31 January 2010

31 Jan 2010, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Jer 1:4-5, 17-19

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Reading II
1 Cor 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13

Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.


Brothers and sisters:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

Lk 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Meditation: 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:13

Addressing the fractious Corinthian church, Paul urged the believers to “strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

He even told them how to get there: by practicing love. Not the overly romantic love that musicians sing about but divine love—love that moves mountains and changes hearts. It’s the love Jesus poured out when he died on the cross. It’s also the love that we experience as we give our lives over to Jesus.

Let’s face it. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes in the way we treat people. We all fail to meet the standard of love presented in this reading. So how can we love in the way Paul describes here? By receiving it as a gift and not trying to manufacture it all on our own. Prophecy, tongues, miracles—all these spectacular gifts of the Spirit will fade. Plus, they are all limited by our own understanding and capabilities. But not love. It is limitless. It never fails.

Just as Jesus taught Peter, Paul, and the other apostles the way of love, so too does he want to teach us. As we stay faithful to prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments, something happens. Often enough, it is a gradual process so that we don’t even notice what is happening. Perhaps someone else may make a comment that prompts us to review our actions. We see that God’s grace has moved us to become more kind and generous. It has made us more alert to other people’s situations and needs.

All this happens because we are becoming like Jesus. We are eating of his body in the Eucharist and soaking up his wisdom in the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit is responding by forming us according to God’s image and likeness.

So let God fill you with his perfect love today. There will be plenty of time for action as the day unfolds. For now, just sit still and receive. This, after all, is the greatest of all the gifts!

“Lord, I surrender my relationships to you. Come and fill me to over-flowing so that your love can flow from me to everyone in my life.”

30 January 2010

30 Jan 2010, Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
2 Sm 12:1-7a, 10-17

The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him,
Nathan said: “Judge this case for me!
In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor.
The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers.
But the poor man had nothing at all
except one little ewe lamb that he had bought.
He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children.
She shared the little food he had
and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom.
She was like a daughter to him.
Now, the rich man received a visitor,
but he would not take from his own flocks and herds
to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him.
Instead he took the poor man’s ewe lamb
and made a meal of it for his visitor.”
David grew very angry with that man and said to him:
“As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death!
He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold
because he has done this and has had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man!
Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
‘The sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have despised me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’
Thus says the LORD:
‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house.
I will take your wives while you live to see it,
and will give them to your neighbor.
He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight.
You have done this deed in secret,
but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel,
and with the sun looking down.’”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan answered David: “The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin:
you shall not die.
But since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed,
the child born to you must surely die.”
Then Nathan returned to his house.

The LORD struck the child that the wife of Uriah had borne to David,
and it became desperately ill.
David besought God for the child.
He kept a fast, retiring for the night
to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth.
The elders of his house stood beside him

urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not,
nor would he take food with them.

Mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus 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?”

Meditation: 2 Samuel 12:1-7,10-17

What a storm David found himself in! When he first glimpsed Bathsheba, he probably didn’t anticipate the turbulent seas that would erupt.

But as the days and weeks progressed, the consequences of his sin grew, and David ended up in over his head. First, he committed adultery and took Bathsheba to live as his wife, betraying her marriage. Then he compounded the sin by his attempts to deceive Uriah, and arranged for him to be killed in battle.

Finally, the Lord sent his prophet Nathan to David. God’s words, spoken through Nathan, cut through David’s foggy conscience and brought him peace as he repented. Yes, there were serious consequences to David’s actions. Yes, many people were hurt. Yes, it probably took a long time for healing. But God did forgive David. No matter how terrible the sins, God didn’t turn his back on David.

We may find ourselves in our own tempest. Our sin may seem so overpowering, and its consequences may make us feel trapped. Maybe we have hurt people and can’t find a way out. Maybe we have even compounded the matter by trying to lie our way out. But just as Jesus spoke the words to calm the storm and just as God spoke to David, he speaks to us. He wants us to turn to him. He promises that he will forgive us. His mercy is available to us, even when there is significant fallout from our actions. Perhaps it will take a while for relationships to heal or trust to be regained. But God will give us the grace to see it through.

If you are in a tough situation, why not bring it to the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? It’s a wonderful place to hear him speak to you: “I absolve you of your sins; go in peace.” Jesus offers each of us the opportunity to start again, to acknowledge what we have done, and to receive his mercy. And when we are forgiven, we are also strengthened to restore what we have injured.

“Lord, sometimes it’s hard for me to hear your voice. I feel as if I’m in a boat being swamped by the violent waves. Help me to hear you and respond! Bring stillness to my troubled heart, and restore me. Lord, I believe in your mercy. Help my unbelief!”

29 January 2010

29 Jan 2010, Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
2 Sm 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign,
David sent out Joab along with his officers
and the army of Israel,
and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
David, however, remained in Jerusalem.
One evening David rose from his siesta
and strolled about on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.
David had inquiries made about the woman and was told,
“She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam,
and wife of Joab’s armor bearer Uriah the Hittite.”
Then David sent messengers and took her.
When she came to him, he had relations with her.
She then returned to her house.
But the woman had conceived,
and sent the information to David, “I am with child.”
David therefore sent a message to Joab,
“Send me Uriah the Hittite.”
So Joab sent Uriah to David.
When he came, David questioned him about Joab, the soldiers,
and how the war was going, and Uriah answered that all was well.
David then said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and bathe your feet.”
Uriah left the palace,
and a portion was sent out after him from the king’s table.
But Uriah slept at the entrance of the royal palace
with the other officers of his lord, and did not go down
to his own house.
David was told that Uriah had not gone home.
On the day following, David summoned him,
and he ate and drank with David, who made him drunk.
But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his bed
among his lord’s servants, and did not go down to his home.
The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab
which he sent by Uriah.
In it he directed:
“Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce.
Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.”
So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah
to a place where he knew the defenders were strong.
When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab,
some officers of David’s army fell,
and among them Uriah the Hittite died.

Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“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.

Meditation: 2 Samuel 11:1-10,13-17

Nice guys finish last. At first glance, it might seem that this is the message of today’s first reading, in which a faithful soldier loses both his wife and his life to a scheming king. But this isn’t just another “bad things happen to good people” story. It’s worse.

Uriah belonged to the elite group of military heroes known as “the Thirty-seven” (2 Samuel 23:39). He was one of King David’s most upstanding warriors—too upstanding for his own good, a cynic might say. While Uriah was out fighting David’s battles, David was repaying his loyalty by taking Uriah’s beautiful wife, Bathsheba, into his bed. Then, to cover up her pregnancy, he recalled Uriah from battle and urged him to spend some romantic time with his wife (2 Samuel 11:8).

But Uriah didn’t pick up on David’s pointed suggestion or on his efforts to get him drunk the following day. Considering himself still on duty, he stuck to the regime of sexual abstinence that the Law of Moses required for active-duty soldiers. So David conspired to have him killed in battle. It seems that doing the right thing cost Uriah his life.

We live in a world that is full of scheming, lies, and injustice. Sometimes the situation gets so bad that good people die. Of course this is unfair and very difficult to accept. But sometimes there is nothing we can do about it.

So how should we respond? By all means, we should not give in to anger or cynicism. It doesn’t help the situation, and it only darkens our own hearts. Whenever Jesus saw injustice, he called it what it was. But he never let it get the better of him. He knew that injustice is the work of the devil and of human sinfulness, not of God, and that helped keep him pure in the face of evil.

If you yourself have been wronged, try your best to forgive and show mercy. Remember: It’s not a question of if something bad will occur. It’s a matter of when. That’s just the nature of life in this fallen world. So we should all make sure we are ready for it when it happens!

“Lord Jesus, give me a trusting heart, no matter what goes wrong. Protect me from bitterness, and help me to love and serve everyone you bring across my path.”

28 January 2010

28 Jan 2010 Thursday, Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29

After Nathan had spoken to King David,
the king went in and sat before the LORD and said,
“Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house,
that you have brought me to this point?
Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD;
you have also spoken of the house of your servant
for a long time to come:
this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD!
“You have established for yourself your people Israel as yours forever,
and you, LORD, have become their God.
And now, LORD God, confirm for all time the prophecy you have made
concerning your servant and his house,
and do as you have promised.
Your name will be forever great, when men say,
‘The LORD of hosts is God of Israel,’
and the house of your servant David stands firm before you.
It is you, LORD of hosts, God of Israel,
who said in a revelation to your servant,
‘I will build a house for you.’
Therefore your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you.
And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth;
you have made this generous promise to your servant.
Do, then, bless the house of your servant
that it may be before you forever;
for you, Lord GOD, have promised,
and by your blessing the house of your servant
shall be blessed forever.”

Mk 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,
“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.”

Meditation: Mark 4:21-25

Did you ever play the game of “telephone” when you were growing up? It’s rather simple: The first person hears a message, which he then passes on to the next, and so on down the line.

Usually the message is fairly complicated, and as it passes from person to person, the details get confused. Often by the time it makes its way to the last one in line, it’s hardly the same message anymore! This can be a great game—but it’s also an excellent way to teach children good listening skills.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is teaching about a different kind of listening. When he says, “take care what you hear,” he doesn’t mean getting every word he says exactly right (Mark 4:24). Even the writers of the gospels, as consistent as they were, didn’t tell their stories the same way. What Jesus means is that we need to hear with our hearts as well as our ears. We hear God’s word every Sunday, year after year, but for it to bear fruit, we need to receive it on the inside. We need to listen with our hearts!

So how can we improve our listening skills? Like a farmer preparing his fields for planting, our first step is to clear the ground. We need to get rid of any attachments, attitudes, and distractions that could hinder God’s word from taking root in us. The next step is a very active one: Once God’s word has found a home in us, we have to give out what we’ve received. In other words, we’ve got to put feet on our ears!

There’s no question that God wants to do great things in your life. Through his word, he may have inspired you to evangelize, to serve the poor, to pray for the sick, or simply to love those closest to you. However you have heard him call you, don’t let it go! Ask him to set you free from anything that might keep you from doing his will. When you take that first step and respond in faith, you’ll find the next step much easier—and the next!

“Lord, give me ears open to hearing you and a heart willing to serve you. Let your word do its work in me, and make me always faithful to your inspirations!”

27 January 2010

27 Jan 2010, Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
2 Sm 7:4-17

That night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?
I have not dwelt in a house
from the day on which I led the children of Israel
out of Egypt to the present,
but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.
In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel,
did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges
whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask:
Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
“Now then, speak thus to my servant David,
‘The LORD of hosts has this to say:
It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his Kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
And if he does wrong,
I will correct him with the rod of men
and with human chastisements;
but I will not withdraw my favor from him
as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul,
whom I removed from my presence.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.

