Brothers and Sisters, peace be with you!

I hope that each of you are having a wonderful Christmas season. I wanted to write to inform you that I will be taking this week off from updating my reflections on the blog. I will not be taking a break from reading and reflecting on the readings from mass, and I hope that you will not take a break from this as well. I will begin updating the blog again on Monday January 4, 2010.

I wish each of you a blessed Christmas season and a happy new year! May God bless you and your families this Christmas!


Canticle of Zechariah

Readings for Thursday December 24, 2009

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89
Gospel: Luke 1:67-79

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Lk 1:67-79)

In today's gospel, we read the Canticle of Zechariah. Zechariah learned his lesson in trusting God the hard way, he lost his power of speech because he did not believe the angel when he told him that Elizabeth would bear a son in her old age. We see here from this canticle that Zechariah is clearly a new man, a man who truly believes with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. The funny thing is that Zechariah was a priest, so he probably new the scriptures inside and out, and it wasn't that he didn't have faith, it was just that he didn't believe with his whole heart. He was probably like many people and just going through the motions of life, and then when something miraculous appears before him, his heart is too hardened to even be moved by God's great gift.

As we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus tomorrow, I pray that we each learn a lesson from Zechariah and instead of having a closed heart to the Lord, we can open ourselves and to receive Jesus into our hearts and into our entire lives.

May the Holy Spirit fill each of us so that we too might glorify God and spread praise of Him throughout this world just as Zechariah did.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord we thank you for your abundant love and mercy, help us to never stray from your goodness. Lord, you alone are the good and right thing for us to follow, help us to stay focused on you. Lord, you are our God and we are your people, may we never forget this and live our life as you would have us. We pray for all of our priests and religious, for strength in their vows and in their ministry. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Messenger of the Lord

Readings for Wednesday December 23, 2009

First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25
Gospel: Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him." (Lk 1:57-66)

In today's readings we read about the coming of "the messenger of the Lord", John the Baptist. The prophet Malachi foretold his coming and how he was to prepare the way of the Lord. In the gospel reading we read of his birth and of his naming. The neighbors were all confused when Elizabeth wanted to name him John, but they were reduced to silence when Zechariah reinforced the name and then was given his speech back. All the neighbors and people of the area began asking "What then will this child be?" They could all see that there was something special about John, they just didn't quite know what it was.

The neighbors may not of known what John would become, but God did. In fact, God had even foretold his coming many years before through the prophet Malachi. But the truth is that God had a plan for John the Baptist since the beginning. God knew exactly how he would come into this world and the important mission He was giving to John. God's plan for John came about because Zechariah and Elizabeth came to trust and follow in God's will for them. John the Baptist understood and took on his mission in life, he knew his role and the things that God was asking. John was willing to go along with God's plan, He knew that was the right way and that there really was no other.

Today, we should all sit and ask ourselves; am I following God's plan for my life? Am I living out my purpose, or asking God to reveal this to me?

It is my firm belief that the only way that we will truly find peace and fulfillment in this life is by finding out God's purpose for us and by living out His plan for us.

May God bless you and your families during this Advent Season.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord help increase our faith so that we may be more obedient servants of you. Lord, help us to let go of the things of this world and to cling only to you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Magnificat

Readings for Tuesday December 22, 2009

First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:24-28
Responsorial Psalm: 1 Samuel 2:1
Gospel: Luke 1:46-56

Today let us take time to read and reflect on the words of Mary in the Magnificat. Let us reflect on God's strength and might; and His faithfulness to those who serve Him. One final thought, if the blessed Mother took time to recognize and praise Him, shouldn't we do the same?

And Mary Said:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."


Truth, brought to you by the Holy Spirit

Readings for Monday December 21, 2009

First Reading: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Lk 1:39-45)

How refreshing Elizabeth's words must have been to Mary at this time. Here she was with the son of God in her womb, and she knew of course that no one would believe her. When she went to visit Elizabeth, however, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit was given the special insight into who the child was in Mary's womb. Elizabeth knew that she was blessed that Mary came to visit and knew that Mary was special because of her belief and her trust in God.

This scene that we read about in today's gospel reading is of course the visitation, the second joyful mystery that we meditate on during the Holy Rosary. I think that there are some key insights that we can take away from this mystery. One is that God will always send us signs that we are doing His will. They may be subtle or they may be quite obvious (as was the case for Mary), but He does send us these signs especially at times when we need them the most.

The other insight that we can take from this mystery is that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals truth about God and about our lives. In today's reading, Elizabeth had no prior knowledge about Mary and Jesus, but it was the Holy Spirit who revealed the truth about them to her. We too can benefit from the knowledge and wisdom that the Holy Spirit seeks to give each one of us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can come to know Christ better in our lives and to know His truth.

As we come to the end of this Advent season, may we continue to grow closer to Jesus in both love and knowledge through the Holy Spirit. May we look to the great example of the Holy Family for the way in which we are to trust and follow God in our own lives.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Thank you for all that you give to us and for all that you bless us with. Lord please send your spirit so that we may be full of zeal and life, and that we may come to know the truth about you more fully in our lives. Lord, we pray that your will be done in our lives and that we can humble ourselves before your greatness. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Actions speak louder than words

Readings for Friday December 18, 2009

First Reading: Jeremiah 23:5-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. (Mt 1:18-25)

In all of the gospels, we read about Mary's husband Joseph, but we never hear anything from him. No quotes, no anger or frustration, no canticle, not even a simple yes or no; not a peep. However, even though we do not have a great deal of insight into Saint Joseph through his words, we can tell a lot about this man from the way that we was described and by his actions. Being described as a righteous man, it was clear that Joseph was dedicated and loyal to God, but what really proved this was his obedience. Joseph, having been put in a situation that would be difficult for any man of any time period, found himself looking for answers. The Lord came to him in a dream and told him what it was that the Lord wanted him to do. Now did Joseph complain, question, or talk about the weird dream that he had the night before? Absolutely not, Joseph did exactly as the Lord had told him to do. Joseph didn't need to say anything, for in this instance his actions spoke louder than any words could have.

Each year, I gain a deeper respect and appreciation for Saint Joseph. Especially having a new family myself, I realize that as the man of the house God calls me to two main responsibilities in my family: to provide for and protect. In providing for my family, this is not just mean money, but also means giving of myself with my time and service to my wife and child. I need to not only provide for their physical needs, but also their emotional, spiritual and intellectual needs as well. In protecting my family, I must be on the lookout and always seeking to protect their health and their dignity. I must be fostering an environment where a spiritual life is strongly encouraged to protect us from being distracted in this world. This idea of men as the providers and protectors of their families is not one that should just be embraced by husbands and fathers, but by all men. It is the idea that we really should be seeking to protect the health and dignity of all women, and helping to provide for all those in need. Providing and protecting is one of the ways in which we fulfill our roles as men and truly be obedient to God.

From reading about Saint Joseph, I am very thankful to have this great example of a man who stepped up and fulfilled his responsibility as a man. So many men in this world do not do this, mostly because they never had anyone to show them how to be a husband and a father. Examples of real men may be rare, especially with how our culture likes to portray the stereotypical male. But it is important that we keep focused on what God calls us to be as men in this world, and to look to the examples like Saint Joseph.

May we always remember Joseph's example, that actions sometimes speak louder than words.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and all that you give us. Lord you are so good to us and more than we ever deserve, help us to live for you and to have a heart that only seeks to be obedient to you in all areas of our life. Lord we pray for all families who are facing financial difficulty during this time. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


What's in a name?

Readings for Thursday December 17, 2009

First Reading: Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-17

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations. (Mt 1:17)

In today's gospel we read the genealogy of Jesus going all the way back to Abraham. The writer Matthew starts his gospel by showing that Jesus has the family history to be the Messiah. It is interesting how Matthew does this first, before even going into the life, death and resurrection of Christ; the first thing that he does is show the credibility of Christ. It is my understanding that family genealogy and history were important at that time, so it would make since that Matthew would include this in the beginning. Sometimes, even today, people want to know your background before they even open themselves up to you now; I imagine this concept was especially true of Matthew's time.

Many of us may skip over or breeze through reading this passage of the bible, I mean after all who just wants to read through a bunch of names, how is that going to help us? I used to feel that same way, but as I was going through a bible study last year and going over some of these sections which just listed name after name, I realized a few things: 1) It is important to know where we have been before we can know where we are going; 2) Each person in this world has a purpose; and 3) Going through the names/history is what helps us see how God's plan unfolded since the beginning. It is this last point that believe that we can draw a great deal of wisdom from. As we read through those names it is important to realize that between those generations there was a lot of time that had gone on and even many periods where people just lost hope; but even throughout all of the time and the tragedies, God still had a plan. Each day, each year, and each generation was one step closer to reaching the pinnacle of that plan ... the birth of the Messiah.

