31 January 2011

31 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest

Reading 1
Heb 11:32-40

Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;
out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle,
and turned back foreign invaders.
Women received back their dead through resurrection.
Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance,
in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point;
they went about in skins of sheep or goats,
needy, afflicted, tormented.
The world was not worthy of them.
They wandered about in deserts and on mountains,
in caves and in crevices in the earth.

Yet all these, though approved because of their faith,
did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us,
so that without us they should not be made perfect.

Ps 31:20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Responsorial PsalmR. (25)

Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Blessed be the LORD whose wondrous mercy
he has shown me in a fortified city.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Once I said in my anguish,
“I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried out to you.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.

Mk 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.”
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
“Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.”
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Meditation: Hebrews 11:32-40

“The world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38)

As we read about these faith-filled Old Testament heroes, it’s not hard to stand in awe at their ability to hold firm to their convictions even in the face of extremely challenging circumstances. Where did they find the strength to endure floggings and rejection, imprisonments and torture? What kept them going? Faith!

When we read passages like today’s, we may think: “I love the Lord, but I could never do what they did.” Maybe instead of identifying with these heroes, we identify more with Jesus’ disciples when he said to them: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Most of us believe that God is a perfect, all-knowing, and loving Father. So why do we still get anxious over even the small issues in our lives that tend to resolve themselves over time? Why do we sometimes feel as if we are mastered by our circumstances instead of mastering them through faith and trust? There isn’t only one answer to these questions, but perhaps we could look at our faith to see how we can strengthen it.

Jesus promised that if our faith were as small as a mustard seed, it could still move mountains (Matthew 17:20). We just need to tend to this seed and watch it grow and bear marvelous fruit. These Old Testament heroes of faith didn’t get that way magically. They tended their faith, exercising it in the daily routines of their lives.

Do you want your faith to be able to sustain you in times of crisis? Then sustain your faith in times of peace. Try your best to stay close to Jesus during your day, even if you don’t feel the “need” to. Spend time every day pondering his word in Scripture, so that it takes root in your heart and springs forth in times of stress. Read about the saints of the church, and learn how to imitate their faithfulness. And finally, step out of your comfort zone every now and then to serve the “least” of your brothers and sisters.

Jesus wants us to activate our faith—no matter how small it is—in all circumstances of our lives. As we do, we too will become heroes and heroines just like the mighty men and women of God whose tales are told in the Bible!

“Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief!”

29 January 2011

30 Jan 2011, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth,
who have observed his law;
seek justice, seek humility;
perhaps you may be sheltered
on the day of the LORD’s anger.

But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD:
the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong
and speak no lies;
nor shall there be found in their mouths
a deceitful tongue;
they shall pasture and couch their flocks
with none to disturb them.

Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Responsorial PsalmR. (Mt 5:3)

Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
R. Alleluia.
The LORD keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2
1 Cor 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
“Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”

Mt 5:1-12a

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

Meditation: Matthew 5:1-12

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12)

There is no money in heaven, so the rich cannot lord it over the poor. There are no PhD’s in heaven, so the educated cannot lord it over the uneducated. There are no private golf clubs, Rolex watches, or limousines in heaven. The status and prestigious things that matter so much in this world simply don’t matter there.

Scripture tells us that in heaven, we will be like Jesus, “for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will be living in the city of God, a place of peace and rest and perfect joy.

So what will our reward in heaven be like? We will finally be free of all temptation and sin. Fear, disease, and sickness will be but a distant memory. There will be no need for doctors, police officers, armies, judges, or lawyers because everyone will be perfectly happy, peaceful, and healthy. There is no pain, suffering, or tears in heaven—no divorce or division of any kind. We will live in perfect communion with God and with each other forever and ever.

In heaven, we will see Jesus in all of his glory. We will be able to understand his love and his cross in new and profound ways. We will join thousands of angels, our friends and relatives, and all the saints. Who wouldn’t want to talk with Mother Teresa or Francis of Assisi or Paul? And surprisingly, they will want to talk with us, because there is no celebrity in heaven. Everyone is equal. Everyone is valued just as deeply.

Jesus wants to tell us what he once told his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Our heavenly Father delights in us, just as any earthly father delights in his children. Of course he wants to give us all good things! So rejoice today. You have a wonderful reward awaiting you!

“Jesus, I marvel at your salvation. Come and fill me with your joy!”


Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; Psalm 146:6-10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12)

1. In the first reading, Zephaniah the Prophet reminds us of our responsibility to seek the Lord, to seek justice, and to seek humility. How important are these in your daily life? If you were to summarize your work plan for the upcoming week, would these items be on your schedule? What can you do to make them more a part of your week?

2. The responsorial psalm continues the theme of service to others. Caring for others means less time focused on ourselves. What are the some ways that you can make the spiritual and physical needs of your family and others more central in the ways you use your time?

