Everyday Grace: Three Ways to Find Christmas Treasure

As we begin to look toward Christmas, it’s easy to think of treasure in terms of things: presents we can give and unwrap, shopping deals we can get, stuff to send somewhere. It’s easy to forget the treasures we already have. Here are three ways to keep them in mind:

  • If you’re spending Christmas with your family—or with close friends—then that’s your greatest treasure. The one thing most studies on happiness agree on is that relationships are the surest way to happiness. Is there anyone you need to reach out to, someone you’ve lost touch with? Make this the season you do it!
  • If you have work that you love—whether it’s a career, parenting, caring for others, etc.—that’s treasure, too. We are happiest when engaged in activities that make us forget ourselves and lose track of time. If you don’t love what you do, this is a good time to step back and think about changes.
  • Those who cannot forgive become angry and depressed over time, and suffer poorer health due to the physical reactions to these negative emotions. Forgiveness is a tremendous treasure! This season, let go of these toxic feelings, and increase your happiness.

As Catholics, it’s important we keep Jesus’ birth at the center of our Advent and Christmas pilgrimage. These are three ways to recognize what God is doing in your life today.

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Feast of Christ the King

Hear the conversation between Jesus and Pilate. What a moment in time where Jesus proclaims himself King to a pagan leader who does not comprehend the profound meaning of that statement. And then Pilate asks a question of Jesus but does he remain there to learn the answer? Will I stay with Jesus to learn truth?

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus gives a wonderful definition of a king: someone born to testify to truth. The Roman governor Pilate asks Jesus a direct question about his claim, “Then you are a king?” Jesus affirms it, “You say I am a king. For this I was born . . .” Pilate must be shaking his head, however, because Jesus had already stated that his kingdom “does not belong to this world.” Why, then, did he come into this world as king? The key lies in Jesus’ next, curious statement, “I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Here is the dilemma. What does it mean to “belong to the truth?” Pilate is the example here. Jesus tries to bring him around indirectly. When Pilate asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus challenges Pilate’s conscience by asking, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”

In other words, Jesus is telling Pilate that his opinion as governor is the only one that counts then and there. He holds the fate of Jesus in his hands. Pilate shoots back with his own challenge, “I am not a Jew, am I?” He reminds Jesus that the Jewish authorities who have handed him over should know the truth about him. Pilate should have taken the whole exchange more seriously because he will soon find himself shirking his duty to truth. Despite his doubts about Jesus’ guilt, Pilate will choose the indecisive, self-serving, cowardly nonposition. He will wash his hands of guilt. And what would we do? The King of Truth is ours. Are we people of truth? Have we given ourselves completely to the truth by living out our baptism? Or are we disciples of Pilate, willing to acknowledge the existence of truth, but unwilling to belong to it totally? So many disciples pick and choose what teachings of the Gospel and of the Church they will accept. Will that style support us all the way through life? Will we end up owning the truth when we appear before the King, or will we try to defend our vacillation as did Pilate?

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

We hear about many  happenings in the world that cause us to be afraid. What will happen next, some say? In today’s Gospel Jesus is telling us about the end of the world. Many people have predicted that “now the end is really coming!” But the fact is, it will end for each one of us at our own passing. Oh, that we may be found watchful and eager to welcome him when he comes?

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“. . . when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.”

Today’s Gospel is from Jesus’ end-times discourse found near the end of Mark. Jesus speaks about the many signs and wonders that will indicate the end is near: a darkened sky, falling stars, and a moon without light. This is scary stuff! We don’t usually see stars falling when we venture out into the night. Yet Jesus is trying not to scare us, but to challenge us to be attentive and watchful. He wants us to be prepared disciples, eager to welcome him at his coming, for time passes quickly and the day of salvation draws near.

This coming that Jesus speaks of cannot be understood only in terms of his final coming, his Parousia at the end of time. It can also be seen as any of his comings. For he comes every day in our ordinary lives, be it through a beautiful sunset or the encouraging words of a friend. And it is precisely in being attentive to, recognizing, and responding to these comings that I will be prepared for his ultimate and final coming

So I need to ask myself: how attentive and watchful am I in my day-to-day life? How prepared am I for the Lord’s “ordinary” and even subtle comings? Am I like the prudent virgin with lighted lamp and oil in hand, eagerly waiting for her Lord? Or am I, instead, like the fearful servant who buried his talent, afraid for his master’s return? If I am the latter I need to ask myself, why do I fear the Lord’s coming? Why do I hold back from his presence? Do I not love him? For if I do, then love casts out all fear. Love makes me attentive and watchful. Love makes me open and receptive to the many signs in my life that indicate his presence even now. And love gives me the strength to respond to this presence anew each day, for “he is near, at the gates.”

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

How much am I to give? One may ask when hearing today’s Sunday Gospel. Jesus was in the temple observing people putting money into the treasury. Afterwards he lauds one person who seemed to have surpassed them all. The Lord sees the heart and that is the difference!

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“. . . all she had . . .”

In the Gospel readings these past few Sundays, scribes have not fared well. Today Jesus castigates those who, in avarice and lust for prestige, twist the Law to line their own pockets, even at the expense of society’s most vulnerable members—widows. In a different twist, one of those widows unwittingly bests both that crowd and the rich, whose offerings clatter in the treasury boxes that line the Temple walls. As if to sketch the face of true worship, Jesus observes that she “contributed all she had,” not to extol giving that harms the giver, but to laud the offering of the heart.

Chances are, we’ve all been muscled into a donation of some kind. We may have wished that a lighter heart could have accompanied the lighter wallet. Our reluctance may stem less from selfishness than from caution. We want to give to a “worthy cause.” We might even want to control how our contribution—money, time, energy, talent—is appropriated. That may be prudent; after all, in trying to do good with our limited resources we don’t want to feel we’re spinning our wheels. But such clinging can tarnish the Godlike sheen that comes from a spontaneous, lavish outpouring of love. Whether we give or receive, if we look only at the numbers, we miss the Gospel point.

Do I resist giving of myself, including my prayer, because no one can guarantee its “success”? Do I compare myself with others and demur, with the excuse that my small contribution won’t make a dent anyway? Our widow doesn’t seem to care either way. What does it matter if others give more? She is free. It only matters that God esteems her gift of the heart. The Gospel story’s paschal/liturgical dimension backlights another sacrificial love: the Crucified/Risen One himself and the Eucharist—one life, one loaf, one cup, emptied for the life of the many.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34


My God, My All!

God is everything. Every good thing comes from God. Everything is his. Therefore, I must have complete confidence in him. (T5, 1955, 88)

My God, you are with us! You said to our Founder: Do not be afraid. No, I do not fear, notwithstanding my miseries, sins and defects. I want to remain with you always.              (T5, 1956, 123)

Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo