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 $60 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 . . .

L  e  n  t

MONDAY of the Second Week of Lent

“ . . . the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Luke 6: 36-38

From the moment we memorize the sequence of numbers from one to ten, we play the numbers game.

We measure ourselves and many of our relationships by counting.  Children count baseball cards and all kinds of collectibles.  Athletes count every throw, every point, every assist, every second off their time or left on the clock.  Business people count billings, bookings and the bottom line — even the miles flown on an airline are counted!  Value is measured in terms of the number of dollars and cents — we are “worth” x number of dollars.  Even art is evaluated in numbers — the number of tickets sold, the number of units shipped, the weekend box office, the Nielson ratings, the price the painting brought at auction.

How do we measure success?  Through the numbers — through statistics, through the polling data, through profit and loss statements.

The person of faith, however, is called to invest love, caring and compassion in people, without looking for a profit.  Just as God constantly calls us back even though we reject God so many times and in so many ways, we Christians are called to look beyond numbers to see human beings as brothers and sisters and to seek the joy that is experienced in serving them.  In the reign of God, love and mercy are the “bottom line.”  Jesus calls all of us who would be his disciples to love one another as God loves us: unconditionally, selflessly, and without limit.  And in the end, Jesus assures us, God will make the “numbers work.” 

Father, open our eyes to look at the world with faith instead of sizing things up “by the numbers.”  May our love for others be limitless and unconditional, just as your love is for us.    

WEDNESDAY of the Second Week of Lent

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.”
Matthew 20: 17-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY of the Second Week of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY of the Third Week of Lent

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18: 21-35

Seven in an eternity.

In Gospel times, seven represented completeness and perfection, as seen in the seven days of creation.  So Peter believes he is being generous in suggesting a limit of seven times to forgive someone.  But Jesus responds by multiplying seven by seventy – in other words, there is no limit to the number of times we should forgive.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are the marks of discipleship.  While there are times we need to call others to account for their actions, while we are responsible for making right what the hurt we have caused, Jesus asks us never to slam the door shut on someone, that we must keep open the possibility for reconciliation, for making it possible for an offender to return to the family and community.

Play the number seven today: make it possible for someone from who you are estranged to come home; help someone who’s lost find their way back to the circle of family and community.

Instill in us a spirit of gratitude, O God, that enables us to overlook the failings of others and see, instead, the good they possess.  In turn, may the good we are capable of doing be the means for healing the hurt and brokenness suffered by others.

THURSDAY of the Third Week of Lent

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

The kingdom of heaven has come upon you . . .

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY of the Third Week of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent

Jesus cures the sick man by the Sheep Pool called Bethesda: “Do you want to be healed?”
John 5: 1-16

What a strange question Jesus asks the sick man struggling to wash himself in the healing waters of Bethesda:  “Do you want to be healed?”

Well, of course, Jesus!  I’ve been flat on my back for 38 years!  But there’s no one to plunge me into the pool.  By the time I get there someone takes my place in line . . .

Then Jesus says to the man — orders the man — “Stand up!  Pick up your mat and walk!”
And the man picks up his mat and walks.

But the question is not as strange as it sounds.  Truth be told, we often aren’t as interested in being healed as we are in simply feeling better.  As long as we can justify in our own minds why things are not as they should be, if we can rationalize our failure or refusal to do what is right, if we can convince ourselves and others that everything is really all right . . . we’re fine.

But we’re not healed.

To be healed means, first, recognizing our need for healing and wanting it badly enough to “stand up” and stop feeling sorry for ourselves, to “pick up our mat” and put away the rationalizations and excuses, to “walk” the difficult path that brings healing to our hearts and spirits: the path of forgiveness, compassion, humility, mercy, justice.

