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.

Subscriptions to Connections DAILY are $56 per year.

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 . . .

Week 18 in Ordinary Time

TUESDAY

At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Matthew 14: 22-36

When an unexpected economic crisis hits you and your family, Christ walks among you in your family’s ability to pull together and sort out what’s important and how to move forward.

When a sudden illness forces you to stop, Christ stills the waters in the help and care offered by neighbors and friends.

When you’re confronted with a situation you can’t handle, Christ calls out to you in the wisdom of your parents, the advice of mentors and coaches, the insight of pastors and ministers and counsellors.

When winds threaten to swamp your little boat, stop and watch for Christ making his presence known.

And know, too, that there will be storms when you will be the lifeline for someone about to sink, the light for someone lost in the night, the hand someone who is falling can grasp.  In many turbulent times, you can be Christ.

Lord Jesus, take our hand when we are sinking, pull us up when the waters rise too high.  G the wisdom and humility to hear your voice and grab your hand in the care and help of our brothers and sisters – and instill in us your spirit of generosity and mercy so that we may be your voice and hand for others whose lives are being battered by life’s storms.

WEDNESDAY

[The Canaanite woman] said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Matthew 15: 21-2
8

Recalling the dark, brutal days of apartheid in his South African homeland, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told an interviewer:

“Many years ago . . . we [blacks] were thought to be human, but not quite as human as white people, for we lacked what seemed indispensability to that humanity – a particular skin color . . . We have a wonderful country with truly magnificent people, if only we could be allowed to be human together.”

Most of us consider ourselves fair-minded and unbiased; we abhor any form of racism or bigotry.  But if we’re honest, we recognize times when we have treated people as if they were a little “less human” than we are because they lacked some quality we deemed as “indispensable” or did not measure up to our standards of education, income, or appearance, of race, religion or gender.  The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is despised by the Jewish community because she is not only a Gentile but also a descendent of the Canaanites, one of Israel’s oldest and most despised enemies – she is considered “less human.”  But Jesus does not see in her an old enemy; he sees, in her great compassion and love for her sick daughter, a loving mother; he sees, in her courage to come forward in the face of imminent rejection and denunciation, a woman of great faith. 

May we see one another with that same compassion; may we respect one another as being made in the image and likeness of God; may we honor one another as sons and daughters of the Father.

Open our hearts, O Lord, to embrace one another as you embrace all of us in your heart; open our eyes to see you in the face of every human being; open our minds to recognize the gifts possessed by every soul and honor their sacred identity as your sons and daughters.

FRIDAY

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  Or what can one give in exchange for his life?”

Matthew 16: 24-28

No one ever said on his or her deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office on that big merger in ‘98.”

No one’s last wish has ever been, “If only I had bought Microsoft stock when I had the chance.”

No one ever left this world regretting that their home was never featured in Architectural Digest.

No, our regrets will be the angry rift we never bridged, the broken relationship we never mended, the hurt inflicted that we never healed.  We will mourn for the opportunity to do something great and good that was missed; we will grieve for the chance to be part of something meaningful and affirming that we were too afraid or cautious to be part of.

Those are the regrets that Jesus is warning us about in today’s Gospel.  Let’s not “forfeit” our lives because of fear or a narrow, self-centered take on things; let’s not “exchange” the true and lasting joys of peace, compassion and forgiveness for instant gratification or the momentary avoidance of pain and suffering.

Jesus urges us to embrace life in all its joyful messiness and painful enrichment – while there’s still time . . .

Instill in us your vision of love, O God, that we may realize the good we can do and the fulfillment we can experience in the precious time you have given us.  May we find our lives in “losing” the shallow and ephemeral and in embracing the “profit” of your Christ’s Gospel of reconciliation and love.

Week 19 in Ordinary Time

THURSDAY

“I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18: 21 – 19: 1

OK, before we take out our calculators and start adding up all the times we’ve put up with bratty kids and obnoxious relatives to see how close we are to the magic number of 77, let’s understand the context of what Jesus is saying.  The number seven in Biblical times was considered a perfect, complete number.  When Peter proposes the number “seven,” Peter imagines he is giving a very generous answer to Jesus’ question of forgiveness.  But Jesus, in multiplying seven by ten, responds that God’s forgiveness extends beyond our own “finite” understandings and practical expectations.

We all know that forgiveness is not easy, but in his parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus reminds us that real forgiveness is centered in the realization of God’s constant love for us despite our own failings, God’s never-ending and unconditional calling us back to him despite ourselves.  So before we walk away from someone or we let our anger and resentment isolate them from us, ask ourselves first:  Would God do the same to us?

O God of forgiveness, help us to forgive one another as you forgive us, to seek the forgiveness of those we hurt, to forgive an unlimited “seventy-seven” times rather than a justified “seven” times.  As you constantly call us back and never let us be lost to you, may we not let our own anger and hurt result in others being lost to us.

FRIDAY

“Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
Matthew 19: 3-12

Any husband or wife will tell you:  Marriage is not a perfect science.

Read all the manuals you want, listen to all the tapes you can stand – but the reality is that a good marriage is unpredictable, surprising and an adventure.

But there is one constant in every good marriage: the love of God that is at its center.  It is love that is not limited or defined by rules and legalities, love that transcends expectations and individual needs, love that seeks joy; love that finds its core in the heart, love that sees joy in the happiness of the beloved.