3. In the letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul implies that God prefers the unwise, weak, and foolish of the world to accomplish his will. He also seems to imply that God has problems with the wise, powerful, strong, and those of noble birth. What do you think St. Paul means by these words? How do they apply to you?

4. St. Paul says that, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians1:31). How much credit do you give to the Lord for the successes and victories in your life?

5. The beatitudes in the Gospel reading are so familiar to us that we easily pass over the radical nature of what is being asked of us. They describe, perhaps more than any other Scriptures, what it means to be a Christian, and be Christlike. If the day were ever to come when Christians were put on trial for their faith in this country, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Why or why not? What can you do to change how you would do in this trial?

6. The meditation ends with these words: “Our heavenly Father delights in us, just as any earthly father delights in his children. Of course he wants to give us all good things! So rejoice today. You have a wonderful reward awaiting you!” Do you believe that your heavenly Father delights in you and that you have a heavenly reward awaiting you? Why or why not? What are the obstacles to your believing this? What steps can you take to overcome them?

29 Jan 2011, Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
and Sarah herself was sterile
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,
Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 68)

Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old.
that he would save us from our sins
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the bonds of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
R. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel; he has come to his people.

Mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Meditation: Mark 4:35-41

“Teacher, do you not care?” (Mark 4:38)

The wind was howling, the boat was filling with water, and it was hard for the disciples to remember that Jesus was there. Desperately doing all they could to stay afloat, they finally called out in exasperation for Jesus, feeling abandoned and despondent.

How many times does the same thing happen to us? Our lives may be sailing along happily, and we feel comfortable in the Lord’s hands. Then a storm suddenly arises. A loved one dies. We are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. A child gets into serious trouble. Our marriage seems to be on the rocks. Each of us knows what it would take to “rock our boat.” For a while, we may be able to keep afloat, but sooner or later, we cry out in frustration and despair: “Lord, don’t you care?”

When we are in the midst of any storm, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the immediacy of it. Like the disciples, we may forget that Jesus is still with us, right there in the boat. We feel abandoned by God; we may even think he is punishing us because he allowed this storm to come. If he really loved us, why would he be asleep, oblivious to how hard our lives have become?

But the truth is that Jesus is never unaware. He always knows what we’re going through. He cares for us deeply and will never walk away from us. Just because he’s in the boat, however, doesn’t mean we won’t come up against any storms. We may find that he is closer to us in the storms than when we have calm seas. He may or may not quiet the storm, but he will always guide us and help us make the best decisions we can.

The next time you face a raging storm, do your best to look beyond the waves and the wind. Look at Jesus, who is sitting right next to you, and trust him to steer you through to your destination.

“Lord Jesus, sometimes I just can’t rise above the challenges I face in my life. The trials seem so hard, and it feels as if you are far from me. Help me to look up and see you looking at me with love. Raise me up so that I can keep my eyes on you!”

28 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
Heb 10:32-39

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.

For, after just a brief moment,
he who is to come shall come;
he shall not delay.
But my just one shall live by faith,
and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.

We are not among those who draw back and perish,
but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Ps 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40
Responsorial PsalmR. (39a)

The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
By the LORD are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
Though he fall, he does not lie prostrate,
for the hand of the LORD sustains him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Meditation: Hebrews 10:32-39

“You need endurance to do the will of God.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Do you remember when you first met the Lord or experienced his love and presence in your life? You may have been so excited that you weren’t bothered about life’s difficulties. Perhaps you leaped into service—forfeiting convenience—because you were so touched by God’s love, you just had to share it. The Christians spoken about in Hebrews also experienced that “honeymoon” season. They were so awed by their new relationship with Jesus that they gladly endured persecution and imprisonment for his sake. And even if they weren’t experiencing maltreatment at that moment, they helped out the people who were. They almost went looking for trouble!

The trouble is, trouble found them, in the form of weariness. And so the author of Hebrews exhorted them to press on through faith in Jesus.

Trouble, it seems, finds us too. Our passion, initially concentrated, may become diluted by the cares of home and work. And then there’s the devil, who tries to draw our attention from Jesus with distractions of the world or feelings of unworthiness.

But this isn’t the end of the story. God promises to refresh and replenish you. He knows there are times when you need endurance, and he’s more than ready to help. All he asks is that you persevere in prayer and keep his word in your heart. If you can stay faithful to these two simple practices, he will give you the grace you need not only to survive but to thrive.

Remember: God values deep, long-term faith more than fleeting passion. He knows that the life he has called us to is more like a marriage than a brief love affair. It takes a lot of work for two to become one! Of course there is passion and excitement, but there is also consistency and commitment.

Brothers and sisters, God is committed to us for all eternity. How can we respond to such commitment except to try our best to be just as committed? So let’s press on, knowing that God is working all things, both easy and hard, for our good. Let’s use our imaginations to hear him asking: “Do you take me as Lord of your life—for the rest of your life? To love and honor me all your days?”

