28 February 2010

28 Feb 2010, Second Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18

The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.

When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”

Reading II
Phil 3:17—4:1 or 3:20—4:1

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord.


Brothers and sisters:
Our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

Lk 9:28b-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.

Meditation: Luke 9:28-36

Who can forget the “bargain” that Abraham tried to make with God when he interceded on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?

That was pretty bold of him, wasn’t it? Think, too, about how David, Job, Isaiah, and Paul all communicated with the Lord. And we all know about Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel. In fact, the more you look at the Bible, the more stories you find about ordinary human beings actually speaking with—and hearing from—Almighty God. It’s on almost every page of Scripture!

All of these divine encounters are summed up and capped off by the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. If none of the other stories in the Bible convinces us, perhaps this amazing event can help us believe that communication with heaven really is possible.

The story of Jesus’ Transfiguration prompts us to ask a key question: Does my experience at Mass, in prayer, or while reading Scripture, include being influenced by Jesus? Does it include the promise that I can hear from heaven and be changed by what I hear? We may not know exactly what it feels like when Jesus is speaking to us, but there are a few signs we can be on the lookout for.

Perhaps you feel a desire in your heart to praise Jesus and thank him for his love. Perhaps you experience a growing hatred of sin and the way it separates you from the peace of Christ. You may feel a great sense of happiness, peace, or joy—especially after receiving the Eucharist. Or possibly you will find yourself moved to show greater love for your family. Or maybe you will experience a growing desire to serve the Lord, whether in your parish or in your community. Don’t discount these feelings! Jesus works in many ways, and the more we respond to him, the more confident we will be in his love.

“Jesus, I trust that you hear my prayers, and so I will keep coming to you. Lord, I trust you to give me the wisdom and grace to live a life pleasing to you.”

27 February 2010

27 Feb 2010, Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I
Dt 26:16-19

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you;
and provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.”

Mt 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Meditation: Psalm 119:1-2,4-5,7-8

Happy those who observe God’s decrees, who seek the Lord with all their heart. (Psalm 119:2)

We all want to observe God’s decrees, but it’s not always easy. God’s laws are a privilege and a gift—something the psalmist expresses eloquently in these verses. But they also place boundaries on our desires and inclinations. They are the path to true freedom, but sometimes it feels like the opposite, as if God doesn’t want us to get what we really want.

However, the psalmist provides a remedy for this situation: He tells us to seek the Lord with all our hearts. He knows that when we apply ourselves to seeking the Lord—and not just put in a token effort—we will find him.

How can you seek the Lord with all your heart? Perhaps one or two days each week, you can get up a half hour earlier, while it is still quiet in your home, and spend time in prayer. Maybe you can carve out another half hour on the other days to read and ponder Scripture. Or you could try to get to a weekday Mass a couple of times a week and linger a bit afterward, talking with the Lord and listening to him.

When we do these things regularly, we will learn to “hearken to his voice” (Deuteronomy 26:17). And this is what we will hear God saying to us: “Yes, it’s true. Not only have I loved you from all eternity, I delight in you!” This is a life-changing message that we need to hear again and again. And as we hear this message, we will find ourselves responding by trying to please the Lord in all that we do. We will find that God’s desires—that we become holy, that we love as he loves, that we build his kingdom on earth—have become our desires.

Isn’t it amazing? So much can happen if we seek the Lord. Not only do we hear his voice and know his love, we are changed! We come to see his laws as a gift to us, not a burden. We find ourselves wanting to obey him, because we know that he has nothing but the best for us.

“Lord, I seek you with all my heart. To listen to your voice and to obey you is my joy. Thank you for your love.”

26 February 2010

26 Feb 2010, Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I
Ez 18:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Mt 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Meditation: Matthew 5:20-26

Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment … and whoever says, “You fool” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. (Matthew 5: 22)

These are tough words. But their severity only serves to highlight how deeply God wants to see all of his children live together in love and respect and honor. For Jesus, unity is one of the highest of virtues—one of the most important principles of life.

Have you ever been angry? Do you remember when your mother or father was angry? What happened to the rest of the household? It probably brought the whole family down as everyone else became angry and impatient. If this is the pervasive climate in the home, it is only natural to expect alienation and isolation to flourish.

Being a disciple of Jesus is about being like Jesus, who always made it a point to look past other people’s shortcomings. Jesus looked into their hearts and met them there. And because he saw their hearts—their desires, needs, hurts, dreams, and hopes, he was able to connect with many of them and bring them to God. His opponents, on the other hand, tended to look only at people’s faults, which did nothing more than create barriers between them and God.

It is vital that we seek unity. We need to forgive. We need to let go of anger. We don’t have to pretend that we weren’t hurt or that the other person wasn’t wrong. We just have to decide to take our hurt to God and to try our best to forgive. God will change our hearts, even if we can’t.

St. John of the Cross once said that at the evening of our lives, we will be judged on love. Think how incredible that is. We will not be judged on how much money we gave, how many prayer meetings we attended, or how much work we did on the church gardens—but by how much we loved. And that’s something we can all do with God’s help!

“Heavenly Father, pour your grace and mercy on me today. Help me to have a positive influence on my family and friends. Jesus, I want to give you all of my hurts and resentments, to feel your healing, and to show others the deep love that you have shown me.”

25 February 2010

25 Feb 2010, Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Reading I
Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God.
“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

Meditation: Matthew 7:7-12

Try to remember a favorite Christmas gift you received as a child.

