31 January 2012

31 Jan 2012, Memorial of Saint John Bosco, Priest

Reading 1 2 Sm 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30; 19:3

Absalom unexpectedly came up against David's servants.
He was mounted on a mule,
and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large terebinth,
his hair caught fast in the tree.
He hung between heaven and earth
while the mule he had been riding ran off.
Someone saw this and reported to Joab
that he had seen Absalom hanging from a terebinth.
And taking three pikes in hand,
he thrust for the heart of Absalom,
still hanging from the tree alive.

Now David was sitting between the two gates,
and a lookout went up to the roof of the gate above the city wall,
where he looked about and saw a man running all alone.
The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said,
"If he is alone, he has good news to report."
The king said, "Step aside and remain in attendance here."
So he stepped aside and remained there.
When the Cushite messenger came in, he said,
"Let my lord the king receive the good news
that this day the LORD has taken your part,
freeing you from the grasp of all who rebelled against you."
But the king asked the Cushite, "Is young Absalom safe?"
The Cushite replied, "May the enemies of my lord the king
and all who rebel against you with evil intent
be as that young man!"

The king was shaken,
and went up to the room over the city gate to weep.
He said as he wept,
"My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!
If only I had died instead of you,
Absalom, my son, my son!"

Joab was told that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom;
and that day's victory was turned into mourning for the whole army
when they heard that the king was grieving for his son.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (1a) Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.

Gospel Mk 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him
and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to him,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said,
"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
"Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
"Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child's father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum,"
which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

Meditation: Mark 5:21-43

Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

Jesus’ compassion and love really shine out in the miraculous events described in today’s Gospel reading. Moved with pity, he showed great mercy toward people who were in distress and without hope. It’s not surprising, then, that Jesus’ mira­cles have frequently been called “the good news made visible.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Christ’s compas­sion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that ‘God has visited his people’ and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand” (CCC, 1503). Restoring health to the sick and life to those who have died also points toward the transforma­tion that will take place at the end of time. That’s when our mortal, per­ishable bodies will finally be clothed with imperishability and immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53).

When Jesus worked miracles two thousand years ago, people saw his love and were moved to embrace his message of salvation. The same thing can happen today when we read about these healings in the Gospels. We can see in them Jesus’ invitation to open ourselves to his mercy and to put our faith in his saving power.

Day by day, God continues to work miracles to bring us to whole­ness and deeper conversion. We may not understand why everyone is not healed when we pray. Still, while some are not healed, others are! Even if we haven’t experienced God miraculously healing us, many of us know of wondrous deeds that he has done in our midst—perhaps a parishioner whose brain tumor inexplicably disappeared after prayer or a friend whose hearing improved dramatically just moments after she received the Eucharist.

Just as the woman with the hem­orrhage reached out to Jesus, we can reach out to him right now. He will tell us the same thing he told Jairus: “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mark 5:36). So let’s all press closer to Jesus. Let’s cry out to him for healing and hope. He loves to answer us with miraculous signs of his presence and love!

“Jesus, unleash a wave of healing power throughout your church. Touch the sick and the suffering, and restore them to wholeness and well­being.”

30 January 2012

30 Jan 2012, Monday, Weekday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13

An informant came to David with the report,
"The children of Israel have transferred their loyalty to Absalom."
At this, David said to all his servants
who were with him in Jerusalem:
"Up! Let us take flight, or none of us will escape from Absalom.
Leave quickly, lest he hurry and overtake us,
then visit disaster upon us and put the city to the sword."

As David went up the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing.
His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot.
All those who were with him also had their heads covered
and were weeping as they went.

As David was approaching Bahurim,
a man named Shimei, the son of Gera
of the same clan as Saul's family,
was coming out of the place, cursing as he came.
He threw stones at David and at all the king's officers,
even though all the soldiers, including the royal guard,
were on David's right and on his left.
Shimei was saying as he cursed:
"Away, away, you murderous and wicked man!
The LORD has requited you for all the bloodshed in the family of Saul,
in whose stead you became king,
and the LORD has given over the kingdom to your son Absalom.
And now you suffer ruin because you are a murderer."
Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king:
"Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?
Let me go over, please, and lop off his head."
But the king replied: "What business is it of mine or of yours,
sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?
Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David;
who then will dare to say, 'Why are you doing this?'"
Then the king said to Abishai and to all his servants:
"If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life,
how much more might this Benjaminite do so?
Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.
Perhaps the LORD will look upon my affliction
and make it up to me with benefits
for the curses he is uttering this day."
David and his men continued on the road,
while Shimei kept abreast of them on the hillside,
all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (8a) Lord, rise up and save me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
"There is no salvation for him in God."
R. Lord, rise up and save me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. Lord, rise up and save me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. Lord, rise up and save me.

Gospel 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: Mark 5:1-20

“They caught sight of the man … sitting there clothed and in his right mind.” (Mark 5:15)

Today we are once again reminded of Jesus’ power to heal and restore people. The Gospels are filled with stories like this—so much that it’s hard to deny that Jesus really did perform works of healing and deliverance. But what may be less accepted is the claim that the risen Jesus still heals people today!