“I do, Lord!”

27 Jan 2011, Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 10:19-25

Brothers and sisters:
Since through the Blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,”
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
We should not stay away from our assembly,
as is the custom of some, but encourage one another,
and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Responsorial PsalmR. (see 6)

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Mk 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Meditation: Hebrews 10:19-25

“We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)

How simple the gospel message is! Through his cross and resurrection, Jesus has opened up a way for each of us to be set free from sin and enter into the presence of God. Jesus is risen, and the door is now wide open for all of us. But as simple and straightforward as this message is, we sometimes need help seeing the open door that’s right in front of us. And that’s where brothers and sisters in Christ come in.

Sometimes they remind us that the sacraments are powerful and readily available.

—“You seem pretty burdened. Have you thought about going to confession?”

—“I’m going to Mass at the end of my shift today. How about joining me?”

—“I wonder if your dad might be open to receiving the anointing of the sick? You know, he doesn’t have to be on his deathbed before you call a priest.”

Sometimes they point out opportunities we might have overlooked. They might tell us about a homeless center that needs extra help preparing meals. They might invite us to a parish Bible study we have been meaning to check out. Or they might urge us to write to our congressman about an important issue or attend a local school-board meeting.

Sometimes they help us see where the Holy Spirit is already at work in our lives.

—“What a great idea! That sounds inspired. How can I help you make it work?”

—“You always seem to have a bigger perspective than I do. I really appreciate the way you help expand my vision.”

—“You’re so good at getting to the heart of a complex situation. Don’t be afraid to say it the way you see it.”

Sometimes they exhort us to trust God and to believe when our faith is wavering. At other times, our faith helps them hang in through a challenging time. In all these ways and so many more, we can all “rouse one another” to a deeper surrender to the Lord!

“Lord, I want to be where your people are gathered in your name. Help me to give and receive the encouragement that will make all of us better stewards of the gifts you’ve given.”

26 January 2011

26 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops

Reading 1
2 Tm 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

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


Ti 1:1-5

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

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

Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10
Responsorial PsalmR. (3)

Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the Lord, you families of nations,
give to the Lord glory and praise;
give to the Lord the glory due his name!
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The Lord is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Mk 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that

they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

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

Meditation: 2 Timothy 1:1-8

Sts. Timothy and Titus

Stir into flame the gift of God that you have. (2 Timothy 1:6)

Today we celebrate Sts. Timothy and Titus, two of our first bishops. And on this day, one truth shines out: No matter how the role of bishops has changed over the centuries, their mission remains the same—to encourage believers to press on and keep growing in their faith. Bishops are called by God to dedicate their lives to helping all their people reach their fullest potential in Christ.

Most of us aren’t bishops, but we are all in a network of relationships with other people whose lives we can touch and influence: children and grandchildren, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow parishioners. In all of these relationships, we can take an interest in people’s spiritual lives and encourage them to fan into flame the wonderful gifts that God has given them. So let’s look at Paul’s relationship to Timothy to find out how we can become agents of encouragement and inspiration.

It’s obvious that Paul was personally involved in Timothy’s life. It was from this position of friendship and mutual love that Paul was able to recognize Timothy’s gifts and encourage him to use them. His friendship with Timothy also gave Paul the freedom to help him set the unshakable truths of the gospel as the foundation for his life.

This is a model for us as well. Even when we are busy with other demands, we can still learn how to pay attention to the people around us, connecting with them and learning about their hopes and fears, their joys and challenges. We can look for the gifts that other people have and encourage them to use these gifts to build up God’s people. And we can take opportunities to encourage our friends when their faith is wavering. We don’t have to be bishops or pastors to make a difference in the church. We can all encourage each other and build each other up, fanning the flame in each other’s lives until the whole church is burning with passion for the Lord!

“Lord, help me to see the people in my life with your eyes. Teach me how to be an agent of encouragement and hope in you.”

25 January 2011

25 Jan 2011, Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the apostle

Reading 1
Acts 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

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


Acts 9:1-22

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

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

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

Ps 117:1bc, 2
Responsorial PsalmR. (Mark 16:15)

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the Lord, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Mk 16:15-18

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

Meditation: Acts 22:3-16

The Conversion of Paul

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 22:7)

Bam! In an instant, Paul’s life is completely turned upside down. Just moments before, he had been bent on snuffing out the followers of Jesus. But now he is set on a path that will make him one of history’s greatest evangelists. This sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Paul’s experience may lead us to think that unless we experience a dramatic, earth-shattering event like his, we really haven’t experienced conversion. But that’s not really the way the Lord works. So let’s take a look at what conversion is so that we can get a better understanding of our own experience of the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls conversion “the movement of return to God” (1490). It is a decision to turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus, embracing him as Savior and Lord. Like Paul’s experience on the Damascus road, conversion is a response to God’s revelation. It is a decision to accept his invitation to “come and see” who Jesus is and what he can do in us (John 1:46).