Mk 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it

and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it

and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

Meditation: Mark 4:1-20

How many times while listening to this parable have you focused on what type of soil you are—hard, rocky, weedy, or good—or on how well the seed of your own life has grown for the Lord?

Let’s turn the tables a bit today and focus on the farmer who sows the seeds. Remember: We also are called to be sowers, to be doers and speakers of God’s word in the world. In fact, Jesus’ last words to his disciples before his ascension were to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

The idea of evangelizing can seem daunting at times, especially in situations where we feel our words may not be well received. Notice, however, that the farmer was not really concerned with where his seed fell. He just wanted to sow anywhere he could. Some seeds fell on the path, and some fell in the weeds, but a bunch of them landed in good soil, producing a hundredfold return! Remember: It’s not up to you to determine where the seed lands; you are simply called to keep sowing and sowing.

In his exhortation On Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI said: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Paul VI also urged creativity and innovation in our attempts to sow the word: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man … presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible” (3).

So what are you waiting for? Grab a big handful of seeds and start sowing!

“Lord, I want to be a sower of your word. In my thoughts, my speech, and my actions, may I bring your love and salvation to all I meet. Help me to be creative and passionate as I seek to share your good news.”

26 January 2010

26 Jan 2010 Tuesday, Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Reading I
2 Tm 1:1-8 or Ti 1:1-5

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Ti 1:1-5

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.

Gospel Reading
Mk 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus 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.”

Meditation: Mark 3:31-35

Sts. Timothy and Titus

Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:34-35)

What an amazing thing for Jesus to say! He called ordinary, everyday people—sinners just like us—his brothers and sisters. Who were these folks? Regular people who came to him and who chose to do his Father’s will. That’s all it took for them to enter into this privileged relationship with him.

It’s true! Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, has chosen to be your brother. He actually wants the easy nearness of a beloved brother or sister, mutually sharing confidences and understanding. He wants a relationship marked by peace and contentment and acceptance.

Though our human experience of brotherhood or sisterhood might be marred by hurts, anger, or bitterness, the relationship Jesus offers is perfect. All he asks is that you open your heart to him and try your best to follow his ways. It’s that simple. Do this, and you will experience him sharing his heart with you and letting you in on his thoughts and plans. No one is too insignificant, no one is too sinful to become a part of his family. Prostitutes, tax cheats, and sinners of all kinds found him, and you can too.

Today is the feast of Timothy and Titus, two of St. Paul’s most loyal companions. What must their lives have been like as they traveled with Paul? Surely there were challenges, heartbreaks, and enemies to be faced. And when they separated from Paul to lead their own churches, the challenges only increased. How much more did they rely on Jesus as their brother then—and how much more did he work through them for the sake of the people entrusted to them. May we all follow their example and come to Jesus as our beloved brother!

“Jesus, here I am. I want to hear what you will say to me today. You have said that everything that is the Father’s is yours, and that you will share it with us. You hear every word of my mouth; now open my ears to hear your words to me. Open my heart and mind to receive what you offer today!

“Jesus, my brother, I come to you today to sit quietly with you and enjoy your presence.”

25 January 2010

25 Jan 2010 Monday, Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Reading I
Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.
“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.’”


Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Mk 16:15-18

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.”

Meditation: Acts 22:3-16

The Conversion of St. Paul

“What should I do, Lord?” Paul must have wondered this after Jesus revealed himself in a brilliant blaze of light. Up to this point, he had been sure of his calling: to serve God unswervingly, even if it meant persecuting the followers of Jesus. Even now he was traveling to find and arrest Christians in Damascus so that the gospel wouldn’t spread any farther. Yet in an instant, Paul’s whole position about Jesus turned around dramatically. He was no longer an enemy of Christ but a follower!

Paul’s conversion became the foundation for the rest of his life. No less than three times does the Book of Acts relate his life-changing encounter with the Lord. As Paul pondered what happened that day, he came to understand it in deeper and varied ways. In fact, scholars have shown how so many of Paul’s teachings are rooted in his dramatic conversion experience. Clearly, Paul recalled his conversion regularly, pondered it, and drew wisdom from it for his everyday life.

This is a wonderful example for us to follow. We too should make it a point to recall our own faith stories often. The more we call them to mind and reflect on them, the more our hearts will be stirred and the more prepared our minds will be to enter into the spiritual battle. When the devil sends doubts, you can combat them with the truths of who you are in Christ and what he has already done in you. When moral dilemmas arise, you can begin to build your response on the foundation of Christ in you, the hope of glory. And when an opportunity to evangelize comes up, you can share much more than abstract theology: You can share your own personal experience!

Every person is unique, and so too are our conversion stories. From the alcoholic who experiences Jesus healing him, to the unwed mother who is moved to tears by the compassion of a parishioner, to the cancer patient in a lonely hospital room who cries out to the Lord ?… to you!

So what’s your story? How clear are you, and how can you get more clear?

“I praise you, Lord of all, and proclaim your love. Your mercy toward each person is limitless and your faithfulness lasts forever!”

24 January 2010

24 Jan 2010, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Reading II
1 Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, “
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, “

it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God placed the parts,
each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you, “
nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
we surround with greater honor,
and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?


Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.
You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Meditation: Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10

Let’s put all three of today’s readings together to see what the Lord might be telling us.

