Lenten Reflection Day 31: Matthew 1:20

Listen to the audio version here: https://anchor.fm/simplediakonia/episodes/Lenten-Reflection-Day-31-Matthew-120-et07an

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” (Matthew 1:20)

Reflection

We know little about St. Joseph, the husband of Mary. What we do know, however, is a blessing.

The descendent of a human king obediently humbled himself for the glory of the divine King. He fasted from fear to serve his family courageously. He was a righteous man, a man of prayer. When it meant the most, he trusted in his faith to protect his family from peril and, indirectly, us from the sting of death.

Today’s Intention

Lord, you give us St. Joseph as an example of righteousness, obedience, and courage. May we, who are responsible for others’ care, enjoy the same graces of humility, fortitude, and charity from the Holy Spirit as we near the end of the Lenten season and beyond.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Peace and Goodness

Scripture Message and Food Insecurity

On this Sunday, all the scriptures (Is 25:6-10A, Philip 4:12-14, 19-20, Mt 22:1-14) reference food. I invite you to read and reflect on them in relation to our times.

According to the U.S.D.A, there over 37 million people in the United States, that is equivelant to the entire population of Texas and Arizona, who are food insecure. These individuals and families go hungry or eat low quality food because of the lack of money and other resources. The pandemic has made the situation worst. Conservative estimates indicate that 1 in 8 Americans do not have enough food to eat. Think about that for a moment. One out of eight people you will encounter today is food insecure.

Christians have a responsibility to be generous to the community at all times but especially in times of need. People are in need for food. That gives us an opportunity to be generous, to share in their distress. That is what God desires from us. There is no doubt that our prayers are important, but our generosity is what pleases Jesus and those in need: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Paul confirmed Jesus’ command when he said to the Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry…. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress” (Phil 4: 12-13).

Recently, I read a Jewish story about generosity which captures today’s themes. The story says that “in hell, people sit around a great banquet table piled high with food. Each person is given a fork six food in length, far too long for them to maneuver into their mouths. They are starving. In heaven, on the other hand, people sit around exactly the same banquet. But in heaven each feeds the person across the table. And in so doing, all are filled” (Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path to Mussar).

I encourage you today to take a moment to think about how you can help people experiencing food insecurity. Can you make a contribution – money or time – to an organization like Catholic Charities or your local food bank? Can you spare a coin to someone in need? Can you make that a habit? How can you influence our government, civic, and religious institutions to help those suffering from food insecurity?

Finally, I pray to God that if you are suffering from food insecurity that He guards your hope. That you keep Paul’s words in your heart: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Trust in Isaiah’s words: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all people a feast of rich food and choice of wines” (Is 25:6). That you accept Jesus’ invitation to “come to the feast” of the Eucharist.

Let’s pray:

Sharing the loaves and fishes,
You gave us an image of solidarity with the hungry, O Lord.
Sharing yourself in the bread and wine,
You called all to the table, O Lord.
Give me the hunger to be a part of the feeding
And the healing of this world.
Nourish me with your Grace,
So I may work with joy to serve your children.
Open my eyes and my heart
To recognize those in poverty
And increase my awareness
Of the structures and systems
That need to be changed
So we may all break bread together.
In your name we pray for the end of hunger.

  • Prayer for the End of Hunger, Jesuit Resource Education for Justice

May God bless you.

Love and Pray for Your Enemy

As human beings, when someone hurts us, our natural tendency is reciprocate or to resent them for what they have done to us. Jesus, however, calls us to love and pray for your enemy and persecutors (see Matthew 5:43-48).

Do you pray for your enemies? Today, let’s pray for our enemies and those who hate us. Let’s ask Christ to give us the grace to do so. However, if you are not ready to do that, let me know and I will pray for you.

May God’s peace be with you today and always.

