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 . . .

Fourth Week of Easter

MONDAY

“ . . . the sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
John 10: 1-10

For any parent, there is nothing more terrifying than suddenly to discover that your child is missing.  You are at the mall or the beach or the park – one moment your child is grasping at your pant leg; a second later the child is nowhere to be found.

In your fear and panic, you shut out the every noise and distraction to focus entirely on finding your child.  You run down aisles and alleys, questioning everyone, checking every possible hiding place.  Nobody gets in your way; nothing slows you down.  You focus like a laser for any glimpse of his baseball cap or her yellow sweater; you are tuned to hear only the words your heart aches to hear:  "Mommy!  Daddy!  I got lost."

In today's Gospel, Christ assures us that his voice can be heard above the noise and din of our lives, offering us peace, wisdom and guidance, if we listen purposefully and attentively.  When our spirits ache over love that has been lost, when we lose our moral and ethical way, when we feel our footing slip beneath us as we try to navigate life's twists and turns, Christ calls us, his voice can always be heard if we listen with hope, with conviction, with faith.  Like frantic parents desperately longing to hear their child's voice in the midst of our desperation and fear, the voice of Christ calls out to us, guiding us, supporting us, prodding us on our journey to the dwelling place of his Father.  

Good Shepherd, open our hearts to hear your voice amid the “noise” of our lives; guide our steps over the crags and rocky terrain we travel and bring us safely to the pasture of your wisdom and grace.  Make us, in turn, selfless shepherds to one another, that we may walk together through the gate of your peace and compassion.

TUESDAY

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem.  It was winter.  And Jesus walked about the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.
John 10: 22-30

Today’s Gospel takes place, the writer of the Fourth Gospel points out, during the winter feast of Dedication.  We know it today as Hanukah.

Hanukah commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem.  Four centuries before Christ, Syrian Greeks occupied Israel and, over time, devastated Jerusalem.  Then, in the year 165 B.C., Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”) led a revolt of Jewish warriors that successfully drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Israel and reclaimed Jerusalem.  In a weeklong festival, the temple was rededicated to the worship of God.  The victory of the Maccabees is remembered at Hanukah (which means “dedication”), celebrated each year around our Christmas observance.  The centerpiece of the Feast of Dedication is the lighting of the eight candles of the menorah over the eight nights of the festival.

During this Easter we hear again the stories of the beginnings of our own “temple”: the Church of the Risen Jesus.  Let’s make this a time for celebrating the “dedication” for our own parish community: to renew and refocus our efforts to do the “works of the Father”: to give voice to God’s call to reconciliation and peace in our parish’s ministries of prayer, education, compassion and service.

May your Spirit dwelling in our midst, Lord Jesus, make us your Church of reconciliation and peace for our broken world.  Let the light of your love shine forth from every work and ministry we undertake; may we be your hand of generosity and support to all our brothers and sisters; make us bread for others as you are bread for us at the table in this temple of ours.

FRIDAY

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.”
John 14: 1-6

Jesus goes to prepare a place for us in the dwelling place of God.

A place for us:  Whether we are rich or poor, a scholar or laborer, healthy or infirm, successful or struggling, every one of us has a place in God.

A place for us:  No matter the limitations we experience in the here and now, no matter our hardships in making a life in the present and with doubtful prospects for the future, no matter how badly we slip and slide on the road to eternity, a place awaits us. 

We don’t know the time; we can’t imagine what it will be like.  But we have Jesus’ word: we have a place in God.

So let us create a bit of heaven in the here and now by making a place for one another at our own tables and altars, in our own homes and hearts – just as Jesus has done for us all.

Risen Christ, may your promise of a place for all in your Father’s dwelling place fill us with grateful hope as we journey to that dwelling place.  Make us your ministers of reconciliation and compassion so that we may look forward to the place you have prepared for us in the next world by creating places of welcome and affirmation for one another in this world.

Fifth Week of Easter

TUESDAY

“I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming.”
John 14: 27-31a

Who rules you?  What really sets the agenda for your life?  How do set your priorities?  How do you decide what gets done and not done in your busy days? 

