The January 3, 2016 Epiphany of the Lord (Solemnity)

Today’s Audio Readings

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6

Matthew 2:1-12

In the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived. (Matthew 2:1)

Experience tells us that if you wake up expecting that you’re going to have a bad day, then you’ll most likely have a bad day. But if you wake up looking forward to the day, there’s a good chance your day will turn out well. It’s a simple illustration of how our attitudes can affect our behaviors, which then affect the way we deal with all kinds of situations.

Today’s Gospel gives us a striking example of how powerful our predispositions can be. First, we meet King Herod, who is “greatly troubled” by news of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:3). Then, we meet the magi, who are “overjoyed” by the exact same event (2:10). Both grasp that a new king has been born, and both are eager to see him—but for different reasons. Herod, insecure about his grasp on power, sees Jesus as a threat and uses deception to try to destroy him. The magi, seekers of wisdom, are excited by the news and hurry to offer royal gifts to the child.

We all can point to ways that fear, envy, or some other negative emotion has colored the way we approach a situation. Instead of remembering that Jesus is always seeking to do us good, we think that he has forgotten us or, worse, that he is punishing us. But if we can face each situation with an open heart, ready to find God’s presence, fear and doubt will begin to melt away. We’ll find Jesus in unexpected, unlikely places—just as the magi found almighty God in the modest home of Mary and Joseph.

So when you are in a moment of fear or doubt, pause, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you find God’s presence. Ask him to help you take on a more open, trusting attitude. As you do, you’ll discover the kind of joy and even awe that the magi felt.

“Holy Spirit, direct my attitude today. Help me to sense your guidance, and fill my heart with your joy.”~WAU

 

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Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s Audio Readings

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

The Lord bless you and keep you! (Numbers 6:24)

How many New Year’s resolutions have you come up with? How many do you think you’ll forget by the end of January? Every new year is filled with great promise, but it also has a fair bit of uncertainty. Who knows what the future holds? As Mary prepared to have her baby circumcised, she probably felt a similar mixture of anticipation and apprehension. “The angel didn’t give me too much detail. What will our future be like? Will my child be accepted? Or rejected?”

But Mary answered her fears in the best way possible: she recalled God’s faithfulness in the past and held onto the promise that God had made his own “resolution” to bless and keep his people.

She recalled how God reassured Joseph that she had not been unfaithful. She recounted the way God had opened doors for her in Bethlehem so that she had a safe place to give birth. She remembered the shepherds and their stories of angelic visitors. God had protected her from shame; blessed her with a loving, faithful husband; and sent visitors at just the right time to remind her of his love and care. At every step of the way, God had blessed her and kept her, just as he had done for her people over the centuries. Why would he abandon her now?

What was last year like for you? It might have been just another year with the usual ups and downs. Or like Mary’s, it might have been a year of significant changes and challenges. Either way, take some time to recall one or two memorable situations. Try to see how the Lord has blessed you and kept you through them. Look for the ways he has proved his faithfulness to you. Let this “inspired remembering” fill you with hope for the year to come. Let it remind you that God, your heavenly Father, has resolved to love you and care for you all year long.

“Father, help me remember how you have blessed and kept me. Give me faith to entrust this new year to you.”~WAU

 

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December 31, 2015 7th Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord

Today’s Audio Readings

7th Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord

1 John 2:18-21
Psalm 96:1-2, 11-13

John 1:1-18

He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2)

John’s Gospel begins with a beautiful hymn describing “the Word,” which was with God since the very beginning. Any Jewish people reading this passage would have recognized this idea. In the creation story told in Genesis, God “speaks” things into existence—“Let there be light… . Let the earth bring forth vegetation,” and so on (Genesis 1:3, 11). It’s a sign of God’s creative power that every single word he utters brings forth something new, vibrant, and wondrous. That’s how powerful God’s Word is!

But as familiar as the idea of God’s creative word must have been, John introduces a whole new revelation: God’s Word is not only creative, it’s not only powerful, and it’s not only eternal. The Word of God is a Person. John wrote that he was with God in the beginning, not it was with God in the beginning. Then John went even further to say that this Person came and dwelt among us: Jesus, the Messiah!

