Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nehemiah 6:15-16: God's Grace

The Wall Is Finished
15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

            This morning, I began reading the Book of Nehemiah.  Reflecting on the good work this layman did for the Jewish community, I could not believe all that he led his people to accomplish in 52 days.  When I think of the times and the lack of technology, erecting a wall around a huge city seems impossible, no matter how many dedicated helping hands were available. But it was through God's grace that they were able to accomplish the impossible.  Even the enemies “lost their confidence” in this awe-inspiring gift of God's grace.  These two verses jumped out at me today as a vivid reminder to be thankful for the many graces I receive each day from God.  For it is through His grace that I can accomplish from the simple to the seemingly impossible.   
            How many times have I looked at someone's talent and noticed their awe-inspiring ability?  Whether it is a talented musician who writes a simple song hook that resonates within me or a virtuoso who plays a flurry of almost inaudible notes, their ability and accomplishment take me aback.  Even though many accomplished musicians might not know or admit it, "the help of our God" is at work in them, for it is only through God's grace that we can accomplish the love and beauty in our world.  This awe-inspiring ability also happens at home when I see my wife juggle vacuuming and dusting a room, emptying the dishwasher, and folding a load of laundry while she holds our toddler and caters to our eight-year-old's cry for a snack.  Although I am quick to jump in and assist, she very often fronts this battle while I am at work.  But it is through "the help of our God" that she is graced with her talents as a mother.  

Let us always remember the graces we are given each day by a loving and compassionate God, even when we think they are of our own doing. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Luke 18:1-8: Pray Unceasingly

Luke 18:1-8.

The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

The Navarre New Testament Bible Commentary mentions that prayer can be something we do anywhere, and I am a huge believer in this.  We can pray when doing household chores, mowing the lawn, walking to and from offices or locations at work, driving in the car, and at times when we are frustrated and full of anger -- in the heat of an argument.  Let us consider this last part.  
        Giving in to feelings of anger and frustration in the heat of an argument, whether it is with a loved one or stranger, is such an easy trap for us.  After all, we are fallen humans.  I am guilty of being a frequent victim to this snare.  When we argue with a loved one, for instance, the enemy quickly slips in to our emotional state and tempts our fallen nature to give in to anger, embrace feelings of negativity, and practice self-centered satisfaction.  Although we are not conscious of this most times, we fall victim.  How, then, do we combat this separation from love?  Not easily, but God always gives us sufficient grace to call on Him.  We need to reach out to God through prayer in these times of anger-ridden temptation.  The prayer, however, does not have to be on our knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The prayer can be a heartfelt calling out to God in plain words, "Lord, I believe in an love you. Please help!"  
Taking a moment to draw ourselves closer to Christ during our time of trial is sometimes the most rewarding tough act we can do, and it really works.  Quick personal prayers during arguments give me a few seconds to stop, bring Christ into my heart, and think through more loving eyes.  Do I practice this every time?  I wish. My sinful human nature, unfortunately, can get the better of me, but we can all lovingly reach out to Christ for support through prayer.  For all we need to do is “ask and (we) shall receive.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Luke 17:20-22: Where is the Kingdom of God?

The following is from the ever-inspiring ministry

Luke 17:20-22.

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he (Jesus) said in reply, "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you."

Commentary of the day (excerpt)
The Imitation of Christ, spiritual treatise of the 15th century II, ch. 1,1-2

"Among you and within you"
“God's kingdom lies within you,” the Lord says. You must turn to him, the Lord, with all your heart, and leave this wretched world behind you, if your soul is to find rest. Learn to despise this world of outward things, and devote yourself to what lies within; there, within you, you will see the coming of God's kingdom. That's what 'God's kingdom' means: “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14,17).

Sometimes I amaze myself by over analyzing something that is simply sitting in front of me. My car keys, for instance, occasionally get lost.  While in panic mode, I desperately look for the place that I misplaced my keys.  Usually this ends up leading me to frustration and desolation.  If I take a moment, however, and look at the simplicity of the situation, I more often find my keys lying on the counter in front of me or clipped to my belt loop.  While I restlessly looked for them, they were within my reach the whole time.

Jesus says that God’s kingdom is here; it is present in our small, hectic lives.  We just need to look under our noses, or more accurately, in our hearts.  But as Thomas Kempis says in the passage above, we need to turn to God through our own free will and do what is right.  Faith in Christ is key, but we must act on that faith through works of love. Furthermore, we need to follow the moral path set before us by our Lord, Jesus Christ.  This path will lead us to the kingdom of God that “. . . lies,” as our Lord says, “within (us).”

The Navarre Bible Commentary mentions the following about this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel:

“The presence of the Kingdom of God in each soul is something one perceives
through the affections and inspirations communicated by the Holy Spirit. St.
Therese of Lisieux says this about her own experience: "The Doctor of doctors
teaches us without the sound of words. I have never heard Him speak, and yet
I know He is within my soul. Every moment He is guiding and inspiring me, and,
just at the moment I need them, 'lights' till then unseen are granted me. Most of-
ten it is not at prayer that they come but while I go about my daily duties" ("The
Story of a Soul", Chapter 8).”

