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?
In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel tells Joseph to not divorce, Mary, his pregnant fiancée. The angel tells him to take her into his home. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’ ” (Matthew 1: 22-23). God is with us in unexpected ways. Betrothed to marry Joseph, Mary conceives Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph discovers his bride-to-be pregnant. God is with us when the family of a critically ill patient keeps vigil in the ICU. God with us when a stranger in the check out line strikes up a conversation. God is with us when a young adult thanks his parents for raising him. How is God with you today?
In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, imprisoned John the Baptist sends his disciples to find out if Jesus is the Messiah. ” ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them’ ” (Matthew 11: 3-5). Jesus affirms his saving mission to bless the needy. He recalls the promise of the prophets that God will save the people and heal them. Jesus is the one from God to heal our infirmities, repair our brokenness, free us from addictions, feed the hungry, restore justice, and transform the world. As a disciple of Jesus, you are the one too. How do you bless those in need?
In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist preaches repentance for sin. ” ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matthew 3: 2-4). John the Baptist announces good news. His listeners are about to experience the presence of God in a powerful and new way. John prepares the way for Jesus, God with us. This good news gives hope to those who are struggling. With God, things will get better. John wants us to repent of our reliance on shopping, work, entertainment, and other things to save us from our troubles. Christians put their trust in God who accompanies them in their difficulties. How does God accompany you in times of trouble?
In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus tells his disciples to prepare for the Day of the Lord. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24: 42-43). Advent is a Christian wake up call. Advent readies us for the celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. We watch everyday for the presence of God. We remain alert to the will of God. Acting on God’s behalf, we become Jesus for others. We do God’s will feeding a hungry family, reconciling with an alienated relative or friend, seeking help for an addiction, praying more often, and more. For what is God waking you up this Advent?
In the Gospel for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Jesus is is put to death with two criminals. One mocks him. The other asks for mercy. ” ‘And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ ” (Luke 23: 41-43). The repentant criminal has deep faith in Jesus. He believes Jesus has the authority to pardon him. Jesus has mercy on him. He promises the repentant criminal life hereafter. Jesus has the authority to pardon us too. Lately I am regretting the mistakes I have made as a sibling and as a parent. I can become spiritually paralyzed worrying about my past. Or like the repentant criminal, I can acknowledge sorrow for them and ask God for mercy. For what do you need God’s mercy?