Is it a paycheck?  Is it the craving for attention and affection?  Is it the need to be in control?

Jesus warns us that after he takes his leave of the world, the “ruler” of the world will come.  The first image we probably have is that of a powerful, evil force destroying everything in its path.  But the force that “rules” our little world may be a far less dramatic, but just as destructive: the “rule” of self-centered greed, resentment, fear.

Assured by Jesus of God’s grace, we can confront those fears and doubts and self-centered wants that “rule” our days in order to live our lives in the meaning and purpose of the Easter Christ.

Lord Jesus, let your peace rule our days.  May we seek your spirit of reconciliation and compassion in every time and place, in every relationship, in every decision we confront.

WEDNESDAY

“You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”
John 15: 1-8

Spring clean-up is underway.  Time to gather up the broken branches that fell this winter, rake out the dead grass, and prune away the dead and withered limbs.

We could probably use a bit of “pruning” ourselves.  In the warm light of Easter springtime, we want to move beyond the exhaustion of this long winter past, to see things again more positively and less cynically, to cut away the dead branches of our lives that steal too much of our time and energy.

So let the word of the Risen One’s peace and mercy “prune” away those things that take away time from those you love, that demand resources that can be better used to help those in need, that leave you feeling unfulfilled and incomplete.  Re-connect your “branch” to the vine that is Christ – and make this Easter season a time for your own rebirth and replanting.

Christ the vine, may your Word take root in us so that our lives may reap a harvest of joy and hope, the fruit of reconciliation and justice.  Prune away what is dead and unproductive in us so that we may realize in our lives the promise of your resurrection.

THURSDAY  

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
John 15: 9-11

The New England poet Emily Dickinson penned the following:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life from aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

In these few succinct words, Emily Dickinson captures the “joy” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel: to discover our life’s purpose and meaning in the most ordinary and everyday offerings of compassion and comfort, of forgiveness and peace that we can offer. 

Today, do something meaningful and purposeful for one broken heart, for one hurting companion, for one fallen robin.

O God, Creator of all that is good, may we know the deep joy and fulfilling happiness that is experienced only in loving others as you love us.  Let us know that fulfillment and completeness of being your ministers of compassion and agents of your forgiveness.

Sixth Week of Easter

MONDAY

“ . . . the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”
John 15: 26 – 16: 4a

They demean people who are “different” out of “principle.”    

They are quick to criticize, to ridicule, to condemn whatever they see as “ungodly” or “un-Christian.”

They are so taken with their own “personal relationship” with God that they have no time for God’s poor, for God’s lost sheep, for God’s troubled and struggling. 

Sometimes they are us.

In his final words to his disciples, Jesus warns about the hardship they will endure at the hands of those who “kill,” those who believe that in doing so they “are offering worship to God.”  We have all seen many people do horrible things claiming that they are acting in the name of God.  But Jesus warns us not to fall into the same trap: If we really know the Father and the love in which God makes himself known to us, then we act out of forgiveness and not vengeance; we seek reconciliation before punishment; we are humbled by gratitude and not arrogant out of any sense of self-importance.

May we take Jesus’ words to heart today, seeking God’s love not only in the acts of others but in our own acts, as well.

May your Advocate, O God, help us to respond to injustice and violence with charity and respect.  When we feel isolated and unsure of the effectiveness of the good we do and believe, may we remember all that your Son has taught and find confidence and peace in his presence in our midst.

TUESDAY

“And when [the Advocate] comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation . . . ”
John 16: 5-11

It’s gnawing at you.  You know it’s wrong.  You could have said something or done something.

A simple mistake?  An oversight?  The heat of the moment?

No, it was self-serving.  It was thoughtless. 

And you know it.  And it’s bothering you.

Your regret and second-guessing of yourself is the Advocate Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel.  The Advocate prompts you to listen a little deeper.  Listen beyond the regret.  Pay attention to the light beyond the grief.  The Advocate is leading you to a resolution, pointing you in the direction of reconciliation, revealing possibilities for putting things rights, for healing the broken, for making things whole again.

