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Still Waiting and Hoping - More Gospel Reflections

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Still Waiting and Hoping Gospel Reflections for Pandemic Times by Deacon Bill Frere

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As we all remember on Saturday March 14 2020 the world stopped Travel was restricted we all sheltered in place at home not venturing out except for emergencies Restaurants and movie theaters closed Churches shut their doors No more Masses No funerals weddings or Baptisms No prayer services and no Eucharist For the foreseeable future my liturgical ministry was put on hold So beginning on Sunday March 15 using photos from our Holy Land trips I began to share a daily reflection on the Gospel of the day My first book Waiting and Hoping chronicled those first six months of our Scriptural journey through the pandemic This book continues that journey I offer my continuing prayer of thanksgiving to the Creator and Great Spirit for keeping me focused on this special ministry and for the inspiration to stir the soul My sincere thanks and appreciation for all your words of support throughout these 13 months and counting of anxiety and stress And I would be remiss if I did not extend a heartfelt hug of gratitude to my wife Ginger for her support her patience and her constant encouragement Peace Deacon Bill Deacon Bill Frere is a Permanent Deacon in the Archdiocese of Chicago ministering to St Robert Bellarmine Parish and St Kateri Center of Chicago Deacon Bill and Ginger his wife of 46 years have one daughter Jaime Josh and grandsons Tyler and Nate You can contact him at wfrere archchicago org All content 2021 Deacon Bill Frere Reproduction and distribution without written consent is prohibited

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Wednesday Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 9 1 6 What to Wear What to Wear Ben Gurion Airport Tel Aviv Have you ever gone on a long trip I mean a really long trip away from home I have been blessed to have visited the Holy Land 3 times over the past 10 years It is not the sort of trip where you just throw some clothes into a bag and run No it takes a lot of planning and very methodical packing And that is something I left to my wife Ginger Lists were made items bought and checked off What to bring what not to bring And then the arranging and sorting of clothes for each day And finally the actual packing making sure everything fits It is a long carefully planned and executed process to insure we have enough clothing toiletries meds to last us the entire trip And then we hear Jesus travel tips to the disciples in today s Gospel Essentially what NOT to bring what NOT to pack No walking stick no sack no food no money no extra clothing in fact don t even pack a bag Just get moving on your way The disciples don t even know how long a trip it will be The point is clear focus on your mission focus on spreading the Word God will provide everything else Let go of everything else all those things you think you need And just put your faith in the Lord He will see to your needs for food and shelter He will take care of you Don t be so concerned about what you re going to eat where you will sleep or what you will wear These past six months we have all had the time to clean house We have had the opportunity to sort through our possessions and simplify our lives We have packed up unused and unnecessary clothes and items and donated them to the needy In the process hopefully we have had the chance to re focus our hearts on what is truly important our faith Great Spirit help me today to direct my thoughts and prayers to you Help me to not be distracted by the cares of the world or those things that the world insists I need for happiness Guide me along a straight path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven 3

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Thursday Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 9 7 9 For All the Wrong Reasons At Prayer Church of Holy Sepulchre Today s Gospel besides being very short seems almost hopeful Herod yes the one who beheaded John the Baptist has heard stories about Jesus And he begins to wonder Is this John reborn A Prophet Elijah He is perplexed and concerned And he tries to meet this wandering preacher You have to wonder if his attempts to meet Jesus are for all the wrong reasons Just as much as he was upset and jealous of John he seems to harbor the same worries about Jesus He doesn t want to know more about Him or even accept Him as the Messiah What he wants is to make sure He is not a threat to Herod s power or status Selfish and jealous he is only concerned for himself and his throne His desire to meet Him is only to size up his opponent not to deepen his faith And that is the challenge for us today When do we go looking for God Is it only in times of distress or worry Do we run to Him only when life is treating us badly When we need to be bailed out of a sticky situation What about the good times What about the times when we should be thankful and grateful What about all those times when life is normal God wants a relationship with us not just in difficult times but always We seek out our friends and family all the time good and bad What about God If we run to Him for help in times of distress why not walk with Him in good times in love and gratitude Why not talk to Him in daily prayer and reflection and build that relationship that He offers and that we so dearly need Creator teach me to pray to talk with You and confide in You as I journey through this day and the days ahead 4

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Friday Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 9 18 22 A Case of Mistaken Identity Mount of Beatitudes Ever been mistaken for someone else Years ago I was out with one of my buddies and a guy comes up to us and starts a conversation It turns out that he thought I was a friend of his a guy named Jack who was a cop I told him insistently that he had the wrong guy but he continued to insist he was right I finally had to pull out my driver s license before he reluctantly gave up and accepted the fact that I was not whom he thought I was Weird Today s Gospel offers Peter s confession of faith You are the Christ of God But let s focus instead on the other disciples They tell Jesus that people think He is John the Baptist reborn or Elijah or one of the prophets They think He is a religious leader from the past come back to life They mistake Him for someone else And yet there is one religious figure that is glaringly absent from their list Apparently no one believes He is the Messiah All these years waiting for their Savior and no one seems to think Jesus is the Guy They mistake Him for everyone except the person He really is Is there a lesson in all this We call ourselves Christian we are called to be forgiving loving God and each other to practice our Faith in word thought and action Would we be recognized as such Would someone be able to point to us and say Now that s a Christian Or would we be mistaken for someone quite different Great Spirit help me to conduct myself today in a manner of respect dignity and honor to all my brothers and sisters May others see You in my words and actions 5

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Saturday Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 9 18 43 45 Pay Attention I can t begin to count how many times as a teacher I needed to remind some of my students to PAY ATTENTION or words to that effect Sometimes it was a fruitless effort and it demanded constant repetition But sooner or later they got the message I suppose the same can be said of a parent trying to teach a lesson to their child Jesus has some tough words to share with the disciples today He would be handed over to be put to death Not your everyday chat so He wants to make sure they are listening With all the distractions besetting us today TV social media music civil unrest worries over Corona concerns about our health and that of our family and loved ones it s no wonder that we all have trouble listening to anyone with a really important message This is a good time for us to remember that prayer is a conversation with the Lord And that means we have to quiet ourselves so that He can speak to us We have to still our hearts and LISTEN and PAY ATTENTION Sometimes we talk too much and never give God the chance to answer So set aside some time Unplug and turn the electronics off Go for a walk or just settle down calm down and LISTEN to God s voice in the silence Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the wind Whose breath gives life to the world I come to you as one of your many children May I walk in beauty Make my eyes ever behold The red and purple sunset Make my hands respect The things that you have made And my ears sharp to hear your voice Make me wise So that I may know the things That you have taught your children The lessons you have hidden In every leaf and rock 6 Make me ever ready to come to you With straight eyes So that when life fades as the fading sunset My spirit may come to you without shame

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Sunday Twenty Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 21 28 32 Words and Actions Today s Gospel seems pretty straightforward A father asks his 2 sons to come work for him in the vineyard One says Yes and one says No End of story Not so fast The one who said Yes never shows up And the one who said No changes his mind and comes to the vineyard They both had a choice to make they both made a choice eventually But that choice wasn t really made when they answered their father The choice was finally carried out in their actions how they followed up their words Choices are not just about words they are about how we follow up how we act Put your money where your mouth is put up or shut up practice what you preach We hear it every single day Actions speak louder than words We all know that to be true we all had moments when we were little when Mom told us to clean our room or do our homework We gave her the right words but we didn t follow up with the proper actions at least not until we got caught Words and Actions This is not the homily I was going to share this morning These are not the words I was going to say I had a completely different homily in mind completely different words completely different focus But like that one son something changed life intervened Ginger and I spent the day yesterday attending 2 Ordination Ceremonies 26 men were ordained to the Permanent Diaconate I gained 26 new spiritual brothers a number of them good friends as well It brought back such wonderful memories of my own ordination barely 5 years ago They knelt before the bishop and pledged their obedience to him He laid his hands on them and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come down upon them They put on the stole and dalmatic of a Deacon for the first time And then they received the Gospel from the bishop with these words Receive the Book of the Gospel whose herald you have become Believe what you read Teach what you believe Practise what you teach Like the beginning of today s Gospel All Words All promises A choice was made Yes A response to the Father was given Yes But the actual obedience the real carrying out of those words that was just the beginning Those newly ordained deacons are only just practicing what they preached They are only just following up those words with actions And it s not just them We are all called by the Father We are all called to work in the vineyard We are all called to believe the Gospel We are all called to live out our beliefs not only in what we say but in what we do May our response today and every day going forward be a Yes not just in our words but in our actions 7

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Monday Twenty Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 9 46 50 I m the Greatest No I Am Given the Gospel for the day this one is worth repeating A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat I m the greatest hitter in the world he announced Then he tossed the ball into the air swung at it and missed Strike One he yelled Undaunted he picked up the ball and said again I m the greatest hitter in the world He tossed the ball into the air When it came down he swung again and missed Strike Two he cried out The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully He spit on his hands and rubbed them together He straightened his cap and said once more I m the greatest hitter in the world Again he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it He missed Strike Three Wow he exclaimed I m the greatest pitcher in the world We all want to the best at something we all want to be recognized appreciated for our accomplishments We all need that pat on the back But today the disciples have gone too far They are actually arguing with each other fighting over who is the greatest Just picture that I ve cured more people than you Jesus likes me better I can retell His parables better than anyone Can you imagine Jesus shaking His head wondering what is going on He could have raised His voice I guess He could have sent them to their room for acting like children if they had a room But no He speaks gently but directly to them If you want to be the best you must be the least You must accept this child in My name and if you do then you have accepted Me Treat everyone like you would a child and stop arguing There is no place in the Kingdom for rivalry or competition You would think that would have ended the matter But John quickly asks if they should prevent non disciples from casting out demons He still doesn t get it He still thinks they are all better than anyone who is not a disciple He is still comparing himself to others Oh dear I can picture another shaking of the head We are all human We all compare ourselves to others and hope we are better at something We all want to feel unique and special And we all stumble and fall in our pride and selfishness Just like the disciples 10

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Tuesday Feasts of Sts Michael Gabriel and Raphael Archangels Gospel John 1 47 51 Down to Earth Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth While we are celebrating the three Archangels Michael Gabriel and Raphael it is hard not to also reflect on our own guardian angels I have always had this image of mine with his head buried in his hands especially when I was little and more given to certain escapades What anxiety we must put our guardians through Or I imagine Clarence from It s A Wonderful Life and the trials he had to endure to guide George through difficult times as he worked to earn his wings Most of the time it is my Dad I picture watching over me shaking his head from time to time but never leaving my side And there have certainly been moments when I looked up and asked him to close his eyes and not see my idiotic antics But he remains there beside me And so do our guardian angels Michael Gabriel and Raphael hold a special place in our faith We know their names and certain key events in the Bible reflect their interaction with us They are messengers from God bringing tidings of great news They protect us from evil and from Satan They stir the waters of the pool in the Temple and bring healing to Tobit Throughout our lives they serve as a reminder to us that God is always beside us always there for comfort and protection always there to calm our fears and guide us through difficult times Angel of God my guardian dear To whom God s love commits me here Ever this day be at my side To light and guard to rule and guide Amen 9

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Wednesday Feasts of St Jerome Gospel Luke 9 57 62 Looking Back Moving Forward St Jerome s Cell home Bethlehem Exactly 200 days ago on March 15 I posted my first Gospel reflection 200 days 200 days of masks of social distancing and fogged up eyeglasses 200 days of isolation and elbow pumps 200 days without hugs or handshakes without romantic dinners at a favorite restaurant or visible smiles playing with the grandkids 200 days where we look back on and long for what used to be Nostalgic Wishing for the good old days Wondering how to handle the new normal Jesus almost seems nostalgic in today s Gospel Everyone else has a home a place to lay their head and He does not It s as if He is looking back as we are to those days when life was normal simpler calmer A life in Nazareth with His parents a home family time But life has changed Priorities have changed And His mission moves forward It may sound insensitive for Him to remark that the dead should bury the dead But He is making a point don t dwell on the past don t live in the past The Mission continues and we must move forward We are all tasked with this Mission to spread the Word It doesn t mean we abandon our past or our roots but we are called to set priorities to focus on being disciples St Jerome whose feast we celebrate today understood that all too well He converted around the age of 24 and then spent the rest of his life as an ascetic shunning the lures of the world and devoting himself to writing and translating the Bible into Latin what we call the Vulgate 10 As in today s Gospel Jesus calls all of us to follow Him to change our life and our priorities How do we answer Do we stubbornly hang on to the past or do we move forward to the Kingdom

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Thursday Feast of St Therese Lisieux Gospel Luke 10 1 12 Life s a Journey Caesarea Philippi Life s a journey I can t begin to count how many times I have heard that line and how many people have voiced those words But after all these years I guess I have to admit that it s true And not just for me Just think about all the different paths we have all taken all the twists and turns we have made deliberate or not All the many roads we could have stayed on but instead turned left or right or even stopped and just turned around I could have never left my home in the countryside of Maryland and taken over the store I could have stayed in the seminary I could have finished college in Maryland instead of Chicago I could have continued my job in retail And you all have similar stories And yet here you are here we are I truly believe that as much as I don t get to always go where I want to go God has always taken me where I need to be where He needs me to be In today s Gospel Jesus sends out His disciples 72 of them on a journey a missionary journey to spread the Word This was a real physical mission and He gave them very specific instructions on what to bring what to do and how to handle situations and rejection But not all of us are called to that physical journey not all of us will be traveling to other towns or even countries to spread the Word Many of us are called to spread the Word right where we are and with the people we interact with on a daily basis to share the Gospel message simply in our words and actions in how we treat each other day in and day out And some of us are called to a more spiritual journey living our lives in prayer and contemplation like St Therese of Lisieux whose feast we celebrate today Her journey was a spiritual one offering her prayers for the salvation of souls and the growth of the Church We are all on a journey we are all called to share the Good News sometimes in our dealings with others sometimes in our prayer and meditation May we all find strength for the journey 11

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Friday Feast of Guardian Angels Gospel Matthew 18 1 5 10 God Bless The Child The Streets of Jerusalem It was only Tuesday that we observed the Feast of Sts Michael Raphael and Gabriel and reflected on the special place and role of angels in our lives So today as we celebrate our Guardian Angels let s take the time to remember all the angels who have looked out for us sheltered us protected and encouraged us throughout our lives Jesus says in today s Gospel whoever receives one child such as this receives me Guardian angels serve as a model of how we should behave as Christians When we see a child hurting or sorrowful separated from their family and confined to a cage what do we do When we hear the horrors of native children torn from the families and sent to boarding schools forced to turn away from their language their dress their customs and beliefs it breaks our hearts As adults as Christians we are called to care for each other especially the young and the vulnerable We are all called to comfort and protect them As parents as adults as teachers and EMT s as lawyers and politicians as police and rescue workers as medical staff and bus drivers as electricians and bricklayers as human beings we are all called to serve as guardian angels for these little ones That should be our task today and every day Be An Angel 12

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Saturday Twenty Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 10 17 24 Praise and Thanksgiving Basilica of Annunciation Nazareth You remember coming home with a great report card I mean GREAT And you were so excited you just couldn t contain your excitement you couldn t wait to get home and show it off How proud you were and how proud you hoped your parents would be So in today s Gospel the 72 disciples return to Jesus with a progress report And they are beyond happy Look at what we did Listen to all that we accomplished Even demons responded to us I m almost waiting for them to break out in song We are the Champions So Jesus feels the need to bring them back down to earth a bit It s not about YOU Do not focus on what YOU have done but why it happened and how it happened None of this is possible without the Father in Heaven It is only through Him that you are able to accomplish great things We know that to be true even with great report cards Did you really do it all yourself Didn t mom nag you about getting your homework done Didn t Dad help you with that science project Heck even your older sister showed you how to solve that math problem And then Jesus does something He normally does alone away from the crowds He prays PUBLICLY He says a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Father We need to remember that Too often our prayers tend to be prayers of petition asking God for something but we forget to come back and offer thanks to Him for favors and blessings received So rejoice in all you have accomplished But remember to give thanks for all the blessings the Creator has bestowed on you And remember You could not have done it alone Great Spirit thank you for listening to my prayers 13

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Sunday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 21 33 43 Turning A Deaf Ear Old City Jerusalem A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard As he was driving the last nail into the post he felt tug on his overalls He looked down into the eyes of a little boy Mister he said I want to buy one of your puppies Well said the farmer as he rubbed the sweat of the back of his neck these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money The boy dropped his head for a moment Then reaching deep into his pocket he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer I ve got thirty nine cents Is that enough to take a look Sure said the farmer And with that he let out a whistle Here Dolly he called Out from the doghouse and down ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence His eyes danced with delight As the dogs made their way to the fence the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse Slowly another little ball of fur appeared this one noticeably smaller Down the ramp it slid Then in an awkward manner the little pup began hobbling toward the others doing its best to catch up I want that one the little boy said pointing to the runt The farmer knelt down at the boy s side and said Son you don t want that puppy He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would With that the little boy stepped back from the fence reached down and began rolling up one leg of his trousers In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe Looking back up at the farmer he said You see sir I don t run too well myself and he will need someone who understands Nobody likes being rejected being picked last for the team or treated like they were invisible or unimportant much less suffer physical abuse and pain from bullies None of us like being the runt of the litter And yet that is exactly how the tenants treat the Master s servants beaten and stoned And when the Master sends His own Son they seize Him and kill Him Jesus in this parable continues to direct His lesson at the Pharisees and elders 14

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God sent you the prophets and you refused to listen to them Some of them you beat and tortured and threw out of the city even killed And now the Lord sends His own Son Jesus and you will do the same You will take me out of the vineyard Jerusalem and have me put to death God has continued to send you His messengers to lead you along the right path And you have refused to listen to them You treat them like the runt in the litter Like the boy in the story we see our God as a God of compassion He continues to send His messengers to us He keeps hoping that we will listen to His message and change our ways He never gives up on us He never stops loving us God continues to talk to us every single day through the Scriptures through the Eucharist through opportunities to live out our Christian faith How do we respond Are we open to His words His message Do we carry out the commandment to love in our interactions with others Do we welcome Him into our lives Or like the tenants do we turn a deaf ear and stubbornly refuse to listen Just as the Master continued to send His servants to the tenants God visits us every day in the words of the Gospel in the poor the needy the abused and forgotten yes even the runts of the litter Are we listening Are we paying attention 15

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Monday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 10 25 37 Won t You Be My Neighbor Old City Jerusalem I know we have heard this parable hundreds of times The Good Samaritan the last person you d expect to help actually helps And we are expected to do the same To act out of love and mercy and compassion OK got it heard it before I got the message Let s move on But what if Turn things around What if you were the victim At some point in our lives many of us have unfortunately been a victim maybe we were robbed or beat up cheated betrayed or abandoned or worse Would it really matter Would it make a difference Would their gender religion age race ethnicity or economic status matter Would you want to check their wallet for their ID Or their credit rating Do they have a college degree Would you really ever refuse their offer of kindness and compassion Would you really say NO to your Good Samaritan 16 Then if it doesn t matter who your Good Samaritan is then does it really matter who the victim is Treat others the way you want to be treated God s love and mercy is boundless to all We are called to respond with love to see all as our neighbor and to care for them just as God cares for us

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Tuesday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 10 38 42 Slow down and listen Dinner On the Sea of Galilee Somebody give me a hand with setting the table Someone help with putting the laundry away It would help if you kept your room clean Do I have to do all the work around this house A little help would be appreciated We have all had that experience and most of the time we were the ones on the receiving end of the conversation We were busy doing something else and couldn t be bothered unless and until Mom or Dad nagged us into pitching in and doing our fair share Something similar is going on in today s Gospel Jesus is at Mary and Martha s for dinner Martha is busy with serving but Mary chooses to just sit and listen to Jesus Martha is upset and complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping You would think that Jesus would have been understanding with Martha but NO Instead He tells Martha that Mary has chosen wisely You are focusing on the wrong thing The work can wait your stress can wait Take a breath calm down and focus on what is really important Perhaps that can be our focus today step away from the workaday world step aside take a deep breath calm ourselves and LISTEN to His words 17

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Wednesday Our Lady of the Rosary Gospel Luke 11 1 4 The Power of Prayer Anointing Stone Church of Holy Sepulchre Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary It was instituted in 1571 By Pope Pius V to celebrate Mary s intervention in a combined European naval victory over the Turks The Pope had asked all of Europe to pray the Rosary to ensure a victory This Battle of Lepanto saved all of Europe from invasion The Rosary helps us to meditate on our own salvation and on the mysteries that lead to it And it reminds us of Mary s obedient role in that event It is also a strong reminder of the power of prayer Today especially at a time when our needs are many and our fears are deep the Rosary provides us the opportunity to place those cares before Mary and to ask her to intercede for us I found a quote the other day that serves to remind us all of the power of prayer In prayer we lift ourselves up to God In the Sacraments God comes down to us Even if we can t remember the last time we prayed the Rosary why not take the time today Pray the Rosary and reflect on the mysteries of our salvation 18

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Thursday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 5 13 A Cry in the Night Shepherds Field Bethlehem All of us who are parents can identify You are asleep deep and dream filled sleep And then the quiet is broken with the sudden cries of your five month old child No matter how tired you are how comfy cozy you are you answer the call You get up you go to their room and do all you can to quiet their cries and soothe their distress You do it out of love out of concern for them Yes there are certainly times we do it out of their persistence but in the end we do it out of love And we know we would not sleep well at all until their needs are met That is what we hear in today s Gospel Answer the door Whether it s because of their insistence or your love for them respond to the needs of others And if we don t get the message then look at it from the other person s point of view Knock and it will be opened ask and you shall receive seek and you shall find Jesus is giving comfort to those in need promising them that their knock will be answered And He is challenging us today to open up to that door knock to answer that request to be Christ to someone in the hour of their need He reminds us that very often the prayers of one person are answered by the actions of another That is how God works 19

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Friday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 15 26 Inner Demons Church of St Joseph Nazareth Let s face it this has been a rough 7 months dealing with this pandemic this unseen enemy At times it has drawn out of us our worst fears and our basest instincts We ve been demoralized and despondent we ve felt abandoned and afraid for ourselves and our loved ones Sometimes we have bottled up all those difficult emotions inside ourselves trying to be strong for ourselves and our family Other times we let those demons out and we bang our heads and our fists against the wall in anger and frustration And then there are the times when we feel the presence of the divine the Spirit spreading His wings over us to protect us There are those days that we felt uplifted Those times when we looked back and realized we could not have survived the day without the grace of God We hear it in today s Gospel It is not by Satan that Jesus drives out demons it is by the power of God It is the finger of God that dispels our fears and anxieties And it is our faith in God that centers us and brings us through to a new day So count your blessings every day It makes the monsters go away And everything will be okay You are not alone You are right at home 20

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Saturday Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 27 28 A Little Respect Church at Mt Tabor It wasn t that long ago that I reflected on the moment when we realized that our parents actually had a real name not just Mom or Dad But God help us if we ever tried addressing them by their given name Talk about disrespect Talk about a punishment waiting to happen And yet today s Gospel has Jesus seemingly disrespecting His own mother the woman who bore Him and gave birth to Him in a stable who encouraged Him at the wedding feast at Cana who will follow Him all the way to the foot of the Cross But there is a point here Mary is not blessed merely because she carried Him in her womb She is blessed because she heard the Word of God and responded to it It is because she said Yes to Gabriel and then spent her life in observance of that Yes We hear a lot of things every day We hear the Word of God at Mass We respond in words throughout the course of the Liturgy But Jesus calls us to respond in action in the lives we live when we step out of church Words are not enough Real respect respect for our Father in Heaven comes from our observance of the Word from how we act with others Jesus reminds us today that yes family is important our mothers are important But the family of God our community of faith is even greater Blessed are those who hear the Word of God our Father and observe it today and every day 21

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Sunday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 22 1 14 RSVP Years ago I remember going to a business lunch with a group of teachers in New York I didn t realize there was a dress code jackets and I didn t bring one The restaurant staff gave me one awful looking slightly smelly jacket that was available just for people like me It was embarrassing We read in today s Gospel about a wedding feast given by a rich man for his son All his friends and relatives were invited and all refused to come They didn t just forget they made a deliberate choice not to attend Eventually the father invites in anyone everyone he can find the poor the good the bad But when the father comes in to greet all his guests he sees someone not wearing a wedding garment Now this is where I always had problems with the parable That poor man how can you expect him to have a wedding garment he just got invited at the last moment How rude How inconsiderate of the host But wait a minute not so fast It was the responsibility of the host to provide a wedding garment for all the guests not the guests themselves That way no one needed to feel embarrassed because they were not dressed as well as others This way everyone was dressed the same and all could enjoy the celebration I guess that would have worked well for me if everyone was wearing that same awful coat This is obviously a metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven All are invited But some will refuse to come Others come willingly and accept the wedding garment following the teachings of Christ And that other guest Well basically the guest without a wedding garment was making a deliberate choice of disobedience and disrespect He was offered the garment but he refused He wanted to enjoy the benefits of the wedding feast without following the instructions of the host God He wanted to enter the Kingdom but only on his terms Too often unfortunately we think we know better we have a better plan than anyone else even God We want to walk our own path without concern for others And only later do we see and suffer the consequences Following Christ is not always easy but the reward is worth it That simple wedding garment reminds me of another one that white garment we all received at our Baptism God welcomed us into His family that day and as a sign of our new life we were clothed with a simple white garment But that was only the beginning of our faith journey Once we put on that new garment once we began this new life as a son daughter of God we are called to live out this life as a Christian to follow the teachings of the King to answer the Master s invitation with respect and obedience and to hopefully enjoy the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven

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Monday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 29 32 Give Me A Sign Road Signs Nazareth Four years ago right around this same time of October we were driving in rural upstate New York and we were hopelessly lost It was the dead of night pitch black on a windy twisty country road no street lights no road signs no signs of civilization GPS wasn t working even my male sense of direction wasn t functioning It was just a bit terrifying Every time we got to an intersection we wrestled with which way to turn All we wanted was a sign anything that could lead us where we wanted to go Eventually we did reach our destination but not without a lot of backtracking and wrong turns it was not a journey we would want to repeat We hear about signs in today s Gospel but the context is quite different The people are asking Jesus for a sign Prove yourself to us give us a sign so that we know you are a prophet sent from God They believe they already have all the answers that they know the truth They believe they are standing on a religious high ground looking down and judging Jesus worth as a prophet But Jesus sees them as they really are a faithless generation a bit like Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar Prove to me that you re divine change my water into wine We all hit crossroads in life we are all looking for answers for the right path to take Especially in moments of life changing decisions we pray for a sign from God to help us along the way We pray for guidance and wisdom But Jesus reminds us that our faith isn t based on miracles or wonders Our faith is based on the presence of Jesus in our lives That is what the Jews were lacking The real sign is Jesus standing right in front of their eyes but they refused to see And that is the challenge for us to see the presence of Jesus in all we do to see His gentle touch and calming voice in all our choices guiding us along the way 23

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Tuesday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 37 41 Tea and Sympathy Streets of Bethlehem So this is your house cleaning observation of the day Tea Stains Are The Worst I know this to be true from first hand experience I ve taken on a few more chores around the house these last 7 months washing the dishes being one of them And trying to remove tea stains from the inside of a tea cup is relentless and unending They never seem to go completely away It makes me glad I am a coffee guy otherwise there would be twice as many tea cups to clean The outside of the cup no problem But the inside ugh Given today s Gospel it makes me wonder if Mary had Jesus do the dishes on a regular basis It also makes you wonder why people would keep inviting Him to dinner It reminds me of the insurance commercial where the aunt visits a home and proceeds to find a whole list of things wrong with the house Jesus makes His point again with the Pharisees that they are so focused on outside appearances that they pay no attention to what is really important what is inside their heart They get so upset when someone doesn t wash their hands or remember to obey the laws for ritual washing But they completely ignore the interior motives for their actions It s a good reminder to us that it s not about doing good just for show It s about doing the right thing for the right reasons It s not enough to look good on the outside it s about our intentions our willingness to do good to love others and to act on that love with charitable acts So if you feel the love I have a few tea cups that need some serious deep cleaning 24

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Wednesday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 42 46 All For Show Church of Dormition Jerusalem Back when I was teaching World Religions I would have this group project where the students acted out a ritual from the religion we were studying such as a Hindu wedding ceremony or a Buddhist meditation For the most part they did a fabulous job But there were a couple of groups who seemed more interested in the visuals and not the substance They got so caught up in dressing for the part all flashy and bright that they completely ignored the substance They looked great but there was no ritual no words or action What should have been a good half hour presentation was over in five minutes Smoke and mirrors Jesus continues His condemnation of the Pharisees in today s Gospel calling them out for the same thing You put on a good show publicly paying your taxes for something insignificant and you choose the best seats in the synagogue But you pay no attention to the Law itself It s not about how you are dressed or how much applause you get from the people God is interested in our actions how we treat others Your love of God and others is evident in your daily life and not on what coat you put on in the morning We are all called to be disciples of Christ not mere performers in a play acting a part We are called to live out our Christian faith in our thoughts our words and in our actions Great Spirit help me today to act on my faith 25

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Thursday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 11 47 54 Once Is Not Enough Chapel of Tears Jerusalem I admit it When I was little I had to be told multiple times before I finally got my job done Cut the grass Clean your room Brush your teeth Do your homework It took my parents a number of reminders before it finally sunk in and I got around to finishing my chores Once was not enough I don t think I realized until these past couple of days how extended of a discourse Jesus had with the Pharisees It was not just a one shot and done He went on and on at length repeating what hypocrites they were and chastising them because their actions were at such odds with their teachings He condemns them for demanding strict observance of the Law from the people but they themselves flaunt the Law in their own lives Time and time again His harsh language calls them out as hypocrites Once was certainly not enough This is a reminder to us all that we are called to a Christian life not merely in our words but in our actions One must reflect the other otherwise we too are hypocrites As part of my ordination as a Permanent Deacon there was a point where the Bishop handed me a Book of the Gospels and he then spoke these words Receive the Book of the Gospel whose herald you have become Believe what you read Teach what you believe Practice what you teach Food for thought and action for all of us 26

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Friday Twenty Eighth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 12 1 7 Secrets Capernaum Galilee I m holding in my hand a computer memory stick It contains a complete record of every single thing you did yesterday every word every action What would you like me to do with it Publish it Sell it Destroy it What would any of us do with such a record Face it we are all so very human so frail so broken and yet so beloved Jesus continues His warnings today against hypocrisy He continues to remind us that we cannot claim one thing in the light of day and then continue our sinful ways in the darkness There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed nor secret that will not be known Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops Quite a sobering thought nothing is hidden from God And yet through it all our God is a God of love and mercy At the end of today s reading Jesus reminds us in very simple terms God notices even the smallest of birds so do not be afraid you are worth so much more than that So whatever that memory stick contains remember that you are loved and cared for Trust in God turn away from sin and live a life of faith 27

