Sunday, January 12, 2014

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord: A Resounding Yes

“And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” - Mt 3:13-17

Today marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the official end of Christmas. The rest of the world seems to have already moved on to the next big thing...Christmas decorations that once filled every store I went to have been replaced by Valentine's day cards...gyms are extra crowded with people trying to stay true to their New Year's resolutions…work and social schedules are packed full of things to do, places to go to, people to see...but for some reason, I find myself less eager to move on this year. 
Maybe it's because this is our first Christmas as newly weds or because it was the first Christmas that I spent away from my immediate family…maybe it's because I got really sick and didn't have as much time to really prepare for Christmas so it seems to have gone by so quickly…or maybe...getting so sick was a blessing in that I didn't have the energy to get caught up too much (or at least for too long) in all the hustle and bustle that often comes with getting ready for Christmas, that spending Christmas with my new husband and his family allowed me see Christmas from a different perspective…maybe, maybe...

Whatever the reason may be, it seems like God is inviting me to just remain here…to let the spirit of Christmas linger in my savor it…to be still...and know that He is already with us…truly…even in all the muck of life…that He is with me and He loves me…wait, really? Would God still call me His “beloved” if He knew me, I mean, really knew me and all that I've done and sometimes continue to do? Would He rest His favor in me? As someone who often has a hard time accepting love, these questions often make me feel uneasy. Yet, despite my resistance and uneasiness, a voice from within resounds: "Yes."

Lord, may we embrace enough silence and solitude so that God's loving voice resounds from within. May we marinate in the incredible gift that we are already God's beloved children.

Reflected by Kim Nguyen Lehr

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday after Epiphany: A Great Joy

"So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." - John 3: 29-30

John saw that his mission was drawing to an end just as Jesus' mission was beginning, and John found great joy in this. There is always joy when we receive confirmation of our own testimony, but John's joy was even greater. The Messiah had come at last! Now it was time for John to decrease while Jesus increased.

As Christ enters my life more and more completely, I find these words to be true for me as well. Flannery O'Connor wrote in her prayer journal that God was like a crescent moon shining in her life, and that she was the shadow that made up the rest of the moon. She felt fear that her shadow might grow to blot out the shining light of God. I saw the truth in this. My worldly concerns and attachments can get in the way of the light in my life. These parts of me that are invested in the world must decrease while I give more and more of myself to Christ, and there is great joy in this, not only my joy, but God's joy as well.

What in my life must decrease so that Christ may increase? How may I cooperate with God to bring more light and joy into my life?
Reflected by Sharon Sullivan

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday after Epiphany: But Only Say the Word

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”… “I do will it. Be made clean.” - Lk 5:12-13

All of us have some aspect of our lives that we try to keep hidden behind the locked doors of our hearts: a shameful past, a secret sin, a hidden addiction, a “leprosy” if you will, that is slowly eating up at our hearts, yet desperately crying out for healing from Jesus.  The problem is that we’ve become so comfortable with keeping those things hidden from view, that we don’t know how to be otherwise.

What part of our broken lives is desperately waiting for Christ to enter, but is too afraid, too ashamed, too guilty, too self-loathing, too fearful, too rigid, too prideful, too disgusted to allow Christ to enter because we feel we’re unworthy of him?

We need only remember what we now say at mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”, and here’s the important part, “…but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  The sense of unworthiness can often be so overwhelming that we tend to push Jesus away by saying “Oh, you can’t come in Lord!  My ‘house, my life is too messy, dirty, imperfect, and impure for you to set foot in my life.  Come back another time.”  Meanwhile, Jesus continues to stand at the door of our hearts, knocking, ready to say the word so our souls can be healed. We prevent him from coming in!

Despite ourselves, God comes unexpectedly into the ordinary brokenness of our humanity, wanting to be with us, as we are, and desiring only to love us – even those parts we think are unlovable. In the words of the spiritual writer, Annie Lamott, “God grace always meets us where we are, and never leaves us where it found us.”

As the Christmas season comes to a close, there is still one last present waiting to be opened.  It’s the gift of HEALING and FREEDOM that Jesus alone can give; a freedom that allows us to live our lives the best we can, with humility, honesty, and JOY. It’s time to let Christ enter into those locked doors of our hearts, to say the word, so that we can be healed, so that we can “be made clean!”

