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Showing posts from March, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 31, 2019

Joshua 5:9a, 10-12  2 Corinthians 5:17-21  Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 In today’s gospel, we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger son of two decides to take his inheritance and go out on his own. After a hard time strikes, he struggles and ultimately decides to return home. Upon returning, to his surprise, his father celebrates and welcomes him home with open arms. My journey relates to that of the younger son. As a senior in high school considering colleges, I was not sure where I wanted to go. What I did know was that I wanted to go far away where nobody knew me. The community I was a part of felt like a restricting bubble. I wanted to experience “freedom.” I made the decision to attend Texas Christian University. Entering my freshman year, ready to shed my old skin, I decided my faith was the one thing still tying me to that bubble. So I stopped attending weekly mass and basically ditched my religious beliefs. I shifted my focus towards my social life, and finally

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent - March 30, 2019

Hosea 6:1-6  Luke 18:9-14 My New Year’s resolution in 2019 is to read the bible from cover to cover.   As I was reading the Noah’s Ark story in Genesis, I wondered about our own fate in these current times when devastating weather anomalies beset us, political issues divide the country and senseless mass shootings happen on a regular basis.   Are we any different from those people in Noah’s time that were killed in the flood?   Then, I think about the conversation between God and Abraham, when Abraham asks God if he will destroy Sodom even if there are 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, or 10 righteous people left there.   God responds that, even for the sake of just ten righteous people, He will not destroy it. Let us return to the Lord. (Hosea 6:1) Like the Israelites in Hosea’s time who sought material possessions, worshiped idols and moved farther away from God, we too can become spiritually apathetic.   I think Lent is about returning to the Lord with our heart rather than our deeds.

Friday of the Third Week of Lent - March 29, 2019

Hosea 14:2-10     Mark 12:28-34  As I read over today’s scripture readings, the phrase “forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls” continues to pull at me.   I like to think of myself as a forgiving person, but in looking back, I struggle more with that than I have admitted to myself. The job of being a parent is the most rewarding one you will ever have, but as my boys get older and wiser, it is also the most challenging.   The older one is neuro-typical and the younger one struggles with ADHD and anxiety.   The years it took to find out what his struggles were and to find the best ways to help him are such a blur at this point.   I think we are moving in the right direction with his therapies, but it seems to be a never-ending work in progress. Now you might wonder where forgiveness comes into play here.   Throughout the years, there have been many situations where my son’s actions were not appropriate o

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent - March 28, 2019

Jeremiah 7:23-28  Luke 11:14-23 Every Lenten season, the Church invites us to dig deeper into our lives and examine ways we can draw closer to God and celebrate his resurrection. Readings like this are intended to help us take a closer look at ourselves. God calls us to come forward and to be reconciled, so that we may come to his house having done all the things he has asked of us. Writing this reflection has caused me to take a closer look into how my life has distracted me from worshiping the Lord. Today’s reading from Jeremiah begins with the concept of listening: “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.” I have come to realize that it is not enough to passively have faith, be baptized, or just call myself Catholic. The faith, the baptism, the being Catholic must be active and acted upon each and every day. As a college student, distractions are nearly impossible to avoid. By spending hours on technology, schoolwork, and other responsi

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent - March 27, 2019

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9  Matthew 5:17-19 Every Lenten season I think of what I should give up – as a kid raised Catholic, it usually ends up being something in the category of unhealthy foods. Halfway through Lent, I start to question, “Is giving up chips really what makes me see Christ within myself?” Then when I sneak a couple Goldfish crackers into my lunch, I do not feel so guilty. As I continue dismissing my Lenten promise, I begin to see that I also have influenced others to dismiss their Lenten promises. God’s commandments are not just given to us to pass judgment on ourselves. More importantly, they are to be followed in order to support our fellow Christians and friends in their faith. The gospel today inspires us to ask, “Do my actions show consideration that I am the face of Christ to others?” In the first reading Moses says, “Observe [God’s laws] carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations.” We are given these commandment

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent - March 26, 2019

Daniel 3:25, 34-43  Matthew 18:21-35 For our first reading today, we are given the Prayer of Azariah . This prayer comes from the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, three Hebrew men of high government office who were cast into a furnace by King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon for refusing to worship his idol. After being thrown into the furnace, the three men are seen walking around in the furnace unharmed, having been rescued by an angel. Perhaps what is most striking and challenging about the prayer offered by Azariah is his admission that the Hebrews have been “brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins.” Azariah has just been cast into a furnace for his religion, yet he does not mention the oppression of the Hebrews at the hands of the Babylonians. Azariah’s forbearance from casting blame and his willingness to reflect on the sins of his own people are worthy of emulation. Like the Hebrews in the book of Daniel, we live in turbulent and pessimistic times