The Advocate is light.  The Advocate is hope in new possibilities.  The Advocate is resurrection from what is dead and killing.

The Advocate has come.

Risen Lord, send your Advocate into our hearts and spirits so that we can transform the brokenness in our lives into wholeness, the doubt and inadequacy we feel into purpose, the hurt we have caused into reconciliation and healing.

FRIDAY  

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy . . . ”
John 16: 20-23

Every mother appreciates today’s Gospel.

Pregnancy and birth are a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows; it is a time of experiencing both fear we never could imagine and the greatest joy possible; we confront both the inadequacies of our abilities to raise a child ourselves and our optimism for our new family.

Parenthood is to live the Christian paradox of the anguish of the cross and the hope of the resurrection.  We cannot have one without the other.  We cannot give life unless we are willing to experience some change, some “death” within ourselves.  Jesus challenges us to embrace an “attitude of resurrection,” that sees the hope and possibilities once we conquer the challenges and suffering of the cross.

Father, transform our hearts in the hope of your Son’s resurrection, so that we may take up our crosses, despite the suffering and hurt they entail, and realize that they can be the means for new birth, for new life, for new creation as we make our way to the eternity of your time and place.

Seventh Week of Easter

TUESDAY

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.”
John 17: 1-11a

No one of us discovered God on our own.  No one comes to Jesus because they read his biography and decided that Jesus is the Savior.  Nobody can experience the Spirit of God in their lives alone.

No, every one of us came to believe in Jesus because of people we love and trusted love and trusted Jesus.  We discovered the love of God in their love for us.

Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel is a prayer that Jesus offers just before departing for Gethsemane on Holy Thursday night.  Jesus begins with praying for his disciples to whom he has entrusted his Gospel of reconciliation and peace.  He asks God to bless the ministry they will soon begin.  That ministry has continued through the centuries every time some parent teaches their child how to pray, every time a teacher helps a student understand a Gospel story, every time someone tells a friend how God helped him transform his life.

Today, give thanks for those who helped you discover God and God’s love in your life – and return the favor by sharing that same Word with someone you love.

Lord Jesus, as we have come to you through the love and inspiration of parents and friends, of pastors and teachers, may others now come to know you and your transforming love through us.  By your grace, may we become reflections of your love and vehicles of your forgiveness, for our broken world.

THURSDAY

“I have made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
John 17: 20-26

A kindergarten teacher asked her students to bring something to class related to their faith.

On the assigned day, she had each youngster come up and share with the rest of the class.

The first child said, “I am Muslim and this is my prayer rug.”

The second child said, “I am Jewish and this is my Star of David.”

The third child said, “I am Catholic and this is my rosary.”

The fourth child said, "I am Methodist and this is my casserole dish."

At the Last Supper, Jesus prays for all of us, that “the love in which you have loved me may be in them.”  It is that love of God that unites us all as sons and daughters of God.  That love makes everything done in God’s love as holy and sacred – from the altar where we gather to celebrate the Eucharist to the casserole dish we use to provide for those in need. 

May our prayer today be that we might possess the grace and courage to embrace Jesus's vision for his Church: to be united in the same mysterious, profound love that unites Father and Son.  

Gather us together in your love, O God: love that heals, that supports, that lifts us up, that creates.  Illuminate our vision and open our hearts so that we may become the means for re-creating and uniting our world into the one human family you envisioned from the moment of its foundation.

FRIDAY

Jesus said to Simon the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love?”
John 21: 15-19

Today’s Gospel is one of the most touching episodes in John’s Gospel.  Appearing to the Eleven after his resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Peter answers that he does.  Jesus asks a second time, and again Peter proclaims his love for Jesus.  A third time Jesus asks and, Peter, his voice rising, assures Jesus that he loves him.

Only a matter of days before, Peter denied even knowing Jesus.

But rather than confront Peter over his denial, Jesus offers Peter the opportunity to be reconciled with Jesus – and with himself, to get beyond his own sense of failure and disappointment with himself.  In forgiving Peter as he does, in affecting reconciliation with Peter, Jesus transforms Peter’s regrets and shame into a new understanding and conviction of the Gospel the fisherman has witnessed. 