In today’s first reading, the people are reaffirming their covenant with the Lord. They had endured war, exile, and humiliation, and at last they have been allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. It was a daunting task, but Ezra encouraged everyone to persevere. He said to them, “Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

In the second reading, Paul tells us that each one of us is a member of the body of Christ. We are Jesus’ hands and feet, bringing the good news to the poor and setting people free. Each of us is priceless in God’s eyes because we are made in his image. He treasures us because we are members of his own family.

Finally, in today’s Gospel, Jesus reads from Isaiah and tells his townsfolk: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). In effect, he tells them that he himself is the Messiah, anointed by God to bring healing, deliverance, and good news.

What do these passages say to us? That Jesus wants to set everyone free. He wants to give us all comfort and peace from heaven. And to do this, he is calling us, members of his body, to go out into the world and bring the good news. We are his hands and feet, his eyes and ears. While this is a challenging calling, we can take our cue from the Israelites of Ezra’s time: We can find new strength as we rejoice in the Lord and all he has done for us.

So today, let the Lord fill you with his strength and his grace. Then, go out and be his hands. There are countless ways you can bring the good news to people who need his support, his love, and his comfort. Just open your eyes, and the Lord will show you how.

“Here I am, Lord! Send me out to preach your good news!”

23 January 2010

23 Jan 2010, Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
2 Sm 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27

David returned from his defeat of the Amalekites
and spent two days in Ziklag.
On the third day a man came from Saul’s camp,
with his clothes torn and dirt on his head.
Going to David, he fell to the ground in homage.
David asked him, “Where do you come from?”
He replied, “I have escaped from the camp of the children of Israel.”
“Tell me what happened,” David bade him.
He answered that many of the soldiers had fled the battle
and that many of them had fallen and were dead,
among them Saul and his son Jonathan.
David seized his garments and rent them,
and all the men who were with him did likewise.
They mourned and wept and fasted until evening
for Saul and his son Jonathan,
and for the soldiers of the LORD of the clans of Israel,
because they had fallen by the sword.

“Alas! the glory of Israel, Saul,
slain upon your heights;
how can the warriors have fallen!

“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished,
separated neither in life nor in death,
swifter than eagles, stronger than lions!
Women of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and in finery,
who decked your attire with ornaments of gold.

“How can the warriors have fallen–
in the thick of the battle,
slain upon your heights!

“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother!
most dear have you been to me;
more precious have I held love for you than love for women.

“How can the warriors have fallen,
the weapons of war have perished!”

Mk 3:20-21

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,

for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Meditation: 2 Samuel 1:1-4,11-12,19,23-27

Today’s reading not only offers us front-row seats at the unfolding of an epic story, it also shows us why David was called a man after God’s own heart.

The scene is this: David, fresh off the battlefield, learns that King Saul has just died. Now to say that David and Saul were not friends would be a huge understatement. Saul had been trying for years to kill David, and had come close a few times. Because of Saul’s rage, David was forced to live literally underground in caves for a while, just to stay safe.

But when David learns of Saul’s death, he doesn’t rejoice or heave a sigh of relief. No, he weeps! His heart is broken over the passing of such a great man, and he mourns the loss that his death is to the whole people of Israel. How is such a reaction possible?

The key to understanding David’s response, and to developing a heart of humility and passion like his, is to understand how close David was to the Lord. The mere fact that so many psalms have been attributed to David is a reflection of his reputation as a man of prayer. Clearly, David was known for spending time sitting in God’s presence, fixing his interior eyes on the beauty and power of the Lord (Psalm 27:4). And this prayerfulness bore great fruit. As he came to understand God’s passionate, loving heart towards his people, much of the hardness of David’s own heart was burned away (139:23-24).

We too can be known as a people after God’s own heart. It can happen in us as we are sitting, or kneeling, or even dancing in the presence of the Lord in prayer. As we put forth our effort to seek him and to praise him, he responds by revealing his heart to us. And in that revelation, our own hearts are pierced. They are melted. And they are formed anew into his image.

Do you believe that this is possible? It really is. Just ask King David!

“Lord, your heart is beautiful! Come and soften my heart, and re-create it to be like yours—a heart of mercy, justice, and compassion.”

22 January 2010

22 Jan 2010, Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel
and went in search of David and his men
in the direction of the wild goat crags.
When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he found a cave,
which he entered to relieve himself.
David and his men were occupying the inmost recesses of the cave.

David’s servants said to him,
“This is the day of which the LORD said to you,
‘I will deliver your enemy into your grasp;
do with him as you see fit.’”
So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s mantle.
Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off
an end of Saul’s mantle.
He said to his men,
“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,
the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,
for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
With these words David restrained his men
and would not permit them to attack Saul.
Saul then left the cave and went on his way.
David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul,
“My lord the king!”
When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul:
“Why do you listen to those who say,
‘David is trying to harm you’?
You see for yourself today that the Lord just now delivered you
into my grasp in the cave.
I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead.
I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord,
for he is the LORD’s anointed and a father to me.’
Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold.
Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you,
see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion.
I have done you no wrong,
though you are hunting me down to take my life.
The LORD will judge between me and you,
and the LORD will exact justice from you in my case.
I shall not touch you.
The old proverb says, ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness.’
So I will take no action against you.
Against whom are you on campaign, O king of Israel?
Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, or a single flea!
The LORD will be the judge; he will decide between me and you.
May he see this, and take my part,
and grant me justice beyond your reach!”
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered,
“Is that your voice, my son David?”
And Saul wept aloud.
Saul then said to David: “You are in the right rather than I;
you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.
Great is the generosity you showed me today,
when the LORD delivered me into your grasp
and you did not kill me.
For if a man meets his enemy, does he send him away unharmed?
May the LORD reward you generously for what you have done this day.
And now, I know that you shall surely be king
and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”

Mk 3:13-19

Jesus 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 Cananean,

and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Meditation: 1 Samuel 24:3-21

David missed a golden opportunity. He had the chance to kill Saul, the king who was hunting him.

