Tuesday, December 6, 2016

“God throws nobody away. God loves everyone, seeks out everyone, everybody -- one by one."

“Each of us is that sheep that the Lord, full of mercy, takes upon his shoulders to take home. At the same time, each have been called to gather together with the Good Shepherd and the whole flock, to participate in all of their joy………. We can not demand the Lord to stay with us, forgetting the others. If you want to 'have Him,' we must follow to where the lost sheep is found.” – Pope Francis: (Pope's general audience: 5/4/2016)

Gospel Text: (MT 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.”

What does it mean to be a "lost sheep?"  In Jesus' context, he was most likely talking about people who have forgotten about God or who have lost their faith.  Most certainly, he was also referring to the marginalized in our community, those who are suffering, the poor, the downtrodden--the ignored sectors of our society.  

Bringing this down to our own daily lives, who might you consider the "lost sheep" in your life?  Might there be family members who have been shunned by others?  Could you have enemies whom you have rejected as being utterly evil?  Do you encounter and ignore the homeless people and families living on the streets?  

Bring this to prayer today and listen to how Jesus is calling you to answer.

Monday, December 5, 2016

“Words can be said easily, but one can't fake actions.”

Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg. ~Author Unknown

Gospel Text: (LK 5:17-26)
One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

The paralyzed man and his friends did not just passively hope that something would change or something good would come around. 


Our road, our holy way of returning to God is a way of action, choosing to take steps in our lives that lead to healing, abundant life, and unity.  What are those steps for us?  What holy way are we being invited to travel this Advent?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

When prodigals return great things are done.

As long as he doesn't convert it into action, it does not matter how much a man thinks about his repentance. - C. S. Lewis (1898 –1963: was a British novelist, poet, and academic)

Gospel Text: (MT 3:1-12)
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

If the world—in all its unfairness, injustice and evil—doesn’t make sense, neither does the response to it that God the Father gives. Why did God send His Son from Heaven to earth, where He knew that there would be men like King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Judas Iscariot? God did this, and He still does so today, because He is the God of the unexpected.

God chooses to love the unlovable. That is His nature: God is love. He does not love in the way that we love. He loves in a way that we on our own cannot. He loves eternally, and boldly. He does not love you if you do something for Him first. He does not love you until you forget to thank Him, and then stop loving. He does not love you until you offend Him by your sins, and then stop loving you.

If this sounds too good to be true, we should reflect on the reason that God sent His Son down to earth. There’s only one reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that was to die on Calvary. The meaning of Jesus’ birth was his death. The baby was born in order to crush the ancient serpent.
Of course, because God gave us free will, we can folds our arms across our chest, say “No thank you” to God, and turn our back on this Gift. Often that’s what we do. But the choice is always there before us. That’s why every year, we hear the cry of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The way that the Lord wants to travel is the path into the human heart, into which He wants to pour His merciful and forgiving love. But if we block God’s way, He will indeed stop and go no further.

But if we do open a way—a channel—into our hearts, God will pour into our hearts the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: the gifts of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and piety. Through these we can grow in the image of Christ, and offer ourselves on a daily basis the way to God and neighbor, as Christ did infinitely on Calvary.

Advent is a time to “prepare the way for the Lord”, a time to raise our expectations of ourselves and of God. It is a time to commit ourselves to daily prayer and Scripture reading, to participating in weekday Mass, and the Sacrament of Confession. Yet no matter how little or how greatly we offer ourselves to God, He loves us: continually and boldly, because His love is mysterious and unexpected.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Ideas cannot be fought except by means of better ideas. The battle consists, not of opposing, but of exposing; not of denouncing, but of disproving; not of evading, but of boldly proclaiming a full, consistent, and radical alternative.”

