In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus preaches the Beatitudes. “Blessed are [they] the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5: 3-4). Why does Jesus consider poverty, grief, hunger, persecution, and other troubles as blessings? God cares deeply for people in distress. God wants the basic necessities for the poor, comfort for the grief stricken, food for the hungry, safety for the persecuted. In Jesus, God stands with and acts on behalf of anyone suffering. Jesus restores sight to the blind, feeds the hungry, comforts Martha and Mary when Lazarus dies, and promises the Holy Spirit to protect his disciples when they meet opposition. God is with us when we struggle through life’s difficulties. God wants us to be with others who need our help. How has God blessed you in times of difficulty. How do you bless others?
In the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus leaves Nazareth. After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus moves for safety to Capernaum in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (Matthew 4: 15-16). There Jesus begins announcing “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4: 17). This Good News gave his listeners and gives us reason to hope. This News is a light to suffering people. God cares for those in the darkness of physical and spiritual distress. Through Jesus and the Church, God is rescuing the hungry, homeless, divorced, depressed, addicted, unemployed, racially profiled, and everyone who suffers. How do you find hope when you are suffering. How do you give hope to others?
In the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. While baptizing Jesus, he saw the Spirit come down upon Jesus and remain with him. “I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God” (John 1: 33-34). John saw the signs that God had designated Jesus. He knew that God and Jesus enjoyed a special relationship. He recognized God’s love in Jesus’ loving care for others. Through Jesus, God includes everyone in this relationship of love. God loves Jesus. Jesus loves us. God loves us. We give evidence of this love by what we say and do. How do you give evidence of God’s love for you?
In the Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord, the Magi from the East follow the star to a house in Bethlehem where they pay homage to the infant Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2: 12). The Magi prostrate themselves before Jesus because they sense the presence of greatness. They are encountering the living God. An encounter with the divine is transforming. After a profound experience of God, things are never the same. So the Magi return home by another way. As Christian disciples, we live our lives by another way. Through the Sacraments and the Christian community, the Church, we meet God every day. So we follow the way of Jesus, self-less love for others. In what way(s) do you love others, especially those in need?
In the Gospel for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the Shepherds go to Bethlehem to find the Savior whose birth the Angels announced to them. They find the infant Jesus lying in a manger. “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them” (Luke 2: 20). The Shepherds are eager to tell others about the angelic good news. Born is the Savior who brings God’s peace to the world. The lowly shepherds are unlikely messengers of the birth of a Savior of the World. They find the Savior in an unlikely place. Christians still find the peace of God in unlikely people and places. My family, like other families, struggles with dysfunction. Nevertheless, I experienced a profound peace during the family get-togethers this Christmas. God’s peace is with us in our wounded relationships, struggles with addictions, recoveries from illnesses, and certainly in a newborn grand niece. Like the shepherds, I share this good news of God’s peace in my life. What good news about God’s peace do you have to share?