Monthly Archives: January 2016

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of town and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
(Luke 4:28-29)

One minute, the people are amazed at your gracious words, and the next they try to kill you, Lord. What was it that upset them so much? You had remarked that no prophet is accepted in his native place. Even before that, though, they had queried, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” You had overturned their expectations. How could such eloquence have sprung from a mere carpenter?

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, you choose the least, the most obscure, to do your work. A birthright passes from the elder son to the younger. A boy with a slingshot slays a giant and becomes king. You, our God and Savior, are born in a shack, and shepherds are the first to know. Throughout your ministry, you champion women, the poor, the weak, and the sinful. The world does not understand and responds with suspicion and hatred.

We reject those who are different from us and expect nothing from those who are too much like us. We are never satisfied. And still, you teach and heal and wait for us.

Let me examine my reactions to those who address me. Do I listen to their word or pay more attention to their background and status? Prejudice means pre-judgment. I like to think that I am open and tolerant, and yet, I, too, judge constantly. How often do I think or say, “Consider the source”? I mean it, in a way, as encouragement to myself or others, but I am really testifying that people cannot change. How far short I fall of my resolution to treat each encounter as though it were the first. I am sorry, Lord. Please help me to renew my intention.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.
(Mark 4: 38-39)

My Jesus, do we sometimes think that you are sleeping and do not care? “Where is God?” we ask. “How could he let this happen?” We forget your power and wisdom. If you ceased to think about us, we would cease to be.

Once before I wrote in my journal about the discussion that might have taken place among the disciples. “You wake him.” “No, you do it.” Did they hesitate, or did they react immediately, in panic? What would I have done?

What do I do, Lord, when I am anxious? First, I try to reason with myself. When that doesn’t work, I pound my fists. Finally, in despair, I turn to you. Why don’t I just do that in the first place? All my life I have been absorbing from this culture a philosophy of self-sufficiency. Please help me to be God-sufficient, instead.

Today, in every frustration, every disappointment, every temptation, let me turn with confidence to you.

Jesus said to the crowds, “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”
(Mark 4:26-27)

I am one of the crowd, Lord. You are speaking to me about things I have observed and can understand. I am not a farmer, but I tend a little garden. I know how insignificant a seed looks and that we plant it and wait, unable to see or control its growth. No matter what I have read, I still “know not how” a tiny seed, looking dead and dry, contains the elements of life.

I am that seed. My first thought on reading this passage was a quote of Thomas Merton, “God works in us while we rest in him.”

Today, no matter how blind I am, how discouraged I feel, how hard and inflexible I appear, I will trust you to work in me.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a light brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.”
(Mark 4:21-22)

Lord, only you know what my light is, for it belongs to you. You are the fire; I am only the wick. Yet you will me to be your lamp. If you shine through me, it is not for my sake but for your divine purpose. I cannot hide from you; neither will I obscure what graces you give me. Your light is Truth. Show me how to witness to it.

Do I try to keep secrets? What is there that I don’t want others to know? I am weak, indecisive, and dependent; yet I hesitate to ask others for help and advice. There is no truth in pride. It is just as much a lie, though, to pretend to be less than I am as to pretend to be more. If I were humble, I would not judge, compare, blame, or exult. I would simply get out of your way so that you could work through me. Please help me to forget myself, to lose myself in you.

But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.
(Mark 4:20)

Lord, prepare my soul so that I can hear and accept your word.

Before the snowstorm, I went outside to fill the bird feeders. While there, I checked the raised garden. It was covered with parsley that had survived the frost and grown at least thirty fold. I noticed that a daffodil had already begun to sprout. Now the garden is buried under several feet of snow. I like to think that it is insulated, and when the snow thaws, the soil will be watered.

Perhaps the fruit that I might bear are also beginning to sprout under their blanket. There is nothing I can do now but wait for the proper season. You will show me when it was time to act and what I must do to nourish the seed you provide. Let me be patient, then.

Soon it will be Lent, a time to plan for the spring of our redemption. While I wait for the snow to melt, let me rest in you and hope in your will. When it is time to cultivate, let me be refreshed and energized. I will wait and listen now.

Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household.” If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not it will return to you.

“Peace” is not merely a greeting, Lord, nor even just a prayer, but an action. The word becomes what it represents. It stays with whoever receives it.

Open us to your peace. Let us not wish for it but practice it. Like love, it must be given. How can I deliver your peace today?

First, of course, I must hold it in my heart. It is easy to be calm and receptive when all is quiet around me. When I hear arguments and complaints, how can I hang onto it, let alone share it? Although peace is still, it cannot be swallowed by noise and bluster. “No fear can shake my inmost peace, when to that rock I’m clinging.” You are that rock of peace, unmoved by any storm. I will speak my word of peace, then, knowing that it will be heard eventually. Peace. Let it pierce my every thought, word, and action. Peace, I am tired. Peace, my day is ending. Peace, I will prepare to retire. Peace, let me remain in you.

Then he said, “The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be witness before all to what you have seen and heard.”
(Acts 22:14-15)

God of all, you converted Paul from his murderous persecution of your divine Son, your “Righteous One,” by displaying your light and sounding your voice.

You show your will to all of us, whether by some dramatic encounter such as Paul experienced, or by a gradual, daily progression. I can look back on personal conversions. When I was younger, I was confronted with various decisions. Through all of them, you guided me, sometimes showing me signs and consolations, and always delivering me from evil. Now my biggest decision is to trust you day by day. I will go wherever you send me.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me/ because he has anointed me/
To bring glad tidings to the poor./ He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives/ and recovery of sight to the blind/ to let the oppressed go free/ and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

(Luke 4:17-19)

The passage from Isaiah which you chose, my Jesus, is one of the hope and joy you have come to deliver. You are the fulfillment of the promise, the glad tidings. Only in you are we free; only in you do we see. You are our salvation.