This advent season, let us remember and reflect on the fact that like God had a plan for His people throughout history, and He especially had a plan for those who were listed in the genealogy of Jesus. It is important for us to remember and trust that God has a plan for us as well, and even though we may not understand or completely see the big picture it is important to trust God who sees all things and can see the big picture in our lives and in the world.

Father above, we thank you and give you praise for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you so much for all that you have given and all that you do. Lord, help us this advent season to grow in love and trust in you. We pray for all of our soldiers overseas who are away from their families right now, may they stay safe and return all for your glory. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Surpassing expectations

Readings for Wednesday December 16, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85
Gospel: Luke 7:18-23

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Lk 7:18-23)

Have you ever gone out to eat at a new restaurant with high expectations, and then after the meal you are just a little let down? It turns out that the meal just wasn't what you had in mind and that it just didn't meet the high expectations that you had originally had. Most of us have expectations about people and things, and there are times in life when the things that we had expectations about just don't meet those original ideas. This same scenario happened to John the Baptist.

In the gospels today, we read how after hearing about the things that Jesus was doing, and how he just wasn't quite sure if Jesus was the Messiah or not. It wasn't that He really doubted that Jesus was the Son of God, it was just that His tactics weren't what John had expected. John, like many people of the past had probably expected a kingly warrior type who would drive off the Romans and correct all the wrongs that were going on at the time. John just didn't understand why there wasn't a battle going on, or why there weren't any governments being overthrown. As it turns out, Jesus just wasn't what John expected. But like so many times in life, God has a plan that is beyond our expectations. John just did not know God's plan, He didn't understand how Christ came to preach forgiveness, heal people and to bring hope into this world. Christ did not come to destroy anything, but rather to build up. He came to give people a way to heaven, through His life, death and resurrection.

The fact is that we will never fully understand God's ways and His plans, all that we can do is trust in Him and to realize that His plans will always surpass our expectations.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you for all that we have and all that we are able to do. Help us to be good stewards of all the gifts that you bring us and to trust in your will for us. Lord, we pray for all of our priests and religious, in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Obedience over Attitude

Readings for Tuesday December 15, 2009

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34
Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (Mt 21:28-32)

"NO!" When dealing with children, this is a word that we rarely tolerate. My daughter is only 9 months right now, but I do realize that the day will be coming soon when she will firmly plant her feet, look me in the eye and confidently say "NO" after being told to do something. I pray for when that day does come that the Lord will give me the patience that I need to not fly off the handle. But regardless of what her words are, the important things is that when she is asked to do something that she follows through with it. It is not as important if she is excited about doing it or not, but rather that she is obedient to me as a parent. Attitude can be worked on, much easier than obedience. For true obedience comes from love and respect.

When we feel that the Lord is calling us to do something, we may not be initially thrilled about it, and we may even vocalize that unwillingness to cooperate; but regardless of what our attitude is, it is important to always be obedient to God's will in our lives. In the gospel today, the first son had a bad attitude but was still obedient; and the second son had a wonderful attitude, but was not obedient. Which is better in God's eyes?

In our life, we cannot simply be someone who is cheery and talks a good game, but rather it is more important that we are obedient in all matters ... no matter how much grumbling we may do.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have given to us, and to all that you call us to. Lord, help us to surrender all our own desires and wants and conform our will to yours. Lord, we pray for all those in need of conversion and all those who do not have hope in this world, may they find it in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Heart of a Learner

Readings for Monday December 14, 2009

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

First Reading: Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25
Gospel: Matthew 21:23-27

When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mt 21:23-27)

Isn't it amazing how God just doesn't swoop in and fix all of our problems and answer all of our questions, but rather helps us work out situations and helps us to find the right answers in His time? As frustrating as it is sometimes, I am glad that God doesn't just give me the answers to my problems, but He rather patiently takes me through the answer with prayer. I know when I am facing a difficult decision, and I take it to prayer God slowly begins to unravel the answer and helps me see it the way I should see it. By helping me work through a problem, I grow a lot more, much more than the times when I just make a quick decision based on what I think is best or what I want.

