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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Doing “Great” Things!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

All Saints for Today

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”  Luke 21:1-4

Did she really give more than all the rest?  According to Jesus, she did!  So how can that be?  This Gospel passage reveals to us how God sees our giving compared to the worldly view.

What is giving and generosity all about?  Is it about how much money we have?  Or is it something deeper, something more interior?  Certainly it is the latter.

Giving, in this case, is in reference to money.  But this is simply an illustration of all forms of giving we are called to offer.  For example, we are also called to give of our time and talents to God for the love of others, the upbuilding of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel.

Look at giving from this perspective.  Consider the giving of some of the great saints who lived hidden lives.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for example, gave her life to Christ in countless small ways.  She lived within the walls of her convent and had little interaction with the world. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, she gave very little and made little difference.  However, today she is considered one of the greatest doctors of the Church thanks to the small gift of her spiritual autobiography and the witness of her life.

The same may be able to be said of you.  Perhaps you are one who is busy with what seems to be small and insignificant daily tasks.  Perhaps cooking, cleaning, caring for the family and the like occupy your day.  Or perhaps your employment takes up most of what you do each day and you find you have little time left for “great” things offered to Christ.  The question is really this: How does God see your daily service?

Reflect, today, on your calling in life.  Perhaps you are not called to go forth and do “great things” from a public and worldly perspective.  Or perhaps you do not even do “great things” that are visible within the Church.  But what God sees are the daily acts of love you do in the smallest of ways.  Embracing your daily duty, loving your family, offering daily prayers, etc., are treasures that you can offer God every day.  He sees these and, most importantly, He sees the love and devotion with which you do them.  So do not give in to a false and worldly notion of greatness.  Do small things with great love and you will be giving an abundance to God in service of His holy will.

Lord, I give myself to You and to Your service this day and every day.  May I do all I am called to do with great love.  Please continue to show me my daily duty and help me to embrace that duty in accord with Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Readings for Today

Happy Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!  This is the last Sunday of the Church year which means we focus on the final and glorious things to come!  It also means that next Sunday is already the First Sunday of Advent.

When we say Jesus is a king, we mean a few things. First, He is our Shepherd. As our Shepherd He desires to lead us personally as a loving father would. He wants to enter our lives personally, intimately and carefully, never imposing Himself but always offering Himself as our guide. The difficulty with this is that it’s very easy for us to reject this kind of kingship. As King, Jesus desires to lead every aspect of our lives and lead us in all things. He desires to become the absolute ruler and monarch of our souls. He wants us to come to Him for everything and to become dependent upon Him always. But He will not impose this sort of kingship upon us. We must accept it freely and without reservation. Jesus will only govern our lives if we freely surrender ourselves over. When that happens, though, His Kingdom begins to become established within us! And through us in the world.

Additionally, Jesus does wish for His Kingdom to begin to be established in our world. First and foremost this takes place when we become His sheep and thus become His instruments to help convert the world. However, as King, He also calls us to establish His Kingdom by seeing to it that His truth and law is respected within civil society. It’s Christ’s authority as King that gives us the authority and duty as Christians to do all we can to fight civil injustices and bring about a respect for every human person. All civil law ultimately gains its authority from Christ alone since He is the one and only Universal King.

But many do not recognize Him as King, so what about them? Should we “impose” God’s law upon those who do not believe? The answer is both yes and no. First, there are some things we cannot impose. For example, we cannot force people to go to Mass each Sunday. This would hinder one’s freedom to enter into this precious gift. We know Jesus requires it of us for the good of our souls, but it must still be embraced freely. However, there are some things that we must “impose” upon others. The protection of the unborn, poor and vulnerable must be “imposed.” The freedom of conscience must be written into our laws. The freedom to practice our faith openly (religious liberty) within any institution must be “imposed” also. And there are many other things we could list here. What’s important to point out is that, at the end of all time, Jesus will be returning to Earth in all His glory and He will then establish His permanent and unending Kingdom. At that time, all people will see God as He is. And His law will become one with “civil” law. Every knee will bend before the great King and all will know the truth.  At that time, true justice will reign and every evil will be corrected.  What a glorious day that will be!

