Monday, February 3, 2014

Devotion for today: Set the goal, have a team, overcome the obstacles

2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

One of my favorite television shows is Ultimate Survivor Alaska, a National Geographic program. In this show teams of men try every week to be first in reaching a certain destination in order to pick up a victory for that week. Now, they are in the back country of Alaska, so the challenges that face them are enormous. If they do get to the weekly destinations, however, they are one step closer to winning the huge prize at the end reserved for the team with the most wins.

I love this show. First of all, the incredible beauty of Alaska makes this show worth viewing. But more importantly, this show reminds me so much of our struggle to get to heaven.

I see three similarities in our struggle and the struggle facing these men: the desire to reach a goal; the need to overcome obstacles, and the necessity of a team.

The goal for these men is simple. Each week they must get to a preset destination before the other teams. The ultimate goal is to be the best, or ultimate.

Their obstacles are unbelievable. I have watched them as they scale mountains, kayak across raging waters, bushwhack though thick foliage, and pull themselves out of quicksand. They have had to swim through ice, dodge rock slides and distract wild animals.

The amazing and beautiful part of all this is how they work together as a team. Each member totally respects the specific and special talents and abilities of his teammates. They defer to each other’s knowledge and experience to plan their attack against the elements and reach the goal. They need each other to stay alive in this battle against nature. One man falls into the ice and other two are there to get him out. One man is swept away by the current and the others are there to rescue him and pull him to safety. One man broke his ankle, and although it could have cost the others the entire race, they would not leave him behind just to win that day’s challenge.

That is how it is for us in our spiritual lives. Ultimately, we want to get to heaven. To do that, however, we must overcome many, many challenges along the way. Society is filled with dangers that can trap us at any time, that can cause us to lose our way or start to sink. We cannot fight through the distractions and temptations that surround us if we do not have our eyes firmly fixed on the goal. Each of us must have a plan, of course and the means to fulfill it, just like the teams have a map and food for the journey (our Bible and Eucharist) but we must recognize that we cannot do it alone. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis I all speak of the New Evangelization as the only hope for a world that closely resembles the wilds of Alaska. None of us can battle today unless we have a good team to support us. We need each other in order to survive.

In every show I watch, at least one team member states that he would have died had it not been for his teammates. So it is with us. We have to have people in our lives who will show us when we are on the wrong path, or sinking in the quicksand of sin, or trying to follow a dangerous path that takes us away from our ultimate goal. The call is for us to put ourselves out there in the world as well and be the special team member to others: to youth who have no direction; to young adults who may not see how God fits into the picture anymore, to the engaged couples in our parishes who may need examples of what good holy marriage looks like. The list goes on and on.

 We are really crazy if we think we will make it today without a support group. We cannot see the dangers and snares that await us at every turn. We must join parish groups, prayer meetings, attend good lectures, help out in shelters and homes for the elderly and find like-minded people who will save us when we fall. Jesus came for everyone, but He surrounded Himself with 12 really good friends. That is the example we must follow. Make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ is the motto of the Cursillo movement in the Church. It applies to us all. Let’s start today to be a team member in the struggle to get to heaven, and let’s just be thankful every day that we don’t have to swim through ice to do it!!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Devotion for today: Use them or lose them

Matthew 25:14-30: “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 
“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.  And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.  Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Footnotes:  A talent was worth about fifteen years’ wages of a laborer

I helped an elderly aunt of mine move out of her house into assisted living. When it came time to clean out her “medicine pantry” I found seven beautiful lotion bottles that were given to her as gifts throughout the years. “Auntie,” I exclaimed, “why didn’t you ever use these?” Most were so old that the lotion inside had turned to some indescribable liquid, not pleasant, or else had just dried up. Auntie explained that she was afraid if she used them they would be gone and so would the memory of the people who gave them to her. They were her little treasures. She didn’t see that they were given to her to make her life better, to increase her joy in living by having soft, creamy skin and that every time she would have used them she would have thanked the person who gave her the gift. Now they were stale and useless and had to be thrown away without any benefit to her or anyone else.