Christ Jesus, as you healed the sick man at Bethesda, heal us of our fears, our disappointments, our estrangements, our despair.  Give us the courage to stand up and shake off the worries and burdens that weigh us down; give us the hope to pick up our mats of sadness and despair and to realize your life and love around us; give us the grace to walk in the light of your peace so that, this Lent, we may truly be healed of the blindness of our hearts and the illness of our souls.  

WEDNESDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY of the Fifth Week of Lent

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8: 1-11

Sometime today, you’re going to want to pick up a stone and heave at the person who betrays your trust.  Before you throw that stone, remember the last time you let someone down.

The next time you are about level someone who really messes up, “level” yourself first.  Seek a solution instead of berating them with criticism.

Should you “catch” someone in an embarrassing or difficult situation, never mind trying to be the hammer of God.  Instead, take the opportunity to be an agent of God’s mercy.

Jesus calls us to the work of reconciliation, not condemnation; to be healers, not judges; to be the means of mercy, not censure.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges all who would be his disciples to embrace his spirit of compassionate humility that gives thanks to God for the mercy he has bestowed upon us, that realizes that each and every one of us is a sinner – but a forgiven and reconciled sinner – before God.

Christ Jesus, instill in us your spirit of humility.  In recognizing our own need for forgiveness, may we forgive others; in taking your hand to regain our own balance, may we readily take the hand of others who stumble; in seeking healing for own hurts, may we be sources of consolation and care for those in pain and crisis. 

TUESDAY of the Fifth Week of Lent

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

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

But how much of that stuff owns us?

More than we think. 

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

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

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

THURSDAY of the Fifth Week of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK

. . . Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
John 12: 1-11

Judas is not kidding anybody – least of all Jesus.  Judas’ protesting Mary’s extravagance in using costly perfume to anoint Jesus’ has nothing to do with helping the poor – it’s about the bottom line, Judas’ bottom line.  He invokes the poor and needy – but Jesus sees right through it.

That’s the striking thing about Holy Week.  All of our rationales and justifications for acting in our own interests at the expense of others collapse in the shadow of the cross.  We have convinced ourselves that our cynicism is wisdom, our hesitation to forgive is prudence, our turning away from those is need is based on justice and self-reliance.  But all of those postures and facades fall before the accused Jesus, before the condemned Jesus, before the crucified Jesus.

This week, as we pray the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death, let go of your sense of self.  Empty yourself of your fears, your doubts, your hesitancy to act with the compassion and generosity of Jesus.  Let this Holy Week be the beginning of your own resurrection in heart and spirit.

Father, in his selfless and humble emptying himself for us, your Son transformed our lives from despair to hope, from pain to wholeness, from sadness to joy, from death to life.  May we empty ourselves of selfishness and artifice to become vessels of your grace and forgiveness; may we break open our jars of compassion and generosity to fill our homes and communities with your peace and healing.   

WEDNESDAY of Holy Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E a s t e r

MONDAY of the Octave of Easter

“Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Matthew 28: 8-15

They were the last two people on earth you would expect to be entrusted with such (literally) earth-shattering news.  The two Marys of Matthew’s Gospel are simple, uneducated, peasants – and being women in a highly patriarchal society, they are all but invisible.  Yet, because of their incredible compassion that brought them to the tomb early that Sunday morning, they become “apostles to the apostles,” announcing to Peter and the Eleven the news that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Each one of us can spread the good news of the empty tomb – not by the rhetorical power of Peter in today’s first reading but by the simple love of the two Marys in Matthew’s Easter Gospel.  Every act of selfless generosity, every offering of forgiveness, every expression of care and support “proclaims” the news that Christ is risen and walks among us.

Go and tell Christ’s – and your – brothers and sisters the good news . . .

O God, in raising up your Son you have raised us up to new hope that our lives may be re-created in your love.  Let every good thing we do for others be an Alleluia of thanks and praise for the possibilities we have to bring Easter hope to our brothers and sisters.

WEDNESDAY of the Octave of Easter

And it happened that, while [Jesus] was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him . . .
Luke 24: 13-35

A companion is someone we share an experience with, someone we travel with, someone we work with on a particular project.