Yes, Jesus wants to heal us, both physically and interiorly. He wants to set us free from sickness and from the guilt, anxieties, fear, and bitter­ness that bind us up and keep us distant from him. And he wants to do this through us. That’s right—he wants you to be an instrument of his peace and healing!

The church teaches that when we are baptized, we are given a share in the very life of God. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that this would include a share in Jesus’ ability to heal? St. Paul goes so far as to list healing as one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit pours out on believers (1 Corinthians 12:9).

As members of the body of Christ, we can all pray for people to be made whole. All it takes is a simple prayer, asking Jesus to come to those who are hurting. We can ask him to give them peace. We can ask him to speak his words of comfort and heal­ing to their hearts and bodies. Any one of us can soak our loved ones in prayer and trust that God will per­form just the right healing at just the right time.

In recent years, the church has seen a remarkable growth in the number of teams of lay people who are learning how to pray with parish­ioners who come to them for heal­ing. Many come with heavy burdens like serious illness, family problems, relationship difficulties, and inner wounds. These healing teams are careful not to try to solve people’s problems or give advice. Their one goal is to create an open, trusting environment so that people can meet Jesus, the Great Physician.

Jesus is still healing people today! As Scripture states so beautifully: “The Lord is close to the broken­hearted” (Psalm 34:19).

“Jesus, teach me how to be your instrument of healing, peace, and restoration.”

28 January 2012

29 Jan 2012, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
"A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
'Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.'
And the LORD said to me, 'This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'"

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
"Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works."
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Gospel Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are?the Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Meditation: Mark 1:21-28

Today’s Gospel warns us to be on guard because evil spirits are con­stantly at work tempting us and harassing us. This warning is even more urgent today, as the world has practically dismissed the reality of evil spirits.

Evil spirits are always on the prowl. They whisper lies and half-truths to us and try to confuse us. They try to influence us to do things we know are wrong—even things we don’t want to do. We have all felt their influence at different times. We know how they have tried to sow division, to make us fearful, to get us down on ourselves, to lie, to manip­ulate people, or to doubt God’s love.

Yes, we have a free will. Yes, we make the final choices for our lives. But these choices are never made in isolation. They are always influ­enced by the people around us, by the media, by the Holy Spirit, and by Satan.

All this may sound intimidating, but we shouldn’t be afraid. Jesus overcame one evil spirit in today’s Gospel, and he overcame them all on the cross. We just have to be more alert to what is coming into our minds, especially more alert to the devil’s tactics.

Another thing we can do is begin every day by praying for protection against evil spirits. All we have to do is say the words that Jesus taught us: “Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Finally, we should believe in the power of the name of Jesus. Scripture tells us how St. Paul, in dealing with an evil spirit that was harassing a woman, commanded: “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And the spirit left immediately (Acts 16:18). Likewise, we need to call on the name of Jesus throughout the day, especially when we are feeling tempted or harassed.

“In the name of Jesus, I command all evil spirits to be quiet and to depart from me and from every member of my family. Lord, deliver us from the lies of the evil one and help us to be ever more alert.”

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28)

1. In the reading from Deuteronomy, God tells the people of Israel that he will raise up a prophet from among them. He goes on to warn them with these words, “Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” We know that this passage was ultimately fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. How seriously do you take the words of Jesus when they require you to do something, or give up something, you don’t want to. What are some of the excuses you make for not doing what you know the Lord is asking of you? How can you overcome these excuses?

2. The responsorial psalm continues the theme of the first reading by exhorting us to hear the voice of the Lord and warning us not to harden our hearts. How would you describe the obstacles in your life that can harden your heart from following the Lord?

3. Although St. Paul tells us in the second reading to be “free of anxieties,” he also tells us to be “anxious for the things of the Lord.” What are the “things of the Lord” that should make you “anxious” to please him?

4. In the Gospel, Jesus not only taught with authority, but he also healed and delivered the man with an unclean spirit with that same authority. The reaction to Jesus was that the people were “amazed”. Were you ever “amazed” by Jesus’ healing touch on your life or on someone else? What was it that amazed you?

5. To help in our battle against the attacks of the Evil One, the meditation recommends that we “begin every day by praying for protection against evil spirits. All we have to do is say the words that Jesus taught us: ‘Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” Are you willing to try this? If not, why not? What do you expect the results to be?

6. Take some time now to pray against any evil spirits that may be coming against you. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.

28 Jan 2012, Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and  doctor of the Church

Reading 1 2 Sm 12:1-7a, 10-17

The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him,
Nathan said: "Judge this case for me!
In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor.
The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers.
But the poor man had nothing at all
except one little ewe lamb that he had bought.
He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children.
She shared the little food he had
and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom.
She was like a daughter to him.
Now, the rich man received a visitor,
but he would not take from his own flocks and herds
to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him.
Instead he took the poor man's ewe lamb
and made a meal of it for his visitor."
David grew very angry with that man and said to him:
"As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death!
He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold
because he has done this and has had no pity."

Then Nathan said to David: "You are the man!
Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
'The sword shall never depart from your house,
because you have despised me
and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.'
Thus says the LORD:
'I will bring evil upon you out of your own house.
I will take your wives while you live to see it,
and will give them to your neighbor.
He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight.
You have done this deed in secret,
but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel,
and with the sun looking down.'"