I find it amazing that in today's gospel, Jesus was trying to help the religious leaders find the correct answer by asking them a question. But by their response, it is clear that they are not interested in the truth, and they are not interested in learning what God has to teach them, for their response is purely a political one, and not one of those who are seeking the truth. Had they answered that John's baptism is of heavenly origin, (which it is clear that they knew, but just didn't want to look foolish) then that would have been a teachable moment for them. Jesus could have went on to tell them that all things come from God, and that the same origin of John's baptism is also the origin of His authority ... our Heavenly Father. But sadly this is not how the religious leaders responded to Jesus, and by not responding with humility and the heart of a learner, they were denied the answer and God's truth.

Jesus has something to teach each day, how will you respond to Him? I pray that each one of us is willing to humble ourselves and to take on the heart of a learner, instead of a hardened heart that is unwilling to listen.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, please increase our faith and our hope in you so that we will humble ourselves as your children. Lord, help us to do your will in this life and to be the people that you created us to be. We pray for all those in need of conversion and all those who are suffering in this world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Crossing the Goal Playbook

Catholic Book Review: Crossing the Goal: Playbook on the VIRTUES
By Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Brian Patrick, and Curtis Martin

Last year I had the honor of attending a men's conference in Columbus, Ohio which was not like your typical men's conference. At this conference instead of just hearing the speakers, we actually got to witness and be a part of a live taping of EWTN's "Crossing the Goal." This is a show on EWTN for men, which has a "sportscenter" feel to it. It is interesting how at first glance this show looks as if it could be on ESPN, but instead of being a show for men about sports, it is a show for men about faith. The team of men that leads this show are: Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Brian Patrick, and Curtis Martin. Danny is a former NFL receiver and NFL coach; Peter is VP and Director of Missions for Renewal Ministries; Brian Patrick is host of the Son Rise morning show on various catholic radio stations; and Curtis is President and Founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). The show takes on topics and issues facing men today, and gives great thoughts and practical advice for help in overcoming these issues.

I had the privilege of recently reading one of their supplemental workbooks ("Crossing the Goal: Playbook on the VIRTUES), which are designed to help reinforce some of the messages that go along with the show. It is not necessary for someone to watch the show in order to gain something from the book, as I do not watch the show myself (don't have cable or satellite; however I would certainly watch the show if I could). Now, even though I am not a regular viewer, I still found this book to be very thought provoking and valuable. I think that its beauty and strength is in its simplicity. The concepts are not deep theological theories, but rather realistic and practical. The writers clearly define and illustrate each virtue and discuss issues that threaten a man's ability to live out that particular virtue. Each chapter ends with a "coaching tip" which provides simple and practical advice for living out that virtue and growing in your relationship with the Lord. The book contains a chapter and discussion of each of the following virtues: Courage, Perseverance, Temperance, Wisdom, Justice, Faith, Hope, and Love.

I found that this book providing me with a greater understanding of each of the virtues and also got me thinking about many areas in my own life where I could use more help and do a better job living a life of virtue. I think that this book is perfect for anyone who is wishing to begin looking at the virtues and applying them in their own life. This book can be used by an individual or as part of a men's group. Having read this book, I can see how it would have great value in a men's group, as I believe the the topics discussed in this book could lead to great discussions among men. However you use this book, when working through it, it is important to ask the Holy Spirit to show you His truth and how you can apply these virtues in your own life.

The team at crossing the goal has done a fantastic job with this book, and I would strongly recommend this book to any man wishing to grow in his faith and to be the kind of man that God created him to be. Whether you watch the show or not, this book is another tool that can help you during this life, and it is another tool in this world which points to our ultimate destination ... heaven.

**For more information about the Catholic Company or Crossing the Goal: Playbook on the VIRTUES please feel free to click on one of the links below.



Readings for Friday December 9, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 48:17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 1
Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (Mt 11:16-19)

Have you ever noticed how much we are into labeling things? And I am not talking about your grocery store items. I am talking about how much we label people based on their actions or beliefs; and it seems that once there is a label, it can be hard to shake once it's there. How many times have we heard someone talking about big government or universal healthcare and immediately label that person a liberal? Christians who spread the word are often labeled as "Jesus freaks" or zealots. A kid at school who doesn't have the latest and most popular shoe may be labeled as poor. People who decide to practice chastity before marriage are thought of as prudes.