Monday of the Third Week of Lent - March 25, 2019/Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10  Hebrews 10:10:4-10     Luke 1:26-38 I have struggled with my faith over the last few years, but members of my family insist that I go to mass, so I abide. I usually walk into church with a bad attitude but I do my very best to stay positive. As we walk to our usual spot, to the right of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and tabernacle, I am usually thinking about what I would rather be doing. But as I sit there and listen to the Word of God, I begin to feel at peace. It gives me rest from my personal life and any worry I have about a past mishap or a future possibility.             As mass begins, I sit there listening to my own thoughts. However, when the Scripture readings begin, I stop and pay attention, committing myself to finding a new perspective within the words. I hope to gain just a little knowledge in the verses but struggle sometimes to find anything that registers as bona fide or meaningful to me. I sit in my room now with the task of reflecting

Third Sunday of Lent - March 24, 2019

Exodus 3:1-8,13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9 Your mom tells you to eat your vegetables. Magazines and websites tell you to get some exercise every day. Once upon a time one of your friends may have told you an old relationship just was not the right person for you. We often ignore other people’s good advice and try to put off following it. When God spoke to Moses using a burning bush as the method for delivering his message, Moses could not ignore it. Moses went from a relatively comfortable position tending his father-in-law’s flock to one of the great struggles of history – leading the Israelites out of Egypt. For most of us, God’s call is not as dramatic as it was for Moses. However, as the gospel makes clear, God has called each of us and now is time for us to respond. It is easy to forget that today is the day for us to heed God’s call. A busy day or a short temper makes it easy to put off our response until tomorrow or just someday far in the future. Ho

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent - March 23, 2019

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20  Luke 15:1-3, 11-32  I believe there are many different perspectives we can ponder in today’s readings. They are words we can live by as a father, a son, a brother and a student of Christ. My initial response to the readings is the enormous amount of wisdom that can be gained if pondered daily. The first reading offers guidance to a father. Applying it to our daily lives, it provides some insight as to the responsibility that men have as fathers in their children’s lives. It also places significance on the role that God, the Father of all of us, has in our lives and the importance of his unfailing love and forgiveness. Understanding that our Father forgives us, offers great relief. Early in the reading we hear, “shepherd your people with your staff…as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs.” I interpret this as an indication that our Father does not intend for us to be enslaved by our sins forever, but that he is capable

Friday of the Second Week of Lent - March 22, 2019

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28  Matthew 21:33-43,45-46 I have always liked when parables are read in the gospel reading at mass. I think this goes back to when I was a child attending mass. Parables helped me better understand God’s Word. In today’s parable, the landowner (God) provides everything to his tenants (us). When He sends His servant to collect the share at harvest time (kingdom of heaven) the servant is beaten, stoned and killed.   After hearing this news, the landowner sent his son (Jesus) to collect the share of the harvest only to receive the same treatment from the tenants.   God has provided for us, given us free will and seen to our basic needs only to have us rebuke his efforts.   God sent his son to earth only to be treated similarly to the landowner’s son.   In this parable, Jesus foretold His fate--a powerful message that was not understood until later. The gospel ends with one of my favorite lines. “The stone the builders rejected has become the corner

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent - March 21, 2019

Jeremiah 17:5-10  Luke 16:19-31 "...Cursed is the one who trusts in man who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5). Life is hard. Things are difficult. It is easy to succumb to life altering distractions when we are being pummeled by numerous catastrophes that occur within our own personal lives and the lives of others in the world. So how can we keep focused on God in the midst of these crises? For most of our lives, we experience what seems like a never-ending cycle of gloom, but we have the choice to keep our eyes focused on God. A great song that comes to mind when handling a dark situation is a song called Bring the Rain by MercyMe. The song reminds us that although bad situations make us feel alone and angry, they also are a means to come crawling back to God. The song beckons God to bring the rain in order to redirect our eyes after a bout of sorrow or discomfort. Life certainly has its rewards, as well

