Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wed., Dec. 30: 1 John 2:12-17; Luke 2:36-40

The world and its enticements are passing away, but whoever does the will of God remains forever. The world itself is God’s creation, awaiting God’s rule, but John uses "the world" here to mean the domain of Satan. Worldly possessions and attitudes lead us away from God. The Christmas season juxtaposes the image of the Savior as a helpless infant born in a stable, the child of the poor, against the overkill bombast of images touting the glitter of material things. Let us resolve to learn what we can do to heal and preserve our planet and to ensure an equitable distribution of the earth’s resources to all God’s beloved children.

*Lord, grant us your wisdom and your grace that we may grow strong in your service.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tues., Dec. 29: 1 John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35

Whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked. We sought repentance and conversion during Advent. We welcomed the Lord Jesus at Christmas. Now what? Soon the lights and tinsel will be memories, whereas real life, with its everyday challenges and demands, is bearing down on us. How do we keep "that Christmas feeling"? We can’t. It’s as short-lived as wilting Christmas greenery. But how do we keep the Christmas spirit in our hearts and our choices? By remembering John’s sober warning that if we say we walk in the light yet fail to love all people — no exceptions! — as our brothers and sisters, then we’re still in the dark.

*Lord, help me to see with your eyes as I walk by your light.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mon., Dec. 28: 1 John 1:5–2:2; Matt 2:13-18

If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves. Herod couldn’t risk a challenge to the status quo, even from a tiny baby. Through the ages, the actors and scenery change, but the script is basically the same. The very young, the unborn, the old, the sick and the helpless are all made subject to marginalization, neglect and death, all because they somehow threaten us. We will not trust God and risk alternative solutions to put the lives of the defenseless ahead of our comfort. So we cause or at least silently condone war, famine, abortion, exile, forced marches and genocide. Wake up! As Thomas Merton observed, "There are no innocent bystanders."

*Lord, help me to remember that I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sat., Dec. 26: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Matt 10:17-22

They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. Stephen, the first martyr, fully understood the significance of Jesus’ teachings. He followed Jesus’ example and, like Jesus, faced judgment and martyrdom. Also like Jesus, he asked forgiveness for his persecutors. He looked only to heaven for the truth and stood firm in his faith.

*May we have the faith and the strength to do the same, we pray.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fri., Dec. 25: Christmas Day

Note other options for readings

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The gift we receive today is the incarnate Word. Our present is his physical presence. The Lord takes his place among his people; our God is visible, approachable, knowable and familiar. He is not merely in the likeness of the human form. He is truly human. In being born of woman and taking the form of our flesh, he experiences and understands our frailty firsthand and shows us how to love each other despite our imperfections and weaknesses. He reveals to us how the Father’s glory, full of grace and truth, can perfectly dwell within the human vessel — the brightest Christmas light, the shiniest package or the most beautiful carol that remains throughout the year. Jesus, our brother, in taking your place as God’s presence among your people, you’ve revealed God’s love and fidelity in a way more real than we could ever imagine. We are grateful for the moments of grace we experience in your presence.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 24: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Luke 1:67-79

… because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. What could be more tender or merciful than God’s gift of the Savior to lift us out of darkness, save us from death and give us comfort and peace? This is more than a promise fulfilled; it is freedom, forgiveness, redemption, salvation. It’s the coming of hope.

*The Lord is with us. Alleluia.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wed., Dec. 23: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Luke 1:57-66

What, then, will this child be? From his infancy it was clear that the hand of the Lord was with John the Baptizer. Though it may not have been immediately clear to those who knew him that he would be the one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Savior, it was obvious to those present at his circumcision that he had a great call. We, too, are called not only during this last week of Advent, but each and every day, to prepare for the coming of Jesus and to go before him to announce his glory. Even if we’ve spent recent days consumed with the trivialities of the season, it’s not too late — it is never too late if we trust in the Lord. Certainly Elizabeth and Zechariah can attest to that!

*Let us profess with confidence and joy, "Yes, the Lord is coming."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tues., Dec. 22: 1 Sam 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Stop. Put down the shopping list. Step away from the baking. Take a deep breath and simply exult in the wonders of the Lord. Enjoy the splendor of God’s favor. Delight in the Lord’s coming. We spend so much time preparing for the holidays that we may let them pass without savoring their message and their meaning. If we don’t take the time to contemplate the joy of this moment and react like Mary in utter exuberance at how blessed we are, then we make this season of grace a time of deadlines and drudgery.

