Fix Your Gaze / Enfocar tu Mirada

It’s the last day of the liturgical year. It’s hard to believe, time flies so fast. Perhaps on this day, more so than on other days, it might be good to slow down and consider why time appears to fly so fast. 

Jesus warns us not to get caught up in the pleasures of life, nor the anxieties. When Jesus walked the earth there were many tugs and pulls on people’s time. Even without any modern technology or access to global affairs, the everyday distractions were enough that Jesus had to strongly warn His followers against their lure. If those early Christians felt the pressure of distractions which would pull them away from Christ, we are certainly not immune.

As we cannot tell the future, we do not know when certain events will happen. We don’t know when we will die. Depending on the type of planner we are, we might not even know what’s for dinner tomorrow night. We don’t know when the economy will collapse or boom. We don’t know if our country will go to war, or how the next elections will turn out. We don’t know when Jesus will come back at the end of time. Given the uncertainties facing all of us, big and small, it is easy to get wrapped up in what we don’t know. 

Jesus intimately knows the human heart. He knows what it feels like to stare down the unknown, to be unsure of how things will come to pass. He speaks from His own experience when He tells the disciples to “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). 

How are we vigilant? Through prayer. What does prayer do? It pulls us away from the distractions that surround us and draws our gaze back to Christ. We can share our anxieties with our Lord and, if we take His instruction to heart, we lay them at His feet. None of us can escape the lure of the unknown without a heavenly strength. 

As the liturgical year comes to a close, take some time today to consider how often you have been wrapped up in daily anxieties rather than letting them fall through your fingers. Think about what you can do this Advent season to set the tone for the year to come. What practice might you incorporate into your day which will remind you to keep your gaze fixed on Christ, instead of on the unknown.

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Es el último día del año litúrgico. Es difícil de creerlo, el tiempo vuela tan rápido. Tal vez en este día, más que en otros días, sería bueno reducir la velocidad y considerar por qué el tiempo parece volar tan rápido.

Jesús nos advierte que no nos dejemos atrapar por los placeres de la vida, ni por las ansiedades. Cuando Jesús caminó sobre la tierra hubo muchos tirones y jalones para el tiempo de las personas. Incluso sin ninguna tecnología moderna o acceso a los asuntos globales, las distracciones cotidianas fueron suficientes para que Jesús tuviera que advertir enfáticamente a sus seguidores contra su señuelo. Si esos primeros cristianos sintieron la presión de las distracciones que los alejarían de Cristo, ciertamente nosotros no somos inmunes.

Como no podemos predecir el futuro, no sabemos cuándo sucederán ciertos eventos. No sabemos cuándo moriremos. Dependiendo del tipo de planificador que seamos, es posible que ni siquiera sepamos qué vamos a cenar mañana. No sabemos cuándo colapsará o prosperará la economía. No sabemos si nuestro país irá a la guerra, o cómo resultarán las próximas elecciones. No sabemos cuándo volverá Jesús al final de los tiempos. Dadas las incertidumbres que enfrentamos todos, grandes y pequeñas, es fácil quedar envuelto en lo que no sabemos.

Jesús conoce íntimamente el corazón humano. Sabe lo que se siente mirar fijamente lo desconocido, no estar seguro de cómo sucederán las cosas. Habla desde Su propia experiencia cuando les dice a los discípulos: “Velen, pues, y hagan oración continuamente, para que puedan escapar de todo lo que ha de suceder y comparecer seguros ante el Hijo del hombre” (Lucas 21,36).

¿Cómo estamos vigilantes? A través de la oración. ¿Qué hace la oración? Nos aleja de las distracciones que nos rodean y atrae nuestra mirada hacia Cristo. Podemos compartir nuestras ansiedades con nuestro Señor y, si tomamos en serio sus instrucciones, las ponemos a sus pies. Ninguno de nosotros puede escapar del atractivo de lo desconocido sin una fuerza celestial.

A medida que el año litúrgico llega a su fin, tómate un tiempo hoy para considerar la frecuencia con la que has estado envuelto en las ansiedades diarias en lugar de dejarlas en las manos de Dios. Piense en lo que puede hacer en esta temporada de Adviento para marcar la pauta para el año que viene. ¿Qué práctica podrías incorporar en tu día que te recuerde mantener tu mirada fija en Cristo, en lugar de en lo desconocido?

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Anete Lusina, www.pexels.com/photo/crop-woman-taking-notes-in-calendar-5239917/

Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? / ¿Dónde Está el Reino de los Cielos?

We live in a “both/and” Church, rather than “either/or”. Jesus is both true God and true man. Mary is both virgin and mother. We believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Church is both the spotless bride of Christ and still a human institution prone to human failings and weaknesses. 

Jesus presents another “both/and” in today’s Gospel. “The behold, the Kingdom of Heaven is among you.” And, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” How can the Kingdom of Heaven be among them yet they will long to see it? The disciples did not fully understand, and we are still living in this mystery today. 