You may have heard the biblical phrase “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 21:6; 22:13). It’s a way of talking about how Jesus was at the very beginning of everything and will be at the very end. It’s another way of saying he is the first word and the last word of creation.

We’re at the end of 2015. Can you see how he was there with you throughout the year? We’re also on the cusp of 2016. Can you now expect him to be with you from the very first millisecond after the clock strikes midnight?

When the Word of God is present, he is active, not just a spectator! He is always speaking new life, forgiveness, guidance, and renewal. He is always speaking redirection, encouragement, insight, and love. The sun rises on a new year because he gladly calls it to. And if anything has fallen into darkness in the past year, he only has to speak, and light will shine on it in the year to come.

So with gratitude, thank Jesus for all the blessings of 2015; with trust, surrender to him its sorrows and disappointments; and with hope, ask him, the Alpha and Omega, to speak words of grace into the year to come.

“Word of God, let this day of endings and beginnings be a reminder of your constant presence.”~WAU

 

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4th Sunday of Advent

Today’s Readings

Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45

I come to do your will, O God. (Hebrews 10:7)

Talking about Jesus’ coming to earth, the author of Hebrews draws from one of King David’s psalms (Psalm 40:6-8). David had been delivered from some great affliction, and he wrote this psalm to give thanks to God. But look at how he gave thanks. Essentially, he says, “It is not through an offering that I will please you, but through my desire to do your will.”

David understood that obedience brings God more delight than sacrifice. Sacrifice is a good thing because it is a sign of gratitude and devotion. But it can be easy to put money in the collection basket or fast from sweets for a day and still not have a change of heart. Obedience to God, on the other hand, requires something deeper—especially when his greatest command is “Love one another” (John 13:34).

So how does this relate to Christmas? Well, without fully knowing it, David was expressing the way that humanity would be reconciled with God. Jesus said, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38). He did what David, or anyone else, could not do. And through his obedience, he reunited us with God. He broke down the dividing wall that our disobedience had set up.

Of course, Jesus calls us to obey as well, but he has given us an overabundance of his grace and his Holy Spirit to help us.

Doesn’t it feel good when you say no to temptation—especially a strong one? Don’t you feel a sense of vigor and hope? That’s not just you congratulating yourself—it’s the angels rejoicing over you! It’s your heavenly Father cheering you on, releasing more grace into your heart. It’s the Holy Spirit joining with your spirit to rejoice in your Father’s love (Galatians 4:6).

God never stops blessing us. He never stops rejoicing when we step out in faith and trust to follow his will. He never stops pouring out his grace and peace.

“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will!”~WAU

 

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Audio Readings December 17, 2015

Today’s Readings

3rd Week of Advent

Genesis 49:2, 8-10

Psalm 72:1-4, 7-8, 17

Matthew 1:1-17

Justice shall flower in his days. (Psalm 72:7)

Are we there yet? This question, which is a favorite of young children enduring a long journey, is just as appropriate for us as we look at the world around us. Will we ever reach the destination God has promised in Scripture—the peaceful kingdom where there is no injustice, violence, or division, where peace abounds, “till the moon be no more” (Psalm 72:7)?

Psalm 72 is a coronation song expressing the people’s hopes that their new king will follow in the footsteps of David, the ideal king. He was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) and a powerful warrior who credited God for all his accomplishments and repented wholeheartedly when he had sinned.

As time went on, the kings of Judah strayed further and further from the fidelity of their ancestor David. Many became corrupted by their desire for wealth and power. Only a few paid attention to God’s laws or tried to establish the kind of justice envisioned in this psalm—the justice that reaches down to lift up the lowly.

By the time the Psalter was brought together in its final form, the Davidic dynasty was long gone. The last few kings had been too weak to resist the Babylonians and too idolatrous to turn to God for deliverance. As a result, the Jewish people experienced exile, persecution, and occupation. They become keenly aware of the disparity between God’s promises and the reality of their present situation.

