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OFFER IT UP!   MONDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2016 


Now we begin week Three of our Lenten journey. How am I doing? It is important that I make time to speak with the Lord and examine my Lenten walk. Each day I spend a sufficient time in prayer and make an effort to change direction in my actions when I see how I miss the mark.  

 

Have I really entered into the spirit of Lent and made an appropriate effort to be aware of God's call to holiness? There are so many ways I fail to live in that awareness of all that God is. Being grateful for the blessings of the Lord is so vital for growth in being all God created me to be. 

 

I say the words, my head reminds me of all those words which express my belief. But they become so easily spoken that they too often become mere sounds that beat the air and are devoid of real meaning. I become too often like the fig tree the owner of the Garden ordered be cut down because it did NOT produce fruit. 

 

I ask for mercy and help to become a fruitful branch on the vine. Each day can be an opportunity to get to know Jesus. Not about Him but to know Him.  

 

Will you pick up the Gospels and take time to get to know Him? 

 

Read the Scriptures today. 

Pray for Me... 

Deacon



OFFER IT UP!   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2016


“Leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit next year, if not, then you can cut it down.” This is the response of the gardener to the master in the parable of the fig tree that did not produce three years in a row. (Luke 13:1-9)  Each day that we awake and arise is another day that has been given to us as an opportunity to bear fruit for The Master. God’s love is…  it is that simple!  It is!  

 

Just as He told Moses in Exodus 3:13-14, after Moses had asked Him, “Whom shall I say has sent me?” and He responded, “I AM”, His Love, therefore, IS. Something we as Christians, must internalize is that in order to grow and become fruitful in His Love—in Him—we must first repent of our sins. This repentance opens up our hearts to God’s graces, which in turn opens our minds to the in-flow of the Holy Spirit’s Wisdom.  

 

Compare this to the tree the gardener called up on God to save, in Luke 13:8-9). The gardener knowing that the fertilizer will allow the tree to grow fruit, even after a long period of time of being barren is key! In this example, Jesus calls us to know that the Word is that nourishment! As long as the tree is not dead, it has the opportunity to accept the nourishment, just as we, while breathing and living in this world have the opportunity to listen to and accept God’s Word.  

 

The nourishment then begins to permeate our “roots” and we have the opportunity to begin allowing it to flow through us. We have the opportunity to begin to “green out” and “bud out” in new growth. As a result of our openness to that nourishment, we bear fruit that is pleasing to Him.  

 

Lord, help me to be open to Your Word and allow Your Spirit to flow through me, helping me produce abundant fruit. On the day You come to collect, may I stand before You with a full harvest of abundant goodness sown and reaped for and through You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2016


God welcomes us back to Him, every time we look to him and return to him, in spite of our human imperfections and the strong possibility that we will turn away, yet again. This is something that is beyond our human condition and comprehension. This is something called “unconditional love”.  In Luke 15;1-24, Jesus shares the well-known parable of the “prodigal son”. This is not some “feel-good” story. Rather it is THE exemplification of how The Father is, in context of something we might understand.  

 

While it is an example we can/should strive for, by telling the story, Jesus wants us to understand and know the extent of the Father’s love. Some key points of the parable that give us hope are: 1) God wants us back, every time we selfishly turn away from Him; 2) when we return to Him, beaten, battered, tired and worn, stumbling towards Him, He runs to us and embraces us each and every time; 3) He desires our embrace and response, not just words; 4) even though He understands our imperfections that caused us to stray in the first place, He restores us to fullness to Him in our hearts and minds, as if we never left. These are elements of unconditional love.  

 

Such love is not piecemeal, it contains all of these. The fifth element is, perhaps the most amazing: He is there for us, simply awaiting the growing “pinpoint” of our walk towards home, from the horizon. To begin that walk, and grow larger (in His sight and, ultimately presence) we must first realize that we can “do better” in our Father’s Presence—His House. Then, we must minimally, know we have made mistakes—we sin.  This allows us to take those first steps. Then, we must strive to remain in His Light, loving and appreciating Him for His unconditional love!  

 

Lord, help me to grow toward You by the challenges I face, knowing that You, simply are there for me, if I but journey back. May I love You and strive to exemplify that love.  J.O.Y. 

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2016


Joseph sold into Egypt by his brothers! The parable of the tenants who killed the owner’s agents who came for the produce at harvest time! These can serve as reminders of our pettiness and ourselves so very often. Even ‘Dad loves you more than me!’ Ever heard something similar?  

 

We can be so wrapped up in our own ego and bent on our own wants, we can't see clearly and often make the most ignorant assertions.Here we are in this wondrous vast universe, this creation that hold so much to fulfill us completely, to enable us to come to the conclusion of how we are loved beyond our wildest dreams. Yet, we become enamored with the gifts and are oblivious of the Giver.

 

As I spend time in prayer I come to know in faith the wonder of God revealed in Jesus. Then I become distracted and fall in love with the wonders of His creation, loving the gifts and too frequently failing to show gratitude to the Giver.As each day comes to a conclusion and I look back at the last hours, I am taken aback at my easy absorption with my own ego needs.

