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January 2, when before Epiphany
“I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26–27
Now that our Christmas Octave is completed, we immediately begin to look toward the future ministry of our Lord. In our Gospel today, Saint John the Baptist is the one who points us to that future ministry of Jesus. He acknowledges his mission to baptize with water is one that is temporary and only a preparation for the One Who is coming after him.
As we saw in several of our Advent readings, Saint John the Baptist is a man of great humility. His admission that he is not worthy to untie even Jesus’ sandal straps is proof of this fact. But ironically, it is this humble admission that makes him so great!
Do you want to be great? Deep down we all do. This desire goes hand in hand with our innate desire for happiness. We want our lives to have meaning and purpose, and we want to make a difference. The question is “How?” How do you do this? How do you achieve true greatness?
From a worldly perspective, greatness can often become synonymous with success, riches, power, admiration from others, etc. But from a divine perspective, greatness is achieved by humbly giving God the greatest glory we can with our lives.
Giving God all the glory has a double effect upon our lives. First, doing so allows us to live in accord with the truth of life. The truth is that God and God alone deserves all our praise and glory. All good things come from God and God alone. Second, humbly giving God all the glory and pointing to the fact that we are unworthy of Him has the reciprocal effect of God reaching down and elevating us to share in His life and His glory.
Reflect, today, upon your calling to imitate the humility of Saint John the Baptist. Never shy away from humbling yourself before the greatness and glory of God. Doing so will not demean you or hamper your greatness. Rather, only in the deepest humility before the glory of God is God able to draw you into the greatness of His very life and mission.
Lord, I give all glory and praise to You and You alone. You are the source of all good; without You I am nothing. Help me to continually humble myself before You so that I may share in the glory and greatness of Your life of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Hearing God Speak
January 3, when before Epiphany
John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon 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 1:32–34
It’s interesting to note that in the Gospel of John, Saint John the Baptist never baptized Jesus, as is depicted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Instead, in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist simply witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit from a distance, and then spoke the quoted line above. The next day, the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” and two of his own disciples left the Baptist to follow Jesus.
Why is there this apparent discrepancy between the Gospel of John and the three Synoptic Gospels? Though it’s hard to answer that for certain, one thing that is made uniquely clear in the Gospel of John is that the Baptist was given a unique spiritual knowledge by the Father that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” In this Gospel, the revelation of Who Jesus was did not take place in a way that everyone present heard and saw. Rather, John’s Gospel focuses upon the interior realization that John the Baptist received from the One Who sent him. And the One Who sent him was the Father in Heaven.
One spiritual truth worth pondering from the account of the Gospel of John read today is that the conviction and certainty given to the Baptist about Jesus’ identity was so certain that he knew Who Jesus was beyond any shadow of a doubt. This personal revelation given to the Baptist changed his life. From that moment on, all he did was point people to Jesus.
As you ponder this spiritual revelation about Jesus that the Baptist received from the Father in Heaven, consider for yourself what would be more convincing. Would it be more convincing to hear an audible voice from Heaven declare Who Jesus was? Or to receive this same knowledge through an interior and spiritual communication from the Father? If you believe that the former, the external and audible voice, would be more convincing, then you might want to pause and think again. The truth is that God’s clearest and most certain form of communication to us is one that is internal. And even if there were an audible voice spoken from Heaven, as depicted in the Synoptic Gospels, that Voice would have to also be interiorly confirmed by faith in the hearts of the hearers so as to convince them on the deepest level.
Reflect, today, upon the spiritual truth that God the Father wants to speak to you in the depths of your own soul so as to draw you into a certainty about Himself and all that He has spoken as true. Do you hear God speak? Have you allowed yourself to be convinced by His Voice? Listen to Him today and allow all that He speaks to you to become the source and goal of all that you say and do in life.
