Thursday, December 01, 2016
How is the fruit from your 'tree of faith'?
Faith is the focus of the Second Sunday of Advent; Matthew's Gospel stresses reconciling with and drawing closer to God
by Sister Madonna Swintkoske
John the Baptizer does not mince words when he proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” He challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees to “give evidence” they had a change of heart.
God had promised to send the one who would be our hope, consolation, and redeemer. God has kept this promise. The Kingdom of God is here and the challenge of John the Baptizer remains the same. We are asked to give evidence that we have had a change of heart. During this Advent season we renew our commitment to Jesus. Let us keep our promises of:
- Fidelity: honoring the commitment we have made in life
- Cooperation: working together in our families, work place, community
- Hospitality: serving all we encounter
What evidence can we give that we are serious about reforming our hearts and lives?
Friday, November 18, 2016
Can you see the bright light of Jesus Christ through the holiday glitz?
Advent draws us from the darkness of this world to the brilliant hope in our Savior
by Sister Elise Cholewinski
On several Monday evenings in the fall I teach a course on spirituality at the diocesan office campus in Green Bay. When driving home after class I have to cross a long bridge, and as I proceed in the darkness, the west side of the city is glowing before me. Lights from the stores in several shopping malls invite customers to enter and purchase items of all sorts. Lights from pubs and restaurants entice people to satisfy their needs for food, drink, and entertainment. Beyond that district looms a very tall structure with a bright shining “G” at the top, a symbol that represents a football team that has become an idol. All of these signs and symbols that illuminate the area reveal what we truly value.
We enter this weekend into the beginning of the Advent season. As we move into December, we are experiencing the darkest time of the year. Advent is a time to reflect not only on the condition of the world before the birth of Jesus, but also on the present situation in which we live, which has its own darkness. The events of this election year speak for themselves.
In contrast to the lights of the modern world, Isaiah says, in Sunday’s first reading, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5) Where do we find that light? Advent gradually draws us to the starlight beaming on the face of a newborn Baby lying in a manger in a cave, among a humble and lowly people. When we are in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, we will recognize that face and embrace the light that surrounds it. And what are we to do with that light when we discover it? Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!
- How would you describe the darkness with which you enter the season of Advent?
- When have you discovered the light of the face of Jesus on the poor and marginalized?
- How can you let the light coming from the face of Jesus shine in your life?
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Let Jesus reign in our minds, wills, hearts, bodies
At the end of the First World War, Church leaders saw a rise in secularization and nationalism across Europe. In response, Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical letter “Quas primas” (“In the first”) which instituted the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, more commonly known as the Feast of Christ the King. We celebrate this feast on Sunday, marking the end of the Church year.
In his letter, Pope Pius instructed the faithful to let Jesus “reign in our minds … our wills … our hearts … our bodies.”
- For Jesus to reign in my mind I can grow in my knowledge of the Bible and the Catechism. How will I do so in the coming year?
- For Jesus to reign in my will, I need to obey God’s laws. Do I know and live the Ten Commandments? Can I memorize the Beatitudes?
- For Jesus to reign in my heart, I must love Him and all people without reservation. Whom shall I forgive?
- For Jesus to reign in my body, I can remember that my body is a temple of God’s. How can I take better care of myself? How can I labor more effectively for others in service to Christ?
Thursday, November 10, 2016
When the world says 'give up,' God whispers 'keep trying'
by Sister Carolyn Zahringer
The Gospel for this weekend concludes with these words: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Lk. 21:19)
In mid-October we had readings on persistence. Here it is mid-November and the Gospel message is on perseverance. Is there not a common thread in these mid-month messages?
We are nearing the end of another liturgical year. Ordinary Time has a message as important as special liturgical seasons but may not be as perceptible. Our task in life is to share our experience of strength in and hope for Christ's love and salvation. With another liturgical year concluding, I might ask how persistent and persevering in faith have I been? What has been my personal experience of God in prayer? What is the hope that I can share with those in my life?
“By your perseverance you will secure your lives." What is this message from Luke's Gospel calling us to do and be?
Thursday, November 03, 2016
What is your unique journey with Jesus Christ?
While Vocation Awareness Week highlights religious life and priesthood, it is good to remember that each of us has a calling
by Sister Laura Zelten
As we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week I am reminded that each of us is called by God. We are all blessed with a vocation. The challenge we face is not to find out whether we have a vocation but rather to identify the vocation we are called to through our baptism.
During this week each of us is invited to look at the vocations of the Church and to understand how the choice each has made in life is an extension of our baptism. What is the gift from God that calls me to be a faithful person? Where do I still need to grow in my Christian life? What is stirring in my heart, moving me to follow Christ with my life?
God continues to call us. If we listen closely we can hear the whisper of God’s gentle voice stirring us into action, calling us to respond through the people and events of our lives.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
From the 'scoundrels' to the 'deserving': God's mercy is for all
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
Since last December 8 when the “Year of Mercy” began, many have preached about the gracious mercy of our God, which we’ve all experienced. During this year we also heard the call to imitate our God and BE merciful, especially through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Today, the first reading from Wisdom and the story of Zaccheus remind us again that God shows mercy to all -- even to people WE might not feel deserve mercy.