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

The LORD struck the child that the wife of Uriah had borne to David,
and it became desperately ill.
David besought God for the child.
He kept a fast, retiring for the night
to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth.
The elders of his house stood beside him
urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not,
nor would he take food with them.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God;
then my tongue shall revel in your justice.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Gospel 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 that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)

Imagine yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples. You have met this man who preaches with authority, heals sick people, and even raises the dead. Wonderful things just seem to sprout up wherever he goes. Then one night you go out on a boat with him. He falls asleep, and a power­ful storm starts to lash the boat. The waves are high and swift. The boat rocks, and you start taking on water. You are a fisherman, familiar with the sea and its moods, but this storm is so severe that you begin to panic. You can think of nothing but getting to shore.

What happened to your faith? Here you are with a wonder-working Messiah, and the only voice in your brain is one of fear and anxiety.

On one hand, the disciples’ ques­tion “Do you not care?” makes sense. Here they are, facing a life-threatening danger, and Jesus seems oblivious to their peril. Maybe he doesn’t care. But on the other hand, the question is very illogical. Yes, Jesus is asleep. Yes, the situation looks treacherous. But this is Jesus. This is the man who has shown, over and over again, that he can sus­pend the laws of nature. This is the man who has shown, over and over again, that he is full of mercy and compassion. Of course he cares! It’s not a question of “if” he will help them. It’s a question of “when” and “how.”

We have all been in situations that raise the panic level in our hearts. We see nothing but trou­ble, and we want only to get out as quickly as possible. It’s at times like these that we need to remem­ber that Jesus is with us. He may seem asleep. He may seem oblivi­ous to the tempest swirling around us. But this is Jesus, and he sees our need—and he cares deeply.

Today’s passage tells us that faith is not a matter of feelings. It’s a matter of trust, memory, and logic. If we can learn to keep our minds fixed on Jesus and his truths, we will find all the faith—and peace—we will ever need.

“Jesus, you know how frightening the storms of life can get. Help me to see you in the midst of them. Deepen my faith so that, even when you seem distant, I can still trust you to keep me safe.”

27 January 2012

27 Jan 2012, Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

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

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign,
David sent out Joab along with his officers
and the army of Israel,
and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.
David, however, remained in Jerusalem.
One evening David rose from his siesta
and strolled about on the roof of the palace.
From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.
David had inquiries made about the woman and was told,
"She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam,
and wife of Joab's armor bearer Uriah the Hittite."
Then David sent messengers and took her.
When she came to him, he had relations with her.
She then returned to her house.
But the woman had conceived,
and sent the information to David, "I am with child."

David therefore sent a message to Joab,
"Send me Uriah the Hittite."
So Joab sent Uriah to David.
When he came, David questioned him about Joab, the soldiers,
and how the war was going, and Uriah answered that all was well.
David then said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and bathe your feet."
Uriah left the palace,
and a portion was sent out after him from the king's table.
But Uriah slept at the entrance of the royal palace
with the other officers of his lord, and did not go down
to his own house.
David was told that Uriah had not gone home.
On the day following, David summoned him,
and he ate and drank with David, who made him drunk.
But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his bed
among his lord's servants, and did not go down to his home.
The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab
which he sent by Uriah.
In it he directed:
"Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce.
Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead."
So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah
to a place where he knew the defenders were strong.
When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab,
some officers of David's army fell,
and among them Uriah the Hittite died.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 5-6a, 6bcd-7, 10-11

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
I have done such evil in your sight
that you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty,
a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
the bones you have crushed shall rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Gospel 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: Mark 4:26-34

Of its own accord the land yields fruit.” (Mark 4:28)

If you’ve ever planted a seed in a garden or even in a pot inside your home, you can probably remem­ber the day that seed sprouted and poked up through the soil. If you’re watching a farmer’s field, one day it will seem to be a patch of brown dirt, and the next day it’s covered with delicate new plants. No one knows exactly when it will happen, and the farmer may wonder if all the seeds he planted will ever ger­minate. But given the warmth and moisture of the soil, those seeds will come up!

Jesus says evangelization is a lot like watching a garden. Our job is to plant the seeds, not to worry about when they will sprout. We may not know how people will react to our witness. But we can be sure that no seed sown will end up fruit­less! God even guarantees that his word will go forth and accomplish the purpose for which he sent it out (Isaiah 55:11).

We can’t control the mystery of conversion. Once we sow the seed of God’s word, no matter how much we may want to hurry things along, it remains God’s work! Conversion doesn’t depend on our ability to tell a good story or give a good witness. It depends on the mystery of God’s revelation in the secret place of each person’s heart. In the same way that Jesus told par­ables, knowing that people would hear them differently and respond to them differently, we know that our love and service and witness to others will elicit different responses. But even if we can’t see the growth, Jesus assures us that our work of sowing seeds will indeed bear fruit.

So what do we do? Keep sow­ing! Keep praying for people! Keep looking for opportunities to share God’s work in your life! Keep giving of yourself, letting your life tell the story of Jesus. Then just trust God to take those seeds and make them grow, bearing fruit for his kingdom!