 

I am invited to love and invariably, I seek to be loved and fulfill my own wants rather than to reach out in love to those I encounter and whom God allows me to see an opportunity to serve.

 

Lord have mercy!  Teach me Your way of love.

Deacon




OFFER IT UP!   THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2016


Our season of Lent is deepening. How has it begun for us? As we meditate on today's Scripture offerings in our liturgy, we walk with Jeremiah and are asked to observe the desert plant struggling to maintain life. A plant has no choice of where it finds itself, but in the Gospel, we find a similar story involving humans who have a choice.

 

Dives, the rich man, is enjoying the good things of life in abundance and ignoring Lazarus who is suffering in need at his doorstep. Even the dogs come to lick his sores. However, both die and enter life anew. Lazarus at the side of Abraham, Dives finds himself suffering intensely in the netherworld. 

 

‘Help!’ cries Dives in his suffering, ‘send Lazarus with thirst quenching water.’  

‘Can't’ says Abraham, ‘there is a wide chasm preventing us from crossing to you or you and others from reach us.’ 

‘Send help then to my brothers, warn them of what is  to come,’ says Dives.

 

I think at some level, most of us get the message. But, down deep do we really? Do we listen to the one who has Risen from the dead and who longs for us to know and trust the love God has for all of us and each of us? Lent is a time for us to look with sincerity, honesty into our lives and be willing to admit our inadequacies, our sins, our lack of love. It’s a time for consideration for those who are not so blessed as we are, and to be wiling to quench their thirst for the necessities of life, for recognition of their dignity as human persons created in God's likeness. It is a question each of us are being urged to reflect on in prayer and act on in our daily walk with Christ.

 

I urge you to read and reread the Scriptures for today. Jeremiah;17:5-10; Psalm 1;  Luke 16: 19-31. 

What am I failing to see? To hear? To do?

Deacon




OFFER IT UP!   WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016


Jesus proposed something that changed (reversed) the “order of thinking” in regards to what leadership is. He proposed that if you want to be great, then become a servant of others. To be first means that you must become slave, rather than master (Matthew 20:25-27). 

 

This statement was made in the aftermath of the mother of James and John (and, the two Apostles themselves) approaching Jesus, seeking a place of honor, at His throne, for each of them (Matthew 20:20-23). It was traditional for rulers to place their “second-in-command”, one at their right hand and one at their left, when assuming the throne. So when Jesus predicted for the third time that He would be handed over to suffer and die, making reference (again) to the fact that He is the Son of Man and that he would rise from the dead to return to the Throne of God, a “power play” was made.  

 

How typical it is, even among those of us who claim to believe and know that Jesus is God’s Son, to allow the distraction of power to overcome us! How often do we do the same thing, jockeying for the best position to be placed or served first? Then, when the other Apostles realize what was going on, they became indignant (Matthew 20:24). It was at this point that Jesus realized He needed to put a stop to the distraction. He needed them (and us) to focus on the sole fact that God (He) came to earth to show us how to live in full servant-hood to God’s ways—knowing that the only way we might understand (in our stubbornness) is through His total sacrifice of self. He clearly stated, in vs 28, “…..the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve….”  

 

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:23-24, understood this when he said, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.”  

 

Lord Jesus, make me a servant of You and love for Your Kingdom! You asked James and John if they could “drink from Your cup”. Give us each strength to answer, “We are able”, with full understanding of service to/in You! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2016


It seems to be “wired” into our human condition to desire some form of recognition from others. We want others to see our “good side”, not just from a “physical beauty” sense, but our strengths and weaknesses and in our achievements. In reading the Word of God, though, we are constantly reminded that we are called to be humble in the presence of God! One such reminder comes from the prophet, Isaiah. 

 

In Isaiah 10, he warns the revelers of Sodom and Gomorrah to humbly listen and submit to God’s teaching. He says, in 10:17, “….learn to do good and cease from evil.” As the prophet continues, he makes it clear that, though we are sinners, God is willing to wash us clean, if we but have true and repentant hearts and offer Him our full selves. 

 

Jesus, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s willingness to bring us to salvation, offers the same to us, as He describes, to His disciples, how they must serve each other with humility and sincerity, rather than pride and self-glorification/promotion.  In Matthew 23:1-12 He points to the actions of the religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees. He reminds us that they are learned and understand the premise of God’s Word. But, His warning comes out of concern that leaders, in their blindness often do not “practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3). He goes on to share with His disciples that we must be careful to put God first! 

 

The sacrifices, fasting, and rule-tending are means to focus on God, but are not intended to be the “end result”. The end result is to be servants of God and of His Ways—we are to serve each other in this Kingdom, in the way we’ve been called.  He admonishes that we have but one teacher: Jesus Christ. All of salvations History leads to Him—it is that simple. So, yes, leaders have a place, but their leadership is not “about them”.  