Maybe it was a new bicycle or a doll that you had your heart set on. Remember how happy it made you on Christmas Day. But by the following Christmas—and maybe long before that—the novelty of that gift wore off, and you were looking for something else. As you grew older, those Christmas gifts seemed to mean less and less. While you appreciated them, you knew that they wouldn’t satisfy you. You were looking for something more.

It’s that “something more” that Jesus is speaking of to his disciples. When he compares God to a human parent who gives good gifts to his children, he knows the comparison will fall short. But that’s probably what he intended, because he wanted his disciples to get a taste of how much greater God’s love is than any earthly gift they could receive. Of course God will provide for their needs, but the gifts he has for them go beyond material necessities.

What are some of those intangible gifts that the Father has for us? We could probably start with the biggest gift of all—the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who gives us power to overcome our weaknesses and witness Christ’s presence in the world. And while the Spirit may be invisible, virtues like peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control are not. They are the fruits of his work in our hearts, and no amount of money or possessions can equal what they can do to transform our lives and our environments.

How often during the day do you face something that seems beyond your ability to cope? These are the times when we need to turn to God and ask him for a deeper sense of his love and encouragement. These are the times when we need to open up his gift of the Holy Spirit and receive the peace, strength, and wisdom that only he can give. Remember: The Holy Spirit who came to the apostles at Pentecost has never left! He is very much alive today, and he loves you deeply. So call on him today, and watch how he helps you to be “more than a conqueror” in Christ! (Romans 8:37).

“Lord, I need to experience your love and power. Come, Holy Spirit, and make my words and actions testify to the reality of your grace.”

24 February 2010

24 Feb 2010, Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

Reading I
Jon 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Lk 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Meditation: Luke 11:29-32

The English word “Lent” comes from the Germanic word for “springtime.”

It’s such a resonant word, bringing to mind renewal and new life. But springtime also brings to mind the often dreaded task of spring cleaning. No wonder Lent and springtime are connected! Like spring, Lent is a time of renewal and new life—as well as a time to do some spring cleaning. It’s a perfect opportunity to take spiritual inventory and clean out those things that clutter our lives and get in the way of our relationship with Jesus.

The greatest tool we have for this spring cleaning is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s in Confession that we can come to the Lord openly and honestly, uncovering our sins and receiving his mercy. It’s also in Confession that we can accept Jesus’ healing power, just as springtime transforms the drab of winter into a rainbow of color. We cast off the remnants of our old acts of disobedience so that Jesus can give us a new heart—a soft heart that delights in his laws and his ways.

It’s fitting that the season of Lent begins with a symbol of repentance: the placing of ashes on our foreheads. But there is so much more to Lent than wearing the ashen sign for one day. There is so much more, even, than our acts of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. There is God’s work in us, his power to transform us as we come to him. Lent is not just about giving things up or confessing our sins. It’s about being changed to an even greater degree into the likeness of Jesus himself!?The people surrounding Jesus asked for a sign that he was the Messiah. Jesus said the only sign they would receive was the “sign of Jonah,” which was the repentance and conversion that happened when Jonah preached to the Ninevites. Our repentance and conversion can be a sign to the world as well. If we take full advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent, we will be changed. We will show the people around us that God really does have the power to heal and transform.

“Father, I praise you for your mercy and love. Look upon me, a sinner, as I ask your forgiveness. Make me into a sign of your Son, Jesus, to all those I meet in my journey to you.”

23 February 2010

23 Feb 2010, Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Reading I
Is 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Mt 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Meditation: Matthew 6:7-15

Meditation: Matthew 6:7-15
View NAB Reading at USCCB.org | Wrong date? Set your time zone.

Article Tools
Text Size
Email this article
At the time this magazine went to press, more than 474,000 books on prayer were available at the Web site Amazon.com. More than 23,000 of these are of the how-to variety. That’s a lot of reading if you want to become an expert on prayer!

How heartening, then, that Jesus covered the main points in nine short verses! He made it simple: Pray to know your heavenly Father, his will, his provision, his forgiveness, his deliverance, and his protection. And at the top of the list are three simple words: “Thy kingdom come.”

Jesus taught us to ask the Father that his eternal, unshakable, heavenly kingdom be extended to our temporal, unstable, earthly lives. That’s right. The kingdom of God is meant for us, not just for Jesus and the angels! He wants us to experience the blessings of his kingdom as we go through our everyday lives here and now. In telling us to pray for the kingdom, Jesus is saying, “Just ask my Father. Set the kingdom on your hearts and minds.”

Sometimes we get a glimpse of God’s kingdom: when we see someone healed or comforted through prayer; when we are released from the grip of addictions, bitterness, or shame; when we walk out of Confession knowing we are completely forgiven. The kingdom becomes visible through the lives of those who care for the least among us. We see it when justice is established in our communities, our churches, and our nations. When people live in unity, simplicity, and peace, we have sighted the kingdom of God.

As big as it is, however, the kingdom of God is founded on a one-to-one, personal relationship—the relationship of a child to a father. It is a relationship of reverence, honor, trust, and familiarity. The kingdom of the world cries: “You are your own person! Be independent! Trust no one!” But citizens of the kingdom of God declare: “Father, you are holy! May your will be done here and now!” This is what we are praying for when we say, “Thy kingdom come”—that we will see healing, deliverance, and justice daily; that we will experience righteousness, peace, and joy; and that we will live in powerful demonstrations of the Holy Spirit as the kingdom is exalted!

“Father, let your kingdom come! May we all experience your abundant generosity today.”