We’ve all known good people who make mistakes, or those who’ve had a difficult upbringing and didn’t have much of a chance in life. We can understand that God might show them mercy, especially if they expressed sorrow for their past.
But in today’s Scripture, Zaccheus was a tax collector, a collaborator with the Romans, someone who cheated his own people and made his living by extortion. Why would God show mercy to such a scoundrel?
The gracious gift of mercy and forgiveness is given because of who God is –- not because the recipient is “deserving.” Perhaps Jesus saw in Zaccheus a desire to change his life. Perhaps he saw someone trapped by the need for wealth and possessions. Or perhaps Jesus simply felt pity for a man who seemed alienated from God and his fellow countrymen and didn’t know what to do. We don’t know the WHY. All we know is that Jesus offered mercy.
And we don’t know much about Zaccheus’ motivation. Did repentance come before or after the call by Jesus? Did he climb the tree out of curiosity or for another reason? All we know is that Zaccheus welcomed Jesus into his home and publicly committed himself to restore, four times, what he had misappropriated. Mercy begets goodness.
Questions to reflect upon:
This week, can I find one person to whom I can show or extend the mercy of God in a concrete way?
If there is someone in my life that I can’t yet forgive, or to whom I can’t extend mercy, perhaps this week I can pray for the person that God will do (for the person and for me) what we are not yet able to do.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Keeping the faith: It's a marathon, not a sprint
Sunday’s second reading is from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, possibly near the end of Paul’s life when he was imprisoned. Reflecting on the verse below, consider:
- How does my attitude shape my walk with Christ?
- When have I persevered and followed God’s will even though it was difficult?
- Faith is a gift from God. How do I care for this gift?
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Pray always: God is with us for the long haul
by Sister Renee Delvaux
Like Moses in the first reading and like the widow in the Gospel we are called to be persistent in prayer, that is, never to lose heart, to persevere and not be discouraged by difficulties. Moses prayed with hands upraised, unceasingly, even to the point of having his friends help hold his arms up when he was experiencing physical fatigue. And the widow’s persistence, not giving up, finally opened the door of the uncaring, unjust judge.
Persistence in prayer -– what it is NOT? It is not incessant pestering, whining, or cajoling God into action. Rather, it is patient, humble, persevering, faith-filled “staying with it for the long haul.” Do you remember how long St. Monica persevered in praying for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine? Yes, 30 years! Just how long am I willing to persevere and be persistent in prayer?
God has assured us that He does hear and answer our prayers. Lord, strengthen my faith and help me to be persistent and persevering in prayer. I do know that You answer my prayers. Please help me in my times of doubt and weakness.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Cleansing of 10 lepers illustrates God's healing of body and spirit
by Sister Lynne Marie Simonich
Trust and gratitude. In biblical times leprosy was controlled by isolating those who were infected. Lepers were removed from their families, friends, work and worship. No one would approach them. Jesus comes face to face with not one, but 10 lepers, who beg him to show pity to them. They trusted in his word and his compassion. He could have turned and walked away but he brought healing into their lives instead. Only the Samaritan, the “outsider," returned to thank Jesus. The healing also deepened the leper's faith and his gratitude touched the heart of Jesus.
Why did Luke specify that the Samaritan was the only healed leper to give thanks? Could it be to show that Jesus’ healing has no limits? Could it be to show that faith is a gift offered to all people? Maybe it is also a reminder to all of us that it is so easy to take all that God has given to us (our loved ones, our gifts, our lives, etc.) for granted.
- How do we show our gratitude to God? To others?
- Do we trust in God’s power to heal us and others?
- What are the “leprosies” in our lives that need healing?
Thursday, September 29, 2016
God's angels work together to benefit all of us
by Sister Jane Riha
We are surrounded by angels. Do you believe that you have a special appointed guardian angel? This year, the Feast of Guardian Angels falls on a Sunday. There is no mention of angels in the readings for this Sunday but let us together consider the angels in our lives. As a child, I grew up believing for certain I had a guardian angel. I believe in my guardian angel to this day.
Angels are messengers. How often in the course of your life perhaps some unforeseen or unpredictable circumstance caused you confusion, doubt, insecurity. On some of these occasions, did some person, maybe a stranger, suddenly help you? I recall on my first trip to Mexico City alone, knowing very little Spanish, I was confused in the airport as to where to find the bus to go to Cuernavaca, when a kind, humble Hispanic man spoke to me in English, “Can I help you?” To this day, I know God sent him.
The Scriptures are replete with the significance of angels as messengers from God. These passages reveal actual conversations with these messengers. They often assist the person to a deeper spiritual truth. Recall to mind Mary and the angel Gabriel.
As a child, I learned this prayer to my guardian angel and I continue to pray it as an adult.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.