“Lord, thank you for your work in my life! Thank you for making the seed of faith sprout and grow in me, bringing me to conversion. Now teach me how to sow these same seeds in other people’s lives so that you may draw them to yourself.”

26 January 2012

26 Jan 2012, 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.

Or 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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

R. (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.

Gospel 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: 2 Timothy 1:1-8

Sets. Timothy and Titus

I remember you constantly in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:3)

Born in Galatia, in present-day Turkey, Timothy was appointed by Paul at an early age as a fellow apos­tle. He accompanied Paul on many of his travels and became one of his closest associates. Later, Paul com­missioned him to lead the church at Ephesus. From Scripture we can gather that Timothy was rather timid and needed lots of encouragement from his mentor. Yet we also know that Timothy died a martyr’s death after publicly denouncing the wor­ship of the goddess Diana—in her own temple, no less!

So what gave this quiet pastor the courage to take such a bold stand? We could say that it was the grace that came to Timothy when Paul laid hands on him (2 Timothy 1:6). But there is more to it than that. Paul’s exhortation in itself must have been very inspiring. Timothy knew what his responsibilities as a bishop entailed, and he knew that God was with him. But he also needed strong encouragement to do all that God was asking of him.

Our world places a high value on self-reliance. But not even the great saints of the past operated alone.

Either they were part of a faith com­munity or they were accountable to someone who could help them on their spiritual journey. As Timothy needed the support of Paul, we need the support of our brothers and sis­ters in Christ. We also need to give out that support as well. None of us will get to heaven by ourselves!

There’s a reason why Jesus told his disciples: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s not that he isn’t with us as individuals. No, it’s that we function best when we are united as the body of Christ. As we gather in Jesus’ name, the Holy Spirit ministers not only to us but through us. It doesn’t matter how “little” our ministry, parish group, or small group is. It’s not little to God. So give thanks for your fellow believers. You really do need them!

“Lord, help me see the gift that my fellow Christians are to me—and the gift that I can be to them. Show me how to participate more fully in your body, Lord.”

25 January 2012

25 Jan 2012, 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.'"

Or 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, Ananias."
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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 117:1bc, 2

R. (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.

Gospel Mk 16:15-18

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

Meditation: Acts 22:3-16

The Conversion of St.Paul

About noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. (Acts 22:6)

Have you taken a close look at your bathroom mirrors lately? The daily routine of brushing your teeth, washing your face, and combing your hair in front of a mirror can leave a build-up of water marks, left­over toothpaste, and hairspray, all obstructing your reflection and giving you a miry view of your appearance. But with just a little glass cleaner and some paper towels, you can wipe the grime away, enabling you to see your reflection clearly without any spots or buildup.

In today’s first reading, the buildup that hindered Paul’s view about his life was removed when he met the Lord on the Damascus road. The revelation of Jesus—and of him­self—moved Paul to turn away from his old way of thinking and embrace the church he had been persecut­ing. With a new clarity of vision and a new understanding of who God is and how he works, Paul turned his heart to Jesus, and immedi­ately began preaching in the streets of Damascus. You can just imagine him telling people about his own experience of the Lord and urging them to turn to Jesus so that they too could come to see him as clearly as Paul had.

What made Paul so passionate and so clear? His conversion, that’s what. The moment Jesus entered his life, everything changed! Paul knew what he was like before that day, and he saw how God had been at work transforming him from that point on. That one event was so powerful that the story is told three times in the Book of Acts alone—not to men­tion all the times Paul refers to it in his letters!

Take some time today to write down the story of your own faith journey. Even if you didn’t have a dramatic “road to Damascus” expe­rience, it is still important to write down how God has been at work, giving you a clearer vision of your­self and of his love. St. Paul himself shows us that a clear mind always leads to a pure heart.

“Praise you, Lord, for your love for me is strong and mighty! You are forever faithful to everyone who trusts in your name. May I always live to give you glory and honor!”

24 Jan 2012, Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Reading 1 2 Sm 6:12b-15, 17-19

David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom
into the City of David amid festivities.
As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps,
he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.
Then David, girt with a linen apron,
came dancing before the LORD with abandon,
as he and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.
The ark of the LORD was brought in and set in its place
within the tent David had pitched for it.
Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
When he finished making these offerings,
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.
He then distributed among all the people,
to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel,
a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake.
With this, all the people left for their homes.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10

R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Gospel Mk 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
"Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you."
But he said to them in reply,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.

Meditation: 2 Samuel 6:12-15,17-19

“David and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy.” (2 Samuel 6:15)

Having captured the city of Jerusalem and made it his capital, King David was eager to bring into the city the ark where God met his people. His first attempt met with tragedy when the people ignored God’s instructions for transport­ing the ark, but David didn’t let that stop him. Three more months of waiting only intensified his desire to establish the ark in a suitable resting place. Finally, the day came—and nothing went wrong. Unable to con­tain his joy, David sang and danced before the Lord “with abandon” (2 Samuel 6:14).