Father in Heaven, You have revealed to me Who You are and Your plan for my life in many ways. And though You are always speaking to me, I acknowledge that I do not always listen. Please open my soul to You more fully so that I may come to faith and be certain of Your love and Your perfect will in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Come, and You Will See
January 4, when before Epiphany
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. John 1:38–39
What an interesting exchange. Andrew was one of two disciples of John the Baptist who heard John say that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” As a result, Andrew and the other disciple left the Baptist and started to physically follow Jesus. As they began to follow Jesus, He turned to them and asked them what they were looking for. And their response, followed by Jesus’ invitation, is recorded above.
Jesus’ invitation was unique: “Come, and you will see.” With that invitation, these two disciples went and remained with Jesus that day. But that’s not all that happened. It is clear from the subsequent passage that by spending the day with Jesus, these two disciples came to faith in Who Jesus was. Later in the passage, Andrew goes to his brother Peter to tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” What was it about their day with Jesus that convinced them of Who He was?
Though the details of their stay with Jesus are not included in the Gospel, it seems clear that simply being in Jesus’ presence is all that these disciples need. Consider, again, Jesus’ twofold invitation: “Come…” followed by “and you will see.”
When our Lord speaks to each of us, His invitation is quite similar. First, He will invite us to come with Him. We are to come to the place where Jesus is staying. Where is that? For us, it is not necessarily a physical place; rather, it is first and foremost a place of prayer. We must hear Jesus invite us to come to Him through the interior journey of personal prayer. It is there, within the depths of our soul, that we will rest with our Lord. He invites us to simply be there in His divine presence.
When we come to Him and rest with Him in His presence, another thing will happen: “and you will see.” We will see Him, come to know Him, be enlightened by Him and come to faith in Him. At first, this happens by His spoken Word. Ultimately, this takes place through an interior revelation that we can only receive in prayer.
Reflect, today, upon this gentle invitation that our Lord gave to these disciples. As you ponder these words, hear them spoken also to you. At first, spend time reflecting only upon the word “come.” Allow it to penetrate your soul. Allow it to become deeply personal. Know that it is a real and loving invitation from Jesus. After that, try to spend time pondering the words “and you will see.” What is it that God wants you to see? What personal revelation of faith does God want to bestow upon you? “Come, and you will see.” Allow these words to change your life, just as they changed the lives of these first disciples of our Lord.
Lord, You continuously invite me to come to You, to be with You and to sit with You in Your divine presence. Please help me to hear this gentle invitation of Your love. As I do, please open the eyes of my soul to see You, know You and love You more fully. And as I see You, give me grace and strength to follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Conversion is Contagious
January 5, when before Epiphany
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” John 1:43–45
Recall that in the previous passage of John’s Gospel, Andrew had gone to his brother Peter to tell him that he had found the Messiah. As a result, Peter went to see Jesus and also became His disciple. We have a similar story in today’s Gospel passage that happens shortly after the story in John’s Gospel. After Jesus called Philip to be a disciple, Philip immediately went to find his brother, Nathanael, to tell him the good news. As a result, once Nathanael has a brief encounter with Jesus, Nathanael converts, saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
In a sense, we can say that conversion is contagious. Once God calls a good and humble soul to follow Him and that soul responds, that person is almost always compelled to share their conversion with others whom they love. And when they share the conversion of their heart with another, their loved one will often become intrigued themselves, possibly even converting.
Conversion is indeed contagious! This is because when we come to know God, fall in love with Him and choose to follow Him, the joy and conviction of our conversion of heart are things we naturally want to share with others. We want others to experience the spiritual peace and joy we have found by discovering Christ with us.
So this begs the question: Has your love of God affected others in your life? If the answer is “Yes,” then this is something to be grateful for. But if the answer is “No,” then perhaps it’s worth pondering why not. Though it may not at all be your fault, it’s good to examine whether you have first allowed yourself to truly experience a deep conversion to Christ and then to ponder whether you have been open to sharing your heart with others.
