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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Liturgical Living

Our Favorite, Comfy Sweatshirt Prayer Revisited

23 February 2021

Matthew 6:7-15

One of my favorite scripture passages is Isaiah 55:10-11 which compares the word of God to rain that falls to earth making it fertile and fruitful. The word of God, it says, will not return to God empty, but will do what pleases God and achieve the end for which He sent it. 

In a recent general audience, Pope Francis spoke about this saying, “The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, men and women in flesh and blood, men and women who have first and last names, like me, like you” (Homily, 27 Jan 2021). I love these reminders that God’s word is living and purposeful, shared with me as if God were speaking these words to me alone. 

This is a good reminder as we approach the words of today’s gospel in which Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer. For many of us, the Lord’s Prayer is like our favorite comfy, old sweatshirt – it fits, it’s easy, and it’s always there. 

But in that familiarity, do we find ourselves forgetting to read these words with the same intentional prayerfulness we give to other, less familiar passages? Do we gloss over today’s gospel with a “been there, done that” approach instead of diving deeply into this beautiful prayer gifted to us by our Savior? Do we recite rather than pray the Lord’s Prayer? 

Much has been written about the perfection of the Lord’s Prayer – how it organizes our priorities according to God’s intention and how it helps us look past the trials of today toward eternity with God. 

What if we were to explore this prayer with those things in mind or reflect on it using the purposeful steps of lectio divina, searching and listening for what God is saying to each of us in these familiar words? What fruit would God’s word yield if we just ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord?”

Kim Miller

Meditation

Pray the words of the Our Father from Mt 6:14 slowly.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Saints

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

22 February 2021

Matthew 16:13-19

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” My word! Can you imagine having a pop quiz with Jesus? As the disciples stumble through to the correct answer, it is faith that ultimately moves Peter to respond, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

It is easy to read the Bible, to read a commentary, or watch a video and recite back a lesson learned or memorized, but Jesus doesn’t ask us for book smarts. He asks whether we know him. When Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus know that this knowledge came from the Father (see Mt 16:17). Jesus doesn’t ask us to recite information. He asks for our hearts. He asks that we serve him like Peter served him.

If you visit the Vatican you will see a large tablet in the basilica on which are inscribed the names of all the Popes, the successor of St. Peter. They have guarded and guided the faithful since the day that Jesus built his Church upon Peter. It is fitting that we remember to pray for Pope Francis today and for all who lead the Church.

Muffy Patterson

The names of all the successors of St. Peter (photo by Elizabeth Tomlin)

Meditation

O God, shepherd and ruler of all the faithful,
look favorably on your servant Francis,
whom you have set at the head of your Church as her shepherd;

Grant, we pray, that by word and example
he may be of service to those over whom he presides
so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care,
he may come to everlasting life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

                                                          Prayer from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops


Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Liturgical Living, Uncategorized

Beyond the Day Spa – to a Hospital for Sinners

Luke 5:27-32

We all love a good cliché, even one about the Church. A quote attributed Saint Augustine comes to mind here: “The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners.” I’ve heard this said a number of ways and used in a number of circumstances. Today’s Gospel could probably be pointed to as its origin. Here Jesus says, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.” Jesus said this after He was questioned as to why He would “eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”. 

What you do to the least…

Ministering to those who are untouchable, or undesirable is not attractive to most of us. If we are honest, we feel most comfortable ministering in socially comfortable and acceptable situations. Jesus was challenged many times for socializing with or ministering to those seen as “less than” or “unclean”. 

But did the fact that Jesus served everyone from leper, to adulterer mean that he was a “live and let live” kind of savior?  Did His associations mean his acceptance of clichés such as “As long as no one gets hurt what does it matter?” or “You do you.” No, quite to the contrary. 

According to the folks at The Gospel Coalition, “Jesus was a friend of sinners not because he winked at sin, ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted revelry with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners in that he came to save sinners and was incredibly pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him.” 

Jesus had an Invitational Open Door Policy

In many ways Jesus had an invitational open-door policy in order to bring healing to the most people possible. Eating with the tax collectors was not just a welcome aboard party for Levi, it was an invitation for all present to come and be healed. Since you are the hands and feet of Jesus present today, can you be the one to help keep the door open for all to come to Him? 

Lisa Miklos

Meditation

Who are the “least” in my community? Am I doing a good job being the hands and feet of Christ to the people who needs Christ’s love the most?

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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

Out of Love or Obligation?

Matthew 9:14-15

I am a pretty literal person. To me, passages this make sense because we are reading the scriptures with post-Resurrection knowledge. We know who Jesus is and that the disciples are right to feast with the Lord – the bridegroom. We know what Jesus means when he says that “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away” (Mt 9:15).