This is how it is with the gifts God gives us. Everyone one of us is as unique as a snowflake. Our physical features, our laugh, our personalities, all have a “one of a kind” stamp on them. The Creator, our good God, did that for a very special reason. We aren’t able to see it, but the world God created is like a wondrous mosaic, with each tiny piece fulfilling a purpose. It is cut to a specific size, chosen for its unique color, and polished to brilliance. Then it is carefully laid in the exact spot where it is needed. Voila! We now have the fulfillment of a purpose.

If we take inventory and work to discover the unique qualities and gifts God has given to us, we will see that He has a very specific purpose for us in the world. It doesn’t have to be grand or recognized by society, but it is important to God nonetheless. Are we compassionate? Do we have the rare gift of being a good listener? Are we able to explain truths without arguing? Can we make sense of a mess, either in someone else’s personal life or in the real world? Can we discern spirits and know immediately what is of God and what is not? Whatever gifts we have, we must find a way to use them for the purpose God had in mind when He formed us in our mothers' wombs. We must be centered every minute of every day on God’s will for us at that moment, and always begin and end every day in prayer. We must also learn the St. Michael’s prayer whenever we hear a voice inside of us telling us to back away from our special gifts and just coast through life. That can never be God telling us to do that. Be tough, be determined, and be without fear. If God gave you the gift, God will open the opportunities for you to use it. You, in turn, must develop the ability to hear and see Him in the world around you.

Don’t let your gifts go stale and turn into something unusable. Don’t let them be thrown away on worldly matters only, and not for the purpose of evangelization.  Pull them out, dust them off and get to work. Using them will only make you a much better person and the world a much finer place to live. Think of my dear Auntie. She could have used her lotions for the purpose for which they were intended. Instead, they had to be thrown out. If God can’t use us, He most definitely will find someone He can. Remember my favorite explanation of the personal judgment. We stand before Jesus with the report card of our life and say, “Here Lord, this is what I did with what You gave me.” Hopefully He will look at it and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Now enter into the home of my Father.” God bless us as we do our part in the work of evangelization so desperately needed in the world today. 
As St. Francis of Assisi once said: "Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you NOTHING that you have received, only what you have given: A heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage."  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Devotion for today: Sometimes we have to change direction

John 21:1-6: After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.  Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

So many times in life we find ourselves stuck in a rut. We are doing what we always do. Or we are following a plan we feel is right for us, although we are not realizing any success. Sometimes we honestly believe we are doing what is necessary to survive or even complete God’s will, yet things are not going well. Maybe we are trying to care for others and putting our own needs aside, yet the joy and satisfaction of living are long gone from our daily routines. Just like the apostles, who caught nothing, we are frustrated.  What to do?

In the above passage, Jesus has already risen from the dead. Many scholars ask why the apostles are fishing at this point. They are aware that Jesus has miraculously returned to them, and they were told to wait for Him. Yet here we see Peter leading the others into the sea. Maybe they were hungry and this is how they obtained food. Maybe Peter was tired of waiting, or confused or frustrated and needed to do what was familiar. I think this is a key point. God reaches out to us wherever we are in life. He comes to us in the ordinary aspects of our lives. We do not necessarily find Him secluded in a church or during prayer time. God wants us involved in life, and that is what happens here. I am reading a wonderful, short but powerful book entitled, “Abandonment to Divine Providence.” It is attributed to Jean Pierre de Caussade and this was a favorite book of St. Therese of Lisieux. In every chapter the author reminds us that simple daily living performed completely in abandonment to the will of God is the only requirement for life. Easy to say, but how do we know the will of God?

