December 11th: Readings and Reflection Questions

bible-episode-3-john-the-baptist-p
The Gospel this week starts with John the Baptist being in prison.  I went to Lansing Prison this week and discussed these readings with the inmates.  The questions below stemmed from those conversations with those men.

First Reading:  Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Second Reading:  James 5: 7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

  • As I reflected on the idea of patience and how horrible I am at embracing it along with how my lack of patience can wreak havoc on my life, I immediately realized where I was.  I was sitting with a group of men, some of whom have been inside the walls of prison for the past 30 years of their life, complaining (in my head anyway) about my lack of patience when in reality I don’t know the first thing about it (comparatively speaking).
  • So my questions to you is this… Do you think you are a patient person?  Does a lack of patience affect all or certain aspects of your life, if so which ones?  Do other people (honestly…or ask them) think you are a patient person?  If you’re not, what are some ways you can improve?  Do you know someone who IS patient, if so ask them how they do it.

 

Gospel:  Matthew 11: 2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

  • Why do you think Jesus waited 30 years before starting His ministry?  Was there a connection to that age and Jewish tradition, or the age of entering the priesthood, or do you think he was waiting for John the Baptist to “anoint” him?
  • The last line of the gospel says “there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  How does that line make you feel, does it give you anxiety at all or a feeling of peace?  It gave me anxiety at first, so I’d love to hear your thoughts if you were comforted by it.

December 4th: Readings and Reflection Questions

jesus-baptism

First Reading:  Isaiah 11: 1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

 

  • The Seven fold Ministry of the Spirit or The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These gifts (listed and defined below) are received at Baptism (see this week’s Gospel) and are strengthened at Confirmation, so that one can proclaim the truths of the faith:

Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”  – CCC 1285

Below is a break down, with definition from the Catechism, of these seven gifts.  I have a question and a challenge for you.

QUESTION:  Which of the following gifts do you feel you have implemented in your life fairly well, and which ones have you set in a storage closet collecting dust?  How can you bring those more to the forefront of who you are and who God wants you to be?

CHALLENGE: The challenge this week is to send 7 emails or text messages or phone calls or Facebook posts or whatever to 7 people that you think have embodied each gift to the best of their abilities and thank them. Let them know that they are blessed to have lived that gift so fully and how blessed you are for having them in your life.

  1. Wisdom: It is the capacity to love spiritual things more than material ones; it also means the want to understand God.
  2. Understanding: In understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as followers of Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. 
  3. Counsel (right judgement): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus Christ.
  4. Fortitude (courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm.
  5. Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The distinction between wisdom and knowledge is that wisdom gives the desire to know the things of God, whereas knowledge is the actual power by which such things are known.
  6. Piety (reverence): With the gift of piety/reverence, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. 
  7. Fear of the Lord (wonder and awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord/wonder and awe, we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love.

 

Second Reading:  Romans 15: 4-9

Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.

 

Gospel:  Matthew 3: 1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

  • Part of baptism is the identification of a set of “God Parents.” My question to you is this; if you were bless the responsibility of being a child’s God Parent, but you encountered one of two problems…how would you handle it (knowing that too much can be a deterrent):

1. The child, as an adult, has fallen away from the faith, either as a Cafeteria Catholic or even an atheist/agnostic, how do you approach the child (or young adult) and encourage them to return to the faith?

2. If the parents of the child have not proceeded with the blessed sacraments beyond baptism, how do you approach the parents to express the importance of Confirmation, First Communion and First Reconciliation? 

(I know prayer is the first and most powerful way to address this problem, but I was looking beyond that for additional input)

  • Give some thought as to what you think Baptism is for.  What does mean to us as Catholics?  After you’ve reflected on it, why do you think Christ was baptized?

Nov. 27th: Sunday Readings and Reflection Questions

russell-crowe-noah-cb

First Reading   Isaiah 2: 1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

  • As a Catholic, I reflect on this reading and it makes sense.  Strive to know God, listen to his guidance, follow his examples and for goodness sake…stop fighting with each other and unit as one people under God.  Not that tough, right….right?!  I think I mess up on each on of these every day in a way that is much like my non-existent golf game.  Some days I can hit a drive but my short game is on, other days my drives are on but I can’t put to save my life.  Take a moment and discuss how you have succeeded with each of these and give some examples.
    • Know God
    • Listen to His guidance.
    • Follow His examples.
    • Unit with those you disagree with. 
  • It’s a reading like this that I feel we as a people are closer to the customs of Sodom and Gomorrah than that which Isaiah is asking of the ‘nations.’  The election this month has almost honed the sword of indifference between the people of our nation rather than beating them (the swords) into plowshares.  Love has been consumed by hate and we no longer are able to tolerate people who are not exactly like ourselves.  

    • How do you disagree with someone regarding a major topic (same sex marriage, abortion, etc…) but remain civil to them?
    • Discuss how you survived Thanksgiving this year with the election so close in your rear view mirror.