Something more has stuck with me with this passage though, and it reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son, which we will read a little later during Lent. What comes to mind was a question a priest asked in his homily a few years ago. 

If you will recall the parable, the older brother was miffed that the father had a fattened calf slaughtered in honor of his younger brother’s return from his perfidious sojourn, while he, the older son, had obeyed his father.  The father tells the older brother that all they have, has always been his to enjoy.  

Do you do things out of love or obligation?

The priest asked our congregation, “Do you do things out of love or only out of obligation?”  The older brother was fulfilling his duty out of obligation but not love; at least that’s how I understood the question. That struck me hard especially because I’m disciplined and dutiful.

I see a parallel here. The followers of John the Baptist are asking Jesus why his disciples were not fasting in accordance with the customs of the day, but  Jesus knew that the time for fasting would be once he was crucified.  It’s almost as if he is stating that there is no need to fast out of obligation because there will come a time for all who believe in him to fast out of love for him. 

Why do you fast?

This begs the question, are you fasting out of love for Jesus, or out of obligation? Are you attending Mass because these are days of obligation, or because you love the Lord and want to sit at his feet and partake of his banquet?

Now, acting out of obligation is not necessarily wrong. Often times we do the right thing out of obligation. We may refrain from gossip, for example, because we feel obliged not to damage another’s reputation but not because we actually have much regard for someone. It’s a harder pursuit to refrain from gossiping about someone because you love that person as a sister or brother in Christ, made in the image and likeness of God.

To act out of obligation is good. To love is better.

What have you chosen to offer during Lent?  Are you fasting from something? Are you adding something more to your plate, such an increased prayer time?  Or perhaps you pledged to donate to a food drive by buying a few extra groceries for the food bank each time you go to the commissary?  Whatever it is you choose to do, strive to do it because of love?

Aly Tugaoen


Meditation

Lord Jesus, During Lent I have given up or taken on (name your lenten offerings), help me to make these sacrifices out of love for you for my neighbor. When I’m weak in my offerings, remind me that you gave your entire life freely out of love for me, your unworthy servant. Bless my obedience to this lenten sacrifice and increase my love for you. Amen.


Lent Devotional 2021
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Advent, Gospel, Mass Reflection

A Canticle for the End of Advent

December 24

Luke 1:67-79

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


“Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Ps 51:17). You might recognize this sentence from the Divine Office or other prayers. This is the verse that comes to mind today. Zechariah was rendered mute by the angel Gabriel when he did not believe the angel’s message, but today, in today’s Gospel reading, his speech is restored.

Why? Maybe because he learned his lesson.

When the angel announced John’s birth, Zechariah was directed to name his son John, but when John was born, people objected to the name. Zechariah, still mute, scrawled on a tablet, “John is his name.” God blessed Zechariah’s obedience and restored his speech.

Zechariah’s canticle contains his first spoken words after a long period of silence. Of all the things he could have said, look at what he chooses to say.  Zechariah praises God and speaks truth to the people around him.

Advent gave us time to be quiet, avail ourselves of the sacrament of penance, and spend time in the Word. As Advent dusk sets and Christmas dawns, are you ready to sing your own canticle of praise?

                                    Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

If you could sing a canticle, what would it contain?

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Advent, Gospel, Motherhood, Parenting

When Your Hopes and Dreams for Your Child Don’t Turn Out the Way You Planned

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.


Parents have great hopes and dreams more often than not when they bring a child into the world. What will he or she become? We pray for health and for happiness, surely. But many pray that the gifts God bestows on them will be used well and appreciated by the child, that the gifts will be used to glorify God. Whatever the hopes and prayers, things don’t always turn out the way we expect.

At some point, when expectations are dashed, parents need to pray new prayers for their children, especially our young-adult children,: “Lord, give them the grace they need to overcome the struggles. Give them peace. Heal them. Comfort them. Be with them. Keep them safe from harm. Shield them from pain, from evil. Help them to know You’re with them always, that we’re here for them. Let them know we love them unconditionally just like You do, Lord. We may not love them as much as You do, but we love them as much as is humanly possible.”

Even Elizabeth and Zechariah were probably initially disappointed or confused, certainly, by John the Baptist’s life choices. He was living in the desert, wearing nothing but camel’s hair clothing and a leather belt, and eating honey and wild locusts. He spoke truth to power. He spoke of the Truth that is Jesus, the Lamb of God. Not so long after, Jesus would mourn his death.

What we envision for the future of our children or ourselves is rarely what occurs. God’s has a plan, and it is for our salvation. We have to trust Him and what he wants for us and our children which is, ultimately, eternal life with him. Life here isn’t always what we planned.

Lynda MacFarland

Meditation

Let’s ask God, recalling the mercy he shows us through the passion, death, and resurrection of his Son, to help our unbelief.