At Mass, we experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. We are surrounded by the angels and saints who have gone before us and as we receive Christ, we are transformed more perfectly into His Mystical Body.  At that moment, we are living in the Kingdom of Heaven to the fullest extent we are capable of on this earth. Yet at the same time, we know that this earth is not our permanent home. We long for the day when suffering will cease, when we will be free of our sin and sorrow. We will finally come home to the joy and rest of the Father and the true lordship of the Son of Man. 

The world will try to call us away, to look here or there for the meaning of life. Jesus is reminding us that we already know where the Kingdom of Heaven is. It is by His side.

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Vivimos en una Iglesia de “ambos/y”, en lugar de “uno u otro”. Jesús es verdadero Dios y verdadero hombre. María es virgen y madre. Creemos en la muerte y resurrección de Jesús. La Iglesia es tanto la novia sin mancha de Cristo como una institución humana propensa a las fallas y debilidades humanas.

Jesús presenta otro “ambos/y” en el Evangelio de hoy. “El Reino de Dios ya está entre ustedes”. Y, “Llegará un tiempo en que ustedes desearán disfrutar siquiera un solo día de la presencia del Hijo del hombre y no podrán”. ¿Cómo puede el Reino de los Cielos estar entre ellos y aún así anhelan verlo? Los discípulos no entendieron completamente, y todavía estamos viviendo en este misterio hoy.

En la Misa experimentamos un anticipo del banquete celestial. Estamos rodeados por los ángeles y los santos que nos han precedido y a medida que recibimos a Cristo, somos transformados más perfectamente en Su Cuerpo Místico. En ese momento, estamos viviendo en el Reino de los Cielos al máximo de lo que somos capaces en esta tierra. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo, sabemos que esta tierra no es nuestro hogar permanente. Anhelamos el día en que cesará el sufrimiento, cuando seremos libres de nuestro pecado y dolor. Finalmente volveremos a casa al gozo y al descanso del Padre y al verdadero señorío del Hijo del Hombre.

El mundo tratará de distraernos para que busquemos aquí o allá el sentido de la vida. Jesús nos está recordando que ya sabemos dónde está el Reino de los Cielos. Está a Su lado.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: fauxels, www.pexels.com/photo/man-and-woman-holding-hands-3228726/

A Seat at the Table / Un Asiento en la Mesa

I grew up with a fairly large extended family. If you combine both my mom and dad’s sides, I have about 30 cousins. As one of the oldest cousins, I know a thing or two about jockeying for places at the table. We always had a “kids” table at holiday meals. When we were younger, we loved this table. It was where the goofy uncle sometimes sat and where you could get away with harmless pranks, extra rolls and whipped cream on noses. But as we got older and more cousins were born, we began to feel like we were being left out of something even more fun…the adult table. That was the place to be! The adult table had the stories, the gossip, even more extra rolls (how many rolls were there!?), fancier place settings and the cool, younger aunts and uncles. I still remember the Thanksgiving where I got to sit at the adult table for the first time as a teenager. It was amazing. 

Where you sit at a meal, in a movie theater, on a plane, pretty much anywhere, matters on some kind of deep level. Jesus observed this in our Gospel reading today as He watched the guests choose their seats. In Jesus’ time, and similarly even in our own time, the proximity to the host at a meal designated a superior standing relative to the others seated further away. Think about weddings especially, where seating is so often a carefully orchestrated thing. Where you sit matters, be it to you or to others around you. 

It makes me wonder where Jesus was sitting at this table. Was He in the place of the guest of honor or somewhere lower down the table? I wonder how the host felt about Jesus’ speech. Do you think perhaps he wanted to reconsider where certain people were sitting? It also makes me wonder about where Jesus would sit in my own home. Where does He “sit” in my life? Have I given Him the place of honor or replaced Him with something less than worthy of that high status?

It seems almost silly to imagine, asking Jesus to step aside in favor of some extra cash, a promotion at work, a completed checklist or the praise of others. But this is exactly what we do when we do not give Jesus His rightful place as the center of our lives. Jesus is the perfect model of humility, both at this meal and in each of our hearts. He does not shove His way to the front, nor does He insist we give Him what is rightfully His. He waits patiently for us to invite Him forward to sit beside us. 

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Crecí con una familia extendida bastante grande. Si combinas los lados de mi mamá y mi papá, tengo alrededor de 30 primos. Como uno de los primos mayores, sé un par de cosas sobre competir por lugares en la mesa. Siempre teníamos una mesa para “niños” en las comidas festivas. Cuando éramos más jóvenes, nos encantaba esta mesa. Era donde a veces se sentaba el tío divertido y donde podías salirte con la tuya con bromas inofensivas, panes extra y crema batida en la nariz. Pero a medida que crecimos y nacieron más primos, empezamos a sentir que nos estábamos quedando fuera de algo aún más divertido… la mesa de los adultos. ¡Ese era el lugar para estar! La mesa de los adultos tenía las historias, los chismes, incluso más panes (¿cuántos panes habían?), cubiertos más elegantes y tías y tíos geniales y más jóvenes. Todavía recuerdo el Día de Acción de Gracias en el que me senté en la mesa de adultos por primera vez cuando era adolescente. Fue increíble.