So begin with the first question. Have you allowed yourself to truly go through a conversion to Christ? A conversion will take on varying degrees. At first, a conversion changes the direction of our lives by opening our eyes to see what truly matters in life. We discover the glory of God and the fulfillment that comes from embracing His will. When this happens, the initially converted soul will often begin to turn from all serious sin, to pray, to read the Scriptures, and to manifest these changes to others.
But conversions are not only a one-time event. Saint John of the Cross, for example, goes to much length to explain that as a person advances in the life of holiness, there will be a time when they must go through a whole new conversion. Their following of Christ will draw them to another and more profound change in life. Don’t be content with only an initial conversion. Seek also the ongoing process of change that is required by a commitment to follow Christ.
As for the second question, whether or not your own conversion has inspired those you love to follow Christ, simply pray that God uses you as He wills. Be open to Him, do not be afraid to share your heart, and work to allow the joy of following Christ to radiate from your own life. If others are open, then God will touch them through you.
Reflect, today, upon these two fundamental questions of the spiritual life and recommit yourself to a lifelong process of change, as well as an openness to allowing God to touch others through you. In the end, these two things are all that really matters in life and for eternity.
Lord of all holiness, please continuously draw me closer to You. Help me to convert in my life, to turn from all sin and to choose to follow You with all my heart. Help me, also, to be open in my faith journey so that others will see all that You are doing in me and receive Your invitation, through me, to follow You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Genealogy of Jesus
January 6, when before Epiphany
When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Melea… Luke 3:32–24
One of the two options for today’s Gospel is the genealogy of Jesus according to Saint Luke. Recall that Matthew’s Gospel also shares a genealogy of Jesus. Matthew’s version might be more familiar since it comes at the very beginning of his Gospel. Though the two genealogies differ significantly for various reasons, they both have the goal of tracing Jesus’ lineage. Luke inserts the genealogy of Jesus in Chapter Three of his Gospel, after Jesus is baptized and just before His public ministry. He presents the genealogy in ascending order, starting with Jesus and ending with Adam, identifying seventy-seven generations. Matthew presents the genealogy in descending order, beginning with Abraham and concluding with Jesus, identifying forty-one generations.
Saint Augustine, in commenting upon Luke’s genealogy, points out that Luke identifies seventy-seven generations because Jesus states that we must forgive seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21–22). Furthermore, since Jesus had just entered the waters of baptism, Augustine sees this as a way of saying that the Sacrament of Baptism offers all people of all times the unlimited gift of the forgiveness of sins.
Perhaps one of the most important reflections we can take from either of Jesus’ genealogies is the fact that He came to give us the gift of new life as the new Adam. His gift of baptism is a way of starting over with fallen humanity. From the time of our creation, we sinned. Adam and Eve sinned. And all generations to follow have sinned. Thus, in Christ, through Baptism, we are able to begin again, to be born again, and to be transformed from the natural fallen order to the supernatural order of grace.
We will soon celebrate the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. After that, we enter into the beginning of Ordinary Time when we ponder the public ministry of Jesus. As we do so, we must regularly remind ourselves of the reason Jesus came. He did not come simply to inspire us or to teach us His wisdom. Rather, He came to save fallen humanity in accord with the perfect plan of the Father. The Father’s plan began at the beginning of time when humanity fell from grace. From there, the Father prepared the world for the coming of His divine Son through generation after generation of prophets, priests and kings. Slowly, He revealed His plan of salvation until it came to fruition and perfection in the Person of His Beloved Son.
Reflect, today, upon the eternal plan of the Father to save us from sin by sending His divine Son as our Savior. The plan, spanning many generations from the beginning of time, will continue to unfold until the end of time when Jesus will return in splendor and glory. Spend time pondering this incredible plan and incredible gift you have been given. As you do, seek to foster the deepest gratitude in your heart.