*Let us raise our voices in joyful hymns for God’s wondrous favors, we pray.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mon., Dec. 21: Song 2:8-14 or Zeph 3:14-18a; Luke 1:39-45

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? This week as we look toward Bethlehem, we stand in awe like Elizabeth that we’re worthy to participate in such a miracle. Indeed, who are we that our Lord should come to us? At least Elizabeth understood her kinship to Mary and the familial ties they shared. Most of us merely stand dumbstruck at being among the blessed. Instead of doubting our worth and questioning God’s motives, however, we will be much better served during this time of grace if we look at ourselves and our loved ones gathered around us and try to see each other as God sees us — precious, beloved and infinitely worthy of the best Christmas gift possible, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. O Lord, we’re grateful for the precious gift of your Son. Thank you for considering us worthy.

*Help us to see in ourselves and others what you see and love in us, we pray.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sat., Dec. 19: Judg 13:2-7, 24-25a; Luke 1:5-25

How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. Poor Zechariah! The moral of his story might be: "When the angel of the Lord appears to you, don’t ask questions!" If the Advent and Christmas seasons teach us nothing else, we should at least come away with less cynicism. These are days for pondering the most wonderful stories we know, for telling about how our God is with us. Some say that Christmas is (just) for children. Not so, but we could take a lesson from them, for they have not yet grown jaded with the years. May we use these final days of Advent to recapture our capacity for wonder. O Root of Jesse, come!

*For wonder and awe, we pray.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fri., Dec. 18: Jer 23:5-8; Matt 1:18-24

This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’ Our anticipation of the Lord’s coming grows. With wonder we recall his birth, yet we long for him to come again, and we pray that he might come to us personally now as we grow in knowledge of his ways. It has been said that we can’t really know Jesus without doing justice. So perhaps justice is the missing piece. We’ve shopped, cooked, decorated and wrapped gifts, but has any of that helped the poor and oppressed? How much have we given to charity, not just of our money, but as a volunteer, offering also our time and our talent? How might we make an ongoing commitment to the poor? O Lord and Ruler of Israel, come!

*For justice, we pray.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 17: Gen 49:2, 8-10; Matt 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Israel’s history was filled with promise. God promised Abraham countless descendants, a people who would be the source of blessing to all nations. In renewing the covenant with David, God also promised that David’s royal line would be without end. Matthew illustrates how Israel’s history reaches its climax with the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Jesus — the One through whom all peoples find blessing, the One whose reign is without end. We are the people of God’s promise. When Christ’s love reigns in our hearts, we become instruments of God’s blessing to the world. We pray today: O Wisdom, come, teach us the way of prudence!

*For hope in God’s promises, we pray.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wed., Dec. 16: Isa 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25; Luke 7:18-23

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me. We all know what it feels like to be disappointed with another person. But if we analyze the situation, often enough we find that in fact we can’t really blame the other person for letting us down. Rather, our own faulty expectations of that person have let us down. Many in Jesus’ day expected a warrior-king Messiah. They were stuck on that image, so they rejected Jesus. Others, however, recognized that this authoritative Teacher and compassionate Healer surpassed all expectations. As we sojourn through this season of anticipation, what are our expectations of Jesus? Do we harbor any illusions based on who we think God should be?

*For humility and openness to Christ, we pray.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tues., Dec. 15: Zeph 3:1-2, 9-13; Matt 21:28-32

He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. We may be among those who readily said "Yes" to Advent when it began, but by now, perhaps, we must admit that we have not followed through. We haven’t changed anything, but instead find ourselves taken in again by the consumerism and greed that co-opt the season each year. Or we may be among those who said "No" to Advent at the start … but now we’re having second thoughts. The good news is that Advent is a standing invitation. Whether we’ve been fickle or slow, there is still time to use this blessed season well, time for loving service to others and prayerful anticipation of our Lord.

*For the grace to turn to God, we pray.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mon., Dec. 14: Num 24:2-7, 15-17a; Matt 21:23-27

Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things. Jesus deftly parries the chief priests’ and elders’ questions concerning his authority, countering so as to make them demonstrate their own lack of authority. If they can’t say where John, Jesus’ herald, came from, why should Jesus be obliged to answer them at all? In fact, the chief priests and elders lack the basic attributes that would allow them to accept Jesus’ authority: trust, respect and humility. Instead, fear, arrogance and self-interest motivate them to oppose him. What prevents us from submitting fully to Jesus’ authority? As we anticipate our celebration of the Incarnation, what blocks us from knowing God-with-us more fully?

*For humble deference to Jesus in all things, we pray.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sat., Dec. 12: Zech 2:14-17; Luke 1:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47 or any readings from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary

How does this happen that the mother of my Lord should come to me? This is Elizabeth’s question when Mary visits her. Perhaps Juan Diego asked the same question. Perhaps Juan’s bishop, who had served the church all his life, asked, "Why him? Why not me?" Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European Madonna, but as a beautiful Aztec Princess. And it is she, this Patroness of the Americas, who led millions to Jesus. Perhaps we Catholics in the United States should consider the faith of our neighbors to the south and pray for the grace to receive our Latin American brothers and sisters as friends and models of faith.

*Juan Diego, pray for us.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fri., Dec. 11: Isa 48:17-19; Matt 11:16-19

Wisdom is vindicated by her works. Jesus’ critics are going to be unhappy with him no matter what. They call John a demon because he fasted. They call Jesus a glutton because he enjoyed food and drink. In my years on a parish staff I found that critics had a lot of power. Even an anonymous note from an apparent crank could initiate a discussion that lasted way longer than the criticism deserved. If we make our decisions prayerfully, we shouldn’t be swayed by the inevitable critic who won’t be happy no matter what. Meanwhile, be sure to be a person who praises — often and loudly. In everyone’s life it takes a lot of praise to balance the disapproval.

*Jesus, give me the grace to praise and thank others.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 10: Isa 41:13-20; Matt 11:11-15

The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent are taking it by force. This verse is obscure. The first part is not so difficult to understand. From the Holy Innocents to Calvary, from ancient martyrs to modern ones, the kingdom has suffered violence. But what does it mean that "the violent are taking it by force"? This verse has been used to condone violence on behalf of the kingdom, but I can’t live with that. Perhaps there is violence of a different kind — the violence of Dorothy Day’s "harsh and dreadful love." There is a violence done to our core selfishness when we choose love over all else. It burns us from the inside out and remakes us into a person more like Jesus.

*Jesus, when we pray to be like you, we should tremble at the prospect. Make us brave.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wed., Dec. 9: Isa 40:25-31; Matt 11:28-30

Come to me … and I will give you rest. Both readings today refer to weariness and the strength that is available to those who hope in the Lord. Today we remember Juan Diego, canonized in 2002 by John Paul II, whose homily was a moving tribute to the faith of the indigenous people of Mexico. There is conflict today for citizens of the United States. What is to be done about immigrants? What does our faith say? Is the civil law more important to us than the natural law that compels good people to feed their children? Isn’t it possible that the passionate faith of the countrymen and women of Juan Diego might be a source of strength to the world-weary wealthy who have lost hope?

*St. Juan Diego, pray for us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tues., Dec. 8: Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

May it be done to me according to your word. Mary the Christbearer is the model for us as Christ-bearers to the world. Whereas she was predisposed to accept God’s plan for her, we struggle — both with knowing that plan and acceding to it. We rarely find ourselves with such a ready "Yes." We add a codicil: "May it be done to me according to your word … as long as your word doesn’t stretch me too much." Pray today for the United States, who claims Mary Immaculate as patron.

*For United States citizens, those who seek refuge within its borders, those who look to the States for justice and those who fear U.S. intervention … for Mary’s protection and guidance, we pray.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mon., Dec. 7: Isa 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26

We have seen incredible things today. Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine oneself as different characters in a Gospel story. In the healing of the paralyzed man we might be Jesus the healer, the afflicted man himself, his resourceful friends who let him down through the roof, the homeowner who is anxious about folks tearing up the roof, the person in the crowd who is finally about to have a long-awaited audience with Jesus when these guys butt in line, the religious leaders who wonder at this itinerant rabbi’s power and audacity. Try telling the story from each character’s point of view and see what lessons emerge.