22 February 2010

22 Feb 2010 Monday, Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Reading I
1 Pt 5:1-4

I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth

Meditation: Matthew 16:13-19

The Chair of Peter

Today, we honor St. Peter as the first shepherd of the church. Surely, Peter had what it takes to lead: wisdom, foresight, and strength of character. He also had the gift of prophecy, the ability to speak God’s word with clarity and boldness to the people around him.

But Peter wasn’t always the heroic leader we celebrate today. Take today’s Gospel reading as an example. True, he sensed that Jesus was the Messiah. But immediately after this episode, he tried to dissuade Jesus from being the Messiah and dying on the cross. Think, too, of when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on the water or when he denied knowing the Lord on Holy Thursday. Clearly, Peter had some growing to do before he would be able to take up the title “Rock” that Jesus gave him!

The good news is that Peter did press on with the Lord, and he did learn how to hear his voice more clearly. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that the Peter writing in today’s first reading is a far more mature and seasoned leader than the Peter who first received the keys of the kingdom in today’s Gospel.

The same thing can happen to us. As we learn to pay attention to the thoughts in our minds and the words that come out of our mouths, we can begin to sense which ones are coming from the Holy Spirit and which ones are coming from the philosophies of the world or the devil’s subtle whispers. We will see that if they are words of encouragement, hope, and comfort, they are most likely from the Lord. We will see, too, that if they are words of harsh judgment, resentment, envy, or wounded pride, they are most likely from another source.

Brothers and sisters, the harvest is ready. People are longing to hear the word of the Lord. Let’s ask Jesus to send us into his fields. If we can set aside just a few minutes each day to sit with him and meditate on his word in Scripture, he will fill our minds and our mouths with his words of life. We too can become prophetic voices in the world!

“Lord, help me to hear your voice, and give me boldness to share the gospel with those you bring into my path today.”

21 February 2010

21 Feb 2010, First Sunday of Lent

Reading I
Dt 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The priest shall receive the basket from you
and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God,
‘My father was a wandering Aramean
who went down to Egypt with a small household
and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation
great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us,
imposing hard labor upon us,
we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers,
and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits
of the products of the soil
which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God,
you shall bow down in his presence.”

Reading II
Rom 10:8-13

Brothers and sisters:
What does Scripture say?
The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart
—that is, the word of faith that we preach—,
for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
For the Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Lk 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Meditation: Romans 10:8-13

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Every Sunday at Mass, we publicly confess what we believe. When we recite the creed, we openly state that we believe in the Trinity, in the virgin birth, in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We proclaim our faith that the church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. We place our hope in eternal life. Yes, every Sunday we do indeed “confess” with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9).

What about believing in our hearts? Scripture tells us that the heart is the center of our being. It is the place where our deepest desires dwell, but also the place where we make our most important decisions. So believing in our hearts means deciding to surrender ourselves to the Lord who died and rose for us. It means loving the Lord and deciding to follow his ways.

This means that every time we proclaim the creed at Mass, we can check the level of conviction that goes into the words we are saying. In the early church, Christians died for confessing with their lips and believing in their hearts. That’s how much their faith meant to them. Today, we face similar challenges to our faith. Our lives may not be on the line, but our hearts are. Will we stand up as believers in this world? Or will we let the world dictate the terms of our faith?

When you say the creed at Mass today, be sure that you are proclaiming it both outwardly with your lips and inwardly with your heart. Tell the Lord: “I believe in you. I trust you with all my heart. Thank you for all you have done for me.” The more you hold this creed in your heart, the more you will see your faith increase. And as your faith increases, you will find yourself more compassionate, more loving, and more eager to share Jesus with those around you.

“Come, Lord, and increase my faith this Lent. I want to know you more and to serve you better.”

20 February 2010

20 Feb 2010, Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Reading I
Is 58:9b-14

Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD’s holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with maliceB
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Lk 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Meditation: Luke 5:27-32

Have you ever heard of something called a wellness program?

The idea is to develop a lifestyle that will keep you healthy and make you less vulnerable to illnesses that require a doctor’s attention. A good wellness program will include a balanced diet, regular exercise, the right vitamin supplements, and regular physical checkups.

What does this have to do with today’s Gospel reading? Well, Jesus told the Pharisees and scribes:”Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Luke 5:31). Because he consorted with prostitutes and other obvious sinners, Levi was himself probably spiritually “sick.” So it was only natural that Jesus, the divine Physician, would reach out to him.

Not all of Jesus’ disciples were in such bad shape. Andrew, for instance, was a devoted follower of John the Baptist before he met Jesus. And James and John were probably hardworking fishermen, devoted family men, and faithful Jews. Most likely, these men were in decent shape spiritually. But they followed Jesus because they recognized how much his spiritual medicine could help them live even fuller, healthier lives.

How healthy are you spiritually? You may not fall into the “major sinner” category that would apply to someone like Levi, so you may not need radical surgery. But what about those nagging aches and pains caused by anxiety, minor resentments, or “small” offenses against God’s commandments? None of us is perfectly healthy. We all need Jesus’ healing touch in one way or another. And that’s why we all should follow a spiritual wellness program.

What would such a program look like? Instead of vitamins, it would call for a daily regimen of prayer and Scripture reading to give us the energy we need to stay focused on the Lord. It would include exercise as well—the exercise of our wills to let in all that is good and reject all that is bad. It would include a steady diet of the body and blood of Christ to keep us filled with Jesus’ life and connected with our brothers and sisters in the church. So why not join the Lord’s wellness center today? You’ll be glad you did.