If bringing the ark to Jerusalem was a cause for great celebration, imagine how much more reason we have to celebrate. The ark contained the Ten Commandments and other mementoes of the Exodus, but the tabernacles in our churches contain Jesus himself. Only one priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only once a year, but any one of us can slip into a church at any time and linger in God’s presence. At every Mass, we can take God into our own bodies, where his love feeds and transforms us.

When you look at it this way, it’s a wonder that we don’t raise the raf­ters with exuberant praise at every Mass! It can be easy to let our minds wander, criticize the homilist, or spend the time planning what we’ll do as soon as Mass is over. We can even brush by our fellow parishio­ners, other temples of God, without recognizing how awesome they are and what a gift they are to us.

The psalmist invites us: “Lift up your heads, O gates … that the king of glory may enter” (Psalm 24:7). The next time you go to Mass, think about taking a different approach. Sometimes we need to make room for God to come into us by literally or figuratively raising our hands in praise. And on those days when we don’t feel like praising God, delib­erately choosing to speak words of praise can align our feelings with reality. Then, as you come to receive Communion, bow before the won­der of Christ’s presence, just as Moses did in the presence of Yahweh (Exodus 34:8). God is among us! We have every reason to celebrate!

“Jesus, how awesome is your self-giving presence! Open my eyes to see you and my mouth to praise you.”

For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother."

23 Jan 2012, Monday, Weekday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 2 Sm 5:1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
"Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king,
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you, 'You shall shepherd my people Israel
and shall be commander of Israel.'"
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron,
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD,
and they anointed him king of Israel.
David was thirty years old when he became king,
and he reigned for forty years:
seven years and six months in Hebron over Judah,
and thirty-three years in Jerusalem
over all Israel and Judah.

Then the king and his men set out for Jerusalem
against the Jebusites who inhabited the region.
David was told, "You cannot enter here:
the blind and the lame will drive you away!"
which was their way of saying, "David cannot enter here."
But David did take the stronghold of Zion, which is the City of David.

David grew steadily more powerful,
for the LORD of hosts was with him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:20, 21-22, 25-26

R. (25a) My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
Once you spoke in a vision,
and to your faithful ones you said:
"On a champion I have placed a crown;
over the people I have set a youth."
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
"I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong."
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
"My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand upon the sea,
his right hand upon the rivers."
R. For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

Gospel 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

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24)

In sad commemoration of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that paved the way for legalized abortion, the church in the United States has designated today as a day of penance and prayer. What are we being called to repent for? “Violations to the dig­nity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.” And what are we being called to pray for? “The full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”

It’s interesting to note that the church is calling all of us to repent, not just those who have been directly involved in abortions. It’s a call for all of us to examine our consciences to see how we have contributed to a culture that does not value the dig­nity of every human person. This is quite a humbling call, for it goes against the us-versus-them mentality that often finds its way into our dis­cussions on life issues. It challenges us to question our easy identifica­tion with the culture of life, while we assume that the culture of death is somewhere outside of us.

The reality, however, is that we all bear the marks of both sides of this debate in our hearts. Sinners that we are, each of us has our darker side— ways that we devalue human life or ignore God’s command to love and treasure one another as he loves and treasures each of us. We may not have played an active role in an abor­tion, but Jesus tells us that it’s not enough to say: “I haven’t killed any­one.” He warns us that “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). If this is the case, then surely we all have some repenting to do!

Let’s make this a day of grace. Let’s examine our hearts and see where we need to turn back to the Lord. Through our repentance and prayer, we can turn the tide in our homes, our communities, our nation, and the world. We can begin a peace­ful, humble revolution for the sake of all the innocent, defenseless lives that are in jeopardy. If we begin in our own hearts, the change will radiate out, unleashing a flood tide of bless­ings and unity.

“Jesus, forgive us all! Restore us, Lord, so that we can become one people united under your banner— the banner of life and love!”

22 January 2012

22 Jan 2012, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD'S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, "
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

Gospel Mk 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

Meditation: Mark 1:14-20

“They left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)

In his unending creativity, God calls us to know him and to serve him in a way that is unique to each of us. In today’s first reading, we see Jonah, a fearful prophet, first resisting God’s call but then giv­ing in—resulting in the conversion of the entire city of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10). And in today’s Gospel, we see Jesus calling his disciples to set out on an adventure that chal­lenged all their assumptions. They too resisted at times, but eventually became impassioned preachers of the gospel (Mark 1:16-20).

In both instances, the almighty Creator reached down and called finite, fallen people to follow him— and it touched them to the depths of their hearts. We shouldn’t be sur­prised at this. In fact, we should expect God’s intervention to cause some sort of disturbance. Jonah was challenged to move beyond what he thought were his capabilities. The disciples also struggled for a long time to understand Jesus and his calling. Yet in both situations, God formed them into true servants.

Our Father wants each of us to be witnesses to his gospel and servants of his kingdom. No matter how well-educated or how dedicated we may be, God’s call will inspire us to go further. It may not be as dramatic as it was for the disciples or for Jonah. It may occur over the course of many months, or even years. But it will happen. One by one, our thoughts will be challenged. One by one, our ideas will change to match Jesus’ ideas.