That is Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel: that the love that binds husband and wife, the love that unites households into families, is what makes our marriages and our families – in all their surprises, in all their turmoil, in all their messiness – mirrors of God’s loving presence in our midst.

O God, love is both your gift to us and the work you set before us.  May we learn to love one another – as spouses, as parents and children, as friends and neighbors – as you have loved us.  Help us to take on the demands and work of love; may your grace enable us to deal with the disappointment and frustration when the romantic ideal dissolves in everyday reality, when our life with others requires more compassion and forgiveness than we think we can muster.

SATURDAY

“Let the little children come to me, and do not prevent them; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19: 13-15

Nine hundred forty (940) Saturdays – that’s the number of Saturdays between the day your child is born and the time he or she turns 18. 

Put as a cold, hard number like that, a childhood of 940 Saturdays suddenly seems like a very short amount of time.  Those 940 Saturdays are a time to be cherished for both child and parent.  Those precious Saturdays – and the days in between – are a time of discovery, growth, and understanding to cherish.  Nine hundred forty Saturdays go by in an instant; moms and dads and their children should use those days wisely.

[From No Regrets Parenting by Dr. Harley Rotbart.]

Jesus makes that very point in today’s Gospel. Childhood is a blessed time both for the child and for the adults in the child’s life.  It is a time for the child to discover the love of God for him or her – and for adults to realize the joy and fulfillment of being vehicles of God’s love for their children.  

And whether we are children or teens, adults or seniors, that number 940 also reminds all of us that our Saturdays – and the days in between – are limited and fixed, that we have been given only so many days to make of our lives what God has called us to make of them.

May we make all of our 940 Saturdays amazing . . . !

May we welcome the child and the child-like into our hearts and lives, O Lord.  May we cherish them and all they have to teach us about the simplicity of faith, the preciousness of all of our days, and the call to be parent and sibling to one another as you are father and mother, brother and sister to each one of us.

Week 20 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

[The young man] went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Matthew 19: 16-2
2

We watch the young man walk away from Jesus’ invitation to become a disciple.  He is sad, perhaps disillusioned – and afraid.

We are more like the rich young man than we think: we are so busy accumulating and amassing what we fear being without that we can’t stop, if even for a moment, to realize what we have; we are too anxious about the wolf at the door that we fail to appreciate the safe and warm house we have behind the door.

Sometimes the most difficult demand of faith is letting go – not just letting go of what we have but letting go of the fear of being without, of the anxiety of not being able to provide for our families, of the shame of being poor ourselves. 

The Gospel of Jesus asks us to trust: to trust that God will provide for what we need, to trust in the possibilities for creating a life and a world centered in God’s justice and reconciliation, to trust that we can live our lives in the Spirit of God’s compassion and generosity. 

The young man in today’s Gospel is not yet ready to trust and let go.  Are we?

God of all good things, help us to let go of the things we cling to in order to give of our blessings to your sons and daughters; help us to detach ourselves from the things of the world in order to attach ourselves to the things of your kingdom; help us to dispossess ourselves of our need from wealth and control in order to possess the joy and humility of Jesus’ resurrection.

THURSDAY

“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son . . . ”
Matthew 22: 1-14

There is a great deal to be done to prepare for a wedding: invitations to be extended, menus to be prepared, music and entertainment to be arranged.

To be invited to a wedding is an honor – and requires preparation, as well: re-scheduling other obligations in order to be free to attend, making travel plans, choosing the right dress or suit to wear, selecting an appropriate gift.

In the wedding feast thrown by God, we are called to be both guest and host.  God entrusts to us the work of extending his invitation to all his sons and daughters to the banquet; in our compassion and care we make sure they realize that have a place at heaven’s banquet. 

And as an invited guest, we must prepare the appropriate “attire”: a wedding garment made from the cloth and thread of generosity and kindness; we also arrange for the appropriate gift: the gift of a humble, grateful heart.

There is a lot to be done for this wedding.  Don’t waste a moment of this day making plans.

May we come to your banquet, O Father, with a spirit of gratitude that enables us to be servant as well as guest; may we come in a spirit of humility, respecting all of your sons and daughters as worthy guests at the table where you invite us all to gather.

FRIDAY

“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one . . . Likewise, no one pours new wine in old wineskins.”
Luke 5: 33-39

There are a few of us left who remember a time when telephones were attached to wires, when “notebooks” required a pen.  No question – the new technologies of the past three decades have increased our productivity and have made many everyday tasks easier and more efficient.

But have they made our lives better?  Not when they become lifestyles.  Not when then become “new” patches on our cloaks that “tear” more time and attention away from family.  Not when they fill our wineskins with “new wine” that is devoid of God and the things of God, “new wine” that contains nothing of the meaning and sense of purpose of the “old wine” of generosity, reconciliation and justice.

In today’s parables of the patched cloak and the wine skins, Jesus is asking us to stop and look at how the cloaks of our lives are serving us:  Are we living lives of joy and meaning as God created them to be?  And is the liquid that fills our “wineskins” worth drinking: is it wine that gladdens the heart or drink that just keeps our bodies going?

Sure, our I-phones and I-pads make our lives easier and more productive – but let’s not allow them to become our lives or dictate the meaning and value of our lives.

O God, do not let the demands for “new wine” or the quick-fixes of new “patches” on our cloaks make us forget or become unaware of your presence in our lives.  May your grace enable us to detach from the demands of our everyday lives and embrace the “old wine” of your loving presence in every experience of compassion, forgiveness and generosity.

