Listen, Understand, Act

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Readings for Today

Saint Nicholas, Bishop – Optional Memorial

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to listen.  Are you a good listener?  Do you know how to listen?  Most likely this is a struggle for you since it is a struggle for most people.

Listening is more than hearing.  Listening implies that one hears AND comprehends.  Furthermore, in this Scripture passage, Jesus makes it clear that “listening” is not enough.  Once we’ve listened (heard and understood), we must act.  Acting on the Word of God involves a total embrace and surrender to His Word and will.  It means you allow the Word of God to dictate your actions and to set your feet “solidly on rock.”

The imagery Jesus uses is quite descriptive.  A house built on sand is very different than a house built on solid rock.  One can only imagine the problems that await a house built on sand.  Every storm that comes will cause great anxiety and worry.  Fear will always be present as the sandy foundation slowly erodes away.  But if the house is on solid rock, there is great confidence in the midst of a storm.

Reflect, today, upon the foundation of your life.  Advent is a time when we examine whether or not the foundation of our life is Jesus.  He entered our world and took on flesh so that He could be that rock foundation.  And the path to that rock foundation is to listen, comprehend and act.  Set your “house” on Him in this way and no storm will erode the foundation of your life.

Lord, may your human life become the foundation of my life.  May my life be built upon You who are the Rock Foundation.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Nicholas

Jesus Cares About the Details

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”   Matthew 15:32

The first thing this passage reveals could easily be missed.  It reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the crowds of people.  He not only cared for their souls, He also cared for their bodies in that He did not want them to go away hungry.  This reveals Jesus’ total care for His followers.

We know the rest of the story.  Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish and feeds the multitude.  And though this is an incredible miracle on a physical level, it is just as miraculous on a personal and spiritual level.

Personally speaking, the miracle is that God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent One is deeply concerned about the small detail of feeding the crowd their next meal.  This reveals that God is not only concerned for our eternal salvation, He is also concerned about our daily needs.

Note that the passage quotes Jesus as saying, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd…”  And “I do not want to send them away hungry…”  This very personal and human concern of Jesus should offer us great comfort in knowing that His care is deep and exhaustive.

The concern Jesus has for the physical need of food for His followers also points to His spiritual concern for His followers’ souls.  If He cares this much about the body, He cares all the more for the soul and deeply desires to nourish their souls with the food of eternal life.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ deep and all-consuming care for you.  Know that there is no detail of your life that escapes His notice.  Though that may be hard to believe at times, know that it is absolutely true! Surrender all to Him in trust and know that He is there to reach out to you in your every need.

Lord, thank You for Your unfailing and perfect concern for every detail of my life.  Thank You for Your perfect attentiveness to my needs.  May I always trust in Your perfect care for me and surrender to Your loving providence.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Humility Before the Mystery of Faith

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Readings for Today

Saint John Damascene, Priest, Religious and Doctor – Optional Memorial

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”  Luke 10:21b 

So are you “wise and learned” or “childlike?”  Which better describes your life?  At first, that question may be hard to answer.  If we didn’t know that Jesus elevated the quality of being childlike, we may be drawn to call ourselves wise and learned.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being wise or learned.  The problem comes with what these qualities mean in the mind of Jesus.  Jesus uses them to refer to those who think highly of themselves, are a bit pompous and are what you might call “know-it-alls.”

The sad truth is that a “know-it-all” does not actually know it all.  They actually fool only themselves.  The ideal is to be like a child in that a child is open to learn in a humble way, at least most of the time.  This childlike quality of humility and openness disposes us to receive the true wisdom from above.

Jesus gives praise to the Father for hiding the mysteries of faith from the wise and learned while revealing them to the childlike.  This is especially important to reflect on as we enter into Advent.  Advent is a time when we need childlike faith and openness to understand and penetrate the beautiful mysteries of the Incarnation.  Without this humble openness we will never fully understand the wonderful gift of God this Christmas.

Reflect, today, upon the openness within your heart.  Are you ready and willing to soak in the great mysteries of God who came to make His dwelling place with us and within us?  Are you willing to embrace that childlike faith necessary to penetrate the great mysteries of our faith?  If so, it will be a wonderful Advent and Christmas.

Lord, give me the simple and humble faith of a child.  Help me to see You as You are and to allow Your presence in our world to penetrate my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint John Damascene

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Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Readings for Today

Saint Francis Xavier, Priest – Memorial

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  Mt. 8:8

This familiar line is taken from the faith of a Roman centurion.  He asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus agrees to come cure him, and the centurion exclaims this profound faith in Jesus stating two things: 1) He’s not worthy of Jesus’ presence in his home and, 2) His confidence that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the word.

Jesus, of course, is quite impressed with this man’s faith and obliges him with the physical healing of his servant from a distance.  But Jesus does much more than a healing.  He also holds this man up as a model of faith for all.

This beautiful statement of faith from the centurion is used within the Mass to speak of two matters of faith in regard to the Eucharist: 1) We are not worthy to receive Holy Communion and, 2) We invite Jesus anyway to come and heal our souls.

