Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Choose Your Outlook

Unlike some things in life, we can choose our outlook.  Sometimes we just need a reminder that happiness can often simply be a result of choosing attitudes:

"I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes midnight.  I have responsibilities to fulfill today.  My job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have.

"Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

"Today I can feel sad that I don't have more money or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

"Today I can grumble about my health or I can rejoice that I am alive.

"Today I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

"Today I can cry because roses have thorns or I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

"Today I can mourn my lack of friends or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

"Today I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

"Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.

"Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or I can feel honored because God has provided shelter for my mind, body, and soul.

"Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped.  And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.  What today will be like is up to me.

"I get to choose what kind of day I will have!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with dread and fear.  Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as arise, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them.  He has guided and guarded you thus far in life. Hold fast to His dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all trials.  Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in His arms.  Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow.  The same Eternal Father who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and every day of your life.  Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you the unfailing strength to bear it.  Be At peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.

Saint Francis de Sales

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Each of us must know in our minds and believe in our hearts that even though we are different, you are like me and I am like you. 

One of the definitions of humility is having an awareness of one's own character defects. To recognize and acknowledge that one has imperfections is being humble. We should never pray for ourselves unless by doing so it would help another person. To have self-importance puts self-first and this is not humble. We each have strengths and we each have weaknesses. Both the strengths and weaknesses are sacred. Life is sacred. We learn sacred things from weaknesses also. Therefore, all lives are developed through trial and error, strength and weakness, ups and downs, gains and losses - all of these are part of life and life is sacred. May the Holy Spirit let us see and know about the sacredness of life.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the second part of today’s gospel, Luke 4:14- 21, we hear St Luke’s account of Jesus launching his mission to the world.  Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, he travelled to “Nazareth, where he had grown up” and he walked into the local synagogue for an ordinary Sabbath service as he did every Sabbath day.  There, in the presence of his family, friends and neighbors, Jesus took up the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).  We will hear the response of the people of Nazareth in next Sunday’s gospel. 

As I reflected on this reading, it occurred to me that Nazareth was an unlikely place to launch a global movement.  It was Mary’s home town and is where the annunciation occurred.  However, during the time of Roman occupation, it probably was nothing more than a small agricultural village of no significance.  This possibly is why Nathanael would exclaim, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  Contrast this launch with say Apple’s launch of the iPhone.  When the iPhone was introduced at a San Francisco conference in 2007, it was a global sensation.  When the phone was released six months later, thousands of people lined up for days outside Apple Stores to purchase the newest breakthrough in telecommunications.  All the stores ran out of stock within hours of opening. 

The message Jesus delivered to the people of Nazareth was far more profound than the launch of the iPhone although only a handful of people heard him.  Jesus brought a message of healing, hope and freedom. He called upon the people of Nazareth and he calls upon us to be people of transformation.  We too are anointed to bring the good news to people who are poor, captives, blind and oppressed.  It is our job to proclaim the Kingdom of God and a year “acceptable to the Lord.”  After several thousand years, Jesus’ message is still relevant.  The mission statement has not changed.  I wonder where the iPhone will be in 2000 years.   

Lord God, 
whose compassion embraces all peoples, 
whose law is wisdom, freedom, and joy for the poor, 
fulfil in our midst your promise
that we may receive the gospel of salvation with faith
and, anointed by the Spirit, freely proclaim it.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God for ever and ever.

Spirituality is ...

“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test.  It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy.  Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection.  The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives.  Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.  Spirituality in not about being fixed; it is about God's being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Michael Yaconelli

Friday, January 25, 2019

Am I a Polar Bear?

A young polar bear cub approached his mother one day and asked, "Mom, am I a polar bear?"
"Of course you are," she replied with a smile.
"OK," said the cub, and padded off.

Later, he found his dad out by the iceberg. "Dad, am I a polar bear?"
"Sure you are, son!" said his dad, wondering a bit at why his son would ask such a silly thing.