We see in our passage that Jesus is standing on the shore but they do not recognize Him. I thought it was strange that He called them children since these were His closest friends, so I read some commentaries and it really is odd to use that expression here. The word John used was paidiai and literally means little children. No wonder they didn’t know who was talking to them! Jesus never called them that before. Plus, we are told many times in the other gospels that the apostles didn’t recognize Jesus once he rose from the dead since His body had undergone a miraculous change. It is for our benefit, I think, that Jesus used the term for little children. What is a better description of us when we are lost and confused and frustrated? How many times has Jesus reached out to us in our lives in varied and unusual ways, and because it was “different” from what we expected we didn’t listen. We need to learn to expect a God of surprises to lead us in our daily lives.

Jesus offers the apostles advice. He tells them to throw their nets off the right side of the boat, and they do. What a difference! Before their very eyes, the nets are filled to the breaking point. That is what happens when we listen to Jesus. That is what happens when we are humble enough to acknowledge that the plan or idea we thought was so great, really isn’t so great because it isn’t the one God had in mind for us. Repeated disappointments and failures in life are sometimes the result of just not casting off on the other side of the boat. If we follow the voice of God, we will always be successful in the will He has for us. Don’t be afraid to change directions, or intentions. Don’t worry if at first you can’t hear God speaking to you or you don’t recognize the voice as His. Keep praying, and keep thinking about God. Make your life a prayer to Him, every thought word and deed, and soon you will hear Him whispering in your ear. God is always near us in our repeated failures and disappointments, ready to turn them into successes. Pray without ceasing by making your life a prayer; be humble, obedient and faithful to God, and then get ready for the big haul.

I will not be doing a daily blog for awhile as I have decided to go back to work full- time. I have been praying for a way to financially keep my mom and aunt in the nursing home we chose for them. I really wanted a very rich uncle from Italy that I didn’t know existed to write me a letter and send me a check for a huge amount of money since he discovered I was his only living relative. So, ok, this was not realistic, but I really had fun with the idea as I prayed for a solution. Then out of nowhere I was offered a job that I couldn’t refuse. Still sounds very Italian, I know, but hey, I am the descendant of Italian immigrants, so I pray, dream and live the Italian way! I will write my blogs as this new schedule permits. I love writing these, and I thank all of you who gave me encouragement and kind comments. Just keep checking, I’ll be posting, and let’s all keep casting our nets into the unknown.

 Love you and God bless, or as they say in Italy, "Ti amo e che Dio benedica", 


Friday, January 10, 2014

Devotion for today: 10 resolutions to live in love

1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Did you ever hear a homily that hits so close to home, you swear the priest crawled right into your soul and found out what you are hiding, and what you need to set you free? That is what happened yesterday when I casually turned on the Mass (EWTN). Fr. Wade Menezes, a Father of Mercy, gave a homily on the freedom which comes from love. He explained that God does not want slaves, people who love Him because they are afraid of the consequences if they don’t, but He wants sons and daughters who love Him freely and confidently. He explained that problems we have in life are based in fear, and that the perfect love of Jesus for us is the way to release ourselves from the fear that we are carrying, fear that we are not good enough or that we cannot change the situations in our lives. He then gave the following 10 Social Resolutions that will help us live out the beatitudes and commandments without fear and with love.

1)      Listen without interrupting. God could be trying to speak to you through the words of others. Proverbs 18:2: Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.
2)      Speak without accusing. Just state the facts. James 1:18: In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth
3)      Give without holding back. Be generous. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15: For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness  your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
4)      Pray without ceasing. All activities, including work and recreation, can be forms of prayer if we offer them up to the Lord. Colossians 1:9: for this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
5)      Answer without arguing. Stay calm. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.
6)      Share without pretending. Don’t tell “little white lies” or exaggerate to make yourself seem more than you are. Be honest. Speak the truth and only the truth. Ephesians 4:15: but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head
7)      Enjoy without complaint. Always find the good. Philippians 2:14:  Do all things without grumbling or disputing
8)      Trust without wavering. Jesus, I trust in You. 1 Corinthians 13:7: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
9)      Forgive without punishing. Desiring to somehow punish those who hurt you is the work of Satan, causing you to stop any spiritual growth. Colossians 3:13: bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
10)   Promise without forgetting. Be honest. Keep your word. You are as good as your word. Proverbs 13:12: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Always remember: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Devotion for today: Life is good

