Repentance. Envy. Joy. Hope. Have you felt these human emotions? Today's Gospel offers a rich story, one we can all find our place in. As we reflect on our own spiritual lives this Lenten season, it can be helpful to imagine ourselves in the story of the Prodigal Son.
"I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers." The younger son has sinned greatly, betraying his father's trust and squandering his money in sin. Yet the parable turns on his deep repentance and humble return to his father. Is there any area of your life you have been wandering from God or you've squandered good gifts? This Lent, return to the sacrament of Confession! God, a merciful Father, waits for you there.READ MORE
"There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it [he] found none." We live in a results-driven society. It can be easy to put pressure on ourselves to succeed. If we're not keeping up with the perceived "good life" of those around us, we feel anxious and disappointed. Some of the Gospel stories about fruitfulness can seem to play out in this fashion. "For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down." The message seems to be clear. Abide in God and bear fruit! Stand apart from God and be barren. But what happens when we're trying, but the growth we wanted doesn't seem to be coming our way? What if it feels like life just isn't bearing fruit?READ MORE
As we march through Lent, it can be easy to think it's all about sacrifice. No chocolate, no alcohol, no meat on Fridays. Yet here, only in the second week of Lent, we have the story of the transfiguration. This reading reminds us of the "why" behind what we do. We don't fast from dessert to lose weight. We don't donate money or serve others because it's merely a nice thing to do. Lent is about transformation!READ MORE
It will take too long. I can't spare it. I don't know anybody. I am just too busy. How many excuses can you think of to put forth as reasons why you should say no to the call of Jesus Christ? Wait. You didn't know to whom those responses were directed? We say no to many things and many people, but we wouldn't say no to Jesus. Really?READ MORE
Emails. Carpools. Shopping lists. Home repairs. It can seem like we move so quickly from one thing to the next. Our news comes in sound bites and headlines. How often do we take time for silence, for prayer, for reflection, for wisdom? Jesus warns us of stumbling through life without an adequate sense of where we're going. "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?" This Sunday's Gospel isn't about fumbling along but offers a self-check on our own motivations.READ MORE
I sometimes spend more money than I should. I make decisions based upon my wants and not my needs. Those actions can create a financial difficulty or circumstance where more sacrifice is needed. Instant gratification or selfish impulses can create havoc in one's bank account, marriage, or family. All these issues to deal with simply because I wanted what I wanted and I got it. Yes, it sounds like the actions of a child.READ MORE
What an audience Jesus has in today's Gospel! "A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon." Disciples, pagans, and devout Jews gathered together to hear Jesus speak in the Sermon on the Mount. All of these people had something in common. God was someone to be bargained with, and if God liked you, you were rewarded with good fortune. This Sunday, Jesus tells us a different story. "Woe to you who are rich ? who are filled now ? who laugh? when all speak well of you. Blessed are you who are poor? you who are now hungry ? when people hate you and when they exclude you and insult you." Jesus completely flips the script on what it means to be blessed by God. What he proclaims as "woe" are states of life we often strive for, and "blessed" are the states we work hard to avoid!READ MORE
Sts. Cyril & Methodius
These brothers by birth became brothers in mission. Cyril and Methodius were born to a Greek diplomat in the 800s. The two brothers served in local governmental posts before each withdrew to a monastery. Their lives changed when the political leadership in Eastern Europe — what is now Ukraine — requested priests who spoke the native Slavic languages. Cyril and Methodius had proven themselves as able administrators and holy men, so they were sent as missionaries. First, Cyril invented an alphabet. This became the foundation for what is now used today and is still called the Cyrillic alphabet! Next, the brothers translated the Gospels, the Psalms, and other liturgical books into the native language of the people. Their work spread across Eastern Europe. God indeed raises up saints for their times!
Today's Gospel is one of tension and contradiction. We enter the scene at the local synagogue. It is near the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, and He has returned home to Nazareth for a short while. There, in the midst of the men who watched him grow up and who played with him as a boy in the dusty streets, Jesus proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah. The response is understandably mixed. "All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, 'Isn't this the son of Joseph?'"READ MORE
"He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up." Did you grow up in a small town? Whenever you see stories of tight-knit communities, a common refrain is that everybody knows everybody and that's very difficult to change. If you leave and return, people expect you to be and act a certain way, and it's strange for them if you do not. In today's Gospel, we see that Jesus was already moving "in the power of the Spirit and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He...was praised by all." His ministry has begun! News of his growing popularity must have proceeded him to Nazareth.READ MORE
When you think of being Catholic, what do you think of? Perhaps you grew up with your only associations being fasting, nuns with rulers, and "Catholic guilt." Our faith can sometimes have the connotation of restriction and absence, not abundance. Who is God in your life? Is He the divine law-giver, the judge punishing the rule-breakers? These are certainly attributes of God. But the laws don't exist for themselves alone. They exist to help us love one another as God loves us. And this loving God is the author of abundance and joy.READ MORE
Think of what it's like to wait a long time. Can you imagine what it would be like to wait for centuries? No one person lives that long, of course. But for the Israelites, they had heard the stories from generation to generation. They had been conquered time and time again, and now "the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ." They had been waiting for a Messiah, one who did miraculous deeds and said profound things; someone aglow with the glory of God. We all know what it's like to hope and be disappointed. But what if your hopes were fulfilled?READ MORE
"Behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.'" How strange to journey so far for perhaps so little. Of course the magi go to the capitol city. Of course they entreat with King Herod. Of course this is where they expect newborn royalty to be. But where is the child? "In Bethlehem of Judea," the scribes say. And so the magi go on to what is yet another Christmas miracle.READ MORE