Monthly Archives: December 2014

Wednesday’s Word: Beginnings

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

 

As the New Year begins, what if we take some time to think about the very first beginning? It’s hard to wrap our heads around what was before there was time. What does “When” mean? Without time, there is no before or after. Since we’re in time, it’s hard to step out into eternity, but maybe we don’t have to. The Word was already with God in the beginning; that might be all we need to know about When.

 

Maybe it’s more important to think about Who the Word was that was with God in the beginning. We know Who the Word was because John’s gospel goes on to tell us: the Word became flesh and lived among us; that Word, God’s only Son, came bringing us grace and truth. A word expresses the thoughts and feelings within one person to another. The first communication God shared with us at the beginning of time is Jesus Christ, bearer of grace, truth, love, and salvation. What God wanted to express to us is so vibrant, so dynamic, that the Word itself is alive—a Living Person Who continues to communicate God’s love and grace and truth to us whenever we’re open to receive Him.

 

At the beginning of this New Year, let’s open ourselves to receive the Word of Love that was there at the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Let’s get quiet and listen to what the Word wants to tell our hearts about Love as this old year ends and the new year begins.

 

Reflection:  What can I do today to express the Word within my heart to the world around me?

 

Prayer: Word of Love, guide my heart as I begin this New Year.

Saturday Spotlight: The Boy with an Evil Spirit

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallSomeone from the crowd answered [Jesus], “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the  boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able!–All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus say that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.  Mark 9: 17-27

 

Jesus expelled the destructive spirit from the boy, but it struck one final blow, leaving the boy for dead. Destructive tendencies wreak havoc in our lives, tossing us from one problem to another…Often we’re powerless to stop the downward spiral. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to move in a healthier direction until we hit bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up.

 

When faced with a long-standing problem or illness, many of us barely dare to hope. Like the boy’s father, we can’t seem to mobilize even a mustard seed of faith. But maybe we don’t need to. What if all we have is a fraction of a mustard seed of faith? If we have just enough faith to approach God and speak the truth about our lack of trust, then that, in itself, is an act of faith. Trusting God enough to admit the truth about our vulnerability is a vote of confidence, not in us, but in him. Isn’t that faith? Didn’t Jesus tell us that those who know they are spiritually poor are blessed?

 

Reflection:  The boy received one final blow from the evil spirit before he was completely healed. How does that inspire you to persevere?

 

Prayer:  Lord of life, grant me the courage to endure the healing process as my old, unhealthy behaviors die. Raise me up to new life in you.

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

 

Wednesday’s Words: Room for Love

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She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn. Luke 2:7

 

Nothing was convenient about Jesus’ birth. The long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem must have been grueling for a young pregnant woman and emotionally challenging for both Mary and her husband. Finding herself in labor with no place to rest, being jostled in crowded city streets looking for shelter that was nowhere to be had mush have been nerve-wracking. No, nothing was convenient about the birth of the promised Messiah.

 

God comes to us whether or not it is convenient for us. The path of spiritual growth usually isn’t the path of least resistance. God always wants to enter our lives in a deeper way. What might we find inconvenient about that? Does God’s timing seem off? Are we pre-occupied? Is there room in our hearts to welcome Him or are our hearts crowded with other things? Is there a better time than now to make room in our hearts for the Lord of Life?

 

Reflection: What can I let go of to make more room for Love today?

 

Prayer: Welcome, Lord.

Saturday Spotlight: Little Children Blessed by Jesus

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People were bringing little children to [Jesus] in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little children will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.   Mark 10: 13-16

 

The disciples probably didn’t think blessing children was all that important in light of Jesus’ mission. …But Jesus had a way of noticing the disenfranchised, the overlooked, the outright rejects of society. …Jesus scolded his disciples for discriminating against the children…He loved them for who they were at that moment…

 

What the children could absorb–whether they could explain it or not–is that they were welcomed by Jesus and treated with kindness…Think of that image: he lifted each one up and held them in his loving embrace, if only for a moment, and then blessed them before handing them back to their parents’ care. What more powerful sermon could there be about their worth as children of God and the nature of that God?

 

Children respond so well to respect. Don’t we all? …The people who impacted our lives and helped us tap into our potential are often the ones who made us feel like we were important to them…In order to grow and thrive, we not only need examples or instruction but validation that who we are is okay.

 

Time alone with Jesus can remind us that we are loved and valued in spite of our shortcomings. We can allow ourselves to be lifted up by his loving embrace…He calls us to be like little children in order to belong to the kingdom of God. What if we allowed ourselves to be lifted up by Jesus, if only for a moment, each day?

 

Reflection:  When do you feel most like a little child? Do you feel closer to Jesus at those times? Why or why not?

 

Prayer:  Jesus, you took the little children in your arms. When I feel small and helpless, may I rest quietly in your loving embrace.

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Word: Immanuel

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“…the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and you will name him ‘Immanuel.’  Isaiah 7:14

 

“God is with us.” That’s what “Immanuel” means. It’s a good thing that God himself gave us the sign. “Immanuel” means “God is with us.” On our own, how could we ever have the audacity to claim that God is one of us? But the Creator of the Universe loves us so much that He chose to take on our humanity—with all its frailties. The All-powerful chose to become a helpless infant and to depend on others to feed and clothe him. To be with us, God chose to be born of one of us, the young woman named Mary. He didn’t claim his right to a privileged entry into the planet.