19 February 2010

19 Feb 2010, Friday after Ash Wednesday

Reading I
Is 58:1-9a

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Mt 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

Meditation: Isaiah 58:1-9

Come help us, O Lord!

O Lord, open our eyes to the contradictions that are around us and within us. Just as you confronted the Israelites long ago, help us to see our own inconsistencies. You saw through the emptiness of your people’s fasting and called them to take on a fast that would change their hearts—a fast that would lead them to care for the poor, the forgotten, and the weak.

Come, Lord, and do the same for us! Give us a that long not just for your blessings but to do your will as well. Teach us to offer the kind of fast that pleases you, a fast that fills us with compassion for those oppressed by sin or injustice. Free us from our pride over having the truth, and give us hearts that burn with the desire to share your atruth. Give us opportunities to tell people about your kingdom, and help us take advantage of those opportunities.

O Lord, may our fast not just be one day of physical deprivation among many days of comfort! Instead, help us to pray throughout our fast, so that our hearts may become like yours. Purify our faith so that we can see you in our family members, our neighbors, and our co-workers. Ignite our spirits to love the troubled and downtrodden, and to work for justice.

Heavenly Father, send us out in the name of Jesus, your Son, to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Show us how to help in practical, not just sentimental, ways. Teach us to live more simply so that we can share our resources with the unfortunate. Embolden us to give not just from our excess but from our substance. Remove the blinders that shield us from the hurt, need, and loneliness all around us. Help us to see all your children as you see them, and to love them as you love them.

Lord, help us! Our skipped meals have no value unless they are coupled with acts of mercy. And our acts of mercy are diminished when we lack prayer. Grant us wisdom to make the sacrifices of time, food, and money that will bless your people and build your kingdom.

“Lord, may I be a blessing to others as I share your truth and your provisions with them.”

18 February 2010

18 Feb 2010, Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Reading I
Dt 30:15-20

Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Lk 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Meditation: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Choose life… (Deuteronomy 30:20)

The Israelites were just about to enter the Promised Land. Forty years of waiting and wandering had finally come to an end, and Moses was preparing the people for the next phase of their history: the time when God would fulfill his promise to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

So standing before the Israelites, Moses issued them the most important challenge they would ever hear. Would they choose life by following Yaahweh’s commands? Or would they choose death by following their own ways and the ways of the nations around them?

This challenge didn’t come out of nowhere. Moses had already spent much time reminding them of all the Lord had done. He reminded them how God had delivered them from Egypt and continued to offer them his protection. He spoke of how manna showed up every morning, and quail every evening. He told them that even their clothes did not wear out as they wandered in the desert! But now the time had come for the people to take up their inheritance and begin choosing to live under God’s protection. The manna would stop, and so would the quail. It was time for them to choose on their own the way of faithful obedience—to choose the life God was offering them.

Today, the Lord stands before us, much as Moses stood before the people, offering us the same call and promise. He is standing at the door of our hearts and asking us to choose life, not death. He loves us so much that he has opened the promised land of heaven to us. And not only that, he offers us a taste of that promised land here and now. He has given us every gift and blessing we need to walk each day filled with his love and peace.

The choice is ours. It’s completely up to us whether we will choose life or death. Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord would offer us so much?

“Father, you are the author of life. I choose to receive you today. I choose to follow you and heed your voice. Thank you for calling me and filling me with your infinite love.”

17 February 2010

17 Feb 2010, Ash Wednesday

Reading I
Jl 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

Reading II
2 Cor 5:20—6:2

Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Meditation: Joel 2:12-18

Ash Wednesday

Gather the people, notify the congregation, assemble the elders. (Joel 2:16)

Can you hear the urgency in the prophet’s voice? Israel is threatened by an invasion of locusts, and Joel announces that this is God’s judgment for their sin. So he calls the people to the Temple so that together they can seek the Lord in repentance and intercession.

And yet on the same day that we hear a call to come together in a very public act of prayer and repentance, the Gospel reading tells us not to let anyone know about our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Jesus wants us to do these things in secret, so that we don’t end up like “the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:2).

If we put these two readings together, we can find a road map for the whole season of Lent. During this time when we are invited to seek the Lord more deeply, our heavenly Father is giving us guidance on just how to do it.

First, as Jesus tells us in the gospel, we need to make our own individual resolutions and spend private time in prayer. But at the same time, the first reading tells us how important it is that we come together during Lent—to seek the Lord as a people, to share our journeys, and to encourage each other on the road.

How could you gather with others this Lent? The possibilities are many. You might join a small group to discuss the Sunday readings. You might agree with your household to fast or serve a simpler meal one day a week, so that you have a little more time to pray together. Who knows God might lead you to a companion who can encourage your walk with the Lord. Whatever you choose, know that Jesus is calling you this season. He wants to work wonders in all our lives!

“Father, thank you for listening to the cry of your people. Please show me the way to find Jesus, both in my personal prayer and as I gather with your people.”

16 February 2010

16 Feb 2010, Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Jas 1:12-18

Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Mk 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Meditation: James 1:12-18

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with a potion that separates his good and evil sides.

When he takes the potion, he changes into the monstrous Edward Hyde, who commits terrible crimes. Although Jekyll is attracted to Hyde’s lack of restraint, he is repulsed by Hyde’s character. However, the more potion he consumes, the more Hyde’s nature takes control of him, until it eventually kills him.

Stevenson’s story is an apt illustration of James’s teaching on temptation. We all have been given free will to choose good or evil. But our bad choices affect us in somewhat the same way Jekyll’s potion affected him: They make us less than human. The more we give into sinful habits and attitudes, the more they define us. It’s then we understand the truth of Paul’s words: “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19). If we’re not careful, these sins can destroy us!