*Jesus, healer and teacher, show us your way that we may be your presence in the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sat., Dec. 5: Isa 30:19-21, 23-26; Matt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8

The kingdom of heaven is at hand! In the Lord’s Prayer we say, "Thy kingdom come," and we should be careful to realize that we are praying for a present reality, not something in the far future. We are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who embodies the rule (kingdom) of God by his perfect submission to God’s will. When we welcome him into our hearts and lives, we are saying, with Mary, "Be it done to me according to your word." Let us use this time of Advent well, to pray and reflect on what needs to change in our attitudes, priorities and choices so that God’s kingdom may be firmly established in us.

*Lord, establish your rule in my heart and my life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fri., Dec. 4: Isa 29:17-24; Matt 9:27-31

The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord. God is the one gift-giver who understands perfectly our fondest dream, our deepest need and our perfect fit. What we seek may be unfolded slowly or granted in an unexpected way, but God’s gift will never, never disappoint us. God gives us Jesus, the first Christmas gift, the gift that can always be opened further to reveal new wonders. Nothing we do or say can entitle us to this; it comes freely from God’s love. Let us call on the Lord, in faith and humility, for the grace to become more like Jesus and to grow into the loving, forgiving, generous persons we are called to be.

* Lord, we ask in faith to be made worthy to dwell in your kingdom

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 3: Isa 26:1-6; Matt 7:21, 24-27

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many find preparing for Christmas painful. It’s hard even to say "Lord, Lord" if we are mourning a lost loved one or have no family or job or money or home. But the Child in the manger is also the Man on the cross. Jesus came to take away our sin, bear our pain, show us God’s everlasting love for us and teach us that God’s will for us on earth is to love each other and show it by helping to bear each other’s burdens.

*Lord, teach us to love one another, especially those in any need.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wed., Dec. 2: Isa 25:6-10a; Matt 15:29-37

Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute … and he cured them. Jesuit scripture scholar Fr. Dennis Hamm has observed that the healing stories in the synoptic Gospels are parables about Jesus’ saving ministry. Consider the majority of the bodily ailments mentioned and their spiritual counterparts: the lame in body and those who have difficulty moving toward God; those who are blind or deaf in body or in spirit; the physically mute and those who cannot speak to God or about God to others. Advent is when we prepare for Christmas, when heaven’s gates are opened and healing Love comes down.

*Lord, heal us that we may see your goodness, hear your word, proclaim you to others and run joyfully to do your will.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tues., Dec. 1: Isa 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24

He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. During the getting-the-jump-on-Christmas marathon of busyness let’s remember that it’s Advent — time to prepare our minds and hearts to welcome Jesus. In these economically troubled times, might we consider giving first to those whose financial problems may be worse than ours? Consider getting all members of the family involved in the parish Christmas outreach program or making Christmas cards for the chronically ill at local hospitals or nursing homes, especially those who have no family. Remember, it’s much easier to find the Holy Family at a homeless center than at a department store or office Christmas party.

*Come, Lord Jesus, show us your face in the faces of the poor and lonely among us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mon., Nov. 30: Rom 10:9-18; Matt 4:18-22

At once they left their nets and followed him. The call of discipleship didn’t end with the apostles. It isn’t that fewer people are being called to vocations. The difference lies in the willingness to walk away from our distractions. We have ourselves so tangled in the nets of our lives and society that it’s very hard to escape. We all are invited to share in Jesus’ work in a unique and personal way. It’s time to free ourselves from whatever net traps us and heed the call.

*Jesus, we long to follow you; show us the way, we pray.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sat., Nov. 28: Dan 7:15-27; Luke 21:34-36

… And that day catch you by surprise like a trap. Anyone who attends to the word of the Lord should be well aware that we have had fair notice to be watchful for the appearance of the Son of Man. We also know how impatient and distractible most of us are and how easy it is to allow our thoughts to stray to the trivialities of daily life. Only through a constant dialogue of prayer can we lessen the trap of how daily anxieties sidetrack us and not be caught off-guard.

*Gentle Jesus, lighten our hearts so that we may focus on you, we pray.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fri., Nov. 27: Dan 7:2-14; Luke 21:29-33

… Know that the kingdom of God is near. We like to make plans for the future. We ask children what they want to be when they grow up. We live for tomorrow with little time for the gift of today. We do the same with our views of faith and salvation. We speak of the time many years from now when we will die and, by God’s grace, go to heaven. In doing so we fail to recognize an obvious and fundamental truth of our faith — the reign of God is at hand, if we only work to bring it about. We must focus on how the kingdom is already in our midst and live in a way that helps others see it as well.

