Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baptism of the Lord

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” - Mk 1:11

Over the past several weeks, we have read many stories surrounding the conception, birth, and infancy of Jesus. As we follow Him through the gospels, the elements of wonder and awe never leave. The baptism begins our season of Ordinary Time as Jesus embarks on his public ministry and invites us to ask ourselves, “How am I growing in love today towards myself and all those around me? Are my words and actions drawing me closer to Him?”

As the story unfolds we learn that Jesus is a servant to others. He does not use his power to dominate others, but to liberate and give them life. In our baptism, we are welcomed into a community of believers and called to be of generous service to others. This includes our families who nurture our becoming, friends who love us by choice, companions at work who share our burden and daily tasks, and strangers who welcome us into their midst. Growing in a loving relationship with Him is a continuous invitation of how we choose to respond to His love.

One longstanding tradition that centers me each time during mass is making the sign of the cross three times before the gospel. Within the movements, I would recite to myself, “Lord, penetrate my mind with your words, let it be spoken through my lips, and transform my heart.” In that moment of preparation, a sense of peace and readiness would restore within me, feeling comforted I have another chance to respond.

Lord, make me an instrument of your love. May I see each circumstance in my life as an opportunity to grow in Your love.

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday After Epiphany: Rejoice Greatly

"Beloved: We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." - 1 John 5:14

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice." – John 3:29

The Gospel today describes John the Baptist as the “best man” or good friend who stands beside Jesus, pointing people to the one who is most important. I’ve never been a best man, but I have been a maid of honor, bridesmaid, acolyte, or lector in many weddings of loved ones.

I can open my closet and see an accumulation of dresses, shoes, and accessories that have been worn just once. Although these “attendant” purchases never seem to be items that fit me right or what I would choose myself, they serve as reminders of days where I was privileged to stand beside and rejoice greatly with a dear friend.

I imagine God being that friend willing to stand beside me, no matter how ridiculous and ill-fitting the outfit. The bigger challenge for me is whether I am willing to go outside my comfort zone to be that best friend for God.

God, how might I befriend you even more today? Are you inviting me to stretch myself and love more freely?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday After Epiphany

“Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” -  1 JN 5:5

I became a personal trainer because I had a passion for fitness and I saw a need in our community to become healthier. My first job taught me a lot about "the ways of this world." It taught me about all the quantitative aspects of being a personal trainer because there was a primary focus on obtaining sales as well as increasing the amount of sessions serviced. These were the two metrics for what counted as success in the business sense, the metrics for promotions, the metrics for longevity in this industry.
When the time came, I went out on my own, to become an independent trainer and eventually open up my own gym, where I am daring greatly to change the metrics of success for business to something more qualitative, more of a reflection of my belief in Jesus. It's not easy.

It is not easy to base a business model not off of profits, but off of how we treat people. I think that's actually the complete opposite of a "business" plan. This is something that we see more commonly in ministry or non-profits; Not as common in my experience in the business world. It is not always easy to practice this belief that my livelihood comes from my Jesus, to discern business decisions with him. To trust him. To see every struggle I face as a business woman as in invitation to draw closer to God by inviting him not only into the decision making process, but also as a way for him to transform me through deepening my faith. To transform me through increasing my capacity for patience and trusting his timing above my worldly timeline.

However, what I have experienced so far is grace beyond measure. Some how, some way, the bills get paid. And I have been blessed to be able to care for and be attentive to the genuine needs of my clients. To see them struggle and succeed in their own ways in their own journeys in becoming healthier, feeling more alive and connected with others, and just enjoying who they are and what they have accomplished. Some how some way, my business is growing; Truthfully not according to any of my plans, but according to his plans and timing. 

If I can just relax into this all, I get to do what brings absolute joy into my life and celebrates my spirit - reflect the awesome amazing goodness I see in my clients right back to them. Doing so through fitness, nutrition, and community building in my work is just the means for me to strive valiantly to be a victor over the world via my belief in Jesus.

I think what it means to be a victor is to face the battle and struggle of living out our faith and belief in God in the face of what can sometimes be so contradictory to the core of Jesus' messages of compassion, justice, mercy, inclusiveness, and forgiveness. Jesus is actually one of my favorite leaders. What's funny I think, is that if he was a trainer, he would have the most clients, the most sessions serviced, and perhaps a ridiculously long waiting list. And yet, how did he conduct business? By the way he treated people.

Jesus, please help me to remember how you lived. Help me to live out my faith in every aspect of my life, including my work, and those areas where your grace and guidance can do the most good.

Reflected by Rae Visita

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday after Epiphany

“Beloved, we love God because he first loved us.” - 1 JN 4:19

St. Irenaeus once said, “The life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.”  As we come to celebrate this season of Epiphany, God reveals himself to us, in us.  God’s tender love manifested in a vulnerable child reminds us of our need to recognize majesty in simplicity, poverty, and fragility.  This mystery of God’s incarnation invites us to recognize that the glory of God is to faithfully live out our vocation as Christians—a vocation rooted faith, hope, and love.  As a Jesuit superior of mine constantly told me, “Trust in your goodness.” 

It can be easy to doubt our goodness or the goodness of others.   We are easily swayed by judgment, criticism, or temptation that may move us towards envy, self-pity, or anger.  During those times, we must remember that love originated from God, and that God always loved us first.  By celebrating the gift of our life, and the lives of those we cherish, God is present.  How do you celebrate your goodness?  How do you celebrate the goodness of others?  What graces do you need to accept shortcomings, or the shortcomings of friends or family?

Lord, help me to trust in your love.