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent - March 20, 2019

Jeremiah 18:18-20  Matthew 20:17-28 During the Lenten season, it feels appropriate to renew a sense of service to family, community and the strengthening of faith. What comes to mind in these passages is that to be truly a success in life is to put one’s talents at the service of others. In Matthew’s gospel, the mother petitions for her sons to be placed in a position of power. But Jesus insists on service and the gift of self, which they did not understand. This calls me to consider how we teach the importance of service to our children. Obviously one important way is by example. I have struggled with helping my children find their way to this independently. I ask myself if the way I live in my community follows the advice of Jesus? I came to a revelation and a new way of looking at what my family does for others through our business. In creating a restaurant that has been a part of this community for 18 years, we have created a place that means different things to diffe

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent - March 19, 2019/Solemnity of St. Joseph

2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16  Romans 4:13,16-18, 22  Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a  Luke 2:41-51a Today’s readings are all about faith; whether it be the promise to Abraham and his descendants of inheriting God’s kingdom or the faith of St. Joseph who is told in his dream by the angel that Mary, his betrothed, is carrying a son conceived through the Holy Spirit. St. Joseph has always been one of my favorite characters in the bible.   He was a good, supportive, and hard-working man.   Can you imagine for just one minute what he must have felt learning that Mary was with child?   Most men of the time would have exposed her secret and left her subject to public humiliation or worse. Being a kind man, he simply planned to leave her quietly.   However, he believed the angel’s words to be the words of God. Mary also demonstrated that same faith after being visited by the angel Gabriel.   Her words to Gabriel were simply “may it be done to me accordingly to your word” (Luke 1:38). We

Monday of the Second Week of Lent - March 18, 2019

Daniel 9: 4b-10  Luke 6:36-38 Daniel goes to great lengths to describe the sins of the people of Jerusalem. They have been wicked, done evil, departed from the Commandments, disobeyed God’s prophets to the point that God scattered the people far and wide. After making this confession, Daniel prays to live by the law God gave to his servants and prophets. I believe this Scripture reading is both a confession and a prayer; confessing that God’s people have failed to follow the Commandments, but asking that God forgive them and give them the ability to abide by his laws. We might think of this reading as a prayer that could be incorporated in our own daily prayers. We should also think about the fact that God is great and awesome and someone we should try to please. I am up early before sunrise about every morning and while I thank God for all He has given us – and He has given us much – I often fail to acknowledge my sinfulness and ask forgiveness. We could apply this prayer of D

Second Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2019

Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18  Philippians 3:17-4:1  Luke 9:28b-36 When I was a child, some ninety years ago – before TV, X-boxes, iPhones and the like occupied the free time of youngsters – my siblings, cousins and I used to sit beneath the stars at night in wonder. We used to locate the Milky Way, yell out when we saw a fallings star and try to identify a planet or plane in the sky. In like manner, God called Abraham’s attention to this vast universe to demonstrate what God had in store for him. In today’s gospel, Jesus is transfigured with Moses and Elijah before Peter, James and John. He gave them this other worldly experience illustrating the greatness and majesty of God – much like, but greater than, the wondrous universe of the stars – to show them what God had in store for them as followers of Jesus. Transcendent experiences such as these gave Abraham and Jesus’ three disciples a vision of the power and majesty of God. These visions would help them see their everyday lif

Saturday of the First Week of Lent - March 16, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:16-19  Matthew 5:43-48 Rules, Rules Rules! The cardinal rule, the golden rule…the rule about wearing white after Labor Day. I like to bend some of the smaller insignificant, rules. The Dalai Lama said that we should learn the rules so we can break them effectively. In this way, I can do what I want and still “kind of” follow God’s will. Right?! No. Moses said God commands us to follow all the RULES!! Bending them to my benefit keeps me from being fully committed to God and others. Two of Jesus’ commands are to love our enemy and pray for our persecutors. Those are hard rules to keep, but I see a parallel between God’s children and my own. Like all parents, Ken and I want our kids to get along with, love and forgive each other. We want them to be friends, involved in each other's lives even as they grow old. We make RULES to ensure this. We say, "You don't have to want to, you just have to cooperate." We hope that later in life they will do it