Psalm 27:4
 One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

In my family we put up the Christmas decorations close to Christmas day, and take them down at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is this coming Sunday. It is a practice that I really like, since the glow of Christmas lasts for me way past the Hallmark movies on TV and the rush of shopping, wrapping, writing, and baking. Now I can sit and peacefully gaze at the star on the tree and the baby Jesus in the manger. I can study the figures in my nativity set and the angels on my buffet and wonder about that blessed event so long ago. I don’t know about you, but I find such peace when my home is decorated and the only lights I have on are the little white ones in the tree and in the garland. I just can imagine being surrounded by the stars in the calm sky on Christmas night. No, I am not in any hurry to get it all down and get back to normal. I like bringing my troubles to the infant Jesus and laying them at his feet. I like looking at the Magi and identifying with them as they finally arrive at the Lord’s dwelling after an arduous journey with many twists and turns. I feel at peace with Mary and Joseph as the gaze upon their newborn son in wonder and awe.

I feel the same way in church. I like to arrive about a half an hour early for daily Mass. The church is sparsely populated at this time, and it is very peaceful and quiet. The lights are still dimmed and the sanctuary candle standing vigilantly next to the tabernacle serves to draw my attention to the host for this day’s meal. I always begin my holy half-hour by thanking God for inviting me into His home for this banquet, for surrounding me with the people who love Him so much, for giving me the opportunity to partake of the only food I will ever really need in life. I rest in His presence and allow my thoughts, worries and prayers float like incense to His altar on high.

I know, too, that the people who surround me in my quiet church and in my hectic life are also the means by which I can gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. He is present to me in them, hard as it may sometimes be to believe,  just as He was present to the shepherds and wise men in the form of a helpless baby, hard as that was for them to believe.

One thing I truly ask of the Lord, and this is truly what I seek, to live every day of my life in such a way that I can spend eternity in His presence.  One thing for which I am constantly thankful is the gift from the Lord of Himself in the Eucharist, present and available to me every day of my life. Yes, I love to dwell in the house of the Lord here on earth, and to imagine an after-life in His heavenly temple.

The decorations will come down next Monday and my home will become normal once again. But for now, I think I will pour myself a cup of hot cocoa, play some Christmas Carols, not holiday tunes, and visit with the holy family for a few more days. Ahhh, life is good.

One Thing I Ask, performed by Vineyard:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Devotion for today: I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace…

1 Corinthians 2: And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Resolution: noun
1.       a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Goal: noun
1.       the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result: going to law school has become the most important goal in his life
2.        the destination of a journey
3.        a point marking the end of a race. (Oxford Dictionary)

Goals and Objectives
·         Goal: Broad spectrum, complex, organizational, indication of program intentions.
·         Objectives: Measurable, defined, operational, simple steps, and specific. Objectives contribute to the fulfillment of specified goals. Complete with a beginning and an end. (

My friend Frank and I had an interesting conversation the other night over dessert and coffee. We were discussing the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions. I complained that I have never really been successful at this practice, and he explained that he never does it. He sets yearly goals and then develops short but achievable ways to attain his goal. At first I thought we were talking about the same idea in different words, but a quick trip through the dictionary proved me wrong. After much pondering, I can see how both fit into our disciplined lives.

That is, after all, what it is all about isn’t it…discipline? If I resolve to cut back on the amount of time I spend playing video games, for example, it is going to take discipline and will-power to change an event in my life that gives me pleasure and relaxation. If I resolve to stop talking about people behind their backs, the same principle applies. In both cases, I will need to walk away from the situation of temptation and do something else.

I think that is why, in the case of sin, it is a resolution. We don’t say we will set a goal of not viewing pornography by the end of the year, and decide how much we can view every month until we achieve our goal. No, we have to stop it. We have to find support groups or programs or good reading or a spiritual adviser or a personal confession buddy who will hold us accountable and strengthen us in our resolve. It is sin and it must stop.