Today, find some way to enable someone to be reconciled and “made whole” in spirit, enabling that person experience a sense of “resurrection” in his or her life.

O Risen Lord, make us your “fishers” of humanity: to seek re-birth rather than condemnation, to rejoice in reconciliation, “feed” one another with your bread and fish of compassion and peace.

Week 9 in Ordinary Time

MONDAY

“A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenant farmers . . . ”
Mark 12: 1-12

Maybe we don’t “kill” them, but we certainly beat them down and treat them shamefully:

Someone “dares” to act compassionately, to speak up for those in need, to suggest that maybe we should take a more just and Christ-like stand on behalf of those for whom the “system” is not working.

And they’re labeled as do-gooders, simpletons, Socialists – or worse; they’re ridiculed and criticized; their reputation is destroyed. 

How do we respond to those who challenge us to make the vineyard that God has entrusted to us a place where all are welcomed and cared for?  How do we react to those who insist that everyone benefit from the bounty of its harvest?  Are we tenants who forget that we are tenants?  Are we so protective of our own needs and interests that we’ll destroy the whole vineyard before we share even a little from all that we have?

Just as he addressed this parable to the chief priests and scribes, Jesus is also speaking to us, challenging our own sense of entitlement and self-centeredness regarding the Father’s gift of this vineyard.

We thank you, O Lord, for the gifts of this vineyard that you have entrusted to us.  In Jesus’ spirit of humility and gratitude, may we bring to harvest the joy and peace of this good earth you have planted for all your human family.

THURSDAY

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

In a Leo Cullom cartoon published in The New Yorker, a priest is presiding at a wedding.  The bride stands on his right, the groom on his left.  The priest has just asked the groom if he promises to love his bride in sickness and health, until death.  In the cartoon, the priest peers over his glasses and says to the groom:  “’Present’ is not an appropriate response.”

When asked if we are disciples, we would like to respond with a noncommittal, uncomplicated, “Present.”  But that doesn’t cut it, Jesus says.  Discipleship demands a clear, unequivocal, complete yes.  The Gospel asks everything of us: loving God by loving others with our whole heart and mind, loving God by loving others in the depths of our souls, loving God by loving others with everything we have.

Baptism is not merely being “present.”  It demands more than a passive “acknowledgment.”  It is to be engaged with God and his people; it means to “do” the Word we have heard in the depths of our hearts.  Discipleship requires a “yes” that we not just speak but live; a “yes” that we proclaim despite the shouts of “no” hurled at us; a “yes” that is an attitude and perspective through which we see our world, our lives and one another.

Help us, O Lord, to live the gift of our baptisms.  May we live your Gospel of forgiveness and love, not passively or detached, but actively and fully engaged in establishing your kingdom here and now.

SATURDAY

“ . . . this widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.  For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty . . . ”
Mark 12: 38-44

We are more than willing to write a check for a good cause.  Sometimes we’ll write the check as quickly as we can so we don’t have to stop and listen to the “pitch.”   

Understandable.  But what do we feel strongly enough about that we are willing to give what we do not have?  What would we like to see happen in our lives and in our world that we would move heaven and earth to bring into being?  What are we willing to put everything – our homes, our careers, our lives – on the line for?

That’s the unspoken and deeper question of today’s Gospel:  Is there anything important enough to us that we would give our all to?  For whom would we give the last and only “penny” we have for the sake of their happiness and health?

That, Jesus says, is the beginning of the kingdom of God.

Open our hearts, O God, that we might open our hands to give from our own poverty, to reach out and grasp the falling as we stumble ourselves, to help bear the cross of another despite the weight of our own crosses.  May the hidden, simple sacrifices we make in a spirit of humble gratitude and generosity mirror your love in our midst.

Week 10 in Ordinary Time

TUESDAY

“You are the salt of the earth . . . ”
Matthew 5: 13-16

By itself, salt isn’t much.  It has no use by itself – you wouldn’t just eat a handful of salt.  It’s only when salt is added or mixed with something else that its goodness emerges.  It brings out the flavor of our favorite foods; it melts the hard ice of winter making treacherous roads safe; it purifies water and blood.