Friday of the First Week of Lent - March 15, 2019

Ezekiel 18:21-28  Matthew 5:20-26 You gotta love that Matthew; he is so simple and clear. Today’s gospel says that salvation does not depend on our gifts at the altar, but on how we treat one another. Now, I do not think Matt is dismissing formal worship and the sacraments. They are certainly cornerstones of our faith. But Matt’s message is that they are not the endgame. They are means to an end; instill God’s grace so we can do good. Ezekiel’s message is also simple and direct.  When the wicked man turns away from sin, all is forgiven and he shall live; but when the virtuous man turns to evil, he shall die because of his sins. The good news is that it is never too late.   No matter how much I have sinned, and regardless of how much I have selfishly chosen my own interests over others, the choice to follow Christ’s path to salvation is always before me. God will barbeque the fattest hog and tap a keg of Tank 7 for that prodigal son who returns to His house! But Zeke also

Thursday of the First Week of Lent - March 14, 2019

Esther 12:14-16, 23-25  Matthew 7:7-12 As humans, we often get caught up in our daily routines and activities: work, kids, running errands. The list goes on and on. These day-to-day routines and activities can often make us impatient and unaware of God’s presence.   Often, it is not until we need something from God that we seek His guidance.   The gospel according to Matthew reminds us that God does listen to us in our times of need, “Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find.” This verse in Matthew’s gospel is a reminder that the Lord will answer our prayers.   When we need something from the Lord and ask for his help, we often expect an immediate answer from Him. When He does not respond immediately or the way we want Him to answer, it can leave us feeling alone and abandoned by God.   Although it is human nature that we expect our prayers to be answered immediately by the Lord, we must remember that we need to be patient while waiting for the Lord to answer.   We

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent - March 13, 2019

Jonah 3:1-10  Luke 11:29-32 As you read this passage from the Book of Jonah, you would get the impression that Jonah is a dutiful messenger following the Lord‘s bidding by warning the people of Nineveh of their impending destruction. Apparently he succeeded because the inhabitants, including their king, immediately responded to his call for repentance, believing that God might spare them from utter destruction. As far as the work of prophets goes, Jonah was a super star; his words were heeded rather than ignored. But when this passage is looked at in the context of the whole book of Jonah, you get a very different picture. In the two chapters preceding this one we learn that Jonah does not want to follow God’s directive to prophesy to the people of Nineveh and instead boards a boat headed to Tarshish to get as far away from Nineveh as he can. Not what you would call a model prophet. He is stopped only because the Lord intervenes by causing a great storm upon the sea. Out of fear

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent - March 12, 2019

Isaiah 55:10-11  Matthew 6:7-15 Praying the Our Father on this Lenten day and every other day, I am reminded that in these gospel verses Jesus wants us to feel our words rather than recite them as rote.   In Matthew's narrative, Jesus gave us simple and direct words, stripped of any exalted phrasings.   He says, "This is how you are to pray: 'Our Father…'.       Throughout my life, lines from the Our Father have had deep significance for me at different times.   When I was younger, the "give us this day our daily bread" request had prominence because it was about security (i.e. getting a job, earning a degree). At another time, perhaps when I became more honest about relationships, the "forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who …. give slights or injury to me" resonated with real-life interactions. These lines prompted me to better understand God's merciful forgiveness and how I, too, must show mercy. I still strive to learn the &

Monday of the First Week of Lent - March 11, 2019

Leviticus19:1-2, 11-18  Matthew 25:31-46 As I read my assignment for today, I felt relief. I knew these readings; I could relate to them. I had heard them multiple times and thought that I understood them well. The first reading from Leviticus tells me to love my neighbor as myself and to judge my neighbor justly. I know this! I believe this in my head! I often find it difficult to carry out, but I do believe it. Today’s gospel, Matthew 25, many of us know well through readings, songs, and social concerns committees, "Whatever you do for one of the least of …mine, you do to me." Feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; welcome the stranger; clothe the naked; comfort the sick; visit the prisoner. We try to do these things in our life. I decided to read our parish book, Stranger God by Richard Beck, to see how it could expand my understanding of Matthew 25 – and expand it did! After I read the book, I realized that I had been reading Matthew 25 literally.

