building in and through me. I believe in the value of my sacrifice and struggles united to yours. I hope to arrive to heaven when you say it is time. I wish to spend myself for those I should love the most.

Petition: Thy kingdom come, now and forever!

1. See for Yourselves: In today’s Gospel, Jesus is responding to the disciples’ anxious plea for a “when” and a “with what warning” the end will come (Luke 21:7). He tells them some signs that will precede the imminent fall of Jerusalem as well as the coming of the Son of Man “on the clouds.” But these will all be very apparent, like the coming of summer. So don’t be obsessed with figuring out the “when.” Focus on living and knowing the Kingdom of God now. How easily we are distracted with all that happens around us, yet how difficult it is to be aware of the Kingdom and its demands in my heart and my relations to others in my life! What efforts do I make to discover and know the present demands of his Kingdom in my life?

2. The Kingdom of God Will Come: Jesus has used many images to describe the Kingdom of God. Like the mustard seed, it is hard to recognize at first. It begins small and grows slowly. But it will come, and this must be our daily prayer of desire: “Thy Kingdom Come!” We must resist a very real temptation. Almost unconsciously we want it to be a worldly Kingdom that will come during our lifetime. We work and pray as though we will soon arrive at our goals and rest from all our spiritual labors. This leads us to get easily discouraged at our lack of progress in prayer and virtue, no less than with the problems that surround us. No, we must live with hope, pushing forward with growing confidence that the Lord will bring his Kingdom to fulfillment, both in us and in the world – when the time is right. Whose kingdom am I seeking?

3. My Words Will Not Pass Away: Another temptation in awaiting the Kingdom is to despair of the times of trial through which we must pass. But in the words of St. Theresa of Jesus, “all things pass,” only God remains. Nothing we suffer will remain as the Kingdom approaches. And yet all these “trials” are the most valuable and powerful means to bring about the Kingdom in our own souls and in the lives of others, especially in those who wander. Use the tools of the Kingdom: Suffer trials with faith, and respond with a love that gives them an eternal value. May we never lose a moment in which to merit graces and build the Kingdom that comes. In the end, only what we have done for God and for our brothers and sisters remains.

Conversation with Christ:Lord Jesus, give me a greater faith and confidence that every cross and burden, no matter how trivial or small, is a means to love. I want to build your Kingdom with you. Keep me focused on the opportunities and demands of the present moment.

Resolution: I will make one small sacrifice at a meal today for someone I wish I could help more.

Fountain of Grace 

If you don't have the life and love of the Lord flourishing in your own soul, you will not be able to share them with others. But if you do, then you'll be like a flowing fountain of grace—everyone you meet will receive a blessing from God through you.

Psalm 130:1
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
 
Funny how some people never ask for help until everything comes crashing in on them.  They wait until the last minute, then send out the distress signal. Many people work their relationship with God that way.  They call on him infrequently while things are going well, but when trouble rears its ugly head, they are pounding on his door for help.  It is a wise person who learns to include God in everything he does.  When God is a full part of your life you never feel panic when things go wrong.  Still it is good to know that God will hear us when we cry out from the depths, and that he will always come to the aid of his children. Are you truly one of his children?
 
Prayer: Help me to remember You at all times, Lord, not just times of trial. Help me to share my whole life with you and to glory in Your Presence.  Thank you for staying beside me always. Amen

 

Wisdom 7:10

And I chose to have Wisdom rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.

 

The beauty of the unconscious is that it knows a great deal, whether personal or collective, but it always knows that it does not know, cannot say, dare not try to prove or assert too strongly, because what it does know is that there is always more--and all words will fall short.  The contemplative is precisely the person who agrees to live in that unique kind of brightness(a combination of light and dark that is brighter still).  The paradox, of course, is that it does not feel like brightness at all, but what John of the Cross calls a "luminous darkness", or others call "learned ignorance".  You cannot grow in this great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without a strong tolerance for ambiguity, an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and a willingness to not know and not even need to know.  That is how you allow and encounter mystery. This is true faith.  All else is religion.

Give Me Jesus
Jeremy Camp (I Still Believe: The Number Ones Collection)
0:00/4:24