Jesus, my Savior, I do thank You for the unfathomable gift You have given me. You took on our fallen human nature and transformed it by this unity of Your divinity and humanity. You died for my sins and the sins of all who turn to You, and You opened the doors to Heaven. May I always grow more deeply in gratitude for all You have done for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Command of Love
January 7, when before Epiphany
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5
This short phrase, inserted within the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana, gives us much to ponder. It is a command of love, spoken by our Blessed Mother to the servants at the wedding. And though her words were initially spoken to those servants so as to bring forth the first miracle and sign of Jesus’ divinity, we can be certain that our Blessed Mother also speaks them to each one of us.
“Do whatever he tells you.” What a beautiful command of love! When we hear these words spoken to us, we must hear them as our Blessed Mother’s perfect and ongoing guidance. So often in life we do what we want to do. We are drawn here or there by our passions and disordered desires. We struggle with being selfish and often make poor choices for our lives. This is the simple reality of sin that we struggle with every day. But if we can heed the Blessed Mother’s words, hearing them as words spoken from her heart to ours, then we will have a new direction in life.
Doing the will of God first requires that we listen to the voice of God. We must listen to our Lord speak to us. How well do you do this? Our minds are often flooded with many thoughts, and we are easily influenced by many things. Not only do our disordered passions, feelings and emotions confuse us at times, but there are so many varied and confusing voices within our world itself. We are influenced by those we encounter every day for good or ill, by the mass media, by the things we read or watch, and even by the evil one himself as he tempts us day in and day out.
If we can daily strive to eliminate the many misleading voices within our lives and tune in to the simple, clear and profound voice of God, then we have taken a good first step. But from there, we need to “do” that which God asks of us. Hearing God speak can be difficult, but doing what we hear from God can be even more difficult. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions are not enough. Doing God’s will with all our might is the answer.
Reflect, today, upon this twofold question. First, am I able to hear what God asks of me each and every day, or am I misled and influenced by many other voices? Second, how well do I put into action that which I know God asks of me? “Do whatever he tells you.” Ponder this phrase and hear it as a true command of love from our Blessed Mother.
Dearest Mother, please speak these words to me every day. As you do, please pray for me that I may listen to all that your Son asks of me and obey His voice with my whole heart. Thank you for your perfect “Yes” and your obedience to God in all things. May I learn to more fully imitate you every day. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Gift of Life
Second Sunday after Christmas
(When Epiphany is not transferred to the Sunday after January 1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:14
“What came to be through him was life…” What an important phrase! Though there is much to prayerfully reflect upon in the prologue to Saint John’s Gospel, this short line inserted in the middle of the prologue offers us much to comprehend and upon which to meditate.
The “Word” is the Son of God. The Son is eternal and has been with the Father from all eternity. The Heavens and the Earth were created through Him, with the Father. And this Eternal Word took on flesh in the Person of Jesus, the Christ.
Begin by pondering the truth that the Son of God is eternal and everything came to be through Him. But then consider that which is His greatest gift. It is the gift of life itself. “What came to be through him was life…” When we ponder the word “life” and see it as not only coming forth from the Son with the Father but also as His central gift to all, then we can more easily see the essence of God so as to grow in wonder and awe.
“Life” is everything. Without life there is nothing. And the life that came forth from the Son of God is a pure gift. By receiving the gift of life, we first consider the fact of our human creation. But the life God has given to us is so much more than our humanity. The gift of life also points to our new creation in grace. Our eternity with God. Our happiness and holiness. This is life to the fullest and is the reason the Son of God came to us.
As we prepare to enter into Ordinary Time, we will begin to reflect upon the many teachings and actions of our Lord as recorded in Scripture. As we do, we must see everything He is, everything He has said and everything He has done as a means of the bestowal of the new life of grace.
Life on this earth is short. It is but a blip in the realm of eternity. But too often we live our life here and now as if this is the only life that matters. We seek earthly wealth, honors, entertainment and so much more that passes away. But if God’s greatest gift to us is eternal life, a life of eternal joy in Heaven, then this new life of grace must be the central purpose of all that we do here on earth.