Week 21 in Ordinary Time

WEDNESDAY

“You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’”
Matthew 23: 27-32

We know we would have acted differently:

We would not have abandoned Jesus.

We would have risen up and struck down the tyrants and terrorists who have plagued humanity through history.

We would have fought to free slaves in North America and save European Jews during World War II and secure the rights of women and minorities long before now.

Yep, if it had been up to us, the world would be a much better place.

It’s easy to be brave looking at history through our rear-view mirrors.

But the fact is that the same hesitations, the same doubts, the same concerns for our own security and safety govern us as they governed our “ancestors.”  We fear for own survival and the survival of our families, just as they did.  We measure the cost of justice in terms of what we will have to sacrifice, just as they did. 

To follow Jesus demands a conversion of life and heart.  Until each one of us is willing to do that, very little will change; history will chronicle the same narrative of war and injustice.

May your spirit, Lord Jesus, humble us to recognize how we act out of self-interest, how we hesitate out of fear and doubt to act justly and compassionately, how we refuse to sacrifice for the sake of reconciliation and justice.  Help us to take on the life-long work of conversion – to become the people God has called to be and you teach how to be.

THURSDAY

"If the master of the house had known the hour of the night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into."
Matthew 24: 42-51

The accident that suddenly fills your weeks with doctor's appointments, insurance forms and legal issues . . . the unexpected illness or injury that lays you up for weeks . . . the loss of a job that turns your life - and the lives of your family - upside down . . . the death of a loved one that leaves you lost and empty . . . we've all been "robbed" by such "thieves" that break into the "house" of our lives and rob us of our sense of security, peace and tranquility.

These "thieves" wake us up to the preciousness of our lives. Jesus admonishes us to realize that the time God gives us is finite and fragile. Our lives are on a set course of limited time; God alone knows when our journey will be completed. So let our prayer today be that we may make these temporary "houses" of our lives places of compassion and peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, so that whatever robs of our time will not rob us of the meaning and purpose of these lives given us by God.

Father in heaven, at birth you set us on a journey to your dwelling place; in baptism, you light our way by the Word of your Son and wisdom of your Spirit. May we make our way to you, aware that you travel with us in the company of family and friends; may we build our houses aware that they are but temporary dwellings on our way to our final home with you in eternity.

SATURDAY

“’For everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’”
Matthew 25: 14-30

We may not be able to perform brain surgery, but we can comfort a child just stung by a bee.  We may not be able paint beautiful watercolors, but we can roast a chicken and make a pie that brings the family together on Sunday nights.  We may not be a CEO, but when customers leave our checkout line they’re a bit happier and lighter in spirit because of the warm way we treated them.

God has given all of us a share of “talents.”  They may not be the talents we would choose; they may not be the talents of our dreams and fantasies.  But every one of us has our own unique abilities to bring joy and comfort, peace and reconciliation into this place and time God has placed us.  Faith begins with accepting our talents, not with resignation but with gratitude, and to seek to “invest” our talents in creating the kingdom of God.

To do the best with what you have. 

To do what good you can despite the obstacles.

To offer what you have not from your extra but from your need.

That is to act with faith.  That is to do the work of the Gospel.  That is to imitate Jesus.

We thank you, O God, for all that you have given to us.  Instill in us your wisdom so that we may realize the talents we possess and the humility to use them for the benefit of others so that, through them, they may contribute to the building of your reign of compassion and peace.

Week 22 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

[Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor . . .
Luke 4: 16-30

During World War II, a battered contingent of captured allied soldiers were marched through a German village.  The streets were lined with onlookers, some smiling smugly, others wiping away tears of compassion for the plight of these poor soldiers, many of them boys.  The starving prisoners were utterly exhausted, their eyes dark with despair.  The silence of the scene was broken when a woman broke through, an ordinary housewife and mother of the village, who thrust a loaf of bread into one of prisoner’s hands before fleeing back to her kitchen.  Her risky act of compassion was soon taken up by others, who brought out food for the captives.  One woman’s prophetic act of courageous generosity resulted in the transformation of enemy soldiers into sons and brothers.

[From ”The Power of One” by Margaret Silf, America, July 6-13, 2009.]

To act “prophetically” begins with embracing what is right and just and then being willing to confront whatever evil seeks to destroy that good.  In baptism, all of us are called to be such prophets of what is right and just, no matter how unpopular that may make us, whatever cost such prophesy exacts from us.  May we possess the grace to act prophetically with compassion and forgiveness; may we possess the wisdom to hear God speaking to us in the example of other prophets in our midst, to imitate their “proclaiming” the love of God in our love of others and God’s justice and peace by the selfless integrity of our lives.  

Send your Spirit upon us, O God; and anoint us with your grace so that we may bring joy to others; that we may help others free themselves from fear, cynicism and hatred; that we may restore hope to those in despair and heal those broken in body and spirit.  May our humble generosity and grateful kindness proclaim to all your presence in our midst.

WEDNESDAY

And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”  But [Jesus] rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew he was the Christ.
Luke 4: 38-44

The Gospels record several incidents in which Jesus casts out demons that possess poor individuals.  Sometimes, as in today’s Gospel, the demons “talk back” to Jesus – and Jesus silences them.  