When I am with my wife and children and feel the joy of love surging through me, the “affections and inspirations communicated by the Holy Spirit” are clearly present.   Listening to the prayer of consecration at Mass as the priest, acting In Persona Christi, brings Christ to the altar, my heart fills with emotion and my eyes well up.  This emotionally-moving physicality is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s affections within me. God’s kingdom is present inside of us; all we need to do is embrace His love through faith and loving action.  
St. Therese, in the above quote, has a unique sense of God’s presence in the everyday “little” tasks that we do.  When I say hello and smile to the people I come across during the day, when I allow others to go first at an intersection, when I get the door for people, when I choose to get up and help with the cleaning or cooking, when I give the last piece of food to someone else, when I offer a helping hand to someone with full hands, and when I do anything in simple service for someone else, I, like St. Therese, am experiencing God’s kingdom.  

A simple prayer:
Loving God, 

Let us live, love, and serve more through our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Luke 17:11-19: Thanking God for His Mercy and Grace

Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you." (Luke 17: 18-19)

As I read Jesus’ words, I immediately recall the many times that I refuse to offer thanks for the simple and not-so-simple gifts in life.

During this season of thanks, I need to be more aware of God’s many graces in my day-to-day living.  Although I make it a point to thank God regularly in my daily prayers, I need to be like this Samaritan leper and truly express heartfelt thanks, the type of thanks that puts me prostrate to Jesus Christ.  I need to express the type of thanks that not only sits steadfast in my heart and fills my spirit but the kind that makes me want to serve God with warmth and love.  How do I embody and express this thanks?  I can start with true, heartfelt contrition for my shortfalls.  I can start by living the Gospel in my life more.  I can start with choosing to kiss my wife more when she indirectly tells me she hurts, instead of saying or thinking something more jaded and self-serving.  I can start by spending more time on the floor with my children, watching them smile and wonder at the discoveries I take for granted.  I can start by saying hello to the passerby, letting them know they matter, instead of isolating myself into “my space.”  I can truly love all of God’s creation, especially the creative graces God has placed in front of my sometimes-blinded eyes.  

A prayer:

Jesus, always bring me closer to you, even when I stubbornly refuse. 

Help me, Jesus, to be truly, heartily thankful for all the generous gifts the Father gives and for the forgiveness of my sins through Your sacrifice. 

Please, dear Jesus, give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear Your loving guidance to God the Father’s will. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Luke 17:1-6: Finding Peace by Loving Others


     According to the commentary posted today at, Blessed Charles de Foucauld stated in his letter to love our neighbor.  What a concept!  Here is part of the commentary:
". . . let us frequently recount the twofold history of the graces God has given us personally since our birth and of our infidelities. There we will find... reason for losing ourselves in a boundless trust in his love. He loves us because he is good, not because we are good – don't mothers love their wayward children? And we will find something with which to bury ourselves in humility and self-mistrust. Let us try to reclaim our sins by loving our neighbor and by the good we have done to our neighbor. Charity towards our neighbor, attempts to do good to others, are an excellent remedy for counteracting temptation. This is to move from mere defense to counter-attack."

     How many times do we put ourselves into self denial about how we treat others and ignore "the graces God has given us personally since our birth"?  As a young man, I blindly ignored the opportunities to love my neighbor, even though the inherent grace to radiate such love was always there. We make this choice, and it is part of the free will God gives us.  Once enlightened by Christ's gospel, I realized that loving my neighbor is such a liberating thing -- really.  Self love is easy but empty.  Sure I like to stay fit, eat well, and exercise, but worrying about the latest fashion, what the "Joneses" have, or the hottest technology leads to an abyss of emptiness.  This emptiness we attempt to fill with more self love.  And the vicious circle continues. This is where we need to "bury ourselves in humility and self-mistrust," embrace the open arms of our Lord, and love our neighbor.  For as St. Francis says in his beautifully-moving prayer, "It is in giving that we receive . . . and it is in dying that we are brought to eternal life. Amen." May we all love our neighbor, find true peace in self-abandon, and embrace the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who is Love.  

My prayer for the day:
Dear God, 
Thank you for the many graces you give.
Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. 
For through His passion, death, and resurrection, my sins were remitted.  
Please grant me the grace of always thankfully remembering Your Son's sacrifice and love.
Please forgive me of my sins, for I love you with all my heart, soul, mind, spirit and strength and am truly sorry for falling short and offending You.
Through the Holy Spirit, dear God, please grant me your many gifts.
Kindly help me to radiate the Gospel to the world and mirror the life of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and enlighten me to always follow Your will.
Grant me the grace to prayerfully serve and love my neighbor, in Jesus Christ's name.