The word companion comes from the Old French words for “with” and “bread.”  Companions, in the old understanding, are those with whom we “share bread.”

That definition is a prism for reading today’s Gospel.  A small band of disciples have traveled with Jesus from the shores of Genesseret, journeyed with him on his teaching and healing missions, and accompanied him to Jerusalem for the final horrifying moments of Holy week.  The two disciples in today’s Gospel, who believe that the story of Jesus is over, reconnect with their “companion” Jesus – in the breaking of the bread.

In our own journeys to the many Emmauses we travel in our lives, Christ is our constant companion who makes his compassion and peace known to us in the Eucharist.  In the bread of hospitality and generosity we receive and share, we become, in the Risen One, true companions to one another.

Risen Jesus, open our hearts to recognize you in bread blessed and broken at our parish table and bread shared at our family table.  May the sacrament of your Eucharist make us faithful traveling companions to you and to one another as we make our way together to the place you have prepared for us.

THURSDAY of the Octave of Easter

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, [Jesus] asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
Luke 24: 35-48

Have you anything here to eat?

You stop what you're doing to hear the same words that Jesus asks his shocked disciples in today's Gospel.  Well, maybe not the same words, but the same request.  Actually, the words are more like, "Mom, I'm hungry.  We got anything to eat?"  It's your seven-year-old with a couple of his buds, after a busy afternoon of playing ball, hiking through the swamp and tearing up the neighborhood.  But you hear the words with the same love and care and joy as if it was Christ himself asking.

Because it is Christ.

Could you spare a couple of bucks, pal?

You turn around and see the outstretched hand.  The question almost makes you laugh –who has "spare" money?  But you fumble through your pockets and pull out a couple of bucks and humbly place them in the dirty, bleeding hand, as if the hand was Christ's.

Because it is Christ's.

Sometimes the pangs of hunger and the parched throat are your own.  But it's not the kind of hunger that can be satisfied with a Big Mac or the kind of thirst that can be quenched with a Coke.  It’s the hunger we all experience at some point in our lives for a sense of belonging, for the reassurance that our lives matter and mean something, that there is a point to our existence besides just existing.  Often it is we who are hungry; sometimes it is those around us thirsting for forgiveness, for affirmation, for compassion.

The only food that will satisfy this hunger of the spirit is Christ – Christ who gives himself as bread for life, as wine for hope, as the lamb for our redemption.  Just as the Risen Jesus asks the Eleven for "something to eat," he seeks the same of us today in the cries and pleas of the poor and needy in our midst.  In imitating his humility and compassion, we, in turn, discover meaning and purpose in our own lives that "feed" our own hunger for fulfillment, for purpose, for God.  To become witnesses of Christ's resurrection is to embrace his peace in our own lives and work joyfully to bring that peace into the lives of others, both for them and for ourselves.  

Father, may we embrace the attitude and perspective of your Son’s resurrection.  May his peace become a living reality in our lives: the constant awareness of your love in our midst, the realization that you reveal yourself in the faces of the poor and tears of the lost and grieving, the assurance that you are with us in our most traumatic days and darkest nights.

MONDAY of the Second Week of Easter

[Nicodemus] came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”
John 3: 1-8

Nicodemus is one of the most interesting characters in the Gospel.  Over the next three days, we will read about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John.

Nicodemus is a Pharisee and teacher, a “ruler of the Jews.”  He sees something in this Jesus that touches his heart and soul, although he doesn’t completely understand what Jesus is all about and has not yet reached the point of publicly becoming Jesus’ disciple.  Nicodemus keeps his interest in Jesus to himself; he only comes to see Jesus at night.  But at Jesus’ trial, Nicodemus will defend Jesus; he and Joseph of Arimathea will come forward on Good Friday and claim the body of Jesus and bury him.