Besides the spectacular night-and-day conversions like Paul’s, some of us experience the slow buildup of many small conversions. These mini-conversions happen as God slowly opens our eyes to his goodness and to our need for Jesus’ salvation. Perhaps we are touched by a homily at Mass, and we come to see God’s truth in a new way. Or the events of life help show us how deeply we need Jesus—and how merciful he is. Or perhaps we are simply led to a deeper love for God and rejection of sin as our lives unfold. This may not be as dramatic as Paul’s conversion, but all the ingredients are still there!

Take some time today to review how God has drawn you to himself. Look back over your life and see all the reasons you have to be thankful for his grace in redeeming you and opening heaven to you. Can you picture what your life would be like if you hadn’t tried to follow the Lord? So praise him for his mercy, his patience, and his love in calling you to his side!

“Father, I thank you for sending your Son to rescue me from sin! Help me to live for you today.”

24 January 2011

24 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
Heb 9:15, 24-28

Christ is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place
for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6
Responsorial PsalmR. (1a)

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Mk 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Meditation: Mark 3:22-30

“How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mark 3:23)

The entire countryside of Galilee was abuzz. People were being healed of their diseases left and right. Even those possessed by evil spirits were being set free. And it was one man—Jesus of Nazareth—who was doing it all. No one had ever seen anything like it. So how could these scribes have claimed that Jesus was possessed by Satan? How could they ever have imagined that he worked miracles through the power of evil spirits?

Jesus exposed their faulty logic. Of course Satan could not be casting out himself! God had to be at work here. But there was more here than faulty logic. In denying that the Holy Spirit could work through Jesus, the scribes risked committing the only sin that was beyond God’s forgiveness (Mark 3:29). If they couldn’t believe in the miracles Jesus was working right before their eyes, then how would they believe in the salvation he offered them?

Don’t let today’s reading make you nervous about your own fate. If you truly believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior, that in and of itself is proof that the Holy Spirit is living in you, bringing you to a deeper faith. The only question to ask is, “How much more can I let the Spirit do in my life?” He wants to be your defender, counselor, and comforter, in good times and bad. He wants to help you to spread the good news of the gospel. He wants to give you visions and dreams for your life and for your brothers and sisters in Christ (Joel 3:3).

If you have wanted to be more in touch with the Holy Spirit, know that he wants to be in touch with you as well! So go ahead and pursue the Spirit’s touch. Read the Scriptures every day, asking the Spirit to open them up for you. Tune out distractions in your prayer time, and listen for his voice. Invite him to be with you throughout your day—at work, at home with your family, or in any situation where you need his wisdom, peace, and strength. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see some miracles just like the people of Galilee did!

“Holy Spirit, let me see with your eyes! Convict me when I need self-control, and inspire me when I need compassion. May my heart always be attentive to your still, small voice.”

22 January 2011

23 Jan 2011, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 8:23-9:3-1

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
Responsorial PsalmR. (1a)

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Reading 2
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree in what you say,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,
by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.
I mean that each of you is saying,
“I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,”
or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

Mt 4:12-23

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

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.


Mt 4:12-17

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

Meditation: Matthew 4:12-23

“Come after me.” (Matthew 4:19)

Passion, inspiration, conviction, love—which of Jesus’ virtues made these first disciples so eager to leave their nets, their families, and their homes, to follow him? Whatever it was, it obviously had a dramatic impact on these men. After all, they stayed with him for three years, traveling the length and breadth of the Holy Land until he was crucified in Jerusalem.

We may wonder if this radical decision to follow Jesus really did take place in one moment. Did Jesus simply walk up to them and say: “Follow me”? Or were these words the culmination of a number of encounters and invitations?

We may never be able to answer these questions fully. But we can be sure about Matthew’s main point in this passage. He wants us to know that these four men—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—did decide to put away their fishing nets, leave their families, and become Jesus’ disciples. Furthermore, three of the four—Peter, James, and John—became Jesus’ closest disciples. They had the privilege of witnessing things that the other disciples did not—the Transfiguration, Jesus’ agony in the garden, and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We can assume that Jesus invited these three to witness more because of the depth of their commitment to him and because of his desire that they become leaders among their brothers.

Jesus’ call, “Come after me,” is meant for all of us. We are all called to become his disciples. And if we are humble and obedient in response, we will be rewarded with deeper insights into Jesus’ mind and deeper experiences of his heart.

Pope Benedict XVI once said: “Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.” Let’s ask Jesus to show us whatever he showed these men so that we might choose to live for him and build up his church in our world.

“Lord, thank you for calling me. I choose to follow you!”

