Connections DAILY

The WEEKDAY homiletic resource from the editors of Connections

Connections DAILY is the ONLINE newsletter of ideas and images designed to help homilists develop their own brief reflections on the daily Gospel readings.

For each weekday Gospel pericope, Connections DAILY provides an image or idea for a brief, one-to-two minute homily, concluding with a brief prayer that summarizes the point.  The reflection/prayer usually centers on the day's Gospel, but occasionally is inspired by the first reading or the day’s feast or saint whose memorial is being observed.  Because time is a factor at most weekday Masses, each Connections DAILY reflection focuses on a single point or idea, applicable to the common and everyday world of the parish community.

Connections DAILY is available ONLINE ONLY: each week’s reflections are e-mailed to subscribers the previous week (sorry, Connections DAILY is NOT available in a hard-copy, “paper” version).  Connections DAILY is sent in an easy-to-save-and-edit format, enabling you to “cut and paste” material as you need.

Take a look at Connections DAILY— a sampling of reflections is included below.  If you preach — or have thought about preaching — a brief, meaningful reflection every day, Connections DAILY is the resource you’re looking for.

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A sampling of reflections from Connections DAILY . . .

ASH WEDNESDAY

“Your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Today we begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage with ashes.  As our brothers and sisters in the faith have done since antiquity, we place ashes on our heads as powerful signs that we acknowledge our sinfulness and our mortality.

There are two particular properties of these ashes that might add to our understanding this holy season and the Easter mystery we anticipate in the weeks ahead.

At one time, ashes were used to make soap.  Ashes contain alkali, a chemical that is soluble in water and is a powerful cleaning agent.  Let this Lent, then, be the beginning of a time of cleaning and purification: a washing away of the grime of selfishness, hatred and mistrust in our lives, a spring cleaning of all of those objects and attitudes that draw our attention away from God and the things of God.

In some places at this time of year, farmers burn the stubble of last year’s crops that remain in the field.  The remaining ashes are then plowed into the earth.  The chemicals in the ashes serve as a powerful fertilizer for the new crops soon to be planted.  Let this Lent, then, be a planting season for souls and spirits: a time for the word of God to take root in our lives, a growing season for our hearts and spirits to be transformed from barrenness to harvest, from despair to hope, from death to life.

Gracious God, may we begin our 40 days’ Lenten springtime by embracing the meaning of these ashes.  As we were once washed in the waters of baptism, may the word of your Son clean us again of our sins and purify us in hope and joy.  During these early spring days, may your word may take root within us, that we may know the harvest of your mercy and compassion in every season of every year.  

FRIDAY after Ash Wednesday

“How can the wedding guests go in mourning so long as the groom is with them?”
Matthew 9: 14-15

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in The Book of Jewish Values, offers this fresh perspective on fasting as a prayer:

“My wife and I periodically try to engage in a ‘complaining fast.’  For a week at a time, we try to refrain from all whining and complaining . . . Doing so makes it easier to become conscious of things that are going well in your life.”

Lent is, of course, a time for fasting.  We usually identify fasting with giving up food and drink — the hunger we feel in our stomachs reminds us of our more important hunger for the things of God.  But this Lent perhaps we can consciously fast from other behaviors besides food:

We might also consider a more tangible form of fasting — fasting from television in order to spend more time with our families, fasting from some activity we enjoy in order to volunteer our time to some charity, fasting from “noise” in order to spend time in silent, conscious, attentive prayer.

Christ, the bridegroom of the Father’s wedding feast, may your Lenten spirit give us the grace and strength to put aside the things that separate us from you.  May our “fasting” this Lent bring us a new awareness of your loving presence in our lives and satisfy our hunger for the joy and grace that comes from you alone.  

TUESDAY of the First Week of Lent

“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
Matthew 6: 7-15

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the beautiful text of the prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer.

But to appreciate it only as a text or prayer formula is to miss Jesus’ point.  What Jesus gives us here is more than a set of words – Jesus sets the attitude that should be the heart of all our prayer, the perspective we should embrace in every dimension of our lives as Jesus’ disciples.  Consider each phrase of the prayer as Jesus taught it:

We cannot say Our Father in heaven if we do not treat one another like brothers and sisters.

