Getting ahead in the world is something many see as important. Success, a comfortable life, and worldly securities are seen as what is needed to achieve happiness. Whether or not we like to admit it, these pursuits are operative in many of our lives. As much as we want to believe in the Gospel, we also find it hard not to cling to these other things. Unconditional trust in God must be first if we are going to perceive the kingdom of God. And while God does not want us to go out of our way to be miserable, Jesus clearly gives preference to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, marginalized, vulnerable, and despised. When people encounter these things, they touch God. It teaches us not to get too comfortable with our riches and that there is much more to true life than the stuff we find so important.
A Prayer as we begin Black History Month
God of love, peace, and unity,
we thank you for welcoming us all just as we are;
for making us equal as your children
from all corners of the earth;
and for giving us your blessings as your children;
and for making us belong.
We pray that you help us realize that we are
all made in your image, and we need to bring peace
to all your creation as one people who belong to you.
We ask all this through Christ our brother. Amen.
A painting dedicated to the founders of Black History Month, the Black United Students at Kent State University, by Ernie Pryor
St. Theresa of Avila reminds us that, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.” We are, in every way shape and form, the Body of Christ. Our bodies are not just one single part but many. We are many, and we are all uniquely different. Yet each in his or her own way contributes significantly to the whole. We are all baptized in one spirit, and there are no distinctions that separate us. We must keep our eyes focused on the greater whole and not get distracted or consumed with particular parts. Everything and everyone must work together for the praise and glory of God.
Did you ever consider that God takes great delight in you? We are by no means second or afterthoughts of God. As the master artisan, God takes delight in every fabric of our being and every single component of who we are. We are intentionally and lovingly designed! God gets much joy out of every child He creates, and He does not abandon us. God is definitely in charge! God can take a painful past or an apparent dead-end and turn it into a glorious future. He can transform nothing into something and is always eagerly ready to give us the gifts of faith, hope, and love. We are never bound by the past and never without options. All we have to do is listen to Him. Are we willing to give up the controls and allow Him to do what He does best?
In Catholic social tradition, “rights” correspond to the treatment every person deserves not because of background or individual merit, but by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God. As followers of Christ, we are called to a concern for our brothers and sisters. This means that, in acknowledging rights, we also acknowledge responsibilities. St. John Paul II writes, “every man is his ‘brother’s keeper’, because God entrusts us to one another” (“Evangelium Vitae,” 19). In our complicated world, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by public policy. However, we are not exempt from engaging in public life. Today, we remember that we are all called to work to ensure that social structures uphold human dignity and support true human flourishing.
We all have had the experience of walking into a dark room and searching for the light switch. If we are really unfamiliar with the space, anxiety, uncertainty, disorientation, and even fear can easily arise. Once we find the light, all is illuminated, and we are at peace. Our light has come into the world! The glory of God has been revealed! Today’s feast of the Epiphany teaches us to look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for the way to truly be the human beings we were created to be. He shows us how to prioritize our lives, order our relationships, care for creation, and live as daughters and sons of God. God’s love and creative power is universal, transcending all races and nations. Jesus brings the light of peace to a broken world that still struggles to understand itself and to you and I who also struggle to understand who we are. May we find ourselves overjoyed that we have found our truth and allow Jesus to bring light to the darkness of our lives!
Have I practiced the virtue of Chastity? For example: • Have I permitted myself to watch movies or daytime television shows which are not edifying, which depict sexual scenarios or which advocate for cohabitation or homosexual relationships?
Have I practiced the virtue of Temperance? For example: • Have I indulged my love of sweets or snack foods, to the detriment of my health? • Have I continued to smoke heavily, or to consume alcoholic beverages excessively? • Have I been immoderate in any activity, such as watching too much TV?
Have I practiced the virtue of Charity? For example: • Have I been a “busybody,” unkind to a neighbor either by my thoughts or by my actions? • Have I had a smile for a family member or loved one, or was I critical, hurting someone’s feelings?
Have I practiced the virtue of Diligence? For example: • Have I used my physical limitations as an excuse for laziness? • Have I neglected prayer, ignored my friend’s birthday, sat around the house when I might have helped with the dishes? • Have I exercised my responsibility to become familiar with the issues, and to vote (by absentee ballot, if necessary) for the candidates who will best protect the values I hold dear?
Have I practiced the virtue of Patience? For example: • Was I unkind (or downright rude) to a telephone caller, impatient with a visitor, crabby when things didn’t go just the way I wanted? • Did I complain if someone took me to a restaurant or public place, because we had to wait for service? • Did I criticize my doctor, my caretaker, my child, for not serving me better?
Have I practiced the virtue of Kindness? For example: • Was I jealous of the attention paid to someone else, wanting everyone to notice me instead? • Did I feel angry because someone else had more money, or better health, or because my grown children did not have enough time to spend with me? • Did I compliment someone who looked good, or did I only have harsh words to say?
Have I practiced the virtue of Humility? For example: • Did I accept a compliment graciously but then move on, refusing to keep the attention turned toward myself? • Was I willing to let someone else be the center of attention? • Did I feel grateful for the kindness of my family and others, and appreciative of my caregiver’s efforts? • Did I believe that I had no need of confession, because I never even leave the house?
Lord, help us to recognize the times that we have failed to live a virtuous life—and grant us the grace of true contrition and a resolve to do Your will. Amen.
This Gaudete Sunday calls us to rejoice because the Lord is near. Does your heart rejoice and sing, or are the pressures and burdens of life weighing you down? We can easily become overwhelmed. The weaknesses and sins of life, indeed our own weakness and sin, eat away at the joy and hope God wants us to know. Those who are grounded in their faith and possess deep spiritual lives know that God is near. Realizing this puts life into perspective. We really want to be free from our burdens but do not always know how to achieve this. We keep stumbling and falling. Advent is a time when we can learn to “do life differently,” just like John the Baptist instructed the crowds. Joy and hope are the gifts God offers, not anxiety and despair.
Making straight the path of Christ is not only the vocation of John the Baptist but of every baptized believer. God desires to lead us with His mercy and justice. These are essentials in God’s kingdom and some of the gifts Christ’s future coming will bring. But our world’s systems do not place emphasis on these values. Wanting greater profits, downsizing companies in order to reduce expenses, using others for personal or corporate gain, and valuing institutions over people are just a few of the “values” we encounter every day. We are called to straighten the path to Christ. In a world that places value on things that are counter to our call, how do we respond? We need to learn to discern what is of real value and then take the risk of bringing it into the marketplace.
We live in interesting times. Life is constantly changing. While this can be exciting on one hand, change also presents challenges. We live in an age of relativism where people can pick and choose the truths that suit them and build their own system of beliefs. While humans certainly have the freedom to choose, losing sight of long-standing universal truths is not such a healthy course. Jesus Christ our King is our universal truth! He is the God who is nonnegotiable, our non-option! In Christ, we know what truth is. He alone points us to God, our true selves, our proper relationships with one another, and the world in which we live. Christ directs us to the poor and vulnerable and teaches us what God’s kingdom is meant to be. Christ is the king who serves others. He gets dirty. He ascends the throne of the cross. We are called to do the same.
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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