Jesus calls us to be “salt” for the earth.  He doesn’t call us to isolate ourselves from the brokenness and sin of the world or walk away from the problems and unpleasantness of life; Jesus calls us to engage our world, to participate fully in every dimension of life – but to bring to our homes and communities and workplace and playgrounds the “salt” of compassion, justice and reconciliation in which the goodness of God can emerge and blossom.

Help us, Lord Jesus, to be the salt of compassion, of justice, of forgiveness for our broken world.  In your spirit of humility and gratitude, may we bring forth the goodness and hope of your love in our midst.

THURSDAY  

“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother is liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”
Matthew 5: 20-26

To call someone “Raqa” is asking for a fight.

As we hear in today’s Gospel, “Raqa” is not a term of endearment.  The word literally means “empty-headed.”  To call someone “Raqa” is to question someone’s intelligence and competence; “Raqa” is to diminish someone as worthless and foolish. 

While we may not actually call someone “Raqa” outright, our lack of empathy or silent hostility can have the same effect; our attitude of self-importance and pride effectively labels those we consider lesser lights as “Raqa”; our pursuit of our own interests at the expense of others is to condemn the poor and struggling as “Raqa.”

Think about that word “Raqa” today – and be aware of how you might throw out that word without even realizing it.

Open our hearts, O God, to realize the many ways we hurt, diminish and beat down those struggling and hurting, those in need and in crisis.  May our offering of the bread and wine of your Son’s Eucharist make us, like him, the means of reconciliation and healing in our own homes and parishes and communities.

FRIDAY

“You have heard it said, You shall not commit adultery.  But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5: 37-32

The great Dominican theologian Meister Eckhart preached this wisdom:

“People should not worry about what they do but rather what they are.  If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant.  If you are righteous, then what you do will be righteous.  We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, because it is not our works that sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.”

Meister Eckhart captures Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel.  Jesus calls us to be more than just followers of the Law; it is not enough, Jesus says, to be sticklers to the legalisms and traditions and practices and rubrics that govern our churches and institutions.  Jesus calls us to embrace the spirit of such law – the spirit of justice that seeks to provide for the happiness and liberty of everyone; the spirit of humility that honors everyone as children of God; the spirit of reconciliation that provides for the common good of all.

In other words, Jesus and Meister Eckhart remind us that it is what we cherish in the depths of our hearts, what we believe in the core of our beings, that makes us who we are, that identifies us as disciples of Jesus. 

And what we do is sanctified by his Spirit within us – the Spirit that defines who we are.

Speak your word within our hearts, O Lord, that we may become your holy people.  May that word then enable us to do the work you call us to do – reconciliation, justice, peace, mercy – and to do that work so that all may behold your sacred presence in our midst.

Week 11 in Ordinary Time
 
MONDAY

“If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.”
Matthew 5: 38-42

Yeah, life can be unfair. 

There are understandable limits to our patience and good will.

We can only be pushed just so far.

And Jesus doesn’t sugar coat that reality.

But to follow Jesus is to get beyond the unfairness and persevere in our belief that some good can come out of the hurts, slights, disappointments, and inequities of life.  If we are disciples of Jesus, there is no limit to our patience, our generosity, our willingness to help; if we are disciples of Jesus, we always find reason to hope, to seek out, to bring back; if we are disciples of Jesus, we approach life with the conviction that every cross leads to resurrection.

Today, be a persistent follower of Jesus: bring Easter hope to someone’s Good Friday.

Grant us your grace, O God, that we may persist in hope despite the disappointments and failures we experience.  Help us to put aside our own feelings of betrayal, disillusionments, and need for retribution in order to be your ministers of forgiveness and vehicles of healing in our homes and communities.   

WEDNESDAY

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.”
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Every day is a push.  It’s one thing after another – at work, at school, at home.  But all of those demands on us are important, necessary – and good. 

But before long, we resent all those demands on us; we pull it all off, but we want to scream.