Reflected by Fr. Radmar Jao, SJ

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thursday after Epiphany: True Mission

“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.” - Lk 4: 18-19

Christmas and New Year celebrations are ending. Many people are getting back to work. As the spirit of the birth of the Messiah fades away to be replaced with the daily routine, this passage that Jesus read gives a wonderful reminder for people like me about the true mission of our Lord Jesus, mission that he lives fully to the end during his stay with us.

As I am asked to follow our Lord’s steps, I am invited to reflect on my own mission in the world. What is my personal mission statement? As I look around me, I see that every business companies and communities have their own mission statement. And they try to follow it as close as possible. I really believe that each of us somehow incarnates the Word of God and that each of us reflects uniquely one aspect of God. What is the biblical passage, the Word of God that defines me and drives me?

Dear Father, You know me more than anybody because you created me. Tell me, Father, what is Your Word that you invite me to be the incarnation for? I am so overjoyed to understand how unique I am to you, Father. Because of the way you create me and the time, the place and the experiences I live, I am expressing uniquely your Word to the world. Let your Spirit be upon me so you can reveal me my mission in the world as you did for your Son, Jesus.

Reflected by Michel Nam Phan Huy

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday after Epiphany: Courageous Love

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” - Mark 6:45-52

Elements of our spiritual journey could be found in a single day with periods of light and darkness. There will be loss, lessons, and triumphs. Within it lies doubts, second guesses, and exploring unknowns. Often times, these experiences reveal to us a deep sense of humility that we are unprepared for life. It requires faith in God to be the gentle wind guiding our boat calmly to the other side. In placing our needs in His hands, our hearts open to enjoy the present without anxious dependence on the future.

Over the past year, I have dealt with several hardships including the rehabilitation and mobility of my dominant hand, an ER visit for my husband, and a near death experience of a sibling. These experiences were brutal and each of them knocked me down. Trusting in God kept me going and stirred a sense of peace within me. Small gusts of happiness moved me deeply. My understanding and respect for life strengthened as I continued to take refuge in Him. Overcoming these struggles became the birthplace of my praises and reminded me that He is near and with us always.

Every moment in our life will have about it a mystery, beauty, and something in the atmosphere that it lacked before the grateful heart opened itself. By emptying our hands, we allow God to work out His plans and weave our story together, line upon line, from which nothing can be taken away without injury to the whole. Like the apostles in today’s message, may we take a chance in faith to give ourselves totally to God when the pressures of life seem unbearable. And may hope gives us the assurance that God’s way will be done as we enter into the new year.

Lord, help me to grow in my understanding that nothing is off-limits with I am not only reformed, but transformed.

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday after Epiphany: Having Enough

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” 1 JN 4:7
I recently met a 12-year old boy, Hieu, who is in recovery mode from a bone marrow transplant. His family doesn’t have much, but they are full of love for each other and God. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he said he has enough. He didn’t know what to ask for. His one wish was to be well enough to attend church and be an altar boy. He wanted to share his love for God with others. Noah, my 5-year old nephew, gave a similar response when asked what he wanted for Christmas. He listed a game, Xbox points, and one shirt. When I asked him why only one shirt, he responded, “I have enough.” He had recently learned about other children his age who might not have Christmas presents. Because of this, he wanted Jesus to know he has enough. He only wanted a new shirt to wear on Christmas - other children can get his portion of the toys.

Today’s gospel of Jesus feeding five thousand men with only five loaves and two fish reminds me of the Hieu and Noah. The disciples wanted to send the people away at the end of the day, because they did not have enough to feed the people; it would cost two hundred days’ wages. Jesus asked them to bring him what they have, “Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to the heaven, he said his blessings, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people” (Mk 6:41-42). It was enough for Him to feed five thousand men, so much so that they had leftovers. This miracle shows God’s remarkable generosity, and His love for us. God gives in unconditional abundance. He gives us more than what we need so that we can go forth and share His blessings with others, especially those who need us most.