It seems as though labeling was also popular in Jesus' day as well. We read in the gospel today that John the Baptist was labeled as possessed, and Jesus was labeled as a glutton and a drunkard. What we must remember is that we should not be concerned what the world labels us, but rather what God labels us. Would you rather have a high profile and prestigious label while here on earth, or a place in heaven? If we are trying to define ourselves and make a place for ourselves while here on earth, then that is a road that doesn't not lead to heaven. Rather if our first priority is doing God's will and trying to reach heaven, then that is a road that leads to the glorious reward.

We must remember that earthly labels come and go, and it is not what other people know us as, but our biggest concern should be how God labels us. If we do not have the label of God's good and faithful servants, then we are not doing the things that we should be.

Do not let the world define you, but rather let God make you into the person that you were created to be.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have given and all that you do. You are so good to us, and all that we have comes from you. Help us not to take this life for granted and may we always be seeking your will. Lord, we all need your help, we want to be with you in heaven, but we cannot make it there without you. Help us to persevere in this life until our time is done. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


A long way to go

Readings for Thursday December 10, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 41:13-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145
Gospel: Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Mt 11:11-15)

Today we find out that John the Baptist is Elijah, the one who is to come and prepare the way of the Lord. John was a great prophet, even Jesus Himself says so. The Lord uses great messengers throughout the scriptures to deliver His messages and to help spread the good news and hope that is found in the Lord. God even to this day uses messengers to deliver powerful messages that each of us seem to hear at a timely point in our lives. I have been to some great conferences and speakers and heard some wonderful talks of powerful Catholic speakers. Many times when hearing these speakers it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time; God's timing is always good. But God has sent messengers into my life not just at conferences, but also daily; my wife, friends, family, etc. And who could forget about our priests who deliver God's message at every mass, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and any other times we need them. God's messengers are out there delivering His words and doing His will each and every day, and it is always for the sake of the Kingdom.

But regardless of how great these messengers are, because they are on earth, they still fall short of the glory of heaven. Even a great prophet like John the Baptist was considered below the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is an important reminder that no matter how successful we may be here on earth, we still have a long way to go. And no earthly successes can ever put us above those in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our greatest success in life will be the day that God allows us into His Kingdom where we can spend eternity with Mary our Blessed Mother, all the saints and the angels basking in God's love and praise Him and worshiping Him at all times. That is the day in which we will truly find success.

So let us remember that God sends many messengers in our lives, and if we are paying attention, we might just hear what God is saying to us. But regardless of how great we think these messengers are or how greatly we think of ourselves; we all still have a long way to go. For no matter how Holy we are here on earth, we are still below even the least in the Kingdom of heaven.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you for the many blessings in our lives. Thank you for all that you give and all that you do. I pray that we can surrender our will to you, to let go of all the things that we cling to on this earth. Lord, help us to let go of worldly things and to just cling to you. We pray for all those in need of conversion and all those seeking hope in this world, may they find it in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Soar with eagles wings

Readings for Wednesday December 9, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 40:25-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103
Gospel: Matthew 11:28-30

Do you not know or have you not heard? The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

This passage from Isaiah is a wonderful reading about where our strength really comes from. I have often used and reflected on this passage while running. It has really helped to motivate me and to keep me focused during my workouts and during some races. This passage also puts many things in perspective, because we must realize that the source of our strength and abilities is not us or anything that we have done, but rather it is all from God. When running, I realize that nothing is impossible with God, and no matter how much I am hurting or think that I can't go on, I know that if I trust and rely on Him I can get through anything. To this day there isn't a race that I haven't finished, and all glory and honor be to God for that!

What I have learned from using this passage during running, is that the same principles apply to the rest of our lives as well. There are times when we just want to give up, when things seem so hard and almost unbearable, and we do not think that we are going to get through challenges and hardships; it is in these moments that we must realize that if we are willing to surrender, trust and rely on Christ, then there isn't anything that He cannot get us through. The prophet Isaiah tells us today that "God does not grow faint or weary" and those who put their hope in Him will not either.

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint." (Is 40:31)

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have given each of us. Lord we know that your strength and knowledge is unlimited, and we pray that we will be always mindful of you and that we will rely on you at all times. Lord, help us to let go of our pride and the things of this world, and to embrace you and your will for us. We pray for all those who do not have hope, may they find it in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Immaculate Conception

Readings for Tuesday December 8, 2009

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. (Eph 1:3-6, 11-12)

Brothers and Sisters, today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother and Queen. In today's readings we see God's plan for Mary unfold, from the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve to the Annunciation, where Mary said her great yes to the Lord. We see that even from the beginning that God had a plan for us and that no matter what wrong our original parents did, the Lord had a plan for us to still have a way to Him. We read today from Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus, that from the beginning of time, God had a plan for our salvation, and for each one of us. From this letter, we should realize that each of us has a purpose in this life, that purpose is to love the Father with all our heart and to do His will in our lives. For we can only find fulfillment and happiness when we have conformed our will to His.