Yet he couldn’t do it. He even told Saul about it and repeated his belief that Saul was the “Lord’s anointed.” He went so far as to tell Saul how he had been like a father to him (1 Samuel 24:11). When Saul heard these words, he wept in gratitude and humility. Saul sensed that God would generously reward David for his decision—in fact, David would become the king of Israel.

Think about God’s generosity with us. Instead of allowing us to die in sin, he sent his Son to become our atoning sacrifice. Just as David spared Saul, so our heavenly Father has spared us. But God has gone even further. Not only has he saved us from sin, he has given us a share of his own divine life!

Thirty-seven years ago today, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that made legalized abortion possible. What a contrast to the generosity that David showed! The strong are supposed to protect the weak, not destroy them. They are supposed to care for the vulnerable, not dispose of them.

How can we mirror David’s—and God’s—generosity in a way that helps build a culture of life? We can be generous with our possessions by donating to pregnancy crisis centers and to groups that provide for the needs of newborn babies. We can be generous with our time by volunteering to staff such organizations, by supporting a single woman who is having a difficult time raising her child, and by writing to our legislators and urging them to defend life. We can be generous in our prayer lives, focusing on the needs of the poor and rejected rather than on our own needs and wants.

We can also be generous with our mercy. Instead of harshly judging those who advocate for abortion—and even those who have had an abortion—we should be just as forgiving and respectful toward them as David was toward Saul. Of course we should never change our position. But we can still speak calmly, respectfully, and passionately as we seek to change hearts and minds.

“Jesus, fill me with passion for your people, especially those who are weak and defenseless. Help me to serve them generously in whatever ways you call me.”

21 January 2010

21 Jan 2010, Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7

When David and Saul approached
(on David’s return after slaying the Philistine),
women came out from each of the cities of Israel to meet King Saul,
singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums.
The women played and sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought:
“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”
And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.

Saul discussed his intention of killing David
with his son Jonathan and with all his servants.
But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him:
“My father Saul is trying to kill you.
Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning;
get out of sight and remain in hiding.
I, however, will go out and stand beside my father
in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you.
If I learn anything, I will let you know.”

Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him:
“Let not your majesty sin against his servant David,
for he has committed no offense against you,
but has helped you very much by his deeds.
When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine,
and the LORD brought about a great victory
for all Israel through him,
you were glad to see it.
Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood
by killing David without cause?”
Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore,
“As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.”
So Jonathan summoned David and repeated the whole conversation to him.
Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and David served him as before.

Mk 3:7-12

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.

Meditation: 1 Samuel 18:6-9,19:1-7

King Saul was insanely jealous after David slew the giant Goliath.

Even though Saul was commander in chief and David was winning battles in Saul’s name, the king still resented his success. It rankled him when the women sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me,” he muttered. Then he made a gigantic leap to a new worry: “All that remains for him is the kingship” (1 Samuel 18:7-8).

However, David had an important ally. Saul’s son Jonathan had become David’s close friend. He warned David to stay out of Saul’s way and be on his guard. Then he broached the subject with his father. Don’t sin by harming David, he urged. “He has committed no offense against you, but has helped you very much by his deeds.” He reminded the king how he had rejoiced when David’s bravery brought about a victory for the nation. Jonathan’s intervention calmed his father down and helped him be more reasonable, at least for a time (1 Samuel 19:4-6).

Jonathan is a wonderful example of a peacemaker, a category of people Jesus calls “blessed” and “children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Jesus himself and his earliest followers publicly forgave their enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). St. Paul reminds us that God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). In other words, we are all called to be peacemakers, agents of God’s power to forgive and reconcile.

There are many peacemakers today whose examples we could all follow. Consider the Amish parents who found the strength to forgive the people who murdered their children. There are relatives who help long-estranged kinsmen to bury the hatchet. There are policemen who enlist the help of rival gangs in cleaning up graffiti. There are teachers who recognize that under a tough exterior is an insecure child longing for affirmation and direction. There are victims of purse snatching who pray for their assailants and welcome sentences of restitution and community service instead of insisting on the maximum punishment.

How about you? How can you make peace today?

“Lord, show me how to forgive and how to be an agent of reconciliation and unity. Jesus, I want to be a peacemaker like you!”

20 January 2010

20 Jan 2010, Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51

David spoke to Saul:
“Let your majesty not lose courage.
I am at your service to go and fight this Philistine.”
But Saul answered David,
“You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him,
for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued:
“The LORD, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear,
will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine.”
Saul answered David, “Go! the LORD will be with you.”

Then, staff in hand, David selected five smooth stones from the wadi
and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag.
With his sling also ready to hand, he approached the Philistine.

With his shield bearer marching before him,
the Philistine also advanced closer and closer to David.
When he had sized David up,
and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance,
the Philistine held David in contempt.
The Philistine said to David,
“Am I a dog that you come against me with a staff?”
Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods
and said to him, “Come here to me,
and I will leave your flesh for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field.”
David answered him:
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted.
Today the LORD shall deliver you into my hand;
I will strike you down and cut off your head.
This very day I will leave your corpse
and the corpses of the Philistine army for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field;
thus the whole land shall learn that Israel has a God.
All this multitude, too,
shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.
For the battle is the LORD’s and he shall deliver you into our hands.”