Donde te sientas a comer, en una sala de cine, en un avión, prácticamente en cualquier lugar, importa a nivel profundo. Jesús observó esto en nuestra lectura del Evangelio de hoy mientras observaba a los invitados elegir sus asientos. En tiempos de Jesús, y de manera similar incluso en nuestro tiempo, la proximidad al anfitrión en una comida designaba una posición superior en relación con los demás sentados más lejos. Piense especialmente en las bodas, donde los asientos a menudo son algo cuidadosamente orquestado. El lugar donde te sientas es importante, ya que sea para ti o para los que te rodean.

Me hace preguntarme dónde estaba sentado Jesús en esta mesa. ¿Estaba en el lugar del invitado de honor o en algún lugar más abajo en la mesa? Me pregunto cómo se sintió el anfitrión acerca del discurso de Jesús. ¿Crees que tal vez quería reconsiderar dónde estaban sentadas ciertas personas? También me hace preguntarme dónde se sentaría Jesús en mi propia casa. ¿Dónde se “sienta” Él en mi vida? ¿Le he dado el lugar de honor o lo he reemplazado con algo menos que digno de ese alto estatus?

Parece casi una tontería imaginarse pidiéndole a Jesús que se haga a un lado a favor de algo de dinero extra, una promoción en el trabajo, una lista de verificación completa o la alabanza de los demás. Pero esto es exactamente lo que hacemos cuando no le damos a Jesús el lugar que le corresponde como el centro de nuestras vidas. Jesús es el modelo perfecto de humildad, tanto en esta comida como en cada uno de nuestros corazones. No se abre camino a empujones, ni insiste en que le demos lo que es suyo por derecho. Espera pacientemente que lo invitemos a sentarse a nuestro lado.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Agung Pandit Wiguna, www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-table-setting-during-daytime-2788492/

Work of Faith / Obras de Fe

From our human perspective, wouldn’t it be great if Jesus were like the fairy godmother from Cinderella? “Bibbity, bobbity, boo! More faith for you!” We can all enjoy a good chuckle knowing that isn’t how Jesus works. And then we have to pause and really sit in the fact that, no, that isn’t how Jesus works.

Jesus is a miracle worker. But He isn’t ours to command. Jesus is a healer. But we don’t get to decide when it is our time to die. Jesus is a teacher. But we do not get to demand knowledge we aren’t mature enough or wise enough to handle. God is God, we are not.

Just prior to this Gospel reading in Luke, Jesus told the apostles that if someone sinned against them seven times and seven times asked to be forgiven they ought to extend that forgiveness. He warned them about allowing sin to work through them to the detriment of others. Jesus is paving the way for what it means to not only be a disciple but also a teacher of faith. 

This scared the apostles. Did they have enough faith? Who could have enough faith to withstand such temptation and be required to extend such forgiveness? They quickly asked Jesus to increase their faith. 

Jesus didn’t wave His wand and pour more faith into them. That’s not how faith works. Faith is like a muscle. It has to be exercised to grow stronger. We don’t need God to give us more, we need to learn how to use the faith we have already been given. 

Faith is a free gift from God. As it is a gift, it is up to us to accept it. Once we accept it, we have to learn how to use it, how to rely on it. How? By becoming humble servants of God, trusting in His Will for our lives. We have each been given specific work to do upon this earth which will bring God glory. Just as we have duties within our own family, we have duties as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our heavenly family.

At the close of our life when we stand before God, let us all hope to be able to say, “we have done what we were obliged to do.” May we stand proud of how we followed God’s Will, how we obeyed His commands and did the work He had so carefully chosen for us to do.

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Desde nuestra perspectiva humana, ¿no sería genial si Jesús fuera como el hada madrina de la Cenicienta? “¡Bibbity, bobbity, boo! ¡Más fe para ti!” Todos podemos disfrutar de una buena risa sabiendo que no es así con Jesús. Y luego tenemos que hacer una pausa y realmente darnos cuenta del hecho de que, no, no es así con Jesús.

Jesús es un obrador de milagros. Pero no es nuestro lugar mandarlo. Jesús es el sanador. Pero no podemos decidir cuándo es nuestro momento de morir. Jesús es el maestro. Pero no podemos exigir conocimientos que no seamos lo suficientemente maduros o sabios para manejar. Dios es Dios y nosotros no lo somos.

Justo antes de esta lectura del Evangelio de Lucas, Jesús les dijo a los apóstoles que si alguien había pecado contra ellos siete veces y siete veces pedía perdón, deberían extender ese perdón. Les advirtió acerca de permitir que el pecado obrara a través de ellos en detrimento de los demás. Jesús está allanando el camino para lo que significa no solo ser un discípulo sino también un maestro de fe.

Esto asustó a los apóstoles. ¿Tuvieron la fe suficiente? ¿Quién podría tener la fe suficiente para resistir esa tentación y ser requerido extender el perdón? Rápidamente le pidieron a Jesús que aumentara su fe.

Jesús no agitó su varita y derramó más fe en ellos. La fe no funciona así. La fe es como un músculo. Tiene que ser ejercitado para crecer más fuerte. No necesitamos que Dios nos dé más, necesitamos aprender a usar la fe que ya nos ha sido dada.