Given the advances of modern medicine and psychology, we dismiss these scenes as antiquated understandings of complicated and complex physical and mental conditions.  But, if we step back for a moment, we begin to recognize that we are all “possessed” – possessed by jealousies, compulsions, pride, unhealthy lifestyles, excessive worries or unforgiving spirits that often get the better of us – issues that need to be “exorcised” if we are to live the lives that God intended for us. 

So, as we hear today’s Gospel, let’s not be too quick to dismiss these stories of Jesus’ casting out demons as “quaint” tales from a simpler, unsophisticated time.  Let these stories be the beginning of our own healings of those “demons” that “possess” us, to recognize in the light of faith those behaviors and attitudes that distract us from the things of God and derail us from the possibilities of resurrection in our own lives.

Help us to take on the “demons” that “possess” us, O Lord.  May we confront the attitudes and behaviors that disconnect us from your compassion and peace; may we cast out those obsessions and addictions that trap our bodies and spirits in frustration and disappointment.

SATURDAY

“The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Luke 6: 1-5

The eminent Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel offers this perspective on the importance of the Sabbath in the lives of all God’s sons and daughters, Jew and non-Jew alike:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time, rather than space.  Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to the holiness of time.  It is a day on which we are called upon to share what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”

Several times in the Gospel, Jesus challenges the prevailing view of the Sabbath observance as a simply a day of rest and leisure, of abstaining from activity, a time to stop.  While Jesus encourages us to rest, he urges us to make the Sabbath a time of “active” prayer and intentional consideration of God moving and animating and sanctifying the precious gift of time.  As Rabbi Heschel writes, the Sabbath calls us out of the busyness of time to step back and consider, in a spirit of gratitude and humility, how we use God’s gift of time and what we are making of our lives.

O God of the Sabbath, we thank you for the gift of the time you have given us.  May we be aware of your holy presence in this time and space so that we may one day give you praise in the eternal Sabbath of your kingdom in heaven.

Week 23 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?”
Luke 6: 6-11

In healing the man with the withered hand, Jesus challenges more than the Pharisees’ understanding of the Sabbath as a day of rest.  The Pharisees base their relationship with God on avoidance – avoiding scandal, defiling the Sabbath, eating impure foods, associating with sinful people.  But Jesus teaches that authentic faith and worship that is worthy of God is expressed not in avoiding what is bad but embracing what is good.  To do what is right and good and just is more important than simply not doing what is bad or immoral or unjust. 

True, we should not steal – but God calls us to give gratefully and joyfully to those in need; we should not kill – but God asks us to bring healing and hope to those whose lives are broken and devastated; we should not hate – but God calls us to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, to seek out the lost and forgotten.  

The God who loves us completely and constantly asks us to love one another the same way; the God who intentionally and actively forgives us and saves us calls us to live lives of active, intentional gratitude and reconciliation.

God of the Sabbath, may we give you thanks for your many blessings to us by taking on the hard work of reconciliation and compassion that you call us to do.  Prompted by your spirit, do not let us be satisfied by the passive avoidance of sin but compel us to seek, actively and intentionally, your way of love in all things.

TUESDAY

Everyone in the crowd sought to touch [Jesus] because power came forth from him and healed them all.
Luke 6: 12-19

There are powerful people in our lives – no, not our bosses or law enforcement officials or bankers.

People who possess real power: the power to inspire us to do good things that we could not imagine doing on our own, the power to make us face our failings and take responsibility for making things right, the power to make us see beyond “me” to the much bigger world and greater possibilities of “us.”

In today’s Gospel, Luke writes that the crowds “sought to touch [Jesus] because power came forth from him” – they sensed the presence of God in him.  Consider those who have had such “power” in your life: the loving big sister or brother, the inspiring teacher, the wise mentor, the kind neighbor.  Give thanks for their power in your life – and realize, by God’s grace, the power you may possess to bring God’s compassion and healing to your family, school, community or church.

Christ Jesus, may we experience your “power” to heal and transform, to make new and re-create.  Mend our hearts broken by disappointment; make whole again our spirits crushed by despair.   Feed our souls with your hope that inspires and your wisdom that illuminates the dark moments we struggle through.

FRIDAY

“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
Luke 6: 39-42

If today is a typical day, someone is going to hurt you, disappoint you, anger you.  You will want to take things over.  You will want to say something – something direct, unambiguous, demanding.  You will want to correct them.  You will want to “fix” what they have messed up – and, if at all possible, fix them.

Don’t.

Instead, when something goes wrong today, when someone raises you hackles, stop and think about why this happened, what went wrong, what the other person really was thinking.  And before you set out to fix the problem – and fix them – remember a time when you messed up, when you let someone down, when you someone helped you up, when someone treated you with kindness and understanding – especially when you didn’t deserve it.

Do that first.  Then you’re ready to try and make things right . . .

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see you in the faces of those who stumble and fall with us.  Correct our own vision to realize how selfishness and greed distort our perception of the world around us.  Illuminate our hearts so that we may bring healing and wholeness, rather than divisiveness and brokenness, to every hurting relationship and difficult situation.

Week 24 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

The elders of the Jews urged [Jesus] to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
Luke 7: 1-10

The humility of the centurion in today’s Gospel is striking.  Clearly, he cares for those in his service and under his command.  Though alien to him, he respects the beliefs and values of the Palestinian Jews he has been sent by Rome to oversee.  He also respects order and authority and understands his place in the command structure and social hierarchy of his time.