With inspired hindsight we can see that no human ruler is capable of fulfilling the aspirations expressed in this psalm. Only God can rescue his people from their real oppressors: not war or Babylon or Rome, but sin and Satan and death. Only Jesus, God incarnate, could fulfill the destiny of the chosen people—not by making foreigners “lick the dust” (Psalm 72:9), but by extending salvation to people of every nation (72:17).

We may revere David for his bravery and Solomon for his wisdom, but only Jesus fulfills the antiphon the church prays today:

“O Wisdom, breath of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, come and save us!”~WAU

 

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December 13, 2015 3rd Sunday of Advent

Today’s Audio Readings

Zephaniah 3:14-18
(Psalm) Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:10-18

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. (Luke 3:16)

If you’ve ever spent a lot of time in a mostly flat area, the sensation of driving up a steep hill and suddenly not being able to see the road ahead of you can be frightening—at least until you realize that there is more road after the hill crests! After a while, you get used to that feeling, but the sense of nervousness or excitement at the top never quite goes away.

This sensation can help us look at today’s Gospel reading. When John the Baptist gave the people a road map for how they should act, it must have felt like a dead end to some of them. They wanted to follow his preaching, but they knew it would be hard to change their behaviors—and in some instances, their jobs—in order to live out the justice he had proclaimed.

It must have also felt like a dead end when John told the crowd that he wasn’t the Messiah. You can imagine some wondering if they had been following the wrong person all along!

But John helped them see the magnificence of the road ahead by telling them that the Messiah was indeed coming—and that John, as great a prophet as he was, wasn’t even fit to loosen the thong of his sandals.

Sometimes the road ahead looks a lot like a dead end. Other times we may feel too exhausted to make it over the next hill. But at each juncture, the Lord is there to tell us that a pleasant downhill lies ahead. And not only that, but he reminds us that Jesus is the “one mightier” than John the Baptist (Luke 3:16). He doesn’t just cheer us on; he empowers us with his Spirit. He who is in you is strong and mighty. Ask him to give you heavenly strength.

“Lord, strengthen me when the road gets hilly. Help me to stay on the path, look past the dead ends, and see the glorious road ahead.”~WAU

 

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Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Optional Memorial)

Today’s Audio Readings

Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me … and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Do you feel restless as Christmas approaches? If so, these words from Jesus are meant for you. Why did he invite people to rest in him? Maybe he saw how weary they were or how frustrated they felt at not seeing much fruit from their labors. Perhaps he noticed the burdens they were carrying—family challenges, guilt over past sins, or fears for their future. How many of us have felt this way as well!

The good news is that Jesus understands our need for rest. Remember, he often experienced fatigue and difficulties himself. His physical tiredness came from walking miles in the heat, surrounded by crowds of people wanting something from him. But he also felt a spiritual burden, knowing that he would eventually be rejected by many of these same people and condemned to a painful death.

How did Jesus deal with all this stress? By going away to rest in his Father’s presence—sometimes all night long (Luke 6:12). Jesus knew that his mission required that he do the hard work of preaching and teaching and healing, but he also knew that it required time apart with his Father so that he could continue on the path laid out for him.

Similarly, God has specific work that he wants us to do, and it can be demanding at times, especially as Christmas Day draws nearer. That’s why we have to make time to get away, just to be with Jesus, to receive his rest, his comfort, and his grace. This can pose a challenge to us, but it is so important that we need to make sure we do it. If only for a few moments at a time, we need to put aside our long Christmas to-do lists and postpone all those pressing demands. Think about how refreshing a quick nap can be. Think of how helpful it can be to get outside for a short walk. Now imagine how much more refreshing it can be to spend just a few moments with Jesus!

Today, take time to rest quietly in the Lord’s presence. Put the Christmas demands out of your mind—at least for a moment. Don’t worry about saying anything. Just relax, and soak up his love.

“Lord, I rest in you. Come and fill me up!”~WAU

 

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