Do you have enough? Do you trust in God’s abundance love for us? Do you freely share with others, especially those who need it most?
Reflected by Katherine Tran

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday after Epiphany: Listening for God

"Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God." -1 JN: 4:1-3

Many false spirits permeate our daily experience. Our popular culture and media are among the powerful forces that can influence who we believe we should be, what kind of success we should achieve, and what defines our worthiness. Colored by these messages and our personal life history, we may begin to embody these beliefs in ways that push us to strive for fulfillment by the standards that the world sets. Or on the contrary, we may be “inhibited” in our life choices because we don’t believe we are worthy of authentic meaning and purpose. It is so easy to carry these messages with us from day-to-day like a loaded backpack. We are so used to carrying this weight; we don’t know any different. Without question, we accept these false spirits as gospel truth as they direct our lives in ways beyond our consciousness.

In today’s first reading, we are invited to test the spirits that infiltrate our thinking and being. We are reminded that not every spirit belongs to God or will lead us to God. I don’t know about you, but these messages can be so easily present from my very waking moment: “You are not going to get that list completed today. You know that you are what you accomplish.” Or while looking in the mirror: “You look like a mess; hard to capture beauty in that.” Or at other times: “You should be a better spouse, parent, co-worker, sibling, friend, etc.” Because I am so hurried to prioritize that list of things I need to do to feel accomplished and “busy," I don’t always pause to “test” these spirits. Are they really from God? Where are they rooted? When they are held up to the light, do they hold any truth? When I sense these thoughts guiding my actions, it is helpful to take even just a few minutes to silence myself to look at these messages with God - as an outsider, without judgment. Are these from you God? 

In the coming week, pay attention to the thoughts/messages that magnify false spirits in your life. On a park bench, on your morning commute, on your favorite couch (or other desired spot), offer these spirits to God. What do you hear?

Anonymous Reflection

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord: Letting Go and Letting God

“The mystery was made known to me by revelation.” - Eph 3:3A

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Growing up, I was always a little confused by my mom’s emphasis on this day. For me, it was the day the Three Kings arrived and gave baby Jesus gifts, which meant that I would receive one last gift, too, thanks to my mom’s Italian traditions.

However, as I’ve grown, experienced more of life’s challenges and rewards, and looked a little deeper at the meaning of epiphany, Paul’s words to the Ephesians have a more powerful and significant meaning in my life. Although I sometimes find myself trying to look for grandiose, concrete revelations of God’s presence from time to time, I’ve learned that God may not always present Himself in that way.

Making that leap of faith and truly believing that God is in control can be scary and difficult though. It took me years of asking God when, where and how before realizing there may not be a shining light or dream that provided the answers. My epiphany occurred when I made the conscientious decision to stop asking and looking, and instead began simply to experience the love that God spreads all around me. That concrete action on my part to “let go and let God” led to the realization of just how much God did love me and how many gifts I did have. That epiphany of true, faithful acceptance led to the best year of my life and discoveries of love and happiness that I had wasted years waiting for a mysterious revelation to occur.

God, as you revealed yourself to the Magi through the baby Jesus after their journey of blind faith, help me accept your revelation in the glory that already surrounds me.

Reflected by Rick Billups

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Trust and You'll See

“What are you looking for? … Come, and you will see.” - Jn 1:38-39

These two responses of Jesus in the Gospel flow together as one for me. When Jesus asks the disciples what they are looking for, they answer with a literal answer of “where are you staying?” but Jesus had been asking them about something much deeper. When taken together as one, I hear that if I follow and go along with Jesus, I will see what it is I am truly looking for.

Today the Church celebrates Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. She was the foundress of the parish school system and the first American women’s religious order, a branch of the Daughters of Charity. Her journey into answering Jesus’ query of “what are you looking for?” was filled with turns and twists, as well as heartache and loneliness.

A devout Episcopalian, Elizabeth married and had five children before being widowed and bankrupted at age 29. During her husband’s illness, she found great kindness and support in Catholic friends, which ultimately led to her conversion. She faced extreme discrimination for her decision to become Catholic. Her deep trust in God’s goodness and ability to see Christ so present in the poor compelled Elizabeth to move through the pain and loneliness to follow where Jesus led.

