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Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Vol. 49, No. 3

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs
(Lec. 450)

1) Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20
2) Luke 8:19-21

FOCUS: Living as a follower of Jesus requires loving God above all things, and living according to Jesus’ teachings.

How difficult it must have been for the Jewish people returning from exile in Babylon. They had heard stories of Jerusalem and the once-glorious Temple, but very little was left for the generations who returned. They had memories handed down from their parents and grandparents, and some writings carefully preserved. They also had a strong desire to repair, not just the Temple, but their relationship with God. They saw the destruction of Jerusalem and their exile as punishment for not being faithful to the Lord, for worshipping false Gods, and for ignoring his commandments. The Law was their key to binding themselves, as a people, to God again.

We hear a similar theme in today’s Gospel. When Jesus hears from members of the gathered crowd that his mother and brothers were waiting to see him, he says that his mother and brothers are those who follow him and live according to his commandments.

Now the question becomes, what do these words of Jesus mean for our lives? Do these words mean that the love and relationships we have with our family are unimportant? By no means. Rather, what Jesus is saying is that the first priority in our lives must always be loving God above all things and living according to his teachings. In other words, the decisions we make must be made with our eye always on him, not on what we are expected to do as a son or daughter, mother or father. The Lord’s call cuts through all human relationships.

Turning our attention back to the first reading, it is important to note that at the time the Temple was rebuilt, the Twelve Tribes of Israel were reduced to the two least significant: Judah and Benjamin. The ties of kinship that had bound Abraham’s descendants had been all but eliminated. The returning exiles found themselves in the midst of the people of the land ─ those who had not been forced into exile and had intermarried with Gentiles (who were referenced in an earlier chapter of Ezra [4]). Family ties did not bind them to the Lord. But adherence to his Law, and common worship, did bind them.

Are we willing to follow Jesus, even when it causes disruption in our families? When it puts us at odds with those who are nearest and dearest to us? The decision to follow Jesus, and to live our lives following his commandments, is the only thing that determines whether we are his disciples. Nothing, not even family loyalties, should come between us and the Lord.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest

(Lec. 451)
1) Ezra 9:5-9
2) Luke 9:1-6

Gospel related: CCC 551

FOCUS: We’re empowered by God; let’s use the abilities he gave us to share his love wherever we find ourselves today.

In the first reading we hear about Ezra. The Israelites –including their religious leaders – had intermingled with neighboring pagan communities and adopted their decadent practices. After learning of this, Ezra made a communal confession of sin and offered a prayer of repentance. While not included in today’s passage, Ezra also urged the people, in light of God’s mercy to them, to reform their lives in accordance with God’s will.

Today’s Gospel details Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles. After empowering them for their mission, he sent them to surrounding villages to drive out demons, heal the sick and preach God’s kingdom to any and all who would listen. Jesus told them to rely on God’s providence rather than their own resources.

These two readings are most appropriate on this Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul. For many, Saint Vincent’s name is synonymous with helping the poor. To this day, the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity carry on his mission to serve the poor and suffering around the world. Saint Vincent, and those joining his efforts, ministered to the imprisoned and to victims of war, poverty and slavery.

He established hospitals for those in need. In addition, Saint Vincent helped reform the lax priesthood in France by developing improved methods of formation for those preparing for ordination. He also offered retreats to nurture spiritual renewal for both clergy and laity.

Like Ezra, Vincent called priests and lay people to repent and turn back to God. Like the Apostles, he healed the sick by establishing hospitals. He drove out demons of ignorance and injustice, and preached the Good News of God’s love through his service to the poor and suffering. He used his God-given abilities to do what he could in the time and place in which he lived.

How can we respond to Jesus’ call to serve today? We don’t have to follow Jesus’ instructions to his Apostles literally. We don’t have to walk from town to town without a walking stick or beggar’s bag to heal the sick, cast out demons or preach the Good News. However, like Saint Vincent de Paul, we can use the skills and resources we each have in the here and now.

Can we donate time or money to help those in need? Can we heal a wounded heart or drive out demons of hate, fear or loneliness with a kind word or smile? Can we share the Good News of God’s love by the way we treat everyone we meet today? We aren’t called to be carbon copies of Ezra, the Apostles or Saint Vincent de Paul, but we are called to do what we can.

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Thursday September 28, 2017 Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr

(Lec. 452)
1) Haggai 1:1-8
2) Luke 9:7-9

FOCUS: Seek God at all times

Today’s Gospel reading has an example of someone interested in Jesus for all the wrong reasons. From the time Herod had heard about Jesus, he had sought him out. He did so, not because he wanted to believe that God had sent a Messiah to his people, but – because he was superstitious and jealous – he sought after Jesus’ power in order to exploit it, and Jesus, for his own use.