For the betterment of our lives, both physical and spiritual, however, I really like Frank’s idea of setting goals. If my goal for 2014 is to increase my morning prayer time from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, then I can set the clear objective of adding 2 minutes every month until I reach my goal. If I never attend daily Mass and want to do so, then my objective could be to go once a week for a month and then increase it by one day every month.

St. Paul tells us that he resolved to know nothing but Jesus, Christ crucified, while he was with his followers. That is probably the best resolution I can think of. The old Baltimore Catechism told us the true purpose of life: to know, love and serve God in this world so that we can be happy with Him in the next. Let’s put our time and energy this year into achieving that goal by resolving to make God first in our lives, and then by setting clear and attainable objectives to reaching the finish line. Sounds like a plan to me!!

St. Paul, pray for us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Devotion for today: Just a little becomes a lot

 Luke 21:1-4: And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Andre Bessete, one of my favorite saints. He was a very humble man who was a member of the Holy Cross Fathers in Montreal, Canada. He began his service to them in 1870, and because of his poor health was assigned to be a door keeper and a barber. He had a vision, however, of building a beautiful shrine to St. Joseph, to whom he was greatly devoted. Although he received permission from the Archbishop and his order, he was told he could only build what he could afford without going into debt. He had a few hundred dollars which he accumulated from his haircutting and from a little pot he placed next to an outdoor statue of St. Joseph, so he built a little wooded structure for devotions to St. Joseph. He dreamed of more, however, and again received approval but with the stipulation of not going into debt. Soon he was able to earn the money to put a roof on his shrine, add heat and windows for the many pilgrims who were coming. Long story short, if you visit Montreal today, be sure to visit St. Joseph’s Oratory, one of the most beautiful Shrines to St. Joseph you will ever see. And it exists today because St. Andre had a dream, and wasn’t afraid to start small and trust in God.

One of the most fascinating parts of the St. Andre story is that people came from around the world to be healed at his little shrine. He would take oil from a lamp and pray to St. Joseph to bless it, then apply it to the sick people or give them bottles of it to take home. Miraculous and documented healings began to occur, and today the Shrine is filled with crutches, braces, etc. testifying to the miracles which occurred from St. Andre’s “St. Joseph Oil”.

When I was in Montreal visiting St. Joseph’s Oracle, I purchased some of this oil. Several months ago I developed a large walnut sized growth in my mouth between my cheek and gum. It was painful, and the doctor thought that it was the location of an abscess she had no luck in locating up to that point. I was very sick and in great pain. Upon lancing the walnut, however, she discovered that the abscess was not located there (she eventually found it and I am fine today) but after repeated draining it did not go away. Those dreaded words, “You may just have to learn to live with it” were uttered more than once. My husband decided to take matters into his own hands and began applying the St. Joseph Oil to the walnut every night before I fell asleep, asking for the intercession of St. Andre and St. Joseph to heal me of this deformity. Sure enough, it disappeared. I went back to the doctor to show her what had happened, and being a Catholic, she was not afraid to simply state, “I think it is a miracle.” I think so too.

My point in telling you this is simple. Do not be afraid to pray for physical healing, and do not ever become so cynical that you do not believe in miracles. God honors our requests, and if they are beneficial to our salvation, will answer them with a miracle such as mine. It also helps to have friends, relatives and spouses whose faith is strong and can take over when we are weak. Also, never be afraid to start small and dream big. St. Andre had nothing, yet with God’s help, he made his dream come true. St. Andre, pray for us.

For more on St. Andre, visit

Monday, January 6, 2014

Devotion for today: I came, I saw, I stayed

John 14:9: Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.