Reflect, today, upon eternity. This eternal vision must become the central focus of all that we do, day in and day out. If you struggle with looking at the eternity of new life in Christ and, instead, get too caught up in the day-to-day distractions you encounter, then try to change your perspective. Heaven is the life that the Son of God came to bestow upon us. Keep your eyes firmly fixed upon this gift, and work to achieve it with all the power of your earthly soul.
Eternal Word of God, You existed with the Father for all eternity. Everything that exists came to being through You. Help me to especially see the gift of eternal life to which You have called me. May I make eternal life the one and only focus of my life on earth. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Manifestation to the World
The Epiphany of the Lord
January 6, or the first Sunday after January 1
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, 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.” Matthew 2:1–2
The Magi were most likely from Persia, modern-day Iran. They were men who regularly engaged in a study of the stars. They were not Jewish but were most likely aware of the popular belief of the Jewish people that a king would be born who would save them.
These Magi were called by God to encounter the Savior of the World. Interestingly, God used something very familiar to them as an instrument of their calling: the stars. It was among their belief that when someone of great importance was born, this birth was accompanied by a new star. So when they saw this new, bright and brilliant star, they were filled with curiosity and hope. One of the most significant aspects of this story is that they responded. God called them through the use of a star, and they chose to follow this sign, embarking on a long and arduous journey.
God often uses those things most familiar to us that are part of our daily life to send forth His calling. Recall, for example, that many of the Apostles were fishermen, and Jesus used their occupation to call them, making them “fishers of men.” He especially used the miraculous catch of fish to clearly indicate to them that they had a new calling.
In our own lives, God is constantly calling us to seek Him out and worship Him. He will often use some of the most ordinary parts of our lives to send forth that calling. How is He calling you? In what way is He sending you a star to follow? Many times when God speaks, we ignore His voice. We must learn from these Magi and diligently respond when He calls. We must not hesitate and must seek to daily be attentive to the ways that God invites us to deeper trust, surrender and worship.
Reflect, today, upon God’s call in your life. Are you listening? Are you responding? Are you ready and willing to abandon all else in life so as to serve His holy will? Seek Him, wait on Him and respond. Doing so will be the best decision you ever make.
Lord, I love You and pray that I will be open to Your guiding hand in my life. May I always be attentive to the countless ways that You call to me each and every day. And may I always respond to You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Repent with Your Whole Heart
First Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Monday after Epiphany or January 7
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
Now that our Christmas Octave and Epiphany celebrations are complete, we begin to turn our eyes to the public ministry of Christ. The above line from today’s Gospel presents us with the most central summary of all of the teachings of Jesus: Repent. However, He doesn’t say only to repent, He also says that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And that second statement is the reason we must repent.
In his spiritual classic, The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola explains that the primary reason for our lives is to give to God the greatest glory we can. In other words, to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven. But he also goes on to say that this can only be accomplished when we turn away from sin and all inordinate attachments in our lives so that the one and only focus of our lives is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the goal of repentance.
Soon we will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and then we return to Ordinary Time within the Liturgical Year. Throughout Ordinary Time, we will reflect upon the public ministry of Jesus and focus upon His many teachings. But all of His teachings, everything that He says and does, ultimately points us to repentance, a turning away from sin and a turning toward our glorious God.
In your own life, it is essential that you place before your mind and heart the call to repentance. It is essential that you daily hear Jesus saying those words to you: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Do not only think about Him saying this many years ago; rather, hear it said to you, today, tomorrow and every day of your life. There will never be a time in your life when you do not need to repent with all your heart. We will never reach perfection in this life, so repentance must be our daily mission.
Reflect, today, upon this exhortation from our Lord to repent. Repent with your whole heart. Examining your actions every day is essential to this mission. See the ways that your actions keep you from God and reject those actions. And look for the ways that God is active in your life and embrace those acts of mercy. Repent and turn toward the Lord. This is Jesus’ message to you this day.