The Philistine then moved to meet David at close quarters,
while David ran quickly toward the battle line
in the direction of the Philistine.
David put his hand into the bag and took out a stone,
hurled it with the sling,
and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
The stone embedded itself in his brow,
and he fell prostrate on the ground.
Thus David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone;
he struck the Philistine mortally, and did it without a sword.
Then David ran and stood over him;
with the Philistine’s own sword which he drew from its sheath
he dispatched him and cut off his head.

Mk 3:1-6

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

with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Meditation: 1 Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51

Today the Lord shall deliver you into my hand; I will strike you down. (1 Samuel 17:46)

Wouldn’t it be great to throw a rock at your problems and have them all disappear? After all, David did it by chucking a tiny stone at Goliath, and the dreaded giant was dust in the wind. So how did he do it? And how can we do it?

God wants us to learn the combination of faith and action that David showed, that balance between his grace and our work that will give us victory every time. David’s words to Goliath show how much he placed his confidence in the Lord. But even as he spoke these words of defiant faith, he picked up a stone, took aim, and fired a deadly shot. Just try to imagine what would have happened if David had merely boasted in the Lord but not done anything. It could have been tragic!

How often do we rely too much on God and neglect the work that he calls us to do, whether in evangelization or in our own growth in holiness? And how often do we rely on our own strength, doing the “work of the Lord” but neglecting the “Lord of the work”? Both approaches are fraught with danger. The first one can leave us feeling fruitless and frustrated. The second one can leave us full of ourselves or worn out and dispirited. But the middle way—the way of cooperation between divine grace and human work—brings not only fruitfulness but refreshment and joy as well.

It’s an interesting combination, isn’t it? We need to humble ourselves and recognize that we are weak without the Lord. But we also need to believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). God wants to convince us that we can be victorious in our lives no matter what circumstances we face, no matter what our weaknesses are, and no matter how many times we have fallen in the past.

So what “Goliath” are you facing right now? And how can you step out in faith, trusting in God’s power as you fling that stone?

“Jesus, I embrace the victory you have given me on the cross. I place my confidence in your power—and in the talents and skills that you have given me. I believe that together we can overcome every enemy!”

19 January 2010

19 Jan 2010, Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 16:1-13

The LORD said to Samuel:
“How long will you grieve for Saul,
whom I have rejected as king of Israel?
Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
But Samuel replied:
“How can I go?
Saul will hear of it and kill me.”
To this the LORD answered:
“Take a heifer along and say,
‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do;
you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you.”

Samuel did as the LORD had commanded him.
When he entered Bethlehem,
the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired,
“Is your visit peaceful, O seer?”
He replied:
“Yes! I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.
So cleanse yourselves and join me today for the banquet.”
He also had Jesse and his sons cleanse themselves
and invited them to the sacrifice.
As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because he sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him before Samuel,
who said, “The LORD has not chosen him.”
Next Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said,
“The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There–anoint him, for this is he!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed him in the midst of his brothers;
and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.

Mk 2:23-28

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

That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Meditation: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Jesse couldn’t imagine his youngest son being of any interest to Samuel.

His expectations for David were so low that he didn’t even call him into the feast or present him to the prophet Samuel. Instead, he kept him out in the field with the sheep! But David was the one God had chosen to use for his glory. He was the one destined to play an irreplaceable part in his plan for his people.

It shouldn’t be so surprising to us. It’s easy to judge by outward appearances. A neatly dressed, smiling, intelligent-looking teen might inspire more confidence than the one with a sullen look, sagging jeans, and a torn sweatshirt, or dyed hair. But of course the Lord could work through either one of them!

And it’s not only appearances. We often look at someone’s past behavior and conclude that they will only continue down the same path, especially if they seem to be going the wrong way. But while we doubt that they can make any change, history tells us otherwise. The world is full of examples of God lifting people up and putting their feet on the right path. We have only to look at St. Paul or St. Augustine as classic examples!

God knows what is in everyone’s heart. He is not one to be fooled by appearances or first impressions. We, on the other hand, are prone to underestimate what God is able to do, especially with those closest to us. Will your son or daughter do great things for the kingdom of God? You never know! What about that neighbor down the street who never seems to smile? Or even more to the point, you may look at yourself and see nothing but shortcomings. But that’s not how God sees you—or anyone else. Ever the optimist, he sees the limitless possibilities in every soul. Why? Because he’s the One who created us. And he created us in his own image and likeness!

Let God surprise you. Don’t prejudge yourself or anyone else. Don’t let low expectations keep you from all that God has in store! He wants great things for you and from you, so take the first step in faith!

“Lord, you have great plans for each of us. Open my eyes to see all that you can do in this world through the least likely of people.”

18 January 2010

18 Jan 2010, Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 15:16-23

Samuel said to Saul:
“Stop! Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”
Saul replied, “Speak!”
Samuel then said: “Though little in your own esteem,
are you not leader of the tribes of Israel?
The LORD anointed you king of Israel and sent you on a mission, saying,
‘Go and put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction.
Fight against them until you have exterminated them.’
Why then have you disobeyed the LORD?
You have pounced on the spoil, thus displeasing the LORD.”
Saul answered Samuel: “I did indeed obey the LORD
and fulfill the mission on which the LORD sent me.
I have brought back Agag, and I have destroyed Amalek under the ban.
But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen,
the best of what had been banned,
to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal.”
But Samuel said:
“Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.
For a sin like divination is rebellion,
and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”

Mk 2:18-22

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

Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Meditation: Mark 2:18-22

Today begins the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and today’s Gospel reading certainly is appropriate.