Matthew 2:1-2: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

I am so happy my kings have finally arrived at my nativity scene. I put my set up a few weeks before Christmas, but leave the manger empty. Just as my father taught me to do so long ago, I ceremoniously place Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning, and to be honest, I still feel the excitement I did when I was a little girl and it was my turn to do the honors. The next step is to place the kings far off on the side of the display area. My dad would bring the kings up on Christmas morning and place them at a distance from the shepherds and the stable. Little by little they would make their way across the buffet until finally, on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, they would arrive at the stable and get close to the baby Jesus. How thrilling! I was always so happy that they made it! To be honest, I still am!

Now that I am somewhat older and hopefully wiser, I can see so much meaning behind the kings’ slow yet deliberate trek across my family’s buffet, or in the real story, from the “east” to Bethlehem. They were seekers, men of great knowledge who knew that all the words they had read and all the facts they possessed were not enough. There was still something missing from their lives, and they were determined to find it. They followed the star, which they knew from their readings meant the birth of a great king, and they stayed true to their purpose, never taking their eyes off the point of light which would bring them to the truth, the ultimate wisdom, the ever-loving and powerful God of the universe. They found a little baby, but they knew, and they fell to their knees in worship. They were gentiles, foreigners, unwelcomed in the land in which they traveled, yet they were welcomed and loved by the baby.

We are the kings, the seekers, the searchers of the world. We know a good deal about a lot of things today, but as Christians, we are wisest in knowing that we will never possess all the knowledge there is to possess about God. And so we fix our eyes on the light of our faith, on the scriptures and the sacraments and the holy men and women God has given to us to lead us to Him. And when we find ourselves in front of Him in the Blessed Sacrament, in the manger in our nativity scenes, and in our hearts, we fall in adoration and awe that such a mighty and powerful God deigns to come to us in swaddling clothes, in a host, in the rays of love which fill us and make us whole. We are the magi, we are the foreigners in a world that understands us not, and yet we keep to our path and continue our journey, no matter the cost. Unlike the magi, however, we do not need to return to our homes. We have found our home in Christ, and it is with Him that we will stay for all eternity. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Devotion for today: Meet God

Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Poor in spirit: those who recognize their complete dependence on God. (USCCB)

Happy New Year to all of you! I pray the holidays found you surrounded in the peace and the joy of the new born Christ-Child. It seems that no matter what family problems we must face all year long, no matter how annoying fellow workers can be, no matter how much heartache we suffer at the hands of others, we can always find a place of solace and relief in front of the manger and the outstretched hands of the baby Jesus.

 As it has been said before, there is something so profoundly humbling about seeing the wood of the manger cradling the baby Jesus, and realizing that prophetically it becomes the wood of the cross that hung Him for our sins. His little outstretched arms and reaching hands will one day be nailed to the wood and bleed for us. Yet, here He is, like all of us: trusting, loving, and reaching out. We can see ourselves in this little baby as we try to place ourselves in the world and at the mercy of those in it. Sometimes it works out just great. We find solid friendships and loving relationships just as Christ did with His apostles and disciples. Sometimes our efforts are rejected, scorned and even hated by those who don’t understand us or by those who feel threatened by us, like the holy men of Jesus’ time. And then there is the beat of life which takes us into situations over which we sweat blood and beg God to remove from our lives, just as Christ did in the Garden of Olives.

But for now, in the glow of the holy days, it is good enough to gaze upon the baby Jesus, to soak in His innocent love and reach for His little hands, to  touch His little fingers, and let Him know we love Him, and we know He loves us. As we look at Mary with her eyes fixed on her son, let us remember to keep our eyes fixed on Him as well in this New Year, and as we study Joseph, ever vigilant and prepared to follow the messages of God, let us vow to do the same with our lives and the lives of those we love. Let us vow to keep our souls free from the dangers of the world and be prepared to flee from sin as quickly as Joseph fled with his family from the terrors of Herod and his army.

I have a little scene I like to play out in my mind as I study my nativity scene: The shepherds and kings come to the stable, kneel before the baby Jesus and look curiously at Mary. She smiles sweetly and says to them: “My children, meet God.”