La fe es un don gratuito de Dios. Como es un regalo, depende de nosotros aceptarlo. Una vez que lo aceptamos, tenemos que aprender a usarlo, a confiar en él. ¿Cómo? Haciéndonos humildes servidores de Dios, confiando en Su Voluntad para nuestras vidas. A cada uno de nosotros se nos ha dado un trabajo específico para hacer en esta tierra que traerá gloria a Dios. Así como tenemos deberes dentro de nuestra propia familia, tenemos deberes como miembros del Cuerpo Místico de Cristo, nuestra familia celestial.

Al final de nuestra vida, cuando estemos delante de Dios, esperemos todos poder decir: “hemos hecho lo que estábamos obligados a hacer”. Que estemos orgullosos de cómo seguimos la Voluntad de Dios, cómo obedecimos Sus mandamientos e hicimos el trabajo que Él había escogido tan cuidadosamente para nosotros.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Brianna Amick, www.pexels.com/photo/exotic-nuts-on-old-tree-stump-1976792/

Seekers of the Word / Buscadores de la Palabra

Each week, hopefully each day for many of us, we hear the words of Scripture. This can be at Mass, within a Bible study, spiritual reading, even a post-it note on your mirror. We have the incredible good fortune to be able to surround ourselves, visually and audibly, with Scripture. We have apps, audio books, websites, access to printed Bibles, pen, paper and many near-empty journals. 

These are incredibly abundant blessings that so many throughout history have not received. Think about the early Christians who passed on the faith by word of mouth, secret meetings and liturgies for fear of persecution. Think of the countries where Catholicism was considered traitorous at various points in history. Think about the places in the world today where Christianity is still unwelcome and where it is potentially dangerous to have a Bible in your home. 

We are able to have an abundance of Scripture in our lives. What happens when we experience abundance? Unfortunately, because of our fallen nature, abundance can easily give way to indifference and even neglect. We are to be hearers of the Word, but do we seek out opportunities to hear at all?

Jesus tells us today that those who hear the Word and act upon it are His mother and His brothers. Jesus is inviting His followers into such a close and intimate relationship with this interaction. Jesus is saying, “I don’t want you to just know about me. I don’t want you to think I have nice things to say, to talk about me at dinner parties as this guy I heard one time. I don’t want to be your acquaintance, or even friend. I want you in my life as my mother is in my life.” 

While not everyone has an ideal relationship with their earthly mother, we can all have an ideal relationship with our heavenly mother. Jesus is inviting us to become little Mary’s in the world. We do this by hearing His Word and acting upon it. What better summary could a person give to Mary’s life than that? She heard the Word and, full of confidence and trust in her God, acted upon it. She cooperated with it and in doing so, she bore Christ for the salvation of the world. 

This is what we are being invited into today. In hearing the Word of Jesus and acting upon it, we bring Christ forth into the world. We allow Him to work in us and through us to be made manifest in what we say and do. 

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Cada semana, y capáz cada día para muchos de nosotros, escuchamos las palabras de las Escrituras. Esto puede ser durante la Misa, dentro de un estudio bíblico, en lectura espiritual, o incluso una nota adhesiva en su espejo. Tenemos la increíble suerte de poder rodearnos, visual y audiblemente, con las Escrituras. Tenemos aplicaciones, audiolibros, sitios web, acceso a Biblias impresas, lápiz, papel y muchos diarios casi vacíos.

Estas son bendiciones increíblemente abundantes que muchos a lo largo de la historia no han recibido. Piensa en los primeros cristianos que transmitían la fe de boca en boca, reuniones y liturgias secretas por temor a la persecución. Piensa en los países donde el catolicismo fue considerado traidor en varios momentos de la historia. Piensa en los lugares del mundo actual donde el cristianismo aún no es bienvenido y donde es potencialmente peligroso tener una Biblia en su hogar.

Somos capaces de tener las Escrituras en nuestras vidas en abundancia. ¿Qué sucede cuando experimentamos la abundancia? Desafortunadamente, debido a nuestra naturaleza caída, la abundancia fácilmente puede dar paso a la indiferencia e incluso al descuido. Debemos oír la Palabra, pero ¿buscamos oportunidades para escucharla?

Jesús nos dice hoy que aquellos que escuchan la Palabra y la ponen en práctica son Su madre y Sus hermanos. Jesús está invitando a sus seguidores a una relación muy cercana e íntima con esta interacción. Jesús está diciendo: “No quiero que solo sepas de mí. No quiero que pienses que tengo cosas buenas que decir, que hables de mí en la cena como un tipo del que oí hablar una vez. No quiero ser tu conocido, ni siquiera tu amigo. Te quiero en mi vida como mi madre está en mi vida”.

Si bien no todos tienen una relación ideal con su madre terrenal, todos podemos tener una relación ideal con nuestra madre celestial. Jesús nos invita a convertirnos en otras Marías en el mundo. Hacemos esto al escuchar Su Palabra y ponerla en práctica. Eso es la mejor resumen de la vida de María. Ella escuchó la Palabra y, llena de confianza y seguridad en su Dios, lo puso en práctica. Ella cooperó con él y, al hacerlo, dio a luz a Cristo para la salvación del mundo.