We cannot say hallowed be thy name if we do not cherish the things of God and seek God in all things.

We cannot say thy kingdom come, thy will be done if God is segregated to Sunday worship and not part of every moment we live and every decision we make.

We cannot say give us this day our daily bread if we remain oblivious to God’s presence in every moment we live, if we forget that every moment of our lives is a gift from God given to us that we might realize the love of God in all things.

We cannot say forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us if we do not forgive, if we wallow in our anger, if we stubbornly refuse to seek reconciliation in all our broken relationships.

We cannot say lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil if we cannot say no to what demeans and degrades creation, if we cannot say no to what hurts others despite the benefit to us, if we cannot say no to the pressures and demands of a culture that ridicules and debases what is holy.

Father, teach us not to confine our prayer to words and rituals alone.  Open our hearts and inspire our spirits to work and sacrifice for the hopes and dreams we ask of you.  May every moment you give us be part of a continuous, lifelong prayer of praise to you, you who are Giver and Nurturer of all life.  

SATURDAYof the First Week of Lent

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your heavenly Father . . . ”
Matthew 5: 43-48

Be careful with hatred. 

Handle hatred with respect. 

Hatred is too noble an emotion to be frittered away in little personal animosities. 

Love is of itself an object worth striving for, but the effects of personal are not trivial, secondary, or human.  Love as foolishly as you may.  But hate only after long and careful deliberation.                         

Hatred is a passion requiring one hundred times the energy of love.  Keep it for a cause, not for an individual.  Keep it for intolerance, injustice, stupidity. 

For hatred is the strength of the sensitive.  It can be a force to reckon with.  It can be great in its power to change and transform. 

But hatred’s power depends on the selflessness of its use.

[Adapted from Collected Writings of Olive Moore.]

The cutting edge of Jesus’ Gospel is his teaching on forgiveness; the centerpiece of his life is reconciliation.  And Jesus’ words should profoundly affect how we love – and how and what we hate.

Father, help us to hate wisely and carefully.  Let us hate only what you hate: that which demeans and degrades all you have created, that which undermines are striving to be your holy people, that which undermines the spirit of your love dwelling among us.

WEDNESDAY of the Second Week of Lent

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.”
Matthew 20: 17-2
8

Some words of Jesus seem to reverberate off the page – the clarity of Jesus’ words, the passion behind them, and unambiguous challenge of the world’s values and the conventional wisdom strike at the center of our souls.

“It shall not be so among you” are among those maxims.  Jesus’ words could not be clearer; his message could not be more pointed: 

The world’s rulers lord their authority over others.  It shall not be so among you.

Too many consider themselves great because of their office or celebrity, their wealth or the sheer force of their personality.  It shall not be so among you.

The powerful demand to be served, expect their wishes to be carried out, impose their will and force their perspective on their subordinates.  It shall not be so among you.

Jesus calls each one of us to a new model of authority and leadership, whether we are a parent, manager, teacher, coach or officer: leadership centered in humility and integrity, authority derived from respect from those we work with, respect earned from the example of our hard work for the good of all.

Guide us, Lord Jesus, in embracing your model of servant-centered leadership.  In our families and schools, in our work places and communities, may we be inspired by your spirit of humility and selflessness to lead through the example of our own hard work and our commitment to the common good. 

THURSDAY of the Second Week of Lent

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
Luke 16: 19-31

Being rich is not a sin.  Being among the “one percent” is not evil.

The problem is that riches can blind us to the poverty around us; our pursuit of a certain lifestyle makes us obtuse to the real needs of others.  That is what condemns the rich man in the story of Lazarus: not that he is rich but that is so obsessed with his lifestyle that he fails to see the poor Lazarus at his gate.  The rich man is trapped in a poverty of spirit, an emptiness of purpose that he does not realize until he faces Abraham.

Who are the Lazaruses at our own gates?  Who cries out for a scrap of bread from our table?  Who cries out to us for affirmation that they matter, that their lives mean something?  Who prays that we might come to their aid, to heal them of their brokenness, to help them find their way back, to offer them a simple cup of water to satisfy their thirst for recognition and affirmation?