*O Lord, show us the way to accept today as a sign of your kingdom, we pray.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thurs., Nov. 26: Dan 6:12-28; Luke 21:20-28

… And he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Amid the celebrations of family, friends and food on Thanksgiving Day, let us be ever mindful that the plentiful gifts we celebrate and share are only possible through the love and goodness of God. The greatest show of gratitude that we can offer is to reach out to those who experience suffering and want while so many others overindulge, or to offer companionship to those who suffer loneliness while so many others squeeze into crowded and joyous homes. If we are truly grateful we’ll do all that we can to ensure that all God’s children experience the loving abundance of God.

*Generous Lord, give us the grace to show our gratitude today and every day, we pray.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wed., Nov. 25: Dan 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Luke 21:12-19

… For I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking. Many Christians, despite a firm belief in God, dismiss their personal role in evangelization. They fear their own limited grasp of theology or their lack of experience talking in front of others. Indeed, one of the greatest fears among adults is public speaking — adds to that the often private and very personal topic of speaking of faith, and most quickly and quietly shrinks into the background. Thus we begin to view the task of professing God’s word as the sole domain of those called to religious vocations. While there are many excellent preachers, we all have a story of faith and trust in the Lord’s role in our lives that can be of hope or inspiration to others. Profess the Lord’s goodness. You never know how God will speak through your voice.

*Lord, open our hearts and our mouths to profess your greatness before all, we pray.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tues., Nov. 24: Dan 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11

See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! There is no question that we must make sacrifices to follow the Lord. Does what we surrender bring joy or grumbling? We’re often weak and fearful. We doubt our ability to emulate the Lord’s great sacrifice and, truthfully, most of us dread being called upon to do so. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions paid dearly for following the one true God. Between 1820 and 1862, over 130,000 Christians suffered martyrdom in Vietnam. Later 117 martyrs were canonized and represented countless other unnamed individuals who followed the same agonizing path, in life and in death, of Jesus Christ, the king of the martyrs. They would not be deceived, even if it meant persecution and death. Truly our sacrifices are miniscule in comparison. Let’s hope, however, that our fervor to follow the Lord isn’t.

*Give us the strength, O God, to follow your will for our lives, we pray.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mon., Nov. 23: Dan 1:1-6, 8-20; Luke 21:1-4

… And he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. As we enter into the holiday season, despite our best efforts it’s easy to get carried away in consumerism. When our mood is light, a little splurging here and there seems reasonable and deserved. It’s important for us to remember that some people, like the widow, are so poor that splurging isn’t an option. We must come to know dependence on what will truly lighten our mood and our burden — dependence on the Lord and complete trust in his ability to provide what we truly need. Few of us need more things, but we could all rely more on God to understand how truly blessed we are.

*That we may forego the temptation of the fleeting excesses of this life, we pray.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sat., Nov. 21: 1 Macc 6:1-13; Luke 20:27-40

And he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. In response to the ridiculous hypothetical situation presented by the Sadducees, Jesus points to scriptural evidence of the resurrection of the dead: Moses’ encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — ancestors gone from this life but still very much alive with God. Of course, we know the rest of the story: Jesus himself is the resurrection. In him, we have already begun to live the resurrected life. As we say in prayer when a loved one dies, life is changed, not ended. While we cannot yet know the fullness of heaven, we have every reason to hope for it, and, in the meantime, to work for the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth.

*For trust in God’s promise of eternal life, we pray.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fri., Nov. 20: 1 Macc 4:36-37, 52-59; Luke 19:45-48

And every day he was teaching in the temple area. Today’s readings center on characters demonstrating zeal for the temple. The first reading commemorates the institution of the feast of Hanukkah. The temple, having been occupied and desecrated by invaders, is regained by Israel. The joyful, eight-day celebration of its purification and rededication is to be remembered as an annual celebration. Jesus purifies the temple, too, by driving out those who have reduced it to a marketplace. Do we have this sort of zeal for our place of worship? Do we protect it from those who might like to use it as a multipurpose facility? Do we resist those who suggest we can legitimately, for convenience’s sake, hijack the liturgical assembly — people who have come to church to pray — to do business?