 

God is with us. He chose to experience the joys and the sorrows, the pains and frustrations that are part and parcel of the human condition. He didn’t have to. Out of love for us, He remained in solidarity with our sinfulness on the banks of the Jordan River, and sought baptism. He accepted the warmth and the betrayal of friendship. He willingly endured insults, contempt, torture, and death. Rather than remain aloof from his creation, he chose to participate in what we experience.

 

Who could believe that God would love us so much that he would want to be with us not only in name, but in being, and to become not only the Son of God, but the Son of Man? Who could make us something that far beyond our wildest dreams? It’s too good to be true—except it is. Who could believe it? We can, because hundreds of years before it happened, the Lord himself gave us a sign.

 

Prayer: We praise you and thank you, Son of God and Son of Mary.

 

Reflection: God loves us so much he wanted to be one of us. What difference can that awareness make in your life?

 

 

 

Saturday Spotlight: The Canaanite Woman’s Daughter

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Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.  Matthew 15: 21-28

 

“But he didn’t answer her at all.” We’re told that Jesus didn’t answer the woman, but we’re not told why. Although it’s easy to conclude that he was ignoring her, there are other possibilities. For all we know, he may have been formulating how to respond to her without seeming to neglect God’s chosen people. Taking time before responding–especially under pressure–is effective.

 

…Often, when our loved ones are suffering, we would willingly suffer in their place if we could…As caregivers, we willingly endure sleepless nights, bedside vigils, or weary trips to and from the hospital. We do everything in our power to alleviate their discomfort.

 

…Sometimes we’re like helpless puppies, scrambling around in a knot of directionless love and energy. We need the guidance and support of someone not so vulnerable to excitability. In addition to seeking help on a practical, medical level, and the help and comfort of those around us, let’s remember that the Divine Healer is always available. It’s challenging when our prayers for healing don’t result in the hoped-for outcome, or when God seems not to answer our prayers at all. Even so, let’s not stop trusting that God is in charge and that God loves our loved ones even more than we do.

 

Reflection:  Jesus did not answer the woman’s appeal immediately. Under what circumstances is it helpful to remain silent before responding to another person?

 

Prayer:  God, when my loved ones are hurting, help me remember that you love them even more than I do.

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

Wednesday’s Word: Willingness

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“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:38

 

Mary accepted God’s call and agreed to become the mother of the Messiah. That doesn’t mean she had no feelings about it. The first chapter of Luke tells us that at first Mary was troubled by the angel’s message and wondered what his words meant. She was concerned about how such a thing could be, since she was a virgin. Mary was well aware of the consequences of being pregnant and unmarried in that culture. No matter what she may have been feeling, Mary accepted and co-operated with God’s plan for her.

 

Our spiritual life depends on our willingness to accept and co-operate with God’s grace, not on how we feel. Feelings come and go. We have choices. We can exercise our free will regardless of how we happen to feel. We don’t have to be bullied by fear, resentment, insecurity, or even feelings of false humility. We can accept God’s grace and choose to do what we believe He would have us do—no matter how we feel about it. Mary did, and it changed the world.

 

Reflection:  What in your life might change if you accept God’s call to you today, no matter what your feelings tell you?

 

Prayer:  Lord, grant me the willingness to trust Your plan for me.

Saturday Spotlight: A Silent Captive Healed

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmall [A] demoniac who was mute was brought to [Jesus]. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”  Matthew 9: 32-34

 

We aren’t told anything about the mute who was healed. Maybe that’s because no one knew much about him. How could they? …This man’s inner life was trapped behind a wall of silence.

 

No, we don’t know anything about this man. What we do know is that once the demon was driven out, the man started speaking–perhaps for the first time in his life. I wonder what he said?

 

We aren’t told how the demon prevented the man from speaking. Physical reasons aside, what hold us back from speaking what’s in our hearts? Fear is one thing that springs to mind–fear of what others will think, fear of rejection, fear of consequences. Fear may not be a “demon” as we think of demons, but it certainly is not of God. The Bible is full of verses telling us not to be afraid. We’re also told God is love and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:16; 18).

 

Reflection:  In what ways are you like the mute? What blocks you from speaking the truth?

 

Prayer:  Spirit of Truth, thank you for the gift of speech. May I use it to speak the truth in love.

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

Wednesday’s Word: Heritage

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This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.  Matthew 1:1

 

If you’re like me, you probably skim through the genealogy of Jesus listed in the very first chapter of the Gospels. It’s easy to gloss over the long list of names that verify the promised Messiah’s lineage—especially since many of them are unfamiliar.

However, reviewing the list of Jesus’ ancestors is a real eye-opener:

  • Abraham, our father in faith, doubted God could keep his promise to give him an heir. Abraham took matters into his own hands by having a son with his wife’s slave girl.
  • Jacob was a conniver who cheated his elder brother out of his rights as the first born son.
  • Rahab, one of the few women listed in Jesus’ genealogy, was a liar, a Gentile, and a prostitute.
  • Ruth was also a Gentile.
  • David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed when she became pregnant with David’s child.

The family tree Jesus chose wasn’t exempt from human failings. He really is one of us.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for accepting the world as it is and for loving us as we are.

 

Reflection: Jesus didn’t demand perfection from his family tree. How can that help you draw nearer to Him right now?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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