22 Jan 2011, Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 9:2-3, 11-14

A tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,
in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering;
this is called the Holy Place.
Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands,
that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own Blood,
thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Responsorial PsalmR. (6)

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
For king of all the earth is God:
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

Mk 3:20-21

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

Meditation: Hebrews 9:2-3,11-14

“How much more will the blood of Christ … cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

Today is the thirty-eighth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, Roe vs. Wade, which paved the way for legalized abortion in the United States. Today, thousands of people will be marching in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country, voicing their opposition to abortion. We here at The Word Among Us want to add our voice as well, upholding the dignity of life in all its stages.

To all who are marching today, know that many more are with you in spirit. May the Lord grant you peace and courage, prudence and patience as you speak out for the unborn. May your voices blend with the saints and angels, who are praying in a special way today that life be protected and honored.

To all who have been affected by abortion, know that you are in our prayers as well. The Father of mercies and the God of all consolation has not abandoned any of his children. No sin is too great for him to forgive. No wound is too great for him to heal. May you come to know the warmth of his touch and the light of his smile as he looks upon you in unconditional love and compassion!

While abortion is a great evil, we must all remember that every person who participates in this evil is still a child of God, deeply loved by their heavenly Father and endowed with great dignity. It was Jesus’ unbounded mercy that melted the heart of the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50). It was the father’s extravagant love that welcomed the prodigal son back home (Luke 15:11-24). And it was the look of love in Jesus’ eyes that moved Peter to repentance after he denied the Lord (Luke 22:60-62). May we look upon everyone as our brother or sister—even those who call us their enemies. And may the witness of our humble love, our peace in every circumstance, and our joy in life help soften hardened hearts everywhere!

“Father, you know our hearts and our needs. You know our hopes and fears, our triumphs and our frustrations. We ask you to give us hearts of peace and mercy as we seek an end to abortion. Turn the tide, Lord, so that every child can be welcomed into life!”

21 January 2011

21 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr

Reading 1
Heb 8:6-13

Brothers and sisters:
Now our high priest has obtained so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless,
no place would have been sought for a second one.
But he finds fault with them and says:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of
Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand to lead
them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they did not stand by my covenant
and I ignored them, says the Lord.
But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
and I will write them upon their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his fellow citizen and kin, saying,
“Know the Lord,”
for all shall know me, from least to greatest.
For I will forgive their evildoing
and remember their sins no more.

When he speaks of a “new” covenant,
he declares the first one obsolete.
And what has become obsolete
and has grown old is close to disappearing.

Ps 85:8 and 10, 11-12, 13-14
Responsorial PsalmR. (11a)

Kindness and truth shall meet.
Show us, O LORD, your mercy,
and grant us your salvation.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Kindness and truth shall meet.

Mk 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

20 January 2011

20 Jan 2011, Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 7:25—8:6

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

The main point of what has been said is this:
we have such a high priest,
who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary
and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.
Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices;
thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.
If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest,
since there are those who offer gifts according to the law.
They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,
as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle.
For God says, “See that you make everything
according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17
Responsorial PsalmR. (8a and 9a)

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Mk 3:7-12

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

Meditation: Mark 3:7-12

“A large number of people came to him.” (Mark 3:8)

Jesus has been involved in a whirlwind of activity since his baptism. He has preached repentance in preparation for the coming of God’s kingdom. He has called disciples to follow him. He has spent hours in private prayer. He has cast out demons and healed a man with leprosy, a man who couldn’t walk, and a man with a withered hand. He has beaten back criticism from religious legalists. Everywhere he goes, people are crowding around him, eager to touch him, to hear what he has to say, to experience miracles.

All of these large crowds must have been overwhelming at times. And so in today’s Gospel, Jesus takes the practical step of getting into a boat where he can be heard by many eager people without being trampled by them. But despite the reality of these hordes of people, it’s important to see that Jesus never related to a “crowd.” He always had eyes and ears and a heart for each individual in front of him. He didn’t wave his hand over the crowd to perform a mass healing. He reached out and touched one leper. He forgave one sinner. He answered one question. Jesus was totally focused on whoever was standing before him at the time. No wonder he was tired at the end of the day!

Of course Jesus loves the whole world. He gave his all, everything he was and had, to save us. The sins of all humanity were laid upon him on the cross, and he brought our human nature to the fullness of resurrected life. Nevertheless, he wants to touch each and every person individually. At the same time, each and every person needs to respond to his invitation and embrace his salvation.

He cares about everyone, but he doesn’t operate to save “the masses.” He reaches out to touch and save one person. And one more. And me. And you. It doesn’t matter whether he finds us in the midst of a large group or all by ourselves in a quiet place. Jesus is eagerly awaiting your response.

“Jesus, thank you for knowing me and loving me beyond my wildest imagining. I lift my face to you. Come and touch me to the very core of my being.”