 

Lord, Your servant leadership is the example and path to salvation!  May we model Your humility and service in word and deed.  J.O.Y.

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2016 


So how was your Second Sunday of Lent? How speedily the days drift by. We are sped from the temptations of Jesus to the mount of Transfiguration so quickly.  

 

I wonder how each of us would be able to tell the story of Jesus so well that it would grasp the heart of the listener? If my encounter with Jesus is simply an hour each Sunday, listening briefly to the gospels, what and how would I respond to someone who asked me who Jesus is and ask me to introduce them to Him? 

 

As we continue through Lent will we make the effort to daily seek to encounter Jesus the Christ more intimately so that we can really be able to live as one, who in faith are being transformed? Who will be transformed with us?

 

We are offered this season of Lent to make time for the Lord. Daily to sit in a quiet place live with the Gospels and really enter into relationship with Jesus. Can you imagine sitting with Him, conversing with Him about your deepest concerns? No one loves you more, no one longs for or desires your presence more than Our Lord. Perhaps like me, you too often wonder if this is so as doubts about what is said in religious discussions arise. Can we be silent and know that God is God?  

 

In our noisy world it will take determination to find a really quiet place, and let the distractions simply drift by unattended to. Go for it! 

Find the Joy of freeing yourself in Christ!

Deacon



OFFER IT UP!   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2016


As Christians, we must regularly consider and reflect upon our experiences and encounters with Jesus. We must seek to see these experiences, whether in moments of Joy and success or trials and tribulations. These experiences must be looked upon, perhaps categorizing each into times when Jesus has been 1) friend; 2) protector; and/or 3) forgiver. Any period (or moment) of our lives can be looked upon where He is one (or a combination) of these roles.  

 

In reading Luke 9:28-35, we read about an experience that Peter, James, and John had, with Jesus, on the mountaintop. This moment is known as the Transfiguration. It describes them on the mountain, praying together as they went to do. While praying, these disciples noticed that Jesus face changed and His clothing became dazzling, brilliantly white. They were amazed, perhaps entranced, at this sight. Then, while this was occurring, they witnessed two men, Moses and Elijah, appearing gloriously with Jesus, speaking to Him of His Sacrifice which He would be experiencing in Jerusalem.  

 

Immediately, Peter (who always seemed to speak first and boldly) said, “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here, so let us make three shelters, one for You, Moses, and Elijah.”  While he was speaking, God’s voice boomed from a cloud that covered them, saying, “This is My Son, the Chosen One. Listen to Him.”  

 

This account is relevant to us, today. It is the Glory of God demonstrating itself in the past, the present, and the future—the eternity! It is an invitation to participate in God’s full and eternal glory, both on earth and in the Kingdom, forever! God’s presence is not momentary and we cannot build a monument to any singular moment of that realization. Rather, we must dwell in His Glory EVERY moment.  

 

Lord, give us the Grace and Wisdom to experience and receive Your Glory in every moment of our lives, joyful or tearful!  Jesus, Only You! 

Paul B 




OFFER IT UP!   SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2016 


“You must, therefore, be perfect, just as your Heavenly father is perfect.” Jesus tells us this, as recorded in Matthew 5:48. Knowing that our human condition is something that is not perfect, due to the presence of sin—the interference and distraction of man’s will and desire—we must strive to maintain in His strength/wisdom. We must reconcile ourselves to the understanding that we will fall short, but must not give up. Living in the Love that Christ modeled/proclaimed is difficult, but it is not impossible if we set our sights on God—using Jesus, His Son, as our inspiration.  

 

Prior to expressing His desire for our “perfection”, in Matthew. 5:43-47, Jesus reminds His disciples that the human tendency is to “love your neighbors, but hate your enemies.” Then He clearly states the opposite, calling them (in v. 44) to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The act of praying for those toward whom we hold ill feelings (due to real or perceived injustices toward us), while a challenge, is a true cleansing moment when done in true sincerity  It is the first step in true forgiveness, which Jesus had just finished a discourse on.  

 

One cannot truly offer forgiveness to another without having “conversed” with God, seeking His wise, Fatherly counsel. Why do we pray for those who have “wronged” us? It is simple: so that we may be Children of God in Heaven (v 45). We believe and know that we are His Children, but as with any relationship, He calls us to be the best we can be and to strive to maintain that. We seek (or should seek) to be around people whom we make better and who make us better. Here, we learn that a relationship with Him WILL make us better.  

 

Lord, You know that in our human condition, we will slip. Thank you for the strength to get back up, each time, and the guidance given, in Your Word and Example, to imitate what You desire from Us. Lead me, Lord. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2016


As we walk this Lenten journey, prayer becomes an anchor for the journey. We began on Ash Wednesday to seek God's touch as we were reminded that we are His that we were formed from dust and to dust we shall return. Or, we were reminded to repent and believe in the Gospel.

 

Today we continue our walk and we ponder the words of the prophet Ezekiel who reminds us the sinful man or woman who turns from sin and leads a virtuous life will be saved...while the virtuous one who take the path of wrongdoing will die. Life or death for all eternity; that is what is at stake. 

 

You are CHOSEN, you are a child of the most High God, you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ who lives, who is risen from the dead is King of Kings and Lord of ALL. What does that mean to you? What stirs in your soul, your being, your heart when you pray OUR FATHER? Abba!  

 

Too often I find the words tumbling from lips that are at a complete disconnect from the rest of my being. I am not present to God, I am not fully aware of His closeness. Sadly, I am sometimes preoccupied with considerations that often should be laid aside for my encounter with love itself. Each day becomes a new encounter with the struggle to practice the presence of God who is always as near as each breath.

 

As I grow in awareness of God's ever closeness, I also grow in understanding the need to seek to love in all circumstances, to learn to be merciful and forgiving seventy times seven times. 

 

Are we chosen? To be given each day is to strive to live as one He has chosen.

Deacon



OFFER IT UP!   THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2016


As we begin the Lenten season it is an opportune time to reflect on the daily offerings of the Word of God. Today, in this Year of Mercy we listen to the Word and are nudged to reflect on prayer. In the first reading at today's Liturgy of the Word we are reminded of Esther’s pray in time of need for courage. In the Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to pray, to ask, to seek, to knock and we will be heard and responded to.

 

Prayer. What is your concept of prayer? What were you taught about prayer; what has experience enabled you to discover about prayer? How would you define prayer? Some thoughts concerning prayer… first, prayer is consciously engaging in conversation with our God. I suspect too often we may look at prayer as a means of simply asking God to solve some difficulty, to eliminate some problem, something satisfying our EGO needs.

 

I rather imagine prayer begins with gratitude, turning to our Father in the realization that we are totally loved and cared for beyond our wildest imaginings. So we turn to God, to Jesus, to the Spirit and we praise the Triune God... Give Glory to God who is our all.

 

In prayer we enter into Relationship, as we truly go to school in prayer we grow in faith, the light of grace sheds light into our minds and hearts as we are being transformed by love. Today each of us can if we will, make time to sit still in the wonder of God's love.

 

Find a quiet place. Sit in silence, and allow all that might distract to float past us and wait on the Lord. His presence will surely bring peace. His love will speak if He wills. We wait, we obey, we give thanks.  


Praise God from whom all that is good comes. 

Deacon



OFFER IT UP!   WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2016


How often do we look for “signs”? Humans study the changes in atmosphere and make predictions about incoming storms or the continuation of current weather patterns. We try to predict the actions or responses of a variety of things in our lives, whether out of superstition or more logical or scientific observations.  

 

In Luke 11:29-32, today, we see Jesus getting frustrated with the crowds as they were seeking signs or proof that He is the Messiah, rather than just simply observe the power of His presence—especially by His example of preaching AND living the Good News of Salvation’s Path. Now, Jesus was not implying that we should not be aware of things going on around us (and how our actions impact the world around us). He simply expected/desired that the religious leaders and crowds truly believe, know, and understand that He is the Son of God, by the examples of love, mercy, and compassion He was living directly before their eyes.  

 

Sadly, and too often, the people of Jesus’ time (and we) are not content to accept the “signs” right before our eyes. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to accept the Message of John the Baptist, announcing the coming of the Messiah. They did not understand Simeon’s prophesy that by Jesus’ birth, He was “destined for the falling and rising of many….a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35) The opposition was so strong and the stubbornness so prevalent that Jesus knew that His purpose—to Sacrifice Himself as the ultimate example of mercy and compassion—was coming. And, though He knew that His sacrifice would bring many to Him, He continues to be frustrated/saddened by the hard hearts that refused to soften.  

 

Lord, change our hearts and fill us with wisdom to resist the stubborn opposition we have to Your Presence and Divinity!  May we truly seek and see You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2016


There are two types of prayers—those of Thanksgiving and Praise and those of Supplication (Request) for a need or desire. God will act when we put ourselves out there in both forms of prayer!  

 

It seems to be a natural part of our human condition to focus, first, on the second form of prayer, asking Him to fill a particular need or set of needs. In Matthew 6:7-15, Jesus shares with us the simplest form of both types of prayer, “rolled into one ‘perfect’ prayer”. Before sharing the words of what we know as the “Our Father”, He tells us, “...do not heap empty phrases, as the gentiles do, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8). It is imperative that we remember that God sees our heart—both what we need and what we desire. Therefore, our prayer must be simple in both praise and supplication.  

 

In Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus gives us a prayer that combines praise and supplication, simply and directly. He begins with praise:  “Our Father, in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” (v 9).  How much simpler can it get—”Lord, You are Holy!” Knowing that His Kingdom is perfect and beautiful, Jesus then urges us to  call upon God to move us toward His ultimate goodness in this life, so as to bring us toward the eternal life (v10).  We then ask Him to provide for our basic needs (“daily bread”).  It is here that we must remember that Jesus has already told us that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew. 4:4).  

 

So, this supplication brings us a reminder that we are not to simply pray for our own selfish needs, but for the freedom that comes from knowing and living His Word! Finally, we ask His protection in this life, from the temptations of the human condition.  

 

Lord, help us to simplify our prayers, demonstrating that we trust in Your all-knowing and all compassionate ways which will provide all we need to further Your Kingdom on earth, to and with those with whom we interact each day. May we see Your Presence in all around us! Jesus, Only You! 

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2016


There will come a day, the day of judgment, in which God will disclose, to each of us, the kind of love He has discerned us to have given to Him—to and through our thoughts, words, and deeds towards others.  So, as we ponder our Christian Walk, what do we observe in ourselves? Are we exhibiting a holy, unselfish love that looks toward God as the example and do we strive to follow His example? Or, do we lean toward a more selfish or self-centered love that puts self and earthly recognition/glory above God and others?  

 

The way we choose to love and how we exhibit that love is a question we must internalize and call into question daily.  Our human condition is one which forces us to have to consider it daily, because we need to meet our own “basic needs”, on a daily basis—hunger, warmth, love/interaction with others.  The question of how we live His love, therefore becomes a two-pronged question:  1) How do we define “enough” in our search/desire for the basic needs and; 2) How do we use His strength and blessings to help others, once we realize He has met our needs?  

 

These two questions are the point of Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 25:31-46, where He tells the parable about the Son of Man, on the day of judgment, separating the sheep from the goats. This parable was meaningful to those listening, as sheepherding was a prevalent and known occupation. And, goats, being aggressive and mean, by nature, were separated every night from the sheep to prevent injury to the sheep, who were much more docile. So, Jesus’ stark example gives us a real example of how God will look upon our behaviors while we are together, here, on earth, on that final judgment.  

 

Lord, may my love for You grow and be shown in the way I think, speak, and act toward those around me. May I show Your charity and goodwill, thus demonstrating appreciation of Your abundances in my life.  J.O.Y. 

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2016


       



OFFER IT UP!   SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016 


In Luke5:27-32 we see a great example of the grace of humility.  In this time, tax collectors were considered part of the second or “lower” class, not the “higher” class. Jews were divided into two classes, those who rigidly kept the laws and regulations (Orthodox) and others who, basically, did not.  Within the class that did not, tax collectors were considered “lowest of the low”, so to speak.  So, when the Pharisees said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners”, Jesus offered this response, “It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have come to call not the upright, but the sinners, to repentance.”  

 

This response is made to the Pharisees and scribes when Jesus calls Levi (Matthew), the tax collector, to follow Him, which he does, joyfully. In fact, he offers Jesus a grand feast at His house, thus prompting the question from the “religious upright”.  As we study the divided classes, which are described here (the religiously upright and the stumblers), the first thing we are called to understand, as Christians, is that all are called.  Jesus’ response demonstrates the grace we are all called to demonstrate, knowing that He invites all of us to be His disciples. He is the Divine Healer and, as the Divine Doctor, those who need healing must be tended to first.  

 

This is not to say that all of us are not in need of some form of healing. In fact, we should be concerned about the hypocrisy we demonstrate when we judge someone else less worthy of us, due to our own real and/or perceived observances of God’s Law and Desire for us. Jesus came to restore ALL of us to the wholeness of Life in God’s Kingdom, which we lost due to the presence and temptation of sin that distracts all of us.  

 

Lord, allow us to see our own strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, use Your strength and wisdom to lift those around us to You and Your Eternal Kingdom by our own word/deed.  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B

 



OFFER IT UP!   FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016 


“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. 

 

By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. 

 

Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming. 

 

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Luke1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Luke 1:38).”

 

From the Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2016

  



OFFER IT UP!   THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016 


If a financial advisor told you that you could make an investment that would pay benefits from the first day of your investment and continue to pay benefits “forever”, as long as you did all you could to maintain your investment efforts, you would do it! Perhaps you would, in your human skepticism, want to know if there is a “catch”, but your interest would be peaked! 

 

In reading Luke 4:22-25, we find Jesus telling us that such an investment opportunity requires sacrifice and willingness to “invest”, even in tough times. This investment is one in which we will gain the reward/benefit of eternal life in and with Him. This investment involves a willingness to stand firm in taking up the “cross of Jesus” during all times of our life.  

 

That Cross is a bittersweet burden, one which exemplifies both the great love God has for us and the stubborn, cold, hard-heartedness that exists among us in this human condition. The Cross is God’s ultimate “investment” into us and our willingness to accept that Cross is our “investment” in our eternal happiness.  In recognizing the importance of our willingness to (and His desire for us to) “invest”, Jesus points out, strongly, that this world will pass away.  

 

Luke 4:24-25 reads, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” He goes on to say that we must be willing to stand up for Him and with Him in this world, as part of our “investment”. If we fail to do so, we cannot benefit “for life” (eternal). It is clear, just as in “earthly investments”, that we have a choice as to our willingness and effort to invest in Him.  

 

Lord, give me the courage, strength, and stamina to give all that I have to “invest” in Your Kingdom, here on earth, so as to reap the “eternal dividend” that exists because of Your investment made in/by the Cross. Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016 


If hypocrisy is something to avoid, in reading Matthew 6:4-6, we find that what we are called to do is to exhibit sincerity in our faith—sincerity in all aspects of giving, praying, fasting, and action. Sincerity, as defined on a quick “google search” is, “the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” If we live our lives in thought, word and deed, demonstrating love for Jesus then we will experience the same in this life and in the reward of eternal life in and with Him. 

 

In this passage, Jesus tells us that God sees all that is “done in secret” (Matthew 6:4). What we must understand here is that God sees into the depths of our hearts—our true motive for what we say and do. Therefore, if our motives for the way we live are self-centered (glorifying) and not “God-centered”, He knows! This is our call and our challenge—to do and say all things with one sole goal:to answer His call and desire for us. Our life matters to God! That is not a statement, similar to what we are seeing rage around our society today. Rather, it is a fact—the way we live our life in thought, word, and deed matters to God and it matters to our ultimate happiness both in this life and in our eternal life.  

 

Jesus warns us against “external observance” of God’s Will and Law, not so we won’t do so, but rather that such observance is not the primary means by which we honor our right and obligation to praise and thank Him.  In Matthew 6:17-18, Jesus tells us that when we are fasting (or otherwise observing His desire for our attention), we are to do so with sincere joy and love for Him (“Put a scent on your head and wash your face so that no one will know you are fasting EXCEPT YOUR FATHER”). No one can truly see into our hearts except Him, so keep IT pure and clean!  

 

Lord, may all I do in thought, word and deed expose a heart that sincerely (and foremost) centers upon Your love for me and those around me!  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2016


The more you grow in faith, the more you’ll find it to be who you are and as well as what you believe.

 

My very good, best friend articulated that notion a few days ago while we sat together composing our thoughts in mutual study and conversation. The books we were reading and the scriptures we were studying were indeed engaging yet, though probably not entirely an original and novel concept, his statement rings with authenticity and truth. 

 

As we begin this Lenten season, how we grow in our faith can be done with the usual methods—giving up chocolate, giving up sodas, etc.—but what if our faith was even further enhanced by ‘doing’ something instead of ‘not doing’ a current ‘doing’? What if we did more of the fasting we are called to do? What if we did more almsgiving? And here is something—what if we did more with our prayer life; a prayer life that included prayer throughout the day and not just when we started it and ended it? Yes, it would be a part of that growing in faith concept. 

 

Back to my good best friend. Lately, he’s got a bit of head start on this prayer life idea as he’s been in the practice of it for some time now. And for sure, his prayer life also includes fasting and almsgiving—with quantities appropriate and fitting. As goes his prayer life, so goes his intentions with it: not just the rote saying of prayer but ‘praying prayer’ and for those whom he prays, Whom he offers them to and how he offers them up. From grace before meals to lauds and vespers to celebrations of Liturgy of the Eucharist, he is finding more ways to pray and pray in more ways. 

 

And it’s all so evident in the residual factor, that those prayers can be seen in the faith he lives and believes. He does so with his family—especially his family—his friends, his profession and the people God happens into his life. Whether it comes from scripture. Whether it comes from grace at meals. Whether it comes from the time he spends with family or with those he tends to in his profession. Whether the prayers are those from years of our Catholic tradition or those he brings from the depths of his heart, he shares them and means them. 

 

Brad doesn’t go about waving his phylacteries either to let others know of his prayer life. He doesn’t need that to be closer to God nor does he need it to be closer to those he loves. He does this all in the way he’s called to do and be, just as God would allow. And as he does so with his prayers, he does with his heart, sharing his gifts and talents generously and humbly, serving as Jesus served—committed to making a difference in the lives of others through prayer, through giving and through love. 

 

Happy birthday my brother, my friend… my very good, best friend. 

HITYLHMILY?



OFFER IT UP!   MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2016


"And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were made well" (Mark 6:56). In this passage, we find the simplicity of true faith. The people in the towns and villages were so in love with and hungry for Jesus' healing touch and their faith was so strong, all they needed was for Him to be still long enough to touch the hem of His garment. Such faith brought and brings the fruit of His compassion.  

 

In our Christian lives today, do we believe that simply reaching out to Him will bring His compassionate and healing touch upon our lives? While we know of and believe in His presence, do we seek Him in every trial and thank Him in every opportunity? Something for us to ponder is that we, also, must "be still" in order to experience the opportunity to touch or be touched by Him or to simply know Him (Ps 46:10). We, just like the people in Gennesaret (and surrounding villages), must seek Him in true faith, putting our broken selves at His feet,  patiently awaiting His compassion and merciful touch (entire passage Mark 6:53-56). 


Lord, help us to understand the fullness of Your compassion and mercy, thus allowing us to faithfully turn to You for all we need in this life and in the eternal life to come. May we patiently wade through any trials of this life and exuberantly praise you for its blessings, as this life's fullness in You brings eternal life to those who a wait Your coming! Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.    