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Saturday St Ignatius of Antioch Gospel Luke 12 8 12 Stand Firm Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem We celebrate today the Feast of St Ignatius Bishop and Martyr He was the 3rd Bishop of Antioch after St Peter Even after he was arrested and then transported to Rome for execution he was greeted by many of the faithful along the journey and he continued to keep the faith by writing letters of encouragement emphasizing unity and the humanity divinity of Jesus He serves as an example of Jesus words today in the Gospel Keep the Faith Acknowledge Me before others Do not worry Even in such dark times Ignatius did not waver in his faith in God and he continued to spread the Word even when he stood before his judge and executioner in Rome It is a good reminder to us all that even in this time of sickness and fear for the future God will not abandon us He is there to support us to comfort us to sustain us Even when we feel at a loss for words when we seek to comfort others and ease their fears God tells us not to worry The Holy Spirit will be with us to guide us and to teach us 28 Great Spirit show me today how to live Give me the courage to do Your Will

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Sunday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 22 15 21 A Flip of the Coin Cemetery outside Jerusalem There was a man who kept a garden in his back yard and every year would grow a variety of vegetables to help feed his family But one year for whatever reason his garden completely failed nothing grew at all And yet his neighbor his good friend had an abundant harvest loads of tomatoes zucchini etc So in his frustration and upset he decided to steal from his neighbor So late one night he went out into the darkness to steal from his neighbor s garden But he didn t go alone he took along his little boy to keep a look out in case anyone should come along The man jumped over the fence with a large bag on his arm and before commencing to take the corn he looked all around to make sure no one was watching first to the left and then to the right behind him and in front and not seeing anyone he was just about to start filling his bag And it was then that his son yelled out Dad you forgot to look up I have to give that dad a little bit of credit he did get one thing right He knew the difference between right and wrong otherwise he wouldn t have done the deed in the middle of the night He knew the law and that if he was caught he could be arrested and charged with a crime He knows he has responsibilities to himself to his family to his community to civil law but he chooses to take a negative track on it thinking only of himself and his physical and financial needs 29

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In a way he was acting like the Pharisees in today s Gospel thinking only of himself Probably a model citizen during the day in his words but in the darkness his actions tell a completely different story Those Pharisees weren t interested in learning from Jesus they were looking for a way to trap Him And they thought they finally got Him Should we pay taxes to Caesar They thought their question demanded an either or answer And no matter what answer Jesus gives it would divide and anger the crowd Their basic question completely missed the point They were focused only on their human responsibilities civil law thinking only of themselves They were only concerned with the human image of Caesar just like the father in the story Like the father the Pharisees were so focused on the IMAGE of Caesar that they forgot about another IMAGE they forgot that they were made in the IMAGE of God They forgot their responsibilities as a child of God 2nd Isaiah reminds us that God has chosen each of us called us by name and protected us from the rising to the setting of the sun And Paul echoes the same belief we are loved by God chosen by Him filled with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit And in both stories it s the SON who gets it It isn t an either or question We are both human and children of God We just forget it sometimes But even the simplest of coins today a penny should remind us United States of America on one side In God We Trust on the other Life isn t about a simple flip of the coin heads or tails It s a reminder to us that we have responsibilities not only to the left and the right behind us and in front but also responsibilities above to our Father in Heaven 30

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Monday Feast of Sts John de Brebeuf Isaac Jogues Gospel Luke 12 13 21 Rich and Poor Mount of Beatitudes Galilee One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son what it was like to be poor They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family After their return from the trip the father asked his son how he liked the trip It was great Dad the son replied Did you see how poor people can be the father asked Oh Yeah said the son So what did you learn from the trip asked the father The son answered I saw that we have one dog and they had four We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight We have servants who serve us but they serve others We buy our food but they grow theirs We have walls around our property to protect us they have friends to protect them The boy s father was speechless Then his son added It showed me just how poor we really are Jesus tells us in today s Gospel that life is not about possessions or amassing a fortune Now let s be clear here This doesn t mean we give up our job on this beautiful Monday morning It doesn t mean we neglect our family and provide no food no shelter no clothing It does mean that we need to keep our material priorities in perspective and that we do not neglect our relationship with God or our call to care for those in need So let s keep it simple today and really take to heart that opening story in light of the Gospel Material things are not bad in and of themselves But we can t let money and possessions be our one and only priority If we could just focus not so much on building up a fortune in coin and property and appreciate instead the riches of God s creation all around us Find the time today to enjoy this autumn of bright colors and brisk weather 31

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Tuesday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 12 35 38 Buckle Up Buttercup On the Shores of the Dead Sea Growing up in the rural farmland of Southern Maryland we never had the chance to join the Boy Scouts We were 4H kids through and through learning to be good citizens and learning how to grow and cultivate potatoes and Japanese yews for example I can still remember harvesting our little plot of potatoes and then the joy of selling them to my Dad for him to sell in his country store After he subtracted the original cost of the seeds fertilizer etc my brother and I earned a whole 25 cents each Which of course we immediately spent on candy in the store Wow Granted that wasn t much of a profit but there were plenty of lessons learned not the least of which was all the time and effort the daily care and weeding and the tilling of the soil It wasn t just throwing some seeds in the ground and waiting for things to happen It was a lot of preparation just to reach the harvest You had to prepare and be prepared even if we weren t Boy Scouts And that is what Jesus is addressing in today s Gospel be prepared Be prepared for the Kingdom for the Master You can t just sit around and then suddenly rush in a flurry of activity when the Master suddenly shows up We need to approach every day as a day of preparation Jesus makes it very clear this is work and it s daily work Gird your loins Not an expression most of us are familiar with but very appropriate here Literally it means something like to hike up your pants tighten up your belt roll up your sleeves and get to work I keep getting this image of buckle up buttercup it s gonna be a bumpy ride 32 We all have work to do TODAY to prepare for the Kingdom So let s get to it Those potatoes aren t gonna grow all by themselves

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Wednesday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 12 39 48 Preparing the Master s Table Orthodox Liturgy Gethsemane One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people He said My son the battle is between two wolves inside us all One is Evil It is anger envy jealousy sorrow regret greed arrogance self pity guilt resentment inferiority lies false pride superiority and ego The other is Good It is joy peace love hope serenity humility kindness benevolence empathy generosity truth compassion and faith The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather Which wolf wins The old Cherokee simply replied The one you feed Today Jesus continues His discourse from yesterday s Gospel on being prepared And His message is clear Be prepared Be faithful Be vigilant And be steadfast He reminds us that we have all been called to a life of faith a life of obedience to the will of the Father And He reminds us that this will not be easy That s why Peter asks is this meant for us or for everyone The struggle to be Christian the struggle between good and evil is a constant life long battle not just one day not just one season We are all called to be faithful and prudent servants to persevere in the face of trials and temptations And admittedly there will be times when we will falter and give in to that bad wolf But we need to remember that we are not alone in this struggle The Master is always with us to guide and protect to encourage and to strengthen our resolve 33

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Thursday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 12 49 53 The Long and Winding Road Renewing Baptismal Vows Jordan River Ever made a decision that brought you nothing but grief and pain A decision that put you at odds with your family and friends even though you knew it was the right one to make Choosing to enter leave religious life or getting married or taking that job out of state It brought you only silence or anger from your family Tough decisions ones that you labored over and in the end knew they were the correct path to make Today s Gospel is a tough one to read much less understand We think back on all the times Jesus tells His disciples Peace Be With You And yet today is the complete opposite I bring division and fire pitting one family member against another We have all been baptized into the family of God into a community of love and fellowship But we live in a world that seems to value something completely different selfishness greed envy hatred and the list goes on and on Is it any wonder then that we will meet resistance push back and outright division as we seek to practice our Christian faith Nobody said it would be easy nobody said following Christ would be a walk in the park But we are reminded especially in today s first reading the reward is eternal life To be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you rooted and grounded in love may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God 34

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Friday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 12 54 59 The Sign of the Times Caesarea Mauritania on the Mediterranean Sea Today Jesus criticizes the people for not reading the signs of the times Yes you can read the signs in the sky and know we re going to have good or bad weather But you re missing the real signs the signs from God Are we really any different These days months we are so focused on the world around us Covid especially We worry about our health and that of our family and friends We stress over our finances whether we can stretch our depleted income to cover expenses We worry whether our company will survive and our employees will still have a job We worry about simple things can I travel to visit our elderly parents or can I get to that doctor appointment or is it safe for the family to gather for Thanksgiving We stress over the violence and political unrest in the world So much worry We worry about our life and our livelihood So focused on the here and now on the physical cultural and economic side and rightly so But what about the spiritual world Are we losing sight of that St Paul reminds us in the first reading not to lose faith or patience We are all one body and one Spirit one faith and one Baptism one God and Father of all who is in all and through all Don t lose faith don t lose patience Take some time today step aside from the cares of this world and place those concerns into the hands of the Father Whether we realize it or not none of us walks this life alone Great Spirit walk with me today Remind me of your constant presence and guidance as I face this new day and its constant worries 35

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Saturday Twenty Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 13 1 9 Repentance and Mercy Sycamore Tree Jericho Repentance is downright difficult No one is comfortable admitting that they are at fault that they have stumbled and sinned Repentance requires honesty and humility especially if we are admitting it to someone else Too often as in today s Gospel we prefer to focus on the faults of others and not our own And it takes us back to when we were kids it s not my fault it s his Shifting the blame and pointing the finger at someone else In the end what we are doing is essentially trying to point the finger away from ourselves Repentance demands that we examine ourselves critically accept that we are fallible and that change in our lives is necessary It reminds us that without seeking forgiveness we remain stuck in our spiritual life unable to move forward to grow and to welcome the Spirit back into our lives Jesus closes today s Gospel with the story of the fig tree It is a reminder to us of God s infinite mercy Picture Jesus here as the gardener not willing to cut the tree down constantly believing that there is still hope still life in what seems to be dead Yes repentance is difficult but God reminds us that His forgiveness His mercy is endless if we only have the courage and the honesty to face our faults recognize our sinfulness and ask for His forgiveness Growth is a painful process Great Spirit guide my growth today and give me the courage to face my pain and ease my fear 36

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Sunday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 22 34 40 Send in the Lawyers St Stephen Church of Dormition Last Sunday the Pharisees continued their attempts at trying to trap Jesus by asking if they should pay the Roman temple tax They fail miserably when Jesus produces a coin and tells them to give to man what belongs to man and give to God what belongs to God Today they try again this time they send in the lawyers asking a seemingly simple question what law is the greatest Seems simple enough until you realize that in the Torah there are a total of 613 separate laws 613 Every faithful Jew then and now knows that to be true Let me give a visual here it s a daily reminder to Jews of these 613 laws This is a Jewish prayer shawl a tallit It is worn by Jewish men every time they pray If you notice there are a lot of tassels and knots If you were to count them all up it would total 613 So symbolically whenever they pray they wrap the Law around them it shelters them protects them And pulling it over your head is a reminder that the Law comes from God So what is Jesus to do which of the 613 does He pick None of them His answer you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul and all your mind Technically it isn t a law per se But He doesn t stop there He adds a second you shall your neighbor as yourself Again technically it is NOT a law However both of those statements are in the Torah both of them are familiar to the Pharisees and Sadducees and the lawyers The first one is part of the Shema a Jewish prayer normally the first one taught to a Jewish child much like we teach our kids the Our Father or Hail Mary Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One And you shall love the Lord our God with all your heart all your soul and all your mind And the second commandment comes from Leviticus admonishing the Jews on how they should treat foreigners So what s going on Jesus is giving them AND US not a new law but the REASON we follow the law Why should we not kill or steal or cheat or lie Why shouldn t I be envious or angry or unforgiving Why can t I be selfish and ignore the plight of others Because of LOVE 37

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We all know that to be true Just consider the people we love our family our friends Wouldn t you do anything for them Wouldn t you do anything to keep them happy and safe Don t you do your best to be honest and caring open and gentle with them And yet we are only human and at times we still do stumble and fall We do get angry or dishonest And when it happens we are so upset so apologetic so guilty and thirsty for forgiveness to make amends and heal the relationship I know I told this story before but it bears repeating this morning Many years ago my little sister and I were doing yard work for my mom And for some reason I got upset with her and threw this pair of clippers at her They hit her hard enough to stick and draw blood My mom got her into the house and laid her down on the bed as they waited for the ambulance to come and check her out She was crying and in pain and I am sure scared And here I was standing outside the door crying as well All I wanted was to go in and tell her how sorry I was for what I did Even though she probably wanted nothing to do with me at the time my mom convinced her to let me come in and apologize otherwise she worried she would have two kids for the EMs to check out Love Love of God and love of neighbor All of the commandments draw their meaning and purpose from LOVE In this world of violence and hatred where the world seems to categorize people by gender race religion and nationality we risk the temptation of compartmentalizing love devoting ourselves to love of God but not our neighbor Or we choose to narrow our definition of neighbor and love some and not others But the choice is not either or We are called to love to love God and our neighbor May we always be a people of love witnessing to the Gospel and sharing God s love with all around us 38

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Monday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 13 10 17 Standing Tall Yesterday someone told me we have an election next week Really It would be impossible not to realize that what with all the ads mailings lawn signs phone calls and newspaper articles And then there are all the public service announcements that simply say VOTE Stand up Make your vote count It s one of those opportunities as a citizen to let your voice be heard And millions of people have already answered the call and voted early But what about other times in our life when we had the opportunity to stand up for something to make a difference to profess our faith Maybe we stood our ground against a bully Or we saw an injustice and we called out for a change Or it could be as simple as just being an honest person when someone unknowingly drops a 20 bill on the ground But what about standing up for our faith What about a time when we professed our belief our love for God In today s Gospel Jesus heals a woman who has been bent over and crippled for 18 years And His critics bitterly berate Him for healing her on the Sabbath a day dedicated to the Lord a day of prayer and no work And yet I think the key line is this whole passage is this She stood up straight and glorified God After all those years of immobility her first thought is to praise God And not just anywhere This happened in the synagogue a place where women had no voice no role at all It speaks to us not only of her faith but her courage She stood up and let her voice her faith be heard She made her faith count You know just about the very first song I ever learned to play on my guitar was They ll know We Are Christians By Our Love The lyrics just seem to fit today We will walk with each other we will walk hand in hand We will walk with each other we will walk hand in hand And together we ll spread the news that God is in our land We will work with each other we will work side by side We will work with each other we will work side by side And we ll guard each man s dignity and save each man s pride And they ll know we are Christians by our love by our love yes they ll know we are Christians by our love So remember to vote if you haven t already done so Have the courage to speak the truth and stand up to that bully And stand tall and let your FAITH be heard 39

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Tuesday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 13 18 21 That s A Lot of Bread Open Market Jerusalem I checked my freezer this morning and it is full Not comfortably full it is crammed to the top and hold your horses FULL If there is one positive element to this pandemic it s that it has sharpened and increased my baking skills At last count there are a couple dozen loaves of zucchini bread three zucchini date cakes six batches of zucchini chocolate chip muffins and eight packages of grated zucchini just waiting to be put to use And that doesn t even include the two loaves of bread I bake every week Quite an abundance Feeling hungry All of that came to mind when I read today s Gospel parable about the woman and the yeast It seems simple enough right But by now we should know that Jesus parables are anything but simple three measures of flour so that s about three cups of flour pretty much what I use to make two loaves of bread Right Hardly Three measures of flour are the equivalent of 60 pounds of flour That s 144 cups of flour which can then make 72 loaves of bread I m sorry but I don t have the energy much less the space to bake that much bread As abundant as my baking products have been over the past seven months they are still nowhere near what this parable is talking about But maybe that is the point abundance The Kingdom of God is far beyond our comprehension richer more satisfying more plentiful than we can possibly imagine And like the woman in the parable such a reward demands much of us in preparation Patience Hard work A firm commitment to time and a recognition that all that kneading will bring us some pain as we work toward that goal Are we ready Are we willing Then what are we waiting for Let s get baking 40

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Wednesday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 12 16 Hey Jude Renewal of Baptism Vows Jordan River Today we celebrate the Feasts of Sts Simon and Jude Apostles Simon but not Simon Peter Jude but not Judas Except for Simon being called a Zealot and Jude speaking to Jesus at the Last Supper we have very little details about their life and mission One apocryphal text has them preaching and being martyred in Persia So what do we have Jesus spent the night on the mountain to pray He calls each of the Twelve by name And he gives them a mission to be apostles to hear His words and teachings and then to spread that same word Sounds a lot like Baptism Hopefully those of us who are parents spent time praying and preparing for the Baptism of our children reflecting on the meaning of becoming a child of God and the demands of raising that child in the faith teaching them and praying with them Then at the beginning of the Rite the priest deacon asks what name do you give your child And then he calls them by name and welcomes them And then the mission Parents and godparents are reminded of their responsibility to raise their child in the faith They are called to renew their Baptismal promises to believe in God and to reject Satan and all his works The child is given a new white garment blessed with sacred oils as strength for the journey and the parents are given a candle to be kept burning bright so that their child may be enlightened by Christ And so today as we celebrate the moment when Simon and Jude were called by name and given their mission let s also reflect on our own Baptism where God called us by name to be His adopted child to live in the light and to spread the Word 41

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Thursday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 13 31 35 Fear is the Mind Killer Along the Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Wow Now this is different some Pharisees are actually concerned for Jesus safety And they are warning Him to stay away from Jerusalem because Herod wants Him dead But Jesus is not deterred He is not afraid He is determined to continue on His mission and will soon come to Jerusalem where He knows He will be put to death like so many other prophets I am a sci fi fanatic Star Trek Star Wars you name it I even nerd that I am have a Star Trek uniform perfect for Halloween when I answer the door That devotion also extends to literature And my all time favorite sci fi book is Dune by Frank Herbert Throughout that book and the entire series the hero Paul Atreides has a mantra that he recites in moments of trial and doubt I must not fear Fear is the mind killer Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration I will face my fear I will permit it to pass over me and through me And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path Where the fear has gone there will be nothing Only I will remain We all have fears things and moments of sheer dread that can freeze our actions and cause doubt in our minds Sometimes it can be so overwhelming that it cripples our ability to think and to move forward But fear and anxiety particularly in this time of pandemic do not have to rule our lives Jesus today shows us that faith in God faith in Him can lead us through any trial any obstacle He faces His own death He faces the cross and He still moves forward to Jerusalem He knows that death and suffering are not the end of the story just a sad moment along the way to the Kingdom and the Kingdom is forever So whatever concerns we carry with us today let us face them with courage and hope and faith 42

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Friday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 14 1 6 Choices When was the last time you walked past or ignored someone who was obviously in need Maybe it was back in high school and someone was sitting in a corner crying their eyes out and we walked right past without even making eye contact Nope nope not my problem keep moving on Or that obviously distressed driver with the flat tire and they looked utterly clueless about how to proceed Nope I ve got things to do and places to go leave it to someone else Not my day to be Christian I ve got more important things to accomplish Let s not even use the word kind It s about doing or saying the right thing especially when it matters the most There are choices to be made in today s Gospel reading some obvious and some not so much The obvious one is whether to cure the man with dropsy or not For Jesus this is not even a choice He made it clear to us in Sunday s Gospel the greatest commandments are Love God and Love Neighbor And He acts accordingly Besides do you really want to call helping someone WORK Is it really work to be charitable and ease someone s distress or suffering The other choice here is the Pharisees response or lack of response to Jesus question Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath Follow the letter of the Law or the Law of Love And their response Silence nothing but the sound of crickets They were too concerned with outward appearances what their fellow Pharisees would think Too worried about their reputation and social standing that they wouldn t even say a single word Nope nope not me not here not now They were more concerned with others opinions and not with their needs We face similar choices every day Too often we tell ourselves we are too busy too rushed too worried about how it would look Too often we are like the Pharisees just sitting there observing life and hardships around us and not taking any action waiting for someone else to act first But the choices keep coming the opportunities to be and act Christian present themselves every single day God does not give up on us to do the right thing Great Spirit give us the wisdom the fortitude the faith to choose rightly today 43

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Saturday Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 14 1 7 11 Humble Pie Via Dolorosa Jerusalem We live in a very narcissistic selfish ME society these days We see it on the news in ads in movies and in so many random interactions at the store or in line for food There is this singular drive to be 1 to be the best teacher athlete politician to have the most power or possessions the biggest house and the most adulation to have less wrinkles and more money And apparently it is all at the expense of others it doesn t matter who I have to step on or use to get there It s all about ME We see it in today s parable Someone so full of themselves thinks they deserve the place of honor at a wedding banquet the best seat in the house where all can see how important and special they are And then the humiliation when someone more important arrives and they are relegated to a lower spot How embarrassing when we let our pride and self importance get in the way What s missing here The virtue of humility and the realization that I should put the needs of others above my own That we are called to serve others not to be served It takes us back to the Last Supper where Jesus puts on the towel of a servant and proceeds to wash the feet of the Apostles and then challenges them to make that their mission to serve God and to serve others to make others needs more important than our own 44 It s a different kind of Halloween we celebrate today So be kind and generous to the little ones They are also having a tough time dealing with isolation and e learning and separation from their friends Think of them today and give them something to smile about

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Sunday Solemnity of All Saints Gospel Matthew 5 1 12A Change That Attitude Young Man Church of the Beatitudes Sea of Galilee Let me tell you a story There was a young man taking his last class to earn his MBA He was a very conscientious student and pretty much breezed through all his assignments and tests at least until his final exam He easily got through all the questions until he got to the last page the last question What s the first name of the woman who cleans the school What Is this some sort of joke He knew he saw her pretty much every day He knew she was probably in her 50 s darkhaired and tall But her name not a clue So he turned in the final leaving that last question blank And before he left the classroom he asked the professor if that last question really counted Absolutely said the professor and here s why In your career throughout your life you will meet many people Every single one of them is important significant worth knowing They deserve your attention and your care even if all you do is smile and say hi When you think about it this is not just a story about changing our actions it s about changing our attitude We already know the 10 Commandments rules for our actions But we also know that there have been plenty of times when we DID the right thing but not always for the right reasons We clean our room do our homework go to work rake the leaves and speak the truth But too often it s because we have to because we were told to and we were afraid of what would happen if we didn t We did the right thing but grudgingly 45

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Over the past few weeks Jesus has been making the same point Do we need to do the right thing Yes absolutely But we need to do it for the right reasons As we saw last week we do it out of LOVE So do the right thing for the right reasons and today do it with the right attitude That is what the Beatitudes are all about Whenever I would cover the Beatitudes in my Scripture classes I would always tell my students that these are not B attitudes These need to be A attitudes Yeah I know corny but still effective We need to adopt a Christian attitude an attitude that s the complete opposite of today s society We are called to be merciful meek poor in spirit recognizing that we are dependent on God We are called to be peacemakers clean of heart comforters peacemakers hungry for justice and righteousness What we are given in today s Gospel are our marching orders to go forth with the right attitude those qualities expressed in the Beatitudes The same qualities that we celebrate today on the Feast of All Saints qualities demonstrated in the lives of those we call saints Will it be difficult Sometimes seemingly impossible Absolutely But let me tell you a little secret we are all called to be saints Every single one of us I know what you re going to say no no not me No way that I can get to the height that some of these saints like Mother Theresa St Augustine St Francis reached No way So let me tell you another little secret every saint has a past And every sinner has a future How about we let that percolate a bit today in our minds and hearts And let it be a reminder that we are called to direct our actions our motivations and our attitudes in faith and in service to our Father in Heaven 46

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Monday All Souls Day Gospel John 6 37 40 Remembering Our Dear Departed Dad And this is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose anything of what he gave me but that I should raise it on the last day For this is the will of my Father that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life and I shall raise him on the last day We commemorate today All Souls Day with thoughts and prayers for all the faithful departed our family members and friends who have gone before us in faith We also remember and pray for those 230 000 Americans who have lost their lives during this pandemic In their memory I offer a very personal and prayerful memory of my Dad in the words of the eulogy I gave at his passing in 2004 I read of a man recently who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end He noted that first came her birth and then he noted the following date with tears But he said that what mattered the most was the DASH between those years For the DASH represents all the time she spent on this earth and only those who really loved her knew the worth of that DASH We come to celebrate the DASH of Will Frere We are his wife his daughters and sons his brothers and sisters and his grandchildren We are the family and friends of a man who grew up in a family of seven brothers and two sisters on a farm In its heyday it was a 500 acre farm with a machine shop granary chicken houses stables cattle barns and a mill for grinding their own cornmeal and feed for the animals They raised tobacco and corn and Durham cattle and Percheron horses that were exhibited at the Chicago World s Fair Exhibition It was a life without electricity or indoor plumbing The only concession to modern home appliances was a gasoline powered washing machine to do the clothes When he was 16 his father died suddenly from a heart attack From that day on Will s life as a child ended and he began his responsibilities as the man of the family My grandmother Mom Mom became postmistress of the Tompkinsville Post Office and bought the little country store where the post office was housed 47

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Will began working in that store at the age of 16 and retired from that same store over 50 years later It was part gas station part ice cream stand part deli and liquor store supermarket and local gathering spot After hours it was also home for a long string of brotherly games of poker and pitch During all those 50 some years he ran the store on his own hardly ever took a vacation working roughly from 5 in the morning to 10 at night at least 6 days a week During the school year we basically say him only at dinnertime for about an hour In the last 10 years of the store s existence he was also doing double duty as the postmaster taking over after Mom Mom passed away And yet in spite of all the hardships somehow out of that tiny little store he managed to put all four of us through high school and college I have yet to figure out how he managed to accomplish it He is husband father grandfather greatgrandfather to be brother friend and counselor He was a man of few words but great acts of kindness He cared deeply worked tirelessly suffered quietly He would literally give the shirt off his back for anyone in need and expected nothing in return He was a man of gentleness and devotion willing to sacrifice all for his family but also not afraid to lay down the law when necessary He is quite simply the patriarch of the family for us his children and for his brothers and sisters In many ways he is father to us all He willingly took on the burdens and responsibilities of the entire family his friends and his neighbors I can t begin to tell you how many times I remember him re opening the store for someone in need of a quart of milk or lending an ear to someone in need of counsel doing taxes for a neighbor providing groceries to tide someone over til their next paycheck and shuttling back and forth down the road to give people rides to the church dedication last Sunday Even today he remains my moral compass He had a dry wry sense of humor where you could never really tell whether or not he was kidding you Too often in the past few years I have caught myself in the middle of a joke and realize that I sound just like Dad I have become my father and that is such a good thing Growing up we learned to lose at pitch and Chinese checkers Every visit home was marked by marathon card games there was no such thing as playing just one game after he won the first he always led you to believe you had a fighting chance the second time around to even the score and then he would demolish you even worse than before We learned to stock shelves pump gas cut grass burn trash and give change for a 20 bill Dad told me the last time we talked how he regretted we didn t have much time together that the store took so much time that we didn t have as many moments together as other fathers and sons I reminded him that because of the store I got to see him each and every day more often than most other sons and that I got to work alongside him 48

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And then there were the endless games of softball on Sundays quick trips over to the store to get something Mom needed and also to grab some ice cream and the early morning runs to Washington for supplies for the store which always included a big breakfast at the diner on the way home And there was also his utter refusal to go anywhere without his hat some toothpicks cough drops and a little spiral notebook his ability to turn any car ride into an historical tour of the county and the countless walks in the woods sometimes returning with some rather oddly shaped Christmas trees And when the store closed he quickly and smoothly shifted into a different rolecook and master gardener and nurse when mom wasn t able to do all she was used to In a way it was like he saw it as his turn to be caregiver to mom in return for all the years she was cook and nurse for us I am my father s son I have learned to respect Dad as the rock on which our family was founded And I love my Dad for his warmth and affection the heartfelt hugs we always greeted each other with these past few years Legal documents say Mom and Dad had four children two boys and two girls The records are wrong We are in a sense all his children We have all been touched by his love his devotion his acts of selflessness We his family and friends are his living legacy As he has done so often in the past he has taken a difficult path without complaint but with firm resolve with confidence and grace the path to the next life in heaven He has shown us the way to get there by the life he led we need only to follow in his steps in his example to be responsible caring individuals who demonstrate in their daily life that family and friends are important and that actions really do speak louder than words April 12 1922 DASH February 10 2004 Dad thank you for the dash in your life and for the difference it has made in our lives as well May we be as proud of our dash as we are of yours Your Son Bill 49

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Tuesday Thirty First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 14 15 24 RSVP Lunch Old City Jerusalem Today s Gospel story of the Great Feast should be very familiar we just heard Matthew s version a couple of Sundays ago Back then we focused on the guests some who came unprepared and many who refused to attend But today let s turn our attention to the host We have all hosted great dinners celebrations of engagements graduations birthdays and holidays We are now a little over 3 weeks away from Thanksgiving In our house in a normal year that would mean the cleaning has begun not to mention the planning of the menu and the grocery lists We all know the time and the effort necessary to pull off a great Thanksgiving dinner So imagine all the details and logistics the man in the parable must have gone through to prepare his great feast And nobody came Nobody came Was he upset Yes of course But notice that he didn t just pack everything up shut the doors and turn out the lights He went ahead with the dinner and invited even more people essentially everyone Consider what this says about the man about God The feast is always prepared the table is always set and the doors are always open Some will refuse to come but ALL are invited This parable speaks to us of God s infinite love and compassion He doesn t give us only one chance to respond to His call the opportunity exists on a daily basis Accepting the invitation is not always easy but it is always there Even in a time of pandemic of social and political unrest and deep personal concern at a time when we may not be able to gather with our extended family for a Thanksgiving meal God continues to invite us to His feast May God grant us the strength and the grace to respond to His invitation 50

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Wednesday Memorial of St Charles Borromeo Gospel Luke 14 25 33 It s Gonna Take Some Effort Church of Holy Sepulchre There are no rosy words or real comforting remarks in today s Gospel Jesus makes it very clear being Christian demands effort and sacrifice This is not a hobby or some weekend pastime It takes preparation work and making your spiritual life a priority It resonates with the life of today s saint Charles Borromeo Even though he came from a very wealthy and influential family as a Bishop he donated most of his wealth to charity He lived a sparse life devoid of frills and luxury even though most bishops at the time lived a life of excess He gave up riches power and influence to become poor like his flock During the plague he fed tens of thousands of people on a daily basis he tended to the sick and dying He was a model of Jesus words in today s Gospel Obviously our minds and hearts continue to be focused on the outcome of yesterday s election process We remain glued to the TV or radio trying to make sense of what the future holds for our country But God also reminds us in today s responsorial psalm not to be afraid and to remember our real priority our relationship with God The LORD is my light and my salvation whom should I fear The LORD is my life s refuge of whom should I be afraid Great Spirit teach me today to walk in prayer and to keep my faith strong 51