As a young Episcopalian wife and mother, she never could have imagined herself as a Catholic woman religious. Elizabeth’s ability to listen for God simply and faithfully helped her to discover those deep urgings within her own soul, and thus her calling in life.

At 29 years old, as I settle into my third trimester of pregnancy, certain elements of my life and vocation come into clearer focus. Meanwhile, Elizabeth becomes a reminder of how responding to Jesus’ call opens even more doorways and possibilities. I am invited to trust that each step I take will be another opportunity to go where Jesus already is and to remain there with Him.

Lord, how are you already expanding my horizons and my faith in 2014?
Are you inviting me to walk more closely with you in some way? 

Reflected by Jen Coito

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Weekday: Children of God

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” – 1 Jn 3:1 

We are all children of God. It sounds so simple, this mission of Jesus God-with-us. Yet, accepting this reality within our hearts is a lifetime challenge. A most transformative one.

I am convinced that an inception has already taken place in everyone’s life. The movie Inception suggests how a simple idea can transform a person’s life. If planted deep enough within a person’s consciousness, it will change everything. What if the simple idea is this: God loves you as you are, personally, irrevocably, without condition, without limit? When you and I believe this mystery and embrace it, it will has lasting impact on our lives.

After watching the video below, consider asking God for the grace to believe more fully that you are a beloved child of God. Receiving this gift may take some time. Yet, the journey of a thousand leagues begins with one step.

“Lord, help me to trust and live more fully that I am a child of God.”

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen: What If?

"I am the voice of one crying out in the desert … I am not worthy to untie the sandal strap of the one who is coming after me.” – Jn 1:25, 27

With all the gift giving of Christmas and the resolution making of the New Year, it is easy to think that the spiritual life is about adding on. Just as upward mobility is the road to social success, the spiritual life is also about putting on and learning more so we can ascend to God. Yet, most saints (like Basil and Gregory we celebrate today) describe the spiritual journey as more unlearning than learning. They speak of a shedding off and a letting go more than an adding on. Downward mobility. The figure of John the Baptist returns in today’s Gospel to remind us that “[Jesus] must increase; [he] must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

As I begin 2014, it is good for me to take some time of quiet, to disconnect myself from electronic devices so I can (re)connect better to God and my truer self. I am invited to rest in grace, to get in touch with a deeper part of myself. Terry Hershey’s poem from his The Power of Pause is helpful for me to clear the path in the New Year:

"What if life isn’t about finishing on top,
but knowing when to stop?

What if life isn’t about learning to live with stress,
but learning to live with less?

What if life isn’t about pushing yourself to the limit,
but embracing everything minute?

What if life isn’t about constant action,
but eliminating distraction?

What if life isn’t about what you chase,
but resting in God's grace?"

Lord, help me rest more in Your love and care today and focus less on me, on my expectations or worries.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God: Letting God Lead

“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” – Luke 2: 17-19

Today is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. To be honest, I have typically overlooked this holy day of obligation, as it was always lost in the festivities of New Years Eve and rest on New Years Day. With this feast we honor Mary’s divine Motherhood and the public announcement of Jesus’ birth. This is a tough aspect for me to swallow. How could Mary fathom being the mother of God? I think that maybe monumental/life changing events are things we accept over time. Our hearts work on them with God to eventually accept and embrace whatever it is that God has in store for us.

In this New Year, the promise of a fresh start is upon us. I actually don’t have a list of resolutions just yet. Of course there are many things I would like to do in this next year but I initially found myself listing down things that are not necessarily driving new growth or are completely out of my control such as finding the person to spend the rest of my life with. I realized that lists such as this lead to expectations in the New Year instead of a perspective of hope so I have decided to wait to make my list. 

I know that I need to spend ample time with the Lord to hear what he is calling me to do in this next year and reflect on what that is. People always say that what you are looking for ends up being what is right in front of you all along. I wonder, are we just overlooking or afraid to embrace what God has put right in front of us? In 2014 let us ask ourselves, what am I being called to do in this New Year? Am I ready to accept and embrace this path?

Lord help me to hear what you are calling me to do in 2014 and have the faith and discipline to embrace this path.

Reflected by Joan Ervin