Jesus is struck by the centurion’s humility.  The centurion sees his position as a responsibility, that his authority is not a cudgel for his own advancement.  He is able to recognize the wisdom and righteousness of others – including that of this Nazarene rabbi.  And, in doing so, the centurion is not perceived as weak or indecisive or diminished – on the contrary, he is all the more respected and revered by his household, his command, and the Jewish community.

May we embrace the humility of the centurion, never hesitating to recognize the good possessed by others and welcoming those gifts into our lives.  The results may surprise you.

Lord Jesus, help us to imitate your spirit of selfless generosity and humble compassion.  In making places in our midst for the poor, the sick, the needy and the forgotten, may our homes become worthy dwelling places for you to enter and bless with your peace. 

THURSDAY

Bringing an alabaster jar of ointment, she stood behind [Jesus] at his feet and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
Luke 7: 36-50

It’s amazing how a simple act of generosity or an unassuming offering of kindness can transform a relationship, a community – or a dinner party.

The woman’s anointing of Jesus’ feet has had just such an effect on Simon’s dinner for Jesus.  Her gesture became an object lesson for Simon and his guests on the true meaning of hospitality and generosity.  Jesus exalts her humble gift as an expression of God’s love in their midst and a reflection of God’s constant invitation to reconciliation and forgiveness.  No one who attended Simon’s party would forget this moment.

In the course of our day, we have many opportunities to heal and lift up by a single good work, a small kindness, a simple expression of support or understanding.  Don’t squander those moments.  They are the beginning of the kingdom of God.

May generosity be the ointment and compassion be our “tears” as we “anoint” the feet of others, welcoming them as we would welcome you, O God.  Make us vessels of your reconciling love; never let us hesitate to be “broken” and dispersed so that we may the means of healing and hope to one another.

FRIDAY

Accompanying [Jesus] were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza . . .
Luke 8: 1-3

They were not the most learned, most talented, most capable people of society. 

They were fishermen and tax collectors and laborers.  Jesus’ company included the poor, the powerless, the rejected, the marginalized.

And, despite the oppressively patriarchal culture of his time, Jesus included women in his work. 

Throughout his Gospel, Luke makes a point of Jesus’ welcoming the poorest, the least influential, the most troubled and least able to fully grasp his teachings.  Jesus’ concern for everyone and his proclamation of God’s kingdom of compassion for all God’s daughters and son trumped prejudice and custom.   

Too often we dismiss people because of an inaccurate or dated label that society has slapped on them; we avoid those deemed “uncool” or “losers” by the questionable standards of culture; we measure a person’s worth based solely on what they can do for us; we believe that our worth increases when we can diminish another.  The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims honors everyone and calls us to welcome the good they possess and can contribute to the blessing of all.

Today make a place for someone who has something to offer – but, through no fault of their own, remain on the outside.  Put aside your own biases and prejudices and make a place for them.  You will both be the richer for it.

Lord Jesus, as you welcomed all into your company, may we make places in our lives for the poor, the marginalized, the isolated, the forgotten.  Help us to see others through your eyes, realizing the good they possess and welcome what they give to us and others for the sake of your Father’s Kingdom.  

Week 25 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”
Luke 8: 16-18

Many of us, when we were kids, were afraid of the dark.  We were convinced that monsters lurked in the dark closets, under our beds, and in the basement.  Our best weapon against these beasts was our trusted night light -- all the more “powerful” if it bears the image of Sleeping Beauty or Spider Man!

As we get older, however, we become more comfortable with darkness – in some cases, we welcome it.  We prefer the “darkness” of not knowing, of staying unaware, to being able to deny realities that threaten our safe, comfortable little world. 

But discipleship is to seek the light that reveals what is hidden.  Jesus illuminates the darkness – especially the “safe” darkness – with the light of God’s justice, compassion and wisdom.  Only in that light can we transform the darkness that imprisons and terrifies us into the happiness and fulfillment our lives are meant to be.

Often, it is a simple matter of lighting the lamp.

May the light of your Gospel, O Lord, illuminate what we are unable to see, reveal what is hidden from our understanding, and shine your compassion and mercy on us as we struggle through our darkest nights.

WEDNESDAY

Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 9: 1-6

Do you work in a “sick” place?  Are “demons” undermining your family, your school, your church?

It’s a strange way to put it but that’s how the Twelve sent out by Jesus saw it: that arrogance and self-interest are diseases that can cause great pain to many innocent people, that dysfunction and resentment are “demons” that destroy our lives as spouses, parents and siblings.

Look around your home or workplace, your classroom or parish, and “take command” of those “demons.”  Cast them out by the authority” of the reconciling love of God and bring healing and hope to the broken, the despairing, the lost in your village.

Be with us on our journey, O God.  By your grace, may we be ministers of healing; by your justice, may we be vehicles of peace; by your compassion, may we be agents of reconciliation as we make our way to your dwelling place.

FRIDAY

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on third day be raised.”
Luke 9: 18-22

We’ve all struggled trying to complete some task or project, only to hit roadblock after road block.  We become discouraged; we feel defeated.  Yet with patience and perseverance and the kind help and guidance of wise and generous folk, we manage to make it all work.  Somehow we find a way to transform disaster into the victory of the “third day.”

We’ve all doubted our ability to be of help and comfort to someone in need.  Yet that small act of kindness and understanding led to the “third day.”