In Paul's letter, we realize that each of us has a purpose, and so did our Blessed Mother. Mary was given the grace by God to be born without sin so that she could fulfill her purpose of bringing the savior of all of us into this world. Her purpose was to love Him, and care for Him, and to be His greatest disciple while on earth. Yet, even having done all those things, God still has a purpose for Mary, and to this day her purpose is to lead each one of us to her son, Jesus.

Mary was called by God to be the mother of Christ, this was His plan from the beginning. On the cross, Jesus gave her to all of us to be our mother as well.

During this season of Advent, may we all ask for the blessed mother's intercessions and to be lead even closer to her son.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among 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.

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be a world without end. Amen.


Healing begins with Forgiveness

Readings for Monday December 7, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85
Gospel: Luke 5:17-26

But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.” Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.” (Lk 5:19-26)

In today's gospel, we read of the healing of the paralytic. There is so much that we can take out of this story, the pharisees disbelief in Christ's power, the perseverance of the friends, the sheer miracles that Jesus performs; but the thing that I find the most interesting is how before Jesus heals the man, He forgives him of his sins first. When reading this, it got me thinking about something, is it important that we are first forgiven before healing can take place? I think that most things have a natural order, and I think that it only makes since that before we being healing from a life of sin, that we must be forgiven first.

If we want to heal from any sort of emotional or spiritual hurt or pain, the first step is either to forgive or be forgiven. If there is no forgiveness, then healing cannot take place. Forgiveness is such a powerful gift, one that is freely given by God to man. Jesus came into this world to not only heal and teach us, but to give us freedom from sin through mercy and forgiveness. But if we fail to realize why Jesus came into this world and to recognize that He truly does forgive us for all of our sins; then if we fail to realize these two important things, then healing cannot begin.

Ask yourself today, is there something that I am sorry for that I need to say I'm sorry and ask for God's forgiveness? Is there someone in my life that I have been hurt by that I am having trouble forgiving? Jesus is our perfect model, if He can forgive, then all of us can and should forgive; it is the only way that healing can begin for anybody. If you are having trouble finding the grace to forgive, ask God for the strength.

Healing begins with forgiveness.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you give and all that you bless us with each and every day. Lord, you are so good to us, help us to live a life that honors and glorifies you. We pray for the wisdom to know and carry out your will. We pray for all those in need of conversion in their hearts. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Readings for Friday December 4, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 29:17-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27
Gospel: Matthew 9:27-31

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land. (Mt 9:27-31)

Today we read about the healing of the two blind men who called out to Jesus asking for pity. Most of us have read and heard this story before, and many of us would agree that this was one of the many miracles that Jesus performed during His earthly life. Instead of taking the traditional route and talking about what a great miracle this was and the awesome healing power of God, I would like to pose a question in regards to this scenario: Why did Jesus heal these two men?

Often times we look at what has happened, and we don't even think about the why. In this story we are not told of the blind men's background, so we are not sure if they did anything to deserve this. Although we do not know, we can assume that nothing that we can do here on earth is ever deserving of such a miracle. Why else would Christ cure these two men? Perhaps He was showing off? That is also doubtful, especially since Jesus is God and He models perfect humility; and He also told these two men not to tell anybody. So if it wasn't anything they did or to show boat, then what was it? My guess is that it was because of two reasons ... love and mercy.

Jesus does not have to do anything for us, He does so out of love and mercy. He is God, and God is love, so therefore His why is because of love. He wishes to pour out that love to us, His children, who have done nothing to deserve this love, but because He is rich and abundant in love He chooses to have mercy on each of us. All He asks from us is to have faith and believe.