But James wants us to know that sin is not the end of the story. God has provided an antidote: the living word of Scripture. It is this word that is able to save us (James 1:21). To be saved doesn’t mean that we have no more temptations, but that we have the power to overcome them. It means that we can now experience true freedom, the freedom of God’s children. Coming to Christ doesn’t necessarily change all our circumstances, but it does give us a divine hope and divine power!

How can Scripture help you to live a new life? By taking it in regularly—and properly. So read a little every day, and chew it slowly. Read one passage over several times. Make sure you get the flavor of the passage. Does it bring you comfort, encouragement, or conviction? Then let it digest. Try to let that word affect your daily actions and interactions. As you develop this habit, your life will become a “word” of God—a word of truth and compassion. Trust him to make it happen, for he has promised that his word “shall not return … void” (Isaiah 55:11).

“Lord, show me your beauty when I read your word. Help me, also, to reflect it in the way I live. May your word be the light that guides me and the food that sustains me!”

15 February 2010

15 Feb 2010, Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Jas 1:1-11

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.
But he should ask in faith, not doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

The brother in lowly circumstances
should take pride in high standing,
and the rich one in his lowliness,
for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.”
For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass,
its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.
So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.

Meditation: Mark 8:11-13

You’re going about your business, when out of the blue someone makes a snide comment to your face. What do you do?

If you’re like most people, you would get angry, and you would be tempted to make a vengeful retort. If you’re already stressed, that same comment might make you explode into a rage. But with the eyes of faith, we can see how these reactions are a sign that our fallen nature might be taking over—and that it’s a good time to remember what Jesus did in that same kind of situation.

Surrounded by enemies who were constantly testing him, Jesus would have been justified in losing his temper. He was fully human, after all, so their slights would have hurt him just as much as they might hurt us. But Jesus never returned their hostility with venom of his own. When his tormentors asked him for yet another sign, Jesus “sighed from the depth of his spirit” (Mark 8:12). Although clearly frustrated by their persistent unbelief, he didn’t retaliate. He simply gave them his message and then quietly moved on.

Jesus had a phenomenal mastery over his emotional life! Unlike us, who don’t need much to provoke us to pride or defensive anger, Jesus always chose the way of humility. He knew that he didn’t have to promote himself. He knew that his mission was to do his Father’s will and to make him known. In this way, as in so many other ways, he showed himself to be the “perfect Son.”

But all is not lost for us. We can do more than just try with all our might to imitate Jesus—or worse, just give up in the face of such a challenge. Jesus’ own divine strength can become our strength. Because he experienced all the temptations we face and yet never gave in, we can ask him to bear our aggravation and frustrations. Because he offered a perfect sacrifice on the cross, we can share in his victorious life. When we embrace godly self-control in our moments of anger, it’s a sign that his Spirit is at work in us. Then, people won’t see our “bad side”—they’ll see only Jesus!

“Lord Jesus, I marvel that you took on my ‘messy’ emotions as well as my sin. Fill me with your compassion so that I can forgive and love those who hurt me.”

14 February 2010

14 Feb 2010, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Jer 17:5-8
Thus says the LORD:

Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

Reading II
1 Cor 15:12, 16-20

Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Lk 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”

Meditation: Luke 6:17,20-26

Whenever we read passages like this, it’s helpful to keep one truth in mind: Jesus always spoke from experience.

So when he said that the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the persecuted were blessed, he was not just presenting a fanciful or idealistic set of dreams. He was speaking out of experience about what it was like to have his life shaped by his Father and not by any philosophy of worldly success.

Jesus knew what it meant to be poor and yet have the kingdom of God as his inheritance. He had nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58)—but not because he had no other option. No, he chose a life of simplicity because his heart was set on higher riches (Matthew 6:33). He deliberately chose to pray throughout the night (Luke 6:12) and to fast for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2) because he wanted God to fill him up.

Jesus so wanted to give people everything he had received from his Father that he openly mourned his disciples’ unbelief and Jerusalem’s rejection of him (Mark 9:19; Matthew 23:37). Finally, he knew that, like the prophets, he would be hated, reviled, and persecuted—not because he was obnoxious but because his words struck against the hardness of sin in the human heart. But again, like the prophets, he could not keep from speaking out, so greatly did God’s love for his people compel him.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be poor, hated, and sad. He came to reveal the kingdom of God to a fallen people. Likewise, he doesn’t call us to become poor, hated, or sad. No, he offers us an experience of his Father’s love so great that everything else pales in comparison. He offers us a kingdom so magnificent that we will willingly endure hardship for the sake of embracing this kingdom and spreading its message into the world. With such promises, why would we ever fear God’s calling?

“Jesus, you said that your Father ‘is pleased’ to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). Open my eyes to the treasures of this kingdom. Let me know its blessings as deeply as you do.”

13 February 2010

13 Feb 2010, Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kgs12:26-32; 13:33-34

Jeroboam thought to himself:
“The kingdom will return to David’s house.
If now this people go up to offer sacrifices
in the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem,
the hearts of this people will return to their master,
Rehoboam, king of Judah,
and they will kill me.”
After taking counsel, the king made two calves of gold
and said to the people:
“You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.
Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan.
This led to sin, because the people frequented those calves
in Bethel and in Dan.
He also built temples on the high places
and made priests from among the people who were not Levites.
Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month
on the fifteenth day of the month
to duplicate in Bethel the pilgrimage feast of Judah,
with sacrifices to the calves he had made;
and he stationed in Bethel priests of the high places he had built.
Jeroboam did not give up his evil ways after this,
but again made priests for the high places
from among the common people.
Whoever desired it was consecrated
and became a priest of the high places.
This was a sin on the part of the house of Jeroboam
for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.

