Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Lk 2:22-40 or Lk 2:22, 39-40

12-31-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “If we love, naturally we will try to do something. First in our own home, our next door neighbor, in the country we live, in the whole world.” In this quote we see a shift from the idyllic to a hard dose of reality: love means sacrifice and service. Perhaps it’s worth asking ourselves: Does our family always get our best self? None of us is perfect, so the honest answer is probably no. If it’s tempting to think, “well, the Holy Family was perfect, so what does this feast have to do with our family?” let’s remember we are celebrating the Feast of the HOLY Family, not the feast of the perfect family. Yes, they were holy. They embodied this in their faith and devotion in those expanding circles of which St. Teresa spoke. They gave to God first – in today’s Gospel we see the family travel to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the temple. They then returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew strong and was “filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”


Fourth Sunday of Advent - 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

12-24-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The angel Gabriel announces this in the Gospel today, and it is a phrase with which we are all familiar thanks to our recitation of the Hail Mary prayer. Although some may be comforted by such a message and its angelic messenger, it is troubling to Mary because the angel goes on to tell her she will conceive and bear the Son of God. Thinking practically, Mary is being told the impossible will happen – who wouldn’t be troubled? And yet Mary offers herself: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Despite her fear and trepidation, Mary went on to answer God’s call and do his will. Our Blessed Mother became a great example of fortitude at that moment, as she exemplified what it means to step outside of our own uncertainty and trust God completely. Although doing God’s will can be difficult at times, St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Romans that we can ask God for the strength to say “yes” in spite of our fears.


Third Sunday of Advent - Is 61:1-2A, 10-11; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

12-17-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” Such simple words from today’s second reading. And yet it is not always easy to put them into practice. It is difficult to rejoice if we or people we love are hurting. It can be hard to pray when life is pulling us in a thousand different directions. But on this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing, we are asked to focus on a truth that can make both rejoicing and praying easier: Jesus entered humanity in flesh and blood to save us from our sins. This truth means that even if we don’t feel like there is much gladness or joy in our lives today, we can rejoice in the knowledge that we all have the chance to spend eternity in a place where pain, disappointment and suffering will be no more. With our eyes focused on that prize, praying can become a natural part of our days.


Second Sunday of Advent - Is 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

12-10-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

Can you hear it? The voice crying out in the desert? While John the Baptist was the one literally proclaiming, from the desert, the coming of the Lord, we should listen for echoes of his message today. John foretold that Jesus – the Father’s Incarnate Son – was on his way to redeem the world. Through Jesus’ passion and death, the gates of heaven were flung open so all who believe in him would have eternal life. This is the Good News he proclaimed then, and the Church proclaims today: Christ has come! Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. This is what we prepare for in Advent – to celebrate, on Christmas day, Christ’s coming into the world, and that he will one day return in glory. The Lord gives comfort to his people in his words, and in his presence to us in the Eucharist: “According to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” So, trust in the Lord, remain vigilant, and take heed of the voices that remind us to “prepare the way of the Lord.”


First Sunday of Advent - Is 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

12-03-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

In a nineteenth-century sermon, St. John Henry Newman wrote of today’s Gospel: “[Jesus] mercifully whispers into our ears … not to share in the general unbelief [around us], not to be carried away by the world but to ‘beware, keep alert’ and look out for his coming.” I love the thought that Jesus is “mercifully whispering” to us. Welcome to Advent! We know that Advent is a time of anticipation and preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ, but today’s readings also speak to me of training ourselves to be alert for God’s presence in the small, everyday moments of our lives. In his Letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that “[we] are not lacking in any spiritual gift” as we await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are gifted with his grace. Our loving God bestows countless graces on us each day, and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can seek ways to be more aware of these graces. Yes, we can be more “alert” to them, but can also be thankful for these small moments of God’s presence with us.


The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

11-26-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: The paradoxical ways we have come to understand Jesus can give us spiritual whiplash. He is both a tender and caring shepherd of sheep and one who sends strong rams and goats to the eternal fire; the executed human and divine man who came into full resurrected glory. He is God incarnate into human history and born in a manger; the servant-leader; the one who is both God and man. This is the beauty of what we call the Paschal Mystery – that the Son of God came into the world and by his life, death, and resurrection he has reconciled us to the Father, and has redeemed us. He saves us from the death of sin. As Catholics we are comfortable with paradox: We are inhabitants of a kingdom of God that is already (here) but not yet (fully realized); we are both an Easter people and we live in a world of Good Fridays. So when Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading that whatever we do to the least of people, we do to Christ himself and we will reap our actions in the fullness of that kingdom, we understand that he is a king unlike any other king. He cares not for pomp and circumstance, but wants to ensure that all – even the least among us – are given his gifts to share. The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe celebrates that we have a king who cares more for us than anyone on earth could ever care for us, and we are blessed to be able to love and serve him in return.

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thes 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30

11-19-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: When we think of gifts, we may picture a child eagerly ripping into wrapping paper on a birthday or at Christmas. Oh, the anticipation and the joy seen through a child’s eyes! In contemplating today’s Scriptures, it occurs to me that the gifts God has given to us should fill us with the same joy and sense of gratitude as that child. Although there are many facets to the parable of the talents which Jesus tells his disciples in today’s Gospel, what stands out to me comes at the very beginning: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” No small thing to be entrusted with the master’s possessions! In the same way, God entrusts us with his gifts – they are all we have and all we are. And, like the master in the parable, God expects us to use our gifts and talents to build his kingdom here on earth – to multiply his goodness in the world.


Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wis 6:12-16; 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13

11-12-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: I’ll always remember that first Easter after my Dad passed away. It was when the promise of the resurrection truly hit home. Sure, I had always believed in heaven and that everyone had the possibility of spending eternity there, but until my Dad died, it had all been theoretical. Now, it was personal. Someone I loved deeply had left this world, but because of Christ’s sacrifice, he had the opportunity to go to paradise, someplace where we will hopefully be reunited someday. I believe that’s what St. Paul is talking about in today’s second reading. We do “not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” We have hope! We have hope for our family, for our friends – for our very selves! – that we will rise again and spend eternity with the Lord and with those we love. Paul writes elsewhere, “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) The sting of death is sin, Paul says, but Christ has won the victory over it. In being baptized into Christ, we share in that victory, and we are inheritors of the promise of eternal life that comes from death’s defeat.


Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40

10-29-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: Sometimes I stop paying attention to the news for a period of time. There seems to be little that’s “new” in the daily barrage of natural disasters and the countless ways we humans hurt each other. I’ve even stopped using social media, which at least made me smile when seeing photos of friends and family welcoming little ones or celebrating big milestones. Which brings me to today’s Gospel: Sometimes it seems overwhelming to want to love as Christ commands, and I feel that there’s little, if anything, I can do for people outside of my social circle, let alone on the opposite side of the world. Hearing of my struggles with compassion fatigue, a friend recently reminded me of some wise words that have been attributed to St. Mother Teresa: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” We love as Christ commands by willing the good of the other. And it is not trite or cliché to say at times, “honestly, all I can do right now is pray.” After all, as the Lord says, “If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” When our compassion is exhausted, let the Lord carry it, for he never tires. And then, when it is possible, practical, and seems to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, we can do more – whatever that may be.


Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Is 45:1, 4-6, 1 Thes 1:1-5b, Mt 22:15-21

10-22-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: It strikes me that our readings today are about “belonging.” It may seem like a simple concept, but in practice its meaning and ramifications run deep. Picture a young child coming home after a day at school or childcare: He or she may even audibly let out a sigh of relief at the familiar surroundings, the presence of Mom and/or Dad, and all that they hold dear. Is it so different for us? We are God’s, we belong to him. In the first reading God tells Cyrus, “I have called you by your name.” And Jesus says to repay “to God what belongs to God.” How do we do that? We, who have been called by name by virtue of our baptism, do this by putting God first in our lives. By loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And by giving him not the leftovers, but the first fruits of our talents, our treasure, and our time. Spend some time in prayer with God today and listen to the words he writes upon your heart.


Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Is 25:6-10a; Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Mt 22:1-14

10-15-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: I have about 75 first cousins (yes, really!), so I grew up accustomed to large gatherings. “Feasts” in our family were almost an everyday kind of thing. So you can imagine my initial reaction to today’s parable: Why would anyone refuse such a grand invitation? Who doesn’t love a feast? As we know, however, with parables, Jesus is giving us a message that is deeper than it first appears. Today he uses the image of a wedding feast to explain God’s abundant generosity, and the indifference or outright refusal this loving generosity is often met with. Yes, we enjoy sharing food with family and friends, but are we always gracious recipients of God’s love and bounty? Are we prepared, and properly disposed, to receive it? (Think of the graces we receive in the sacraments, especially confession.) The kingdom of heaven is the banquet to which we are all invited, and too often we can become busy with our material lives and not notice this ongoing invitation. Or we push it out of our minds, or gad about in the wrong garments (of sin, and not grace). Let us open our ears and our hearts to God’s loving invitation, strive to be holy people, and share this gift with those around us.


Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43

10-08-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: Vineyards were important to the socio-economic structure and well-being of the ancient near east peoples. It would be disastrous for someone to plant and then cultivate a vineyard only for it to be overrun by wild grapes. It would have to be destroyed in order for it to be replanted and recover, which would be financially impossible for most people of that era. So when Isaiah prophesies about God’s plan for his vineyard – that is, his people, Israel – it is attention-worthy for its radical nature. Isaiah says that even with all of the Lord’s care and cultivation, his people have failed to grow, and they have devolved into idolatry and disobedience. So the Lord will bring his vineyard to ruin. Here’s the good news contained (but unspoken in these verses) in that prophecy, however: The Lord will “start over,” with a new covenant. And the Word which he sends forth in his Son will be the vine from which all other branches will arise and flourish. Though he will be killed for his message as prophets and messengers before him were, the Son in his victory over death will be the one who gives us the inheritance other tenants have sought. As Jesus himself says in today’s Gospel “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” And on this cornerstone is built our salvation.


Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32

10-01-2023Weekly ReflectionThe Faithful Disciple

GROW: I used to be something of a sugar fiend. So much so that one birthday, my then boyfriend (now husband) decided to forego flowers and bought me a jumbo-sized bag of Smarties candies instead. While I loved sugar, I eventually decided I didn’t love how it made me feel. Now older and wiser, I reach for vegetables more often. It’s not that I crave carrots, but I feel better eating healthy foods. It’s what God intends for my body. Similarly, God intends for our souls to follow the laws he has ordained. But sometimes life gets tough and we suffer terrible wrongs or are grieving, and we feel like the Israelites in today’s first reading, calling out, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Well, thank God for that! How lost would we be, if God treated us “fairly.” Instead, he treats us with love and mercy; with justice. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” for us. If there is any encouragement in Christ, as Paul says, and we know there is, then being of the same mind and heart – attitude – of Christ, gets us through those moments of “unfair!” And we can follow Christ’s commands, knowing he loves us more than anyone else could love us, and more than we can ever love him.