Jesus works wonders in our lives each and every day out of love. This same love is the reason why He died on the cross for our sake.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you and praise you so much for the great gifts in our lives. Lord, help us during this life. We need you so much, and we cannot do this without you. Lord, increase our faith so that we may never stray from you. Keep us humble and wise, knowing what your will for us is. Thank you for all that you give and all that you do. We do not deserve all of your love and mercy, but each day you pour it out on us, help us to never forget this. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Solid Rock

Readings for December 3, 2009

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest

First Reading: Isaiah 26:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118
Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Mt 7:24-27)

In today's gospel, Jesus likens those who hear His words and acts on them to two men who built their homes on different foundations. The wise man built his home on solid rock, and when that house was tested it was able to stand the challenges that it faced. The foolish man however built his house on sand, that when that house faced hardship, it blew away. Now I am no construction worker or anything, but even I have enough sense to know that you do not build a house on the sand. While we may not build ourselves physically on anything that is unstable, but what about spiritually? Are we building our spiritual lives on unstable things?

The foolish man who built his house on the sand, probably was not thinking about his future. He was probably only thinking about getting a beach front property. He was not thinking if what he was building his physical dwelling on would be able to stand any hardships and if that house would even last. We do the same thing in our spiritual lives, we place a lot of focus and trust in earthly things; things which are not stable. Sometimes we build ourselves up on our work, our positions, other people, money, prestige, our own beliefs, etc. But each of these things are not stable, and can quickly be blown away. The one thing that is always a sure thing in this world is Christ. It is Christ and His truth that we should build our spiritual lives off of. If we do this, then we can live a life of joy and peace knowing that no matter what hardships come into our life, we can weather those, because we are built upon a solid rock.

The prophet Isaiah today reminds us of the stability found only in the Lord: "Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock." The Lord has been and always will be a stable foundation from which we should build our lives off of. He is the one thing that will never let us down or never abandon us, all praise and honor be to Him!

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, you are our rock and our salvation; may we always live a life that is worthy of your calling. Lord, help us not to be distracted from the world, help us to stay focused on you and your will for our lives. We pray for all those who are building their house in the sand, may they find their peace and joy in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


There will be a day

Readings for Wednesday December 2, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23
Gospel: Matthew 15:29-37

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain. (Is 25:6-10)

As I read this passage from Isaiah today, I am reminded of a song by Jeremy Camp. The song is called "There will be a day", and the main chorus goes like this:

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more,
we'll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we'll hold on to you always

This is a beautiful song about the hope that is brought through from Christ. Just as Isaiah brought hope to the people of Israel during their difficult times, we too must remember the words of Isaiah during our most challenging and darkest times. No matter how difficult things may get for us, we must remember that it is only temporary, and if we are will to hang in their with God until the end, then when we finally reach heaven, all the pain, the despair, the troubles will all be gone. Jesus came into this world for us, so that we might have life everlasting, and in an often unsure world, Christ is the one thing that we can always count on.

During this season of Advent, let us all reflect on what Jesus came here to do ... lead us to something better.

Father above, we thank you and give you praise for this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have given us and thank you for leading us to you in an eternal life in heaven. We are not deserving of all that you give us, but you choose to have mercy on us and to love us unconditionally anyways. We pray for all those in need of conversion, and may during this Advent season we all have a deeper love and understanding of you and our faith. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lions eating hay?

Readings for Tuesday December 1, 2009

First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72
Gospel: Luke 10:21-24

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (Is 11:6-10)

Cows and bears as neighbors, kids playing by cobra's dens, lions eating hay like the ox ... kind of sounds like animal planet meets the twilight zone. And exactly what would cause such a drastic change in behavior of these animals? In today's passage from Isaiah we read about the stump of Jesse; and Jesse as we know is king David's father. We also know that Jesus is from the line of David, so today's passage from Isaiah is giving us great insight into the types of change that Jesus is going to bring into our world.

During this season of Advent, we reflect and prepare for the Lord's coming into this world as an infant. When Jesus came, and even still to this day He is changing things in our world, but the truth is that we haven't seen anything yet. There is still much more to come, even things that we think are impossible (such as a wolf and lamb hanging out). One day the root of Jesse will come back into this world and call all those who belong to the kingdom. And as crazy as some of these passages may sound, we would all do well to believe in Him and in His great power and glory.

Things like the calf and young lion browsing together may seem impossible, but one thing that we always need to remember that is with God, nothing is impossible.

Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Thank you for all that you have blessed us with in our lives, Lord forgive us for the many times which we have taken these things for granted. Lord, help us during this advent season to prepare for you, may we rid ourselves of the things of this world and seek nothing more than your will. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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