Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower in the Gospel for Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time. He then explains. “The sower sows the word” (Mark 4: 14). The word of God takes root in the listeners depending upon their life circumstances and dispositions. “Those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it” (Mark 4: 20). Imagine every Christian a sower. Christ wants his disciples to share the good news of God’s love. Every act of charity and justice witnesses to this love. Smiling at a lonely stranger, comforting the sorrowful, caring for a sick child, buying fairly traded coffee, and doing other acts acts of God’s love are the seeds we sow in people’s lives. We plant the seeds. God gives the harvest. How do you plant the seeds of God’s love in others?
The Reading for the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas identifies Christ as our mediator with God. “For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24). Christ has reconciled us to God and one another. Christ makes us holy. Through countless witnesses of faith, Christ invites me into a deeper relationship of love with God and others. My wife’s smile reminds me of God’s love. My brother’s request for prayers moves me to compassion. My son’s respects for his parents makes me grateful for God’s good gifts. Through whom does Christ bring you closer to God?
Ananias ministers to Paul in the Reading for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. “You will be his [Christ’s] witness before all to what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22: 15). Paul encounters Christ on the road to Damascus. Ananias helps him discern the meaning of this experience. Christ commissions Paul to preach to the Gentiles. “You will be his [Christ’s] witness before all to what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22: 15). In Baptism, we encounter Christ. He has commissioned us as witnesses of his love. We are Christ for one another. Through us, Christ continues to offer God’s unconditional, selfless love. Christ relies on us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, console the grieving, forgive those who hurt us, welcome strangers, and more. How do you give witness to the love of Christ?
Jesus cures the paralytic in the Gospel for Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time. Those who witness the miracle ” were all astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’ ” (Mark 2:12). Jesus’ healing power is astounding. I also find astounding the faith of the paralytic and his friends who lower him through the roof. They do not let the crowd prevent the paralytic from getting close to Jesus. I am blessed to have people in my life like this. In spite of their hardships, they still love God. My grandmother’s husband and her four sons die. She was a daily mass goer. My mother, a widow, took every opportunity to support the grieving. Their faithful witness continues to inspire me. They keep me close to Christ. Whose faithful Christian witness inspires you to glorify God in word and deed?
The author of the Reading for the Memorial of Saint Anthony the Abbot wants his readers to have faithful hearts. “Encourage yourselves daily so that none of you … forsake the living God” (Hebrews 3: 12-13). Courage is essential for Christian disciples. Following Jesus’ example is difficult. Loving our neighbors as ourselves sometimes requires more sacrifices than we are willing or able to make. Forgiving those who hurt us can seem impossible. We need the witness of other Christians to encourage us to have faithful hearts. Christian discipleship is a community effort. How does your Christian witness inspire others?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law. “The fever left her and she waited on them” (Mark 1: 31). She is a model of Christian discipleship. With her health restored, she immediately resumed her generous and loving service to her guests. Christ wants us to practice the same selfless love. Physical and spiritual illnesses often limit our ability to do so. Christ offers us healing. How can Christ heal you for loving service to others?
Jesus cures a leper in the Gospel for Friday after Epiphany. After these and other miracles, “He would withdraw to deserted places to pray” (Luke 5:16). Jesus is our prayer model. He relied on God’s love. He knew he could accomplish nothing without God. He stayed close to God with frequent prayer. As the Gospels testify, he accomplished great things. In Christ, we accomplish great acts of love. We nurture our close relationship with God through prayer in Christ. Whether we pray in quiet or busy places, in the morning or evening, in Church or at home, in the car or on the bike, we must pray always. Wherever or however we pray, we grow in God’s love for us and for others. How do you pray?
In the Gospel for Thursday after Epiphany, Jesus reads in the synagogue. He chooses a passage from Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19). By Baptism, we are anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor. Christ wants us to have compassion for the addicted, encourage those who have lost sight of hope, comfort those imprisoned by fear, and live lives of witness to God’s grace. How do you bring glad tidings to the poor?
John reflects on love in the Reading for Wednesday after Epiphany. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Is John serious? Do Christians really have nothing to fear? What about the mortgage, unemployment, illness, death and life’s other worries? I think John means that God’s love enables us to love others in the midst of our fears. By God’s grace I have been able to put aside my own fears to love another. Whether it’s fear of rejection, not enough time, too much work, and more, God’s love empowers us to look beyond ourselves to those in need. Consider the homeless men in my town. I am told by a case worker that they pray for children suffering in other parts of the world. How does God’s love make your fearless?
In the Gospel for the Tuesday after Epiphany, Jesus feeds the crowd. He feeds them with five loaves of bread and two fishes. “They all ate and were satisfied” Mark 6: 42). God wants to satisfy us. God overwhelmingly loves us without reservation. God loves us unconditionally. In Christ we share God’s selfless love with the hungry, homeless, lonely, ill, unemployed, and anyone physically or spiritually unsatisfied with life. How do you satisfy with God’s love the people you know?