A son or daughter is struggling in school or living a nightmare of abuse or addiction.  With a parent’s bottomless well of love, you push your disappointments and expectations aside and make yourself available to them with support and understanding; you find God’s grace in the support of compassionate family and friends, in the wise guidance of others.  In time, you survive the long night and know the light of dawn on the “third day.”

We who struggle to follow Jesus believe in the “third day;” we live in the hope that our lives are filled with “third days” when the struggles of our Good Fridays are transformed by God’s love in our midst into experiences of resurrection, when our hard work and humble generosity helps us find our way out of our tombs and walk again in the light of joyful fulfilment. 

Sometime, somehow, you can make the next 24 hours a “third day” either for yourself or someone you love.  Make it happen.

O God, help us never to lose faith in the hope of the “third day.”  May we take up our crosses in the certain hope that you will raise us up on the “third day,” that your compassion and grace will transform our Good Friday crucifixions into moments of newness and resurrection.

Week 26 in Ordinary Time

WEDNESDAY

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 57-62

A busy executive used to write in his calendar book every day; 7:45 - 8 A.M.  Prayer.  But he found it too easy to put off prayer.  So he started writing instead, 7:45 – 8 A.M., God.  God, he said, was harder to ignore.

We are all busy with our jobs, our families, our schoolwork, our projects and programs.  While we want to make more time for God in our lives, we are overwhelmed with the expectations and demands placed on us.  But we need to understand that God is part of all time, that God is present in every moment of work and play.  In every meeting at the office and every project at work, God is there guiding us to work responsibly and with integrity; in every moment with our families, God is revealed in our love and care for one another; in every moment of trauma and catastrophe, God is present in the compassion and consolation of family and friends.

So let us not make time for God but be aware of God’s presence in all time, of God blessing every moment of our lives with his loving presence.

Come, O Lord, and make your dwelling place in our homes and hearts.  Open our spirits to behold you in our midst, sanctifying every moment and event in our lives with your compassion and grace.

THURSDAY

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.
Luke 10: 1-12

There was once a little boy who wanted to meet God.  He figured it would be a long journey, so he filled his backpack with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer.  And then he set off.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman.  She was sitting in the park quietly, just watching the pigeons.  The boy sat down next to her on the bench and opened his backpack.  He was about to take a drink from his first root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie.  She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.  Her smile was so wonderful that the little boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer.  Once again she smiled.  The boy was delighted.  They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, never saying a word.

As it grew late, the boy got up to leave, but before he had gone a few steps, he turned to the old woman and gave her hug.  She gave him the biggest smile ever.  When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of happiness on his face.

"What did you do today?" she asked.

"I had lunch with God."  But before his mother could respond, he continued.  "You know what?  She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

About the same time, the old woman returned to her home.  Her son was stunned by the rare smile on her face.  "Mother, what happened that brought such a smile to your face?"

"I ate Twinkies in the park with God."  But before his son could respond, she continued.  "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

In our love for others, God resides in us; in the kindness and care we are able to extend to others, the very presence of God is realized.  Like the seventy-two in today's Gospel, Jesus appoints every disciple of every time and place to go before him to bring such "peace" into the lives of others, to be his agents of compassion, reconciliation and hope in this needy world.  Such is the work of discipleship: to bring the peace of God into every home and heart -- with a healing word or a shared root beer.  

May we go forth with your blessing this day, O Lord, that we may be bring your blessing to every household, your healing to the broken hearted, your hope to the suffering.  By your grace, may we extend your compassion and hope even to the “wolves” who threaten us and the self-centered who reject us.

SATURDAY

The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Luke 10: 17-24

Remember the last time you extended some kindness to someone and it had an almost miraculous effect on that person?  Maybe you had to get over your self-consciousness that you might embarrass them or yourself; or that what you could offer wouldn’t amount to much; or you struggled to put aside your fear that you might make a bad situation worse.  But you discovered that your generosity and kindness made a difference in that life.  You realized the meaning and purpose of your faith in the Jesus of the Gospel.

The seventy-two disciples have had that experience.  They have just returned from the missionary journey Jesus has sent them on [in Thursday’s Gospel].  Clearly it has gone well – they have had been blessed and enriched in taking on the task Jesus entrusted to them: to proclaim the kingdom of God’s peace and justice, his reign of healing and forgiveness.

That same mission has now been entrusted to us.  When we put aside our dread of failure and our fear of being ridiculed or criticized and dare ourselves to be the means of compassion, reconciliation and peace for others, we will be amazed at what the grace of God enables us to do.
                               
Instill in us your Spirit of wisdom and perseverance, O Lord, that we may proclaim the coming of your kingdom here and now.  Help us find joy in the simplest acts of compassion that we are able to perform, meaning in our own struggles for what is right and just, fulfillment in doing even the most mundane of tasks out of love and care.

Week 27 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.”
Luke 10: 25-37

A critical detail in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is that word Samaritan.

The Samaritans and Jews despised each another.  Their hatred dated back to the eighth century B.C., when Assyria conquered the land on Samaria in northern Israel.  Those northerners who survived the disaster intermarried with foreigners resettled by the Assyrians.  The Jews of Jerusalem considered such accommodation with their hated enemy treason and, worse, a betrayal of the covenant.  Jerusalem banned the Samaritans from their temple and synagogues, refused their religious contributions and denied their legal status in court proceedings.  Some Samaritans retaliated by attacking pilgrims passing through their land on their way to Jerusalem. 