To Not Lower Our Spirituality Standards

Homily: Feb 16, 2020

Readings: Sir 15:15-20; PS 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10; MT 5: 17-37

Opening Prayer: Jesus, you died for us sinners, because we are Your Father’s beloved children. Thanks for the opportunity to worship you this day. Send the Holy Spirit to open our fragile hearts and minds to God’s desire for us today: “To not lower our spirituality standards.”

My wife knows that when it comes to buying things, I have two standards: well-made and practical. For example, I drive a 165K miles 2003 vehicle. I like driving it because it meets those standards. Most of you are probably in my camp when it comes to having standards when buying things, right? We want to buy things that last and serve us well. When it comes to our spirituality, God wants our spirituality to last and serves us well too. His desire for us is not to lower our spirituality standards.

When guided by the Holy Spirit, our spirituality is discernment in action, shining with high standards. When in communion with the Holy Spirit, we develop the wisdom that helps us understand God’s spirituality standards for us, which is to obey His law. Armed with this knowledge, we recognize that “to none does he give license to sin.[1] Instead, through His Son, Jesus Christ, He commands us to keep the commandments: to love God above all and to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves. Then, he reaffirms that the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.[2]

On the other hand, when we lack the guidance of the Spirit, as in the case of the scribes and the Pharisees, our spirituality standards become flawed. As the Apostle Paul tells us: “if they have known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything”[3] Moreover, when the Holy Spirit guides our spirituality, we receive the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, reverence, and respect of the Lord. Those gifts help us discern our Father’s will: not to lower our spirituality standards.

Children have a prominent presence in the Gospels. In Matthews 18:2-3, Jesus says: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When we obey God’s commands, we humble ourselves like a child.  Children obey and trust their loving parents because they know parents want the best for them. This reminds me of a children story I read recently,

Once upon a time, in a small country, people decided to investigate what it was that parents liked the most. A competition was organized. It would use the latest invention of a famed local professor, the Gladometer.

The Gladometer was the only contraption ever built, capable of measuring joy and happiness.

So, one by one, the children demonstrated their talents to their parents. And the Gladometer measured their parents’ reactions.
One boy turned up with a trained pig; the pig sang and danced. A girl came and played the violin like an angel, and an intelligent boy came and read his very big book. The parent’s happiness was plain to see.

Finally, a boy came to the Gladometer carrying nothing. Nor did he know how to do anything. When the organizers asked him what he was going to do, he said: “I am very obedient.”

This said the machine measured such a high reading that it began to vibrate violently, and finally exploded. The boy who had done nothing won all the prizes that day, for solving the mystery of what pleases parents the most.[4]

God wants our highest spirituality standard to be obedient.  When we are obedient, we follow Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[5] That is the example Jesus gave us as he agonized in the garden: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”[6] Jesus had the opportunity to lower his standards, but he chose to love his Father by following His commandments. Then, Christ commands us to do likewise: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”[7]. If that was unclear, he said: “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”[8]

God knows, however, that we are broken by nature, and when left to our own devices, we may lower our spirituality standards. To assist us, He provides a set of commandments for us to use as guiding posts in our lives.  The commandments tell us how to worship and praise God, how to behave with our parents, with each other’s, and in our community. When we follow the commandments, we fulfill God’s desire for us today: to not lower our spirituality standards.

Let us pray: Lord, thank you for your incomprehensible love. We want to be your obedient servants; to not lower our spirituality standards. However, we cannot do it alone because we are weak and sinful. Send Your Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and fortitude. May our prayers of praise rise to you like incense. May the body and blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, which we will receive shortly, remove any darkness preventing us from following your commandments. May we always live in communion with the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

[1] Sirach 15:20

[2] Matthew 22:40

[3] 1 Corinthians 2:

[4] https://freestoriesforkids.com/audiostories/american-english/proudest-parents-short-audio-story-narrated-american-english

[5] John 14:15

[6] Luke 22:42

[7] Matthew 7;21

[8] Matthew 12:50