A similar pattern emerges among God’s people in the first reading, though the Hebrews aren’t curious about God and his power, as Herod had been. In the reading, the prophet Haggai tells the people that they are concerned only about their own comfort. During good times, they didn’t think much about God or want to bother with God. But when times were bad, the people complained that God did not hear them or help them. It was then that they thought about God and sensed his absence. They wanted God’s power only when they wanted things to be better for them.

Saint Wenceslaus and Saint Lawrence Ruiz, along with his companions, are honored today as men who saw God in the good times of their lives. They also relied on God as their help and strength when times were bad. They shared God’s truth with those around them in both good times and bad. Their love for God was so strong that they gave their lives for God and were martyred for their beliefs.

What does this mean for us? God wants a relationship with us. Do we know that God is with us in our everyday situations? Do we see Christ at work in us and through our actions? Do we rely on God only when things are not as good as we would like them to be, or do we seek him in good times as well? Our choice is simple: We can choose to have a real relationship with Christ, communicating with him regularly through prayer and daily reflection; or, we can be like Herod and the ancient Hebrews and look for God’s power only in times of need.

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1) Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or
Revelation 12:7-12a
2) John 1:47-51

FOCUS: You will see greater things than this.

For so much of our lives – even our spiritual lives – we as Christians seem to be caught up in the “nitty-gritty” of everyday life. Perhaps this is why Jesus so often used these ordinary means to show us the way to God. From the work of his fishermen and their catch of fish, to the lamp set on a table stand, to the grain that is buried to bring forth new life, Jesus teaches us through the world we inhabit every day.

Yet, today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we are invited to see beyond earth – to catch a glimpse of the heavenly realm we will only experience fully when we complete our lives on this earth. Today, we get to reflect on the glories of Jesus receiving full dominion over all of creation – in the sight of myriad angels and saints. We get to hear, with the humble Nathanael, Jesus’ promise that we will see so much more than we see now. Now beyond affirming that heaven is our true home, what can we take from these readings today?

It seems the answer can be found in focusing on the three archangels. You might say all three are “down to earth” because they have been sent to human beings as our protectors and guides. Michael is revered the world over as the protector of human beings – not only driving Satan out of heaven but keeping Satan from getting a toe-hold in our spiritual lives. Gabriel is world-famous for the astonishing news he brought to human beings – first to the doubting Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and then to the humble and obedient virgin, Mary. And Raphael, featured in the book of Tobit, brought guidance and healing to a family beset by trials and suffering.

While the saints whose feast we celebrate today are mentioned in the Bible, they are among myriad angels created not only to worship God night and day for all eternity, but to help each individual member of the human family find their way home to God. One important way that they do this is by interceding powerfully on our behalf that we might be given the grace and strength that we need to persevere in faith and keep our feet firmly planted on the right path. So remember to turn to Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, for their help and intercession. They are there for us.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
(Lec. 454)
1) Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15a
2) Luke 9:43b-45

Gospel related: CCC 554

FOCUS: We must always be aware of God’s presence in our lives.

In the first weeks of the Ignatian Exercises, one builds a toolbox of consolations that can be used to help in times of desolation or attack by the evil one. Today’s Gospel is reminiscent of Jesus’ attempt to help the Apostles in the same way.

Earlier in Luke Chapter nine, after the miracle of the loaves and fishes and Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus had given his first prediction of his passion and death, as well as the conditions of discipleship. These last two things were easy enough for the disciples to forget when things were going well and Jesus was working wonders and miracles, as when Peter, James and John were given a glimpse of Jesus’ resurrected glory as he was changed and transfigured before them. However, as we heard in today’s Gospel, Jesus brings it home again to the disciples when he mentions his imminent passion and death.

He says to the disciples, Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. By doing this, it seems that Jesus is trying to make it explicitly clear to his disciples that all the while they have seen the glorious moments of his life and work, they will also be required to witness and experience the hard times, too. It will be at these moments they will need to remember that just as they had seen God at work through Jesus in the good times, God will still work through him in the difficult times.

As disciples of Christ ourselves, we, too, are to make our own toolboxes to use in times of trouble. How do we do that exactly? One way is to be aware of the times in which God has been present in our lives. This requires reflection – spending time prayerfully thinking over where we have seen and experienced God at work in our lives. Spending time with a spiritual director who can help us identify the ways that God has touched our lives is another. Armed with these tools, we can, as “living temples,” share Christ’s light and love more fully with others.

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