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see the plight of the Lazaruses at our own gates; open our ears to hear your voice calling out to us in their cries for help; open our hearts to welcome them to our tables as your sons and daughters and our brothers and sisters.

THURSDAY of the Third Week of Lent

“ . . . if it is by the finger if God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Luke 11: 14-23

The kingdom of heaven has come upon you . . .

That wonderful moment each night when you listen to your child’s prayers and share bedtime story together – The kingdom of heaven has come upon you . . .

Those all-too-rare times when you are able to reconnect with an old friend or be reconciled with someone you have had a falling-out with – The kingdom of heaven has come upon
you . . .

When someone helps you up when you have stumbled and when you, in turn, can reach out to grab another who has fallen as you have – The kingdom of heaven has come upon
you . . .

Lent calls us to realize that the kingdom of God is in our midst, here and now. The kingdom Jesus comes to proclaim is not just a future entity – God’s reign is very much part of the present, experienced in our homes and families, realized in every moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, fulfilled in the most hidden and simplest offerings of compassion and mercy.

Lord Jesus, may your Spirit of humility and servanthood lead us to realize your Father’s kingdom in our time and place.  Let every good thing we do, support we offer, and broken heart we mend bring the fulfillment of God’s reign upon us.

FRIDAY of the Third Week of Lent

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Mark 12: 28-34

Most of us live by our calendars: the wall charts and desk books dictate where we have to be, when and with whom.

What we may not realize is that many of us live our lives like calendars:  Our lives are a series of little boxes, each box containing the many demands and details of one piece of our life.  The spouse box, check.  The mom box, check.  The office box, check.  The sports box, check.  The God (Sunday) box, check.  Every box is a mini-life unto itself, with its own rules and expectations.

Sometimes the way we live one box is quite different from the way we live another box; the values required of one box are at odds with the demands of another box.  We struggle to keep all the boxes together, to keep everything neatly in its own little compartment – but the disconnect often leaves us frustrated, exhausted and angry.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to love with every fiber of our being: the “boxes” of our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, our whole strength.  He calls us to love across the boundaries of those boxes, to transcend the limits and expectations of every compartment of our lives.  The love, compassion and reconciliation of God break through our compartmentalized lives and transform our being parents, business professionals, students, team mates, and all the other roles we play – and the many boxes that contain them – into a life of meaning and purpose.

O God, help us to live our lives in the wholeness and holiness of your love.  May your Spirit of reconciliation and justice enable us to connect the many pieces of our days into a life of joy and fulfillment.

WEDNESDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent

“ . . . the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear [the Father’s] voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life . . . ”
John 5: 16-30

Some days we just seem “dead.”  Tensions in the family make our homes “tombs” of resentment and hurt; we feel “buried” by the demands of work and school; a relationship may become so difficult and strained we want to disappear.  We feel dead to God, dead to love, dead to any meaning or purpose.

But Jesus says that it is in these moments of “deadness,” of emotional “entombment,” of utter hopelessness that God speaks most clearly to us: in the love and support, the compassion and counsel of family and friends.  In every chance we have to put aside our own problems and embrace the problems of another, in putting our own needs second in order to put another’s first, we begin to emerge from our “tombs,” we begin to “rise” to the life of God.

So listen closely for God calling you out of whatever feeling of “deadness” you experience today.  Listen with the ear of your heart and you will hear him.

Speak, O God, in the depths of our hearts so that we may rise to the new life of your Risen Christ.  In the love of family and friends, may we climb out of our tombs of sadness and isolation; in our opportunities to help others rise from their own graves, may we come to know the fullness of your Son’s compassion and peace.

THURSDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent

“But you have never heard [the Father’s] voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.”
John 5: 31-47

Sin is a word we avoid, for the most part.  We consider the word too judgmental, too accusatory; the concept has become a victim of “political correctness.”

But our word sin is a translation from the Greek word hamartia, which means roughly to miss, to veer off course.  The word hamartia was used to describe an arrow missing its mark.