Lord, I repent of the sin in my life and pray that You give me the grace to become free from all that keeps me from You. May I not only turn from sin but also turn to You as the source of all mercy and fulfillment in my life. Help me to keep my eyes on the Kingdom of Heaven and to do all I can to share in that Kingdom here and now. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Heart of Compassion
Second Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Tuesday after Epiphany or January 8
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
What is compassion? It’s an attribute by which someone sees the suffering of another and experiences true empathy for them. This empathy, in turn, leads the person to reach out and share in the person’s suffering, helping them to endure whatever they are going through. This is what Jesus experienced within His own Sacred Heart as He looked out upon this vast crowd.
The Scripture above introduces the familiar miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. And though the miracle itself offers much to ponder, this introductory line also gives us much to ponder regarding our Lord’s motivation for performing this miracle.
When Jesus looked out at the large crowd, He saw a group of people who seemed lost, were searching and were spiritually hungry. They desired some direction in their lives, and, for that reason, they were coming to Jesus. But what’s very helpful to reflect upon is Jesus’ Heart. He was not annoyed by their insistence, He was not burdened by them; rather He was deeply moved by their spiritual poverty and hunger. This moved His Heart to “pity,” which is a form of sincere compassion. For that reason, He taught them “many things.”
Interestingly, the miracle was simply an extra blessing but was not the primary action Jesus took on account of His compassionate Heart. First and foremost, His compassion led Him to teach them.
Jesus looks at each one of us with the same compassion. Whenever you find yourself confused, lacking direction in life and spiritually hungry, Jesus gazes at you with the same gaze He offered this vast crowd. And His remedy for your needs is to teach you, also. He wants you to learn from Him by studying the Scripture, by daily prayer and meditation, by reading the lives of the saints and learning the many glorious teachings of our Church. This is the food that every wandering heart needs for spiritual satisfaction.
Reflect, today, upon the most compassionate Heart of our Divine Lord. Allow yourself to see Him gazing at you with the utmost love. Know that His gaze is one that drives Him to speak to you, to teach you and to lead you to Himself. Trust this most compassionate Heart of our Lord and allow Him to reach out to you in love.
Lord, help me to see You as You gaze at me with the most heartfelt love and compassion. I know You know my every struggle and my every need. Help me to open myself up to You and Your mercy so that You become my true Shepherd. Jesus, I trust in You.
Take Courage, Do Not Fear
Third Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Wednesday after Epiphany or January 9
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” Mark 6:50
Fear is one of the most paralyzing and painful experiences in life. There are many things we can fear, but most often, the cause of our fear is the evil one trying to deter us from faith and hope in Christ Jesus.
This line above is taken from the story of Jesus walking on the water toward the Apostles during the fourth watch of the night as they were rowing against the wind and being tossed by the waves. When they saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified. But when Jesus spoke to them and got into the boat, the wind immediately died down, and the Apostles remained there “completely astounded.”
The boat on the stormy sea has traditionally been understood to represent our journey through this life. There are countless ways that the evil one, the flesh and the world fight against us. In this story, Jesus sees their trouble from the shore and walks toward them to come to their aid. His reason for walking towards them is His compassionate Heart.
Often in times of fear in life, we lose sight of Jesus. We turn in on ourselves and focus on the cause of our fear. But our goal must be to turn from the cause of fear in life and look for Jesus Who is always compassionate and is always walking toward us in the midst of our fear and struggle.
Reflect, today, upon whatever it is that causes you the most fear and anxiety in life. What is it that leads you to interior confusion and struggle? Once you identify the source, turn your eyes from that to our Lord. See Him walking toward you in the midst of whatever you struggle with, saying to you, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
Lord, once again I turn to Your most compassionate Heart. Help me to lift my eyes toward You and to turn away from the sources of my anxiety and fear in life. Fill me with faith and hope in You and give me the courage I need to put all my trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Good News Travels Fast
Fourth Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Thursday after Epiphany or January 10
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. Luke 4:21–22a
Jesus had just spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying prior to beginning His public ministry. His first stop was Galilee, where He entered the Synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah. However, soon after His words were spoken in the Synagogue, Jesus was driven out of the town, and the people tried to throw Him over the hill to kill Him.