Second Reading   Romans 13: 11-14

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Gospel   Matthew 24: 37-44

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

  • The part of me that worries about absolutely everything keyed into one part of this reading.

    Two men will be out in the field;
    one will be taken, and one will be left.
    Two women will be grinding at the mill;
    one will be taken, and one will be left

    Am I to understand that neither man knew he was going to be taken?  What discretion not mentioned in the reading do you God had when selecting which man He would take?  Do you think it connects to the first reading at all?

  • How well have you prepared your children or your wife to make sure they are not the ones left behind?  Do you have any close friends or relatives that you feel would be left, and if so, what can you do to help them?  I guess I should have this as the starter question to this, but do you think you would be left behind…what can do in your life (starting right now) to ensure you are not.

 

 

Nov. 20th Readings and Reflection

christtheking2013
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

First Reading – 2 Samuel 5: 1-3

In those days, all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king,
it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you,
‘You shall shepherd my people Israel
and shall be commander of Israel.’”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron,
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD,
and they anointed him king of Israel.

  • In the first reading, David is named King.  In the gospel, you’ll read how Christ was named King as he’s crucified.  To be a King is to be the sole and absolute ruler of a state or nation.  Given the election this month, you’d think we elected someone who holds that same power. 
    • If you had been born into such a state of power, what changes would you make for this country?
    • What changes would you make for the world?
    • How would you ensure the power did not go to your head as it did with David?

Second Reading – Colossians 1: 12-20

Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Gospel – Luke 23: 35-43

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

  • The thief to Christs’ right is sometimes called “The Good Thief”.  He was later named Dismas (which means sunset) in the Gospel of Nicodemus and is often mentioned today as St. Dismas, although he has never been canonized by the Catholic Church.  How do you feel about a person who’s led a sinful life, one worthy of being crucified for, being granted access to ‘Paradise’ as he asks for forgiveness on his death bed (or cross)?
  • The thief to Christs’ left is sometimes called “The Bad Thief”.  He was later named Gestas in the Syriac Infancy Gospel.  What do you imagine his fate was?  Do you think God gave him another chance at redemption after Gestas expired on the cross?  Do you think our salvation is tied to our life here on earth, meaning do you think our afterlife is 100% based on our life here on earth?

 

INTERESTING NON-FACT

There’s several myths that surround these two thieves.  One says that Dismas paid Gestas 40 silver coins (called drachma) to not harm Mary, Joseph, and the Infant Baby Jesus as they fled Egypt.  At this point in the tale, the Infant Jesus predicted that the thieves would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise.  Again, this story is not substantiated and is considered myth.  

Nov. 13th Readings and Reflection

hqdefault

First Reading – Malachi 3:19-20A

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.

  • Malachi came along at a time when the people of Judah were struggling to believe that God loved them. The people had turned to complaining about their problems and refused to be held accountable for their sinful behavior.  Through Malachi, God told the people they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the Mosaic Covenant their fathers had made all those years before.  Who is your Malachi?  Who, here on earth, holds you accountable for your actions?  Is this something you do on your own?  Is this something God intended for you to do on your own?

Second Reading – 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

Brothers and sisters:
You know how one must imitate us.
For we did not act in a disorderly way among you,
nor did we eat food received free from anyone.
On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day
we worked, so as not to burden any of you.
Not that we do not have the right.
Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you,
so that you might imitate us.
In fact, when we were with you,
we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work,
neither should that one eat.
We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a
disorderly way,
by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly
and to eat their own food.

Gospel – Luke 21:5-19

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

  • “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”  I think the Democratic Party is considering this past week is the beginning of this prediction!  Kidding (not really). 
  • This version of the end of times is pretty disheartening.  Although I always imagined zombies or a mass virus as part of the apocalypse.  However, non- infected people (“(being) handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends”) turning on each other is almost more frightening.   A great movie that reminds me of this reading by Luke is The Road, it was a book as well if that’s your thing too.  Anyway, during an apocalypse, there’s typically 4 types of survivors (The Leader, The Follower, The Ones who die instantly from the cause of the apocalypse, and The Cry Baby who usually gets killed by the Leaders and Followers).  So, which one are you? 
  • I find the last sentence of gospel this week to be the hardest.  “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  Perseverance…  Not when you feel like it, not when you have time, not when the game is over.  He wants us to offer ourselves to Him during the times you feel like you can’t get back up, the times you feel alone.  What part of perseverance is the most difficult for you?  There are sometimes 5 different traits of perseverance:

    • Courage
    • Conscientiousness: Achievement Oriented vs. Dependable
    • Endurance: Follow Through
    • Resilience: Optimism, Confidence, and Creativity
    • Excellence  instead Perfection
  • Can you imagine being “handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.”  If in the end, you were betrayed by those that you loved the most and “hated by all”, who does that leave?  How is your personal relationship with God?  How much time do you spend one-on-one building your relationship with him?