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.

CLICK HERE for subscription information and an order form . . .


A sampling of reflections from Connections DAILY . . .

Week 14 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“Courage daughter!  Your faith has saved you.”
Matthew 9: 18-26

“Your faith has saved you . . . ”

Good for the father of the sick child!  Good for the suffering woman!

Wish our faith could save us like that . . .

But faith does “save” us.  Faith is that trust in the goodness of God that enables us to carry on when all seems lost, to continue to search out the lost and stumbling when they seem beyond our grasp, to persevere in doing the right thing when we’re met with derision or blank stares.  Faith is that light illuminating a path through the brambles and stones that can trip us up; faith is ballast that helps us keep our balance when self-centeredness and self-importance threaten to capsize us.

May our faith “save” us: the faith of a loving a father who will move heaven and earth for his dying child, the faith of a sick woman who trusts in the mercy and peace of God to make all well.

O God, may our faith and trust in your constant presence in our lives enable us to re-create our hearts in compassion for all who reach out to us.  Let your grace embrace our spirits in hope that we can transform darkness into light, brokenness into healing, despair into possibility, resentment into gratitude, death into life.

THURSDAY

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
Matthew 10: 7-15

In his first instructions to the Twelve as they set out to preach, Jesus sets the tone for their ministry: Pack light. No tipping. Always say thank you.

The work of the Gospel, Jesus says, is quite simple: What God has given us, we are to give to others. The blessings we have received we are to use to bless others. Simple – but hardly easy.

So discipleship begins with a sense of gratitude to God, a realization that God has blessed us with so much. Embracing such a spirit of gratitude in difficult economic times, in times of hurt and struggle, in times of abandonment and isolation, is not easy. But is the heart of faith: to know that we are loved by the God who created us and that that love is a reality in every moment we draw breath, and that we always live and move and find our being in that love.

May your Spirit of compassion and gratitude dwell within our hearts and homes, Lord Jesus, that we may bring your healing, your forgiveness, your peace to all you place in our lives.

FRIDAY  

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10: 16-23

We have all heard that voice inside of us: the voice that prods us to do the right thing; the voice that we try to ignore when it pushes us into a direction we do not want to go; the voice that nudges us to be polite, to be kind, to ignore the slight, to forgive when we are just about to let the guilty party have it.

That voice, Jesus says, is the voice of the Spirit of God speaking to us in the depths of our hearts. That voice can be a struggle to hear or seem silent altogether when things are most difficult. But Jesus assures us – promises us — that when the demands on us are overwhelming, when the cost exacted of discipleship is too high, when our faith puts us on a collision course with the rest of the world, that voice of the Spirit will direct our consciences and illuminate the path we know we need to take.

The hard part is stopping long enough and paying attention enough to listen.

Speak, Lord, to our hearts and spirits your Word of wisdom, your Gospel of justice, your call to reconciliation and conversion. Quiet our noisy spirits and open our busy hearts to hear your Word of love and hope when we are least able but most in need to hear it.

Week 15 in Ordinary Time

TUESDAY

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.”
Matthew 11: 20-24

You meet a neighbor at the mall, and he remarks how helpful your daughter has been to his daughter who was struggling with chemistry. “Your daughter’s a great kid,” he says. You smile proudly – but you had no idea . . .

You get a card from a friend who has just gone through a difficult illness. She is very grateful for that afternoon you spent with her, visiting, playing cards, and reading to her. It was no big deal to you – but it meant a lot to her.

After a horrendous week at work, you decide to invite the family over Sunday night for a barbecue. Just as you are about to say grace, you look down the table and see the smiling faces of your children and grandchildren. The office suddenly seems like an alien planet. You realize how blessed you have been.

In the never-ending busy-ness of every day, we take for granted all the wonderful people in our lives; we don’t realize all the blessings we have received. The demands and expectations make on us numb us to the spirit of humble gratitude that Jesus calls us to embrace. That is exactly why Jesus condemns the villages of Chorazin and Bethsaida: Jesus had preached and healed many in those towns, yet they remained unaffected and unmoved by the compassion of God in their very midst. 

Look around your world today – and offer a prayer of thanks for something or someone who manifests the love of God in your midst.

Transform our hearts with gratitude, O God, that we may realize the many good things with which you have blessed our lives. Re-create us in joyful humility as we may celebrate your love in our midst in the love of our families and friends and in the compassion of those who minister to us and advocate for us.

WEDNESDAY

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
Mathew 11: 25-27

Have you ever taken a child to the circus or to the zoo? It’s a marvelous experience not only for the child but for adult. Kids see things with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm that finds joy in the simplest things and the beauty in what we “old folks” take for granted.

Children also have this uncanny ability to get to the hard of the matter. They can ask questions that make you doubt your grasp of what you thought was pretty clear and straightforward. They are happily unencumbered by the complexities of adulthood, blissfully unaware of the complexities of the real world. They approach things with an honesty and simplicity that cuts through our rationalizations and justifications to explain away the mess we adults have made of the world.