This process of transformation may not always be enjoyable, but it will be fruitful! If we try our best to be faithful in the little things God asks of us each day, we will be changed over time. God will form us into disciples capable of making a difference in the world, just as the apostles and prophets did. All he’s looking for are humble, open hearts.

“Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to be your disciple. With joy, and knowing my life will never be the same, I take up your call. I trust that you will be with me.”

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20)

1. In the first reading, when the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s warning of God’s impending judgment on their city, they believed the words and repented of their sins. Why do you think the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message? (Hint: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah” (Jonah 3:1))

2. In the responsorial psalm, we ask the Lord to teach us his ways and guide us. How important is it to you to have a specific time each day when you pray and try to “listen” to the Lord? What are some of the obstacles to this in your life? How important is it to turn to the Lord during the day and ask him to guide you? What are some of the obstacles to this in your life?

3. St. Paul’s words in the second reading (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) may seem harsh and impractical to us today. What message do you believe Paul was trying to convey in these words? In what ways can we apply the principle put forth in his message to our lives today and to the current times?

4. In the Gospel reading, Jesus, like Jonah, preached a message of repentance. Unlike the people of Nineveh, many people rejected his message. Jesus pointed to this fact as well in Matthew 12:41: “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” Why do you think people would reject Jesus’ message of repentance, but not Jonah’s?

5. What did Jesus mean, in the Gospel reading, when he said to his disciples, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:16)? In what ways do you believe that Jesus has called you to be his witness and be fishers of men and women? What are some obstacles that keep you from answering this call of evangelization?

6. The meditation begins with these words: “In his unending creativity, God calls us to know him and to serve him in a way that is unique to each of us.” How would you describe this “unique” call of God for your life?

7. Take some time now to pray that God would give you the grace to say yes more fully to Jesus’ call to be his disciple and to be fishers of men and women. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.

21 Jan 2012, Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

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

David returned from his defeat of the Amalekites
and spent two days in Ziklag.
On the third day a man came from Saul's camp,
with his clothes torn and dirt on his head.
Going to David, he fell to the ground in homage.
David asked him, "Where do you come from?"
He replied, "I have escaped from the camp of the children of Israel."
"Tell me what happened," David bade him.
He answered that many of the soldiers had fled the battle
and that many of them had fallen and were dead,
among them Saul and his son Jonathan.

David seized his garments and rent them,
and all the men who were with him did likewise.
They mourned and wept and fasted until evening
for Saul and his son Jonathan,
and for the soldiers of the LORD of the clans of Israel,
because they had fallen by the sword.

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

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

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

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

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:2-3, 5-7

R. (4b) Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
O guide of the flock of Joseph!
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
O LORD of hosts, how long will you burn with anger
while your people pray?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in ample measure.
You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

Gospel 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: 1 Samuel 24:3-21

“The Lord will exact justice from you in my case. I shall not touch you.” (1 Samuel 24:13)

Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, is a story of revenge that ends in trag­edy. In seeking to avenge his father’s murder, Prince Hamlet ends up causing the death of just about the entire court of Denmark—including himself.

In today’s first reading, David shows a better way. David is being hunted down by Saul, who is jeal­ous of the young man’s success and wants to kill him. David has the per­fect chance to kill Saul when Saul enters a cave where David is hiding. But David doesn’t—he decides to leave justice in God’s hands.

Can we trust God with our need to see justice done? The answer is a resounding “yes.” God is justice. For the sake of justice, he sent his Son to die for our sins. He didn’t want death for us; he wanted life! That’s the justice—and the mercy—of God!

Our heavenly Father knows that revenge hurts the person who seeks it more than the person who is tar­geted. Revenge is always coupled with bitterness and resentment—an infection that can overtake us and lead us away from God. Remember that on Judgment Day, we will have to give God an account of our actions, even those intended to hurt someone else, no matter how “just” it seemed at the time.

We may not want to see peo­ple killed, but we may well want to steal their happiness so that they can somehow “pay” for their injus­tice to us. And so we may give our spouse the silent treatment, or we may start a rumor about a co-worker, or we may refuse to help a neigh­bor in need. Whatever the situation, revenge is never the solution; it only causes more suffering and injustice.

How differently things would turn out if we could catch ourselves when we are hurt and turn to the Lord for healing and comfort! How much eas­ier it would be to surrender the mat­ter into God’s hands, as David did. Then we can be assured that he will see justice done—in his time and in his way!

“Father, even in small ways, I don’t want to ‘get back’ at someone who has hurt me. Instead, I turn to you. Heal my hurting heart, and give me the grace to trust in your justice and mercy.”

20 Jan 2012, Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Sm 24:3-21

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

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 57:2, 3-4, 6 And 11

R. (2a) Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Have mercy on me, O God; have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
In the shadow of your wings I take refuge,
till harm pass by.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
I call to God the Most High,
to God, my benefactor.
May he send from heaven and save me;
may he make those a reproach who trample upon me;
may God send his mercy and his faithfulness.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.

Gospel Mk 3:13-19

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

Meditation: 1 Samuel 24:3-21

“The Lord will exact justice from you in my case. I shall not touch you.” (1 Samuel 24:13)

Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, is a story of revenge that ends in trag­edy. In seeking to avenge his father’s murder, Prince Hamlet ends up causing the death of just about the entire court of Denmark—including himself.