Esto es la invitación de hoy. Al escuchar la Palabra de Jesús y ponerla en práctica, traemos a Cristo al mundo. Permitimos que Él obre en nosotros y a través de nosotros se manifieste en lo que decimos y hacemos.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Oladimeji Ajegbile, www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-reading-indoor-2325729/

Family Ties / Enlaces Familiares

Today’s reading is one that lectors fear. How do you make such a long list sound interesting? And how do you pronounce all those names? Why don’t we just skip it (as some parishes inevitably will)? What does it have to do with Mary anyway?

All excellent questions with equally interesting answers. I can’t tell you how to make the list sound interesting, unfortunately, though I’m sure there are some incredible orators out there who will do their very best. 

The questions “Why don’t we just skip it?” and “What does it have to do with Mary?” require lengthier answers. Matthew is speaking to a Jewish audience who knows their history well. The very identity of the Jewish people at this time was rooted within their connection to ancestors like David, Jacob, and Abraham. But Matthew is doing more than simply highlighting key figures in Jesus’ lineage. He is showing how God has been walking alongside His people, preparing them for the coming Messiah. Significantly, God hasn’t just been walking alongside the righteous and upright. This list is full of the good and bad alike. There are criminals, thieves, kings and peasants. There are even some women who, at first glance, might not be the first people you’d think of when it comes to role models. 

Matthew’s goal in listing out Jesus’ ancestry is to show his audience how clearly and specifically God has been walking with His chosen people from the beginning of creation. Jesus isn’t a surprise. He has been part of God’s bigger plan for salvation and here are all the specific ways God has kept His promises to all manner of people. To us today, Jesus’ lineage offers a large number of Old Testament references that we can learn more about and can serve as a launching off point into the stories we may not be familiar with. 

What does this lineage have to do with Mary? Everything! Mary, a little no one, becomes the greatest instrument of God’s plans for the salvation of the world because she understood that her God, our God, is trustworthy. He keeps His promises to His people. God does not abandon His people, even when they do go astray as many of the people on this list did. 

The message of the lineage of Jesus remains the same for us today:

  • God’s plans are bigger than we can see in the moment
  • God is always planning for our benefit
  • God keeps His promises in His own good timing

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La lectura de hoy es una que los lectores temen. ¿Cómo haces que una lista tan larga suene interesante? ¿Y cómo se pronuncian todos esos nombres? ¿Por qué no lo omitimos (como inevitablemente lo harán algunas parroquias)? ¿Qué tiene que ver con María de todos modos?

Son todas preguntas excelentes con respuestas igualmente interesantes. Desafortunadamente, no puedo decirte cómo hacer que la lista suene interesante, aunque estoy seguro que hay algunos oradores increíbles que harán todo lo posible.

Las preguntas “¿Por qué no nos lo omitimos?” y “¿Qué tiene que ver con María?” requieren respuestas más largas. Mateo le está hablando a una audiencia judía que conoce bien su historia. La identidad misma del pueblo judío en este momento estaba enraizada en su conexión con antepasados ​​como David, Jacob y Abraham. Pero Mateo está haciendo más que simplemente resaltar figuras claves en el linaje de Jesús. Está mostrando cómo Dios ha estado caminando junto a su pueblo, preparándolos para la venida del Mesías. Significativamente, Dios no solo ha estado caminando junto a los justos y rectos. Esta lista está llena de buenos y malos por igual. Hay criminales, ladrones, reyes y campesinos. Incluso hay algunas mujeres que, a primera vista, no son los mejores modelos a seguir.

El objetivo de Mateo al enumerar la ascendencia de Jesús es mostrar a su audiencia cuán clara y específicamente Dios ha estado caminando con su pueblo elegido desde el comienzo de la creación. Jesús no es una sorpresa. Él ha sido parte del plan más grande de Dios para la salvación y aquí están todas las formas específicas en que Dios ha cumplido Sus promesas para todo tipo de personas. Para nosotros hoy, el linaje de Jesús ofrece una gran cantidad de referencias del Antiguo Testamento sobre las que podemos aprender más y que pueden servir como punto de partida para las historias con las que quizás no estemos familiarizados.

¿Qué tiene que ver este linaje con María? ¡Todo! María, una humilde mujer, se convierte en el mayor instrumento de los planes de Dios para la salvación del mundo porque comprendió que su Dios, nuestro Dios, es digno de confianza. Él cumple sus promesas a su pueblo. Dios no abandona a su pueblo, incluso cuando se desvían como lo hicieron muchas de las personas en esta lista.

El mensaje del linaje de Jesús sigue siendo el mismo para nosotros hoy:

  • Los planes de Dios son más grandes de lo que podemos ver en el momento
  • Dios siempre está planeando para nuestro beneficio
  • Dios cumple sus promesas en su propio momento oportuno

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA, www.pexels.com/photo/three-women-smiling-and-sitting-side-by-side-7358347/

The Sword that Frees / La Espada Que Libera

Our Gospel today can be read and dismissed as too challenging, too divisive, too radical. But it comes from Jesus Himself, so we must pause and take a closer look. I find G.K. Chesterton’s reflections from Orthodoxy on today’s passage to be illuminating:

“Love desires personality, therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces…That a man may love God it is necessary that there should not only be a God to be loved, but a man to love him.”