Reflected by Alex Llanera, S.J.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wednesday After Epiphany – Casting Out Fear

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” – 1 John 4:18

How many of us grew up with the image of God as a disciplinarian? Perhaps growing up in a strict household, or ominous stories in the Old Testament, or our misinterpretation of languages such as “God-fearing” have shaped our perceptions. I grew up with the idea that life was one big test, not unlike a school exam: as long as I got more right answers / do good works than wrong answers / sin, I would pass and be admitted to heaven. So I developed a fear of the inevitable punishment from falling short. Even worse, I was at a time exasperated with the existential examination to the point of not wanting to participate any longer. My impression of God was molded by fear and frustration.

As with any of our image of God, our ideas and perceptions of Him constrain and place boundaries on the indescribable love and goodness He actually is. St.  John writes, “God is love.” Can we possibly fathom the fullness of that statement? If we reflect on the one person in our life who we experience the purest love from and how we are fearless around him/her, fearless to the point of forgetfulness of ourselves, forgetful to whether we are saying the right things, doing what is pleasing, and appearing in the best light so that we are unabashedly our truest self…how much more so when we live to the fullest realization we are God’s beloved – that His love cast out our fears such that we can live fearless, unmasked, and authentic lives?

Lord, open my heart to receive your love and dispel my fears so that I may live courageously as my truest self.

Reflected by Michael Jamnongjit

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday After Epiphany

I remember the day in second grade when I made the decision to become a teacher when I grew up.  And then I took a nosedive into uncharted waters when I decided to move on from eleven years of teaching.  Even though it was difficult to explain to my parents and friends that I did not have a career plan in place, I knew it was time to go.  Despite the fact that I did not have a map to help me navigate these new waters, God continues to give me just enough direction to get from one point to the next.

Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish.  His disciples ask, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” (Mk 6:37)  There are times when we feel like we are presented with a seemingly impossible task, and we are left thinking that there is no rational solution.

But what God can provide us with is exactly what we need.  We ask Him to “Give us this day our daily bread.”  This line from the Lord’s Prayer helps us take into consideration how well God understands us.  He gifts us with what we need one day at a time because it is what we can handle without over-rationalizing the next steps.

God, please help me receive Your daily bread.  Help me trust in your dream for me.

Reflected by Nathalie Medina

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday After Epiphany - Resolutions of the Heart

“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." – 1 John 4:1

Some of us may have set New Years Resolutions last week. However, if you are like me, you thought about Resolutions and then never decided on anything. The New Year marks an opportunity to begin again and wipe clean the errors of the past year, while celebrating the good we have experienced.

As we begin the first Monday of the New Year (the first day back for many of us after the holidays) it is easy to get caught up in the shuffle of day-to-day life. Rather than committing to losing weight or exercising more, perhaps I will resolve to listen more deeply. What if I renewed a commitment to staying attune to the Spirit not just in the major decisions but also in the everyday moments?

As the excitement of the holiday season dies down, how might I continue to recognize where Christ is dwelling in my life?  How might I continue to direct myself towards the Spirit of God and ignore the false prophets that clamor for my attention and energy?

Reflected by Jen Coito

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas Weekday - Saturday

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

I’ve always struggled with receiving love. A part of me knows I am loved. That part also believes I don’t deserve it. I push away when people get too close. I am afraid of what they will see – my imperfections, my faults, and the scars I’ve kept hidden.

Today’s reading talks about God’s unconditional love for us, his children. It’s a gentle reminder that God accepts us for who we are, regardless of our imperfections. We are his beloved. He will reveal to us, and we will be able to come face to face with him. In him, we are pure. We are accepted. We are loved.

In this Christmas season where love is shown through gifts of material things, God shows us the true meaning of love, the gift of acceptance. God sees past our scars and insecurities. He sees the person we keep hidden, the flawed child that seeks for the light. 

Lord, please help me remain close to you to receive your love and your light.

Reflected by Katherine Tran

Friday, January 2, 2015

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen: Pausing

"Remain in him.” – 1 Jn 2:28

For me, the past few weeks have been a flurry of activities: traveling, gift giving, resolution making, to name a few. As I enter 2015, I notice a desire to pause a little more, to take some time of quiet, to let the blessings of Christmas and the New Year sink in, to allow the mystery of a God who delights and longs to dwell deeper in me and my relationships. The first reading today speaks six times of remaining or resting in what gives us life.

I am invited to pause and rest in grace. It may not be long, or something grand. It is simply encountering the divine in me, in this present moment with its obvious and disguised blessings. Short pauses welcoming grace that opens up greater meaning and attentiveness. Three times a day makes a difference in my pilgrim path today.

Terry Hershey’s poem from his The Power of Pause helps me take these short pauses:

"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 [forgoing] 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 my agendas, expectations or worries.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” - Lk 2:16-21

As we enter into the new year, the solemnity of Mary is ours to imitate. Reflecting and savoring is the core of her faith and essence of her sanctity. Mary gives us an example that each genuine choice reveals who we are on our journey towards God. Mary could have considered herself to be a treasure and reflected on her own importance and felt its power. Instead, she chose to view them as gifts of His graciousness. Mary let God be God and believed He inspired her to be herself. And because Mary chose God freely, she knew no chains and allowed Him to shine upon her, look at her kindly, bless her, and give her peace. She revealed to us how prayer made it possible for her obedience to God and God’s will, even when the outcome was not clear. Mary models the path of discipleship for us.

At the cusp of new beginnings we are encouraged to the same degree and depth in our lives, where all is treasured and reflected in our hearts. This reflection process enables us to maintain a conscious awareness of where we have been and where God will continue to lead us. Change is inevitable, but growth is personal. It comes from enhancing our awareness of what life could possibly be when we follow God.

Will I learn to say ‘yes’ with less and less conditions?

Do I have the faith, openness, and courage to respond to God’s signs in my own life?”

Reflected by Tam Lontok