"Our world today so desperately hungers for hope, yet uncounted people have almost given up. There is despair and hopelessness on every hand. Let us be faithful in proclaiming the hope that is in Jesus.” -  Billy Graham: (born November 7, 1918: is an American evangelical Christian evangelist)

Gospel Text: (MT 9:35B-10:1, 5A, 6-8)
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Advent, 2016. Here we go! How can we make this proclamation with our lives this Advent? How can we share the good news in a world that is so frantic and busy and started selling Christmas in October? Sadly, many families really don’t know the true meaning of Christmas.

I encourage you to take some extra time this Advent to be still in the Lord’s awesome presence. Let Him fill you with His peace so that you can then share it with those around you. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Faith is not about everything turning out okay, faith is about being okay no matter how things turn out.

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit. ~ Emanuel Tanay (1928 – August 5, 2014: was an American physician, a forensic psychiatrist, and a Jewish Holocaust survivor.)

Gospel Text: (MT 9:27-31)
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
“Son of David, have pity on us!”
When he entered the house,
the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
“Do you believe that I can do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said,
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And their eyes were opened.
Jesus warned them sternly,
“See that no one knows about this.”
But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.

Fear is the opposite of faith. When we have fear, we're blind to the wonderfulness of the Lord, and like the two men in the Gospel reading, we need to be healed.

Those who are blinded by fear are those who cannot see the Lord in the situation that worries them, and thus they have valid reason to live in fear. However, you and I should know better. We have already seen the Lord do much good. We have valid reasons to live in confident hope, despite all the visible evidence to the contrary.

Are you living in this hope? How visible is it? Do you have more hope than fear, more peace than worry?

Most faith-filled Christians experience temporary blindness from time to time. That's simply because we forget to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lord. In the darkness, we need to turn toward the light of Christ, but that's not all. We need to stare at it until it blinds us to whatever we were worried about! The goodness of God must become our focus.

Fear sets in when we get distracted by the attractions of this world, losing sight of what is pure and holy and heavenly. Faith tells us to not be distracted by our trials and hardships. Instead of focusing on the evidence of impending disaster, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the reason for our hope.

Victorious hope comes from remembering to keep our eyes focused on Jesus at all times!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A house must be built on solid foundations if it is to last. The same principle applies to man

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. - Saint Augustine: (354 –430: was an early Christian theologian and philosopher)

Gospel Text: (MT 7:21, 24-27)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

I don’t think that job of building the foundation is one job that is ever done. Our foundation is so vital that we always have to make sure it is on that rock and not the sandy, shifting ground. We are not always wise. We sometimes take the easy way out. We don’t do the right thing, which sometimes can be the more difficult thing.  That contributes to a shaky faith foundation.  Once we’ve built that good framework on rock, on the solid ground of following the words of Jesus, the way forward becomes more clear.  We want to continue to build on that solid foundation.  Building is acting. It’s more than just listening to the Gospel; it is living out the Gospel in our everyday lives by seeing God in all things.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.

If you happen to be with an atheist who tells you that he does not believe in God, you can read him the whole library, where it says that God exists, and where it is proven that God exists, and he will not believe. [However] if in the presence of this same atheist you witness to a consistent, Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart…. It will be your witness that brings him the restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works.— Pope Francis: (Homily, Domus Sanctae Marthae, February 27, 2014)

Gospel Text: (MT 4:18-22)
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

In today's Gospel reading, we see Jesus calling people into apostleship. Saint Andrew was the first Apostle (see John 1:40-42), and although he would later lead many others to Christ, the first person he evangelized was his brother, Simon (who later became Peter our first pope). Can you see the joy he shared with his brother?

Fulfilling our vocation of joy does not mean preaching conversion and debating the need to go to Mass. Consider every interaction with others as an opportunity for them to meet Jesus, even if they stubbornly refuse to recognize him in you.

They already know that you follow Christ and that you go to Mass because you believe that participation in church community makes an important difference, most especially receiving the Sacraments (Reconciliation & the Eucharist) regularly. You don't need to remind them of that with words. Simply concentrate on bringing more of Christ's joy into your day to day relationships. The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest!