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The Ascension of the Lord

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension. In most dioceses around the country, today is not a Holy Day of obligation. For most, this feast will be celebrated this Sunday. If you are in a diocese or archdiocese where the Holy Day of obligation has been retained, you get to go to Mass today!

The Ascension may be the most under-celebrated feast of the Church year. But the Ascension is vital to our faith. Why? Well, first let me quote Pope Benedict XVI. He writes, “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God…we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him.” In essence, Christ’s bodily ascension is the model for our spiritual ascension.

The Ascension also opened the door to the Holy Spirit’s coming. Remember, in John 16:7 Jesus said, “For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” You see, Jesus could have stayed and ruled forever on the earth. But that was not the Father’s plan. The sending of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of God’s plan. And not just some old blueprint stuffed away in some file cabinet. But God’s plan for your life. Jesus told his disciples to rejoice that He was going. And so today should be a day of rejoicing for us. So rejoice! Jesus has taken His place at the right hand of the Father!

Father, we thank you for the Ascension of our Lord, who now sits at your right hand. Let us rejoice, knowing that the time will come when we, too, will join Him with You in heaven. Amen.

Today’s Readings

 

Finding God

Today in our first reading from Acts 17, we see Paul giving one of his great speeches, this time to the Greeks in the Areopagus. More on his message in a moment. In the Gospel reading from John 16, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, telling the Apostles, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”

Paul had seen an altar inscribed, “To an Unknown God.” Paul seizes the opportunity to tell his Greek listeners about the one true God, who made heaven and earth. He says to them, “so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.” I love the word used in the New American translation of “grope.” Have you ever felt that you were groping for God? Those times when all seems dark and you know that God is around somewhere, you just can’t seem to find him in the darkness?

Paul tells his listeners that indeed, God is not far from any one of us. It is sometimes very hard for us to remember that God is always near. I think that even during those times where we drift away from God, He remains near to us. It’s just that our backs are turned, or we’re just not looking for Him at all. And when we are seeking Him but just can’t seem to find Him, it is our lack of vision. So often we cannot see through our own woundedness. We can be blinded by our pain. But rest assured that God is always near. Keep groping. You’ll find Him.

Father, thank you for always being near to us. Help us to open our eyes to see you more clearly, especially in those times where we are blindly groping for you. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Are You Convicted?

Another jailbreak in our first reading today from Acts 16. Today God uses a mighty earthquake to break the chains of Paul and Silas. And the happenings after the jailbreak are amazing! Be sure to check it out. For our Gospel reading, we’re back in John 16, as Jesus speaks more about the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says of the Spirit, “He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and comdemnation.” Every now and again (OK, way more often that I am comfortable with), the Holy Spirit gives me what I call a Conviction Notice. A Conviction Notice is when I am convicted about bad thoughts, bad behavior, etc. You know – sin. Sometimes these Conviction Notices come when I am in silent prayer. Other times they come through other people. Never are they easy to accept.

It strikes me that these days the Holy Spirit really faces an uphill battle when it comes to convicting the world in regard to sin. Seems that sin is a concept that has become passe. It used to be that people actually believed in the concept of sin – that things we do can actually offend God. With the rise of moral relativism, not only is sin as a reality on the way out, you had dare not speak of sin! How dare you tell someone what is or isn’t a sin. Don’t be so judgmental! Let me tell you something, my friend. Sin still exists. God is still offended. Are we convicted? Have you been convicted?

Father, we thank you for convicting us of our sins. Help us to follow in the path of righteousness that You have set out for us. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Follow us on our pilgrimage to Spain and Portugal on Seize the Day, weekday mornings on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM 129!

On Listening

In Acts 16 today, Paul and Luke find themselves in the city of Thyatira, where they meet a woman named Lydia. More on that encounter in a moment. In the Gospel from John 15, Jesus talks about sending the Advocate, the Spirit of truth. He says, “I have told you this so that you may not fall away.” Even with the coming persecutions, the Holy Spirit would keep them strong.

Lydia was “a worshiper of God.” As she listened to Paul, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.” What an interesting concept, this notion of the Lord opening her heart. Of course, the Lord is God, so He can always open our hearts. But don’t we play a part in all this, too? I think the key here comes from what Lydia was doing just before the Lord opened her heart. She was listening.

How wonderful it would be if more people in the world were better listeners. I think this is a skill that is all but lost these days. We are all so hell-bent on being heard that we seldom listen. But I believe that God rarely opens our hearts when we’re talking. It is only when we are listening that we become open to hearing God. That’s when the real heart-opening can really take place. Have you ever heard the old axiom: God gave us two ears and one mouth and He wants us to use them in those proportions. How true.

Father, help us today to be better listeners. Help us to listen to one another, listen to your Word and allow you to open our hearts today. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Good listening skills are a hallmark of a Magnetic Christian. In the chapter on Friendliness, listening is a key point. Get a copy of Magnetic Christianity today at www.GusLloyd.com.

Jesus Revealed

In today’s Gospel reading from John 14, Jesus says, “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

We know that Jesus is God. And that God can do whatever God wants to do. So Jesus can reveal Himself to anyone, even those who hate Him. Take a look at Saul of Tarsus. He was a persecutor of Jesus, yet Jesus revealed Himself to him and he became the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

Take another look at what Jesus said in today’s reading. If you love Jesus, He will reveal Himself to you. I hope you’ve found that Jesus has revealed Himself to you in many different ways. In the Eucharist, chiefly. But we find Jesus in the  Word, in the poor, in people and situations that He sends to us all the time. Our eyes and hearts and minds must be open to those revelations. When they are, I believe we’ll see Him more and more.

Father, we thank you for Jesus revealing Himself to us. May we be open to new revelations of His presence always. Amen.

Today’s Readings

 

You are Hated

Jesus spoke often about love. It’s kind of what He was all about. But today we hear Him speak of hate. And not just generically, but very specifically. He tells the disciples, “Because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”

The Christian band DC Talk has a song called “We All Wanna Be Loved.” How true that is. We do all want to be loved. It is part of our DNA. Our deepest desire is to be loved. Conversely, none of us wants to be hated. It is a repugnant thought, isn’t it? And yet, by virtue of the fact that we are followers of Christ, we are hated. This has always been the case, still is today, and will be until Christ returns.

Many times we so strongly don’t want to be hated that we will do anything not to be. Which means we capitulate to the whims of the world. We set our values aside and go along with the world. Big mistake! I hope we can reach the point where it is much more important to be faithful to God than it is to not be hated by the world. Because last time I checked, the judgement of the world doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Father, we know that we will be hated by the world. Help us to stop caring what the world thinks, and to start caring more about what You think. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Today Michelle and I and Fr. Leo Patalinghug begin a pilgrimage to Spain and Portugal. Follow our adventures on Seize the Day on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM 129 weekday mornings from 7:30-10 a.m. eastern time. And pray for us!

Love One Another

In the Gospel reading today from John 15, Jesus reiterates the new commandment He gave to the Apostles. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? The new commandment, wrapped up in three words. Love one another.

He goes on to say, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Too often, love is a four-letter word. It sounds so easy on paper. And sure, Jesus was able to do it. After all, He is the Son of God. Of course He loves everyone. But if you think about it, Jesus had every reason and every opportunity not to love plenty of folks. He was persecuted, falsely accused, laughed at, walked away from, even abandoned by those closest to Him.

But Jesus wasn’t all about Jesus. He was about you. And me. And every other precious soul that He, the Author of Life, created. Another great reminder that love isn’t about what we get. It is about what we give. Jesus gave His life; every fiber of His being. For you. And me. And everybody else who ever was, is and is to come. Can we do any less?

Father, forgive us for those times when we fail to love one another, for any reason. Teach us selflessness, that we might truly give of ourselves, as Jesus did for us. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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Jesus’ Joy, Our Joy

In today’s first reading from Acts 15, we see that the early Church was hierarchical. There was a dispute about whether the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic laws in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas knew that this was not a matter that could be settled on a local level. This involved the teaching of the Church. So they went to Jerusalem to consult with the Apostles. The Pope (Peter) and the bishops (the Apostles) rendered their decision. And the whole of Christianity was bound by this teaching. That same teaching body still exists today in the Magisterium.

In the Gospel reading from John 15, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Joy is a funny thing. It can be difficult to define. It is not the same as happiness, though they are certainly similar. But happiness can be fleeting and superficial. I think that joy goes much deeper than happiness.

It may be impossible to feel happiness in times of great distress, trial or struggles. These are the times that try our very souls. And yet, as we have seen with many of the great spiritual masters down through the ages, we can experience great joy during these times. Because joy is less about us and more about God. Joy can only come when we have a complete trust and confidence that God will take care of us.

Father, help us to remain in Jesus’ love, that we might have complete confidence, and that His joy might become our joy. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Spiritual Horticulture

In our first reading today from Acts 15, we see more controversy in the early Church about whether or not new believers needed to be circumcised. To settle the matter, Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to bring the matter to the Apostles. Why? Because the hierarchy needed to decide the matter. In today’s Gospel reading from John 15, we hear Jesus say, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”This gives us a good opportunity to meditate a bit today on horticulture, and how well this saying of Jesus relates to us.

Have you ever tended plants, particularly vines? They are interesting. You can hack away at the outer branches, but the vine is still able to put out new growth. But once the branch is cut off from the vine, it is finished. Done. Kaput. Jesus talks about this relationship in John 15. But there is another aspect of the vine and the branches, one that I have noticed in the plants that I have tended, and one that I think is relevant to this conversation.

If you partially cut a branch, it can still live. There is certainly damage done. And the branch is not as robust and healthy as it was before the cut. But it will survive and, in time, grow back and become healthy again. I believe this is how our relationship with God is. Each time we sin, we nick the branch. It is not cut off completely, but damage is done. And if you keep chipping away, eventually the damage becomes irrepairable. But if you stop nicking the branch (read: repent and stop sinning), then healing begins and wholeness becomes possible again.

Father, we’re sorry for those times that we chip away at our relationship with Jesus by sinning. Help us to repent and experience healing and wholeness. Amen.

Today’s Readings

Peace and Hardships

Today in our readings, we see one of the great paradoxes of our faith. In the first reading, we hear Paul and Barnabas telling the people, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Not a real popular message, I’m sure. In the Gospel reading from John 14, Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

One may readily assume that these two concepts are mutually exclusive. Peace. Hardship. Like oil and water. The two don’t coexist, right? If you have hardship, you don’t have peace. And if you have peace, you must not have hardship. Right? Well, not necessarily. Now, this can certainly be the case. And I think for most, it indeed is the mindset. But in those who are truly in tune with the Spirit, like many of the great saints, we see that the two can coexist.

This is one thing that I, for one, admire greatly in people. Have you ever met someone who seems to have such peace, even in the midst of some of the worst storms life has to offer? These are people who know what it means to trust God; to believe that He truly is in control. Acts today lets us know that hardships are not something that is negotiable. They’re coming; on that we can bank. The peace part is really up to us. It is there for the taking. We just need to trust and believe to find it.

Father, help us to bear the hardships that will inevitably come our way. Give us the faith and trust in Jesus that brings peace in the midst of the hardships. Amen.

Today’s Readings

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