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Thursday Thirty First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 15 1 10 Lost and Found Fields Near the Dead Sea Have you ever lost something something really important like your wallet wedding ring or checkbook It s not a fun feeling I remember sitting at my desk on the phone with a good friend and it suddenly dawned on me where s my cellphone So I frantically scour my desk all the drawers the floor my pockets all while I m trying to focus on the phone call And only then do I realize the cell is right in my hand it s what I m using for my phone call We hear of something else lost in today s Gospel a little sheep The parable speaks to us of what an amazing and unusual Shepherd God really is No true shepherd would ever leave 99 all by themselves just to find one single sheep Without a shepherd to guide them they would all wander off by themselves And in the process of looking for one sheep the other 99 would get lost But God is not a normal shepherd He cares about each and every one of us and He will never leave us alone or lost We all get lost sometimes we lose our way we lose sight of what s important and precious we struggle in the darkness of our own stresses and fears But God reminds us today that we are each precious to Him more precious than any possession even a cellphone Trust in Him know that even in the darkness He will find you comfort you and bring you back home Great Spirit let me walk in the stillness and always feel Your presence by my side 52

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Friday Thirty First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 16 1 8 Payback without Interest I have to admit this parable has always confused me It seems as if a dishonest steward ends up being congratulated and rewarded for forgiving debts to his master Why should the master be happy to now be owed less measures of olive oil or wheat Doesn t he come out of this forgiveness with less than he started Isn t that what s going on here Hmm well maybe not The steward at the time of Jesus is essentially a business manager he takes care of all the finances and business transaction making sure that the master earns a profit But the steward has to earn a living too so with any loan he adds in fees or extra interest to make his commission So now the master has learned that the steward has been cooking the books He has been stealing from the master s property and wealth from what he already owns And the master plans to fire him The steward then goes off and forgives lessens the debt that others owe his master What he is actually forgiving is his own commission and fees The master loses nothing the steward loses all his fees for the loans No payback No interest Granted he is not doing this for the best of reasons his own job his own self interest But he does realize what he has done and how he has hurt his relationship with his master And he deliberately chooses to punish himself for his misdeeds He goes to great lengths to give up his own profit What has the master lost Nothing What has he gained A faithful servant We all know how to finagle a good deal how to get the best price for something we feel we really need We scour the web for coupons for the vendor with the cheapest price Anything to save a few dollars That s a lot of time and energy How much more time and energy then should we exert in serving our Master Should we not be giving Our Father our greatest energy our best effort the most of our time in the hope that when we finally come before Him for an accounting of our labors we do so with humility and grace 53

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Saturday Thirty First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 16 9 15 Money Can t Buy Me Love One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family After their return from the trip the father asked his son how he liked the trip It was great Dad the son replied Did you see how poor people can be the father asked Oh Yeah said the son So what did you learn from the trip asked the father The son answered I saw that we have one dog and they had four We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight We have servants who serve us but they serve others We buy our food but they grow theirs We have walls around our property to protect us they have friends to protect them The boy s father was speechless Then his son added It showed me just how poor we really are There is one phrase in today s Gospel that really stands out for me You cannot serve God and mammon Mammon is literally wealth but it is wealth taken to the extreme to the point where money is all that matters And as life goes on it can lead to selfishness greed envy dishonesty and even violence In and of itself wealth is not inherently evil but it can mess up our priorities and make us forget what is truly important what is truly life giving The lesson here is about choice We cannot serve two masters Do we fool ourselves into thinking that all the little things in this world matter the most Or do we choose to serve God Do we realize that in serving God we place a higher value on the virtues of love human dignity honesty and truthfulness Do we recognize that all the things in this world come from Him and that they are merely tools and not ends in themselves Yes I do need that 5 bill to get my grande mocha for the day But maybe the tip I leave for the barista who is struggling to make ends meet speaks more of what s really important in our lives as Christians love of God and love of neighbor 54

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Sunday Thirty Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 25 1 13 Tough Love Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Anybody have one of those friends someone who always seems to be in trouble or in need Someone who always runs to you for help for money for solutions for bail or maybe even an alibi And out of friendship out of love you always help them out I mean face it isn t that the Christian thing to do I think that s what s happening today in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins The foolish ones are asking for help give us some of your oil But the wise ones say NO What How rude How unkind How unfriendly How un Christian Aren t these the wise virgins Why aren t they helping But perhaps that is exactly the point Sometimes you have to say no sometimes you have to practice a bit of tough love Sometimes foolish friends become too dependent on you to always come to their rescue They expect there will always be a safety net But sooner or later they have to learn to stand on their own two feet make their own decisions and take responsibility Sometimes maybe the most Christian thing we can do is not solve all their problems but give them the opportunity to resolve them themselves I don t mean we abandon them or leave them stranded I mean we still love and support them but we provide the opportunity for them to direct their own lives We give them the chance to pick themselves up and carry on Face it when we finally stand before God we will only be carrying our own lamps our own oil 55

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An old man has been standing in line at the pearly gates for so long when he gets to the front he can t remember his name for St Peter to look up in the Big Book Peter doesn t know what to do so he gets Jesus to help him figure it out Jesus says Tell us about your life maybe that will jog your memory The old man says Well I only had one child a son Jesus smiles and says Heh I was an only child too Go on The man says I was a some kind of woodworker or carpenter something like that Jesus is like Huh that s another coincidence Anything else you can remember The man shakes his head a bit and says You may not believe this but my son he was brought to life through a miracle Jesus jaw drops he smiles and tears come to his eyes Father The old man s eyes open wide Pinocchio While humorous this does project a heartwarming reunion awaiting us at the gates of heaven What we hear at the end of today s Gospel however is anything but heartwarming What is most troubling in this parable is the very end when the Bridegroom has shut the door and the foolish virgins come knocking And his response I don t know you Imagine that moment when we each individually stand before God What will be His response Will He recognize us Someone once offered this thought What if being a Christian was against the law Would there be enough evidence to convict us We have all been invited to the wedding feast But it is not the time for us to just sit idly by and wait for the feast to begin It is not the time to wait for someone else to make our preparations for us It is not a time for us to fall asleep and end up being caught unaware and unprepared Jesus message is clear the kingdom is coming and we are called right here and right now to live that Kingdom here on earth by being generous and forgiving by being honest with others and ourselves by living in faith and love for God and each other God grant us the wisdom and the humility to serve You in our daily lives 56

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Monday Dedication of St John Lateran Basilica Gospel John 2 13 22 Temples of God We celebrate today the Feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran Basilica in Rome Dedicated in 324 AD the Basilica is the cathedral of Rome the official seat of the Bishop of Rome and the mother of all churches throughout the world It is the first public building granted to Christians as a worship site by Constantine It is quite unusual that we have a feast day honoring an object as opposed to a person I can only think of one other Feast of the Chair of St Peter Today s Gospel reflects on another religious object the Temple in Jerusalem It was the center of Jewish life at the time of Jesus it was a place to gather and worship for all major feasts and celebrations The very life of a Jew revolved around this magnificent house of prayer and sacrifice From birth to coming of age to remembrance of Passover to celebrations of harvest and Days of Atonement it drew the people together as one and reminded them of God s constant love and protection Even today while the Temple no longer exists people still gather at the Western Wall the base of the Temple Mount to offer prayers both silent and written The Basilica stands today as a symbol of the living Church the Christian community It is reminder that our faith is universal and our Church exists across time and in all places It stands as our spiritual home a place where our spiritual family gathers to worship to pray to partake in the sacraments and to encounter the love of God That may be difficult for us to grasp and appreciate these days Yes our churches are open but Masses and sacraments are limited and attendance has become controlled and small Quite rightly many people are still in fear during this time of pandemic and we remain homebound watching Mass on TV We are missing that communal element of our worship and prayer life and we may feel alone and perhaps even abandoned But consider the history of St John Lateran Consider all the wars and fires and social upheaval that it has witnessed And it not only witnessed but SURVIVED Perhaps that is our lesson for today we will survive the Church will survive our faith will survive This is a difficult time we live in a time of fear and loss and separation But God has not abandoned us In fact He reminds us daily that each one of us is a Temple of God and the Spirit dwells within us Great Spirit keep my faith strong help me to walk in prayer and in faith 57

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Tuesday Memorial of St Leo the Great Gospel Luke 17 7 10 Service With A Smile Over the last five years or so my wife and I have gotten into a pretty consistent routine Every Sunday night we would sit down and look at the calendar for the week The goal To see if there were any nights when we would both be home for dinner Most weeks that translated to one night maybe two if we were lucky Otherwise it was dinner for one or dinner on the run as we navigated various meetings services RCIA Baptismal Prep etc And that doesn t even include all that we do as spouses and as parents cooking cleaning helping with homework shuttling the kids grandkids to school and practice checking up on the parents grandparents grocery shopping and playing nurse when the kids are sick And then on March 15 2020 everything shut down and we faced a new reality Up until then we were slaves to our calendars always double checking what we were doing and very often wondering how we could squeeze in one more activity And then the schedule cleared everything was canceled We weren t alone all of us in some way felt like the train had stopped suddenly and we were all stuck in the passenger car Up until then we were like the servant in today s Gospel There was always something more to be done more tasks to accomplish as a worker as a spouse as a parent There was always more work than time in the day to get it all done Too often we approached the day and our calendar with a sense of duty and responsibility and nothing more But hopefully these past 13 months have given us all the time to step back and evaluate and yes appreciate all we have been doing Hopefully it has allowed us to remember that we are all not slaves but servants Hopefully it reminds us that in all we do we do it out of love Jesus calls us all today to live out our faith in service to God and to others We are all called to be true servants and true disciples May this pause in the hectic mad rush of the modern world give us the chance to reflect and appreciate all that we do so that when the train starts up again we jump back in with renewed spirit and energy 58

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Wednesday Memorial of St Martin of Tours Gospel Luke 17 11 19 A Simple Gift A Simple Thank You Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth The closer we get to a holiday whether it s Memorial Day Mothers Day or even Christmas the more I am reminded of one simple thing from my childhood It s not putting up the Christmas decorations or shopping for the tree it s not even Christmas morning and opening the presents No it s the thank yous we were expected to make Whether it was Christmas day and we were shuttled to the phone to thank the relatives for the presents or it was the thank you cards we had to write out Whatever form the child in me always felt put out that I had to step away from all those wonderful new presents and say thank you Times change of course and we all realize the importance of saying thank you much less hearing those words from someone we love and cherish A simple thank you That s all that was dare I say expected after Jesus cured the ten lepers in today s Gospel Given how lepers were shunned at the time Jesus basically gifted them with a new life a chance to return to their family and friends and start anew Was that too much to ask Were they just so caught up in the gift that they forgot a simple act of gratitude Maybe we at times are not all that different We pray to God so often and FOR so many things healing peace wisdom patience understanding and even financial security But too often I think we forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving of gratitude for His presence in our lives for answering our prayers That one leper a Samaritan is the only one who returned to thank Jesus And it wasn t a simple handshake or a nod of the head or just a simple thank you His gratitude was life changing He fell down on his knees praising God in a loud voice and thanked Jesus May our prayers of thanksgiving gratitude always be as fervent and heart felt as our prayers of petition 59

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Thursday Memorial of St Josaphat Gospel Luke 17 20 25 Right in Front of Your Nose Church of the Beatitudes Galilee Ever have one of those days weeks months when everything seems out of whack it s all a little off On top of it all you keep losing things eyeglasses wallet or watch And that s not the bad part the bad part is when you do find them they were right there in front of you all the time Sheesh how did I miss that All that time and effort and stress looking for them and they were right in plain sight We can get so distracted by the world around us that we miss what we were looking for in the first place The Pharisees are back in today s Gospel asking more questions and this time Jesus is especially patient and doesn t scold them They want to know when is the Kingdom coming Do we check the sky for a sign or is it here or there Jesus quite calmly explains the Kingdom isn t coming it s already here It is right in front of you and you just don t see it 60 In fact the Kingdom is not just something or some event that is out there waiting for us to find it It isn t something that we can just observe or point to The Kingdom just IS Perhaps we spend too much time looking all over for it and we miss the point Perhaps instead of searching we need to sometimes stop and leave ourselves open to receive the Gospel message to accept that the Kingdom is right here right now if we only have the eyes of faith

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Friday Memorial of St Frances Xavier Cabrini Gospel Luke 17 26 37 Ready or Not Church at Capernaum I think we can all agree that we are overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world political and social unrest the threat of disease depression and worry about our health and that of our loved ones the prospect of celebrating the holidays without the whole family gathered together How do we even prepare for today much less tomorrow in such a troublesome situation How do we keep our balance much less our sanity How do we keep the faith How do we continue to hope Today s Gospel offers us a very stark image of the Second Coming Whether it s on the roof or in the field or in the house one will be taken and one will be left behind It is a reminder to us not to get too focused on this life and then lose sight of the next Not to obsess over earthly possessions and human concerns and forget about the Creator behind it all Keep the faith Remain hopeful Keep your spiritual priorities We celebrate today the feast of Mother Cabrini a pioneer in providing education and social services to the poor the sick the orphaned and the immigrant She was the first U S citizen to be canonized a saint Throughout her life she labored to meet the human and physical needs to the poor and disadvantaged But she did so with a firm faith in God and a belief that He was directing her ministry She kept her feet firmly on the ground and her heart directed to the Father We do not know the day or the hour All we can do is keep the faith remain hopeful and life a life of love for those around us And through it all we pray for the wisdom to see God at work in the world 61

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Saturday Thirty Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 18 1 8 Persistence Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth Back when I was in grade school I remember my mom taking us shopping for school clothes And as we were walking through the store I noticed this sweater and I decided I had to have it So I nagged I pleaded I yelled I cried I threw an awful tantrum until my mom gave in and bought the sweater It was bright red I mean it could have glowed in the dark And I ended up wearing it only a couple of times before relegating it to the back of my closet It was in the end a complete waste of time and money But I was persistent Today s Gospel tells us of the story of the widow and the unjust judge of her persistence in getting a just verdict We are all called to proclaim the Gospel We are all called to proclaim it persistently Our faith demands persistence and perseverance A dear friend of ours passed away a few years ago after battling cancer for over 12 years She was humble courageous strong loving and devoted to her family and she had a constant faith in her God She was persistent in her faith through it all Ginger calls her a hero She had every right to get angry to rage at God and at the cards she was dealt But she never had a cross word she was patient and kind always looking out for everyone else Even when she was about to enter the hospital for obviously the final time she gathered her family together told them over and over again that she loved them and told them NOT to worry about her she had already given herself to God While many of us will never face that sort of struggle we all have our trials and tribulations our crosses to bear and like the widow we are all called by God to be persistent to persevere in our faith to proclaim the Gospel every day of our life whether it s convenient or not whether we feel like it or not 62 And so we all pray that the words of the Gospel the living word of God may always be in our thoughts on our lips and in our hearts

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Sunday Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 25 14 30 Using Our Talents Wisely An elderly carpenter was ready to retire He told his employer contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family He would miss the paycheck but he needed to retire They could get by The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor The carpenter said yes but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials It was an unfortunate way to end his career When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house the contractor handed the front door key to the carpenter This is your house he said my gift to you What a shock What a shame If he had only known he was building his own house he would have done it all so differently Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well So it is with us We build our lives in a distracted way reacting rather than acting willing to put up less than the best At important points we do not give the job our best effort Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built If we had realized that we would have done it differently Just like that carpenter every day we build our own house we build our lives Every day we hammer a nail set up a wall or paint a room And sometimes we don t do a very good job We get lazy we get forgetful and distracted And some days we just give up thinking we don t have the will or the right tools for the job Sometimes we doubt our abilities our TALENTS And some days we just choose to take the easy path and ignore our God given gifts And other times we follow the path of those two servants who invested their talents and gained a profit They took a risk a leap of faith and saw their talents increased And what about that first servant He was afraid to lose what he had He gave in to fear instead of faith The lesson is clear In order to share the Master s joy we must use our God given talents not bury them in the sand We must work diligently and faithfully and yes sometimes even take a risk in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven Keep the faith Share the faith 63

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Monday Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 18 35 43 Open Your Eyes Pistachio the Camel Dead Sea For years we wondered why our grandson was so reluctant to dunk his head when he would go swimming Then we found out it was all because he couldn t see underwater So we got him a specialized set of googles and the world changed The family went on a vacation to Mexico and he was all about swimming and exploring underwater grottos What a change when he could finally see clearly Today s Gospel speaks a lot about sight and blindness A blind man calls out to Jesus in words that say I know you you are the Messiah In a society where sickness and disease were to be avoided and kept silent his voice rang out strong and clear And in spite of his human blindness he is the one who sees clearly because he sees with the eyes of faith And the Pharisees who have no physical illness are the ones who are really blind The Pharisees focus only on the externals the Law and not the heart But the blind man recognizes Jesus as Prophet as Lord and that faith causes him to stand up to the Pharisees and call out to Jesus We live in troubling fearful times And if we look only with our human eyes it is difficult to see much that is good or hopeful But there are plenty of signs of God working in our human condition moments where the light is beginning to shine bright moments where there is a promise of unity and healing God calls us all however to see beyond the distrust and animosity He calls us to see with the eyes of faith and hope He calls us to see His presence even when life seems cold and unforgiving and then to call out to God is a loud and strong voice Son of David have pity on me help me to see clearly 64

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Tuesday Memorial of St Elizabeth of Hungary Gospel Luke 19 1 10 From the Ridiculous to the Sublime Sycamore Tree Jericho My mom is a bit on the short side And there have been plenty of times over the years when we have been asked to get something off the top shelf in the pantry or closet something she couldn t reach Of course we did have a small step stool that she would use from time to time to do it herself And sometimes that would lead to some misadventures as she might insist on reaching for something herself So I have to wonder whether today is National Short People s Day in honor of Zacchaeus in today s Gospel Poor guy Not only was he short and probably picked on because of it But he was also a tax collector and in fact the chief tax collector So not only was he teased he was also despised by his fellow Jews for working with the Romans He was powerful and wealthy and hated for it Today s Gospel gives us this utterly ridiculous image of Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus as He is passing through Jericho Kind of reminds me of all the times I gave our daughter Jaime a piggy back ride so that she could see things better especially when we were at the zoo Zacchaeus had to know he would be laughed at and scorned even more for climbing that tree And yet he did it anyway And the result Sheer joy at the moment Jesus calls out to him and invites Himself to dinner Such joy that we witness this conversion moment where Zacchaeus promises to give away half of all he owns and repay four times anyone that he cheated Such excitement for climbing that tree Such joy at seeing the Savior Such love for giving to the poor He may have been short in stature but not in faith The challenge for us Do we go to great lengths to catch a glimpse of the Lord Do we joyfully welcome Jesus into our house into our hearts Do we recognize that our faith is more precious than any possession or wealth in this life 65

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Wednesday Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 19 11 28 Consider the Source the Giver Caesarea Philippi I remember a very elderly aunt of Ginger s who would always send us greeting cards but never on the right day An Easter card on her birthday Christmas card on the Fourth of July that sort of thing Plus when we opened the envelope out would pour an assortment of colored tissue paper neatly cut into tiny bits Did we ever say anything Of course not We understand her situation we knew she had all the best intentions And in the end we knew her heart was in the right place I am sure especially as children we all had an older relative who did something similar and we just didn t understand It took us years and experience to appreciate the effort and realize that the Giver was so much more important than the Gift itself In today s Gospel we hear a familiar story of the master going away on a journey and giving his servants gold coins to invest We have already reflected on a similar parable the talents So how about we focus today on the Giver and not the Gifts All of those servants knew their master they knew what sort of man he was and what was expected of them So for the third servant to do nothing with his gold coin speaks of someone who just didn t consider the source He didn t appreciate the Giver Perhaps that can be a source of reflection for us today 66 Do we really appreciate the Master Do we understand all the gifts that He has given us Do we appreciate all His gifts Maybe it s time for a thank you

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Thursday Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 19 41 44 Missed It By That Much Chapel of Tears Jerusalem Have you ever missed out on something big something momentous something important or one of a kind Maybe it was an historical event maybe something so breathtaking in its simplicity or so unique that it could have changed your life But you missed it Whether you were distracted or pre occupied or just day dreaming you missed it Or maybe unfortunately you were deliberately stubborn or resistant and you chose to ignore it We see Jesus today at one of His most human moments He is entering Jerusalem for what He knows is the last time His suffering and death await And when He sees the walls of the city He weeps Not for what He is about to endure not for the pain and betrayal and denial that are coming He weeps for the people for all the people who didn t recognize the time of His visitation He weeps for all those who missed out He loves us all so dearly that He is heart broken over especially those who deliberately chose to ignore the opportunity to see Him and follow Him Are we missing out today What prevents us from seeing Jesus in our life from recognizing His loving presence What obstacles are there blocking us from Him Are they removable Did we place them there ourselves What opportunities await us today that could draw us closer to Him Are we going to miss out on something life changing today because we are focused on something else much less important God help us today to see You with the eyes of faith and not miss the opportunity to feel Your love and presence 67

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Friday Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 19 45 48 Cleaning Day The Temple Mount Jerusalem Tis the Season Yes I know Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas is beckoning But for most of us this holiday season will be different and our celebrations will be shall we say muted There will be fewer family members around the dinner table less people sitting under the tree opening presents It is a holiday season that may lack a lot of the holiday spirit And my first thought was to cut back on the decorating and simplify the menu for Thanksgiving But then she who must be obeyed reminded me maybe everyone won t be gathered together like normal But that doesn t mean we shouldn t still try to make the holidays as festive as we can try to make it as normal as possible Tis the Season Yes indeed But that also means CLEANING It means cleaning the house and clearing out the clutter making room for the tree and the decorations Now I know I have done my share these past 8 months essentially cleaning each room one by one in a way I have not ever had the time to do in ages But for the holidays it means not just cleaning out but changing things up putting up the lights and the tree and the manger scene it means reminiscing and re telling the stories behind each of those special ornaments Cleaning house is not such a bad thing Jesus in today s Gospel is doing His own house cleaning Tossing out what doesn t belong and revitalizing what does prayer teaching and preaching My house is a house of prayer It is a reminder to us that we are all temples of the Holy Spirit It is a reminder that from time to time our spiritual house needs a good cleaning tidying up what needs to remain tossing out what hinders us from being a person of prayer So let s take some time this holiday season to do some spiritual house cleaning Ask ourselves what in our spiritual life is working and what needs to be discarded What needs to be rejuvenated What can we do to truly make ourselves temples of the Holy Spirit and a house of prayers 68

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Saturday Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary Gospel Luke 20 27 40 Rise and Shine Church of Dormition Jerusalem Every day of our lives sunny or cloudy stressed out or relaxed we all rise and face a new day Especially when I was little and getting ready for school I can remember always standing before my mom as she made sure I was prepped and ready for the day Shoes were shiny shirt tucked in hair combed and school bag packed She wanted to be sure we were presentable Today s Feast of the Presentation of Mary is based on an ancient tradition that says Mary was taken up to the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old and dedicated by her parents Joachim and Anna in service to God It is a recognition of Mary s holiness from conception to Assumption and her faithfulness to the will of God Today s Gospel makes it quite clear those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead They can no longer die for they are like angels and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise The Blessed Virgin certainly fits the bill As we rise to face a new day we also present ourselves before the Lord praying for faithfulness and strength to endure the trials of life Great Spirit guide me today to hear and do Your Will 69

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Sunday Feast of Christ the King Gospel Matthew 25 31 46 Sheep or Goat Caring for the Sheep Bethlehem Confession time there were a FEW times when I was little that I would get into trouble Sometimes it was for not doing my chores sometimes I wouldn t quiet down and go to sleep and sometimes I would get into disagreements with my brother or sisters There were always three possible consequences either my father s stern hand the order to go to your room or my mom s chair None of them were much fun but in many ways I preferred my dad s over the other two For the chair it meant sitting in this red metal high chair in the middle of the kitchen and to remain sitting until Mom said I could get up That was frustrating to just sit there And the same was true for go to your room In both cases the punishment was separation being apart from my brother and sisters not being able to play with them or taunt them as the case may be And that punishment was the worst being separated from your family your loved ones We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King the official end of Ordinary Time we begin the Season of Advent next weekend I imagine our image of a king involves ornate robes a crown and a throne with the loyal subjects kneeling before him a king coming in majesty at the end of time to judge the world And we do get that picture at the beginning of today s Gospel But that picture quickly switches and we are left with that of a simple shepherd A shepherd separating the sheep from the goats Say what Maybe a little background info is in order Our experience of sheep and goats is probably limited to petting farms and zoos and any of us can easily tell the difference between a sheep and a goat But that was not the case at the time of Jesus Back then they were almost identical and it was only the shepherd someone who was with them 24 7 who lived with them who cared for them it was only the shepherd who could tell the difference But why separate them Because they were so different Sheep were entirely dependent basically defenseless animals Without a shepherd they could wander off and die They need direction and protection Goats on the other hand were independent opinionated and stubborn At times they were dangerous and destructive In simple terms the shepherd protected his sheep from the environment The goatherd protected the environment from his goats 70

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Sheep are led by the shepherd they know the sound of His voice and they follow Him Goats Goats follow their own voice and the goatherd follows them So why does the Lord separate the sheep from the goats The answer lies in the rest of today s Gospel Do we hear the sound of His voice and respond accordingly Or are we stubborn and follow only our own whims Do we depend on His guidance and His protection Or do we choose to go our own way Like the shepherd who cares for his sheep do we look out for the needs of others in the spirit of today s Gospel feeding the hungry clothing the naked sheltering the stranger caring for the ill and visiting the imprisoned Or like the goats do we only look out for ourselves We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King a King like no other A king who rules with love and compassion with wisdom and grace serving His people just like a good shepherd who places the needs of his sheep over his own And as His subjects we are called to do the same To put aside our stubbornness our pride and our selfishness and respond to the needs of others That is what Our King calls us today to do to serve Him by serving others to attend to the needs of the least among us in the hope that He will welcome us all into the Kingdom 71

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Monday Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 21 1 4 Giving All They Had Anointing Stone Church of the Holy Sepulchre There s a story about a little boy whose older sister was seriously ill she desperately needed a blood transfusion but she had a rare blood type Luckily the boy had the same type So his parents asked if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister He thought about it for a minute or so and then said yes The next day the nurse began to hook up the IV to his arm and the blood slowly started to through the tubing The boy then looked up at the nurse and he asked When will I start to die He thought he had been asked to give not just his blood but his life for his sister And he said YES He was willing to give his all to give his life out of love for his sister What courage What faith What love We read in today s Gospel of a poor widow dropping two small coins into the Treasury in the Temple Like the boy she gave all she had as an offering All the donations to the Treasury went directly to the poor So consider how unusual it was for a poor widow to be seen donating back to those in need Not to mention the fact that donations to the Treasury were usually done privately not in full view of others The widow was not just making a donation she was making a statement This was a statement of faith of courage of love for others She willingly gave all she had so that someone else might benefit She clearly showed her faithfulness to God and her love for Him and her neighbor She sacrificed all her money because she trusted that God would provide for her and her needs Great Spirit give me faith Help me to realize that You are directing my life guiding me back to You and to the Kingdom of Heaven 72

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Tuesday St Andrew Dung Lac Gospel Luke 21 5 11 It s The End of the World and We Know It Every notice how many songs there are about the end of the world Skeeter Davis R E M Phil Collins and Genesis Sad songs about the end of a relationship someone hitting that nuclear red button or the feeling of just giving up Moments in time where we were convinced that the end was near And we have certainly had our moments as well terrifying storms that shook the house and made us run for the basement Or maybe it was that moment of family tragedy or personal crisis that moment that we thought we would never survive Add to that what we are experiencing today Covid pandemic a steady stream of hurricanes and devastating forest fires out west Moments of horror and pain that we tend to see as a sign of the end of the world Jesus speaks to us today about signs signs of destruction and war of the end times when not one stone will be left on top of another And He warns His disciples not to misinterpret those signs and especially not to be afraid Trust We see those signs all around us and it can lead us all down a dark road of despair and fear It can lead us to lose faith It is easy for us to fall into the trap of giving up And yet consider this consider all the times in the past when we thought we were lost when we thought our life was over that there was no way out and no way forward And yet here you are still standing still a child of God He got you through those darks times those times you thought were the end So maybe today instead of focusing on signs of the end focus on signs of hope They really are all around us if we only take the time to notice That food cart vendor who got sick with Covid and the local community banded together to pay his medical bills That anonymous bystander who pulled that driver out of a burning car That little girl who made it her mission to bake cookies and deliver them to the local fire stations The Buckets of Hope in the Archdiocese of Chicago that organizes buckets of cleaning supplies to send out to communities experiencing natural disasters How about today you fill in the blank ____________________ How about you find a way to be a sign of hope in a world of chaos and fear Trust in the Lord I will praise Him still my Savior and My God 73

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Wednesday Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 21 12 19 It Ain t Easy Being Christian Church of the Agony Gethsemane Ever tried out for a basketball team Or that part in the play Or that entrance exam for nursing or law school Or that interview for your dream job In the end the tryout or the exam was nothing It was all the time and effort all the prep work the sweat and the time you put in It was not in any way easy And then there were the naysayers All those people who thought you would fail and should give up even trying He ll never make it Do you think he will go through with it You ll never amount to anything You re wasting your time get a real job And yet you persevered Jesus makes it clear in today s Gospel that the disciples us will face much worse because of their faith He reminds us all that to be true believers it takes constant time and effort It s not a given that we have the faith today and now we can relax No faith means we are called to live it out every single day And it won t be easy We will face opposition even persecution for following a faith that is so at odds with the world today People will look at us and shake their heads They will find ways to make us suffer and question our beliefs We could be persecuted physically and emotionally for loving our neighbor for even believing in Christ And we will be called at times to give witness to express in words and in our actions And He reminds us once again not to worry Do not be afraid persevere in your faith Do not worry about what you will say God is with you I am with you The Spirit is within you and He will give you the wisdom to proclaim your faith and the courage to persevere 74 Trust in the Lord I will praise Him still my Savior and My God