What a shocking contrast. At first Jesus was “praised by all,” as we see in the passage above. Word of Him spread like wildfire throughout the towns. They had heard of His baptism and the Voice of the Father speaking from Heaven, and many were curious and excited about Him. But as soon as Jesus began to preach the pure Gospel message and when He began to address their hardness of heart, they turned on Him and sought His life.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that the Gospel will always have the effect of drawing people together as one. Of course, this is one of the central goals of the Gospel: to unite us in the Truth as the one people of God. But the key to unity is that unity is only possible when we all accept the saving Truth of the Gospel. All of it. And that means we must change our hearts, turn from the stubbornness of our sins, and open our minds to Christ. Sadly, some do not want to change, and the result is division.
If you find that there are aspects of Jesus’ teaching that are hard to accept, reflect upon the passage above. Return to this initial reaction of the townspeople when they were all talking about Jesus and praised Him. That is the right response. Our difficulties with what Jesus says and what He calls us to repent of should never have the effect of leading us to disbelief rather than to praise Him in all things.
Reflect, today, on the most difficult teaching of Jesus you have struggled with. Everything He says and everything He has taught is for your good. Praise Him no matter what and allow your heart of praise to give you the wisdom you need to understand all that Jesus asks of you. Especially those teachings that are most difficult to accept.
Lord, I accept all that You have taught, and I choose to change those parts of my life that do not conform to Your most holy will. Give me wisdom to see the thing from which I must repent and soften my heart so that I will always remain open to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Preaching by Example
Fifth Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Friday after Epiphany or January 11
The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray. Luke 5:15–16
This line concludes the beautiful and powerful story of a man who was full of leprosy and who came to Jesus, fell prostrate before Him and pleaded with Jesus to heal Him if it was His will. Jesus’ response was simple: “I do will it. Be made clean.” And then Jesus did the unthinkable. He touched the man. The man, of course, was immediately healed of his leprosy, and Jesus sent him to show himself to the priest. But word of this miracle spread fast, and many people kept coming to see Jesus as a result.
It’s easy to imagine the scene of people talking about this miracle, thinking of their own ailments and those of their loved ones, and wanting to be healed by this miracle worker. But in the passage above, we see Jesus do something very interesting and prophetic. Just as the great crowds gathered and just as there was much excitement about Jesus, He withdrew from them to a deserted place to pray. Why would He do this?
Jesus’s mission was to teach His followers the truth and to lead them to Heaven. He did this not only by His miracles and teachings but also by setting an example of prayer. By going off to pray to His Father alone, Jesus teaches all of these excited followers what is most important in life. Physical miracles are not what is most important. Prayer and communion with the Father in Heaven is what’s most important.
If you have established a healthy life of daily prayer, one way you can share the Gospel with others is by allowing others to witness your commitment to prayer. Not so as to receive their praise, but to let them know what you find most important in life. When you commit yourself to daily Mass, going to church for adoration, or simply taking time alone in your room to pray, others will notice and will be drawn into a holy curiosity which may also lead them to a life of prayer.
Reflect, today, upon your mission to evangelize others by the simple act of allowing your life of prayer and devotion to be known by them. Let them see you pray, and if they ask, share with them the fruits of your prayer. Allow your love of our Lord to shine forth so that others will receive the blessing of your holy witness.