*For respect for God’s house and God’s people, we pray.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thurs., Nov. 19: 1 Macc 2:15-29; Luke 19:41-44

The days will come when … your enemies … will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. Life is full of reasons to give thanks, to rejoice and to stand in awe of God’s power and goodness. But life can turn on a dime. It also brings us experiences of unspeakable suffering and grief, days of sorrow or even despair, encounters with inexplicable evil — what theologian Edward Schillebeeckx calls “contrast experiences” because they differ so radically from our experiences of God’s goodness and love. Ironically, such contrast experiences have unique revelatory power. Jesus is headed toward Jerusalem and the cross, the quintessential contrast experience. His disciples’ experience of him will be turned on its head, their understanding broken wide open.

*He tells them to pay attention. For the grace to find God in all circumstances, we pray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wed., Nov. 18: 2 Macc 7:1, 20-31; Luke 19:11-28

With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. The heartless execution of seven brothers before their mother (today’s first reading) illustrates pure wickedness. But the description “wicked” seems a bit harsh for the poor fellow in Jesus’ parable, doesn’t it? Surely we could ascribe various unflattering labels to him: stupid, lazy, irresponsible. But wicked? Perhaps we need to consider how both evil and goodness grow and evolve. Evil often begins with what seem mild offenses, little omissions, wrongs so small that we readily excuse ourselves for committing them. But each one adds grease to an increasingly slippery slope. Conversely, when we take what we have been given, little though it might be, and use it conscientiously and well, remarkable good can result.

*For gratitude and diligence in serving the Lord, we pray.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tues., Nov. 17: 2 Macc 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. Today’s readings present two models of faith, Eleazar and Zacchaeus. In 2 Maccabees, we find the aged Eleazar under persecution for his faith. When offered the chance to avoid torture and death, he refuses, finding the cost — a subterfuge that could lead others astray — unacceptable. In the Gospel, Zacchaeus overcomes the problem of his small stature by climbing a tree to see Jesus. Later, when Jesus is criticized for associating with him, Zacchaeus pledges in real, tangible terms to reform his ways. What challenges to our faith will we encounter today? What creativity or virtue will we need to remain true to Jesus?

*For the integrity and zeal of faithful disciples, we pray.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mon., Nov. 16: 1 Macc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63; Luke 18:35-43

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! Sometimes, like the blind man, we have a hard time getting through to Jesus. But those who rebuke and try to silence us are likely members of our own interior committee: subtle inner voices that tell us prayer is useless or we don’t deserve the Lord’s special attention. But, as with the blind man, faith can empower us to overcome such opposition to reaching the Lord. Like the Maccabees (whose story we will hear in the first reading throughout this week), we also face great opposition from outside sources, particularly from a culture that calls us to make idols of everything: food, money, sex, celebrities … everything but God. May our faith be strong and zealous, keeping us steadfast in the Lord.

*For faith that saves, we pray.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sat., Nov. 14: Wis 18:14-16; 19:6-9; Luke 18:1-8

Pray always without becoming weary. We sometimes feel that we pray and pray but God doesn’t answer. We’ve all heard the unhelpful words, “God always answers, but sometimes God says ‘No.’ ” Actually, when what we seek is for God’s glory and the good of the one we pray for, God always says “Yes” — but in God’s time, not ours (we usually want results “immediately, if not sooner”). We should meditate prayerfully on today’s parable. The judge was not a nice person, much less a good one. Yet he granted the widow’s request just to get rid of her. Surely our Lord will do much better and meet every need of ours and our loved ones, but according to God’s timing and by God’s chosen means.

*Lord, you show such great patience with me. Help me to have a little patience with you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fri., Nov. 13: Wis 13:1-9; Luke 17:26-37

Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin (USA)

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author is seen. Wake up! Pay attention! All creation shows us the image of the Author of creation. Jesus warns us to remain alert for the time of judgment. These words not only refer to the Last Judgment but also to the judgment each of us will undergo at the end of earthly life. We humans show forth the image of God. When Jesus looks into my soul, will he see that image of divine mercy and love, polished by my choices? Or dulled and distorted, perhaps beyond recognition, by sin or simply by laziness?

