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Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

 "I need to be baptized by you, yet you are coming to me?" Mt 3:14

With this feast, the season of Christmas comes to an end, but the challenge to give birth to the Christ begins in earnest and John the Baptist teaches us how to go forward. John's humility about his own role and his assurance that Jesus is the Messiah lifts us up and sends us forth in hope. Jesus, Isaiah and John remind us, has not come into the world to destroy it, but to assure all those listening, especially the poor, that his task is to heal the bruised reed and keep alive the flame of faith, but only if we accept his word and allow his power to transform us.

As Jesus begins his public ministry by having John baptize him, it is clear that he will risk anything so that his message from his Father will be clear and transparent. Jesus is among us to announce Good News, but his message will be difficult for those who want to cling to power, wealth and worldly prestige. Jesus wants to set us free from the domination of all systems that fail to create a just world. This message will be his downfall and our salvation.

Today, put aside your fears of being broken and weak. Our God heals.

Is it time to begin again your own ministry of service and freedom?

Friday, January 8, 2021

Gazing on God

 "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." Jn 3 29-30

What was it that John saw? What did the Spirit look like? Most of us have been in the presence of people with political or religious power. We know what that feels like, but Jesus was an itinerant preacher and minor prophet. Surely, John was talking about something more than the power we invest in hierarchies when he said of Jesus, "He must increase, I must decrease."

In order to see, we must look long and hard at ourselves, others and the world. This takes practice and discernment. We cannot expect to see what it is that God is doing within and among us unless we take time to gaze upon God and God's works everyday. Some call this prayer or contemplation but naming it is not as important as doing it. Finding time in our busy schedules to stop, listen, and allow the Spirit of God to guide us is essential to anyone who wants to live the Gospel.

Today, slow down and let the Lord look at you as you are.

What most keeps you from developing a daily prayer life?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Hiding for God's Sake

 "Go, show yourself to the priest." Lk 5:14

Not wanting to be the focus of people's adulation, Jesus hides from the people after curing the leper because he knew that flattery rarely led to imitation and discipleship.  Jesus wanted the Jewish leaders and the people who first listened to him to fall in love with his Father and commit themselves to God's will.

This was and is a hard lesson for us. It is natural to want security and answers to life's problems and concerns. We go to doctors to avoid and address health issues and financial advisers to help us invest our money wisely and safely, but Jesus did not come to promise us protection from life's every day trials but to accompany us on every journey. He is the new Covenant, the fullness of God's love, the one who will always be with us as a guide. We should not expect him to shield us from difficulty but to be a light in the darkness.

Today, pray to be aware of God's unconditional love and presence.

Who has been with you through every dark night?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Loving our Enemies

 "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar." 1 Jn 4:20

Christianity is dangerous. It is not a religion that lets us escape into a world on contemplation and prayer without actions. In fact, it demands that we love our sisters and brothers with the same breath and ardor that we love God.

We all know this, but it is important to remember, especially when we find ourselves enmeshed in political or religious arguments that tempt us to be right rather than in relationship. Real love demands that we listen with the ears of God to those with whom we disagree. Jesus did this with the leaders of the Jewish community and demands we do the same with those elected or called to lead us.

This can be much more difficult when it involves family members or friends with whom we disagree. As the 2020 presidential election nears, all of us will be tested not just to listen to God but to listen to all those with whom we differ and seek common ground. When Jesus found faith outside of Jerusalem, he honored it and challenged his contemporaries to do the same. He continues to do this if us and through us today.

Today, pray for someone with whom you disagree and ask for the faith to listen to them with God's ears.

Whom do you find it most difficult to listen to?

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Lost at Sea

"Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid." Mk 6:51

Imagine yourself in a small boat at night when a sudden storm starts blowing you all over the place. The day has been long and you need to rest, but the storm is fierce and demands your attention. You need help, but feel very much alone. If this sounds like more than a few days and nights you have had, then you know how the apostles felt during the storm on the sea of Galilee. Very much afraid when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they want to take him into a boat and possess him when suddenly they reach land.

Today's gospel is best understood as a metaphor for life, and especially for those who are grieving. The bereaved often feel "lost at sea". Nothing they are experiencing after losing a friend or having a loved one dies seems ordinary or understandable. Tempted to panic, they may seek solace in all the wrong places, when what they must learn is to wait for their "boat" to reach land again. This can be easier said than done, but it was very necessary for the disciples to experience what it would be like not to have Jesus with them all the time, and it is just as important for us.

Stay still when you want to run or scream, and try not to panic. We may not be able to see the Lord all the time, but he is with us, guiding us to a place where we we will be safe and able to start over.

Today, remember a time when you felt lost and discovered that God was with you in ways you did not know.

What would you tell someone who feels lost at sea?

Monday, January 4, 2021

St John Neumann

 "If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?" 1 Jn 3:17


St John Neumann knew well the truth of John's first letter. Because he saw so many in need, he did everything he could to respond, including learning Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch. As a missionary to the United States, he became a kind of itinerant pastor, but acknowledging his need for community, he joined the Redemptorists.

Named bishop of Philadelphia at 41, the young Redemptorist, anxious to respond to the needy and unlearned, approached the teaching brothers and sisters in the area and invited them to serve with him in the schools of Philadelphia. Determined to give immigrant children a chance at a better life, John immediately began to build Catholic schools. In less than a decade Philadelphia, which had only two Catholic schools when he arrived,  had more than one hundred.

Success stories like John's continue to lift us up with hope. When people of faith work together for the good of all, everyone benefits. The parochial school system that John helped build not only provided Catholics with a good education, it prepared them to make a difference in society, and taught them how a deep faith life could impact their neighborhoods and cities for the good of all.

Today, pray to know how best to announce the Good News with your lives.

What aspect of church life has been most important in your faith life?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

 "We have found the Messiah." Jn 1:41

Elizabeth Ann Seton had any number of firsts in her life. She founded the first American congregation of religious sisters in the United States, opened the first parish school and the first Catholic orphanage, but none of these is her greatest triumph. Despite being widowed at 30 with five young children, she decided to become a Catholic despite strong opposition from her staunch Episcopal family.

Elizabeth's courage at a time in her life that begged her to be careful and conservative remind us that when we depend totally on God wonderful things can happen. Not only are we able to make difficult decisions, we do so with conviction and serenity. When God is on our side, and God always is, no obstacle is too big to overcome.

In the United States women have always been the foundation stones of our parishes. They teach religious education, serve on every committee and week after week faithfully celebrate the Eucharist with devotion and passion. In all of this they have a wonderful model in Elizabeth Ann Seton. Not deterred by being ignored, dismissed or rejected, women know, like Elizabeth Ann, that God is their center and their guide. Nothing else matters.

Today, listen to a woman of faith.

What woman of faith do you most admire?