The next day, the cub asked the question again and again.
"Are you and mom polar bears?  You are?  Well, then, does that make me a polar bear?  Pure, 100% polar bear?"

Finally, his parents couldn't stand it any longer.  "Son, you're driving us crazy with this question!  You are a polar bear!  Why do you keep asking?
The cub looked up and confessed, "Cause I'm FREEZING!"

And then there's me.  Sometimes I go to my Father, and I say, "Am I really your child?  Are you really my Father?  Because sometimes I doubt, and other times, I don't act much like you.  And I'm not sure if I'm the kind of person you would want to call your child.  And sometimes things don't go well for me, and I have pain and anger and is that ok for one of your children?"  And then, though I can't see it, I can feel it -- the warm hug, the reassuring smile, the affirmation of son-ship.  I don't have to be perfect, I'm not expected to never feel pain or worry or care.  But I'm expected to know whose I am, and that I belong.  And that for whatever extravagant, outrageous reason, I've been loved and adopted by the One True God.

Even polar bears get cold.  And even Christians, the adopted children of God, fail and fear and falter.  But we are still His.

Praise God!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Two Dogs

There is a story they tell of two dogs. Both at separate times walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling. A women watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so sad. To her surprise, she finds a room filled with mirrors. The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back to him. What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Is Church Attendance Important?

A pastor heard that one of his parishioners was going about announcing to one and all that he would no longer attend church services.  This rebellious parishioner was advancing the familiar argument that he could communicate with God just as easily out in the fields with nature as his setting for worship.

One winter evening, the pastor called on this reluctant member of his flock for a friendly visit. The two men sat before the fireplace making small talk, but studiously avoiding the issue of church attendance. After a while, the pastor took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth. As the two watched in silence, the coal quickly ceased burning and turned an ashen gray, while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly.

The pastor's silent message was not lost on the parishioner. After a long pause, he turned to the pastor and said "I'll be back at services next Sunday."

From "The Sower's Seeds" by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R

A Prayer of Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.  
We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything 
to reach the end without delay. 
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way

 to something unknown, something new;
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you,
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parable of the Black Belt

A parable tells about a martial artist who kneels before a master sensei in a ceremony to receive the hard-earned Black Belt.  After

years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a pinnacle of achievement in the discipline.

"Before granting the belt, you must pass one more test," the sensei solemnly tells the young man.

"I'm ready," responds the student, expecting perhaps one more round of sparring.

"You must answer the essential question: What is the true meaning of the Black Belt?"

"Why, the end of my journey," says the student. "A well-deserved reward for my hard work."

The master waits for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied.  The sensei finally speaks: "You are not ready for the Black Belt. Return in one year."

As the student kneels before his master a year later, he is again asked the question, "What is the true meaning of the Black Belt?"

"It is a symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our art," the young man responds.

Again the master waits for more. Still unsatisfied, he says once more: "You are not ready for the Black Belt. Return in one year."

A year later the student kneels before his sensei and hears the question, "What is the true meaning of the Black Belt?"

This time he answers, "The Black Belt represents not the end, but the beginning, the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work and the pursuit of an ever higher standard."

"Yes," says the master. "You are now ready to receive the Black Belt and begin your work."

You may not be hoping for a Black Belt, but you might be at a crucial point. Maybe you're facing a life change, perhaps even a painful one.  Or maybe you are awaiting something you have worked hard to attain - graduation, a new job, a promotion, or even retirement.

All wise people see that changes can be new beginnings. Change need not be feared. And neither should we be looking for a permanent resting place, for a full and happy life is never stagnant.

Does the change you face represent, not just an ending, but a new beginning in your life's journey?  If so, you may be ready to move forward.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Moving Beyond Ourselves

Love immediately challenges me to break the fixation I have with myself.  
~ John Powell, S.J.

Self-absorption can become habitual, and it's a seductive pastime.  "How do I look?"  "Was my response articulate?"  "Is my wit impressive?"  It's all too easy to block out the presence of others except for the purpose of comparison to ourselves.  And blocking out their presence robs us of the many lessons they've come to teach us.