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Thursday Day of Thanksgiving Gospel Luke 1 46 56 Giving Thanks I hate Thanksgiving There s always weeks worth of cleaning and cooking all for a meal that lasts about an hour We always make too much food eat too much of it and then afterwards face a week of turkey surprise dinners You end up falling asleep either before everyone arrives or before they all leave You have to put up with little ones who think the family pets are stuffed animals that you can carry around the house There are always relatives who show up late and they are always the ones who are bringing the appetizers Everyone keeps opening the oven doors to check on the turkey and then complain about how the turkey still isn t done Everyone fights over the drumstick but no one remembered to bring the cranberry sauce the one thing that Grandpa has to have But maybe what I hate most of all is only remembering to be thankful one day out of the year thankful for my family friends for life itself all the things we should be thankful for every day of our lives We recall that day 400 years ago an event filled more with myth than fact a meal that held such promise and hope for the future but only led to centuries of ingratitude and oppression for Native Americans The Wampanoag who lived in the area taught the Pilgrims how to smoke and dry indigenous meat and fish and how to plant the three sisters corn beans and squash in mounds fertilized by fish and blessed by powdered tobacco They also taught them how to navigate from place to place by water and over land how to tan hides used for clothing how to identify toxic plants and berries and explained the medicinal and culinary use of indigenous herbs It was the Wampanoag who provided the corn which produces 20 acres of crops and kept them alive It was the Wampanoag who taught them how to build nets to trap fish where to find the best fishing spots and how to fertilize the land to grow crops It was the Wampanoag who taught them how to survive So they ended up sharing a meal and being thankful for the most basic of gifts a roof over their heads a warm fire to drive away the chill the simple gifts of food and water the presence of family and friends and neighbors Everything that they had taken for granted all those simple gifts that even today we still take for granted 75

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So what do I really hate When I turn on the faucet and I expect fresh clean water to pour out on command When we open the refrigerator door gaze at shelves stuffed with food and decide there is nothing to eat When we conveniently forget our friend s birthday but get upset when they don t remember ours When we get so caught up in our own problems that we ignore the problems of those around us When we take out our frustrations on the people we care about the most but who have the least to do with the problem For not making time for the important things and people in our lives a quiet sunset with someone you love a comforting word for a friends over a glass of wine and quality time with my grandsons And for not appreciating the time we get to spend together as a family preparing a meal working hand in hand in a kitchen filled with spices smiles with warmth from ovens and hearts Today s Gospel shares the words of the Magnificat Mary s prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for all His works all His blessings in gratitude for His mercy and protection for His love and compassion for each and every one of us This is a very different day of thanksgiving We gather in smaller safer groups and we see empty chairs around our dinner table We may be sharing a reduced menu but our hearts remain full and blessed in gratitude to the Creator for His many gifts The Wampanoag didn t have a special day to offer thanks for their harvest and good fortune They offered thanks as part of their daily lives Every day is a day of thanks to the Creator We return thanks to our mother the earth which sustains us We return thanks to the rivers and streams which supply us with water We return thanks to all herbs which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases We return thanks to the moon and stars which have given to us their light when the sun was gone We return thanks to the sun that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye We return thanks to the Creator who has blessed us all with life We return thanks to the Great Spirit in Whom is embodied all goodness and Who directs all things for the good of all life Miigwetch 76

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Friday Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 21 29 33 Words Words Words Outside Capernaum Back when I was a sophomore at the University of Maryland my Dad and I had a little disagreement It was the height of the Vietnam War it was the year of Kent State protests and the Moratorium and my draft number was 115 I told my Dad that I was against the war and that if I was drafted I wouldn t serve His response that s fine but if you do that you are no longer my son I was never called up so we did not have to go down that road any further Many years later he and I were on the phone talking about nothing special the weather football family And out of the blue he says you know that whole Vietnam War thing well you were right and I was wrong And that was that Words Words Words They can be hurtful or helpful They can be memorable and stick in our brains I remember those two conversations like they happened yesterday word for word I am sure most of us have conversations that stay with us and have had a lasting impact And that is what Jesus is telling us today about His words The earth will pass away The sky will pass away We will pass away But Jesus words those words of eternal life will never pass away His words will never pass away Jesus promise of eternal life will never pass away So this is your homework today What words of Jesus are the most helpful the most memorable to you What words of His stick with you no matter the day or year What words of His have had the most impact on you 77

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Saturday Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 21 34 36 Sleepy Head Outside Capernaum After 40 years of teaching high school I have seen more than my share of students sleeping in class It ranges anywhere from outright head on the desk and snoring to those kids desperately trying to stay awake but giving themselves whiplash in an effort to keep their head straight Of course all this certainly had nothing to do with the teacher Jesus warns us in today s Gospel NOT to get drowsy to stay awake and alert He reminds us not to get so involved in this life not to be distracted by the lures the distractions and the worries of this life that we are caught unaware when the King returns 78 In simplest terms Jesus calls us to be vigilant alert and prayerful This evening we begin a new liturgical season a new liturgical year the Season of Advent It is a season that beckons us to prepare for the coming of the Savior at Christmas and to prayerfully await the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time So let us recommit ourselves to placing our cares at the foot of the cross to faithfully await His coming and prayerfully ask for His guidance and grace

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Sunday First Week of Advent Gospel Mark 13 33 37 Be Prepared Church of the Holy Sepulchre A couple weeks ago Ginger and I took the opportunity to go visit my Mom It had been a year since we had seen her and with winter approaching this would be the last chance to see her until perhaps springtime But given the world we are living in and all the restrictions and precautions we are all dealing with because of Covid it was not as simple as making reservations hopping on a plane and driving a rental car home from the airport Nothing is that simple anymore So beginning in October we began to formulate a plan something that would be safe for us and for my 95 year old Mom We decided the safest way to travel would be by car So we would drive straight from Chicago to Maryland roughly 750 miles stopping only for gas and pit stops for a snack We would quarantine ourselves for two weeks before that to ensure we were not bringing any other passengers with us We would wear masks the entire time we were home except for meals and we would not make any physical contact with Mom and my sister no hugs no kisses We would spend the entire visit at home no visits to stores or restaurants We even shopped at Costco here in Chicago so that we could bring home all the household supplies we usually get to stock up my mom for the winter We made sure our car would be ready for the journey and we got our cat sitter to watch over our two senior citizen cats while we were gone And we planned to make our return trip home to Chicago in the same manner only necessary stops and driving straight through We even scheduled a test for Covid so that we would not be bringing any germs back to Chicago with us and so we wouldn t have to do another two weeks of quarantine And when we did return home we anxiously waited at home until we got the negative test results And then we pitched the whole plan to my mom to make sure she was comfortable and felt safe with all the precautions we were taking And she said YES Whew Yes that was a lot of work a lot of preparation but in the end it was all worth it We hear a similar tone in today s Gospel the master going on a journey and the servants tasked with being watchful staying alert Be ready because you don t know when the master will return But remember it isn t just about staying awake it s not just about sitting idly by twiddling your thumbs and doing nothing It isn t just about waiting and doing nothing It s about preparation It s about hopeful joyful active waiting 79

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We celebrate today a new liturgical season a new liturgical year We celebrate the First Sunday of Advent Advent comes from the Latin words adventus which means arrival The adventus was a ceremony in ancient Rome in which an emperor was formally welcomed back into the city of Rome especially after a successful military campaign The people of Rome certainly did not just sit around and wait for the Emperor s return Preparations needed to be made and not at the last minute Statues would be sculpted special coins would be minted to commemorate the occasion Preparations were joyful hopeful and celebratory You already know all the preparations you went through to celebrate our Day of Giving Thanks You know all the changes you had to make to accommodate the different circumstances this year You know all the work and cleaning and cooking and all the planning you had to do to make it a day worth celebrating And you know all the preparations that lie ahead in order to celebrate Christmas day Trees and lights and ornaments presents to be bought online more so than in person all the mailing of Christmas cards and gifts that Christmas dinner to plan no matter how many will gather around the table Christmas is only weeks away For most of us our holiday preparations have already begun The Master is coming The birth of the Messiah is approaching Are we preparing ourselves with prayer and anticipation Will we be ready when the Master comes Or will He find us asleep and un prepared Are we ready to once again welcome Christ into our world into our life What are we waiting for Light your Advent candles Leave the light on for the Master Be Prepared 80

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Monday St Andrew Gospel Matthew 4 18 22 Answering the Call Church of Peter s Primacy Tabgha If you re like me your cellphone is permanently attached at the hip and you never go anywhere without it It s our calendar our camera our documents and apps it s our email lifeline to the world But in all its complexity it is still plain and simple a phone And every day it presents us with choices do we answer the phone do we recognize the number It s a process we are all familiar with The phone rings is the number familiar If it isn t I regularly ignore and decline the call If I recognize the number then it s more complicated I can choose to answer it or I can deliberately decide I don t want to talk to this person A simple call but so many options We commemorate today the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle brother of Peter patron saint of fishermen and singers of Scotland and Russia He was martyred on an X shaped cross known today at St Andrew s cross The Gospel today relates Jesus calling of Peter and Andrew on the shores of the Sea of Galilee They were both fishermen living in Capernaum they were living a settled life with a family and occupation And yet at Jesus words they dropped everything EVERYTHING and followed Him They answered the call certainly not having a clue where it would all lead So that is my question today Your phone is ringing God is calling Would you answer the phone Would you ignore it Or would you doubt who was calling What would you do Granted God finds plenty of ways every day to call out to us But the question is still the same Would you answer the call or decline it Would you be too busy with life or too fearful of the possibilities or demands of the call That call may be a friend needing some advice or the parish asking for volunteers or maybe just someone on the street asking for a couple of dollars Maybe it s your own family asking for help with a crisis Do you answer the call 81

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Tuesday First Week of Advent Gospel Luke 10 21 24 Out of the Mouths of Children Entering the Old City Jerusalem Back when our daughter was very little and just learning to string sentences together we had invited some friends over to our home for dinner So when the doorbell rang a good half hour early none of us were ready and I blurted out a few select four letter words to express my frazzled state of mind And when we welcomed our guests in the door there was our daughter standing there greeting them with the same string of four letter words over and over again Out of the mouths of children They see and hear so much more than we realize They know and understand so much and so quickly Jesus reminds us in today s Gospel that no matter our age or our seeming wisdom there is part of us that we need to keep childlike to keep that sense of wonder and joy over little things to laugh at the trials of life and not allow them to rule our mood or our relationships To keep that humbling and trusting and teachable faith in God to recognize how much we depend on Him for our life and to express our gratitude and love for Him in our daily life One other thought today this brief Gospel speaks about knowing God knowing Jesus How is that even possible for us to accomplish But then I remember that many languages Latin and French for instance have two different words for know One means to understand and the other means to be acquainted with Consider the simple act of flipping on a light switch I know the light will go on I have enough experience to believe that will happen But that doesn t mean I understand how electricity works 82 I can t begin to imagine I can fully understand God But I can come to experience Him to become acquainted with Him to develop a relationship with Him Advent would be a good time to work on that relationship to work on knowing God

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Wednesday First Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 15 29 37 Miracles All Around Us Chapel of Tears Jerusalem I admit it Ginger and I are FOODIES We watch more than our share of food and cooking shows Master Chef Chopped you name it And from to time we have been lucky enough to dine at some pretty incredible Top Chef restaurants places where you want to take out your phone and take pictures of the food before you even eat it Those were amazing memorable meals And sometimes it s just a simple breakfast in a picnic basket shared on the beach as we watch the sun rise But sometimes you don t have to go out for a great meal and great food Sometimes it happens at home when we work together to prepare a meal where in the midst of chopping veggies and trimming the meat we also share memories and laughter All of them wonderful memories and truth be told it wasn t just about the food or sharing a meal it was the conversation the laughter the remembering and the sharing of our hearts It was the combination of the words and the food not just one or the other But let s face it some meals are memorable for all the wrong reasons Going out for a speaker and a meal the words were forgettable and the meal was one of those rubber chicken experiences Or using a new recipe at home and the result was completely disposable We hear about another meal in today s Gospel the multiplication of the loaves and fishes The crowd has been following and listening to Jesus all day in the heat and the dust And it s only in the evening that the disciples tell Jesus we are far away from any town and the crowd is hungry 5000 people not even including women and children what should we do All we have is five loaves of bread and two fish And then the miracle happens Most homilies I ve heard focus on the food and use it as a symbol of Jesus feeding us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist In fact this is the Gospel that is proclaimed on the Feast of Corpus Christi the Body and Blood Some focus on the miracle itself the physical multiplication of the loaves and fishes to feed the crowd But I want to focus on something else What if What if there is more than the one miracle taking place here What if there are more miracles going on than just the one we can see and touch and taste 83

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What if the real miracles happened not in front of our eyes but inside our hearts What if that crowd just wanted to give Jesus a quick listen to hear this new preacher and then go on with their day What if His words touched them deep in their hearts so much so that they ended up staying the entire day listening to His words of love and compassion That would be a miracle What if they were carrying some food along with them but had no intention of sharing especially with strangers What if Jesus words touched them so deeply that the real miracle was a change of heart What if touched by His words they changed on the inside in their hearts and in their souls Changed so much that selfishness and greed and fear transformed into love of neighbor and caring for those less fortunate Think about it the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes the filling of their bellies the satisfying of their physical hunger that lasted just one day But the other miracle the filling of their hearts with the Word of God the promise of eternal life that s a miracle that changes not only their physical selves but their soul and that will last for a lifetime That crowd gathered for a talk In the process they shared a meal In the process they experienced a change of heart an awakening of faith a conversion Every time we gather for the Eucharist we gather first to hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached And then we share a meal not simple bread but the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Are we changed Is our faith awakened and refreshed Do we experience a change deep inside our soul a conversion of spirit and of direction in life Every day God calls to us reaches out to us offers us words of comfort and hope offer us food for the soul food for our spiritual journey 84

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Thursday St Francis Xavier Gospel Matthew 7 21 24 27 The Church s One Foundation Grotto Chapel at Gethsemane Fair warning I have never built a house and have no plans to ever attempt it I have however made more than my share of layer cakes each one an accidental version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa some more leaning than others One of these days I will figure it out and achieve a cake that remains standing after a few slices I m sure it has something to do with the base We commemorate today St Francis Xavier He was born in Spain to a wealthy and powerful family he lived in a castle and was educated at the prestigious University of Paris He was looking forward to a promising career until he crossed paths with St Ignatius of Loyola His initial relationship with Ignatius was one of sarcasm and teasing as Ignatius tried to convert other students to the Faith But Francis was eventually won over and became a priest and missionary particularly to India and Japan He was canonized on the same day as Ignatius Today s Gospel speaks of building your life your faith on a firm foundation Kind of reminds me of the hymn The Church s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord Francis certainly tested out a number of things to build his life upon wealth power prestige education and teaching athletics Ultimately none of them seemed to be permanently satisfying or fulfilling at least until he met Ignatius and became a Jesuit The whole image of building our house our life on rock should resonate with all of us these days For eight months now life and the entire world has been unsettled and shaky Everything we took for granted as firm and steady has been tested Like today s Gospel we have been beset with storms and winds and floods There are times when our house seems about to collapse And yet here we are here we stand True we are a bit wobbly on our feet and there have been times when our faith has been severely tested But Our Father reminds us daily that He is with us that He is our rock and our salvation So stand on solid ground don t let the winds of change 85 topple you over and most importantly Keep The Faith

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Friday First Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 9 27 31 Tis the Season Church of the Nativity Bethlehem Besides all the decorating and baking cookies and sending out Christmas cards this is also the time for Christmas movies And I am sure we all have favorites But here s a slightly random thought have you ever noticed how the main character in many of them is BLIND Not literally of course But think about it In Christmas Carol Scrooge is so blinded by greed that he can t see the suffering or the joy of those around him The dad in Elf is so focused on his business and money that he can t appreciate the simple joys of the season Kevin in Home Alone is so focused on himself that he can t see the value of family and truly celebrating Christmas And George in It s A Wonderful Life is so weighed down and crushed by his seeming failure that he wishes he was never born Blindness It s the focus of today s Gospel And it s only faith that eventually helps the two men to be cured It s faith that brings about the miracle So don t let the cares and worries of life get you so down that you become blind to the simple joys of the season String popcorn and decorate that tree Retell the story of that special ornament Pray daily before your manger scene Read that story of the visit of St Nick to the little ones maybe even to yourself Open your eyes and see the beauty and wonder of the season And believe that the Savior is Coming 86

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Saturday First Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 9 35 10 1 5A 6 8 Have A Heart Via Dolorosa Jerusalem We have a Christmas Drive going on today at St Robert Bellarmine 9am to 1pm We re collecting non perishable food and new gently used winter clothing to support the efforts of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels It s just a one day collection so it s hard to tell how successful we will be My hope is that people will take the time and effort to go out and buy some food items and or sort through their closets for unused winter items Whatever we collect will be a blessing But it s not just about the physical effort involved or the time spent to complete the task More importantly it s about our motivation It s about recognizing the needs of those less fortunate and responding to them particularly at a time when more people are homeless more are hungry and more are without a job It s about compassion And that is what we hear in today s Gospel Yes Jesus does send out the disciples on a mission to preach to teach and to heal Yes He does share with us that line about the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few But all of that happens AFTER He sees the crowd and is moved with pity All of that happens AFTER He sees that they are troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd And He responds with compassion And that is the mission that Jesus is calling all of us to follow To preach to teach But most importantly TO CARE To tend to the lost sheep by responding to their needs with compassion and love Let s all keep that in mind and in practice during this season of joy and giving 87

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Sunday Second Week of Advent Gospel Mark 1 1 8 Impatient Hope Mount of the Beatitudes Galilee Years ago when our two grandsons were little Ginger and I spent a lot of time babysitting and shuttling the boys back and forth Lots of driving On one occasion as I was driving them home and as they had a lot of experience watching me drive I saw an opportunity to teach them a bit about driving and traffic lights So I asked them what the different colors on the traffic signal meant Nate immediately piped in and said red is stop green is go and yellow is go faster That story speaks to the perceptiveness of children how much they actually see and hear But it also speaks to the impatience of adults especially me We are all in a hurry We get upset with anyone anything that slows us down We drum our fingers at stop lights We get upset with someone walking the wrong way down the grocery store aisle or if they don t keep a six foot distance when we are in the checkout line And God forbid if they aren t wearing their mask correctly And that doesn t even include the rigors of Christmas shopping at least in years past waiting with the crowds for the store to open on Black Friday And the impatience of children for Christmas to come for Christmas morning to dawn and running downstairs to open presents under the tree We count the days we can t sleep Christmas Eve and we stay up as long as we could in the hope of hearing Santa on the roof And of course we are all well past patience with this pandemic all its restrictions and forced isolations from friends and family We want it to be over NOW We want our normal life back NOW Matthew opens with a quote from Isaiah the coming of the Messiah Isaiah lived in 8th century BC By the time of Jesus and John the Baptist the people have been waiting for a very long time for the Messiah they are of course more than overdue for salvation and certainly more than a little impatient for the coming of the Messiah So they come to John John a wild man clothed in camel hair leather belt and eating honey and locusts living in the desert a desolate and forbidding area And yet they come to him Looking for the Messiah looking for forgiveness looking for faith and hope They thought he was THE ONE But he tells them it s not me He is coming He will baptize with the Spirit All that waiting all that anticipation all that impatience and he is not the ONE 88

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Impatience is not always such a bad thing Where there is impatience there is also a sense of hope The people had hope And hope is a good thing Hoping for the Messiah is a good thing Hoping for Christmas to come is a good thing But we can t just sit around and wait for it to happen We all have to prepare We all have to act And that is exactly what the people did in the Gospel They didn t wait around for the Messiah to appear They went looking for Him They traveled out into the desert to see and hear this wild man preach They repented of their sins They asked to be baptized Hope should lead us to action Like John the Baptist we are all called to prepare the way of the Lord we all have to prepare for His coming Not just doing the physical things buying presents decorating baking Christmas cookies we also have to prepare our hearts Many families have an Advent calendar tradition The kids open a little window on the calendar every day leading up to Christmas and they usually find a little gift a piece of candy or chocolate What if we created our own version of an Advent calendar except instead of getting a gift we give one Every day we do something to prepare for the coming of the Savior Maybe it s cleaning our room without being asked Maybe checking in on a friend we haven t talked to in a while Maybe it s checking to see if our elderly neighbor needs anything from the grocery store Maybe it s cleaning out the closet or pantry and donating items to a local mission Maybe it s praying together as a family at the end beginning of the day Maybe it s just a few minutes of quiet time no games no electronics just simple peace and quiet Prepare the way of the Lord make straight his paths 89

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Monday Second Week of Advent Gospel Luke 5 17 26 Through the Roof The Fifth Station Via Dolorosa It takes a village I ve heard that so many times but today it really seems to ring true One person may be singled out for praise or recognition but think of the quiet crowd that raised him supported him encouraged and had faith in him Today s Gospel is a familiar one rich in imagery A paralyzed man is brought to Jesus The crowd is so large and crushing that they climb the roof and lower him down Jesus forgives his sins and cures his illness But what struck me are these words when Jesus saw THEIR faith Jesus wasn t speaking just to the paralytic He was speaking to the men who brought him And then He forgave THEIR sins Consider what faith those men must have had They braved the crowd to bring their friend to Jesus for healing When they saw no way to get to Jesus they climbed the roof made a hole in it and then using ropes they lowered the man down to Jesus That is faith That is a testament to their love of their friend his trust in them and of course their belief in Jesus healing powers They are the village in this story They are literally the unsung heroes The paralytic never would have made it to Jesus without them We tend to focus on the healer and the healed in a story like this But perhaps today we can focus on the village behind the paralytic In spite of his illness and the general belief that illness was a punishment these men stood by him carried him and cherished him Perhaps today we could focus on the village in our life all those people with such a strong faith in God and His healing powers that they stood by us supported us believed in us even when we felt we couldn t even take a step on our own And while we re at it let s pray for all those unsung heroes fighting this pandemic doctors nurse practitioners EMT s lab techs orderlies researchers and scientists chaplains receptionists and so many more Pray for them support them ask the 90 Lord to call down His grace and protection upon them

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Tuesday Feast of the Immaculate Conception Gospel Luke 1 26 38 YES Mary s Home Basilica of Annunciation Nazareth We celebrate today the Feast of the Immaculate Conception For many it is perhaps the most misunderstood Solemnity in the liturgical year We are commemorating the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary not the conception of Jesus the Son of God Instead we celebrate Jesus conception on March 25 with the Annunciation Mary s YES to the Angel Gabriel And then nine months later we celebrate Jesus birth on December 25 No today we remember the moment when Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin in the womb of her mother Anne Nine months later on September 8 we celebrate Mary s birth The tradition of Mary being conceived without original sin has been around since the 9th century but it was only in 1854 that Pope Pius IX proclaimed as Church dogma that from the first moment of her conception the Blessed Virgin Mary was by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ Savior of mankind kept free from all stain of original sin Mary was chosen for this singular honor in order to provide a suitable vessel for the Son of God And in perfect faith and obedience her yes in today s Gospel is a sign of her agreement to God s plan of salvation She is the new Eve chosen by God even before the world began God has chosen each one of us as His adopted child He desires us to be with Him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven Will we say yes Will our words and actions today be a yes A yes of faith and obedience to His Will Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen 91

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Wednesday Second Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 11 28 30 Weary Souls Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem How ya feeling It s the first words on our lips when we greet each other these days weeks months And if we are honest with ourselves the answer is pretty much the same Not so good At times we are simply bone tired weary no energy or drive We feel sad or empty or despondent One day blends into another and we struggle to recall what day it is There s a certain aloneness feeling cut off from others and even normal life Frustrated and lost life seems gray and without color Covid is hitting us all sapping us of life or filling us with anger or sadness This is not an easy time for any of us as we struggle to stay vertical and we try to look out for our loved ones and family The hardest thing to do these days I think is to reach out to someone and admit you are having a difficult time that you aren t managing as well as you would like Or maybe it s the realization that someone you care deeply about is struggling and you want them to know they aren t alone Today s Gospel is one of those times when it feels like Jesus is speaking directly to us Come to me all you who labor and are weary and I will give you rest It hits us right in our very soul and reminds us that we are not alone ever Jesus offers us the opportunity to share the load We don t have to go through this alone He asks us to lay our weary heads on His shoulders and let Him carry some of that weight We don t have to bear all this by ourselves we are not alone Advent is a season of anticipation of hope Hope in God Hope in His continued presence in our lives Hope for the strength to face a new day and to be a source of hope for those who we know are struggling to keep it all together Recognize that He has given us all the power to bring some light into the darkness for someone else 92

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Thursday Second Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 11 11 15 Hiding in Plain Sight Street Scene Jerusalem When I was little I played more than my share of Hide and Seek and I think I was pretty good at the hiding part But what really upset me sometimes was when I found what I thought was the perfect hiding spot They ll never find me here Unfortunately that is exactly what happened They didn t exactly NOT find me they gave up looking And eventually I had to come out of hiding after waiting and waiting So sad The last line in today s Gospel stands out for me whoever has ears should hear I would add look to the equation In these difficult times we often hear people complaining where is God My response is are we even looking Or have we given up trying Looking and listening are not simply passive maybe it s better to say search and pay attention God is telling us in today s Gospel I am right here right in front of you Are we paying attention Are we actively looking for Him or have we given up trying Perhaps that should be our challenge today and every day God is not hiding away from us He is not sitting in some hidden away place He is right in front of our noses Do we see Him Do we seek Him Are we even looking for Him 93

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Friday Second Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 11 16 19 Please Sir I Want Some More Mass at Mount Tabor I am sure we have all experienced a disastrous Christmas morning or two in our life All that time and energy Santa spent searching for everything on their Wish List And then when the kids open their presents life takes a sharp turn Either they changed their minds at the last minute and no longer want the toy or it clearly is not what they expected I changed my mind I want something else After all the times in the Gospels when Jesus speaks of children as wise and perceptive a role model for us all it is rather refreshing that He recognizes the other side of the coin Children are not always wise or logical They act at times petty and unreasonable when they don t get what they want or people don t do what they want Children can be childish Unfortunately adults can be the same changing their minds on a moment s notice upset when things don t go their way illogical and petulant blaming others for any and everything never satisfied 94 These are the children Jesus is frustrated with in today s Gospel Their rules and expectations change on a whim as if the world revolves around themselves It is a reminder to us all that we need to re center ourselves re focus our energy and let go of our need to control the world around us And by re centering ourselves around the Savior we may just gain a bit more of the joy of the season

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Saturday Our Lady of Guadalupe Gospel Luke 1 26 38 The Visitation Today s Gospel retells the story of Mary s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth It echoes Mary s YES John s leap for joy and Elizabeth s declaration that Mary is Mother of my Lord It speaks to us of a message of faith and hope And as we celebrate today the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we are reminded of another kind of visitation that of Mary to Juan Diego in 1531 Again it is a reminder to us all of Mary s love and protection especially in this time of pandemic and doubt Like Juan Diego we have all been given a message of hope and faith God give us the grace and humility to hear that message and grow in faith and love Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Protection from Coronavirus Holy Virgin of Guadalupe Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas We fly to you today as your beloved children We ask you to intercede for us with your Son as you did at the wedding in Cana Pray for us loving Mother and gain for our nation and world and for all our families and loved ones the protection of your holy angels that we may be spared the worst of this illness For those already afflicted we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful wipe away their tears and help them to trust In this time of trial and testing teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts We come to you with confidence knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother health of the sick and cause of our joy Shelter us under the mantle of your protection keep us in the embrace of your arms help us always to know the love of your Son Jesus Amen Diocese of St Petersburg 95

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Sunday Third Week of Advent Gospel John 1 6 8 19 28 Who Are You doo doo doo doo When I m not watching all my Food Network and cooking shows I still find the time to immerse myself in a bunch of crime drama shows including CSI The theme song remains stuck in my head who are you doo doo doo doo As we continue through the Season of Advent and prepare for Christmas many of the Gospels of the day focus on John the Baptist and today is no exception Jewish priests and Levites come out to the Jordan River to confront John and ask him one direct question WHO ARE YOU Not what are you doing or why are you here but WHO ARE YOU John s response is simple clear and to the point I m not Elijah I m not the Prophet And I am not the Messiah the Christ What I am is a voice crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord I baptize with mere water He will baptize with the Spirit John answers the question who are you and it s not as simple as him slapping a tag on his chest saying hi I m John His answer defines and identifies himself and not just himself but his purpose his mission his whole meaning of life I am here to prepare the way And maybe that s the challenge for us today How do we answer that question Who are you How do we define ourselves Identify ourselves By our ancestry or family son of father of husband of By our nationality or gender or relationship By job I m a teacher Or do we define ourselves by our faith Do we call ourselves Christian And if that s true if that s important how does that motivate us energize us give us purpose Like John should not our identity our meaning our very soul direct us to be a voice crying out in the wilderness Shouldn t we all be making straight the way of the Lord Shouldn t that be our focus as we approach Christmas Day and the end of the year not just on what we do but deep down inside the very core of our being who we are We celebrate today the Third Sunday of Advent We are halfway along our journey to Christmas This should be a moment of utter Joy a moment to pause and let that joy burst out That is why today is called Gaudete Sunday rejoice That is why we light a rose colored candle unlike the purple The coming of the Savior is so close that we can t contain our joy It is a joy that permeates our entire being 96 So who are we On this Third Sunday of Advent we are people of hope we are people of anticipation we are people of joy as we prepare for the coming of the Savior

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Monday St John of the Cross Gospel Matthew 21 23 27 No Excuses Yad Vashem World Holocaust Center Jerusalem Ever get caught with your hands in the cookie jar I mean literally caught red handed and your mouth is full of the evidence And in the face of it all you still deny it No I didn t it wasn t me I m not guilty must have been someone else We were so concerned with avoiding the truth or so worried about getting caught in the act and punished that we deny deny deny Who did this And with your mouth full of cookies you say in your seemingly most innocent voice uh I don t know In today s Gospel the chief priests and elders are also symbolically caught in a bind They know the truth that John is from God they just refuse to accept it and especially acknowledge it in public On whose authority did he baptize Uh I don t know They worry about losing their standing with the people they worry about antagonizing one side or the other They are afraid of getting caught in a lie They are afraid to accept the truth of John s mission and then have to deal with Jesus Many times in our lives the truth can be uncomfortable and unpopular We focus too much on wanting to be liked or accepted by others to the point that we deny what is plainly true Jesus reminds us today there can be no excuses It is well past time for us to leave obstinacy and blindness behind In spite of all the sadness and hurt and violence in spite of all the mistrust and anger in the world Jesus continues to call us back Accept Me Believe in Me Trust in Me Great Spirit teach me to always walk in prayer grow in wisdom and truth and to see with eyes of faith 97