19 January 2011

19 Jan 2011, Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 7:1-3, 15-17

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High,
met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings
and blessed him.
And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything.
His name first means righteous king,
and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace.
Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up
after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so,
not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent
but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.
For it is testified:

You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Responsorial PsalmR. (4b)

You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
till I make your enemies your footstool.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The scepter of your power the LORD will stretch forth from Zion:
“Rule in the midst of your enemies.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor;
before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD has sworn, and he will not repent:
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

Mk 3:1-6

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

Meditation: Mark 3:1-6

“They watched him closely.” (Mark 3:2)

Where is the love? This kind of question comes to mind when we read of the Pharisees’ stringent interpretation of the Mosaic Law. They had taken up the role of guardians and interpreters of the Law, and most were sincere in their devotion. But their error, especially when compared to Jesus, lay in the way some of them emphasized the letter of the Law over the spirit of the Law. In fact, just to entrap him, some were accusing Jesus of breaking God’s law by healing a man on the Sabbath. This led to the almost ridiculous question that Jesus was forced to ask them: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” (Mark 3:4).

The Pharisees were claiming that Jesus, who had been moved by the man’s condition to heal him, was guilty of rendering medical treatment, which was prohibited on the Sabbath. Instead of using their common sense, their attachment to their interpretation of God’s word led them to an absurd position. Of course it’s right to do good on the Sabbath! Of course it’s right to heal someone on a day of rest. In fact, wouldn’t the Sabbath be one of the best days for healing someone and helping him enter into the “rest” of the Lord?

Like the Pharisees, Jesus loved the Law and lived to uphold it. Yet he knew that keeping the Law required love as the key, not extensive elaboration on the rules. By inviting this man to “come up” (Mark 3:3), or rise up before the crowd, Jesus foreshadowed his own rising up on Easter—a resurrection that he would share with all of us.

In a sense, each of us is that man in the synagogue, invited to “come up” and enter into Jesus’ rest. In prayer today, picture Jesus standing before you, inviting you to come up to be with him. Are any burdens weighing you down? Have you maybe replaced the law of love with strict, burdening legalism? Let it go, and run to Jesus. He has more than enough grace to help you follow him with a joyful, peaceful heart!

“Holy Spirit, without your guidance I cannot hope to please the Father. Teach me how to think and act according to God’s law of love and mercy.”

18 January 2011

18 Jan 2011, Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 6:10-20

Brothers and sisters:
God is not unjust so as to overlook your work
and the love you have demonstrated for his name
by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.
We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness
for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who,
through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.

When God made the promise to Abraham,
since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,
and said, I will indeed bless you and multiply you.
And so, after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.
Now, men swear by someone greater than themselves;
for them an oath serves as a guarantee
and puts an end to all argument.
So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise
an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose,
he intervened with an oath,
so that by two immutable things,
in which it was impossible for God to lie,
we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged
to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.
This we have as an anchor of the soul,
sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil,
where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner,
becoming high priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.

Ps 111:1-2, 4-5, 9 and 10c
Responsorial PsalmR. (5)

The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
He has sent deliverance to his people;
he has ratified his covenant forever;
holy and awesome is his name.
His praise endures forever.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.

Mk 2:23-28

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

Meditation: Hebrews 6:10-20

“Hold fast to the hope that lies before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)

What is this hope? It’s the hope that one day we will all enjoy eternal life in heaven, in union with God and all believers. We have a taste of this union whenever we gather as a church, but the sad fact is that Christians have experienced painful divisions over the years. Even today, the body of Christ is divided.

That’s why many Christian churches have designated January 18-25 of every year as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. And this year, the churches have chosen a theme for prayer and reflection that captures the unity that the early church experienced right after Pentecost: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). So as we begin this week, let’s think about what we can do to pray for deeper unity among believers.

The apostles’ teaching. It’s worth knowing what we believe, and why, because it deepens our faith. Learning about our church’s teaching helps us understand what Jesus did for us and what he calls us to do for him. It also shows us that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

Communal Life. Are there believers in your workplace or neighborhood with whom you could meet to share your faith? Our love for the Lord can draw us to people with that same love and provide us with opportunities to support one another in Christ.

Breaking of the bread and the prayers. While our differences prevent us from taking communion together, we can “break bread” in other ways. Perhaps we can work together for a common cause, such as serving the poor or protecting the unborn. We can also pray with people from other faiths—whether spontaneously or in organized prayer services. Praying with other Christians is a powerful way to break new ground and change the way we view each other’s faith traditions.

This week is a special time to intercede for Christian unity. But it’s just the beginning. We can become a prophetic people all year long, anticipating the day when we will all be completely united in Jesus, our common Lord and Savior.

“Jesus, all our hope lies in you. Soften our hearts and heal our wounds so that we can become one with all who follow you.”