Mk 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,
Jesus summoned the disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
because they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
If I send them away hungry to their homes,
they will collapse on the way,
and some of them have come a great distance.”
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people.
He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples
and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Meditation: Mark 8:1-10

The Gospel of Mark reads like an action drama.

The hero, Jesus, is always on the move, preaching the gospel, casting out demons, sparring with Pharisees, and healing the sick. But in this account of the feeding of the four thousand, we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus and not just his actions. In fact, before he takes a single step, Jesus speaks with his disciples personally. “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,” he tells them (Mark 8:2). After listening to him for three days, they have run out of food. He’s afraid they won’t make it home without a meal.

After sharing his heart with his disciples, Jesus invites them to share his attitude, and then to brainstorm about how they can respond to the crowd’s need. They obediently bring Jesus the meager supplies they have. As he lifts them up in gratitude to the Father and directs his followers to serve them to the crowd, there is more than enough to satisfy the hunger he discerned and pointed out to them.

Sometimes we can be too quick to act. Especially when we are facing significant challenges, we should first ask the Lord to share his heart with us. As he shows us what moves and matters to him, we can get clarity on our situation. And that puts us in a position to find out what God and we together can do about the needs that touch us.

Ash Wednesday is only a few days away. Why not spend the next few days thinking about how you can draw closer to God’s heart this Lent? Try to discern how your heart may need to change to become more like Jesus’ heart. Think about how you can make yourself more open to seeing as God sees and loving as he loves.

Perhaps God is inviting you to spend more time with Scripture, paying particular attention to Jesus’ attitudes toward people and the actions that flow from those attitudes. Maybe God would like you to talk less and love in more practical ways. The possibilities for growing in God’s love are as limitless as his affection for you—and for all the people around you.

“Jesus, I love you. Draw me close to your heart so that I can be moved by the great love you have for me and for each individual you’ve placed in my life.”

12 Feb 2010, Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kgs 11:29-32; 12:19

Jeroboam left Jerusalem,
and the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the road.
The two were alone in the area,
and the prophet was wearing a new cloak.
Ahijah took off his new cloak,
tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam:
“Take ten pieces for yourself;
the LORD, the God of Israel, says:
‘I will tear away the kingdom from Solomon’s grasp
and will give you ten of the tribes.
One tribe shall remain to him for the sake of David my servant,
and of Jerusalem,
the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’”
Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day.

Mk 7:31-37

Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Meditation: 1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19

Rebellion is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. We encounter it in the very first book, Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. In today’s Old Testament reading, we see it again.

King Solomon has rebelled against Yahweh by worshipping false gods. The prophet Ahijah says that Solomon has not followed God’s ways as his father David did. And so, out of respect for David, God will allow Solomon to keep his kingdom until he dies. The judgment will come later, when Solomon’s son will rule over only one tribe while Jeroboam will rule the others. (1 Kings 12:26–13:24).

Perhaps it is part of our wounded nature that we are prone to rebel, even against God. Yet like the father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, even when we do turn away, God is waiting for us with open arms to turn back to him. This is exactly why he sent Jesus into the world, in fact—so that we could be reconciled to him.

Today, think back to the times you have rebelled against God in your life. What happened, and how did you make your way back to him? How did you experience his mercy and forgiveness? Spend some time giving thanks and praise to God for his steadfast love, which never ends, no matter what we do.

Now examine your life today. Are there subtle ways you may still be in rebellion? Maybe God is calling you to forgive a friend or relative, and you are resisting. Maybe you find yourself in a difficult situation that requires perseverance and hard work—something you know God wants you to do—and you are choosing the easy way out or even quitting. Maybe you still cling to a sin pattern you know you should turn away from.

If you do detect signs of reluctance, disobedience, or even out-and-out rebellion, take the time in prayer to ask the Lord for his forgiveness and his help. Know that he will give it to you if you but ask for it. Remember: You may turn from God, but he will never turn from you.

“Father, I repent of any ways I have turned away from you and gone my own way. I want my will to be your will. Give me a heart that yields always to you.”

11 February 2010

11 Feb 2010, Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kgs 11:4-13

When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods,
and his heart was not entirely with the LORD, his God,
as the heart of his father David had been.
By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians,
and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites,
Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD;
he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done.
Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab,
and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites,
on the hill opposite Jerusalem.
He did the same for all his foreign wives
who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
The LORD, therefore, became angry with Solomon,
because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel,
who had appeared to him twice
(for though the LORD had forbidden him
this very act of following strange gods,
Solomon had not obeyed him).
So the LORD said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want,
and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes
which I enjoined on you,
I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant.
I will not do this during your lifetime, however,
for the sake of your father David;
it is your son whom I will deprive.
Nor will I take away the whole kingdom.
I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David
and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

Mk 7:24-30

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.

Meditation: Mark 7:24-30

It’s no secret that in many ancient cultures—Israel included—women were treated as second-class citizens.

But that’s not the way God saw women, and today’s Gospel reading makes that point abundantly. The Syrophoenician woman who interceded with the Lord on behalf of her daughter is just one of many women in the Bible who showed extraordinary faith and received awesome blessings from the Lord. Two other women—also pagans—who stand out are Rahab, a loose woman of Jericho, who gave aid to the Hebrews on the eve of battle, and Ruth, a Moabite, who demonstrated great faith in God and devotion to her Jewish mother-in-law.