In today’s first reading, David shows a better way. David is being hunted down by Saul, who is jeal­ous of the young man’s success and wants to kill him. David has the per­fect chance to kill Saul when Saul enters a cave where David is hiding. But David doesn’t—he decides to leave justice in God’s hands.

Can we trust God with our need to see justice done? The answer is a resounding “yes.” God is justice. For the sake of justice, he sent his Son to die for our sins. He didn’t want death for us; he wanted life! That’s the justice—and the mercy—of God!

Our heavenly Father knows that revenge hurts the person who seeks it more than the person who is tar­geted. Revenge is always coupled with bitterness and resentment—an infection that can overtake us and lead us away from God. Remember that on Judgment Day, we will have to give God an account of our actions, even those intended to hurt someone else, no matter how “just” it seemed at the time.

We may not want to see peo­ple killed, but we may well want to steal their happiness so that they can somehow “pay” for their injus­tice to us. And so we may give our spouse the silent treatment, or we may start a rumor about a co-worker, or we may refuse to help a neigh­bor in need. Whatever the situation, revenge is never the solution; it only causes more suffering and injustice.

How differently things would turn out if we could catch ourselves when we are hurt and turn to the Lord for healing and comfort! How much eas­ier it would be to surrender the mat­ter into God’s hands, as David did. Then we can be assured that he will see justice done—in his time and in his way!

“Father, even in small ways, I don’t want to ‘get back’ at someone who has hurt me. Instead, I turn to you. Heal my hurting heart, and give me the grace to trust in your justice and mercy.”

19 Jan 2012, Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7

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

"Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands."

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

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

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 56:2-3, 9-10a, 10b-11, 12-13

R. (5b) In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Have mercy on me, O God, for men trample upon me;
all the day they press their attack against me.
My adversaries trample upon me all the day;
yes, many fight against me.
R. In God I trust; I shall not fear.
My wanderings you have counted;
my tears are stored in your flask;
are they not recorded in your book?
Then do my enemies turn back,
when I call upon you.
R. In God I trust; I shall not fear.
Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?
R. In God I trust; I shall not fear.
I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
my feet, too, from stumbling;
that I may walk before God in the light of the living.
R. In God I trust; I shall not fear.

Gospel Mk 3:7-12

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

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

“Saul has slain his thou­sands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)

Saul was a man with both strengths and weaknesses. As Israel’s first king, chosen by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, he certainly enjoyed the favor of the Lord and received divine strength for his mission. A strong man, marked with dignity above his fel­low Israelites, he had personal cour­age and charisma. He was a natural leader, and he began his reign with great promise and potential.

Yet Saul’s adult life was marked by two tragic flaws: jealousy and dis­obedience. Today’s first reading high­lights his jealous streak. The fact that David—a mere servant—was receiv­ing greater acclamation than Saul drove the king to consider David a rival and contemplate killing him. Even though Saul’s son, Jonathan, was able to temporarily persuade Saul not to harm David, Scripture tells us that his jealousy did not end. On numerous occasions later on, Saul made attempts on David’s life. Ultimately, David was forced to flee.

As if this weren’t enough, Saul also exhibited a pattern of disobe­dience toward God. After he won a particularly fierce battle against the Amalekites, Saul offered an unlaw­ful sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-10). He also spared the Amalekites’ king and the best of the people’s cattle, in direct disobedience to God’s com­mand (15:7-9). Finally, in defiance of the Law of Moses, Saul consulted a pagan soothsayer to seek direction instead of asking God for guidance (28:4-25). On the next day, Saul was critically wounded in battle and, in despair, took his own life (31:3-6).

Don’t make the same mistake as Saul! Don’t underestimate the destructive potential of sin! It’s because Saul let failings like jeal­ousy and disobedience fester in him that he met with such a tragic death. Perhaps you are struggling with some flaws in your own life. Rather than turning a blind eye to them or, even worse, feeding them, find the cour­age to turn to Jesus for healing and strength. Go to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and let him set you free. Don’t give up on God. He hasn’t given up on you. Even now, he promises that he can change any­one who turns to him.

“Lord Jesus, heal me of every hurtful situation and jealous thought. Let your love and compassion restore my soul.”

18 Jan 2012, Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 

Reading 1 1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51

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

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

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

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

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 144:1b, 2, 9-10

R. (1) Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
My refuge and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust,
who subdues my people under me.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
O God, I will sing a new song to you;
with a ten-stringed lyre I will chant your praise,
You who give victory to kings,
and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

Gospel Mk 3:1-6

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

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

“The battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

Who doesn’t love the story of David, the brave shepherd boy who used his slingshot to fell the mighty giant Goliath? We admire the skill with which David wielded his small weapon, but far more striking is his confidence in the living God.

Once again we stand at the begin­ning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. We have covered this ground so many times, it is easy to be discouraged. The giant of divi­sion seems entrenched and formida­ble. We may feel powerless against him, even as it seems that our divi­sions are becoming only deeper.

But don’t forget: This battle is the Lord’s, not ours, to win. And that means that we need to cast ourselves on his mercy and carefully select the smooth stones he has placed at our disposal.