*Lord, help me to live each moment of my life so that I need not fear the moment when I meet you face to face.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thurs., Nov. 12: Wis 7:22b–8:1; Luke 17:20-25

Josaphat, bishop, martyr

The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed. … For behold, the kingdom of God is among you. A challenging yet comforting statement. God’s kingdom is among (some translations read “within”) us, a work in progress. God builds us into his image by making us collaborators in his work. We must not spend so much time meditating on heaven that we neglect persons and situations we encounter every day. We must not regard any good work we are able to do for those in need as too insignificant to claim our attention. In heaven’s economy, no good work that alleviates human need or protects the earth’s well-being should be considered trivial, nor need it distract us from God, who is here, working through us.

*Lord, lift my praising heart to you and my helping hand to my neighbor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wed., Nov. 11: Wis 6:1-11; Luke 17:11-19

Martin of Tours, bishop

Judgment is stern for the exalted. Most of us would say, “I’m OK then. I’m not in a position of power.” Wrong. Nearly all of us, at some time, have the power to help someone stay on the Lord’s path. The effectiveness of our witness to the truth is greatly helped by a humble and empathetic manner. We are in this life to learn how to love God and one another, and God’s judgment of our lives will be based on this. Holy wisdom is God’s gift, to be shared by all. None of us owns it or has the right to lord it over our fellow travelers on the Way.

*Lord, when I assist one who is seeking to know your truth, help me always to treat the seeker as I would wish to be treated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tues., Nov. 10: Wis 2:23–3:9; Luke 17:7-10

Leo the Great, pope, doctor of the church

As gold in the furnace he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. A friend once observed, regarding the Christian life, “The working conditions can sometimes be appalling, but the retirement benefits are awesome.” Today’s rather sobering Gospel passage reminds us that we can never put the Lord in our debt by doing more than God deserves. When prayerful discernment shows us that our duty requires a difficult, even dangerous task, faith assures us that we will receive the necessary grace. Not only that, we can be certain that God cannot be outdone in generosity. Even for doing “only” what we are obliged to do; we will be rewarded beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

*Lord, thank you for calling me to your service. Use me according to your will.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mon., Nov. 9: Ezek 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? The Basilica of St. John Lateran was once the papal residence and is still the official parish church of the pope (not St. Peter’s Basilica). Although sacred spaces like this are very important, God likes best to dwell in us. St. Paul reminds us that we are being formed into a dwelling place for God on earth. Is it time for me to clean house for my divine guest? Are my values, priorities and behaviors such that the Lord will feel comfortable?

* Lord, make me a welcoming home for you, where all can come and experience peace in your merciful and loving presence.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sat., Nov. 7: Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27; Luke 16:9-15

You cannot serve God and mammon. “Mammon” is literally “that in which one trusts.” Paul Tillich once wrote that there are no atheists. Everyone has a god — something or someone to whom we give our life. It may be a cause or comfort; power or prominence; religion or riches. Recently I read that there are three questions we should ask the rich, including ourselves as we remember the vast numbers of seriously poor people in the world: 1. Why did you want to be rich? 2. What did you do (and to whom) to get rich? 3. Why are you still rich? I really like — and hate — the third question. What is stopping me from giving it all away? Why do we give ourselves to a god that is not big enough to fully satisfy us?

*Lord Jesus, make me the servant of you and your people and nothing else

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fri., Nov. 6: Rom 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8

I know what I shall do. This parable of the dishonest steward should be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and charging more of the debtors than was actually owed, thereby earning a neat “commission” for themselves. The steward is commended for giving up his ill-gotten gains in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors and win them as friends after he loses his job. The point of the parable is that we should do what we have to do to gain salvation. Perhaps it might be worthy of note, particularly as we weather this difficult economy, that usury is a sin. Maybe we should mention it once in a while?

*Lord Jesus, make me as canny about getting into heaven as I am about worldly matters.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thurs., Nov. 5: Rom 14:7-12; Luke 15:1-10

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Either that or eat alone, right? We Christians are so accustomed to calling ourselves sinners — whether we really mean it or not — that we come up with other names for that class of people we deem not quite in our league: liberals, conservatives, hippies, warmongers, welfare leeches, terrorists, trailer trash, rednecks, Ivy League snobs, tree-huggers, rich you-know-whats. Jesus dines with all of them. Sounds like interesting table talk to me. St. Paul asks why we judge others. Lots of reasons, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to come to table with them and chat?

*Lord Jesus, thank you for inviting me to your table … and for all the interesting dinner companions.