While Jesus made it clear that his mission was still focused on the Jews—the Gentiles would come later—the Greek woman in today’s reading persisted. His initial rebuff didn’t slow her down. Instead, she restated her request and reaffirmed her belief in his power to heal. Again rebuffed, she answered with a self-effacing persistence: “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps” (Mark 7:28).

What happened next should be underlined and highlighted in your Bible: Jesus healed her daughter! Did he capriciously change his mind? Don’t bet on it. He acted the same way he always did when he was confronted with persistent, humble faith. He simply couldn’t resist! Recall the hemorrhaging woman, whose faith caused Jesus to stop in his tracks and search her out. Her conviction that Jesus had the power to heal her gave her the boldness to touch this holy man—even though her condition rendered her ritually unclean. Think, too, about blind Bartimaeus, sitting by the side of the road and crying out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” (Mark 10:47). Again, Jesus stopped what he was doing and healed him.

None of these people had impressive credentials. Some of them weren’t even members of the chosen race of Israel! But they all stand together now, telling us that we too can approach Jesus in our lowliness. He is a gracious Savior who hears everyone whom the world considers insignificant. Never give up hope!

“Kind and merciful Lord, how is it my small faith can move your hand? Though I am undeserving, work your wonders now in my life and in those for whom I pray.”

10 February 2010

10 Feb 2010 Wednesday, Memorial of Saint Scholastica, virgin

Reading I
1 Kgs 10:1-10

The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame,
came to test him with subtle questions.
She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue,
and with camels bearing spices,
a large amount of gold, and precious stones.
She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject
in which she was interested.
King Solomon explained everything she asked about,
and there remained nothing hidden from him
that he could not explain to her.
When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom,
the palace he had built, the food at his table,
the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters,
his banquet service,
and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD,
she was breathless.
“The report I heard in my country
about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king.
“Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes,
I have discovered that they were not telling me the half.
Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard.
Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours,
who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom.
Blessed be the LORD, your God,
whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel.
In his enduring love for Israel,
the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.”
Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents,
a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones.
Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices
as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Mk 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Meditation: Mark 7:14-23

Jesus didn’t pull any punches when some of the Pharisees complained about the way his disciples seemed to disregard their ancestors’ traditions.

Along with their involved list of unclean, forbidden foods, some Jews also had elaborate rituals of hand washing before meals. It must have been shocking to hear Jesus say that it wasn’t what went into someone’s body—as in eating with unwashed hands—but what came out that defiled a person (Mark 7:15).

Apparently, Jesus’ words were so radical that even his disciples didn’t understand (Mark 7:17-18). So Jesus spelled it out for them by naming some of the ugly tendencies that reside in the human heart. He was using the physical act of washing and eating as an analogy for the spiritual defilement that comes from our own hearts.

Doesn’t this list of impure motives turn your stomach? It’s bad enough that we live in a world that is antagonistic toward God. Now Jesus is telling us that we have to deal with the sinful desires that rise up in our own hearts as well. It’s one thing to face down the sinful elements of life in this word, but it gets even more difficult when we find that very world living within us.

Who can save us from these inner thoughts and drives? Thanks be to God, we have a Savior and Redeemer in Jesus Christ! Today’s psalm tells us that “the salvation of the just is from the Lord, their refuge in time of distress” (Psalm 37:39).

Brothers and sisters, we all need healing and salvation from Jesus. We all need to be saved from the world, and we also need to be healed of the sin in our hearts. Our very nature—not just our environment—needs the power of Jesus’ cross. So let’s make the choice right now to deal with these drives by submitting them to Jesus. Every little step we take will unlock a torrent of divine grace. Every choice to turn to Jesus will give us spiritual strength to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Let’s keep it up so that we can witness to the goodness and mercy of God.

“Lord, thank you for your cleansing blood, which purifies me and makes me into a new creation. Help me to live as your disciple, bringing goodness and mercy and love to all I come in contact with.”

09 February 2010

09 Feb 2010, Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30

Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD
in the presence of the whole community of Israel,
and stretching forth his hands toward heaven,
he said, “LORD, God of Israel,
there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below;
you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants
who are faithful to you with their whole heart.
“Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?
If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you,
how much less this temple which I have built!
Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD, my God,
and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant,
utter before you this day.
May your eyes watch night and day over this temple,
the place where you have decreed you shall be honored;
may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.
Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel
which they offer in this place.
Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”

Mk 7:1-13
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”

Meditation: Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees, one of the many religious groups that made up Judaism in Jesus’ day, were a well-respected lay renewal movement that had begun about 150 b.c.

As successors of the pious Jews who actively resisted paganism during the Greek occupation of Palestine in the fourth century b.c., the Pharisees sought to preserve Jewish identity by rigorously following practices that distinguished Jews from foreign peoples—practices such as circumcision, dietary laws, and purity rituals. In fact, the name “Pharisee” was derived from the Hebrew word perusim, meaning “the separated ones.”

The motive behind the Pharisees’ strict observance of Jewish rituals was very commendable. However, as time went on, they tried to make the whole Jewish populace observe practices that only the priests were required to keep. Moreover, Pharisees shunned contact with those Jews who didn’t fulfill the priestly requirements, lest they contract ritual impurity from them. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why the Pharisees were scandalized when Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11). Their stringent application exceeded the tenets of the Law of Moses and inclined the Pharisees toward a concern for outward appearances. Jesus had great respect for the Law and for safeguarding Jewish tradition (5:17), but he rejected the legalistic strictures of the Pharisees that laid heavy burdens on people while overlooking justice, mercy, and fidelity (23:4).