Jesus is radically reorienting the world as He instructs His disciples. Your family is no longer the most important thing in your life. Your job isn’t the most important, even your very life can no longer be held as the highest good you have. We must affix our gaze on Jesus and only on Him. 

When we give Jesus our sole focus and do all things with Him in mind, we find that we can discover Him in all people and things. We find Jesus in our neighbor, in our friends, in a stranger. And when we discover Jesus waiting for us there, we receive the Father’s love in response to our actions. That is the relationship Jesus wishes for us. We reach out to Him in service, in kindness and in love for others. He reaches back in love, in mercy and in grace. 

The sword that divides becomes the tool which sets us free to more fully embrace Jesus. Jesus then, fills us with His love that overflows back to those very people we placed second so that we could place Jesus first. 

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Nuestro Evangelio de hoy puede leerse y descartarse como demasiado desafiante, demasiado divisivo, demasiado radical. Pero viene del mismo Jesús, así que debemos pausar y mirar más de cerca. Encuentro esclarecedoras las reflexiones de G. K.  Chesterton de su libro Orthodoxy (Ortodoxia) sobre el pasaje de hoy:

“El amor desea la personalidad, por lo tanto el amor desea la división. Es instinto del cristianismo alegrarse de que Dios haya partido el universo en pedacitos, porque son pedazos vivos… Para que un hombre ame a Dios es necesario que no sólo haya un Dios a quien amar, sino un hombre quien le ame.”

Jesús está reorientando radicalmente el mundo mientras instruye a sus discípulos. Tu familia ya no es lo más importante en tu vida. Tu trabajo no es lo más importante, incluso tu propia vida ya no puede considerarse como el mayor bien que tienes. Debemos fijar nuestra mirada en Jesús y sólo en Él.

Cuando le damos a Jesús nuestro único enfoque y hacemos todas las cosas con Él en mente, encontramos que podemos descubrirlo en todas las personas y cosas. Encontramos a Jesús en nuestro prójimo, en nuestros amigos, en un extraño. Y cuando descubrimos a Jesús esperándonos allí, recibimos el amor del Padre en respuesta a nuestras acciones. Esa es la relación que Jesús desea para nosotros. Nos acercamos a Él en el servicio, en la bondad y en el amor por los demás, y de vuelta, Él se acerca a nosotros con el amor, la misericordia y la gracia.

La espada que divide se convierte en la herramienta que nos libera para abrazar más plenamente a Jesús. Entonces, Jesús nos llena con su amor que se desborda hacia esas mismas personas que colocamos en segundo lugar para que pudiéramos colocar a Jesús en primer lugar.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: HisLoveNeverFails, pixabay.com/photos/sword-epic-fantasy-celtic-2993521/

Ask / Pídele

I think we are often afraid to ask God for things. We don’t want to seem greedy or selfish. We want to feel self-sufficient and capable. And what person hasn’t heard a comment like, “Well I asked God for patience and He gave me so many opportunities to practice I just couldn’t handle it!”

Yet the apostles in today’s Gospel seek Jesus out and ask Him to teach them to pray. Jesus gifts them the most foundational prayer in Christianity, The Our Father. Jesus then continues, as if this intimate prayer wasn’t already revolutionary enough, and explains further how we ought to approach God in prayer. 

Perhaps this is where the revolutionary aspect of the Our Father comes into play. Throughout the Old Testament, God was present with His people, but they could not see Him. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was only to be entered once a year on Yom Kippur. It was the most sacred place, the place where God met His people. 

Jesus draws us into intimate communion with God, His Father. We don’t have to wait for a single day of the year, we don’t need a priest to pray for us. Jesus ushers into being a new relationship between God and His creation. Through Jesus, we become God’s children. It is fitting then, that Jesus asks the disciples to consider how a father responds to the requests of his children. If earthly fathers and mothers know how to treat little ones, how much more will God generously give to His beloved children?

Here is the trick, however. God desires a relationship with us. This isn’t a forced situation. In order for God to give, we must turn to Him and ask. And ask and ask and believe and believe. God desires every good thing for us and works all things for our benefit. This does not mean we will not experience trials or sorrow. It does not mean we will magically receive whatever we ask for – it didn’t work with our parents when we wanted that pony when we were 7, it doesn’t work that way with God either.

Jesus shows us the way. Come before our Father as a child, with empty hands. Ask in earnest, with every expectation that what is best for us along our journey to heaven, will be given to us.

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Creo que muchas veces tenemos miedo de pedirle cosas a Dios. No queremos parecer codiciosos o egoístas. Queremos sentirnos autosuficientes y capaces. Y qué persona no ha escuchado un comentario como: “Bueno, le pedí paciencia a Dios y me dio tantas oportunidades para practicarla que ya no pude más!”