First Sunday of Lent - March 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:4-10   Romans 10:8-13   Psalm 91   Luke 4:1-13 I work best writing things out first and then typing from my paper. So, when I “randomly” skipped through my piles of notepads and settled on the one at the bottom of the pile, I realized there was a good reason I chose it to compose my thoughts. The top pages still had my notes from a work presentation I gave on happiness. I am blessed to have what I consider a dream job, which includes giving talks on happiness and other such positive topics. Of the ten happiness insights from this presentation, what stands out for me is that half of our happiness we can “control” and that our life circumstances do not determine our happiness. As I take in today’s readings, so many beautiful words jump out at me and speak of happiness, despite some dire life circumstances, such as oppression and hard labor. Imagine a land flowing with milk and honey and making “merry over all the good things, which the Lord, your God, has given you.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday - March 9, 2019

Isaiah 58:9-14  Luke 5:27-32 Being a new convert to Catholicism, I am still learning these new rituals and holidays. I do not remember celebrating Lent in the Methodist church the way we do in the Catholic church. Last year was my first Lent and I adored Holy Week. It left me in awe. I really felt the Holy Spirit’s presence and understood Jesus much more and what he went through, up to his crucifixion. So, in my learning, I know Lent is for us to try to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice of those forty days in the desert. We are to remember and reflect daily on what Jesus has sacrificed for us. While we are participating in all the traditions and rituals of Lent, we should be careful to remember that these reflections should be relatable to what is happening in our hearts. In the first reading of Isaiah, God is giving us tools to draw nearer to him. He tells us how we should live and how to honor him. In return, we will find joy and he will provide for us. In Luke, Jesus wants to chang

Friday after Ash Wednesday - March 8, 2019

Isaiah 58:1-9  Matthew 9:14-15 Fasting…Just the thought of it makes me hungry. Except for fish sticks, I had way too many as a kid on Fridays during Lent. Sometimes I find the scripture readings at mass pretty straightforward and other times a little esoteric. Today’s readings from Isaiah 58:1-9 and Matthew 9:14-15, are definitely the latter.   However, digging deeper, I discovered that these more obscure readings can be very rewarding. I remember an exercise we would do during one of my theology classes at Rockhurst High for the daily readings. The idea was to take a reading and apply it to today. We would start with the historical context, understand the use of language and then put a modern spin on it. So, boiling this down to basics we have the prophet Isaiah, in essence, rebuking the people’s hypocritical, formal fasting.   He asserts that the key to fasting is making a change from within , reforming our way of life and the way of life for those around us. Matthew concur

Thursday after Ash Wednesday - March 7, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:15-20  Luke 9:22-25 In today’s gospel, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day and follow in my steps.” The Lenten season is a perfect time to practice Jesus’ words. For me, Lent is a time to get back in touch with my faith and God. It is my “Religious New Year.”   I try to become more faith filled during the days of Lent. I always give up something and have ever since I was young. In my youth, giving up things was something that all Catholic school kids did. For me, it was a challenge, but probably not a religious commitment. Now, as an adult, giving up something is my way of “taking up the cross each day.” It is my constant reminder throughout Lent to follow Jesus and strive to be more like him. It would be easy for me simply to say that I am going to be a better person during Lent, or that I am going to pray more. It is easier said than done for me. That is why the sacrifice of giving something up

Ash Wednesday - March 6, 2019

Joel 2:12-18  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 I was taking a survey the other day, one where you have the choice between “sometimes, almost always, or always” and I thought to myself, who would choose “always”? Who “always” does something, thinks something or feels something? I cannot remember what the survey was even about, but at the time I remember being really irritated that these were my choices. This idea nudged me again a few days later when my students were taking a survey and these same choices were given to them. Do you want to know the difference between the fifth graders and myself? They had no qualms over choosing “always.” Neither does God. He always chooses us. Always, always, always. As I reflect on these readings, this word is a broken record in my head! All of the things I think about myself, all the times I felt “never enough,” every time I felt “sometimes” or “almost always” God was thinking, “ALEX, LISTEN TO ME, YOU ARE ALWAYS!” Always enough;

Lent 2019 Begins Tomorrow

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 Tomorrow, we begin the season of Lent. As has been our practice at Visitation for now 12 years, our Faith Formation Team has solicited reflections for each day of Lent and Triduum from members of our parish faith community. They are published in a booklet that is mailed to all registered parish households before Lent. This year, we are also publishing the reflections on this blog. To protect the privacy of those writing the reflections in this public forum, we are not publishing names or biographical information online as we do in the print version. This blog is meant primarily as another means of access to the reflections for our parishioners who may appreciate the convenience of a direct link to the daily scripture readings online and access to the parishioner reflection in the same spot. It may also be handy for those times when one member of a household is traveling and may wish to keep up with the daily readings and reflections. As each of us ponders