And that’s a pretty accurate way to describe sin, isn’t it?  To sin is to miss the mark of what is right and just, to veer away from being fully human in the image of God, to lose sight of our true selves, to diminish and be diminished, to refuse to grow.  We tend to think of sin as a single act, a transgression of one of God’s commandments; but if we understand the origin of the word sin, we begin to realize that sin is something much greater and more encompassing: the failure to see the world as God made the world, the inability to “aim” our lives wisely and rightly, the refusal to free ourselves from the selfishness and hatred in which we are mired.

God of forgiveness, Father of reconciliation, guide us in your love so that our lives may hit their “mark,” that we may become what you have created us to be: your sons and daughters and brothers and sisters to one another.  During this Lenten season may we “turn” away from the way of sin and re-direct ourselves in your grace and peace.

TUESDAY of the Fifth Week of Lent

“You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.”
John 8: 21-30

We own many things – homes, cars, computers, televisions, audio equipment, sports gear of all kinds.

But how much of that stuff owns us?

More than we think. 

Of course, things have to be maintained and cared for: the lawn won’t cut itself, we need to get out and play, and even a persnickety computer needs love now and then.  But what happens when those things take over our lives, when we have no time or energy for family and friends (or God) because we have to make the house bigger and more beautiful, because we have to play on this team or belong to this club, because we have to see the latest movie?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of “belonging” to what is below, of “belonging” to this world.  God gives us his world not be owned by it but to experience in it the joys of this life and to use the blessings of it to sustain and nurture the lives God has given us.

Free us, O Lord, from being “owned” by the things we own, of being “consumed” by the things we “consume.”  This Lent, help us to “detach” from the things of this world in order to “attach” ourselves to your Spirit of compassion and peace in the world you have given us.

THURSDAY of the Fifth Week of Lent

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he might see my day.”
John 8: 51-59

According to the stories recounted in the Book of Genesis, he was probably a desert sheik, the leader of a tribe of nomads that wandered the region of what we know today as Persia some 3,000 years ago.

At some point in his life, he had a profound religious experience.  He came to a new understanding of the world: that there existed a unity in creation, a unity of humankind that connected everything and everyone to one God — not the mysterious vagaries of the nomadic system of many gods, but one God, the ultimate source of all that is good, the one God whose hand makes the sun and moon rise, who waters the fields with rain, who unleashes the power of the winds, who breathes life into every human body. 

This was God, Abraham discovered, who refused the offering of his most precious possession, his own son Isaac; instead, this was God who would create, through Isaac, a new nation of people that would be bound to God and to one another in love.

As the father of Judaism, Abraham is our father in the faith, as well.  May our Lenten journey reflect the desert journey of Abraham: that we may seek the God of compassion, the God of peace, the God of justice and always trust in his providence and mercy.

God of Abraham, you revealed yourself to Abraham as the God of life and love: bind us together in your compassion and peace.  God of Isaac, you spared Abraham’s son and made him a blessing for all nations; restore us to life in the death of your own Son.  God of Jacob, you call us to be your people: make us worthy to be your sons and daughters.  

WEDNESDAY of Holy Week

They paid [Judas] thirty piece of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Matthew 26: 14-25

Thirty pieces of silver.  It is one of the coldest, most horrifying phrases in the Gospel.

That Judas, who was one of Jesus’ most trusted friends, would sell him into death for thirty pieces of silver sickens us.  Such greed, such callousness, such evil numbs us.

Thirty pieces of silver — the price for doing away with Jesus.

But truth be told, in our own lives, we do away with Jesus for even lesser amounts.  We “sell” off God and the things of God for far less.  We “sell” time with our families for a few extra dollars in overtime, for a promotion, for professional affirmation.  We “sell” those we deem to be geeks and nerds into abuse and ridicule in order to protect our own false sense of superiority.  We “sell” the poor into an eternal prison of poverty rather than part with a few pieces of our own silver.  We “sell” any sense of a relationship with God for anything that is more profitable or more fun.

True, we’re nowhere near as evil or as callous as Judas. 

But we have, at some time, collected our thirty pieces of silver.

Open our hearts, O God of reconciliation to let go of the silver we stubbornly and greedily cling to.  In this season of Easter transformation, refocus our vision in order to see you in every moment of our lives; re-center our spirits in your love that we may treasure the love of family and friends and look forward to bringing your love into the lives of the poor, the lost and the hopeless among us.