Reflect, today, upon your own embrace of Christ as King.  Does He truly govern your life in every way?  Do you allow Him to have complete control over your life?  When this is done freely and completely, the Kingdom of God is established in your life.  Let Him reign so that you can be converted and, through you, others can come to know Him as Lord of all!

Lord, You are the sovereign King of the Universe.  You are Lord of all.  Come reign in my life and make my soul Your holy dwelling place.  Lord, come transform our world and make it a place of true peace and justice.  May Your Kingdom come!  Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Truth Wins!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and his Companions, Martyrs – Memorial

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers…”  Luke 20:27-29a

And the Sadducees go on to present Jesus with a difficult scenario in order to trap Him.  They present the story of seven brothers who each die without having any children.  After each one dies, the next takes the first brother’s wife as his own.  The question they pose is this: “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”  They ask this so as to trick Jesus because, as the passage above states, the Sadducees deny the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus, of course, gives them the answer explaining that marriage is of this age and not of the age of the Resurrection.  His answer undermines their attempt to trap Him, and the scribes, who do believe in the resurrection of the dead, applaud His answer.

One thing this story reveals to us is that the Truth is perfect and cannot be overcome.  The Truth always wins!  Jesus, by stating what is true, unmasks the foolishness of the Sadducees.  He shows that no human trickery can undermine the Truth.

This is an important lesson for us to learn in that it applies to all aspects of life.  We may not have the same question as the Sadducees, but there is little doubt that as we go through life we will come up with difficult questions.  Our questions may not be there as a way of trapping Jesus or challenging Him, but we will inevitably have them.

This Gospel story should reassure us that no matter what we are confused about, there is an answer.  No matter what we fail to understand, if we seek the Truth we will discover the Truth.

Reflect, today, upon that which challenges you the most in your journey of faith.  Perhaps it’s a question about the afterlife, or about suffering, or creation.  Perhaps it’s something deeply personal.  Or perhaps you have not spent enough time as of late to come up with questions for our Lord.  Whatever the case may be, seek out the Truth in all things and ask our Lord for wisdom so that you may daily enter more deeply into faith.

Lord, I do desire to know all that You have revealed.  I desire to understand those things that are most confusing and challenging in life.  Help me each day to deepen my faith in You and my understanding of Your Truth.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Purification

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Today

Saint Clement I – Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro – Saint Columban

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Luke 19:45-46

This passage reveals not only something that Jesus did long ago, it also reveals something that He desires to do today.  Additionally, He desires to do this in two ways: He desires to root out all evil within the temple of our world, and He desires to root out all evil in the temple of our hearts.

In regard to the first point, it is clear that the evil and ambition of many throughout history have seeped into our Church and world.  This is nothing new.  Everyone has most likely encountered some sort of hurt from those within the Church itself, from society and even from family.  Jesus does not promise perfection from those we encounter every day, but He does promise to vigorously go after evil and root it out.

As for the second and most important point, we should see this passage as a lesson for our own soul.  Each soul is a temple that should be set aside solely for the glory of God and the fulfillment of His holy will.  Therefore, this passage is fulfilled today if we allow our Lord to enter in and to see the evil and filth within our own souls.  This may not be easy to do and will require a true humility and surrender, but the end result will be cleansing and purification by our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus desires to bring about purification in many ways.  He desires to purify the Church as a whole, each society and community, your own family and especially your own soul.  Do not be afraid to let Jesus’ holy wrath work its power.  Pray for purification on all levels and let Jesus accomplish His mission.

Lord, I do pray for the purification of our world, our Church, our families and most especially my own soul.  I invite You to come to me this day to reveal to me what it is that grieves You the most.  I invite You to root out, in my heart, all that is displeasing to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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