As I read these words today, you are showing me that “now is the acceptable time.” Whatever needs to be done cannot wait until tomorrow. Please show me your will and give me the strength and courage to act on it here and now. All I can do is trust and be open. You will show me. I place myself in your will. I will respond to whatever is asked of me, confident that you will work through me. I will say yes.

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again, the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
(Mark 3:20-21)

Even your relatives thought you were crazy, Lord. They were thinking as humans think. When I am “in my mind,” I am limited by human judgment. I need, instead, to be in your mind, to consult you and to trust in you.

Your “craziness,” I suppose, was in not being able to turn away the people who pressed on you constantly. I want to be more concerned about those who need help, and less confined by what I want or need. During this storm, please show me how I can assist my neighbors. Let me offer help, food and companionship. What can I do to make things easier for them? I made some phone calls and shared some extra food. Tomorrow I will cook for my Scrabble friends. Please show me other ways to reach out.

He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
(Mark 3:14-15)

Ever since you had called them, the disciples had been following you, Lord. Now it was time to choose twelve of them and delegate to them your power. After instructing them closely, you would send them to preach and to cast out demons in your name. After they had witnessed your Resurrection, it was up to them to continue your ministry.

Few people today have demons cast out of them in the dramatic fashion of the Gospels, but later you would say, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” We are all in need of forgiveness, and what a blessing that you provided us the opportunity to confess. It was once thought that once we were baptized, we would not fall again. Baptism removes original sin, but not the concupiscence that results from that sin. We still, like St. Paul, do the things we don’t want to do, the things we have resolved to change. The weakness stays with us, but as we continue to confess, we progress. We might commit the same sin over and over, but by examination we become more aware of it and better able to heal.

Thank you for providing those of us who were born millennia after you came a means to approach you through the sacraments. Thank you for today’s apostles, our priests and bishops. Give them the wisdom and courage to persevere.

Living in a senior building, I hear neighbors wonder why you do not take them. So many feel useless. Help them, please, to realize the power of their suffering. If you had no further use for us on this earth, we would not be here. Remind us that we do not see as you do. I will tell myself what I tell them, “God still has something for you to do.” I will try to remember that you are using me even when I cannot see any purpose. I do not need to know why. All I need to do is trust you.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.
(Mark 3:9-10)

My Jesus, I want to touch you. Even the lepers were not afraid to approach you, nor the woman considered unclean because of her hemorrhage. My sins make me unworthy, yet I know that you forgive me. You heal my spirit first, and then my body. Let me be neither too afraid nor to proud to stand before you.

How can I trust you more today? I know as I ask this that you will test me. Please let me remember that this is how you teach and cleanse me.

Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.
(Mark 3:4)

The Pharisees are lying in wait to destroy you, Lord. And yet it is you whom they accuse of breaking the Sabbath. They don’t see the irony as they fill their hearts with hatred. They abstain from physical activity, while they are busy plotting against you.

We, too, can get caught up in technicalities, become slaves to rituals that we, ourselves, have created. We expect others to act as we act and think as we think. We hold ourselves up as criteria and judge anyone who differs. The most trivial matters are scrutinized. “That’s not how I do it,” we say, as though there were only one way.

Lord, please help me to focus on what matters and pay no attention to what does not concern me. Healing matters. Kindness matters. Tolerance matters. Love matters. I will try to love without thinking, without judging. Please direct my heart. If I love, I will do your will.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.
(2 Samuel 16:7)

How quick we are to judge, Lord, and how limited is our knowledge. None of us can see into the heart of another. Appearances do not reveal your truth.

When we receive your Body and Blood, they are under the appearance of bread and wine. Only by your grace do we know their reality.

Today, I overheard someone talking and assumed that she was referring to something we had previously discussed. It was something else altogether. Once again, I had jumped to a conclusion.

“I do not even pass judgment on myself,” says St. Paul. (1 Corinthians 4:3). I don’t know my own heart, but you do.

How can I curb my tendency to weigh and compare everything and everybody? Like Samuel, I must wait for your instruction. I trust you, Lord. Let me treat everyone I see as worthy of being anointed while I await your guidance. I will monitor my reactions and try harder not to analyze. I will need your sustaining grace.

Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.
(Mark 2:22)

You, my Jesus, are the new wine. In order to receive you, I must be made new.

As we get older, it is harder to accept what is new. Unless you refresh us, we will explode from your love. We were reborn in Baptism and are nourished by your Body and Blood. Please help us to welcome you as our bridegroom and to become young in you. Then we can stretch.

How can I stay flexible this week, Lord? When there is a phone call, a knock at my door, or even an unexpected protest from my body, let me accommodate it. Schedules are guidelines. You work in the moment. Open me to your moment, Lord.

And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
(John 1:5-5)

My Jesus, your words to your mother sound harsh, and yet she trusted that you would heed her request. She said to the servers words that we do well to obey today. Help me to do whatever you tell me.

I don’t hear your voice, but you have shown me what you expect. If I love my neighbor as myself, I will serve you, and you will work signs through me. You will change my humblest provisions into the finest, and distribute them lavishly to all your guests. With joy, then, I will offer my thoughts, words, and actions, knowing that you will bless them and share them.