If our hearts aren’t firmly fixed on the Lord, we can fall into the same trap as the Pharisees. How easy it is to criticize those who don’t live up to our standards or our definition of holiness! Or perhaps we zealously put our favorite religious practices ahead of the very truths that these practices are meant to uphold. While we speak pious words honoring the Lord with our lips, our hearts might actually be far from him (Mark 7:6). Let’s be careful that we don’t cling so tightly to our human traditions that we end up disregarding the commandments of God (7:8).

Jesus wants us to focus on the essentials of love for God and neighbor, and not get sidetracked. Remember: Holiness is not a matter of external observances but of the inner heart (Matthew 23:27-28).

“Lord Jesus, don’t let me get caught up in outward observances. Help me to keep my heart set on you.”

08 February 2010

08 Feb 2010, Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I
1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13

The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes,
the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel,
came to King Solomon in Jerusalem,
to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant
from the City of David, which is Zion.
All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon
during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month).
When all the elders of Israel had arrived,
the priests took up the ark;
they carried the ark of the LORD
and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels
that were in the tent.
(The priests and Levites carried them.)
King Solomon and the entire community of Israel
present for the occasion
sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen
too many to number or count.
The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD
to its place beneath the wings of the cherubim in the sanctuary,
the holy of holies of the temple.
The cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the ark,
sheltering the ark and its poles from above.
There was nothing in the ark but the two stone tablets
which Moses had put there at Horeb,
when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel
at their departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests left the holy place,
the cloud filled the temple of the LORD
so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud,
since the LORD’s glory had filled the temple of the LORD.
Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house,
a dwelling where you may abide forever.”

Mk 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Meditation: Mark 6:53-56

Jesus is waiting for you!

The people of Gennesaret recognized him and hurried to him, bringing anyone they could find, so that they could encounter Jesus. He was their teacher, wonder-worker, healer. And he’s here for you today! Have you prayed today? Drop what you’re doing and go to Jesus now, so that he can speak to you, teach you, heal you!

Don’t worry about whether you are worthy to come to Jesus. He’s the one who forgives all your sins and opens the gates of heaven! He has broken down the wall that divides sinful humanity from the all-holy God. He has restored you and made you a child of God. He wants you to come to him!

Has it been a while since you’ve prayed? Don’t worry. Jesus still welcomes you! Looking back on your failures shouldn’t keep you from Jesus. Today can be the first day of your renewed prayer life, fueled by the touch of the Lord of the heavens. Let the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite his life in you and burn away every obstacle and objection.

Do you have a lot to do today? Put it aside for a while. You have the pearl of great price within your grasp! All your obligations will still be there afterward. And think of how much more peaceful and better equipped you will be to handle them once you have spent time with the Lord!

Jesus is near, offering himself to you in the Eucharist. If you can, get to Mass. Where else can you receive the very life of Jesus in so physical and intimate a way? He will bring restoration and healing to your soul, strengthen you for the day ahead, and deepen his life in you.

What could be better than running to Jesus, just as you are at this moment? He is available to you whether or not you can get to a church. His presence is just as powerful as it was two thousand years ago. The one who healed, multiplied the loaves, and walked on the water is waiting for you. The one who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven is holding out his arms. Run to him!

“Lord, I come to you! I want to be inspired by the same excitement that electrified your first followers! I love you, Jesus!”

07 February 2010

07 Feb 2010, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I
Is 6:1-2a, 3-8

In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above.
They cried one to the other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it, and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Reading II
1 Cor 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11

I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, Christ appeared to more
than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
For I am the least of the apostles,
not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.
Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed.


Brothers and sisters,
I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more
than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one abnormally born,
he appeared to me.
Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed.

Lk 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.

Meditation: Luke 5:1-11

When was the last time God got your attention?

Think back to the last time you found yourself almost speechless because you had come face-to-face with some manifestation of his love, his power, or his majesty. How did it happen? Did a passage from Scripture leap out at you and pierce your heart? Was it through the beauty of a spectacular sunrise? Was it in the birth of a baby?

In today’s readings, we see three different ways God spoke to his people and changed them. In the Gospel, we see Jesus blowing Peter away through a large catch of fish (Luke 5:5-8). The first reading tells how Isaiah was cut to the heart by a vision of God’s heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4). And in the second reading, we hear how Paul received the gospel both through personal revelation and through the testimony of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). God speaks in so many different ways, but one thing is always the same: He wants to reveal himself to us.

On one level, the Bible is one big story of God revealing himself again and again to his people. It begins with Adam and Eve, and progresses through Noah and his family, to Abraham and Sarah, then on to David, the shepherd who became king, to Isaiah and the other prophets, then to a young woman named Mary. And it didn’t stop when Jesus came into the world. The New Testament is filled with stories like Peter’s and Paul’s, Lydia’s and John’s, and so many others. And every one of them had a personal encounter with God that radically changed their lives.

With all this evidence, how can we doubt that Jesus wants to reveal himself to us? Even more importantly, how can we doubt that he wants to reveal himself to us today? At Mass today, or as you go through the day, keep your eyes and ears open. Jesus is everywhere. There is no place we cannot find him.

“Lord Jesus, what do you want to say to me today? How do you want to show yourself? Come, Lord, and open my heart that I may know your presence within me.”