Jesus’ hearers would expect a Samaritan to be the villain of the story, not the hero.  In the parable, while the two clerics do not help the man for fear of violating the Torah by being defiled by the dead, the compassionate Samaritan – a man presumably with little concern for Jewish belief or morality – is so moved by the plight of the poor man that he thinks nothing of stopping to help, regardless of the cost of time or money. 

To recognize our neighbors begins by tearing down the walls, the labels, and the stereotypes that divide us from one another.  Religion, race, gender and nationality that separate, that isolate, that denigrate are contrary to God’s vision of his creation.  We are, first and foremost, Jesus says, children of God the Father and brothers and sisters – and neighbors – to one another.

Open our eyes and hearts, O God, to see you in everyone we encounter on our journey through this life.  Give us the wisdom and courage to remove the obstacles that prevent us from recognizing all as our “neighbors.”  In doing good to them, may we give complete and joyful thanks to you, the Father of us all and Giver of all that is good.

TUESDAY

“Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Luke 10: 38-42

We live busy lives.  Our lives are ruled by our calendars and “to-do” lists.  We are constantly juggling projects.  With laser-like focus, we storm through life building our careers and portfolios.  We’re too busy to come up for air.

But we all reach that point when we ask, Is there something better?  Is my life meant to be more than this?  Am I to be defined by my resume alone?

Mary and Martha personify that critical moment.  We are all like Martha in our own anxiety over details; we worry about the peripherals at the expense of the important and lasting.  “The better part” embraced by Mary transcends the pragmatic and practical concerns of the everyday (that have overwhelmed poor Martha) and sees the hand of God in all things and realizes the gratitude all of creation owes to its loving Creator for the gift of life.

With so many agendas demanding our time and attention, Jesus calls us to consciously choose and seek out “the better part”: to make a place in our lives for the joy and love of family and friends that is the presence of God.

Guide us, O Lord, in seeking the “better part”: to stop and recognize the presence of your love, your peace, and your forgiveness in the midst, transforming our overwhelmingly stressful and anxious days into experiences of joy and fulfillment.

WEDNESDAY

“Lord, teach us to pray . . .”
Luke 11: 1-4

Elie Wiesel, whose writings chronicle the nightmare of the Holocaust, offered this reflection on prayer:

“Why should God need our prayer?  Why should God need our flattery?  How come he is not repulsed by all that . . . ?  God does not need our prayers.  We need them.  We need to be able to pray in sincerity and beauty.  And prayer should not be against somebody but always for somebody.  That is true prayer, when it is for someone else, not for yourself.”
[Literature and Belief, vol. 26, no. 1]

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us much more than the words to a prayer: he teaches us the true spirit of prayer.  Authentic prayer is centered in gratitude and the realization of our need to express that gratitude to the God who loved us into being.  And, as Elie Wiesel wisely notes, prayer is not about us and our needs, but the needs of all our brothers and sisters, all children of God.  It’s not about me, it’s always about us.  It seeks God’s blessing and good for others – even those we struggle to love.  It’s offered out of our need for joy and hope in this sometimes brutal life we live.

So today, offer a prayer, a real prayer, that is worthy of God – and good for your soul.

O Lord, teach us to pray faithfully.  May our prayers be part of an ongoing conversation with you, in which we listen as well as ask, in which we seek not just what we want but what you want for us, in which we look not just for solutions but transformation.  Let our prayer open our eyes and hearts to see your hand at work in all things, to behold your presence in every moment and molecule of life.

Week 28 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.”
Luke 11: 29-32

One evening, as the community gathered for Sabbath prayers, a member of the congregation demanded, “Tell me, Rabbi, just what is God?”

The rabbi quietly replied, “Tell me, just what is NOT?”

We tend to look for God in the “huge” events of the cosmos, in the “earthquakes” that shake our world, in the “big” events of our lives.  God is in all of those things, but the gift of faith enables us to perceive God in the much smaller, hidden and simple experiences of our everyday lives.  Jesus calls us to watch for the unmistakable signs of God’s love in our midst, to listen for the cries of the broken and shattered, to move beyond our safe, comfortable isolation for the sake of what is right and just, to put aside the cold rationalizations and conventions we hide behind in order to bring reconciliation to our broken world.

Jesus asks us to see the world with the vision of the rabbi: to keep our eyes and ears, our hearts and spirits, open to the unmistakable signs of God’s presence in our lives: in the love of family and friends; in the kindness we are able to extend to others and they to us; in every experience of forgiveness and reconciliation; in even the smallest victory of compassion over brokenness, of justice over selfishness, of hope over despair.

Open our eyes and humble our spirits, Lord God, to recognize the signs of your love, justice and forgiveness in our midst.  May we, in turn, become effective signs of your compassionate presence in our world, of your call to reconciliation, of your spirit of justice and mercy in the Ninevehs of our homes and schools, our workplaces and playgrounds.
  
WEDNESDAY

“Woe to you Pharisees!  You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.”
Luke 11: 42-46

Let’s not kid ourselves:  We are very concerned with how we look to others.  We want others to think well of us.  We want to be perceived as in the know, as key players, as well-connected and respected.

So we are not much different from the Pharisees.  Too often we work harder at creating the perception of being devoted than the quiet, more demanding work of living our faith.  We have mastered the ready laugh and being the life of the party but are hesitate to offer kindness and support at life’s more difficult, challenging moments.  We want to be seen as players without making any kind of impact that might jeopardize our acceptance or popularity.