Sin embargo, los apóstoles en el Evangelio de hoy buscan a Jesús y le piden que les enseñe a orar. Jesús les regala la oración más fundamental del cristianismo, el Padre Nuestro. Jesús luego continúa, como si esta oración íntima no fuera ya suficientemente revolucionaria, y explica más cómo debemos acercarnos a Dios en la oración.

Quizás aquí es donde entra en juego el aspecto revolucionario del Padre Nuestro. A lo largo del Antiguo Testamento, Dios estuvo presente con Su pueblo, pero ellos no podían verlo. Solo se debía ingresar al Lugar Santísimo en el Templo una vez al año durante Yom Kippur. Era el lugar más sagrado, el lugar donde Dios se encontraba con Su pueblo.

Jesús nos lleva a una comunión íntima con Dios, su Padre. No tenemos que esperar un solo día del año, no necesitamos un sacerdote que ore por nosotros. Jesús marca el comienzo de una nueva relación entre Dios y su creación. A través de Jesús, nos convertimos en hijos de Dios. Es apropiado, entonces, que Jesús les pida a sus discípulos que consideren cómo responde un padre a las solicitudes de sus hijos. Si los padres y las madres terrenales saben cómo tratar a sus pequeños, ¿cuánto más generosamente dará Dios a sus hijos amados?

Aquí está el truco, sin embargo. Dios desea una relación con nosotros y no es una situación forzada. Para que Dios nos dé, tenemos que voltearnos hacia Él y pedirle. Y pedir y pedir y creer y creer. Dios desea todo lo bueno para nosotros y dispone todas las cosas para nuestro beneficio. Esto no significa que no experimentaremos pruebas o tristezas. No significa que recibiremos mágicamente todo lo que pidamos: no funcionó con nuestros padres cuando queríamos ese caballito cuando teníamos 7 años, tampoco funciona de esa forma con Dios.

Jesús nos muestra el camino. Ven ante nuestro Padre como un niño, con las manos vacías. Pida con fervor, con toda expectativa de que se nos dará lo que es mejor para nosotros a lo largo de nuestro camino hacia al cielo.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Godsgirl_madi, pixabay.com/photos/holding-hands-bible-praying-friends-752878/

Naming Jesus

Whole books have been written about the question Jesus posed to His disciples at the start of today’s Gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a question every follower of Jesus has to grapple with at some point in their spiritual journey. Is Jesus just a nice guy who taught some nice things? Is He a prophet who wants you to change some parts of your life if you feel like it? Is He the Savior of the whole world yet your most intimate companion who desires you to commit yourself to him every moment of every day? Our answers to these questions radically affect how we live our lives. 

Something beautiful happens in today’s Gospel between Peter and Jesus. Peter, rightly, names Jesus for who He is – the Christ. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter Jesus’ true identity. It’s not that Jesus had hidden it, but that it was so profound human hearts could not fully grapple with it. Even to today, we cannot adequately explain with our human understanding how Jesus is fully God and fully human. The Incarnation is a mystery only to be fully beheld in heaven. 

Nonetheless, Peter’s ability to name Jesus as the Christ reveals something critical for all Christians who follow after him. Peter knew who Jesus was – The Lord. Names are of special importance in the Bible and in Jewish culture. To know someone’s name meant to have some claim of ownership or control over it. God gave the animals to Adam to name, to have authority over and to be stewards of. 

When Peter names Jesus, he was entering into this sacred space with Jesus. However, God is not controlled by human beings and certainly does not submit to our authority. So what was happening here? Let’s listen to Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli of the St. Paul Center regarding God’s name. He is speaking about God’s revelation to Moses, but I see how this same lesson applies here because Peter’s confession comes from the Holy Spirit’s revelation. 

“Thus, when God reveals his name to Moses and, through Moses, to Israel, he is voluntarily assuming a posture of vulnerability before them, yet, there is no way they can actually control him or do him harm. He does not need them but only wants them.  His vulnerability is based entirely on his own intention to bless and to love a creature whom he made capable of a free response.  Thus, God is saying that he will answer all who call upon his name, not because he must, not because they have exercised any power over him by invoking his name, but because he now pledges to be their God and to cherish them as his own.  His name is, thus, also a promise.  It means, ‘I am present to you always and everywhere,’ an idea represented in the word ‘Emmanuel,’ or, ‘God-with-us.'”

Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us, is the same friend Peter proclaimed as his Lord. Jesus is waiting for our heartfelt confession of His rightful place in our lives. Will we proclaim Him the Christ of our heart today?

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: catholicstudiesacademy.com/on-the-unpronounceability-of-the-divine-name/

A Whole New Game

Today we encounter one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus – to “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” These words, central to all of Christian teaching and thought, have troubled our broken human nature since they were uttered. Jesus then goes on to give examples of exactly how just God is with His creatures and how equal His love for all of them is. The sun shines on the good and bad, and rains fall on the just and the unjust. Being good earns you no special favors, and equally important, doing evil does not cut you out of God’s gracious consideration.