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Tuesday Third Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 21 28 32 Words Matter The Cenacle Room Jerusalem We all have words that stick in our memory that cement an historical moment in time We remember where we were what we were doing and who we were with Ask not what your country can do for you I have a dream One small step for a man There are also words very personal and specific ones whose meaning transcends and transforms That moment after years of disagreement over the morality of the Vietnam War when my Dad said to me I was wrong Those two simple words I do when Ginger and I were married Or that and with your Spirit I shared with Bishop Kane at the end of my ordination as a permanent deacon Words They matter They are important yes But what matters more is what happens after they are spoken Whether it s the world or my life or my purpose something changes It has to otherwise those words are meaningless and empty My relationship with my Dad changed so much for the better afterwards My life as a husband began and we moved forward in life together And that Sign of Peace with the Bishop was the beginning of a ministry not simply words recited from memory What matters the most is how we act on our words what we do The Gospel today makes it quite clear with the story of the two sons One says yes to his father and then does not follow through The other says no and then later changes his mind We can talk all day say what we think the other person wants to hear But in the end what matters most is our actions how we follow through on our words 98 Every Mass there is a point where we all profess the Creed a concise profession of our faith But is it mere words on a page Is it simply words that we spew out and then continue on with the Mass Yes those words matter But matters most is how we act on them how we carry them out in our lives how we live out our Faith

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Wednesday Third Week of Advent Gospel Luke 7 18 23 The One Magdala Chapel A little background on today s Gospel John is in prison and he knows he will soon be put to death He has heard stories about Jesus and His miracles and preaching So he sends off a couple of his disciples to directly ask Him Are You the One Are You the Messiah Or should we look for another And Jesus answer Trust your eyes and ears You have to wonder didn t John already know Why does he even have to ask if Jesus is the Messiah I mean he did meet Him baptize Him and recognized Him as the One whose foot strap he was not worthy to loosen So maybe something else is going on here Maybe John s question wasn t for his benefit but for that of his disciples John is now facing his own death at the hands of Herod he is recognizing that his mission is now coming to an end Maybe this is his way of moving his disciples from his voice in the desert mission to that of Jesus Maybe Jesus words of miracles and preaching were really meant for those disciples to hear and respond to Maybe John s intent is for his followers to hear it straight from the horse s mouth so to speak And maybe that is the challenge for us today Maybe that is our mission to really open our eyes and ears to the presence of Christ in our daily lives To attune our hearts to recognize His healing touch and His words of comfort in the actions of those around us To ask ourselves Is He the One Do we really need to look for another 99

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Thursday Third Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 1 1 17 Who s Your Daddy Ever since I was little I have always had a good awareness and appreciation of my family history and ancestry For one side of my family I can trace my roots back to the 1600 s in London Of course it helps if you have someone in the family tree who led a singular and noteworthy life For me that was my greatgreat grandfather Dr Samuel A Mudd Just Google him if you don t know his story Ginger has taken her family history interest to a whole different level She is a professional researcher genealogist and family historian she provides a variety of research services to authors historians film makers and individuals interested in genealogy Shameless plug All that leads us into today s Gospel a long list of Jesus genealogy from Joseph all the way back to Abraham With such a list of unique names my prayers go out for anyone who will be proclaiming today s Gospel Anyway Matthew is showing his Jewish community that in simple terms Jesus is from the House of David from whom the Messiah would come He is setting the stage for his good news that Jesus is the Chosen One of God Matthew literally is tracing Jesus roots back to Abraham the first Patriarch and the father of Judaism As he begins his good news Matthew is carefully reminding his audience of not only Jesus ancestry but their own and he emphasizes the importance of knowing your family history and your ancestral roots It is a good reminder for all of us to understand and appreciate our own family history not just that of our biological family but our spiritual one It grounds us and gives us roots and a story to share and to model our life on So I wonder today if we could take some time and reflect on our spiritual family history and our religious roots When were you baptized where by whom What about your First Communion Your Confirmation How important are those events in your life How much does your spiritual Father in Heaven inspire and guide you through life How much do your spiritual roots mold and guide you in your daily life 100

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Friday Third Week of Advent Gospel Matthew 1 18 25 A Righteous Man Church of St Joseph Nazareth Earlier this week we listened to the story of the Annunciation Gabriel appearing to Mary and her resounding YES to God Today it s Joseph s turn But the circumstances and details are radically different Joseph s announcement happens at night in a dream Mary questions the angel about how this could happen to her a virgin Joseph No questions in fact not one single word not here not anywhere in the Gospels What was Mary s response I am the handmaid of the Lord let it be to me according to Your Word And what about Joseph His response is one of action When he wakes he immediately takes Mary into his house He is a man of few if any words But his actions speak volumes Matthew calls him a righteous man a man devoted to and a faithful follower of the Law He knows that the Law is very clear If a woman is found with child before marriage she should be exposed for her adultery and could be stoned to death Joseph even before his dream has decided to divorce her quietly so as not to expose her to shame He knows the Law he follows the Law But he is also a compassionate man and he realizes that laws should be tempered by love of God and love of others His only concern is for Mary not himself Joseph acts out of love and faith and even courage There is one thing throughout this situation that he does lack fear In every story in the Gospels Joseph hears God s message and he acts No hesitation No doubt He could have been worried about his standing in the community about what his friends would say Instead his only concern is for Mary and for her child Perhaps that is the best description of a righteous man faithful compassionate unselfish trusting in God 101

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Saturday Third Week of Advent Gospel Luke 1 5 25 A Righteous Couple The Jordan River It feels a bit like d j vu in today s Gospel a revisiting of Mary s Annunciation as well as Joseph s dream from yesterday Zechariah a Jewish priest and his wife Elizabeth are both called righteous like Joseph but they are an elderly couple and childless Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him they will have a son John the Baptist Zechariah like Mary is troubled But in this instance he is also fearful something neither Mary nor Joseph showed fearful enough that Gabriel has to calm him with do not be afraid There is even a feeling we are watching Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament as they are told they will have a son in their old age 102 For Zechariah the initial response is one of fear and doubt how can this be But as Gabriel explains the good news his emotions transform into hope and joy How often in these past 9 months have we all experienced moments of fear or doubt We worry about our family and friends our job and our elderly relatives our physical and mental health But God reminds us through the story of Zechariah do not be afraid God really does have a plan and we truly are not alone So let s offer up our fears and worries to the Lord in prayer And let us pray that the Spirit will cover us with a sense of hope and joy as we draw closer to another birth the birth of our Savior

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Sunday Fourth Week of Advent Gospel Luke 1 26 38 Ready or Not Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth So are you ready Christmas is five days away Five days Shopping all done Tree set up and decorated House filled with Christmas spirit Batches of cookies baked and Christmas cards all sent out Christmas dinner all planned and prepped All ready Really Are you also prepared for all the last minute glitches All those things we never expected The dinner that was burned Buying the wrong gift or one that doesn t fit Completely forgetting your best friend Can we really ever be ready Forgetting where you hid that one special present Really Big secret sshh Christmas is coming whether you we are ready or not Whether we are in the mood or not So don t worry and don t be afraid Trust that things will work out and that God will be right beside you And it will be a day of joy and celebration Isn t that what Mary does in today s Gospel in the story of the Annunciation Do you think she was ready Do you think she was even the most remotely prepared for the message that Angel Gabriel brings her She s barely a teenager living in this little town of Nazareth And she hears this message that God has chosen her to be the mother of our Savior She s not even married And yet she says YES Yes Lord I am your handmaid let it be down according to Your will She doesn t know how things will turn out but she places her trust her faith in God and says YES Consider how deep her faith And it certainly wasn t a blind faith she doubted She questioned But in the end she trusted that God knew best We have always looked at the Annunciation as a clear example of Mary s faith in God But I wonder whether it is also a measure of how much God believed in her trusted in her saying YES And if that is true then how much does God believe in each and every one of us He trusts that we will make the right decision Even if we stumble and fall even when we make the wrong choice He trusts that in the long run we will return to Him in faith and love God does not abandon us In our worst moments in times of crisis and pain and doubt He is there And just as Gabriel tells Mary just as Gabriel told Zechariah just as the angel told Joseph do not be afraid 103

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Mary s YES was a statement of faith complete trust in God By that YES she welcomed God into her life into her very self As unprepared as we are as doubtful as we tend to be as human as we are God calls us He trusts us to welcome Him into our hearts So whether we re ready or not Christmas is ready for us So may our faith welcome Jesus birth into our lives and make us eager share the newborn Christ Child with the world We have spent the last four weeks lighting the candles of this Advent wreath As we move closer to Christmas Day I ask you to light one more candle to light a candle inside your heart and be a light to someone else who is struggling in the darkness Be a light to someone fighting against sadness and depression against isolation and fear Be a light that kindles a flame in their heart 104

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Monday Fourth Week of Advent Gospel Luke 1 39 45 The Visitation The Hill Country of Judah I remember the very first time Ginger and I met She was in the student government office at Loyola U and I walked in the door She literally took my breath away Truth be told I also lost the power of coherent speech Who could possibly know all that would result from that chance meeting It was life changing life altering And so they say the rest is history We read today of another historic meeting although one on a scale far beyond any chance encounter in an office This is the Visitation Mary and Elizabeth meeting for the first time after their miraculous pregnancies Two soon to be mothers one carrying the Savior and the other carrying His Prophet Both of them fully aware of God entering their lives in a special way giving each of them a unique role in His Plan and both of them fully trusting in Him And their words to each other fully reflect their faith in God their love for each other and the goodness of the Lord And yet there is another first meeting happening here Jesus and John still in the womb meeting each other for the first time And John s reaction He leaps for joy Wow I have always had a wonder for this relationship between John and Jesus The Gospels only record one other time that they meet at Jesus Baptism But I always wondered if they perhaps got together as children maybe played together And I always wondered what their conversations would have been like That first meeting full of joy and hope and love So perhaps we could reflect a bit today on our first meeting our first encounter with the Lord Was it our First Communion Was it an experience in nature something like the Christmas Star conjunction that happens tonight Maybe it was a sad loss of a loved one or the birth of a child What was your first encounter with the Lord And as you reflect on that consider when the next encounter will happen Will it be on Christmas Day Will you welcome the Christ Child with hope and joy and love 105

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Tuesday Fourth Week of Advent Gospel Luke 1 46 56 Stop and Pray Chapel at Mt Carmel Talk about finding joy in the midst of a difficult situation Today s Gospel picks up right from yesterday Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth Consider this Mary has traveled roughly 90 miles from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah just south of Jerusalem The terrain is hilly and rocky and Mary probably traveled on foot She is pregnant tired dirty and perhaps even unsure of what kind of reception Elizabeth will give her And yet in spite of it all she breaks out in this joyful prayer of praise and thanksgiving The Magnificat As Deacons we are called to pray Evening Prayer on a daily basis And the Magnificat is part of that prayer a fitting end to every day a prayer of thanksgiving for the many gifts we have been graced with It is an opportunity to reflect on the events of the day and then to offer to the Lord our thanks and our praise acknowledging the great things He has done and will continue to do for us We can get so caught up in the hustle and madness of the Christmas Season that we can easily forget to incorporate one simple element into our daily life prayer We continue to experience the darkness of winter and even the dark days of pandemic and doubt Let not forget to set aside some private time to stop listen slow down and pray Pray for the gift of today and for the strength to face the challenges of tomorrow 106

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Wednesday Fourth Week of Advent Gospel Luke 1 57 66 A Child of Promise Shepherd s Cave Bethlehem One of the most amazing events in my life was the day our daughter Jaime was born To be there at that moment and to hold her in my arms for the first time as they cut the cord was beyond words and imagination But as joy filled as that experience was I remember that it was also a moment of hope and promise and wonder I couldn t help but think about all the possibilities that lay ahead for her What would be her future her calling teacher scientist musician nurse How many lives would she touch and change by her presence and example Needless to say I have not been disappointed not in the least I see her now in her career as an oncology nurse practitioner and all the people she has touched and brightened by her skill and her compassion I couldn t be prouder We hear the story in today s Gospel of another birth that of John the Baptist Born to elderly parents and the miraculous moment when Zechariah regains his speech and names his son John it was a moment when all were amazed But it was also a moment of hope and promise What will this child turn out to be Who could even guess what sort of man he would turn out to be and how many people he would inspire by his words and example We are now a mere two days away from celebrating another birth the birth of our Savior Who could have guessed that a child born in a shepherd s cave would be Lord of All How has He touched our lives How have we been changed by His presence His words We have all been gifted with the promise of salvation How do we respond Is this not wonder filled Is this not joyful Are we not so amazed and hopeful that we want to share that joy with the world 107

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Thursday Christmas Eve Gospel Luke 2 1 14 What A Difference Site of the Nativity Bethlehem Things are so different for Christmas this year Mass attendance is limited and you have to register ahead of time there are no walk ins allowed No room at the inn Decorations are greatly pared down from years past so that our volunteers health and safety are not compromised The Holy Family was left with a simple stable Even our personal celebrations and Christmas dinners at home are muted and limited to just the immediate family No one there to witness Jesus birth except the animals And many of us are driving far and wide to deliver Christmas dinner and presents to those who usually gather with us at home Such a long and tiring journey for Mary and Joseph from Nazareth in Galilee down to Bethlehem south of Jerusalem around 90 miles Yup things are just so different this year I have been blessed to travel to the Holy Land three times so far and have served at Mass in Bethlehem on two occasions Both times Mass was celebrated in a small cave not a big church or basilica but a small room carved out of rock overlooking the Shepherds Field It was cramped and crowded Simple and humble surroundings Yup things are just so different this year but maybe they aren t Maybe our liturgical experience of Christmas this year is more in tune with that wondrous event some 2000 years ago simple modest surroundings a quiet and solitary event hardly noticed except by a few people and then only after the fact Maybe that is exactly what we need this year to strip away most of the ornaments and lights and blowup characters to experience the intimacy and wonder of a virgin birth to step away from all the hustle and bustle of shopping to slow down to a simpler more humble appreciation of the birth of our Savior Maybe things are very much the same the same as that star lit night 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born May we never lose the child like Wonder of the Season and the Joy of Christ s love in our life 108

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Friday Christmas Day Gospel Luke 2 15 20 Wonder and Joy I put it to you in the simplest of terms This is not a day for words This is a day for Wonder and Joy and Peace Let the Story speak to you Watch and Listen One Voice Children s Choir Born on Christmas Day One starry night so bright The world was filled with love Wonderful sight the light That shined from up above The angels proclaimed His Holy Name King of Kings This is the story the power and the glory Three wise men knelt to pray A guiding star had led the way There He lay born on Christmas Day Joy did He bring the King Let every song rejoice And every heart did sing hear it ring The sound of heaven s voice The angels proclaimed His Holy Name King of Kings This is the story the power and the glory Three wise men knelt to pray A guiding star had led the way There He lay born on Christmas Day He filled our world with His love A heavenly voice sang from above This is the story of the power and the glory Three wise men came to pray as He lay Christ was born born on Christmas Day The Lord is born born on Christmas Day A blessed and peaceful Christmas to you and your loved ones May we never lose the child like Wonder of the Season and the Joy of Christ s love in our life 109

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Saturday St Stephen Deacon and Martyr Gospel Matthew 10 17 22 Buckle Up Buttercup It s Gonna Be A Bumpy Ride Church of Nativity Bethlehem Can we all agree that no one likes going to the dentist All it takes are those couple of words this might hurt a little to send us into a panic I mean seriously MIGHT A LITTLE And yet whether we are a child or an adult we do end up sitting there and letting them do their digging and probing And for what To get that perfect smile To get rid of that cavity or remove that dead tooth Through that pain there was still a reward if only an end to the pain Today is the Feast of St Stephen the first martyr And it seems very odd that we would go from the joy and celebration of Christmas Day right into observing the death of a martyr But there is a good reason Thought to be lost the bones of St Stephen were miraculously discovered on this day back in 415 AD Stephen was one of seven who were appointed by the Apostles to be deacons called to minister to the widows and orphans of Jerusalem particularly those whose fathers were martyred for the faith in the first century He proclaimed his faith by his preaching and his ministry He suffered for his faith in this life and we believe he was rewarded with glory in the next It is what Jesus speaks about in today s Gospel Following Me will not be easy It s going to be a bumpy painful ride You will be hated and abused persecuted and mocked for your Faith But do not worry The Holy Spirit will be with you and support you And in the end you will be saved Jesus knew Stephen knew that all who believe in Him will experience suffering in this life But that promise of eternal life bursting forth into this world with the birth of a little child in Bethlehem remains our hope and our salvation 110

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Sunday Feast of the Holy Family Gospel Luke 2 22 40 Family s First Christmas St Joseph s Church Nazareth One of the best Christmases we ever celebrated was the first one after our daughter Jaime was born She was barely six months old probably crawling but certainly not walking yet And we did Christmas like never before Tons of presents toys and clothes and books And we wrapped each and every one of them I honestly can t remember if Ginger and I got each other presents we were too focused on making Jaime s first Christmas memorable Of course at 6 months she would have no memories except for the stories we told her later in life along with all the pictures we took That Christmas morning was filled with wonder and laughter and sheer joy most of it coming from Ginger and myself We took turns dramatically opening presents showing them to Jaime and making our best oohs and aahs Of course Jaime was only interested in the wrapping paper and the ribbons and bows Imagine all the money we could have saved by just giving her a roll of wrapping paper and a big red bow That was our first Christmas with our daughter our first Christmas as a family It was a time of celebration and play But it was also a time of hope of looking forward to all the Christmases to come and all that Jaime might become and accomplish in the future Today s Gospel tells us of another family the Holy Family going up to Jerusalem with the baby Jesus to present Him to the Lord in the Temple a religious tradition that takes place 40 days after the birth of the first born Parents would present their first born as an offering to the Lord and then redeem him back with a sacrifice of two turtledoves or young pigeons And it is there that they meet the Prophet Simeon and the Prophetess Anna who both rejoice that their eyes have beheld the Savior of the world They hold Him in their arms they bless Him and bless Mary and Joseph Simeon and Anna both predicted that He would be the glory for His people Israel and a light of revelation for the Gentiles The Gospel ends with a curious line The child grew and became strong filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him And that s it Except for one other story of Jesus being lost in the Temple we know nothing else about His early life nothing Nothing until He is about 30 years old Those hidden years are summed up in that one sentence It seems unsatisfying we want to know more 111

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But maybe that really is all we need to know He grew become strong filled with wisdom Under the guidance of His parents he grew became strong and wise And through it all the favor of God was upon Him And that is what we celebrate today the importance of the Holy Family Jesus being raised in a loving faith filled family with Mary and Joseph who placed God at the center of their lives For all us struggling in the darkness of winter of sickness and separation of despair and loss let us all take comfort and hope this day remembering that the Son of God became a member of our human family and sanctified not only His family but our own May the Lord grace us just like Jesus Mary and Joseph with that same hope and faith to make Him the center of our own family s life 112

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Monday Feast of the Holy Innocents Gospel Matthew 2 13 18 Come Into the Light Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life A fight is going on inside me he said to the boy It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves The white black wolf is evil and darkness he is anger envy sorrow regret greed arrogance self pity guilt resentment inferiority lies false pride superiority and ego He continued The white wolf is good and light he is joy peace love hope serenity humility kindness benevolence empathy generosity truth compassion and faith The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather Which wolf will win The old Cherokee simply replied The one you feed It feels as if just in the last two days we have encountered both of the wolves Yesterday on the Feast of the Holy Family it was all bright with hope and promise A Savior is born And after presenting Him in the Temple Mary and Joseph take Jesus home to Nazareth where He grows in strength and wisdom and favor with the Lord And today we retreat into the darkness of Herod the Great He is a ruler obsessed with power and greed He has his own sons executed to avoid any threat to his throne He is selfish jealous spiteful and arrogant he thinks only of himself Like all of us he has a choice of feeding the white wolf or the black When he is visited by the Magi he deliberately chooses to be deceitful and dishonest insisting that he wants to honor the newborn king And when he realizes that the Magi have avoided returning to him he acts in rage and massacres all male infants under the age of two It is a horrible and bloody story of a cruel and vengeful ruler who had the chance to embrace the light and selfishly thought only of himself You can t help recalling a similar story in the Old Testament Pharaoh and Moses A prophecy says that a savior will be born So Pharaoh orders all male babies to be killed Only one survives miraculously Moses and he leads his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land Sound familiar We face a similar choice every day choose light or retreat further into the darkness Do we embrace compassion and kindness forgiveness and selflessness Or do we focus only on ourselves with lies self pity regret and jealousy Do we come into the light of the Savior Or do we hide in the darkness of our fears Which wolf will we feed today 113

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Tuesday Fifth Day in Christmas Octave Gospel Luke 2 22 35 Now What Do I Do Town of Nazareth I remember when our daughter was born all that joy and celebration at the birth of this beautiful child Truth be told I was feeling a lot more than happiness that day when I held Jaime in my arms for the first time There was also quite a bit of panic concern doubt even a bit of fear Now what This little child is completely dependent on us for food clothing shelter for life What if we screw it up What if we say or do something wrong something that scars her for the rest of her life What a daunting task for parents of a new born What a mix of emotions as we faced life together Consider today what Mary and Joseph must have been going through New parents of a first born The wonder and joy of the birth of this newborn son Mary pondering the words of Gabriel from the Annunciation and Joseph of his dream Their reaction to the visit of the shepherds and the Magi And now encountering Simeon in the Temple and his words that Jesus will be the Saviour of all and a light of revelation to the Gentiles Can you imagine their reaction Fear Doubt Concern No pressure right No worries right 114 And yet the story ends with they returned to Nazareth and the Child grew strong and filled with wisdom That says a lot not just about their parenting skills but certainly about their faith in God And that I think is the message we can and should learn from today No matter what we are going through no matter what life is throwing at us no matter our doubts or fears Trust In The Lord Trust in His love and in His Spirit Draw your strength and courage from Him and believe that whatever trials we face today they are only a hurdle not a roadblock

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Wednesday Sixth Day in Christmas Octave Gospel Luke 2 36 40 A Devoted Woman Temple Mount Jerusalem Yesterday we focused on the prophet Simeon today we turn to the prophetess Anna as we conclude the story of the Presentation Anna is completely alone in the world She is a widow and elderly There is no one looking out for her welfare no one to help out no support system at all to see to her needs She is probably homeless as well since she spends night and day in the Temple area You would think she would be miserable and despondent over her circumstances And yet the opposite is true She has dedicated herself to the Lord she spends her time in prayer and fasting And when she does encounter the Holy Family she breaks out in praise and thanksgiving for having seen the Savior And she announces the news to all she meets It seems like the perfect definition of proclaiming the good news You have to wonder where are all the religious leaders the priests and Levites You would think they would be around the Temple area performing their duties And yet all we see is Anna and she isn t even from the tribe of Levi those expected to serve in the Temple Yesterday the Gospel used the term devout to describe Simeon It seems most appropriate to apply it to Anna She is the definition of devotion She has given her life in service to the Lord willingly and gladly She spends her life praying and fasting with no hint of regret or bitterness at what life has thrown at her Life has certainly thrown a lot of curveballs at us this year at times probably more than we can handle So how have we responded Are we bitter and angry Are we spending our time regretting all we have lost and not appreciating what we have Has our prayer life diminished or prospered What is it that we are truly devoted to Great Spirit help me to realize that what I see with my eyes closed is what really counts 115

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Thursday Seventh Day in Christmas Octave Gospel John 1 1 18 Past Present and Future Today s Gospel the opening chapter of the Gospel of John really takes me back in time all the way to my freshman year in college in the Seminary It was a tough academic year we were taking 3 different languages at once French Latin and Greek And because it used a completely different set of written characters Greek was the most difficult to not only learn but retain I can remember we all crafted homemade flash cards for the vocabulary and we carried them around with us everywhere We had to constantly refresh ourselves and test ourselves otherwise we lost it so quickly Which brings me to today s Gospel I have a special fondness for these verses they were one of the first translations we ever tackled Even today I can still rattle off the first couple of verses in Greek from memory And I have to say Greek still is a blessing for me today especially when I wrestle with my crossword puzzles or a Jeopardy answer This is not your ordinary Nativity story no manger no shepherds no Magi Rather it is a clear statement of our faith Jesus Christ is the Son of God He is was and will be the Word of God He was there at the Creation He became Flesh and dwelt among us He is full of grace and truth and is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven If you think about it the Gospel speaks about time past present and future He is He was and He will be Rather appropriate today as we face the last day of 2020 I expect most of us are glad to see it end We will probably spend some time today reflecting on the past rooting ourselves in the present and hoping for a brighter tomorrow It would be easy and not unexpected to quickly close the book on 2020 to put the past behind us For many of us that will be difficult to do too much sadness and hurt too much loss and pain But we cannot live in the past nor can we focus merely on the here and now We are a people of Hope Hope for a new day year hope for eternal life We place our trust in the Word The Son of God has always been there with us even from the beginning of time He is there with us today as we close out 2020 And He will be with us tomorrow and the next day He is the Light of the world And no amount of darkness can ever overcome Him Let His light shine on us in this New Year 116

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Friday Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Gospel Luke 2 16 21 Mother of Us All Church of Dormition Jerusalem I don t know about you but my mother remembers everything absolutely everything Every event in every daughter s and son s life good and bad achievement and misstep She cherishes them holds each of them close to her heart as if they happened to her And in a way I think they do Just as we were physically a part of our mother that connection never seems to break Our mothers continue to hold us close And as we go through life s troubles its ups and downs so too do our mothers mostly in quiet and without words We commemorate today the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God And for me there is one line in today s Gospel that resonates And Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart Is there any better description of a mother Someone who gives us life brings us into this world and cherishes every moment of our life She quietly meditates on all we do and she suffers along with us There is quite a contrast today between the shepherds and Mary The shepherds are excited and joyful they return to their flocks shouting for joy and with thanksgiving And Mary She keeps all these thing in her heart Quite the example for us today as we begin a New Year Too often we spend the day making good intentioned resolutions And then a few weeks later they are forgotten and set aside Perhaps today we could follow Mary s example Take the time to reflect to ponder in our hearts all that has happened these past 12 months Our successes our failures our highs and lows What is there that is worth remembering Worth forgetting and moving on What have we learned about ourselves What have we learned about our relationships particularly our relationship with God And then ask ourselves what does it matter How have we changed And how should we change for this New Year A Happier New Year One and All 117

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Saturday St Basil the Great St Gregory Nazianzen Gospel John 1 19 28 Who Are You revisited Tomb of the Virgin Chapel Gethsemane Just to make sure you aren t scratching your head over today s Gospel yes indeed we just visited this reading on the Third Sunday of Advent And I would hate to repeat myself much less show my age and forget that I was repeating myself So in light of today s Gospel let s reflect a bit on our Saints of the Day Basil and Gregory both of them Greek Bishops and Doctors of the Church Basil was Defender of the Faith against the Arian heresy He was both a pastoral shepherd and a renowned preacher He founded hospitals for the poor and would preach twice daily In spite of constantly being ridiculed and misunderstood for much of his life his nature was both balanced and peaceful Gregory on the other hand was simple and humble very uncomfortable with public life He was a rather reluctant priest and always considered himself unworthy of the calling Even after becoming a bishop he much preferred a life of quiet prayer and seclusion Basil and Gregory two very different personalities and yet for much of their lives they were good friends But there came a time when Basil as his bishop ordered Gregory to a town torn apart by heresy and conflict Gregory instead retreated to his home town and their friendship grew strained If they were posed the question given to John the Baptist in today s Gospel who are you there would be two very different answers Two very different personalities two very different interests and spiritualities and yet along with St Gregory of Nissa they are recognized as the three great Cappadocian Fathers and Doctors of the Church Two different individuals but still one in spirit and one in faith 118 It is a story that should give us all hope and courage God knows our strengths and our weaknesses He knows who we are And He calls each of us to a mission some with a public identity of preaching and some with a private life of prayer and contemplation So let s reflect today on that daunting question posed to John Who Are You Who does God call you to be

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Sunday Feast of the Epiphany Gospel Matthew 2 1 12 Hope for the Best Expect the Worst Shepherds Field Bethlehem A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks If one felt it was too hot the other thought it was too cold If one said the TV was too loud the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up Opposite in every way one was an eternal optimist the other a doom and gloom pessimist Just to see what would happen on Christmas day their father loaded the pessimist s room with every imaginable toy and game The optimist s room he loaded with horse manure That night the father passed by the pessimist s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly Why are you crying the father asked Because my friends will be jealous I ll have to read all of these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff I ll constantly need batteries and my toys will eventually get broken answered the pessimist twin Passing the optimist twin s room the father found him dancing for joy and digging in the pile of manure What are you so happy about he asked To which his optimist twin replied With all this manure there s got to be a pony in here somewhere Such a study in contrasts one brother so positive and hopeful the other worried and fearful of the future As we celebrate today the Feast of the Epiphany we see something similar Herod the Great egotistical and paranoid selfish and greedy envious and fearful of anyone who would even dare to challenge his kingship willing to execute any who stand in his way even little babies And the Magi three wise men three Gentiles who have travelled for months following a star hopeful that it will lead them to the newborn King of the Jews a Savior of all And while they bring the infant Jesus gifs of gold frankincense and myrrh they recognize that the Child is the real gift the gift of love and salvation to the world Herod has closed his heart to this singular gift he thinks only of himself and any perceived threats to his power Instead of being hopeful he sees the future as an enemy something to fight against and something to fear The Magi in contrast have given up the comforts of home in search of this Child King No matter what hardships they faced on their journey they remained committed positive and hopeful Their journey is not simply one of miles but one of faith They come to see this Epiphany this manifestation of the divine into the human world They see in this infant the future not one to fear but to be hopeful 119

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And they face that future with joy and thanksgiving These past 10 months we have all felt overwhelmed and exhausted We have experienced more than our share of horse manure And we have at times questioned and doubted expecting the worst Like the pessimistic brother we worry that things won t get better And truth be told there have been moments where we have lost hope Today s Gospel story is one of expectation and joy of wonder and hope As we begin this New Year we pray for the grace to have the hope of the Magi Consider this the Magi were a community of support three men travelling together They were not alone not like Herod That should give us today a sense of hope and courage for the future We too are not alone We travel through this life with grace and Spirit of God We travel with our Savior and our Brother 120

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Monday St Elizabeth Ann Seton Gospel Matthew 4 12 17 23 25 Moving Day I spent my Sophomore year in college at the University of Maryland quite an adjustment moving from a class of 13 in the seminary to a student population of 40 000 My parents got me a basement apartment off campus to cut down on commuting It was small enough to fit in our current living room I remember my parents and myself cleaning the place probably the only time that happened and fixing it up before I moved in I think I subsisted on a diet of fast food canned soup fried bologna sandwiches and frozen pot pies I would make regular weekend runs home to get my laundry cleaned by mom and to load up on groceries from my dad s store It was tiny windowless and basic but it was mine And it was my first experience of living on my own Needless to say I learned a lot mostly by the mistakes I made I don t think today s Gospel really sunk in for me until just recently Jesus is moving out He leaves His family home in Nazareth and moves to Capernaum From that time on Capernaum becomes home for His adult life Kind of makes you wonder what His new home was like How did He manage the day to day responsibilities of living on His own And He didn t just change His living arrangements He changed His life moving from private to public As soon as He moves to Capernaum He begins His mission of preaching teaching and curing people of their illnesses This was the beginning of His public life and He never looked back Do we remember that moment when we grew up when we grew out of living at home That moment when we became or tried to be independent That moment when we started to make our own decisions instead of asking for permission That moment when we really considered what we would be doing with our life No I don t necessarily mean when we physically moved away from home I mean that moment when we consciously started making our own faith decisions That moment when we were living on our own and it s a Sunday morning and we got up and went to church not because we were told to but because we chose to When was it that faith and worship and prayer and simple Christian charity became an integral part of your life When was it that you moved on from your childhood home and moved into the House of God That should give you something to ponder on 121

