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A Belated Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

I wrote this reflection in January, to publish on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. But I’m struggling this week. My COVID vaccine absolutely knocked me out. While I hate to publish late, this is one of those posts that’s just going to have to be better late than never. Thanks for reading 🙂 Here goes:

One of the things I love about our faith

Our Faith is so smart! Even the liturgical calendar is smart. There are exactly nine months until Christmas, which is why today (ah-hem …a few days ago, actually), we mark the Annunciation of the Lord’s birth by the angel Gabriel. Today’s gospel is often associated with children’s Christmas plays, but for us today, it falls within Lent. Why?

I think one reason that we read about the Annunciation during Lent is to be reminded of exactly who Jesus is. Jesus is fully God and fully human. The early Church Fathers coined this as the “hypostatic union” of Christ’s divinity and humanity that was present from the very moment of Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary’s womb.

Fully Human Fully Divine

At Mass, we are reminded of the unity of Christ’s humanity and divinity when the priest pours the water into the wine and prays quietly, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Once the two liquids are mixed, they cannot be separated from one another.

The Church Fathers wrestled through decades and councils about how to articulate the incarnation, that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14), in spoken and written language. After all, how can one write the profundity of a miracle in mere human constructs? If these learned men struggled, imagine how tremendously graced Mary must have been, when as a mere teen, she understood who and what she would carry in her womb and gave her resounding “yes” to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Why does any of this matter?

There is so much to meditate on in this passage, but I hope you’ll remember two things: First, Jesus assumed the fullness of your humanity, in all its weakness, because he loves every bit of you. There is nothing about you that is outside the reach of God’s mercy or redemption. Second, if you feel overwhelmed or afraid that you’re not living up to what God (or anyone else) asks of you, go to Mary. Pray her fiat “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She knows what it means to move from being “troubled” (Lk 1:29), to assenting to God’s will.

              Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Offer today’s concerns to Mary.

Pray one Hail Mary slowly.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Jesus

Fish or Cut Bait

23 March 2021

John 8:21-30

The disciples were confused by many things that Jesus said to them, but I doubt they were confused by today’s passage. As we progress through this part of John’s Gospel, we’re getting to the “fish or cut bait” part of Jesus’s ministry. Are you with him, or not?

By this point, Jesus, he has turned water into wine (Ch 3). He has encountered the woman at the well (Ch 4). He has cured fevers, (Ch 4) and healed invalids (Jn 5:8). Jesus has walked on water (Jn 6:19). He has even given two of the “I am” statements of John’s Gospel: “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35), and “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the Jews that he does not belong to this world, and that he was sent by the Father. He refers to himself with the term “I am,” which some scholars (but not all) believe is Jesus’ way of identifying himself as continuous in being with the name that God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:14 “I am who I am” transliterated to “YHWH.”

We’ll never know for certain whether Jesus referred to himself as YHWH or not. But what theologians see in investigating this part of John’s Gospel, is that Jesus is indeed revealing himself as the Messiah, and “Because he spoke this way, many came to believe him” (Jn 8:30). 

C.S. Lewis famously wrote the following about discerning who Jesus is:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

Based on today’s gospel, and your own experience of the Church and the Sacraments, what do you believe? Who do you say that Jesus is?

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

How did you come to know Jesus as Lord? Spend some time praying lectio divina with today’s Gospel. If it’s available to you, go to Adoration or make time to go this week.

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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Advent, Bible, Family Life, Gospel

Considering our Family Tree Gospel Reflection

Thursday 17 December

Read today’s Gospel here: Matthew 1:1-17

This forced isolation is a perfect time to get my life together! I’m going to organize and purge, quit binge-watching Netflix, and finally sit down to read the Bible front to back. Well, maybe not the Old Testament – so many rules and too much smiting. But I can totally relate to the New Testament. But wait, you open Matthew, and the first thing you read is a long boring list of Old Testament people who seem sort of familiar.

This has nothing to do with the Gospel message – you’re certain you can just skip past to the good part. But not so fast – what if I told you that is the good part? That the Gospel message is encoded there? Stay with me on this.

In today’s Gospel, we see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bringing the Torah front and center. We see kings in Jesus’ lineage, but we also see Asaph the psalmist and Amos the prophet. And we see that Jesus, the Davidic King, has some wily characters in his lineage, indeed, some dysfunction.

Did you notice the shady characters in that list? There’s Tamar, who posed as a prostitute to get her father-in-law to sleep with her? How about Rahab, who actually was a prostitute (and non-Jew) in Jericho? There’s Ruth, who as a Moabite was not allowed to worship in the Temple. And poor Bathsheba – not even mentioned by name – whose husband was killed through the actions of her soon-to-be lover, King David.

One of the lessons in this lineage is that Jesus works through dysfunction and offers salvation to all people; he is prophet, priest, and king, and we as the Body of Christ share that with him.

As we wait for him this Advent season, think about Jesus’ ancestors. Even with their dysfunction, God worked through them. Jesus came to heal them and love them. He does the same with our families. Imagine that heavenly family reunion – after all, if we live in God with our whole selves, we’ll have a front row seat!

Erin Raymond

Meditation

Are there are some wily characters in your family, remember, that we really are one family, and Jesus’ love extends to all of them. Offer a prayer of healing for your family.

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Encouragement from 52 Weeks with St. Faustina

I recently reviewed 52 Weeks with Saint Faustina by author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  I have greatly enjoyed leafing through Donna-Marie’s book and rededicating my prayer time to saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the prayer that Jesus gave St. Faustina.

52 Weeks with St. Faustina lends itself to people like me!  I start the year with the greatest intention of completing a 52-week devotional and then fade in dedication and zeal and have to jump back on the wagon numerous times.  Fortunately, since the chapters do not have assigned dates, readers like me can begin the book at any time or retrieve the book and re-join the spiritual exercises with St. Faustina without feeling obliged to skip weeks.

52-weeks-cover-195x300Another thing I love about the book is that the table of contents is thematic.  If you especially need prayers for overcoming fear, there’s a chapter for that!  Grace?  There’s a chapter for that, too!  Forgiveness, doubt, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or obedience?  There are weeks dedicated to these topics as well.  This book meets readers exactly where they are in life.  You can progress through the book week by week or jump around thematically.

My favorite aspect of 52 Weeks with St. Faustina is that Donna-Marie incorporates significant portions of St. Faustina’s Diary into the reflections.  This leaves readers with Jesus’ words to Faustina as well as a flavor of her personality and glimpses of her path to sanctity.  Friends, I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina:

On Patience:

Patience in adversity gives power to the soul.  – Diary, 607

On Staying in the Present Moment: 

Oh present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.  I desire to use you as best I can. – Diary, 2

On Humility: 

Today, as God’s Majesty swept over me, my soul understood that the Lord, so very great though He is, delights in humble souls. – Diary, 1092

For Encouragement:

O my Jesus, despite the deep night that is all around me and the dark clouds which hide the horizon, I know that the sun never goes out. – Diary, 73

On Forgiveness:

We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors. Diary, 1148

Do you have a favorite quote from St. Faustina?  Share it in the comments! As my six year-old says, “Sharing is caring!”