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2016


We can “work our fingers to the bone”, but if we rely solely on ourselves and not trust in the strength and comfort of God, our accomplishments will fall short, in the end. This is one lesson to be taken from reading Luke 5:1-10, where we find Jesus. Trusting the Lord enough to follow His call and command is the first and foremost desire He has for us.

 

In this passage we find Peter, tired from a night of hard, yet fruitless fishing, asked by Jesus to cast nets “one more time”. His response was, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets.” In doing so, Peter’s nets became so full that he had to call his partners, James and John, to help haul in the nets and both boats were­ now filled to the brim (Luke 5:4-7) Rather than pat each other on the back for their own skills and fishing “prowess”, the fell upon their knees praising and thanking God, for His Goodness, even in their own unworthiness (Mark 8-9). 

 

How often do we give Him credit the moment ‘hard times” come to an end after a difficult trial (whether at work, home, or community). Do we do so, or do we wait until the celebration clears and then say, “Oh yeah, thanks God…”? How do we strive to keep Him first, in both our requests and our thankfulness throughout each day? These disciples immediately gave thanks, even though they were surely tired and simply wanted to secure their catch and go home to rest. Instead, they marveled at His wondrous goodness, thanked Him, and then recognized their unworthiness. Jesus immediately rewarded them, telling them that His Presence Goodness is reason to NOT be afraid. Rather, trust and join Him in casting the “net of good news” in order to draw in people to the same faith and trust they are experiencing!  

 

Lord, help us to recognize and answer this same call in our work, families, and communities. Let us cast our nets for Your purpose!  J.O.Y.

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2016


In Mark 6:30-34, He writes of Jesus understanding and appreciation of His disciples’ hard work. After they shared with Him all they had done and taught the people, He said to them, “Come away to some lonely place, all by yourselves, and rest for awhile.” (Mark 6:30-31)  Jesus recognized and appreciated their enthusiasm over their mission but also saw that they were exhausted from their labors.  

 

Here, He highlights the importance of rest in body, mind and spiritual renewal. When we truly serve God, it is important that we have sacred space and time—a “place” in our day and lives to refresh ourselves and renew our love for and in Him. As Christians, we are called to worship God through our life’s actions. While this includes community effort, which is (or should be) a renewal opportunity, unto itself, it requires us to be vigilant at all times for opportunities to praise Him and be an example for those around us.  

 

As we read on, in Mark 6:32-34, we find that Jesus and His Apostles went off in a boat to rest and rejuvenate, the but the crowds, hungry for the Word and healing being offered, saw them steal away and followed them. When Jesus saw the large crowd, He was moved with compassion to continue to serve them, even though He and the twelve had gone to refresh. 

 

Perhaps, as we read this, we can consider their time in the boat, alone with Jesus, was time enough for spiritual rejuvenation? The human body requires rest—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This passage reminds us that we must take time, throughout our day, to refocus on God, even in short moments. 

 

Consider praying this every hour: Lord, thank You for the invitation to “come and rest” (Mk 6:31). Give me strength to be of service to You in all of my waking moments. And in each respite, remind me of Your goodness, allowing me to see You in every moment.  Jesus, Only You!

Paul B




OFFER IT UP!    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016


On The Eucharist

St. Justin Martyr

 

On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray...

 

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss of peace. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water. And he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being accounted worthy to receive these things at his hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen...

 

And when the president has confected the Eucharist, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water, over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and for those who are absent they carry away a portion.

 

And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the person who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins and unto regeneration, and who is living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise we have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his Word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

 

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread and, when he had given thanks, said: "This do ye in remembrance of me; this is my Body"; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said: "This is my Blood." And he gave it to them alone... 

 

Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.

  



OFFER IT UP!    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2016 

In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus called the twelve to Him and instructed them to go out in pairs, with nothing—no bread, haversack, coins for their coin purse. They were instructed to go with just the sandals on their feet and a spare tunic. They were given the command to proclaim the Good News of a repentant life along with the power to cast out unclean spirits and heal the sick. 

 

Imagine God giving us this same command—to trust all to Him? How would we (or, should I say, how DO we?) react to this command? As Christians, through our Baptism and Confirmation of Faith, God has given us this same mission with the same expectation of trust that he will care for us if we but answer the call to truly spread the Good News and proclaim the peace of a life lived in Him! Are we truly aware of the mission that Jesus has called us to complete? Or, do we get distracted by our own needs and desires?  

 

In calling His Disciples (and us), the key element is total faith and trust in Him!  Let us look at the elements of His call to the Apostles: 1) Trust—He clearly sent them out in an environment of trust by asking them to take only the sandals on their feet and a spare tunic. He will provide opportunity for food and shelter as they perform, in Faith, His mission!  2) Christian Support—He sent them out in pairs, not alone! This is a call that we are to share and support each other in our mission. 3) Power—True faith and trust in God results in great things: The ability to have power and dominion over evil and to bring God’s healing grace into our lives (and those of others. This element can only exist in the presence of the first two—Faith, trust, and power of Christian Unity! True followers and doers of His mission combine His Power with self-sacrifice love, humility, and trust in His provision!  