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Tuesday St John Neumann Gospel Mark 6 34 44 Food for Thought The Fields of Galilee I am guessing we all grew up with two dining tables on special occasions adults and kids table And I couldn t wait until I graduated to the adult table I thought it would be something special But when I did I realized I was expected to talk and listen that there was more going on than just eating and I would try to get excused as soon as I could I enjoy spending time with two grandsons especially when they were younger and we could sit share a meal and talk But it was a lot easier when they were younger These days the boys bring their phones their iPads and their headphones and all we do is eat So before the isolation hit and we were still able to eat together we instituted the no electronics rule at the dinner table Too often we think the food will bring us together and that the conversation will follow naturally Today s Gospel we also hear about conversation and food But it s not the same a crowd of people have come to hear Jesus speak there is no thought of food they are so taken by his words that they lose track of time and human needs They feed off his words of comfort and hope And then because of his compassion they all share a meal So it is every time we attend Mass we listen to the word of God Old Testament New Testament Letter and Gospel And after reflecting on the Word we then share a meal Jesus gift of His body and blood And that is what the celebration of the Mass is the Word of God for us to reflect on and incorporate into our lives and the opportunity to share the Eucharist a gift of Jesus love and compassion Nourished by that gift we are then all called to demonstrate that same love and compassion in our daily lives 122

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Wednesday after Epiphany Gospel Mark 6 45 52 Weathering the Storm Sea of Galilee A few years ago we went on a summer vacation along with our daughter son inlaw and two grandsons Early one morning we chartered a boat to go fishing on Lake Michigan Our daughter had never had the experience before and it turned out to be quite the adventure It was not a calm lake that morning it was really rough and choppy and the boat really rocked from side to side By the time it was Jaime s turn to grab the rod and reel in a fish she had turned a lovely shade of green We kept insisting that we would take the rod and she could go and sit down But she utterly refused she was determined to land that fish And she did In spite of being very sea sick she did That was not a time for the weak of stomach The Gospel today tells of another rough time on the water on the Sea of Galilee Jesus has just fed the 5 000 with loaves and fish And He has sent the disciples on ahead across the Sea We have been blessed to have taken a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee three times every time it was calm and the water was like glass But the Sea has a reputation for storms quickly appearing And that is what happens here And when Jesus sees that they are in trouble He walks on the water to them and calms the sea and the disciples do not be afraid You would think the disciples would marvel and express their wonder at all this And yet the Gospel says their hearts were hardened After the miracle of the loaves and fishes after calming the storm and walking on water their reaction seems to be a refusal to believe They aren t joyful or grateful they are terrified not sure what to make of what is happening These days it is easy to fall into a state of worry and anxiety fear and uncertainty Even when something good for a change happens we seem reluctant to crack a smile or breathe a sigh of relief In the end God asks one thing of us trust Him Good or bad happy or sad trust Him Someone once said that we are all in the same boat I beg to differ We are all in the same storm But we are all in a different boat dealing with our own concerns and issues Trust in the Lord Be confident that He has the power to calm our storms and to give us the strength to weather the rough seas 123

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Thursday after Epiphany First Reading 1John 4 19 5 4 Calming the Storm Within There are no words adequate enough to describe the despicable events we witnessed at the Capitol over the last 24 hours much less deal with the emotions we all felt and continue to feel right now Yesterday s Gospel spoke of Jesus calming the storm and I related that miracle with the storm we are all experiencing in dealing with the pandemic I suggested then that we are all in the same storm but in different boats dealing with the pandemic in our own unique personal and family situations Today we deal with a different storm But if we are to find any solace or hope we must deal with this tragedy as one As Americans and as Christians we are all in the same boat We must join together in reflecting on Scripture in offering prayer and in trusting in the Lord So take some time today to reflect on the words of today s First Reading This is the commandment we have from him Whoever loves God must also love his brother Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments For the love of God is this that we keep his commandments And his commandments are not burdensome And then pray in the words of St Francis Lord make me an instrument of your peace where there is hatred let me sow love where there is injury pardon where there is doubt faith where there is despair hope where there is darkness light where there is sadness joy O divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console to be understood as to understand to be loved as to love 124 For it is in giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

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Friday after Epiphany First Reading Luke 5 12 16 Help Me Along the Via Dolorosa Jerusalem I admit it most of the time I think I don t need anyone s help that I can do things on my own Especially around the house I believe I am Mr Fix it and can solve any problem At least until I realize I need another hand or something is too heavy or too far away to reach Those times when I am literally STUCK and have to ask for help It s not easy it takes a great deal of humility and honesty that I am not as independent as I think To be honest I should have realized that long ago I could never have been able to rewire a lamp or repair a front porch or change the oil or unclog a drain without the advice and hands on example of my dad and my father in law The man in today s Gospel understands that He is afflicted with leprosy which makes him a social outcast He cannot associate talk or approach anyone He has to remain on the outskirts of town to avoid any contact He is completely alone in the world cut off even from his family and friends And yet look what he does He comes into town approaches Jesus and starts a conversation What a display of humility of honesty of courage and of faith He asks Jesus to cure him He has no expectations no real hope that Jesus will even notice him much less respond Society would have demanded that Jesus just turn his back and pretend the man doesn t even exist But Jesus does respond He does cure him And then He sends him off to the priest to certify that he is really cleansed of leprosy That simple act of Jesus will allow him to rejoin his family to be re admitted to society In our worst moments when life gets too heavy to bear when we get stuck in our own depression and sadness over the state of our life and our world need I say more Jesus reminds us today that we are not alone All it takes is a good dose of humility and a recognition that we are not as perfect as we think All it takes is a bit of courage and complete faith in God Help me I can t do this on my own We hear it even in today s Morning Prayer A humble contrite heart O God you will not spurn Heal us Lord Make us clean 125

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Saturday after Epiphany Gospel John 3 22 30 We Just Light the Fire After 40 years of teaching high school Religion I know in the end it had nothing to do with the crazy projects weird presentations or tests it wasn t even about deep philosophical and theological discussions about inanimate objects like the chair No as a teacher I realize that my goal was always a simple one lighting that candle creating a moment when a spark of insight and creativity begins to glow I ve seen those moments when literally the light bulb goes on and they begin to think create and imagine As a teacher the hope is always that they will grow beyond me beyond the classroom All we do as teachers is light the fire and hope they keep the flame going We know that to be true as parents as well We raise them feed and clothe them teach them and correct them in the hope that they will grow beyond us and become something more something wonderful There is one line in today s Gospel that resonates that thought for me He must increase and I must decrease John sees it and accepts it even though his disciples are a bit miffed that Jesus disciples are baptizing as if they were in competition with each other John receives the news with humility and joy because he knows the Messiah has come He could have been jealous or envious he could have resented that his mission was being overshadowed taken over by Jesus and His followers Instead he recognizes that he is merely the best man not the bridegroom God has bestowed wondrous gifts and talents on all of us In a way we all are called to be teachers parents mentors to others We all have a mission to lead others to Christ to light the fire of faith and then hope they not only keep it lit but also stoke that fire so that it grows and warms the heart and soul A couple of side notes today Today s first verse left me a bit bewildered Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea where he spent some time with them baptizing Really Jesus was baptizing How did I not notice this before But if we read further into Chapter 4 we see although it was not Jesus Himself but His disciples who were baptizing It is still a bit puzzling but maybe these were originally disciples of John who were still in the process of moving on from John s mission to that of Jesus 126 Also a word of thanks yesterday marked 300 straight days thus far of sharing Gospel reflections with you Thank you for your support and encouragement And praise to the Holy Spirit for his guidance and inspiration

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Sunday Baptism of Our Lord Gospel Mark 1 7 11 I Am Proud Of You After my ordination to the Diaconate over five years ago I traveled home to Southern Maryland to celebrate with my family and to deacon my first Mass at my family parish It s a little country church it s where I was baptized and confirmed where I received my First Communion It s where I served as an altar boy for many many years So it was a bit nerve wracking to deacon and to preach in front of friends and family much less my mom Afterwards my mom made a point of telling me how proud she was and how proud my dad would have been if he had been there You see he passed away years before that so I never had the chance to share this deacon journey And all the time since my mom has constantly reminded me of his and her pride in what I do We ve all had those moments either as a child or as a parent Mom dad saying I m proud of you for something we did Maybe we got an A on a math test maybe I cleaned my room without being asked maybe I passed my driving test got my first job or graduated from college Whatever it was it was a recognition that we did something that was good something that made them proud This is what we hear in today s Gospel This is my beloved Son with You I am well pleased God the Father expressing His love and support for His Son and the Holy Spirit coming down upon Him in the form of a dove The difference here is that God s words of love and support happen at the very beginning of Jesus ministry There have been no miracles no multiplication of loaves or fishes no calming of the storm There have been no parables or Sermon on the Mount There aren t any disciples or apostles as yet Jesus has done and said nothing thus far And yet God loves Him is proud of Him and makes it publicly known that He is well pleased with Jesus Now we might be thinking that s all well and good but that s Jesus That s not us Really Haven t our parents not only expressed their pride in our accomplishments afterwards but also offered their confidence and support before the fact Before that test Before that job interview You got this I know you can do this Didn t they love you before during and after We celebrate today the Baptism of the Lord Haven t we all been baptized by water and the Spirit Hasn t God adopted each and every one of us as His son and daughter So too God has loved us from the moment of our birth He has loved and supported and guided us every step of the way He is our greatest cheerleader This is my beloved child with whom I am well pleased Jesus hears these words at the beginning of his ministry For us these are the words we hope to hear at the end of our journey A welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven 127

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Monday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 14 20 Who Me Jesus Boat Museum Capernaum It s a familiar story Jesus has just been baptized by His cousin John His ministry is just getting started And as He is walking along the Sea of Galilee He calls Peter and Andrew James and John to follow Him And they do They said yes Immediately And they leave everything behind friends family work everything At this point I m supposed to say what about us Have we said YES to Jesus Are we willing and able to follow Jesus I am sure we have all heard that homily before many times So let s try something different and look at the story from Jesus perspective Instead of asking whether we can answer His call ask ourselves what leads Jesus to invite these men on the mission in the first place Why does Jesus pick these poor uneducated fishermen What the heck does He see in them that they probably don t see in themselves And if Jesus saw potential faith courage possibilities in men like Peter then what about us Haven t we all been called Hasn t God chosen each of us by the nature of our Baptism to follow Him And our response Who Me I m nobody nothing special What is it that Jesus sees in us that He invites us on the journey Now that is something worth pondering So take some time today step away from your boat and your nets and look deep inside Appreciate that God sees so much more than we see in ourselves 128

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Tuesday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 21 28 The Word of God Synagogue Capernaum What you see in today s photo is the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum Dating back to the 4th Century AD it was built over the ruins of another synagogue the one mentioned in today s Gospel Jesus synagogue People often talk about wanting to visit the Holy Land and walk in Jesus footsteps Well you can t get much closer than this Even today the synagogue is a house of prayer for the Jews a place to hear the Word of God as set out in the Torah our Old Testament So the Jews in today s Gospel not only hear the Word of God they see the Word of God Jesus and they witness the power of the Word of God We don t know what exactly Jesus said what Scripture He preached from We do know that the man with the unclean spirit hears the Word and immediately recognizes Jesus for who He is the Divine Son of God Imagine that He hears the Word and then he experiences the power of the Word as Jesus calls the unclean spirit out of the man The Word of God Jesus doesn t just speak He commands And the people don t just hear the Word they are amazed They hear they see they witness That is a powerful lesson for all of us The Gospel acclamation speaks quite plainly Receive the word of God not as the word of men but as it truly is the word of God How do we receive the Word of God We hear the Word of God at every Mass What effect does it have on us Are we amazed Are we changed or filled with joy Are we so overcome with awe that we spread that Word in our daily lives What effect has it made on us 129

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Wednesday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 29 39 Taking A Break Peter s House St Peter s Church Capernaum Point of reference today s Gospel reading picks up right after the events of yesterday Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Capernaum and then cures the man with a demon He then goes to Peter s house Today a magnificent modern church rests on top of Peter s house You can look down inside the church and see those ruins The synagogue is just to the left a short walk of barely 100 feet Are you tired Not sleepless night or household work tired but bone tired exhausted but not from any physical work You lack the energy the drive the motivation to do anything That kind of tired Weighed down by the events of the past week and filled with concern for your family yourself your world Sound familiar In today s Gospel Jesus cures Peter s mother in law of a fever and then goes off on an extended tour of all the towns in Galilee preaching and curing But what strikes me the most are not these two events but what is happening in between In spite of all He has done and all He plans to do Jesus gets up early in the morning and goes off to a quiet place to pray Think about it This is the Messiah the Son of God the Savior of the world the divine Lord And even He needs some quiet time to prepare to recharge to talk with His Father He must be tired from the day before and yet He gets up before dawn to pray Now I m not suggesting that we all should be getting up at 4am for prayer or writing Gospel reflection But shouldn t we all have the time s throughout the day to just step aside from this crazy mixed up world catch our breath and offer a simple prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Father If nothing else it can help to re center our lives and our worries around the love of God It can remind us all that we are not alone Great Spirit remind me today that I am spiritual Help me to realize today what I 130 am really made of

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Thursday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 40 45 Father Knows Best Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem I am a die hard sci fi fan ever since I was little Star Wars Star Trek you name it But my all time favorite is Doctor Who It s about this alien who travels through time and space in a blue British police phone box The box Tardis is intelligent and the Doctor has numerous conversations with it At one point he has gotten quite frustrated and complains You never take me where I want to be The Tardis replies True but I always take you where you need to be Isn t that true for us in our prayer life Doesn t it seem that prayer too often consists of asking God for something thinking that we know what s best for ourselves And then we get upset when we don t get it Kind of like a child not getting everything they want for Christmas God doesn t always give us everything we ask for but He does give us everything we really need even if we don t recognize or acknowledge it The leper is today s Gospel reading certainly understands that In three simple words he accepts that God knows best IF YOU WISH If it is your will you can make me clean He doesn t demand or plead he puts it in God s hands and is willing to accept God s decision We hear the same theme in the Lord s Prayer Thy Will Be Done Maybe it takes us a while to realize and accept it but Father really does know best My Creator make my eyes and my heart open to Your Will Aho 131

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Friday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 2 1 12 Persistent Faith and Friendship St Peter s Church Capernaum I keep getting this image of Jesus as some sort of rock star He s been away on tour for the past few days preaching curing and casting out demons all throughout Galilee And now He s come back home to Capernaum I imagine to catch His breath and get some rest Not gonna happen He is mobbed so much so that He can t even get out of His own house even the doorway is blocked with people So now He preaches and teaches at home essentially He works from home something a lot of us can identify with these days And now four men arrive carrying their friend who is paralyzed There is no way to get through to see Him You would think they would just give up but not so They climb the roof open a hole and then lower their friend down Creative Yes Persistent Most definitely Consider what this tells us How deep and loving is their friendship for their sick friend The lengths they will go to in order to even meet Jesus And consider their faith in Jesus their obviously unshaken belief that He can cure their friend Even Jesus is amazed and recognizes their deep faith They heard the Good News They believed what they heard And they acted on that belief They changed their routine their life out of love for their friend and faith in the Lord Can we say the same Aren t we all believers Don t we all have a friend who is struggling in this time of pandemic to stay upright So what s stopping us Maybe that s our mission today and in the days ahead to reach out to those we call friend and put our Christian beliefs into action to support them in their time of need carry them on our shoulders if necessary to be persistent in our friendship and in our faith 132

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Saturday First Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 2 13 17 Broken Rosary Procession Nazareth I know I ve said it before but given today s Gospel I think it bears repeating every saint has a past and every sinner has a future So what is it that links the two what lifts us up from sinner to saint from pain to healing Compassion The compassion of Christ And that is what we see in today s Gospel Jesus spending time with the outcasts the sinners tax collectors the sick and the forgotten And in His own house It is a clear reminder to us of what Pope Francis has said time and time again The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful it needs nearness proximity I see the church as a field hospital after battle It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars You have to heal his wounds Then we can talk about everything else Heal the wounds heal the wounds And you have to start from the ground up Christian singer Matthew West addresses this need for compassion in his song Truth Be Told I share with you the lyrics Lie number one you re supposed to have it all together And when they ask how you re doing Just smile and tell them Never better Lie number two everybody s life is perfect except yours So keep your messes and your wounds And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors Truth be told the truth is rarely told I say I m fine yeah I m fine oh I m fine hey I m fine but I m not I m broken And when it s out of control I say it s under control but it s not And you know it I don t know why it s so hard to admit it When being honest is the only way to fix it There s no failure no fall There s no sin you don t already know So let the truth be told 133

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There s a sign on the door says Come as you are but I doubt it Cause if we lived like it was true every Sunday morning pew would be crowded But didn t you say the church should look more like a hospital A safe place for the sick the sinner and the scarred and the prodigals Like me There s no sin you don t already know So let the truth be told Can I really stand here unashamed Knowin that your love for me won t change Oh God if that s really true Then let the truth be told We are all in some way broken We are all in need of a word of forgiveness or a simple act of kindness And if we aren t there now then we were there yesterday or the day before Sometimes we are the patient sometimes the doctor Either way we are called to the path of love and compassion that Jesus lives out in today s Gospel 134

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Sunday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel John 1 35 42 Lost and Found Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee As we entered this New Year I spent a good deal of time sorting through all of the past year s receipts bills and documents trying to close the book on last year s finances One thing in particular I was looking for were our property tax bills They weren t where they were supposed to be and I was worried that I had somehow lost them But while I was searching I found something else I found two photographs two rather old ones One was of our daughter Jaime all dressed up and posed when she was three years old so cute And the other was a photo of Ginger and myself probably very early 80s So young so full of life and happiness And a lot less gray and a lot more hair than now What I was looking for was some tax bills a simple stack of papers What I found was a reminder of a simpler time when love and family were barely beginning What I found was an appreciation for the past a love for where we are and a hope for time ahead Jesus asks a similar question in today s Gospel what are you looking for John the Baptist has just pointed out Jesus to two of his disciples and they began to follow Jesus So He naturally asks what are you looking for And their response zip Nothing they don t answer Jesus question It s as if they aren t sure they haven t made up their mind yet There is doubt and uncertainty All they do is respond with a question of their own where are you staying It s a tentative reply kind of I m not sure but let s at least check Him out They aren t sure what they are looking for much less decided who Jesus really is That will take time And Faith This is not the only time in John s Gospel that Jesus asks this or a similar question what are you looking for Or Whom do you seek Jesus asks this of the soldiers who come to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane whom do you seek Their response Jesus of Nazareth And when He says I am He they fall to the ground They came in the middle of the night looking for a rabble rouser a trouble maker What they found was someone to be reverenced and paid homage to And then early in the morning on the first day of the week after Jesus Crucifixion Mary Magdalene came and found an empty tomb And Jesus appears and asks her who are you looking for Mary came looking for the body of Jesus her friend and teacher to anoint with oils What she found instead was her Risen Lord 135

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Sometimes this journey we call life isn t really about what we are searching for it s about what we find We search for a lot of things we think are so important so critical for our happiness But in the end what and who we find in the midst of that search are what s truly important and valuable We look for success popularity financial or career success We look for awards and pats on the back We look for happiness in many of the wrong places So instead of asking ourselves what are we looking for maybe we should ask what have we found I was looking for some ordinary financial documents what I found was a reminder of a lifetime of love and affection Those two disciples of John were looking for a new teacher they found the Messiah The soldiers were looking for a criminal to arrest they found someone to bow down to Mary Magdalene was looking for the body of her teacher Jesus what she found was the Risen Lord Throughout our lives we search for meaning for purpose And so in the midst of that search let us pray that we find Jesus right by our side particularly in those moments of doubt those moments of trial 136

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Monday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 2 18 22 The Love of God Mass in Cave at Gethsemane After reading over today s Gospel I keep getting this image of Monty Python and the Holy Grail Yes I know seriously warped Anyway it s the scene where a group of hooded monks process through the village chanting over and over Pie Jesu Domine dona eis requiem And then they go and smack their foreheads with a wooden board again and again It leaves you with the impression that God is essentially a God of pain and punishment where we have to inflict pain on ourselves for Him to notice and forgive That s why the people are complaining to Jesus why aren t your disciples fasting and atoning for sin That is when Jesus sets them straight God is not so much a vengeful God He is a God of Love He is our Father and that is a cause for celebration and joy not sadness and fear Just like a wedding feast Weddings and wedding receptions are time to set aside fasting they are moments of hope and promise of a love professed and a bond unshakeable Does that mean that there won t be times of trial and upset in a marriage Of course not But what sustains a marriage what helps it to grow is that mutual love of husband and wife And so it is with our relationship with God There are moments of great celebration and joy there are moments of doubt and upset But through it all it is God s love that is constant and eternal So in spite of all the hardships and sacrifices we are experiencing these days let s not forget to spread a little joy as well God loves us And that is cause for celebration 137

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Tuesday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 2 23 28 Charity Begins at Home Dad s Store Maryland Just to be clear today s photo is NOT from the Holy Land What you see is my dad s little country store set in the farmland of Southern Maryland surrounded by forests and tobacco corn fields with our home just a few steps to the left It was not just a grocery store it was a gas station post office deli meat market ice cream shop and liquor store for the countryside That front porch was a regular meeting spot an outdoor caf if you will And somehow that modest establishment got my brother two sisters and myself not only through high school but college as well I still can t figure out how he did it There was a sign posted on the door listing hours that he was open But I always thought they were more suggestions than hard and fast rules It didn t matter to Dad whether the store was open or not or if it was the dead of night if someone came by and needed something he would generously open the store and take care of them Even on Sunday s when he really was closed many was the time he would stop what he was doing playing softball with us and he would unlock the store because someone needed a quart of milk or some eggs or medicine for their sick child He never felt imposed upon or resented what we might have thought was an imposition It was in his nature to care for others willingly and cheerfully Today s Gospel has the Pharisees complaining that the disciples are breaking the Sabbath law of no work by picking grain to eat I think you can see where I m going with this Jesus responds quite pointedly the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath 138 I learned a lot of things from my Dad some from his words most from his actions And today s lesson couldn t be clearer Charity has no restrictions or time limits And charity really does begin at home

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Wednesday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 3 1 6 Counting to Ten Chapel Mount of Beatitudes In all my years of teaching one of the nicest compliments I ever got was a student remarking that they had never really seen me upset Hmm I m guessing that either they had a very short memory or all the time I spent teaching Buddhism and how to meditate was well spent Either way I know it wasn t necessarily true especially my first year at St Pat s I had spent over 30 years teaching girls and now I was teaching boys Everything was different everything was frustrating And I do recall getting so upset that I raised my voice and yelled at them But my brain was still in all girls mode so I didn t say boys or gentlemen I said ladies It worked amazingly well They thought it was the worst insult and they immediately shut up I am sure we have all had our moments when we didn t count to 10 when we literally lost it when our anger spilled out into harsh words and even action which we may have regretted later Today s Gospel shows Jesus apparently ready to explode He is angry and very upset over the Pharisees hardness of heart But He doesn t yell He doesn t throw things He doesn t lash out at the Pharisees Instead He focused on the man with the withered hand He focused on doing the right thing curing him And He let His actions speak for themselves He knew the right thing to do and He did it even though He also realized His actions would have consequences further down the road He didn t let anger get in the way of His mission He did the right thing no matter what the cost Perhaps that is the lesson for us today Yes we all get angry but we can t let the anger control us or prevent us from doing the right thing or distract us from staying true to the Mission So take a good deep breath and exhale Count to ten if you have to and follow the Lord As one of my former students said on a post yesterday Love wins Anger destroys 139

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Thursday St Agnes Virgin and Martyr Gospel Mark 3 7 12 Don t Tell Anyone Church of All Nations Mount of Olives We don t know much about the life of St Agnes or the details of her martyrdom We do know she lived around 291 304AD during the persecutions of Diocletian and that she was martyred around the age of 13 She had many suitors all of them she refused to marry She suffered greatly for her devotion to the Faith and her vow to consecrate her life to Jesus Today s Gospel shows Jesus enduring the crush of the crowds looking for a place of relief and rest and yet never denying people the opportunity to come to Him for healing But what strikes me most is Jesus command to the unclean spirits not to make Him known There are numerous times in Mark s Gospel where Jesus sends the same message tell no one Many scholars talk about this as the Messianic Secret It reminds me a bit of a good friend telling me a great story but asking me not to tell anyone Yeah right That s the perfect line for people to do the exact opposite Ssshh it s a secret don t tell anyone St Agnes had plenty of opportunities to do just that to tell no one to say nothing about her Faith She had many chances to renounce her Faith In fact she did the exact opposite She proclaimed loud and clear that she was the bride of Christ and her life was dedicated to Him In her words and her actions she professed her Faith Opportunities to express and profess our Faith happen on a daily basis although not necessarily with the threat of martyrdom Would people know that we are Christian By our words By our actions If being a Christian was a crime as in the time of the Roman persecutions would there be any evidence to convict us Would we speak up or would we tell no one 140

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Friday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 3 13 19 Go Climb A Mountain Mount of Beatitudes Galilee A little context Jesus has already called His disciples to follow Him Today however we hear in the Gospel what amounts to a Commissioning Ceremony Jesus summons His soon to be Apostles and gives them their mission to preach and to cast out demons What is most significant is where this takes place Mountains for the Jews were always places to encounter the Divine to meet God Moses and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai Noah and the Ark on Mount Ararat the Temple on Mount Zion They were holy places where one felt closer to God So it should be no surprise that the Apostles are solemnly commissioned on a mountain probably the Mount of Beatitudes which would have been close by And Jesus selected 12 re establishing the 12 Tribes of Israel We know from other stories in the Gospels that Jesus spends a good deal of time on mountains to get away to retreat from the world to pray and to re charge His spiritual batteries Perhaps that should be our goal today to climb that mountain virtual or otherwise to step aside from the weight of the world and to pause and reflect on our own spiritual mission commission And while we are there let us offer up a prayer to the Creator of all life on this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children God our Creator we give thanks to you who alone have the power to impart the breath of life as you form each of us in our mother s womb grant we pray that we whom you have made stewards of creation may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human 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 Collect Prayer for the Day 141

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Saturday Second Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 3 20 21 Crazy He is out of his mind At some point I am sure all of my students have said something similar about me Whether it was the religious feast day cookbooks or board game a child s world religions book of prayers or tracing their religious roots scrapbook or a photo album of Chicago houses of worship or trying to figure out my method of creating seating charts they must have muttered words like that under their breath And I have to admit they were right There was always this sense of unique they wouldn t call it that and creative ideas that they were never really prepared for But it made them think and look at things from a different perspective The projects and wacky tests were never really easy but they did make my kids really reflect on what they learned and to frame that knowledge into something new Crazy Out of His mind That is what we hear the people of Capernaum call Jesus And aren t they correct He speaks to and casts out demons He now has a following of 12 men most of whom are simple fishermen poor and uneducated men who have left home and family to follow Him He eats with tax collectors and sinners and has the gall to interact with lepers and women in public He preaches love of neighbor of enemies and even Gentiles He says to call God our Father Don t judge turn the other cheek Take care of the poor and live out the Beatitudes Crazy Seriously crazy And yet when you think about it aren t we all a bit crazy To be a practicing Christian in this world of power and greed and excesses is it that hard to imagine that the rest of the world sees us as out of our minds No one ever said being Christian would be easy Christianity preaches a radical message of love and respect for all people all life It calls us to live a self less life and believe that suffering is redemptive and transformative Bishop Barron once reflected that it is not about modernizing the Church but Christifying the world That means staying faithful to Jesus message in spite of a world that challenges our beliefs at every turn and mocks Christianity as being too difficult too impractical to follow So here s to the craziness in all of us who call ourselves disciples of Christ 142

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Sunday Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 14 20 A Wake Up Call Casting Nets Sea of Galilee So a question for you What do you think was the greatest technological advance invention in the past 50 years Some might say the Internet and its seeming limitless access to information in a moment s notice Others might say the smart phone and its ability to keep us connected to friends and family Or maybe it s all the comfort and safety features that cars and SUV s have today heated seats rear view cameras blind spot warnings Those are all certainly terrific but I m thinking of something even smaller and more basic I think it s the snooze bar on our alarm clocks Let s face it nobody like alarms and we certainly don t like to be told when to get up in the morning That moment when we can just hit that bar and convince ourselves we can sleep longer we don t have to rush and we won t be late for work well that s real power real freedom And anything that shuts off that annoying alarm is even more precious Let s face it we hate alarms of any kind they terrify us throw us into a panic and we tend to lose control of rational thought We burned a pizza in the oven a few weeks ago and everything went nuts The alarm was so loud we couldn t hear each other and we forgot how to turn it off By the time we got everything all sorted out the fire department had already arrived and we had to embarrassingly apologize for the non emergency I think that s how we all tend to deal with alarms we either choose to ignore them or we go straight into a panic In today s Gospel Jesus sounds the alarm This is the time of fulfillment The kingdom of God is at hand Repent and believe in the Gospel These are the very first words Jesus speaks in Mark s Gospel He didn t speak at His Baptism He didn t challenge the Devil while He was in the desert These are His very first words and they are words of warning Time is up the kingdom is here Repent and believe There is no time to hit the snooze bar to turn over and pretend everything s ok The time to respond is NOW And as soon as Jesus makes that pronouncement He begins to call His disciples Peter and Andrew James and John all of them fishermen busy with their nets trying to catch fish for their family their livelihood And yet they respond and they do so immediately There is no hesitation no rationalizing no eh I ll think about it later or I have better things to do Imagine that The alarm goes off and they respond without hesitation 143

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For most of us I think we always questioned their sanity for just up and leaving everything behind and following Jesus Aren t they just a bit crazy And yet maybe they are the most reasonable They heard the call the alarm bell They didn t panic They didn t ignore the alarm They didn t hit the snooze bar to give themselves another 10 minutes to think about what to do They responded They trusted They followed Something tells me God sends us alarm bells every day little nudges to not just avoid evil but to follow the path to good Sometimes it might be that proverbial lightning bolt that jolts our senses and causes us to stop and think Other times it could be a subtle hint to remind us that we are straying from the path Either way God calls us every day to follow Him with faith and with love How do we respond Do we ignore the call altogether Do we tell ourselves maybe later and never re visit the call Do we panic and find ourselves too worried to respond Do we pretend the alarm never happened Or do we answer the alarm with faith and love Do we trust in the Lord 144