17 January 2011

17 Jan 2011, Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbott

Reading 1
Heb 5:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
Every high priest is taken from among men
and made their representative before God,
to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,
for he himself is beset by weakness
and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself
as well as for the people.
No one takes this honor upon himself
but only when called by God,
just as Aaron was.
In the same way,
it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest,
but rather the one who said to him:
You are my Son:
this day I have begotten you;
just as he says in another place,
You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.
In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Responsorial PsalmR. (4b)

You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
till I make your enemies your footstool.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The scepter of your power the LORD will stretch forth from Zion:
“Rule in the midst of your enemies.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor;
before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD has sworn, and he will not repent:
“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

Mk 2:18-22

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

Meditation: Mark 2:18-22

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them.” (Mark 2:20)

Imagine the scene-—Jesus’ creative mind colliding with the more rigid, traditional mindset of some of his peers. We’re used to seeing followers of God fast. Why don’t your disciples? The people were familiar with the covenant of Moses and its call to fasting, but Jesus was introducing a new way. Imagine him answering them: Fasting, when I’m present, would be like trying to listen to a cassette with a CD player. You would be mixing old and new technologies. Let’s enjoy our time together while I’m here, because one day I’m going back to my Father.

So where does that leave us? Jesus has gone back to his Father, but he is also present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Does that mean we should fast—because he is back in heaven? Or does it mean we shouldn’t—because he is in our hearts?

The answer is both yes and no. Jesus is with us; he hasn’t left us orphans. This means that our lives should be marked by joy and peace and fulfillment. At the same time, we aren’t always with Jesus. We all know what it is like to feel far from the Lord, whether because of unconfessed sin, complacency in prayer, or just the busyness of the day. We may be vessels of the Holy Spirit, but we are earthen vessels, prone to sin, selfishness, doubt, and times of weak faith.

This is why Jesus wants us to fast: so that we can draw closer to him. He knows that as we deny ourselves—in whatever way we choose—we are telling ourselves that we want more of him. We are telling ourselves that the world is not our final home and that we are longing to see Jesus more clearly. Fasting refines us. It softens our hearts. It helps us deepen our faith.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is with us always, to the “end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He wants to do so much in our lives. He wants us to enjoy our life with him. All he asks is that we turn our hearts toward him. May we all learn to decrease just a little bit more so that he can increase in us!

“Jesus, I trust that you are always beside me. Help me stay close to you.”

16 January 2011

16 Jan 2011, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 49:3, 5-6

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Responsorial PsalmR. (8a and 9a)

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2
1 Cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jn 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jes
us coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Meditation: John 1:29-34

“Behold, the Lamb of God.” (John 1:29)

A young man just out of college, Joe was searching for God. He didn’t belong to any church, but he had an open mind. On Christmas Eve, of all days, he decided to go to a Catholic Mass. He didn’t understand most of what was going on, but when the priest held up the host and said: “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” a light went on for him. He knew, without knowing how, that this was Jesus on the altar!

John the Baptist, the first to utter these words, had a similar experience. He had been preparing for the Messiah’s coming all his life, but he had no idea what the Messiah would look like. So how did he figure out that it was none other than his kinsman, the carpenter’s son? As he tells his listeners, it was the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). Can you imagine what kind of emotions John felt at that moment? “Excited” couldn’t begin to describe it!

As a preparation for Mass today, try dwelling on these words of John the Baptist. How amazing it is that at every Eucharist, we are visited by the Lamb of God! The mere fact of his presence in the bread and wine is stupendous. It’s a mystery we can’t possibly explain, except to say that his love is so powerful that it transcends space, time, and even matter.

But perhaps even more amazing is the fact that, like John, we can recognize Jesus. Our natural senses won’t reveal him, but the Holy Spirit will. So as you go to receive communion, thank Jesus for this gift of faith. It’s the best gift anyone can receive, for it’s the key to all the other gifts God has for us. With his love and strength to sustain us, we have nothing to fear—and everything to hope for!

“Thank you, Lord, that I can know your presence in the Eucharist! May this knowledge fill me with zeal to love and serve you always.”


Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Isaiah 49:3,5-6; Psalm 40:2,4,7-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

1. More than being just servants, Isaiah describes the role of the chosen people as being restorers and “a light to the nations”. We as Catholics are also called to be a light to others. How can you participate in the role of restoration by bringing Christ’s love and light to others? What about someone you know who has fallen away from the Church? How can you help to bring him/her back?

2. The response in the responsorial psalm is, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” The psalmist says that he did this when he proclaims: “I announced your justice to the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O Lord, know.” In what other ways did the psalmist do God’s will? In what ways can you be more sensitive and obedient to God’s will for your life?

3. In addition, the psalmist speaks of the Lord’s will as his “delight”. What parts of the Lord’s will for your life are a “delight” for you? What parts are not a “delight” for you, and what steps can you take to change this?

4. In the second reading, Paul addresses us as those who are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy”, which means “set apart” for the Lord. Do you see yourself as called by the Lord to be holy? Why or why not? What do you see as the obstacles to being holy and how can you overcome them?