It is that “child-like” honesty and integrity Jesus asks us to embrace. Faith is not “childish” nor does faith pretend the world is a perfect fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after; child-like faith is focused on people rather than things, seeks what is right and good above all other considerations, cuts through the complications we appeal to justify our self-centeredness.

May your Spirit, O God, lead us to child-like faith that seeks you first in all things. Do let us devise justifications and rationales for being less than the people of righteousness you have called us to be. Never let us forget that we are your children, called to be brothers and sisters to all your sons and daughters.

FRIDAY

“ . . . the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath.”
Matthew 12: 1-8

Naomi Levy, a rabbi and the mother of two daughters, offers this perspective on the Sabbath in her book Hope Will Find You:

“ . . . most people think of the Sabbath as a day of prohibition – you can’t do this and you can’t do that.  But it’s actually a day of permission, a day when we give ourselves permission to leave the work week and all its demands behind so that we can breathe again, dream again, connect again.”

We need a sense of the Sabbath in our lives – a day to step off the treadmill, a time to turn off the machinery of our days – and be the people we want to be: happy, loving, generous; to experience the peace of Christ and the love of God in the midst of our families and friends.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to recapture the spiritof the Sabbath, to bring back into our lives time for quiet, for re-connecting with God and with one another, for realizing anew the love of God in our midst.

May we embrace the spirit of the Sabbath, O God.  Help us to stop at some point in the busy-ness of our days and weeks to realize again your presence in our lives and recalibrate our lives in your mercy and grace.

Week 16 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign . . . ”
Matthew 12: 38-42

Messes happen.  Sometimes you have to risk making a mistake in order to create something good.  Other messes are the result of clumsiness, misunderstanding or simply not knowing.  Some messes are a matter of much more than straightening up mislaid things but putting broken people back together.

Messes happen.  You have to be willing to restore and repair what – and sometimes who – you’ve broken.  It’s inescapable.

Both Jesus and the prophets like Jonah call us to clean up our messes, to take responsibility for the disasters we create by what we do or fail to do and then resolve to make things right.  The “sign” to straighten out this messed-up world of ours, Jesus says, is already has already appeared: it is the Spirit of God within each one of us.  That Spirit enables us to recognize the messes we have made and realize our responsibility to restore, to re-create, to heal; to pay the price willingly for a just society by living lives of peace and humility; to heal our broken world by extending ourselves in compassion and forgiveness to the broken among us.

Gracious God, give us the courage and perseverance to clean up the messes that happen in our own lives.  By your grace, may we pay whatever price and endure whatever sacrifice to bring your kingdom of mercy and peace to our own time and place.  

TUESDAY

“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Matthew 12: 46-50

Today’s Gospel asks us to think “bigger”:

Jesus asks us to have “bigger” tables – with enough room to make a place for one more.

Jesus asks us to keep “bigger” calendars – always with enough time for someone in need.

Jesus asks us to open our arms “bigger” – wide enough to embrace every one as our brothers and sisters in him, honoring one another as sons and daughters of God. 

Today’s Gospel should not be read as Jesus diminishing his own family but as Jesus asking us to embrace a “bigger” vision of family that recognizes the face of Christ in everyone, a “bigger” vision that honors every one as a child of God our Father, a “bigger” vision that sees our parish altar as a family table of brothers and sisters in Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Expand our vision and hearts, Lord Jesus, that we may see one another as members of your family and embrace one another as brothers and sisters under your Father’s providence. In following your Gospel of humble servanthood, may our family tables we places of welcome and peace for all who come to our door; may all be embraced in our compassion and understanding as you embrace us in your love.

SATURDAY

“No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest . . . ”
Matthew 13: 24-30

Yes, we good people live among a lot of “weeds.”

But we can be real “weeds” ourselves, too.

We are quick to point out the “weeds” that surround us and we make no secret of our willingness to uproot them and cast them into the fire. But sometimes we are the “weeds” who hurt others; our self-centeredness brings ruin to the garden we all share and undermine the harvest we all work for; our self-centered taking up all the air and water and nutrients of the soil leaves others in desperate poverty.

The Gospel challenges us to recognize our own weed-like behavior and to realize Jesus’ call to be wheat: wheat that becomes bread for all, wheat that feeds and supports others, wheat that selflessly gives of itself for the common harvest.

Lord, help us to be wheat for our hungry world. Do not let us live our lives as selfish weeds that take up and dominate, but may we embrace the example of wheat, giving of ourselves to become the bread of your compassion and peace.

Week 17 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast . . . ”

Matthew 13: 31-35

There are things we do every day because we have to.

We all have a list of things we do every day, without fail. They just have to get done and we’re the only ones who can – or will – do them. After a while, we resent the time it takes to get these mundane tasks done.

But remembering that those tasks make good things possible for our families, that they bring happiness to others, that they bring hope and healing to those we care for, can transform those tasks into moments of love.

Such remembering is the “yeast” of the Gospel: the love than enables us to find joy in even the most mundane, most boring and dreariest work; love that makes our simplest, ordinary kindnesses expressions of Christ’s compassion; love that discovers life’s fulfillment in serving others as did Christ.