Our human sensibilities bristle at this type of world order. We expect just punishment for crimes committed. We expect those who have done evil to have evil befall them and are quick to associate unfortunate circumstances with poor decisions. And, because our egos are so massive, we would like to see God follow in our footsteps. How naïve and illogical we are! The created do not lead the Creator. It is the Creator who shapes the creature and gives it space to move in. 

Jesus is truly God and truly man. This means that while He is fully God, he also fully understands human nature. Understanding, however, doesn’t mean that Jesus made accommodations for it. Instead, as St. Anselm so captivatingly put it, “The Son of God became man so that we might become God.” Jesus takes our human nature and draws us up into the divine nature. We aren’t supposed to remain on our playing field. We are called to a wholly new game, one with divine rules. 

One of the most fundamental rules is what Jesus teaches us today. That all people, no matter who they are, or aren’t, to us, are worthy of our love and prayers.

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-men-playing-basketball-69773/

Promises

I found myself pondering the promises Jesus makes to His disciples as I reflected on the readings for today. Jesus promised that after three days the Son of Man would rise again. And it happened. Jesus promised He would send His Spirit to come and dwell with the apostles. And it happened. Jesus promised if two or three gather in His name, there He is among them. And it happens still to this day. 

Jesus made many promises. Even though the Gospels are full of examples of Jesus keeping those promises, still we might be tempted to wonder whether He will keep them for us. I’m reminded of a line from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The Beast is trying to figure out what gift to give Belle to show her her cares for her. Cogsworth suggests, “There’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.”

How many of us have been let down by other humans? (I’m assuming we are all raising our hands.) We are each broken, flawed, and often failures. We intend to keep our promises, most of the time. As is often said when a promise goes unmet, “life happens, oh well.” We toss up our hands, chalk it up to good intentions that didn’t pan out, and move on. 

We can be tempted to apply this same attitude to Jesus. Will He really keep His promise to always be with us, or is that just a metaphor? Does He really want an intimate friendship with us, or will He forget to show up like I do sometimes? Can I really give Jesus my every need and concern, is He actually interested in the same old sins and mess?

YES! Jesus proves over and over in the Gospels and beyond in the lives of the Saints that He does care, that He does provide, and He is always faithful. 

In our Gospel today, we encounter another of Jesus’ promises. Jesus promises that there will be troubles. While at face value it might not sound very encouraging, it’s so important for us to fully grasp. Jesus knows there will be troubles. He knows the troubles. He knows your troubles today, your trials tomorrow, your sufferings in 20 years. He knows. And He promises more. If you take the courage He offers, you will see how He has conquered the world. All of those struggles and trials are to be used for a grander plan that involves Jesus’ reign over all creation. This is today’s promise. Do you believe it?

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/berlin-cathedral-sculpture-3408348/

World Peace

The acquisition of peace, from a secular framework, is a tricky topic. So many roads appear to lead to peace based on the sayings:

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

“If you want peace, work for peace.”

“If you want peace, end poverty/hunger/homelessness/racism/social inequality.”

“If you want peace, stop fighting.”

“If you want peace, work for justice.”

How can all of these be true at once? While I’m not about to contradict a pope (that last observation belongs to Pope Paul VI), our Gospel today offers a very different understanding of where peace comes from. And spoiler alert, it’s not something that’s the fruit of our labors as these previous sayings imply. 

As Jesus is preparing His disciples for His Ascension, He explains another gift He is leaving them. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” 

The world teaches us that peace must be earned before it can be received. “If you want peace, then you must do something.” This isn’t what Jesus expressed to His apostles. The peace that Jesus offers is something even greater than world peace. It is the state of a soul in right relationship with God the Father.

When we find ourselves out of relationship with God, it becomes very challenging to be in right relationship with our neighbors. There is a reason the first Great Commandment Jesus gave us is about our relationship with God. Then the second deals with everyone else. The world cannot give us this kind of peace. 

The world is concerned, and rightly so, with the peace between peoples. There are many avenues to peace, like the sayings I dictated earlier. There are many places where peace seems unavailable or impossible to achieve. Peace often is seen as a compromise where no one side wins and everyone is sacrificing something for a balance of peace. Peace of this kind takes work.

If only the world could see that the work would not be so arduous we first received the peace Jesus freely offers. Living in harmony with God naturally brings people into harmony with one another. We discover the unity in Christ that binds us together as part of the family of God. We are not all the same, but our differences are not meant to be divisive. 

I love this image from Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement. Chiara says,

“Let us imagine that God is like the sun. A ray from the sun falls on each one of us. Each ray is the divine will for me, for you, for everyone. Christians and all people of good will are called to move towards the sun, keeping to their own ray of light which is unique and distinct from all the others. By doing so, they will fulfill the wonderful and particular plan that God has for them. If you do the same, you will find yourself involved in a divine adventure you never even dreamed of. You will be, at the same time, both actor in and spectator of something great that God is accomplishing in you and through you in humanity” 

Doing the will of God, receiving the peace He has to give. These are the ways we will bring about world peace that is meaningful and lasting for all people.  

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Burak Kebaber, https://www.pexels.com/photo/scenic-view-of-the-sunrise-11715604/