Today, find the “lower place” where you might help someone in need of recognition or affirmation; seek the honor of listening rather than of speaking, of lifting up another rather than being the center of attention; be a source of joy and forgiveness and not an “unseen grave” of propriety and judgment.

O God, make us a means for others to realize your love in our midst.  May we embrace your spirit of humility and generosity so that we may we find fulfillment in bringing life to others, that may we find hope in our struggle to make good come from evil, that may we find joy in our weak attempts to heal and make whole the broken and hurting in our midst.

FRIDAY

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?  Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.”
Luke 12: 1-7

Does the good that we do matter?  Does my offer of help to someone, the dollar bill that I press into the hand of a homeless person, the time I spend listening to someone vent their frustrations amount to anything?

Jesus assures us that it does.  Nothing good, Jesus says in today’s Gospel, escapes “the notice of God.” 

“The notice of God . . . ”

Every good thing we do – no matter how small, how simple, how seemingly insignificant – mirrors the very love of God in our midst.  The forgiveness we extend, the compassion we offer, the justice we fight for are all stones in the foundation of God’s kingdom.

Our smallest, sparrow-size effort at doing what is right and just is “leaven” that becomes bread that feeds and nourishes; it is light that breaks through the darkness of fear and despair; it is the word of God that makes itself heard above the din and noise of the world.

And God notices – whatever is right and just, reconciling and healing, matters.  And every good thing, no matter how small, is a song of praise to the God who is the Giver of all that is good, who is the Author of love and compassion.

May we find confidence and inspiration, O God, in the reality that all of us live within your “notice.”  May we always remember that you walk with us, that you shoulder our crosses with us, that you constantly hold us in your loving embrace.  Be our constant assurance that every good thing you inspire us to do, every offering of compassion you enable us to extend, every hurt you show us how mend, matters in the building of your kingdom in our midst.

Week 29 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“The rich man asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:  I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones . . . ’”
Luke 12: 13-21

One of the big selling features of any house is closet space.  We’re all looking for more storage space – garages, basements, attics.  A walk-in closet in the bedroom is considered a necessity.  A good-size deck and kitchen island are all nice, but a three-car garage is heaven.

What on earth are we storing?  How much time, money and energy are we exerting for our things – and for storing them?  Being a family means having a lot of stuff, to be sure – but the parable of the rich man’s storage bins challenges us to consider if all the things we have amassed are getting in the way of our relationships with God and with one another.  Could at least some of our “stuff” be better used in service to the poor, the grieving, the forgotten?

Today, take a look at some of your “stuff” or “new stuff” you may be thinking about adding to your “barn.”  Is there something better you can do with it?

O God, we thank you for all the good things you have given us.  Help us to give thanks to you by giving to others; to attach ourselves to you by detaching ourselves from things; to obtain more of the lasting things of life by generously giving the impermanent things we possess to those who have little or nothing.

FRIDAY

“Why do you not judge for yourself what is right?”
Luke 12: 54-59

We make a mistake and we know we are at fault and that we are responsible for making things right.  But we look for a loophole to avoid making amends or a “legal” way to shift responsibility to someone else.

We have an opportunity to make a score if we put our ethics on hold for a moment.  That’s just business, we say.

We hear someone make a cutting or unfair remark that is untrue or prejudiced or racist.  We laugh it off and say nothing.

In all of these situations, we know what we should do.  We hear the voice of God within us calling us to respond in his Spirit of humility and justice.  We have embraced in Baptism the life of that Spirit as articulated in the Gospel of Jesus.  Discipleship, Jesus says in today’s Gospel, is to take responsibility for ourselves to do what is right because it is right; to see the goodness of God in the midst of pain, evil and exploitation; to realize that we possess the abilities to re-create our world in the compassion and peace of God.

Help us, O Lord, to see the signs of your justice and mercy in our homes, in our work, in our studies, in all of our relationships.  Open our eyes to recognize your compassion and peace in our midst.  Move our hearts to create your kingdom of peace and reconciliation in our own time and place.

SATURDAY

The parable of the fig tree:  “[The gardener] said to [the owner]:  ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.’”
Luke 13: 1-9

There are “fig trees” in all our lives: individuals we have done all we can for, who have exhausted our time and energy, who we just can’t help anymore.  We’ve done all we can for him or her – but their despair is just too deep, they can’t get beyond their problems.  You start to wonder if they want things to get better.  To get any more involved with them can begin to destroy our own lives.   Fair enough.  Boundaries and limits are important.

But Jesus asks us to make some space in our lives – and hearts – for the “unproductive fruit trees”: to keep cultivating the ground around that “fig tree” with understanding, kindness, support – and with the honesty that alone can break the rocky soil around it, the patience to let its shaky stem grow in the light.  Jesus calls us to embrace the determined hope of the gardener, to remember that God’s endless grace enables us to experience the promise of resurrection in every “death” and Good Friday we experience.  

Today, see if you can be the faithful gardener for someone who is, in some way, struggling.  In your kindness and concern, be for them the hope and mercy of God who keeps giving all of us “second chances” to rebuild and reclaim our lives from brokenness to wholeness.     

O God, open our eyes and spirits to realize your presence in our lives when we feel hopelessly detached and isolated from you.  May we always find hope in the promise of the fig tree and our ability to start over again and again – and may we be that promise for those struggling to find reason to hope and carry on despite the disappointments and failures that exhaust them.