Sunday, October 4, 2015

Reflection: Mark 10: 2-16

Sunday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time: Mark 10:2-16
Today the Pharisees once again try to corner Jesus.  They approach him and ask: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”  Jesus responds, but he asks them a question.  He asks: “What did Moses command you?”  They replied: “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”  Jesus bluntly says to the Pharisees: Moses only wrote the bill of divorce because of the peoples’ stubbornness and hardness of heart.”   Jesus then states: “God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
From the beginning of time, relationships have been fragile.  This is especially true in marriage where two individuals live day in and day out with each other.  At times, the hard work a good marriage requires may test the strength and the commitment of the two individuals in the relationship.  The current reality is that we live in a “disposable” world.  We use a computer for a time.  Then a new model comes out and we buy the new one.  The old computer may be handed down or sit in the garage.  We drive our car for 100,000 miles but then we trade it in for a newer model. 
All relationships require a great deal of work, be that work relationships, friends or family.  However, with work and friends we do not commit ourselves to that individual for life.  It seems that in today’s world, relationships are considered disposable.  Yet, there are instances when the healthiest choice for a spouse or a family would  be divorce.  Most likely this was also true in Jesus’ day.  Yet Jesus clearly desires that we give our best and our all to any significant relationship, especially marriage.  
Perhaps Jesus is asking us to make thoughtful and loving choices, discerning choices. Since we live in a disposable world, our instinct is to move on to another relationship or another job.  And this may be the healthiest choice for us.  However, when we commit ourselves to marriage or religious life we promise to work together in good times and in bad.  This may mean counseling, making a marriage encounter, giving our all to see if the marriage can be saved.  Divorce may still be the answer.  However, hopefully it will not be the first answer we consider!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Reflection: Luke 10: 17-24

Saturday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 10:17-24
This Gospel opens as the disciples are returning home from a mission trip.  The seventy-two disciples are rejoicing and elated.  They said to Jesus: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”  These disciples realized that it was not their power that enabled them to work wonders.  Rather, these wonders were wrought by the power of Jesus’ name.  However, Jesus cautions the disciples not to rejoice over their “power.”  Rather they should rejoice because their names are written in heaven.
Power is extremely seductive!  We often hear stories of “how the mighty have fallen” because they were seduced by power of money or control or perhaps by their lack of self-esteem.  Our human reality is that we all need a healthy sense of personal power.  We need to know that we do have a voice.  We need to know that we have the power to make decisions and that we also can influence others.  Yet if we are not mindful, our need for control or power may begin to control us!  We often hear stories of corrupted individuals who were seduced by power and the fruits of power.  Today Jesus instructs his disciples (us) to rejoice not because “spirits” are subject to us.  Rather we are to rejoice because our names are written in heaven!
Then Jesus cautions the disciples.  He tells them that they should not rejoice over the wondrous acts they performed.  Rather they should rejoice because their names are inscribed in heaven.  Jesus desire for his disciples is that they rejoice in God and in God’s love for them.  Rejoicing in God is to be their primary quest and their aim.  Today may we strive to be mindful of God’s love and presence with us!  Truly, there is no greater gift!  May we rejoice in this precious gift!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 18: 1-5, 10

Friday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time: Matthew 18:1-5,10 – The Holy Guardian Angels
Today we celebrate the feast of The Holy Guardian Angels.   Many of us learned about angels at a very young age.  Perhaps our parents told us that we had our own “guardian angel.”  Or we may have seen religious pictures or we saw statues of angels in church or in our home. 
Ask yourself: do you believe in angels?  Have you had moments in your life when you sensed that an angel was present with you?  If so, take a moment and recall that experience.  What do you remember about that experience?  What was your reaction to this holy presence?
Angels are defined as: “a heavenly being who acts as a messenger of God, a kind person, a guardian or a guide.”   I assume that for most of us, our angels appear in the guise of a family member, a friend, a spiritual guide or perhaps a stranger.  On any given day, any one of these individuals likely will act as a friend or a guide for us.  
Now take a moment and ask yourself: Who are the individuals in your life who have been an “angel” to you?  Do you recognize the angels in your life today?  Some of them may be a family member or an individual you know well.  Others may be a stranger you encounter in the grocery store, a park or at the water fountain.  The wondrous gift is: you have the opportunity to be an “angel” to individuals you encounter today!  What a simple gift to give, yet what a great gift to give to another.  The best gifts you can give are your love, care, concern and joy.  Be an angel today!  And be alert to the individuals who will be angels for you today.  Thank God for them! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflection: Luke 10:1-12

Thursday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 10:1-12

Today Jesus sends seventy-two of his disciples to the towns and places he intended to visit. Jesus wanted his disciples to be well prepared for their ministry. The first instruction he gives them is to tell them to journey with a companion. Then he says: “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few. Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” However, Jesus adds: “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” I wonder if the disciples understood what Jesus was saying. Did these words create some anxiety for the disciples?

Jesus then gives them instructions for their journey: “Carry no money, no bag and no sandals. Do not greet anyone along the way. When you enter a house, say: ‘Peace to this household.’” Jesus also tells them that if a peaceful person lives in that dwelling, “your peace will rest on them; but if not, your peace will return to you.” Jesus is very specific about not only what the disciples are to do but also about what they should say. He tells them to proclaim: “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”

Jesus’ instructions are not only for his disciples, they also are for us. I invite you to read this Gospel and strive to keep Jesus’ words and instructions in your mind and heart today as you go about your business. Primarily, we are to “proclaim the Gospel” in some fashion with every person we encounter today. It may be with our words or it simply may be a cheerful greeting. Most likely, we will proclaim Jesus’ message through our care and concern for each person and for our planet!