Jesus understands that frustration, that exhaustion.  But he reminds us that all we do for others is, in fact, good.  Whatever we do for others is one more brick in building his Father’s kingdom.  Even the most mundane tasks of the day – a supportive word to a colleague, making lunch for the kids – are manifestations of God’s love in our midst. 

So in the course of the busy-ness of today, take a moment to remember the good that will be realized from what you do, the happiness that will be realized from the work of this day.

And smile.

Gracious God, may we live our lives in constant awareness of your love in our midst.  Instill in us a spirit of joy, that every prayer we offer and every good work we are able to do may be signs of your reign of peace and compassion in this time and place of ours.   

THURSDAY  

“This is how you are to pray:  ‘Our Father . . . thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Matthew 6: 7-15

We’ve all prayed the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel countless times.  But there is one phrase in The Lord’s Prayer that we pray that we may not fully realize what we are praying for:

“Thy kingdom come.”

Don’t we know what we’re saying there?  Do we realize the meaning of those words?  Do we really want the kingdom of God to “come”?

Thy kingdom come:  A kingdom in which the rich serve the poor, the sick and infirm are honored, the lost and marginalized are welcome.

Thy kingdom come:  A kingdom where humble service is the heart of authority.

Thy kingdom come:  A kingdom where every human being is respected as a son and daughter of God and loved as a brother and sister in Christ.

They are the three most powerful words we pray.  Their implications are enormous.

Are we willing to transform our own “kingdoms” into God’s?

Father, may your spirit instill in us the courage and vision to work to make “your kingdom come” in our time and place.  May our smallest acts of generosity and hidden efforts for what is right and just be the foundation stones of that kingdom.

Week 12 in Ordinary Time

WEDNESDAY

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you is sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”
Matthew 7: 15-20

The fashion magazines say this is how you should dress and look. The home and garden cable channel insists that the perfect home design include these colors and textures and finishes. The advertising “prophets” and media “shamans” preach to us about what is the latest, the best, the indispensable for our lives and lifestyles.

But, in the midst of all of this, Jesus comes to preach his “simple” Gospel of living a life that is centered on loving others and discovering the joy of generosity and forgiveness. The real challenge is to keep the fashionistas and tech gurus in perspective: that such things may make our lives easier and more manageable, but they are not what God’s gift of this incredible life is about. 

Do not fall prey to the “wolves . . . in sheep’s clothing,” Jesus warns, that entice us away from the hard road of the Gospel to their version of Easy Street (that is profitable for them, not necessarily for us); beware, Jesus says, of the “false prophets” who distract us from things of God for the shallow and vacuous.

Open our hearts, O God, to realize your love in our crowded lives and hear your Word of peace in our busy days. Do not let us become so obsessed with the quality of our lifestyles that we diminish the meaning and purpose of our lives.

THURSDAY  

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”
Matthew 7: 21-29

There’s an expression in real estate: This house has good bones. It means that this house is built well – the foundation is solid, the structure is strong. The place may have gone through a few renovations and style makeovers over the years, but the building itself is sound.

In the image of the solidly-build house, Jesus asks us to consider the “structure” of our own lives, how solid is the foundation of ethical and moral values by which we live our lives, how strong the framework and walls that protect us and those we love from the rain and heat and wind that beat down and on and through our homes and hearts. Our lives are more than the latest styles and colors and décor; our lives are the “bones” of God’s grace that makes our “houses” homes where God dwells with us in our love and welcome and ready forgiveness for one another.

Come, O God, and make your dwelling in our homes and hearts. May your justice be our home’s foundation, your peace be the roof, and your compassion be the frame of the homes we build and maintain for those our families and loved ones.

FRIDAY

Then Jesus said to [the leper]:  “See that you tell no one, but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will proof for them.”
Matthew 8: 1-4

In his curing of the leper, Jesus does something that shocks those who saw it.

He touched the leper.

The people of Jesus’ time, possessing none of our knowledge of medical science, were terrified of leprosy – which they considered to be any ugly, disfiguring skin condition.  Coming into contact with a leper was unthinkable.  Lepers were avoided, sent to live far away from the rest of “clean” society.