5. The Gospel today speaks of being baptized with (immersed into) the Holy Spirit. This happened most notably at your Baptism and again at Confirmation. How conscious are you during the day that the very life, power, and love of God dwell within you through the Holy Spirit? What are some steps you can take to open your self to this truth, and be more sensitive to the leadings of the Spirit?

6. In the next few weeks, as the meditation suggests, before each Mass try dwelling, with expectant faith, on the words of John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Share the fruits from doing this with others.

15 Jan 2011, Saturday of the First Week In Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 4:12-16

The word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit,
joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Responsorial Psalm R. (see John6:63c)

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Mk 2:13-17

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

Meditation: Hebrews 4:12-16

“Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Therefore … let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace.” (Hebrews 4:13-14,16)

How do you feel when you hear that God is all-seeing and all-knowing? What happens when you recall that God knows not only everything you have ever done but your darkest desires and worst fears? It’s an intimidating thought, isn’t it?

The author of Hebrews urges us to put aside our fears and draw near to God—and to do it boldly! What a relief to understand that God doesn’t just know us inside and out; he loves us as we are! We don’t have to hide from him. We don’t have to be afraid that some new disclosure will drive him away. No, he died for all of that. By his cross he has set us free from every sin and from everything else that would try to separate us from him.

Because God cannot know us without loving us, we can learn to understand ourselves in a new way. This is very helpful when the devil—the accuser—starts whispering his lies in our ears: “You’re no good.” “You messed that up so badly it can’t be fixed.” “How can God possibly accept you now?”

But what does God say about you? You are the only kind of saint there is: a sinner in the process of being transformed by grace! Any statement about yourself that leaves out God’s unconditional love is so incomplete that it is a lie, rooted in the work of the Evil One.

Hebrews tells us that God’s word sheds light on who we are and who God is. It can help sort out our motives and our priorities. More important, it can help us get to know Jesus, who shared our humanity, who faced every temptation and overcame it. As we get to know him, we will find that he is full of compassion. He has opened the way for us into God’s own throne room. Now we can all find “timely help” for every need.

“Jesus, thank you for knowing me inside and out, and loving me unconditionally. Thank you for understanding my human weaknesses. As I cling to you, I know I will receive all the grace I need.”

14 Jan 2011, Friday of the First Week In Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Heb 4:1-5, 11

Let us be on our guard
while the promise of entering into his rest remains,
that none of you seem to have failed.
For in fact we have received the Good News just as our ancestors did.
But the word that they heard did not profit them,
for they were not united in faith with those who listened.
For we who believed enter into that rest,
just as he has said:

As I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter into my rest,”

and yet his works were accomplished
at the foundation of the world.
For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner,
And God rested on the seventh day from all his works;
and again, in the previously mentioned place,
They shall not enter into my rest.

Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest,
so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Ps 78:3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8
Responsorial Psalm R. (see 7b)

Do not forget the works of the Lord!
What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
we will declare to the generation to come
The glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
That they too may rise and declare to their sons
that they should put their hope in God,
And not forget the deeds of God
but keep his commands.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
And not be like their fathers,
a generation wayward and rebellious,
A generation that kept not its heart steadfast
nor its spirit faithful toward God.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Mk 2:1-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what
they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
–he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Meditation: Mark 2:1-12

No matter how strong or agile, active or independent you are, you have something in common with this paralyzed man. In fact, we all do: We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have all preferred ourselves to the One who created us, choosing our way over God’s way and, therefore, against our own good (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 398). And so we all need to hear Jesus say, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

Yes, your sins are forgiven! No matter what you’ve done, why you’ve done it, or who you’ve done it to, Jesus still forgives you. The world has never seen anything like the kind of transformation that can occur in a forgiven soul. You don’t have to remain paralyzed by guilt or shame. If you feel that your hands are too weak to serve God and your knees are too feeble to follow him, they can be strengthened by the flow of his mercy and grace.

Yes, your sins are forgiven! And because of God’s mercy, the eyes of the blind can be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame can leap, and the mute can sing for joy (Isaiah 35:4-6). Jesus has done it. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and he now says to you: “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

If you’ve never heard Jesus speak those glorious words, run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Tear the roof off the building if you have to, lower yourself as low as necessary, and get in the presence of our Lord to hear him say, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Let the Holy Spirit show you what Jesus wants to heal in your life. Perhaps it’s anger and bitterness or resentments and grudges. Let him massage the hard knots of unforgiveness until they relax and your pain is eased. Fears and feelings of unworthiness because of your past sins, whether sins of omission or sins of commission, can melt away. Right now, even today, Jesus stands ready to say to you: “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

“Jesus, forgive me. Heal me. Strengthen what is weak, soften what is hard, and set my feet again on the pathway to you. Raise me up to walk with you today.”