Advent is a time when we especially ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation.  It’s a time when we especially ponder the mystery of God coming and dwelling with us in physical form.  Though this happened over two thousand years ago, it continues to take place at each and every Mass.  And at each and every Mass we are called to express the same faith as this Roman centurion.

Reflect, today, upon your faith in the coming of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.  Each Mass is a manifestation of the God-Man who came to live among us and live within us.  If we but have the faith of this centurion, we, too, will be blessed by our God beyond measure.

Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief.  Help me to see my unworthiness each time I prepare for Holy Communion.  And in that humble admission, may I also invite Your healing presence in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Francis Xavier

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Advent Begins!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”  Matthew 24:42 (Year A)

“Be watchful!  Be alert!” Mark 13:33a (Year B)

“Be vigilant at all times and pray.”  Luke 21:36a (Year C)

Advent begins with a call to vigilance as reflected in the passages above.  There are numerous Scripture passages that call us to this vigilance and anticipation of the Lord’s coming; these are only a few. Being vigilant means, also, that we are prepared. We are not caught off guard. Imagine if Christmas morning came and you woke up suddenly realizing that you forgot to prepare! Imagine if you had no gifts, no food purchased and no plans were made. Of course you wouldn’t allow that to happen, but we do sometimes allow it to happen spiritually speaking. We often are not prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ within our hearts.

The first week of Advent also offers the focus of the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus will return again, in all splendor and glory, to judge the living and the dead.  We profess that fact every Sunday in our Creed. So, even though Advent is a time for the preparation of the celebration of the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, it is also a time to acknowledge that His first coming is ultimately fulfilled in His final glorious coming.

As Advent begins, reflect upon how ready you are for Jesus’ coming. Are you preparing for it with the same fervor that you prepare for Christmas through shopping, cooking, decorating, etc?  Are you looking forward to that day when He will return?  Are you preparing for the spiritual celebration of His birth?  Are you awake and attentive to the numerous ways that God speaks to you on a daily basis?

If you find that you are not as prepared for His return in glory as you’d like to be, make this Advent a time when you get your heart ready.  Commit to prayer, spiritual exercises, reflection and attentiveness to His gentle and glorious voice.

Lord, as Advent begins, help me to put my eyes on You.  Help me to open my ears to Your voice.  And help me to open my heart to Your glorious presence.  May I be attentive to You in every way You desire to come to me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Stay Awake!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”  Luke 21:34-35a

This is the last day of our liturgical year!  And on this day, the Gospel reminds us of how easy it is to become lazy in our life of faith.  It reminds us that our hearts can become drowsy from “carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.”  Let’s look at these temptations.

First, we are warned against carousing and drunkenness.  This certainly applies on a literal level, meaning, we should obviously avoid abusing drugs and alcohol.  But it also applies to numerous other ways that we are made “drowsy” through a lack of temperance.  Abuse of alcohol is only one way of escaping from the burdens of life, but there are many ways we can do this.  Any time we give in to an excess of one sort or another, we begin to let our hearts become drowsy on a spiritual level.  Whenever we seek momentary escapes from life without turning to God, we allow ourselves to become spiritually drowsy.

Second, this passage identifies “the anxieties of daily life” as a source of becoming drowsy.  So often we do face anxiety in life.  We can feel overwhelmed and overly burdened by one thing or another.  When we feel burdened by life, we tend to look for a way out.  And far too often, the “way out” is something that makes us spiritually drowsy.

Jesus speaks this Gospel as a way of challenging us to remain awake and vigilant in our life of faith.  This happens when we keep the truth in our minds and hearts and our eyes on the will of God.  The moment we turn our eyes to the burdens of life and fail to see God in the midst of all things, we become spiritually drowsy and begin, in a sense, to fall asleep.

As the liturgical year comes to a close, today, reflect upon the fact that God is calling you to become wide awake.  He wants your full attention and He wants you completely sober in your life of faith.  Put your eyes on Him and let Him keep you continually prepared for His imminent return.

Lord, I do love You and I desire to love You all the more.  Help me to remain wide awake in my life of faith.  Help me to keep my eyes on You through all things so that I am always prepared for You when You come to me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Preparation for Advent – Feast of Saint Andrew

Friday, November 30, 2018

Saint Andrew the Apostle – Feast

Readings for Today

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20

What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we prepare to begin our Advent season.  We honor St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our coming Advent celebration.

This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder.  Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fishermen.  Both of these fisherman were hard at work, when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walked by them and called to them.  They immediately left their livelihood and followed after Jesus.

Don’t miss what happened here.  Specifically, there are two things that happened: 1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”

This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent because Advent must be a time when Jesus calls us anew.  It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us.  As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!”  We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose.  Listen to Him.  Do you hear Him calling?

Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew.  We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that we must let go of anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ.  It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us.  And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew.  It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ.  Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart.