First, let’s be clear about the enemy we face. That enemy is not other denominations but the way we have all turned from Jesus’ prayer that his church be one. Our objec­tive in ecumenism is not to demol­ish others’ positions and arguments but to bridge the gap of hostility and misunderstanding between us. Great progress has been made when theologians from different tradi­tions have stopped attacking each other and tried to understand what each other is saying and why. One example of this approach is the way that Lutherans and Catholics have come to substantial agreement on the very issues that were so hotly contested during the Reformation.

It’s true that not many of us pos­sess the weapons of theological dis­course, but we do have several smooth stones at our disposal. One that flies straight to the mark is love, choosing to think the best of each other. Love deeply respects the other, listens to the other, and is open to learning from the other. Because the unified church Jesus longs for has yet to come about, each denomination, each individual, may grasp an aspect of the truth that may have eluded others and can enrich us all.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Love casts out fear. Love heals. Love unites. If we can just learn to look upon each other with love, we will go a long way toward the unity we all long for!

“Father, make us one. Help us to repent of our sins against unity. Lord, heal every division!”

17 January 2012

17 Jan 2012, Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbott

Reading 1 1 Sm 16:1-13

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

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:20, 21-22, 27-28

R. (21a) I have found David, my servant.
Once you spoke in a vision,
and to your faithful ones you said:
"On a champion I have placed a crown;
over the people I have set a youth."
R. I have found David, my servant.
"I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong."
R. I have found David, my servant.
"He shall say of me, 'You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.'
And I will make him the first-born,
highest of the kings of the earth."
R. I have found David, my servant.

Gospel Mk 2:23-28

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

Meditation: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.” (1 Samuel 16:1)

When God asked him to anoint David, Samuel had already invested a lot in King Saul. At first, he didn’t even like the idea of Israel having a king, but in obedience he had anointed Saul and supported him all the way.

But now Samuel had to change course because of Saul’s disobe­dience. We know that this devas­tated Samuel, because he “cried out to the Lord all night” about Saul (1 Samuel 15:11). Saul had such a promising future, but he squan­dered his potential and let his peo­ple down. But that didn’t stop God. He already knew what he was going to do, so he asked Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul?” (16:1). Samuel had become a lit­tle too attached to Saul, and it was time to move on.

This story offers us a good lesson about letting go. It’s only natural to mourn a lost friendship, a seri­ous illness, or a loved one’s death. It’s only natural to grieve our losses. We may even feel as if we’ll never be able to move forward with our lives.

As difficult as these situations can be, we still have to try our best to keep moving on, even if it’s only day by day. We can remem­ber how God told Samuel to fill his horn with oil—the oil of the Holy Spirit—and “be on your way” (1 Samuel 16:1). This is exactly what Samuel did. He probably was still mourning the loss of Saul, but he pushed on in faith and obedi­ence to the Lord. We won’t always know what God has in mind when we encounter times of challenge or suffering. We may try to second guess what God is up to, just as Samuel tried to guess the identity of the new king. But we know that if we just follow his guidance, we will know blessing and protection.

So try your best to trust in the Lord when upheavals happen. Stay close to him. Tell him that you trust in his wisdom and providence. Believe that God hasn’t abandoned you; he still loves you. He still has a plan for your life.

“Lord, I ask not to understand your will but to accept it. Teach me to see your hand in the midst of every change and challenge.”

16 January 2012

16 Jan 2012, Monday, Weekday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Sm 15:16-23

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

Responsorial Psalm Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 And 23

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?"
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Gospel 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

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

How often have you heard this passage and thought to yourself: “I need to get rid of the old wine­skins. I need to repent and change my life”? That response is well and good, but it gives us only one half of the picture of what Jesus was say­ing here. So often when we read Scripture, we tend to focus on what we must do, but there’s a beauti­ful truth in this passage that teaches us far more about what God wants to do in us. He wants to fill us with his new wine! He wants to give us a new vitality and a new energy—if we are willing to receive it.

Throughout Scripture, the image of “new” wine is used to illustrate the new era that would be ush­ered in when God’s Messiah was revealed. “The time is surely com­ing,” declared the prophet Amos, “when … the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it” (Amos 9:13). Speaking in the name of the Lord, the prophet Joel proclaimed: “I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mock­ery among the nations” (Joel 2:19). And finally, at the Last Supper, Jesus chose the wine of the Passover meal to become the sacrament of the new covenant he would make in his own blood (Luke 22:20).

The “new wine” that Jesus wants to give us not only drips from the hills and mountains today. It is gushing forth from the portals of heaven every day, as mighty as a waterfall, with all the power of God to deliver, to heal, and to usher us into the very presence of God.

Just as wine makes the heart of man glad (Zechariah 10:7), so too does the new wine of Christ have the potential to make us joyful and happy. Filled as it is with the power of God himself, it offers us freedom and vitality. It tells us that we are a new creation—a new wineskin. It tells us that we can walk through this world unhindered by the old wineskins of a life trapped in dark­ness. And that is really good news!

“Lord Jesus, I want to receive your new wine. Come and fill me to overflowing, Lord, and let me taste and see your goodness.”