Lord, help me to be committed to a life of true prayer and devotion each and every day. Help me to be faithful to this life of prayer and to continually be drawn deeper in my love of You. As I learn to pray, use me to be a witness to others so that those who need You the most will be changed by my love of You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fulfilling Only Our Role
Sixth Christmas Weekday after Epiphany
Saturday after Epiphany or January 12
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John 3:26
John the Baptist had amassed quite a following. People kept coming to Him to be baptized, and many wanted his ministry to grow. However, once Jesus began His own public ministry, some of the followers of John became jealous. But John gave the right answer to them. He explained to them that his life and mission was to prepare people for Jesus. Now that Jesus had begun His ministry, John joyfully said, “So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:29–30).
This humility of John is a great lesson, especially for those who are actively engaged in the apostolic mission of the Church. Too often when we get involved with some apostolate and another’s “ministry” seems to grow faster than ours, jealousy can set in. But the key to understanding our role in the apostolic mission of Christ’s Church is that we must seek to fulfill our role and our role alone. We must never see ourselves in competition with others within the Church. We must know when we are to act in accord with God’s will, and we must know when we are to step back and allow others to fulfill God’s will. We must do the will of God, nothing more, nothing less and nothing other.
Additionally, that last statement from John must always resound within our hearts when we are called to actively engage in the apostolate. “He must increase; I must decrease.” This is an ideal model for everyone who serves Christ and others within the Church.
Reflect, today, upon those holy words of the Baptist. Apply them to your mission within your family, among your friends and especially if you are involved in some apostolic service within the Church. Everything you do must point to Christ. This will only happen if you, like Saint John the Baptist, understand the unique role that God has given to you and you embrace that role alone.
Lord, I give myself to You for Your service and glory. Use me as You will. As You use me, please give me the humility I need to always remember that I serve You and Your will alone. Free me from jealousy and envy and help me to rejoice in the numerous ways that You act through others in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
“You are My Beloved Son”
The Baptism of the Lord
Sunday after January 6 (Or Monday if Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday, January 7 or 8)
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9–11 (Gospel from Year B)
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes for us the Christmas Season and transitions us into the beginning of Ordinary Time. From a Scriptural point of view, this event in Jesus’ life is also a transitional moment from His hidden life in Nazareth to the beginning of His public ministry. As we commemorate this glorious event, it’s important to ponder a simple question: Why was Jesus baptized? Recall that John’s baptism was one of repentance, an act by which he invited his followers to turn from sin and to turn to God. But Jesus was sinless, so what was the reason for His Baptism?
First of all, we see in the quoted passage above that Jesus’ true identity was made manifest through His humble act of baptism. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” spoke the voice of the Father in Heaven. Furthermore, we are told that the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove. Thus, Jesus’ baptism is in part a public declaration of Who He is. He is the Son of God, a divine Person Who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This public testimony is an “epiphany,” a manifestation of His true identity for all to see as He prepares to begin His public ministry.
Second, by His baptism, Jesus’ incredible humility is made manifest. He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, but He allows Himself to become identified with sinners. By sharing in an act that was focused upon repentance, Jesus speaks volumes through His action of baptism. He came to unite Himself with us sinners, to enter our sin and to enter into our death. By entering the water, He symbolically enters into death itself, which is the result of our sin, and rises triumphantly, allowing us to also rise with Him to new life. For this reason, Jesus’ baptism was a way of Him “baptizing” the waters, so to speak, so that water itself, from that moment onward, would be endowed with His divine presence and could be communicated to all who are baptized after Him. Therefore, sinful humanity is now able to meet divinity through baptism.
Lastly, when we share in this new baptism, through water that has now been sanctified by our divine Lord, we see in Jesus’ baptism a revelation of who we become in Him. Just as the Father spoke and declared Him as His Son, and just as the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, so also in our baptism we become the adopted children of the Father and are filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus’ baptism gives clarity as to whom we become in Christian baptism.
Lord, I thank You for Your humble act of baptism by which You opened the Heavens to all who are sinners. May I open my heart to the unfathomable grace of my own baptism each and every day and more fully live with You as a child of the Father, filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.
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