 

Lord, help me to become more aware and trusting of the call to live Your Mission in my daily life so as to become Your Instrument! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B

  



OFFER IT UP!   WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2016 


Mark’s Gospel, too, contains an account of Jesus’ return to His hometown of Nazareth, in Mark 6:1-6). While they marveled at the wisdom and healing power that was exhibited by Jesus, they still questioned from where this power came, showing doubt. As in Luke’s account, they were hung up on the fact that this was a local boy, the son of a local carpenter. 

 

Jesus was astounded at their lack of faith in what they were seeing and hearing, right before them. Because of their lack of faith, Jesus’ power could not be seen—something which amazed and saddened Jesus (Mark 6:4-6). Mark reports a similar response as that which we see in Luke’s Gospel, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” Mark’s account draws greater focus, not just saying “hometown”, but within families and homes, we tend to discount a “prophet”.  

 

How often, even among ourselves, in items of “human importance”, do we tend to discount those closest to us? It is this part of the human condition that Jesus laments:  Our stubbornness to discount that which is good for us. We tend to rebel against parents and authority, seemingly at the “drop of a hat”. So when it comes accepting or rebelling against God, Jesus is not, necessarily surprised, though disappointed in the atmosphere of disbelief in His home synagogue. What do we, as Christians, take from this? Though we may be disappointed in results of people’s actions around us, we cannot let these (real and perceived) trials to distract us from our ultimate goals. Jesus still urged the believers and doubters, alike, to accept Him, even in disappointment that the very people He grew up with (and around) could not give in to Faith.  

 

Lord, soften our hearts so we “give in” to You more and more each day, striving to see Your Goodness and Power in each moment of our lives!  May we honor You in our homes, through seeking/accepting You Jesus, Only You!

Paul B



OFFER IT UP!   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2016 


Mary and Joseph were devout in their Jewish faith. As such, they desired to adhere to the Laws by which that faith required them to live. When the time came shortly after Jesus’ birth, they took Him to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord God, as required by the Law (Exodus 13:2; Luke 2:23). The parents of Jesus knew that they had been charged with something very special—raising the Son of God—born of human parents, yet conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit. In their spirit of obedience they understood that they were expected to follow and fulfill the obligations and responsibilities entrusted them as parents, not just because He was a special child, but because (as parents) they were stewards of God’s gift.  

 

They, as we should, took their responsibility seriously—the responsibility to be examples so that he could be nurtured and grow in emotional, spiritual, and physical maturity through a wholesome (and lawful) upbringing. Not only did their observance of the law result in more affirmation as to Jesus’ divinity (Lk 2:25-38—Simeon’s and Ana’s acknowledgement of God’s Presence), it gave them further conviction and strength to go forth and raise Jesus in true obedience and faith:  “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:39-40)  

 

All of us, whether entrusted with our own children or sharing in the responsibility of being a model of faith for others in our worship congregation, must help each other grow toward maturity in God’s Wisdom. We must reflect on our Christian growth and ask, “Have I matured in faith?” Or, “How have I helped others mature in faith?  

 

Lord, may Your Spirit guide me and challenge me as I serve as an example of faith to my family and others.  Give me grace to be openly obedient. J.O.Y.

Paul B.



OFFER IT UP!   MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2016 


Mark 5:1-20 is an elaborate accounting of Jesus’ power over satan! Here we find Jesus coming across a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The man was hiding, living among the tombs/caves, away from everyone. When he spotted Jesus nearing, he prostrated himself before Jesus, saying, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7). Jesus, moved with compassion for the suffering of the man, proceeded to command the unclean spirit to leave the man.  

 

He asked the demon, “What is your name?”, to which the response was, “My name is legion, for we are many.” Jesus then proceeded to send the spirit into a herd of pigs which, once possessed, stampeded over a steep bank into the sea to drown. The swineherds, fearful, ran off and began telling of what they had witnessed. Many came out to see Jesus and found the possessed man, whom no one had been able to “tame”, sitting quietly and in His right mind. They feared the unknown and began asking Jesus to leave their midst.

 

The man who had been possessed begged Jesus to allow Him to go with Him. Jesus, though urged the man to go home and witness to friends and family, telling them of the mercy God has shown! In 5:20, it states, “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” This entire account gives us reason and encouragement to believe in the power of God and His compassion and merciful desire to help us to be drawn to Him! And it shows the fear that we tend to have, even when we are witness to His greatness. Perhaps it’s because such power and benevolence is beyond our human condition’s ability to comprehend such it?  

 

Lord, may our lives focus upon You and Your power over all. Give us strength to embrace you and not be tempted by the distractions of evil in the world around us.  Unbind us so that we may love and proclaim You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B