Lord, I love You above all things.  Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You.  Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment.  May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Return of Christ

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  Luke 21:27-28

Only three days left in this current liturgical year.  Sunday begins Advent and a new liturgical year!  Therefore, as we move closer to the end of this current liturgical year, we continue to turn our eyes to the last and glorious things to come.  Specifically, today we are presented with the glorious return of Jesus “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  What’s most interesting and helpful in this particular passage above is the call we are given to enter into His glorious return with our heads raised with much hope and confidence.

This is an important image to ponder.  Try to imagine Jesus returning in all His splendor and glory.  Try to imagine Him coming in the most awe-inspiring and magnificent of ways.  The entire sky would be transformed as the angels of Heaven surround our Lord.  All earthly powers would suddenly be taken over by Jesus.  Every eye would be turned to Christ and everyone, whether they want to or not, would bow down before the glorious presence of the King of all Kings!

This reality will take place.  It’s just a matter of time.  Jesus will, indeed, return and all will be made new.  The question is this:  Will you be ready?  Will this day take you by surprise?  If it were to happen today, what would your reaction be?  Would you be fearful and suddenly realize you should have repented of certain sins?  Would you immediately have certain regrets as you realize it is now too late to change your life in the way our Lord desires?  Or will you be one of those who stands erect with your head raised as you joyfully and confidently rejoice in the glorious return of our Lord?

Reflect, today, upon how prepared you are for Jesus’ glorious return.  We are called to be ready at every moment.  Being prepared means we are living fully in His grace and mercy and are living in accord with His perfect will.  If His return were at this moment, how prepared would you be?

Lord, may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done.  Please do come, Jesus, and establish Your glorious Kingdom in my life here and now.  And as Your Kingdom is established in my life, help me to be prepared for Your glorious and total return at the end of the ages.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Coming Persecution

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.”  Luke 21:12-13

This is a sobering thought.  And as this passage continues, it becomes even more challenging.  It goes on to say, “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

There are two key points we should take from this passage.  First, like yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus is offering a prophecy to us that prepares us for the persecution to come.  By telling us what is to come, we will be better prepared when it does come.  Yes, to be treated with harshness and cruelty, especially by family and those close to us, is a heavy cross.  It can rattle us to the point of discouragement, anger and despair.  But do not give in!  The Lord foresaw this and is preparing us for it.

Second, Jesus gives us the answer to how we deal with being treated harshly and maliciously.  He says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  By remaining strong through the trials of life and by retaining hope, mercy and confidence in God, we will become victorious. This is such an important message.  And it’s a message that is certainly easier said than done.

Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus gives to us to live in perseverance.  Often times, when perseverance is needed the most, we do not feel like persevering.  We may, instead, feel like lashing out, fighting back and being angry.  But when difficult opportunities present themselves to us, we are able to live this Gospel in a way we could have never lived it if all things in our lives were easy and comfortable.  Sometimes the greatest gift we can be given is that which is most difficult, because it fosters this virtue of perseverance.  If you find yourself in such a situation today, turn your eyes to hope and see any persecution as a call to greater virtue.

Lord, I offer You my crosses, hurts and persecution.  I offer to You every way that I have been mistreated.  For those small injustices, I beg for mercy.  And when the hatred of others causes me much distress, I pray that I will be able to persevere in Your grace.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Chaos to Come

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”  Luke 21:10-11

This prophecy of Jesus will most certainly unfold.  How will it unfold, practically speaking?  That’s still to be seen.

True, some people may say that this prophecy is already being fulfilled in our world.  Some will try to associate this and other prophetic passages of Scripture with a certain time or event.  But this would be a mistake.  It would be a mistake because the very nature of a prophecy is that it’s veiled.  All prophecy is true and will be fulfilled, but not all prophecy will be understood with perfect clarity until Heaven.

So what do we take from this prophetic word from our Lord?  Though this passage may, in fact, refer to more grand and universal events to come, it may also speak to our own particular situations present in our life today.  Therefore, we should allow His words to speak to us within those situations.  One specific message this passage tells us is that we should not be surprised if, at times, it appears as if our world is rattled to the core.  In other words, when we see chaos, evil, sin and malice all around us, we should not be surprised and we should not get discouraged.  This is an important message for us as we press on through life.

For each one of us, there may be many “earthquakes, famines, and plagues” that we encounter in life.  They will take on various forms and will be the cause of much distress at times.  But they do not need to be.  If we understand that Jesus is aware of the chaos we may encounter and if we understand that He actually prepared us for it, we will be more at peace when the troubles come.  In a sense, we will be able to simply say, “Oh, this is one of those things, or one of those moments, Jesus said would come.”  This understanding of the challenges to come should help prepare us for them and endure them with hope and trust.

Reflect, today, on any particular ways that this prophetic word of Christ has taken place in your own life.  Know that Jesus is there in the midst of all apparent chaos, leading you through to the glorious conclusion He has in mind for you!

Lord, when my world seems to cave in around me, help me to turn my eyes to You and to trust in Your mercy and grace.  Help me to know that You will never abandon me and that You have a perfect plan for all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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