For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, Nicodemus personifies the timid disciple of Jesus who holds back, who doesn’t quite grasp the entire Gospel but senses its wisdom and grace in his or her heart, who doesn’t feel that he or she is “holy” or “good” enough in religious “stuff.”

Today, let your “inner-Nicodemus” come forth.  Do something “bold” – as Peter and James pray in today’s first reading – in terms of your belief in the Gospel of the Risen One:  Be the source of hope or comfort for someone in crisis or despair, befriend someone feeling alone or isolated at work or school, make the first move to heal a rift or misunderstanding. 

O God, move us beyond our fears and doubts so that, like Nicodemus, we may be reborn in the life of your resurrection.  Walk with us as we struggle to become your disciples and live lives worthy of our identity as your sons and daughters.  In the spring of your grace, may we find new energy to take on the challenges of life; in the Spirit of your peace, may we realize new possibilities for re-creating our lives and relationships in your compassion and forgiveness.

WEDNESDAY of the Second Week of Easter

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
John 3: 16-21

Many homeowners and designers are committed to the concepts of recycling, restoring, and “repurposing.”  Rather than throwing things out and buying new furnishings, every effort is made to “repurpose” old and used items.  New paint, new fabrics, new appointments can give a second life to an old chair that may have a dated design but is solidly crafted.  We have all become more and more aware of the need to recycle for the good of the environment: tons of materials – metals, chemicals, wood, plastics – once slated for landfills are collected and reused in new products and furnishings.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of God’s relationship with us as one of “restoration”: God disposes of no one.  God does not seek the destruction of those who fail to realize God’s dream of a humanity that mirrors his love.  God always seeks reconciliation with his sons and daughters, to “restore” us to love, to “repurpose” us to lives of meaning and fulfillment.

In his encounter with Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of God as a loving Father who created us and our world out of love and seeks to restore his beloved creation through an even greater act of love: God's becoming human himself in order that his beloved humanity might realize God's dream of becoming holy and sacred.  Despite our own lack of confidence in things holy, despite our own rejection or obtuseness to the things of God, God is not satisfied with our struggling and dying in a junk heap but comes in the person of Christ that we may become the people God created us to be.

O God, as you constantly seek to restore us to loving relationship with you, may we always seek to heal the brokenness in our own relationships with one another.  Make us ministers of reconciliation; help us to become the means for restoring peace and re-creating existences of isolation and fear into lives of new meaning and purpose. 

FRIDAY of the Second Week of Easter

“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”
John 6: 1-15

It would never be enough.  Oh, I could give a few dollars.  I could give a few hours a week to help.  But would it really make a difference?  Whatever I have or could do would be a drop in the ocean.  It wouldn’t really change anything.  The need is too great for me to make a difference.

But it would be enough – enough to make you a part of something good.  It would be enough for one person to transform his or her life.  It would be enough to express your gratitude to God for what you have received.  It would be enough to change you.

Jesus challenges Philip and his disciples to give whatever they can to feed the thousands who have gathered.  The best they can scrounge up is a little boy’s lunch of a few pieces of bread and a few fish.  It’s not much.  But in Jesus’ hands, it’s enough to make a difference.  The bigger miracle that day was not the feeding of the multitude but the disciples’ new hope in the possibilities of the simplest act of charity.

Easter faith calls us not to seek results but to seek to act faithfully.  Despite the odds against us, God calls us to act out of love, however inefficient and pointless it may seem.

Father, help us to act first and always out of love.  In imitating your Son’s selflessness and humility, may our most insignificant and hopeless offerings of generosity, consolation and forgiveness enable us to realize Easter miracles of resurrection and reconciliation in our home, school, church and community.

TUESDAY of the Third Week of Easter

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
John 6: 30-35

It’s that nagging ache we feel every so often: 

Things are OK – but only OK.  We want something more:  There are things we know can make better.  There are causes we want to be a part of.  There are relationships we want to repair.  