The ego is fragile only in proportion to the amount of undue attention we give it.  And assuredly we cripple it by the focus we mistakenly believe nurtures its growth.  Far better for the health of our ego to love and encourage the well being of a friend's ego.

The more we move beyond ourselves, the greater will be our personal peace and security.  Happiness is the natural by-product of favoring another with loving attention.

From “Worthy of Love” by Karen Casey

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Golf Balls and Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.  A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.

“Now,'“ said the professor, as the laughter subsided,  “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions.  Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.  The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. 


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your partner out to dinner.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping faucet.  Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter.  Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.  “I'm glad you asked”.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some of the most joyous events in the life of a parish are weddings.  We all rejoice when couples come together to declare their love and fidelity to each other in the sacrament of marriage.  They promise to be true to each other in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health and they promise to love and honor each other all the days of their lives.  God makes similar promises to us repeatedly throughout scripture.  God says, “With age-old love I have loved you” (Jeremiah 31:3).  God made a covenant of love with us that was fully revealed when “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 John 4:9). The bonds of this love are so powerful that St. Paul tells us, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

The unfailing and eternal love that God has for us is described all through scripture in terms of marriage. And the kingdom of God often is described as a wedding feast.  So, it is not surprising that Jesus’ first public miracle or sign, transforming water into wine, takes place at a wedding feast.  This miracle demonstrates in a very graphic way the infinite generosity of God and the abundance of God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ miracle is an extraordinarily generous gift.  He did not change a few bottles of water into wine.  He changed over 100 gallons of water into wine – enough to meet all the needs of the wedding party.  And this is our challenge.

St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, that God gives each of us spiritual gifts that we are supposed to use to build the kingdom.  Just as Jesus was generous in sharing his gifts, so we are called to be generous in sharing our gifts in the service of God. 

Faithful and loving God,
your Son Jesus shared with ordinary people
in the joy of a marriage feast.
Set for us the table and pour for us
the delightful wine of your covenant,
bring us close to you and to one another
and warm our hearts with your own love.
Make us your faithful stewards,
ready to do whatever Jesus tells us.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Spiritual Life is Natural

Conscious Contact!  Coming into what is clearly a spiritual program, we may have been fearful that our own unworthiness would hold us back.  We may have believed that a spiritual life and a “conscious contact” with God are reserved for a few people with saintly qualities.

What we must know is that the spiritual life is every person's right.  It includes the human qualities that have brought our greatest progress.  “The spirit of the thing” is an ordinary phrase, but it expresses the presence of a Higher Power in our lives.

What's most useful to know is that we can contact our Higher Power at any time, in any place.  This can be extremely important when we are in very bad situations.  We always have a Higher Power to pull us through and to set things right in our lives.  That's our birthright as human beings.

I'll turn to my Higher Power frequently throughout the day, if only for a few moments each time.  This will keep me on the right path.

~ From “Walk in Dry Places” by Mel B

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Love Between Imperfect People

Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it.  Hate needs no instruction, but only waits to be provoked.  ~ Katherine Anne Porter

We often enter into our relationships believing there is one perfect way to act, and if we can only find that way, we'll be successful, accepted.  But there is no such thing as one best way to be with another person.  The wonder of any relationship is that it involves two imperfect people.

Believing that perfection will ensure love is addictive thinking.  Love is a gift that must be given freely, there is nothing we can do to control someone else's choice to love us or not love us.  All we can do is our part by learning each day to love as best we can.  It may be difficult to find within ourselves such qualities as emotional maturity, separateness, honesty, forgiveness, patience, and self-respect.  But those are the very qualities we must cultivate to love someone else.

It can be frightening to trust another person enough to take risks and let go of the outcome.  But love is a risk that's worth it.

I am learning that I don't need to be perfect to be accepted and loved by others.  I'm also learning that I don't need to expect perfection from others to love and accept them.