O God, may we create your Kingdom in our own time and place by becoming the “yeast” of compassion and reconciliation. Help us to make our simplest kindnesses and hidden acts of generosity and care the “bread” of peace in our midst.

TUESDAY

“Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”
Matthew 13: 36-43

We all have “weeds” in our lives that need to be uprooted. 

But we don’t have to wait until the final harvest to pull them up and burn those things that get in the way of our relationship with God, that have become obstacles to our relationships with family and friends, that have become distractions in living the lives we would like to live. 

Plowing under everything in our lives that are problematic is not very realistic. But today, “burn” a weed or two that takes up time and energy from your life. Pull up those distractions and expectations that prevent you from enjoying the happiness of family and friends or stop you from being a source of God’s compassion and peace to others.

May your Word that you have planted within us help us to realize the harvest of your justice and compassion that you have entrusted us to produce. Help us to recognize the “weeds” that undermine our lives; may your grace enable us to uproot them so that we may realize the fullness of your presence in our midst.

THURSDAY

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.”

Matthew 13: 47-53

We collect a lot of stuff in our “nets” over the course of our lives.

But what defines what we save as “good”?  How do we determine what will be thrown away?  Just because something is “old” doesn’t make it bad; conversely, what is innovative and different isn’t necessarily good.  Are we too quick to embrace what is “new and cool,” what gratifies us for the moment, while rejecting the values that have given balance and direction to our lives?  Do we stubbornly cling to traditions that prevent us from growing and maturing, to possessions that “dispossess” us from the things of God?

The parable of the net challenges our decision-making as we sort out our “catches” – to keep what is of God, what brings fulfillment and joy to our lives; and to toss what isolates us from God, what alienates us from one another, what clutters our lives and distracts us from the true treasures of love, peace and family.

O God, you have filled out nets with abundance.  Help to sort out what is truly good and necessary in our lives and enable us to give from our catch to those whose nets catch little.   

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

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof . . . but say the word and let my servant be healed.”
Luke 7: 1-10

“Lord, am I not worthy . . . ”

Every time we come to the Eucharist, we pray the words of the centurion in today’s Gospel.  His simple but eloquent words are among the most profound prayers in all of Scripture.  In two lines, he and we acknowledge our humility before God, that before God’s love we are all humble beggars.  Centurion and soldier, master or peasant -- we are all equal before God, who is Father of us all.  We welcome God’s presence “under our very roofs.”  We profess our trust in God’s word of healing that makes us whole, his word of forgiveness that restores us to relationship with him and one another, his word of peace that transforms our world in hope.

Humility before God, hope in his loving presence in our homes and hearts, trust in his Word made flesh in the person of Jesus -- may we make the faithful centurion’s plea our own, not just when we approach the table of the Eucharist but as we gather with family and friends around own tables.

Lord, we are not worthy, yet you make your presence known under our roofs – may our homes and hearts find joy and hope in your love in our midst.  Speak your word of reconciliation and compassion to our hearts and spirits that we may be healed of our doubts and despair and transform our lives in your grace.

WEDNESDAY

“To what shall I compare this generation?”
Luke 7: 31-35

Walking in the woods one day, a boy finds the cocoon of a monarch butterfly.  For several hours, he watches as the butterfly struggles to force its way through the tiny hole in the cocoon’s casing. 

But the butterfly stops making progress; it seems to be stuck.  Concerned that the butterfly is in trouble, the boy takes out a small knife he has in his pocket and carefully cuts away the rest of the cocoon.  The butterfly emerges easily — but its body is swollen and small and its wings are all shriveled.  The boy expects that at any moment the wings will begin to enlarge and expand and the butterfly will take flight.

But it never happens.

The boy does not understand that the butterfly’s struggle through the restricted cocoon forces fluid from the body into the wings, giving the wings stability and strength so that the butterfly is ready to fly once it works its way through the cocoon.  The butterfly’s freedom and flight are only possible because of the difficult struggle through the cocoon’s narrow opening.

Like the kind but unaware boy who tries to help the struggling butterfly, we seek to avoid what is painful, stressful, and traumatic.  But it is in failure that we learn; it is in suffering that we find healing; it is in our crosses that we discover the wholeness and joy of the resurrection. 

The people of Jesus’ time have dismissed the austere John as a quack and a crank; they have written off Jesus as simplistic and a disaster waiting to happen.  Jesus challenges them — and us — to realize the wisdom of John’s call to reconciliation and forgiveness and his own Gospel of love and compassion.  If we are willing to see beyond ourselves, if we are open to hearing the many different voices in which God is speaking, God’s wisdom will take root in us, re-creating and transforming our lives into the life of God.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts and minds to “accept” what we find hard to embrace, to see what is hidden from us, to hear what the noise and clamor of the world shout down.  May we possess faith that gives but never gives up, that perseveres in the face of every frustration, that struggles on despite our doubts and fears, that does not rest until we find you in every person and situation we encounter.  

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.