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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wed., Nov. 4: Rom 13:8-10; Luke 14:25-33

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.
What an interesting juxtaposition of readings today. From the Gospel: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters … he cannot be my disciple.” St. Paul tells us to love. This might be an opportunity to talk about the difference between “feeling” love and “doing” love. Being “in love” does not put us above the law. Doing the loving thing is what fulfills the law. To do that we have to place Jesus first, even before those he puts on our path to love.

*Lord Jesus, help us to love others by placing you first

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tues., Nov. 3: Rom 12:5-16b; Luke 14:15-24

Rejoice in hope. The first reading today could serve as the outline for a daily examination of conscience. In just a few short lines, St. Paul summarizes what it is to live as a disciple of Jesus. And who is such a disciple? Anyone who is willing to accept the invitation, just as the parable in today’s Gospel indicates. I wonder how St. Luke’s audience received this parable, gentiles who discover they are in line behind the poor, blind and lame. It reminds me of a little poem, “Company of the Absurd,” in Madeleine L’Engle’s collection of essays The Irrational Season: “I share communion with the halt, / the lame, the blind, oppressed, depressed. / we have, it seems, a common fault / in coming to you to be blessed.” St. Martin de Porres knew this well as he ministered to the least. Lord Jesus, thank you for counting me among your friends.

* May I receive everyone as you receive me?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mon., Nov. 2: Wis 3:1-9; Rom 5:5-11; John 6:37-40

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

The souls of the just are in the hands of God: In our parish we have a comforting custom. On the first Sunday of November and on All Souls Day itself, we sing the Litany of Saints as the gathering song. (We prefer the arrangement by John Becker.) After all ministers are in place — having walked slowly, slowly — the accompanist continues as the lector or other minister reads the names of parishioners who have died during the past year. We also issue a holy card with those names. In addition to being a ritualized and very lovely reminder of those who have gone before it us, it’s also comforting to know that when we die, our names will be spoken aloud in church. We all want to be remembered.

*For our loved ones who have died, for those who mourn their passing and for all who are preparing for death, we pray.