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Monday Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 16 15 18 Good News for All At The Wailing Wall Jerusalem We celebrate today the Conversion of St Paul His story is familiar journeying to Damascus to continue his persecution of the early Church blinded by a bright light struck down off his horse and Jesus words why are you persecuting me It is hard to imagine what the Church would look like today if it weren t for the missionary efforts of St Paul He is truly the Apostle to the Gentiles he is the one who brought the Good News to the non Jewish population and it is through him that the message spread throughout the known world There is one line in today s Gospel that should strike at our hearts Go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature It is a message that should resonant with all of us not just the Apostles after the Ascension not just with Paul but with all of us If Jesus message is one of love to love our neighbor to love everyone then the message is for everyone and the message must be spread by everyone We are all called to share the message of love to bring the Good News to people in our own time and place each of us in our own way So let s take some time today in prayer asking the Lord to help us appreciate the unique gifts He has given each one of us and to give us the strength to share the Good News with our neighbors Great Spirit help me today to teach only love to learn only love 145

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Tuesday Saints Timothy and Titus Gospel Mark 3 31 35 Who s Your Daddy Mommy Church of St Catherine Bethlehem Given Jesus words in today s Gospel there is one thing I know for certain If I ever said anything similar about or to my parents my ability to sit in a chair would be painful for about a week But this is Jesus and we know that there is something else going on here In truth Jesus is not rejecting his parents or his family Instead He is offering an invitation to all of us to be a part of His family if we only believe and do the Father s will Imagine that Jesus invites each of us to be His brother or sister Isn t that exactly what we were baptized into Aren t we all part of a family of faith a family beyond blood and ethnicity 146 We celebrate today the feasts of Saints Timothy and Titus They were both companions of St Paul they traveled with him to minister to the Thessalonians the Ephesians and the Corinthians At one point Paul even calls Titus his dear child And that is the family that Jesus speaks of today We are all brothers and sister in Christ We are all part of one family one Lord one Faith and one Baptism in Christ

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Wednesday Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 4 1 20 The Worst Sower Ever The Fields of Galilee We have certainly spent a lot of time over the years reflecting on the seed the Word in today s Gospel and how it is received Some on rocky ground some among thorns some on the path and some on rich soil Most of it withers and dies But what about the sower I have to wonder whether Jesus audience was more focused on the actions of the Sower I mean this has to be the worst Sower ever He scatters seed everywhere He seems to have no concern where it lands or how much seed he has He is wasting seed left and right No sower in their right mind would waste precious seed like that A real sower would be careful even placing seeds individually in the rich soil to get the best results But not this guy He throws it everywhere as if he doesn t have a care in the world Just get the job done and leave Or maybe not Maybe the Sower God is not so much wasteful in His efforts but extravagant in His love Maybe the message here is that God loves every single one of us He wants all of us to hear His Word and respond Maybe this is a lesson of how boundless God s love and generosity is for us This is not your normal everyday Sower This is our Father This is a God who pours out His love to all of us no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in good soil weeds or rocks He loves each and every one of us And He shares that love and compassion with us all 147

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Thursday St Thomas Aquinas Gospel Mark 4 21 25 There s a Light in the Hallway When we were little I remember my bedroom was always filled with a number of religious objects and statues a cross on the wall images of Jesus and most apropos today a foot tall white statue of the Blessed Virgin I am sure my parents believed they would bring me comfort and protection Truth be told that was far from the reality That statue of Mary glowed in the dark literally So when I would wake up in the middle of the night there it was seemingly hovering in mid air Comfort was the last thing on my mind Today s Gospel speaks of placing a lamp on the lampstand and not under a bed I guess I should have thought of that way back then Of course Jesus is speaking of the lamp of faith not only keeping it lit but keeping it bright enough for all to see It is not merely a lamp of faith it is the gift of faith something to share with others something for all to see and not something to hide away in fear It is a reminder to us all that we are not alone that we are protected and loved by our Creator But it is also a challenge to us to keep burning brightly I share with you again the lyrics of Light in the Hallway by Pentatonix Close your eyes lay your head down Now it s time to sleep May you find great adventure As you lie and dream If you re scared of the darkness I will calm your fear There s a light in the hallway So you know I m here So count your blessings every day It makes the monsters go away And everything will be okay You are not alone You are right at home Goodnight goodnight 148

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Friday Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 4 26 34 Look At Me Now Walking the Streets of Jerusalem For most of us these many months of self imposed exile from the world have been a source of opportunity For some of us there has been the chance for growth We have developed new hobbies and pursuits We ve learned to bake bread started knitting or enjoyed the quiet pleasure of reading a good book or assembling a jigsaw puzzle Or maybe it was just playing a simple game of cards with a loved one Perhaps we have even rediscovered the art of conversation For others it was not just growth but transformation We went on a frenzy of cleaning the house room by room top to bottom We reorganized and de cluttered simplified and tossed out all the stuff we used to think was so important and necessary And in the process we may also have come across those long forgotten boxes of old photographs And we spent days looking through them reminiscing about the old days and reflecting Wow look at me now Look at how far I we have come Look at how much I have grown and changed A time of growth and transformation a time of reflection And isn t that exactly what today s Gospel is addressing You take a seed even something as small as a mustard seed You plant it it splits grows develops and miraculously transforms into a bud a flower a plant a source of beauty and sustenance Growth and transformation We have had so much time to work on our physical selves and our physical home these past 10 months What about our spiritual selves Have we taken the time to reflect on our spiritual growth our spiritual transformation from that little baby at the moment of our Baptism How have we grown How have we been transformed How have we been graced by God s presence in our lives How has the sacramental life transformed us into a disciple of Christ Have we taken the time to reflect to read the good book Can we honestly look back and forward and say Wow look at me now 149

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Saturday Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 4 35 41 Calming the Storm Within I m holding in my hand an 8oz cup filled with about 4oz of water what am I going to say next Half full Half empty HAA No actually it doesn t really matter if it s half empty or full The weight doesn t matter at all What matters is HOW LONG I hold it If I hold it for an hour my arm starts to ache If I hold it for a day you better call for an ambulance In every case it s the same weight But the longer I hold it the more it weighs me down the more it hurts And so it is with stress with fear with anxiety And let s be clear we are all stressed about something Whether it s school or family or our health or the world in general we are all stressed And the longer we hold on to it the more it hurts the more it hurts us And the more it drags us down The longer we keep it inside the heavier it gets In today s Gospel the Apostles find themselves on the Sea of Galilee caught in a storm Question aren t they fishermen Shouldn t they be used to storms and rough weather And yet they re still afraid What does that tell us Sometimes we all get scared no matter who we are School kids and adults brothers and sister parents teachers and even Apostles And yet if you think about it they aren t facing the fear all by themselves they aren t alone in that boat That tells us something too even when we re scared and we think we are all alone we aren t A lot of our family friends are feeling scared too And what does Jesus do He not only calms the storm on the Sea He calms the storm in their hearts He says to them have faith Don t be afraid I am with you always And if He can calm the storm of wind and rain don t you think He can also calm the storms inside of us This story tells me everything I need to know about fear and about gaining a sense of peace We all get scared But we aren t alone And most importantly as Jesus tells us don t be afraid Just let it go and trust in Me If you want peace in your heart peace with your family and neighbors peace in your world have faith in Me Have faith that I am right there with you Set aside that cup full of stress and worry Be not afraid 150

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Sunday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 21 28 Don t I Know You Greek Mosaic at Anointing Stone Church of Holy Sepulchre It s a running joke in our house Ginger and I can t go anywhere without us running into one of my former students After 40 years of teaching I guess that is to be expected But I still seem to have a good enough memory that I invariably not just recognize their face but also remember their name and can still come up with stories about their time in high school The students are always amazed that I remember them especially if it s just a chance encounter on the street right Fabi Ginger s reaction tends to be a nod of the head a roll of the eyes and a simple yes dear I m afraid I subject Ginger to the same barrage of useless knowledge when we are watching TV I insist on not only recognizing the actor but I proceed to list all the other shows and movies they were in and then end it with You remember them don t you More nods of the head and a simple No dear I don t In some ways that s quite a remarkable achievement for me especially when I think about all the times I walk from one room to another and completely forget what I was looking for Some things we remember or recognize others not so much The people in the synagogue in today s Gospel recognize Jesus in the power of His words they are amazed that He speaks with such authority And they recognize the miraculous effect of His actions the healing of the man possessed But it s the unclean spirit that truly sees Jesus for what He is the Holy One of God and he declares that fact in a loud voice Imagine that Even the demons recognize Jesus as divine as the Son of God 151

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A week or so ago a friend of mine sent me a video clip of when we entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem last January And as I m sitting there watching I m like look there s the stairs leading up to Golgotha the site of the crucifixion And there in front of me is the Anointing Stone where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus body for burial And as I m watching I see this huge gorgeous colorful mosaic right beyond the Anointing Stone And I m like where did that come from I don t remember this at all How in the world could I have missed this I mean I ve been to the Holy Land three times Conservatively I ve been in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre probably 10 different times prayed at the Stone at least five times How did I miss this For the record that mosaic is the photo today for this homily Why is it that we can remember some things and not others recognize one face and not another commit some words to memory and others fall by the wayside And maybe that is the question we need to ask ourselves today How many opportunities to recognize Jesus have we missed already today Would we even recognize Jesus if we passed Him on the street Do we see Him in our encounters with the poor and the needy and the sick the homeless and the lost the forgotten and the ignored Did we miss Him because we were focused on something we thought more important Or maybe we just couldn t be bothered Or maybe the better question is this can others see Jesus in their encounters with us Can they recognize His love and compassion in our words In our actions So we pray Great Spirit you are my peace and You dwell within me Let me look for you within myself Aho 152

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Monday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 5 1 20 Good vs Evil Mount Precipice Nazareth Mount Tabor in the distance As most of you know Mark is the shortest by far of all the Gospels He does not spend a lot of time on details he gives you the basics and then moves on He doesn t even include the Nativity story He cuts right to the important stuff That s what makes today s Gospel reading so unique It is so rich in detail the name of the demon the long history of the efforts of the people to control the possessed man and his terrifying struggle with evil And yet look at how Jesus deals with him with compassion and tenderness See what happens when evil Legion is confronted with good Jesus He actually prostrates himself before Jesus Just by His presence evil bows before Him And look at the effect on the man after he is released from his demons He wants nothing more than to be with Jesus to continue to be in the presence of good The Power of Good Truth be told we all at some point in our lives have our own personal demons We all are shackled and tormented possessed and consumed by evil in our life But Jesus reminds us today of the power of good over evil the healing power of His presence and His actions That man has been freed from his shackles literally and figuratively He has been restored to his life and his family through the power of Jesus presence and words of healing Perhaps today we can take the time to remind ourselves that even in the worst of times when we feel the chains and pains of sin Jesus is still here still present with us still offering love and forgiveness mercy and healing 153

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Tuesday Feast of the Presentation Gospel Luke 2 22 40 We Are Family We are now well past the Christmas Season Hopefully it was a time of peace and joy If nothing else hopefully it was a time to smile with a warm heart reflecting on all the Christmases of the past when we gathered as a family Hopefully it gave us the time to give thanks for the love and closeness of family Today s Gospel tells us of another family the Holy Family going up to Jerusalem with the baby Jesus to present Him to the Lord in the Temple a religious tradition that takes place 40 days after the birth of the first born Parents would present their first born as an offering to the Lord and then redeem him back with a sacrifice of two turtledoves or young pigeons And it is there that they meet the Prophet Simeon who rejoices that his eyes have beheld the Savior of the world He held Him in his arms blessed Him and blessed Mary and Joseph And then he predicted that this child would be the glory for His people Israel and a light of revelation for the Gentiles The Gospel ends with a curious line The child grew and became strong filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him And that s it Except for one other story of Jesus being lost in the Temple we know nothing else about His early life nothing Nothing until He is about 30 years old Those hidden years are summed up in that one sentence It seems unsatisfying we want to know more But maybe that really is all we need to know He grew become strong filled with wisdom Under the guidance of His parents he grew became strong and wise And through it all the favor of God was upon Him And that is what we can celebrate today Jesus being presented to His Heavenly Father in the Temple and then under the guidance of the Spirit being raised by His earthly parents Mary and Joseph in wisdom in grace and in faith For all us struggling in the darkness of winter of sickness and separation of despair and loss may the Lord bestow grace upon us just like Jesus Mary and Joseph with that same hope and faith to make Him the center of our own family s life 154

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Wednesday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 6 1 6 Homecoming As most of you know I spent all of high school and most of college in the seminary What you may not know is that it was not as simple as a daily ride on the bus to school and then home for dinner and homework We lived at the seminary for the school year only returning home for the summer Since it was down in Virginia about 180 miles from home even family visits were extremely limited After I graduated from high school and returned home for the summer I decided to visit my former classmates and attend their high school graduation Bad decision It was as if I was invisible at best still an 8th grader at worst My former classmates my former friends looked at me and saw me as I used to be and not as I had grown to be It was difficult to say the least They saw what they wanted to see and not who I really was They didn t allow for a person to change to grow and to mature And that was hard to accept We have all had moments when we returned home and were greeted by family or friends we haven t seen in many years And it s as if you never grew up you were still that little kid And any effort to show how you have changed might have been met with well isn t that nice Jesus travels home to Nazareth in today s Gospel and it does not go well He begins to preach in His home synagogue and it goes from bad to worse He is met with narrow mindedness and preconceived notions of who He is They look at Him the way He was and not who He is People have already made up their minds about who He is and they are too stubborn to change their perception They thought they knew Jesus and they just couldn t move beyond that outdated knowledge Unwilling to change they are also resistant to faith They have closed their minds and hearts to the Good News Faith requires an open mind and an open heart a willingness to listen and learn Jesus must have known this would have happened when He returned home He knew there was a real chance of rejection and closed minds And yet He still came He still preached He still hoped Isn t the same true for all of us Somehow somewhere we encounter Jesus every day And every day Jesus hopes that we will open our minds and our hearts to His message to His healing touch 155

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Thursday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 6 7 13 Have A Little Faith Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth I was thinking about my sophomore year at the University of Maryland and the day that I moved into my very first apartment My parents and I had spent a lot of time cleaning and prepping the place They dropped me off and then suddenly I realized I m now on my own It s all up to me the cleaning the laundry shopping cooking it was now all up to me That was to say the least scary Now what do I do I didn t realize then but I do now I wasn t alone and it wasn t all that scary My parents had been preparing me for this since the day I was born teaching me life skills Of course at the time I didn t realize it but all those clean your room and set the table and do the dishes and help me make dinner all of them prepped me for this And I realize they trusted that I had learned all those life lessons Something similar is happening in today s Gospel Jesus is sending His disciples off to other towns two by two to preach to teach and to heal And what does He tell them to take with them Nothing literally nothing No extra clothes no food no money no sack Just a walking stick How scary is that And yet when you think about it they are carrying something with them something vital and assuring They are carrying His trust in them Think about that for a minute We reflect a lot on how much the disciples trusted Jesus how deep their faith in Him was And yet consider today His faith in them He trusted that they learned their lessons well by listening to His teachings He trusted that they would heal and teach and spread the Word And will there be times when they falter or even fail Of course But they could always return to Him for encouragement and support And so it is for us Jesus trusts in us He trusts that we are learning His message and living a life of love and compassion We think we are being sent out into the world completely on our own But His love and faith sustains us And when we fall and we surely will from time to time we can always return to Him and seek His comfort His faith His love for us will never falter Trust in that and have a little faith 156

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Friday St Agatha Gospel Mark 6 14 29 Speak The Truth Church of the Holy Sepulchre In one episode of the long running sci fi series Doctor Who gives what amounts to a closing speech to his companions The words that ring true today are these Speak the truth and be kind above all else be kind John the Baptist does indeed speak the truth but it certainly does not come across as kind He is blunt and to the point telling people what they need to hear not what they want to hear It is a necessary part of his mission to call people back to repentance And that is what he is doing with Herod telling him in no uncertain terms that marrying his brother s wife is wrong Herod seems to be on the other side of the truth saying only what he thinks people want to hear He is interested only in his popularity and his power He is a prideful man only concerned with his image and his reputation In the end even though he seems to be drawn to John s words he gives in to his baser temptations and fears and has John beheaded We seem to be living in a world where truth is abundant but actually listening and living a truthful life is in short supply Whether it s out of fear or pride we falter at times Face it we are all imperfect beings But even today John the Baptist calls us to repentance We are called to acknowledge our sins and seek forgiveness We are called to seek the truth speak the truth and live the truth We pray today to the Creator for the strength and the grace to follow the Lord who is the Way the Truth and the Life 157

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Saturday St Paul Miki Companions Gospel Mark 6 30 34 Give Me A Break Desert Near the Dead Sea Ginger and I have gotten into a bit of a routine over the past few years We will usually sit down on Sunday evening and compare our calendars It gives us a chance to see what meetings services funerals baptisms etc are coming up A year ago it was also the only way to see if we had any evening home together to share a meal Now we just try to plan things around a myriad of Zoom meetings and perhaps find some time when we are both free And what have we learned Nothing is set in stone not even staff meetings or Zoom meetings to plan Lent and Triduum All events are possible but anything can come up at the last minute that will take precedence and our singular attention Be prepared to not be prepared And take whatever moments present themselves to catch our breath And that is what we hear in today s Gospel You can almost read between the lines Jesus and the Apostles are exhausted The Apostles have just returned from their missionary journey and are eager to share their stories with Jesus Jesus in their absence has continued to teach and preach and heal Jesus recognizes their exhaustion and convinces them to go with Him to a desert place to pray refresh their souls and restore their physical energy But no such luck The crowd follows them and Jesus out of compassion sees their need and begins again to preach to them Ah well the best laid plans eh 158 That is a pointed reminder to all of us who call ourselves disciples Take care of yourself get rest when you can recharge those spiritual batteries But don t plan too far ahead Be prepared at a moment s notice to offer prayers consolation or assistance to those in need Being a disciple is a 24 7 mission God sets the hours God reminds us daily I have a better idea

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Sunday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 29 39 A Different Perspective Change of Scenery Sea of Galilee Capernaum One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family After their return from the trip the father asked his son how he liked the trip It was great Dad the son replied Did you see how poor people can be the father asked Oh Yeah said the son So what did you learn from the trip asked the father The son answered I saw that we have one dog and they had four We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight We have servants who serve us but they serve others We buy our food but they grow theirs We have walls around our property to protect us they have friends to protect them The boy s father was speechless Then his son added It showed me just how poor we really are From time to time whether we realize it or not we all need to step away We all need a change of scenery and a fresh perspective Think about it Think about yourself right now Are you tired Not sleepless night or household work tired but bone tired exhausted but not from any physical work You lack the energy the drive the motivation to do anything That kind of tired Weighed down by the events of the past week year and filled with concern for your family yourself your world Sound familiar In today s Gospel there is a lot going on Jesus has just preached in the synagogue in Capernaum and then he goes to Peter s home and cures his mother in law of a fever And once people hear about it it seems the entire town comes knocking on the door bringing with them the sick and the possessed And He cured them all Later the next day Jesus goes off on an extended tour of all the towns in Galilee preaching and curing and casting out demons What s worth noting is where it is that the people encounter Jesus where they hear His words and feel His healing touch in their houses of worship and prayer in their homes in their towns Jesus meets them in the midst of their daily lives 159

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But what strikes me the most are not these two events but what happens in between In spite of all He had done in one day and all He planned to do the next Jesus gets up early the next morning and goes off to a quiet place to pray Think about it This is the Messiah the Son of God the Savior of the world the divine Lord And even He needs some quiet time to prepare to recharge to talk with His Father He must be tired from the day before and yet He gets up before dawn to pray Jesus knew He needed to step away for a bit gain a fresh perspective a change of scenery That dad in the story thought he was teaching his son a lesson giving him a different point of view In the end it was both the dad and the son who gained a new perspective and they returned home with a new appreciation for what they have and who they are Now I m not suggesting that we all should be getting up at 4am for prayer or Gospel reflection But shouldn t we all find the time s throughout the day to just step aside from this crazy mixed up world catch our breath and offer a simple prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Father It can give us a fresh perspective a change of scenery if you will If nothing else it can help to clear our minds and recenter our lives and our worries around the love of God It can remind us all that we are not alone Great Spirit remind me today that I am not a physical being having a spiritual experience I am a spiritual being having a physical experience Help me to find the time today to give rest to my physical self and a spark of energy and inspiration to my spirit 160

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Monday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 6 53 56 Scurrying Around Mass at Gethsemane I m guessing that for most of you one of your fondest childhood memories is when Grandma would come for an extended visit It was a time of story telling and gameplaying baking cookies and cuddling a time of being spoiled rotten But I wonder if you also remember all the time spent just before the visit All the cleaning and preparation the flurry and rush of getting everything ready for Grandma s visit Sure it took time and effort and work But it was also a time of great anticipation and joy of excitement about what was to come There is one word that resonates with me in today s Gospel SCURRIES Jesus arrives in the land of Gennesaret and the people are scurrying about at His appearance Think about that Jesus is here Jesus is HERE OMG That preacher and teacher and healer is HERE And so they rush around in a frenzy of activity to prepare for His arrival to welcome Him and to bring their sick to be healed What joy they must have felt And what faith they must have had Do we feel that same joy and excitement in the Eucharist Do we find that same faith in the words of the Gospel Jesus is HERE Right here with us in the Eucharist Right here in the Scriptures Right here in the comforting touch of a stranger or in the snow cleaning actions of our neighbor Jesus truly is right here Are we scurrying about Are we cleaning up our lives and preparing for His presence Are we excited about what is to come 161

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Tuesday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 7 1 13 Wash Your Hands I never would have imagined that Did you wash your hands would have become a part of my our daily routine again after all these years Back when I was little I heard it before every meal and I admit I was not always conscientious with the washing part It was more like a quick run of a few drops of water in the vicinity of my fingers Sorry Mom Today and for the past 11 months we have gotten into the routine of washing sanitizing our hands as soon as we return home from shopping or whatever I have also gotten rather tired of singing happy birthday at the same time I may not have always gotten the point when I was little but I certainly understand the importance of washing and sanitizing during this time of the pandemic It s more than just keeping up appearances there is a deeper meaning That is exactly what the Pharisees in today s Gospel don t get They are so incensed that the disciples don t always wash their hands before meals as the Law provides They are so focused on the letter of the Law that they seem to have forgotten the meaning behind it As Jesus says This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me They are only concerned with appearances and have lost the spirit of the Law I doubt that as children we realized that my dirty fingers could taint the food for others But we certainly understand it today what we do as individuals affects others Washing hands is just the outward physical sign What comes from the heart is our concern for others our compassion for our neighbor our realization that what I do really does have an effect on others So even though I have to be reminded nagged at times I will wash my hands more often and more conscientiously simply because it s not just a silly rule It s not just about me and it s not just about going through the motions It s not just about washing hands it s about recognizing the deeper meaning of our religious rituals It s about reflecting on meeting Jesus in the Eucharist and not about noticing whether someone forgot to bow when they came up for Communion It s about thankful and loving hearts and not merely the physical appearances 162

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Wednesday St Scholastica Gospel Mark 7 14 23 A Recipe For Success Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem One Sunday morning at a small Southern church the new pastor called on one of his deacons to lead in the opening prayer The deacon stood up bowed his head and said Lord I hate buttermilk The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going The deacon continued Lord I hate lard Now the pastor was totally perplexed The deacon continued Lord I ain t too crazy about plain flour But after you mix em all together and bake em in a hot oven I love what come out I love biscuits In the end it doesn t matter what ingredients go in what matters is what you do with those ingredients What matters is what you do with what you are given That s the message of today s Gospel when Jesus continues to call out the Pharisees for focusing on the wrong things They complain about the disciples eating with unwashed hands thereby making the food unclean Jesus makes it clear it s not what goes into your body that makes you unclean it s what comes out of you We get hit with all sorts of unpleasantness and trials every single day The boss yells at us unfairly That homeless man comes up to us asking for money Our neighbor struggles with his grocery bags Our daughter asks for help with her homework That driver cuts us off from that prime parking space What matters is how we respond How do we act What do we do with those God given gifts and talents With all that is happening in the world we are all swamped with an odd mix of ingredients What do we do with them How will we respond What will come out of the oven today 163

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Thursday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 7 24 30 Wanna Get Away Israel from the Air At this point in our pandemic journey I think it s fair to say we all want is to get away It doesn t really matter where at this point just away anywhere Somewhere I can catch my breath restore my soul appreciate the beauty all around me and step aside from the worries of the world That s what the Southwest Airline slogan is saying to me And that s what Jesus is trying to do in today s Gospel get away And He goes to a curious place Tyre Tyre is a Gentile city a pagan city and a bitter enemy of the Jews It stands to reason that any of His Jewish followers would be very reluctant to search for Him there But it doesn t work out that way A woman comes to Him drops to her knees and begs Him to cure her daughter She is a resident of Tyre a Gentile and a Greek And yet she has heard of Jesus and believes He can help And she is willing to fight for her daughter to debate with Jesus for a cure In just a few short verses consider her qualities She is humble willing to bow before a Jew She gives as much as she gets from Jesus and isn t willing to take no for an answer That speaks of a woman of courage and persistence And she is a woman of faith not just believing Jesus can cure her daughter but accepting Him at His word that her daughter has been freed of her demons Wanna get away Don t you think that woman had the same idea Don t you think she wished at times that she could catch her breath And yet her faith her love for her daughter kept her right where she needed to be right where she wanted to be Do I wanna get away Of course That favorite restaurant down in New Orleans Revisiting Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons That little summer cottage in South Haven And back again to the Holy Land You bet But you know what I ll settle for being right where I am close to family and loved ones close to my faith which challenges me every day to be courageous to be humble to be persistent to be living out my faith in my daily life 164

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Friday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 7 31 37 Hands On Church of Peter Primacy Tabgha Needless to say over the past 11 months I have spent a lot of time at home so say we all And in the midst of all the frenzied cleaning it has given me the chance to appreciate all the quirks and qualities of our 110 year old home Yes there are still plenty of items on my honey do list But I can also see the effects of all the work that we have put into making it a home And none of that would have been possible without the guidance and hands on teaching of my father in law Bob When we bought the house I knew pretty much nothing about plumbing painting carpentry electrical work But I learned and I learned from hands on side by side experience from my Dad in law I rewired outlets painted rooms rebuilt the front porch and poured concrete A lot of it wasn t easy and there were plenty of mistakes but I learned from simple dirty practical hands on experience And that is what resonates with me in today s Gospel Jesus cures a deaf ma with a speech impediment and He does it in a very hands on way touching his tongue spitting in his ears It s not just about His words of healing Ephphatha but His actions as well Of course it reminds me of the Sacrament of Baptism where the deacon priest pre Covid would also touch the ears and mouth of the child and pray that they not only hear the Word but profess the Faith It reminds me that our Faith is not only prayerful words but also charitable actions a combination of spiritual and corporal works of mercy We should expect that there will be times when we have to get down and dirty to practice our Faith If we truly love our God and our neighbor then let us keep our eyes and ears open to the needs of others And let our hands be ready to do God s work 165

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Saturday Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 8 1 10 Leftovers Lunch at Fassuta Northern Israel Well you missed it you really missed it If you had only been over at our house last night you would have been treated to a dizzying array of culinary delights an unbelievable assortment of tasty treats We had homemade chicken rice soup tuna casserole chili rice and salad It was a dinner worth relishing a second time As a matter of fact it truly was We feasted on what was commonly called LEFTOVERS It was a night that we cleaned out the fridge of all the remnants of dinners past Now that might not seem all that appetizing but think about it What do leftovers really tell us We made more food than we could eat We could save the extra for a rainy snowy and cold day We got to revisit a meal from the past and appreciate it even more the second time It brought back memories of that first meal not just the food and its preparation but also the conversation Who would have thought that leftovers could be such a rich storehouse of memories Jesus in today s Gospel was moved with pity for the crowd of people who spent all day in the heat listening to His words So He multiplied seven loaves of bread and a few fish to feed them when there was no way they could have been fed otherwise But what strikes me is that there were leftovers seven baskets full of fragments Think about that Jesus fed not only their bodies but their souls that day And when it was all over there was still more left over There was still more food more reminders of His words for the days ahead What does that say about His love His compassion God s love is boundless His compassion has no limits Even when we think we are full God still sets aside even more food for us for another day God doesn t just feed us for a day it is for a lifetime 166 Food for our bodies Food for our souls Every day God loves us sustains us cares for us Every day God reminds us not to worry I have even more for you tomorrow

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Sunday Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 1 40 45 Father Knows Best Along The Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Ever since I was little I have been a die hard sci fi fan Star Wars Star Trek you name it But my all time favorite show is Doctor Who It s about this alien who travels through time and space in a blue British police phone box helping out people and saving the universe The box Tardis is intelligent and the Doctor has numerous conversations with it At one point he has gotten quite frustrated and complains You never take me where I want to be The Tardis replies True but I always take you where you need to be Sound familiar Isn t that true for us sometimes in our prayer life Doesn t it seem that prayer too often consists of asking God for something thinking that we know what s best for ourselves And then we get upset when we don t get it Kind of like a child not getting everything they want for Christmas Certainly as parents and grandparents we know that to be true I want to give my grandsons every imaginable present but I also know there is a clear line between giving them what they want and giving them what they need Case in point a few years ago I was driving around with my two grandsons running some errands and it was getting near lunchtime So being the loving Papa that I am I asked them where they wanted to go for lunch One of the worst decisions EVER I should have realized I would get two completely different answers one wanted Taco Bell and the other McDonalds In the process of trying to give them what they wanted we ended up with civil war and with me driving to both places to bring about peace I ve always felt that whenever we pray to God for something He never says NO He may answer us in three different ways Yes Not right now Or I have a better idea Let that sink in a bit God doesn t always give us everything we ask for But He does give us everything we really need even if we don t recognize or acknowledge it even if it s at a time we don t expect The leper is today s Gospel reading certainly understands that Truth be told lepers at the time of Jesus were literally the walking dead They were cast out of society forced to live apart from their family and their livelihood They were even cut off from practicing their faith They were shunned and avoided out of a fear of contamination They were granted no dignity and no hope of human contact They lived and died apart from the world 167

