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Bible, Gospel

Thoughts for When we Feel Insecure

27 March 2021

John 11:45-56

In today’s Gospel, Jesus had just performed yet another miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead, garnering more believers with each miracle. When this news reached the Pharisees and the chief priests, a meeting of the Sanhedrin was called. Instead of being open to what God was revealing through his son, these leaders felt threatened. 

They worried about preserving their position and wealth and allowed greed, fear, and envy to motivate them.  Insecurity and ego can lead people to do horrible things. We know historically that the chief priests and the Pharisees did not always get along, but when they saw a common enemy, they colluded to persecute the Son of God.  

When you think about it, the world may have changed as it moved through the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Information Age, but some things have not changes. When people feel threatened or afraid, they will often employ sinful means to suppress the threat. 

Some have relied on emotions or propaganda. Others have relied on instilling fear. Some use clever but faulty logic or reasoning to get their point across. The irony in this reading is that in verse 50, Caiaphas states exactly what must happen to realize God’s plan of salvation without realizing that Jesus’ death is offered to save all of us and not merely his alliance.

Can you see yourself in this passage? Do you let fear, greed, or a desire for influence or adulation steer your decisions? Do you deal fairly with others in your person and professional pursuits? We all fall short of God’s law sometimes, if you see these vices in your life, make a good confession. Don’t beat yourself up. Know that where you are weak, your community of faith is praying for you . . . having a piece of chocolate may help, too.

Aly Tugaoen

Meditation

From the Daniel Iverson Hymn: Spirit of the living God, Fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, Fall afresh on me.

Lent Devotional 2021
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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
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Bible, Eucharist, Gospel, Lent, Mass Reflection, Self Care, Theology

It’s all About Relationships

16 March 2021

John 5:1-16

What exactly did Jesus do that was so upsetting to the Jews that they wanted to have him killed? The last line of the Gospel is the perfect place to begin this reflection, “because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal to God” (Jn 5:16).

Ironically, this last line points to exactly why Jesus was born. He came on a mission to create a kingdom of love to reign in our hearts, to share the love of God the Father with us, and reveal that he is one with God, for Jesus is God, a member of the Holy Trinity. Jesus came to invite us into a personal relationship, heal us, and inspire us to follow him and grow in holiness. 

In life, it is easy to see matters through “our worldly lenses”.  We can start to think that God will follow our formulas and ways of thinking rather than being open to the Lord’s plan. When life doesn’t go our way, we can become anxious, stressed, and even dive into depression. We can push God away. Yet, we’re called to press into God in these moments – into his promises, his embrace, his offer of salvation.

Think of the man in this passage who longed to be healed and waited 38 years for this most glorious moment of his life. He was not only healed but had a rich and meaningful encounter with Jesus!  Imagine how grateful he was when Jesus healed him. Jesus is offering us the same type of healing, he wants to set us free from the baggage that holds us back from loving Him. Jesus shows us that there is always meaning to be found when we are struggling. If nothing else, struggles offer us an opportunity to encounter Jesus more profoundly and learn to trust that he is there for us. 

Jesus sought out the man so that he would know that Jesus was the one who healed him and shared a powerful message. He said, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” In a way, these final words to the man are a formula for life. Jesus wants to heal us, yes, but the next line, “sin no more that nothing worse befall you” is the most important, for what is worse than being crippled or even blind? Sinning and going to hell, and ending our relationship with Jesus. May we seek to be holy!

Emily Jaminet

Meditation

From what do you need healing? It could be a physical ailment, anxiety, desire to control something, the need to forgive a wrong. Wherever you need healing, offer it to Jesus today. Invite the Lord to that place.

Lent Devotional 2021
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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection

A Prayer for When you Feel Lukewarm

15 March 2021

John 4:43-54

It must have taken a certain amount of desperation for this royal official to seek Jesus out. A few biblical commentaries say that he was probably a pagan, so right away, he’s not initially going to be open to the idea of a Jewish Messiah. We don’t know how long his son was ill, but we do know that it had become so serious that he begged Jesus to come and heal him. 

How much of this is rooted in real belief, and how much of this is desperation? We don’t know, and I’m not sure if it really matters. Because in the end, we read that the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” (v. 50) This doesn’t sound like lukewarm sort-of-belief to me. It sounds like belief brought to fruition by desperation. 

Sometimes this is what it takes to throw ourselves into God’s arms. It’s the divorce, the diagnosis given over the phone, or a child’s life-threatening accident. In these moments of terror, we give ourselves over to the one who is always there for us, even if we haven’t realized it up until that moment. Sometimes a shock is needed to jolt faith awake. 

In this case, Jesus’ word is enough to save the beloved son. Just as his father created the entire cosmos with his word, Jesus–whom John calls the “Word of God”–heals with a simple word. 

Before we receive Communion at Mass, we pray, in part, “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” echoing the centurion. Jesus, the Word of God, is still acting today. He waits for you to say your words, words of faith, which will open the door to him so he can come into your life and act, healing your soul’s wounds. We just have to say the word. 

Emily DeArdo

Meditation

Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

Lent Devotional 2021
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pile of thin white circles of sacramental bread
Eucharist

Bread of Heaven

Mark 1:12-15

First Sunday in Lent

With the Gospel Acclamation today, the faithful hear this verse, Matthew 4:4, One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We take this to mean earthly bread, our sustenance that fuels us for our daily tasks. However, last year, many of us went without heavenly bread for months at a time. Maybe you can’t receive the Eucharist now because you don’t have access to in-person Mass, or you are avoiding the church building due to health concerns. 

I went without the Bread of Heaven for three and a half months in 2020, and one of the first times I received the Eucharist after churches re-opened in New York, was at my daughter’s First Holy Communion. Not only was I receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood again, I was finally receiving this gift again in communion with my Church family and sharing this precious gift with my young daughter. 

Anticipation of the Banquet

We anticipated this special moment for weeks, carefully preparing ourselves. I’m not simply talking about reviewing sacramental prep lessons, rehearsing hand placement for receiving the Body of Christ, ironing her dress, and fluffing her veil. Our preparation included the Sacrament of Penance. Our family, away for the Eucharist for months, hungering as we watched Mass on TV and recited the “Prayer for Spiritual Communion” in unison in our living room, approached the healing sacrament together the day before the first in-person Mass. Not only had we been away from the Body of Christ for months, we had been lacking His sacrament of mercy. Anticipating this joyful reunion, I was determined that the souls of each of my family members would be clean and whole tabernacles for Jesus, present in the Holy Eucharist. 

That was at the end of June. Today, I have the opportunity to receive Jesus every day. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not always as attentive to my mental and spiritual state as I was when I was in the desert last year. 

Lent is an Invitation Renewed

This Lent, Jesus is offering us a new opportunity to come back to him with our whole hearts. This season invites us to stop, reassess, and reconnect with the one who loves us and sacrificed all for us. We are still living lives of daily uncertainty. Everything is not back to normal. However, just as the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert, God sends His angels to tend to us in hard times (Ps. 91:11). Do we trust this? Do we recognize that our Lord, like us in every way but sin, understands hardship, dryness, uncertainty (Heb. 4:15)? 

When we are surrounded by the wild beasts of illness, instability, financial hardship, and even the Bread of Life is inaccessible to us, the Word of God “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Let us reflect on the scripture and permit it to draw us closer to Jesus, the Word become flesh (John 1: 14), our sustainer, redeemer, and brother.

Nancy Belmont

Meditation

How can you be more intentional in your preparation to receive the Eucharist?

Lent Devotional 2021
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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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