While we shake our heads at the unfounded fears of the people of Jesus’ time, we nonetheless keep our distance from those we consider “lepers,” not wanting to be “infected” by their misfortune or poverty.  We might give a check – from a safe distance – a check to support some good work.  We will applaud the work of those who work on behalf of the poor and needy – but we want nothing to do with helping them ourselves.  We pray for friends in crisis – but can’t bring ourselves to call them.

To follow Jesus is to become totally involved – heart, soul and wallet – with the “lepers” in our midst.  Today, embrace someone in need of support, recognition, encouragement.  Let your hand be the hand of Jesus for someone every else might consider a “leper”.

Christ the healer, may your spirit of gratitude and humility enable us to mirror your Gospel of compassion in our own selfless giving, your justice in our own commitment to what is right and just, your peace in our own respect for all our brothers and sisters, your healing touch in our own care for the sick, the troubled, and all in need.

Week 13 in Ordinary Time

TUESDAY

“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
Matthew 8: 23-27

Chances are today will be a stormy day – at some point today, in all probability, an unexpected gale will swell up and threaten to capsize your little boat as you navigate the shoals of everyday life.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are not alone in our lifeboats. Christ – fully awake – is present to us in the values of our hearts, in the love and support of family and friends, in the wisdom of teachers and mentors and coaches. If we look, with determination and conviction, we can see his light in the midst of the dark and violence.

In the midst of the storms we encounter in our lives as parents and spouses, in our workplaces, in our classrooms, in our relationships and struggles, we can right our vessel and restore calm in our grasp of Jesus’ Gospel of justice and reconciliation.

Save us, O Lord, when our lives are battered by winds of conflict and tempests of change. May your word of peace and reconciliation calm the rising waters around us and enable us to navigate our vessels to the dwelling place of your Father.

WEDNESDAY

Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Matthew 8: 28-34

The miracle that Jesus performs in today’s Gospel is quite a spectacle: Jesus drives out the demons possessing the two poor souls skulking around the graveyard and casts the demons into a herd of swine and the whole herd drowns itself into the see.  Wow!

And how do the people respond to this incredible scene? 

They beg Jesus to leave.

Why? 

Did they resent the destruction of these valuable animals (the Gadarenes are Gentiles, and so did not have the scruples about these animals that Jews consider “unclean”)? 

Did these astonishing incidents raise fears for their safety, that this Jesus would destroy them next?

Or did they fear that this Jesus was calling them to a new vision of their lives and world that demanded sacrifice and work they were not ready for: healing the demoniacs that were consigned to their cemeteries, dismantling the walls of division and estrangement they had built to protect themselves from others, recognizing the sacred dignity every one of them possessed as sons and daughters of God.

This Jesus and what he stood for was terrifying.  Please, please go, Jesus!

Sometimes we feel the same way.  We know what Jesus calls us to do and be – and often it is beyond our feelings and wants and abilities at the moment. 

May we realize the presence of God’s grace this day enabling us to welcome Jesus into our midst when his Word of compassion and justice is most inconvenient and challenging.

Come, Lord Jesus, open our hearts and spirits to welcome you – especially when we don’t want to hear or see you in our midst.  Drive out the demons of fears and doubts and self-centeredness so that may be about your work of building your Father’s Kingdom here and now.

FRIDAY

[Jesus] saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” 
Matthew 9: 9-13

As you are sitting at your desk preparing your sales presentation, Jesus calls to you, Follow me.

As you are feeding your baby, Jesus calls to you, Follow me.

As you and your friends are cruising the mall or shooting baskets after school, Jesus calls to you, Follow me.

Jesus calls us in the very busy-ness of our lives to follow him. The call to follow him is not a “pass” to walk away from family and responsibilities, but to consider how we can fulfill the many roles and work we do – as parents, as students, as friends, as business executives, as workers – in the Gospel spirit of justice, compassion and peace.

Christ Jesus, may we “follow you” in our homes, in our parishes, in our classrooms, in our own “customs posts.” Help us to live your Gospel of justice and reconciliation wherever our journey takes us, in every situation we confront, in every relationship with family and friends.

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.