These are the kind of “hungers” Jesus is talking about.  He is the “bread” that enables us to move beyond the “OK” to the “good” and affirming and life-giving.  His Gospel of compassion and peace satisfies our “thirst” for a sense of purpose in our lives, for realizing that our own efforts at reconciliation and justice mean something, that our tentative steps to imitate Jesus’ service to others matter.  His life of servanthood and healing reveals to us the real possibilities each one of us has to bring the kingdom of God to reality here and now.

What do you hunger for?  What hope do you long to fill?  What do you sense God calling you to do or make of your life? 

By God’s grace, by Jesus’ example, by the Spirit’s light, anything is possible.

Make us your bread, O Lord, that we may feed those who hunger for love, for community, for acceptance.  Make us springs of your water that we may bring refreshment for those who thirst for wholeness and justice.  Make us your manna that we may transform deserts of despair into your kingdom of peace.

THURSDAY of the Third Week of Easter

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6: 44-51

What do you look for in another person?  What qualities do you find attractive?  What made you fall in love with your spouse?  What do you find most welcoming, most appealing, most approachable in friends and colleagues?

Kindness, certainly.  Integrity to be sure.  A sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others.  Selflessness and humility.  And not to be overlooked: a sense of humor.

All these things that draw us to others are really the things of God.  In the goodness of others we experience the goodness of God.  God makes his presence known in every act of generosity, of selflessness, of courage.  God “draws” us to himself in the compassion of others and draws others in our compassion. 

So may we look at others with the new eyes of Easter faith, to realize the talents and gifts they possess and to behold the goodness of God in them.

Father, open our eyes to behold your presence in everyone and everything that is good.  Teach us to re-create our homes and hearts in Easter hope; help us to become the bread of life that you have given us in the Eucharist of your Son.

SATURDAY of the Third Week of Easter

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
John 6: 60-69

We hear a lot of hard things in the course of our days:

We’re going to have to let you go . . .

The test results were positive . . .

We regret that we cannot accept you . . .

Your application has been denied . . .

Throughout our lives, we are knocked down, set back, driven to desperation.  But as Peter has come to understand, the most important things in life are centered in the love of God.  As Jesus teaches, the understanding and support, the forgiveness and healing provided by family and friends are all manifestations of God’s loving presence in our lives, enabling us to deal with the hard things and move on from the setbacks. 

Sometimes we are the recipients of such love and support – and sometimes we are the vehicles of that love.  In every such moment, Christ speaks amid the “hard” words.

May your words of life, O Lord, compel us to remain engaged in life when we are most overwhelmed, confused and scared.  May your Spirit enable us to love and forgive when it is most difficult; may your Word guide us as we struggle and stumble along this road to your dwelling place.

MONDAY of the Fourth Week of Easter

“ . . . 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.

FRIDAY of the Fourth Week of Easter

“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.

SATURDAY of the Fourth Week of Easter

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
John 14: 7-14

Look for God today.  Really look.  As you go through your day, watch for moments when you are aware of God in your midst, when you sense the love of God in your life. 

If you’re intentional and deliberate, if you watch with the eye of your heart, seeing God in your life will become second nature.  You’ll become conscious of the simplest act of charity.  You’ll become attuned to someone speaking up for what is good and just and healing.  You’ll come to cherish those everyday interactions with family and friends that give joy and satisfaction to you.  

And you’ll begin to make God present in the kindness and support you give to others.

That’s what Jesus challenges Philip and his company of disciples to do:  Look for the Father in everything I have taught you, in everyone I have lifted up and healed, in my love for you.

All you have to do, Jesus says, is look.

Open our eyes and hearts, O Lord, to see your love in our everyday lives.  Illuminate our vision and focus our attention to the many ways you make yourself known in the simplest experiences of generosity and forgiveness.  As we become more conscious of your presence, may we reveal, with gratitude and humility, your love present in every life and heart.