In today’s world, you and I are Jesus’ disciples. I wonder if the people we encounter will recognize us as his disciples by our manner, choices and behaviors? May it be so!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reflection: Luke 9:57-62

26th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:57-62

In this Gospel, Jesus and his disciples are continuing their journey. Luke writes: “Someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’” Jesus warns this individual that his life is the life of an itinerant preacher who is always on the road. He puts it in these words: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Luke does not tell us if this person followed Jesus or not.

Later Jesus said to someone else: “Follow me.” However, this individual told Jesus that he had to go and bury his father. In reply, Jesus said to him: “Let the dead bury their dead. Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Then a third person said to Jesus: “I will follow you. However, first I need to go and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus looked directly at this person and said: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Clearly, Jesus desires that his disciples be wholehearted in their commitment to him and his mission. Jesus desires to be first in our lives. Yes, we will have family, children, friends and commitments. However, our primary commitment needs to be to Jesus. Most likely, this call is a great challenge for us. After all, our families and responsibilities are extremely important and rightly so. However, Jesus knows that if our primary commitment is to him, everything else in our lives will be in proper perspective: our families, jobs, finances, etc.

Even when we truly strive to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, it is easy to stray from the path. However, when we become aware that we have strayed from the path, we can correct our course. And we may have to do this several times a day. However, it only takes a second. This is all that Jesus asks of us! If we do so, most likely our day will be filled with graces. It is our choice!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reflection: John 1:47-51

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Feast — John 1:47-51

This is the feast day of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Now ask yourself: Is this feast meaningful to me? Do I believe in angels regardless of whether they are archangels or just regular angels?

Most of us learned about angels at a young age. There are angels in the Scriptures. In the past years, there have been books and TV shows focused on angels. Yet I suspect that many of us have not had a personal and upclose experience of an angel, a heavenly being, appearing to us.

Yet I also believe that if we take time to think about it, we hopefully could name several people in our lives who are angels to us. It may be someone who notices us and asks how we are. Or perhaps it is someone who anticipates our needs. Or it may be a person who surprises us with a simple gift or their time or attention.

Today take note of the angels that appear to you! And strive to be an angel to the individuals you encounter! It can be a simple gift to give.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Reflection: Luke 9:46-50

26th Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 9:46-50

Today’s Gospel presents a scene that likely is familiar to us. The disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest. Sound familiar? Jesus was listening to them. Luke writes: “Jesus realized the intention of their hearts.” Was Jesus disappointed or frustrated with his disciples? After all, these men had been chosen to be servants to one another and to the people. Yet, here they were having a petty argument about who among them was the greatest.

Power! Throughout history, power and acclaim have dominated politics, religion and social status. It is natural and healthy that all human beings desire a certain amount of power. We all need a moderate amount of power in order to make choices for ourselves. This enables us to choose to have loving, healthy and productive lives. Yet as we know, the desire for power often corrupts, be that in the family, the Church, institutions, business or politics. The intense desire for power often is the downfall of someone who has great potential.

Today Jesus is disturbed that his disciples are so concerned about who is the greatest among them, which could be translated as the one who “has the most power.” Jesus does not directly confront his disciples. Rather he brings a child into their midst and says to them: “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me also receives the One who sent me.” Jesus then continues: “The one who is least among you is the one who is the greatest.”

Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: Are we content with being among the least? Or do we strive for power or influence? Can we be satisfied to be “one with the people” rather than a star or a leader? Today I also invite you to be attentive to those individuals you encounter who truly embody Jesus’ call to be the “least” (in a healthy way)! They can be a living example for us.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reflection: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

26th Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

This Gospel begins as John comes to Jesus and tells him: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name! We tried to stop him. After all, he is not one of us!” However, Jesus was calm and he had a completely different perspective than John. Jesus told John: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Did Jesus sense his disciples were concerned they might have to share “the glory” of being followers of Jesus with others who had not been directly called by Jesus?

Jesus tells his disciples that there is no one who could performs great deeds such as driving out demons or healing in Jesus’ name who would speak ill of Jesus. This would be a complete contradiction of the deed they had done. Jesus continues: “If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, that individual will not lose their reward.”

However, Jesus then says that anyone who causes one of His “little ones” to sin will reap his/her punishment. He continues: “It would be better for them if a great millstone was put around their neck and s/he was thrown into the sea.” Jesus continues in this vein for several verses. Clearly, Jesus wants his disciples (and us) to realize what a serious offense it is if we cause one of his little ones to sin. Jesus also gives several graphic examples of the punishment that might be handed out to the perpetrator.

Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: do we cause any of the “little ones” to stray from Jesus? We may not be deliberately inviting another person to stray. However, we may subtly or unknowingly invite another to do so. We may be talking with someone and we begin to gossip. Or perhaps we are complaining about work, our co-workers, or the behavior of our children, or perhaps we simply are in a bad mood. The reality is that our attitude and our words affect other people either positively or negatively.

Today may we strive to be a positive and loving presence to each person we encounter. Who knows? This also may help us have a good day!