Jesus wanted to show the people that he was doing something new and exciting, even though it didn’t quite fit what some observant Jews were expecting. Surely many people wondered who this upstart was to upset the status quo. But Jesus simply went about his business preaching the good news, healing the sick, and delivering the oppressed.

Jesus wasn’t trying to upset anyone by breaking with the practice of rigorous fasting that was common among the more devoted Jews. No, he was demonstrating what life should be like now that he, the “Bridegroom,” had come and ushered in the kingdom of God. Sure, it seemed risky not to rely on observations like fasting. Many people preferred to stick with the “safe” way they had learned from their ancestors. Better that than take a chance on an uncharted path of deeper faith and greater intimacy with God.

In a similar way, God has been doing something new recently in the body of Christ: He has been drawing together the divided churches and helping them overcome painful, centuries-old prejudices and animosities. Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists are coming to agreement on the term “justification by faith.” Orthodox and Catholics are beginning to talk about the Eucharist and the role of the pope. Even Catholics and Evangelicals are putting aside their suspicions of each other and working together to promote a culture of life. So much has changed in the past couple of decades, and God is inviting all of us to embrace these changes as part of his wonderful plan.

As members of the body of Christ, we may still disagree with each other on issues like the papacy, the role of Mary, and the nature of the Eucharist. But we all agree on so much more: a loving, Trinitarian God; salvation in Christ; the gift of the Holy Spirit; the call to conversion and baptism; and the promise of heaven. Instead of focusing on what divides us, let’s focus on what we have in common.

All this week, as representatives from the different churches meet to pray together, let’s ask the Lord to soften our hearts and to help open us up to this new way that the Holy Spirit is moving.

“Lord, may we all be one!”

17 January 2010

17 Jan 2010, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Is 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem held by your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, “
or your land “Desolate, “
but you shall be called “My Delight, “
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you
and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

Reading II
1 Cor 12:4-11

Brothers and sisters:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

Jn 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,

and his disciples began to believe in him.

Meditation: John 2:1-11

From an address by Pope John Paul II at the General Audience of Wednesday, February 26, 1997:

In the episode of the wedding at Cana, St. John presents Mary’s first intervention in the public life of Jesus and highlights her cooperation in her son’s mission. The meaning and role of the Blessed Virgin’s presence become evident when the wine runs out.

As a skilled and wise housewife, Mary immediately notices and intervenes so that no one’s joy is marred and, above all, to help the newly married couple in difficulty. Turning to Jesus with the words: “They have no wine” (John 2:3), Mary expresses her concern to him about this situation, expecting him to solve it. More precisely, according to some exegetes, his Mother is expecting an extraordinary sign, since Jesus had no wine at his disposal.

Jesus’ answer, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4), appears to express a refusal, as if putting his Mother’s faith to the test. Mary docilely refrains from insisting with him and instead turns to the servants, telling them to obey him.

Her trust in her Son is rewarded. Jesus, whom she has left totally free to act, works the miracle, recognizing his Mother’s courage and docility: “Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim” (John 2:7). Thus their obedience also helps to procure wine in abundance.

Mary’s request, “Do whatever he tells you,” … is an exhortation to trust without hesitation, especially when one does not understand the meaning or benefit of what Christ asks. Jesus’ apparent refusal exalts Mary’s faith, so that her Son’s words, “My hour has not yet come,” together with the working of the first miracle, demonstrate the Mother’s great faith and the power of her prayer.

“Mary, we honor you today for your great faith, your surrender to your son, and your humble obedience to the Father. Pray for us, Mary, that our faith will have the same character!”

16 January 2010

16 Jan 2010, Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1

There was a stalwart man from Benjamin named Kish,
who was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror,
son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite.
He had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man.
There was no other child of Israel more handsome than Saul;
he stood head and shoulders above the people.

Now the asses of Saul’s father, Kish, had wandered off.
Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you
and go out and hunt for the asses.”
Accordingly they went through the hill country of Ephraim,
and through the land of Shalishah.
Not finding them there,
they continued through the land of Shaalim without success.
They also went through the land of Benjamin,
but they failed to find the animals.

When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD assured him,
“This is the man of whom I told you; he is to govern my people.”

Saul met Samuel in the gateway and said,
“Please tell me where the seer lives.”
Samuel answered Saul: “I am the seer.
Go up ahead of me to the high place and eat with me today.
In the morning, before dismissing you,
I will tell you whatever you wish.”

Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head;
he also kissed him, saying:
“The LORD anoints you commander over his heritage.
You are to govern the LORD’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies roundabout.

“This will be the sign for you
that the LORD has anointed you commander over his heritage.”

Mk 2:13-17

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

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Meditation: Mark 2:13-17

It was just another day on the job for Levi: Collect the money, record the income, endure the insults. Nobody liked him much, but it was a living—and a pretty good one at that.

Then Jesus passed by and said: “Follow me.” We don’t know what Levi thought, what fears rose in him or what hurts festered inside him. Most likely, he struggled with the invitation at first. But in the end, he followed. Levi joined the crowd, many of whom probably despised him, and began to be taught by Jesus. He even invited them into his home for a meal!