~ From  “Answers in the Heart” by Anonymous

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Even if I can speak in all the tongues of earth—and those of the angels, too—but do not have love, I am just a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophesy such that I can comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, or if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own to feed those poorer than I, then hand over my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, and it is not snobbish; it is never rude or self-seeking; it is not prone to anger, nor does it brood over injuries. Love doesn’t rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices in the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.

Love never ends.

~ I Corinthians 13:1-8

Saturday, January 12, 2019


This is a story about four people named: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it!

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  This feast is the third in a series of divine manifestations of Jesus that we commemorate during the Christmas season.  The first is the nativity of Jesus on Christmas day, the birth of Emmanuel, God with us.  The second is the Epiphany when God revealed his plan for salvation to all the nations as represented by the Magi.  And today we see Jesus revealed as God the Father's “beloved son” in whom God is “well pleased.”

We heard the first part of today's gospel, Luke 3:15-16, four weeks ago during Advent when we focused our attention on expectation and preparation.  The people of Judea sought the messiah and they thought John the Baptist "might be the Christ."  In the text we hear today, St. Luke makes clear to us that the Christ has arrived.  And it is not John the Baptist.  The Christ is Jesus, God's son, filled with the Holy Spirit and anointed to “bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).  The time of expectation and preparation is finished.  Advent and Christmas are over.  Now the real work of Jesus Christ begins; Jesus is launched into his mission. 

With baptism, we become beloved daughters and sons of the Father.  When we receive baptism, we are launched into the mission of Christ.  At our baptism, God the Father grasps us "by the hand," and makes each of us "a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness" (Isaiah 42:6-7).  Our baptism is a lifelong commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ continuing the good work he began until he comes again in glory. 

God our Father,
with your whole people reborn in baptism
we give you thanks.
In Jesus, each of us has become
your beloved son or daughter.
Fill us with the fire of the Holy Spirit
who guided Jesus in life and death.
Let this Spirit set us free
to serve you and one another
with unselfish, grateful love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Friday, January 11, 2019

I Didn't Have Time

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day!
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me
And heavier came the task.
“Why doesn’t God help me? I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty.
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak,
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day,
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Be Still

I have noticed that the best way for me to get a few minutes of solitude at the end of the day is to start washing the dishes. And a few minutes of solitude is something I need frequently. A time to be alone. A time to reflect.

There is a difference between alone-ness and loneliness. Aloneness is necessary for the soul to thrive -- even to come alive!

German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hanged for opposing Hitler. While in prison, he wrote letters to his fiancée. The last letter she received was dated Christmas 1944. Speaking of the war that separated them, Bonhoeffer wrote this:

"These will be quiet days in our homes, but I have had the experience over and over again that the quieter it is around me, the clearer do I feel a connection to you. It is as though in solitude the soul develops senses which we hardly know in everyday life. Therefore I have not felt lonely or abandoned for one moment."

We can be alone without being lonely. In fact, those times of solitude are necessary respite for our beleaguered souls, set upon by the pressures of life. We need to take those moments to "get away" and just be still. "Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted," says Hans Margolius. "Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world."

Be still....

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Be aware of wonder.  ~ Robert Fulghum

We have days when we experience the small coincidences in life -- our car breaks down and we run into an old friend at the service station; we're thinking about someone and she calls just because we've been on her mind; we ask ourselves a question and the answer appears on the side of a bus or out of the mouth of a stranger at the bus stop. These serendipitous events usually leave us with at least a bit of awe.

The more serendipity we have in our life, the more spiritually connected we are. We're turned in, attentive, aware, and detached. We're getting responses to questions and meeting the people we need to be with at just the right moments. We couldn't have planned it better. We couldn't have planned it at all.

Serendipity is a sign that we're letting the universe organize the events that lead to answered questions and fulfilled dreams. Life becomes a process of unraveling a mystery.

Today I will recognize the serendipity in the day's events.

From “Letting Go of Debt” by Karen Casanova