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And yet this leper kneels before Jesus and engages Him in conversation He has this intense desire to be healed to be returned to his family and his faith All he wants is to be cured And yet in three simple words he accepts that God knows best IF YOU WISH If it is Your will You can make me clean He doesn t demand or plead he puts it in God s hands and is willing to accept God s decision It is a clear sign of not only his faith in Jesus but his humility in accepting that whatever happens let it be according to God s Will and not his own And what does Jesus do He cures him of course But He also does something else He touches him a leper an outcast unclean and He touches him Jesus didn t just give him what he asked for what he wanted He gave him something else something he needed human contact Who knows how many years the leper suffered through the lack of any physical contact a simple loving touch of another human being Jesus also gave him a re connection to his family his faith his world Just imagine the faith of this man All he wants is to be healed of his sickness to be restored to health and to his world And yet he places his Faith in the Son of God He trusts in God s Will and not his own desires We hear that same theme in the Lord s Prayer Thy Will Be Done Not my will but Yours Maybe it takes us a while to realize and accept it but Father really does know best My Creator make my eyes and my heart open to Your Will Aho 168

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Monday Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 8 11 13 Just Walk Away Walking the Via Dolorosa Face it We live in a world of short tempers and long memories of vicious words and violent actions A world of uncivil words and selfish actions A world where common decency and respect are signs of weakness and violent actions are signs of strength and justice What to do There are a number of times in the Gospels where Jesus is at His most human crying over the city of Jerusalem and His agony in the Garden But today s Gospel contains a story I do not recall every reading Jesus is growing increasingly concerned and upset with the Pharisees why keep insisting on a sign from heaven After all His preaching and all His healing miracles they still insist on something else something on their terms And His response is perhaps a perfect definition of frustration He sighed from the depth of His spirit Is that not a spot on description Haven t we all experienced that same sigh so many times over the past year or more And haven t we in our frustration and desperation responded by lashing out and piling on the uncharitable words and anger But Jesus does the exact opposite He simply walks away He sees the circumstances as they are an impossible situation trying to deal with people who refuse to be reasonable And so for the moment at least He walks away from their hard headedness and returns to His mission to preach to teach and to heal Let s be honest Sometimes we are those stubborn Pharisees refusing to change or accept that we are only human Sometimes we are the ones insisting on a sign from God and yet blind to all that He has gifted us with And sometimes we are the ones confronted with disrespect and rigid views And sometimes the best we can do is to realize that today I just need to walk away from the negativity and continue on the path of a truly Christian life 169

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Tuesday Sixth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 8 14 21 Forget Me Not St Jerome Chapel Bethlehem We are such forgetful people We walk from the dining room to the kitchen to get something barely six feet And when we get there we have completely forgotten what we were looking for We lose our eyeglasses and find them sitting on our head We misplace our cellphone and realize it is right there in our hand Even as a teacher I cannot count the number of times I have had to re teach a concept over and over and over again because they don t remember Even the disciples in today s Gospel have forgotten They are upset with each other for only bringing one loaf of bread to feed the whole group You can imagine Jesus reaction Seriously Didn t I just feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish and even had leftovers Am I not sitting here right on front of you Why are you worried What are you complaining about Open your eyes and your ears Remember all I have done for you in the past Yes we all are forgetful We all need to open our eyes and remember Remember all that God has done for us in the past Remember all the times Jesus has been there right beside us Remember all the days we thought we had reached the end of our rope when hope was lost when we thought there was no getting out of this mess And yet here we are welcoming in a new day 170 Great Spirit heal my mind today Help me to see Your presence and feel Your love

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Ash Wednesday Gospel Matthew 6 1 6 16 18 Stop Lights Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Years ago I was driving around with my two little at the time grandsons And as I m driving I see an opportunity to teach them a bit about driving and cars and traffic So as we are going along I ask them to point out to me a traffic light And they did And then I asked them so what does RED mean Nate my youngest piped up that means STOP Good Then what does GREEN mean Tyler my oldest answers that means GO So then what does YELLOW mean Nate immediately jumps in YELLOW mean GO FASTER I guess I needed to rethink my driving skills much less respect how much kids pay attention to things Ash Wednesday and so it begins our Lenten journey 40 days where we spiritually travel with Jesus to Jerusalem to Calvary and to the Cross Along the road today s Gospel reminds us to focus on three spiritual disciplines prayer fasting and almsgiving And believe it or not I think a stop light provides us a simple example of how to make this Lenten journey YELLOW in spite of what Nate said yellow reminds us to slow down We all lead busy lives we all need to tap the brakes a bit and not rush so much And that is what prayer is all about slowing down our hectic lives and making time for our prayer life to talk to God and to listen to Him Lent is about deepening our prayer life RED STOP Lent is a time for us to step back and consciously stop some of the things we normally do Give something up Let something go Stop some of the habits and activities we think are so important so vital and realize that they aren t as critical as we thought Think of it as a kind of spiritual spring cleaning stopping some of the habits that prevent us from drawing closer to God Lent is about Fasting stopping Letting go GREEN GO Do something Lent is not just about giving up or fasting We are called to be active to move to go outside ourselves Give to others That is what almsgiving is all about Stepping outside of our comfort zone and moving forward in our spiritual life Let s be clear though We should be following these spiritual exercises all the time During Lent we are called to deepen these practices To pray more To let go more To give more And in the process we deepen and enrich our relationships 171

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In prayer we deepen our relationship with God In fasting we deepen our relationship with ourselves And in almsgiving we deepen our relationship with others For many of us ashes on our forehead have been a visible sign of our Lenten journey and our Christian faith This year for most of us out of concern for Covid ashes will be sprinkled on the top of our heads The visible sign of the cross is not present How then will anyone recognize us as Christian How will anyone appreciate that we treasure our Faith Perhaps this year we have the opportunity to show our Faith by our words and our actions To live out our Christian beliefs to be a visible sign of God s command to love God and love our neighbor And that is what Lent is all about our need to stop slow down and move forward To not just profess our faith but live it out in our daily lives 172

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday Gospel Luke 9 22 25 Choose Via Dolorosa Jerusalem We all have our crosses to bear Some are health related some deal with family or job issues We all carry a number of crosses or burdens daily Many of them we never asked for honestly many of them we complain about on a daily basis Some days our crosses are heavier than others Some days we stumble from their weight and feel like giving up And some days we feel like we are carrying multiple crosses Some days they make us angry resentful confused and exhausted Some days we get impatient or resigned What Jesus is reminding us in today s Gospel is that if we want to follow Him if we want to be His disciple we must take up the cross We must CHOOSE to take up the cross daily We must be willing to accept the burden as we journey toward eternal life Will that be easy Of course not We will trip and fall some days We will sometimes feel overwhelmed by the weight We will sometimes feel like giving up But remember that on the way to Golgotha even Jesus was not alone Simon of Cyrene helped to carry His cross And so too we need to remember that we are not alone Jesus is there to help us and encourage us So over the course of these next six weeks or so let us take the time to make a deliberate choice Take up the cross Accept the burden Pray for strength and courage when we fall And know that Jesus is there to help us back on our feet and to walk beside us always 173

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Friday after Ash Wednesday Gospel Matthew 9 14 15 I Give Up Gaming in the Old City Back when I was a high school Junior in the seminary I learned to play bridge and it became an obsession With three of my best friends we played every chance we could So it felt appropriate when Lent rolled around that we bond together and as a group we gave up bridge for Lent It was painful So as soon as midnight Easter Vigil services were over we raced down to the rec room and proceeded to revisit our passion after 40 days of fasting We played nonstop for 12 hours So what really happened Yes it was a painful experience and yes we suffered But at the end of Lent what really changed We went right back to what we were doing beforehand Did it matter Did we change at all Did we grow at all There must be more about fasting about giving up something than just the pain and sacrifice Shouldn t there be a change in the person something that lasts beyond 40 days Shouldn t it be more than just to develop an appreciation of whatever it was we gave up Maybe it s about giving up something I think is important and then realizing it isn t Maybe it s about learning what things what habits I need to permanently let go of And maybe we fast in order to become a better person better neighbor better child of God more loving and more forgiving Maybe fasting is about increasing our spiritual health and losing many of the earthly distractions that make us feel comfortable 174 Today s Gospel speaks about fasting but Jesus links it with the joy of a wedding feast Maybe that s it Maybe it s about letting go and giving up of sacrifice and a bit of pain but only in anticipation of the joy to come What meaning can Lent really have without the joy of Easter

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Saturday after Ash Wednesday Gospel Luke 5 27 32 Heal Me Church of St Joseph Nazareth It s impossible for me to read today s Gospel Those who are healthy do not need a physician but the sick do and not immediately think about the words of Pope Francis The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful it needs nearness proximity I see the church as a field hospital after battle It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars You have to heal his wounds Then we can talk about everything else Heal the wounds heal the wounds And you have to start from the ground up A Big Heart Open to God America Magazine Sept 19 2013 Just a simple thought today Aren t we all sinners Aren t we all sick in some way and in need of healing And for someone who is injured and is suffering doesn t the healing need to be on a personal level When we are sick don t we try to sit down one on one with our physician and seek healing and counsel How much more so then that when we are sick with worry and in need of forgiveness we need to encounter God on a personal level May this Lenten season of prayer fasting and almsgiving be an opportunity for us to encounter the Lord and feel His healing touch 175

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Sunday First Week of Lent Gospel Mark 1 12 15 A Blank Sheet As most of my former students can attest my exams and tests were never what you would call normal I was always looking for a slightly skewed approach that would challenge them to think creatively and re present the class material in a unique way So when we gathered for a test on Buddhism I tried not to disappoint I handed out a simple blank sheet of paper and gave them this one simple direction Create a poster with the following theme Everything You Need to Know about Buddhism What followed was 45 minutes filled with a furious scribbling of pens pencils and markers Most used the entire time period and completely filled their paper with a variety of words and drawings of terms and symbols related to Buddhism And all of them completely missed the point Buddhism has absolutely nothing to do with knowing You can t actually teach Buddhism you have to experience it It s about living it It s about knowing nothing So what would have been the A answer If they turned in a completely blank sheet of paper And NO nobody got it Oh well Sometimes a blank slate is a good thing Sometimes brevity beats longwindedness And that is what we see in today s Gospel We read the story of Jesus in the desert But it s not the story we are used to Where is the devil Where are the three temptations Where is Jesus standing on the top of the Temple Where are the angels ministering to Jesus What we get from Mark is barely two sentences and that s it The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert and he remained in the desert for forty days tempted by Satan He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him In spite of that brief story there are still two details worth considering the number 40 and the desert If you think about it 40 comes up a lot in the Bible 40 days and nights of rain with Noah 40 years of wandering in the desert for the Israelites after leaving Egypt Moses spending 40 days on Mt Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments Jonah warning the people of Nineveh that they have 40 days to repent before God destroys the city 40 days between Easter Sunday and Ascension Thursday and today Jesus spending 40 days in the desert 176

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For the Jews 40 always symbolized a time of transition a point of passing from one experience to another Passing from a life of slavery in Egypt to a life of freedom in the Promised Land passing from a world of sin to a new world with Noah and Jesus moving from a private life to His public life of preaching and healing And for us in this season of Lent moving from 40 days of reflection and repentance to the joy of Easter A time of transition and a time of change And the second detail the desert The desert for the Jews was a place of trial and testing a place where the unnecessary elements of one s life was burned away It was a place that tested one s courage and faith For the faithless it was a place where one felt forsaken by God in doubt about what God intended for them a period of darkness of the soul and abandonment by God But for the faithful it was a place of spiritual cleansing a place to strip away dependency on material things and focus on one s relationship with the Creator A place of prayer a place to draw closer to God That is why so many mystics retreated to the desert in the early Church and why John the Baptist lived such an ascetic life of prayer and fasting in the hills around Qumran in the Judean Desert to before his mission of baptism and repentance of sins So it s not that surprising that Jesus goes off into the desert to fast to pray to His Father and to prepare for His public ministry As we continue on this 40 day journey will it truly be a journey of transition Will we be any different at the end of 40 days than we were at the beginning Will we experience any change in our spiritual life at all Will we give ourselves the chance to have that desert experience We all need that time to step aside from all the comforts and luxuries of life to get back to basics in a sense and give ourselves the time to revisit and reconnect with our Creator Will we experience a sort of spiritual cleansing A chance to get down to basics to realize what is necessary in our lives and what needs to be discarded I pray that these 40 days of Lent provide us all with the opportunity for some positive changes in our life and that we all have a desert experience to step aside from a life of comfort and everyday life to cleanse ourselves of unnecessary distractions and to be more focused on our Creator and on our relationship with Him To start with that blank sheet of paper 177

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Monday Chair of St Peter Gospel Matthew 16 13 19 A Chair Full of Memories Church of the Nativity Bethlehem My grandfather Pop Pop was a master carpenter Even though he passed away over 30 years ago many of his family still have hand crafted examples of his remarkable workmanship china cabinets book cases hutches and dressers One of the very last projects he completed before he died was to create three small simple chairs one for each of his three great grandchildren Even today that chair sits in our dining room Looking at it you would probably see just a simple basic child s chair a little worn but still sturdy and strong As for me I still feel his presence and that simple chair remains a constant reminder of his love and affection for his family and his amazing skill at carpentry Whether it s Pop Pop s chair or the chair that my dad sat at for family dinners the same one that I now occupy in his place chairs have a way of doing that bringing back memories and emotions 178 We celebrate today the Chair of St Peter quite unusual really a feast day for an object and not a person But this chair means so much more Literally the Latin word for chair is cathedra where we get the word for cathedral the church of a bishop So what we are celebrating today is not so much a physical chair as the symbol of the Pope s authority the Chair of St Peter in the Vatican It stands as a symbol not of power but of the ministry and care of the Shepherd of Rome And it is a reminder of the unity of the entire Church under our pastor Pope Francis

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Tuesday First Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 6 7 15 What s In A Name Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem In today s Gospel Jesus teaches the disciples and us how to pray The Jews must have been aghast that Jesus would dare to address God in such intimate terms Their word for God YHWH was so holy so powerful that it was never to be spoken aloud It reflected a relationship between king and subject between Creator and created a relationship of reverence and adoration Jesus comes along and says to call God Our Father In fact the Hebrew word Abba doesn t mean father it means Daddy a child s word for their parent a reflection of a very close relationship of love and affection between a child and their parent All of a sudden God is not suddenly so far off and removed He is right beside me holding me in His arms carrying me protecting me letting me ride piggy back on His shoulders when I am tired Growing up I usually called my dad Father as a sign of respect and obedience Yes I loved him But it was only in later years as I matured that we segued to dad as our relationship grew stronger and more heart felt Just as our greetings shifted from a simple handshake to a hearty bear hug so too our conversations became more personal and dare I say more spiritual Jesus reminds us today that Our Father is right beside us closer than we realize He loves us and cares for us just like a father protects his children He provides us with our daily bread He shelters us from evil and temptation He corrects us and forgives us when we go astray He knows our needs before we even express them As we continue in this Lenten Season let us take the time to talk with Our Father to seek His counsel His forgiveness and His comfort 179

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Wednesday First Week of Lent Gospel Luke 11 29 32 Give Me A Sign Mount Carmel Galilee There are some pretty bleak words in today s Gospel People complaining to God give me a sign An evil generation Condemnation and judgment Nations rising up against another It all seems rather hopeless Signs are demanded and when signs are given they are ignored It feels almost as if Jesus is speaking directly to us today and His words resonate with all that we are dealing with political unrest pandemic hatred racial unrest anger and bitterness selfishness and a lack of basic kindness Is it any wonder sometimes that people are demanding a sign from above show me things will get better But that demand also displays a certain lack of faith in God trust that He has a plan and we need a bit of patience and trust Maybe what we really need is to flip things around What if it s God saying those words Give me a sign Show me that you still trust Me Show Me a bit of faith and confidence Show Me that you still believe Are you still praying Are you still looking out for your neighbors Are you still noticing the good in the world and not being overwhelmed by the bad Are you still hoping that today will be a better day Do you still see Me and acknowledge My presence in your life Do you take comfort in the words of Scripture In the Gospel parables Are you still there Do you still believe in Me Do you still place your trust in Me Do you still love Me 180

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Thursday First Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 7 7 12 Talk to Me Judean Desert Along the Dead Sea I wonder how many times when we were younger that our parents sat us down for a chat Let s talk Tell me what s going on And how often have we have done the same with our own kids Uncomfortable Sure but also a sincere attempt to get us to open up and grow our relationship And that is what is happening in today s Gospel Ask and it will be given to you seek and you will find knock and the door will be opened to you We know from experience we don t always get what we ask for when we pray to God He does work in mysterious ways not always responding to us how we ask or even when we want But He does respond And He does want us to keep knocking on His door And it s not just about asking for something or making a prayer of petition In simplest terms God wants us to talk to Him to have a conversation to share with Him how we are managing with life Prayer quite simply is conversation with the Creator And it s conversation that He welcomes and cherishes Why Because God doesn t just want a chat He wants a relationship with us He wants us to develop a relationship with Him to talk to Him to confide in Him when life punches us in the gut and even when life fills us with joy Imagine that God really does want to hear about our day He really wants to have that talk He has already said He would answer and listen to us And all it takes is for us to ask to look for Him to knock on His door 181

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Friday First Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 5 20 26 The Damage That Was Done There once was a little boy who had a bad temper His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence Finally the day came when the boy didn t lose his temper at all He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence He said You have done well my son but look at the holes in the fence The fence will never be the same When you say things in anger they leave a scar just like this one You can put a knife in a man and draw it out It won t matter how many times you say I m sorry the wound is still there In today s Gospel Jesus really raises the stakes It s not just about avoiding evil It s not just about doing good It s about repairing the damage about mending fences it s about reconciliation We have all had the experience of carrying a grudge and hanging on to anger and resentment long after the deed was done We get angry with someone and we end up making them pay for the rest of their life Little slights evolve into major hurt either for ourselves or the other person We don t allow them to forget and we refuse to move on In the end we either can t forgive them or ourselves In every instance we become stuck and can t move forward in life Some 30 years ago I lost my best friend All of a sudden there was no contact nothing at all Everything just stopped To this day I still don t know what happened or even whose fault it was or what perceived slight occurred I let it simmer and bother me for years and it was only a few years ago that I located my friend and reached out I wrote a letter explaining that I wanted to repair the damage I explained that I didn t even remember what we fought about but if it was in any way my fault I was sorry and I apologize I still have not heard back Sometimes in our lives that happens But I take some comfort in at least trying to reconcile The rest is in their hands 182 Jesus reminds us today that we must freely give and freely receive forgiveness We cannot allow something in the past to define or mire us in the past May this season of Lent be a time of reconciliation of mending fences and relationships of forgiving ourselves and forgiving others

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Saturday First Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 5 43 48 Let Go and Let God Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Love your neighbor Love everyone Love your enemies Sounds easy doesn t it Also sounds completely impossible Treat everyone the same Treat people the way you want to be treated It all sounds wonderful until we add in that little word enemy Why is that Is it just plain stubbornness I m not gonna stop hating you til you stop hating me Almost sounds like the old Life cereal commercial I m not going to try it you try it first Admit it We can all be stubborn refusing to budge But maybe it goes deeper than human pride Maybe there is another step as we move toward love of others And maybe that step is forgiveness In order to reach out in love we also have to let go of perceived offenses hurts from the past That guy who cut us off in traffic That family member who forgot your birthday Even that friend who treated you like dirt like you didn t even exist What if you turned it around Haven t we all done the same to others Haven t we all messed up and wanted to be forgiven It s easy to love those who love you back And the others Well not so much But deep down we all want to be loved to be forgiven Jesus is challenging us in the simplest and the most difficult terms imaginable treat everyone the way you want to be treated Love and forgive others Besides look at Peter He denied he even knew Jesus not once but three times Thomas refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead And yet Jesus welcomed them back as friends as loved ones Let go of the stubbornness be a bit more patient with yourself and others Love each other Forgive your enemies and forgive yourselves 183

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Second Sunday of Lent Gospel Mark 8 2 10 Climb Every Mountain Church of the Transfiguration Mt Tabor Back in high school the seminary where we lived and studied and prayed was essentially in the middle of nowhere nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia And right behind the seminary about a mile away was one particular mountain Tobacco Row Mountain For all of us it represented a rite of passage a coming of age event that tested your physical endurance and patience On Saturday mornings you would leave right after breakfast hike to the mountain base climb it come back down and hike back to the seminary And do it all without being late for 6pm dinner It was not easy and many never met the challenge For those of us who did there was a sense of accomplishment and pride not to mention that exhilarating view you got when you reached the summit breathtaking But you couldn t stay long you didn t want to risk detention by being tardy to dinner Mountains They are a familiar image throughout the Bible In the Old Testament alone mountains are mentioned over 500 times They were considered places where you encountered the divine where you were able to draw close to God There was Mt Ararat where Noah s ark came to rest and where God made His first covenant Mt Hebron was where God makes His covenant with Abraham and where Moses encountered the Lord in the burning bush Mt Sinai was where Moses met God received Ten Commandments and his face shone white Mt Zion was where Solomon built the Temple The Mount of the Beatitudes was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave us the New Law The Mount of Olives was where Jesus often went to pray And Mt Tabor was where today s Gospel takes place Even today Mt Tabor is a very high extremely steep mountain Climbing to the top is not a leisurely hike at times you would be using hands and feet to scale to the top Even if you took a car the drive is treacherous and windy a switch back road with no guard rails and barely enough room for one vehicle much less twoway traffic Speaking from experience you are better off riding to the top with your eyes firmly shut But the view from top utterly breathtaking And the church at the summit beautifully takes advantage of the vistas and you really do feel that much closer to the divine 184

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Peter James and John certainly had to struggle to reach the top of Mt Tabor it was definitely not a walk in the park And yet what they found at the summit brought such wonder and joy that they wanted to pitch tents and remain there with Jesus Elijah and Moses But the Transfiguration lasted only a little while and then Jesus led them back down the mountain back to the real world It serves as a foreshadowing of Jesus Resurrection but also a reminder of His suffering and death that awaits Him in Jerusalem And a wake up call to the Apostles that the future will be difficult and painful but the reward awaits them in the Kingdom of Heaven Like the Apostles we all have mountains to climb we all struggle at times in life Certainly these past 11 months have challenged us at times caused us to doubt and despair as we struggle to find a purpose for all that we are going through It s hard to see and appreciate the heavenly view at the top of the mountain when our minds are consumed with earthly concerns and worries But Scriptures remind us that our citizenship is in heaven that these frail human bodies will be transformed into glorified bodies like what Peter James and John see on the mountain top Those three Apostles got a taste of heaven a glimpse of what awaits us all The Kingdom of Heaven And so will we if we only have the courage the patience and the faith to climb the mountain 185

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Monday Second Week of Lent Gospel Luke 6 36 38 Mercy Me Spice Market Jerusalem If there is one upside to the mess and stress of these last 11 months it s that I ve been able to sharpen and increase my baking skills Unfortunately my waist line seems to have also proportionally increased as well but that s another story With some of my baked items I ve had to work with brown sugar Invariably the recipe calls for me to pour it in pack it down and repeat as often as necessary until you get a really full cup of brown sugar That results in a lot of brown sugar way more than I could have imagined You think you know how much you will use and then you get surprised at how much more there is when you keep packing it down That is what today s Gospel calls to mind when it talks about the mercy of God We think we know what that means but our vision of mercy falls far short of God s abundant mercy He calls us to stop judging to stop condemning He calls us to forgive and be merciful And we will receive the same in abundance A good measure packed together shaken down and overflowing will be poured into your lap For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you 186 Not a simple cup of mercy but one packed down filled and packed over and over again more than we can possibly imagine Filled to overflowing That is His loving gift to us and His command forgive and you will be forgiven be merciful and you will receive mercy in abundance

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Tuesday Second Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 23 1 12 Keeping Up Appearances Mass at Gethsemane Almost exactly six years ago my deacon to be classmates and myself gathered together to be fitted for our diaconal vestments Putting on stoles and dalmatics for essentially the first time was a wonderful and exhilarating experience there were a lot of smiles that day as well as a bit of parading around at least at first But there quickly came a sense of humility as reality began to sink in We were barely 2 month away from ordination as Permanent Deacons and we were fully aware that it takes so much more than a fancy vestment to make a Deacon Unfortunately the Pharisees in today s Gospel missed that point They dress for appearances the bigger the tassels the better the easier to be seen and admired Popularity and recognition are more important than service Looking good rates higher than doing good Humility is in short supply as they focus on outward appearances instead of what is in their hearts And that is the challenge for us today keeping up appearances is ultimately shallow and unfulfilling We live to love and serve God and our neighbor How we dress matters little How fancy the clothes how expensive they were What really matters is what is going on inside in our hearts our soul How we treat others How we love our neighbors How we serve others How we reach out to those in need How we practice what we preach Great Spirit help me to see life today through Your eyes 187

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Wednesday Second Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 20 17 28 Are Ya Listening Many years ago when we were little my brother little sister and I would spend a lot of time playing in the woods behind our home One day my brother and I decided to play a trick on my sister I climbed up a tree and while I was up in the tree my brother then led my sister away so her back was turned away from me I proceeded to quickly climb down the tree lay on the ground and screamed making it look like I fell out of the tree They quickly came running to my body and my brother asked my sister what they should do She paused for a moment and then said Let s just leave him there cover him up with leaves and leave him there Seriously I immediately jumped up and chased her all the way back to the house What can I say we were kids But you have to wonder sometimes how can you miss or completely ignore what is right in front of you How can you be so blind or in such a state of denial that you are focused on something else That is what happens in today s Gospel Jesus has just revealed to His disciples that they are going up to Jerusalem where He will be arrested condemned mocked tortured and crucified No flowery language no story just the simple blunt words You would think they would all be horrified terrified And yet the mother of James and John jumps in and asks for a favor for her sons Can my sons have places of honor in Your kingdom No signs of sadness at Jesus words no attempt to talk Him out of going to Jerusalem Blinded by ambition for her sons she is in complete denial about the meaning of Jesus words You have to wonder about Jesus reaction Were you even listening Did you hear what I said Such a situation unfortunately is not foreign to us Most of us have seen something like this at work Someone so intent on their own ambition and advancement that they stab others in the back in order to get that promotion or pay raise So focused on themselves that they refuse to see what is right in front of them So consumed with ambition they lose sight of what s really important It is up to Jesus to remind the mother and the disciples that His mission has nothing to do with power or thrones It is a mission of service to others It is dedication to a life of sacrifice and denial of self for the love of our neighbor Great Spirit help me today to treat everyone as if they were You 188

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Thursday Second Week of Lent Gospel Luke 16 19 31 If I Were A Rich Man Basilica of the Annunciation Nazareth When we first got married we lived in a very tiny studio apartment We used wooden nail kegs as chairs and a cable reel as our table We made our own Christmas ornaments that first year and still have some of them to this day We would spend some cold days at the library because the apartment was too cold Our one luxury was a sofa sleeper Were we rich By any economic standard definitely not Were we happy Absolutely Granted we look back on that time with a touch of nostalgia but all in all we made do with what we had We didn t really focus on what we didn t have or couldn t afford We just made good use of what we had Cooking tip instant potatoes makes pretty good potato soup The Rich Man in today s Gospel just doesn t get it It s not that Jesus is condemning everyone who is rich I think it s more about what are you doing with what you have That rich man walks by Lazarus every day but he doesn t really see him doesn t really respond to him in any neighborly way He had a chance every single day to help him but no he ignored him and treated him with contempt He put his faith and his heart into things of this world money possessions expensive clothes and not on God God has granted each and every one of us gifts and talents Maybe for some of us that includes a comfortable lifestyle In any case God challenges us to make good use of what He has given us He calls us to really see those around us who are in need and to respond He calls us to be thankful for what we have and to truly see those in front of us who could benefit from our gifts and talents to make good use of what we have Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord who hopes in the Lord 189

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Friday Second Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 21 33 43 45 46 Kill the Messenger Synagogue Church Nazareth Today s Gospel parable is essentially a summary of salvation history for the Jews The landowner God created this beautiful vineyard the earth and then put tenants in place to care for it humanity When He sent servants prophets to collect the harvest their faith the tenants abuse and even kill the servants refuse to listen to the prophets Finally He sent His Son Jesus and they killed Him too a prediction of Jesus coming passion and death While their response to the servants and the son are extreme the message is clear God continues to send us His messengers He continues to call us to account to see how well we have been tending the vineyard keeping the faith Are we listening Did we hear the message The tenants in the parable give in to envy and resentment to their worst faults They think they know better and that they have no need for the landowner His servants and even His Son There are plenty of times in our lives when we fall into the same trap I refuse to listen to the sound advice of others or the message of faith and trust we find in Scriptures I know what s best for me I can do this on my own While none of us would go to the extreme violence of the tenants we do know from experience how destructive and hurtful envy jealousy and resentment can be We read it in the news every day Even in our own family mom likes you best or you always get the better presents 190 During the Season of Lent God calls us all to pray to fast and to give charitably But most importantly He calls us to reconciliation to heal those relationships torn apart by jealousy or envy Be thankful and grateful Be faithful and forgiving

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Saturday Second Week of Lent Gospel Luke 15 1 3 11 32 Daddy Always Liked You Best Anointing Stone Church of Holy Sepulchre There s an old Jewish story about two adult brothers each of them a farmer The older one was married with 10 children and the younger one was single and no kids The younger one felt sorry for his older brother having to feed all those kids so every night he would load up a bag of wheat from his barn and took it to his brother s barn And every night the older brother worrying about his younger brother growing old and having no one to support him would also load up a wagon with wheat and place it in his brother s barn Finally one night they met midway between their barns realized what was happening and they embraced That is certainly not the case in the story of the Prodigal Son The older son harbors resentment and anger toward his brother for wasting his inheritance and his father for welcoming him back with open arms and a wondrous feast A simple case of sibling rivalry A unique family situation Maybe maybe not So I m wondering how many Christmases did you spend as a child counting presents I mean literally counting your brothers and sisters presents to make sure they didn t get more than you Or maybe it was birthdays Did they get a bigger cake or more guests or did the guests sing louder on their birthday Sometimes over the years resentment and anger can build and build And it can block and even destroy what should be a loving relationship That is what so obviously present in the Jewish story and so obviously missing with the Prodigal Son s older brother LOVE Yes he is obedient and responsible but there is no bond of affection He seems incredibly blind to it He doesn t recognize the abject repentance of a brother who realizes the error of his ways He doesn t recognize the outpouring of love and forgiveness of his father He sees only in terms of himself what he has done for his father and not what his father has done for him Too often we find ourselves in the same situation holding in resentment or anger until it could harm or even destroy a relationship But we always have the opportunity to heal the hurt to repair the damage The one thing missing from the story is a happy ending We never know if the older son joins the feast We never know if he reunites with his father and brother Maybe that s deliberate Maybe we are each left to end the story ourselves Do we join the party Do we embrace our Father and our Brother 191

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And the journey continues

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