Jesus has a similar call for each of us, and as the reading illustrates, that call may take you to places you’ve never imagined or throw you in with people you never valued. It may put you in positions you never sought or even knew existed.

Though Jesus’ call is similar for all of us, each of us is unique. The Father created each one of us with a purpose and plan in mind—a good plan, a plan to give you a future full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11)! We can begin to see that plan fulfilled as we respond to Jesus’ call to follow him. When he says, “Follow me,” he means just that: Follow. It’s not an optional invitation, as if we were being invited to a dinner party or to a movie with friends. Rather, it is a summons to follow him, as a parent calls his child to his side.

To each one of us, Jesus says: “Follow me. Believe that when you do, goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life (Psalm 23:6).” Levi went on to become the apostle Matthew. As a tax collector, he had been a prominent person. As an apostle, he was far more obscure—but he made a far greater difference in the world! Was it always easy? No. Adventure and risk always go hand in hand. But someone greater than any peril goes hand in hand with us too.

“Jesus, I want to follow you today. Take my hand, and hold it tight! Give me boldness to accept the risks and childlike joy as I step into your good plans for me.”

15 January 2010

15 Jan 2010, Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a

All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah
and said to him, “Now that you are old,
and your sons do not follow your example,
appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”

Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them.
He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer:
“Grant the people’s every request.
It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”

Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full
to those who were asking him for a king.
He told them:
“The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows:
He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses,
and they will run before his chariot.
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups
of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers.
He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting,
and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves,
and give them to his officials.
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards,
and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
He will take your male and female servants,
as well as your best oxen and your asses,
and use them to do his work.
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”

The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said,
“Not so! There must be a king over us.
We too must be like other nations,
with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare
and fight our battles.”
When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say,
he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him,
“Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”

Mk 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what
they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
–he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded

and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Meditation: 1 Samuel 8:4-7,10-22

For forty days in the fall of 2008, more than one-hundred thousand pro-life advocates in eighty-nine cities in the United States hosted nonstop prayer for all those affected by abortion.

According to one report, more than three hundred babies were saved, and thousands of mothers and fathers were counseled during that time. While some were disappointed with the results, many were thrilled to see their prayers answered. Even if one life was saved, they said, it was worth the effort.

Intercessory prayer, or praying with the real hope and intent that God will hear and respond, is not a new phenomenon. Abraham prayed and even bargained with God in Genesis over the fate of Sodom. Moses sought the favor of the Lord after the Israelites made the golden calf. And today we read how Samuel sought the Lord for his people who wanted a king to rule them like other nations. Even Jesus, before he died, prayed to the Father for his disciples: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

God has not changed. He is the same today as he was in the days of Abraham and Moses. He still loves when his people pray—especially when we pray for someone else. We may not always like the answer we receive, but we can be sure that our Father hears and responds according to what is best for us.

Each of us can choose faith over worry, doubt, and fear. Why? Because faith is a gift from God. It’s not something that we have to conjure up ourselves. It’s a powerful grace that helps us hold the ground when the difficulties of life—sickness, loss of job, family problems—come at us. So bring your prayers of intercession to the Lord with complete trust in him. And as you do, ask him to increase your faith.

And never give up praying. Persist, just as Moses and Abraham did, and see what the Lord does. He may give you an even greater gift, a whole new perspective on life or a healing far deeper than you could ever imagine, for yourself or for others.

“Father, we are so grateful that you fulfill your promises. Teach us to pray as we ought and to trust in your mercy and love.”

14 January 2010

14 Jan 2010, Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Sm 4:1-11

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the Lord from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”

So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there
the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

Mk 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,

and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Meditation: 1 Samuel 4:1-11

The Israelites had been unfaithful, failing to live as God’s people according to his laws. So wanting both to humble them and to give them a wake-up call, God allowed the Philistines to defeat them.

But their military loss didn’t have the desired effect. Instead of first repenting of their idolatry and turning back to the Lord, they tried to use magic to force God’s hand. They decided to take the ark of the covenant onto the battlefield, hoping that this mighty talisman would overwhelm their enemies and leave them free to live as they pleased. Even though the ark did frighten the Philistines, it was still a disaster for Israel: Not only were they soundly defeated, the ark itself was captured and desecrated.

We too may be tempted to be superstitious. We swiftly forward an e-mail to thirteen people with the promise that we will be blessed. We are so preoccupied with completing praying the rosary that it becomes more of a recitation than a prayer. We worry if we ignore a fund-raising appeal that something bad will happen to us.

There’s nothing wrong with being careful about the repercussion of our actions. It can even help us to follow through on our good intentions. After all, God himself gave his people the design for the ark of the covenant and promised that it was the place where they could rely on encountering him. We just need to make sure our trust is in God, and not in the means we may use to reach him.

Should you find yourself, like the Israelites, in a position of need or weakness, keep these points in mind. Always choose faith and trust over superstition or manipulation. We can’t think that we will get what we want simply by attending Mass more frequently or fasting more rigorously. We can’t control God in these ways—or in any way, for that matter. Our best response is to keep doing our best to obey him, to seek his wisdom and guidance in prayer, and to surrender to him the things that are out of our control. It’s how the saints have always lived, and it’s by far the most freeing!

“Lord, I believe that you always do what’s best for me and those I love. Help me to set aside my own agenda today and trust in your providence.”