Jesus, Intercessor

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” (NAB, HEB 7:25) How incredible it is that our Lord, Jesus Christ, constantly intercedes on our behalf, not only as our High Priest, but as the Son of God. His intercession for us is perfect, just as he himself is perfect in holiness and righteousness, the sinless, unblemished Sacrificial Lamb of God. The Letter to the Hebrews continues: “It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” (7:26-27)

God gave himself to us so that we might give ourselves to him. Our unity with God is made possible through the perfection made possible through the one-time, perpetual, and eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who humbled himself as Son of God, becoming one like us. We cannot make ourselves worthy or holy, but it is through the transforming power of Jesus that we become worthy and holy as sons and daughters of God the Father. It is not our merits, rather, it his perfection that brings us to perfection in the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven, and we cooperate with God’s grace in our daily struggle to humble ourselves and unite our will to his: “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus, you are my Intercessor, my great High Priest, who sacrificed yourself out of love for me. Give me the grace and humility I need to relinquish my will, so as to unite myself completely with you. Allow me to trust in your infinite love and give me confidence in knowing that whatever happens to me is for my good and your glory. Amen.

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Do Whatever He Says

It is fitting that the first public miracle performed by Jesus took place during a local wedding feast. Feasts and banquets pervade the New Testament scriptures, including of course, the Wedding Feast to which we are invited, the heavenly and eternal banquet with our Father. Each Mass is in fact, a participation of the Heavenly Eucharist initiated by Jesus at the Last Supper. It is not a repetition of the event, but is a real participation in the one-time Pascal Sacrifice by our Lord and Savior.

The Gospel of John tells us that while Jesus, his family, and his disciples were attending this wedding in Cana, “the wine ran short, [and] the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” (NAB, JN 2:3-5) Mary, who had some role in the supervision of the servants, gives clear direction to them, and to us, to do the will of her son, Jesus.

Mary, in her simplicity of faith, trusts in the will and actions of Jesus. Mary points to the Lord. She does not come up with her own plan regarding a problem of which she’s concerned, but instead relies on the love and compassion of God’s Only Son. Mary is the example par excellence of discipleship, as she comes to Jesus with her concerns; she tells him the “problem,” and then leaves it to him for resolution. Mary, the Mother of God, does not claim a position of superiority, demanding and arguing for her position; rather, in her incredible humility, she abandons her concerns at the feet of Jesus, and then, in perhaps the simplest and most direct instructions possible, Mary provides THE Key to Discipleship: “Do whatever he tells you.

The Miracle at Cana happens through faith, trust, and obedience, when Jesus turns the water gathered by servants into wine, not ordinary wine, but choice wine. The transforming power of Jesus, when the problem is solved according to his will, results in a situation that is even better than what it had originally been. By trusting Jesus, by doing what he says, and by obediently following him, Jesus transforms our lives to heavenly heights never before imagined.

Jesus, I trust in you. Increase my faith, that I may obediently follow you as I am transformed into the person whom you created me to be, a person far greater and more beautiful than can be imagined. Help me to recognize that I am a Child of the Kingdom, as my hope of heavenly reward is fulfilled in my daily journey of loving you and loving those in my life. Give me strength and courage when I am weak, that I may do whatever you ask, according to your will and for your glory. Amen.

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Astonishing Authority

Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing were shocking to his contemporaries. They were amazed and astonished at what he said, and his miracles and healings further demonstrated the truth and power of his words. In his Gospel, Mark describes an event that occurred on the Sabbath, as Jesus entered the synagogue and taught the People of God, and cast out demons from a man possessed by an unclean spirit.

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.’” (NAB, MK 1:22, 27) Are we astonished by his teaching today? Do we see that his words are life-changing? Do we defer and recognize his authority in teaching us his New Commandment of Love? Do we allow Jesus to free us from our demons and to protect us from our enemy, the evil one, Satan? Do we believe the He has the power to do so?

Lord, your teaching still astonishes and shocks the world today, because your Gospel of Love is counter to the prideful, selfish, and “me-centered” society I live in. Help me to trust in your authority and believe in your teachings. Give me the grace and strength I need to abandon myself to you, knowing that you who are supreme, all-powerful, and all-loving, will rescue me when I am lost, heal me when I am broken, forgive me when I am sorrowful, and protect me when I am tempted by the evil of this world. Amen.  

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Jesus is the Victor

Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life….” (NAB, 1JN 5:5, 12) Oftentimes it seems like the world is “winning,” life is unfair, suffering doesn’t make sense, and good didn’t seem to triumph this time. While it’s true that sin abounds and evil is present all around us, we are unable to see the whole picture. We are unable to see the depth of another’s heart, and God’s ways are impossible for us to wrap our heads around. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (IS 55:8-9)

We are called to trust our loving Father, to live in faith and hope as we lovingly live the life he has given us. When we accept the eternal life that has been offered, when we accept the gift of renewal, and when we accept the gift of God’s grace, our lives are transformed as we enter a deeply personal relationship with Jesus in communion with his whole Church. In Jesus, we are victorious over this world, which frequently offers us death in sin; we have life because we have the Son of God, the one who conquered sin and death through his infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Jesus, help me to remember your gift, the gift of life, eternal life, a life You possible through your Passion and love for me, when you defeated Satan and all his evil works. Now, draw me close to you, so that I may see the power of your salvation. Increase my faith. Give me your grace. Purify me, so that I may be one with you in victory over the temptations, trials, and tribulations of this life. May you be glorified forever. Amen.

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Love Conquers Fear

Water was not only a symbolic element for the Israelites, but it was also an integral part of society at the time of Jesus. After all, many of Jesus’ followers were either fishermen or dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihood. The local economy was heavily influenced by this industry as well. So, it is natural that many scenes reported in the Scripture take place in or near bodies of water.

One such scene takes place after the miracle of Jesus feeding of the 5,000, and we hear about it in Mark’s Gospel: “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida…. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (NAB MK 45-50) The disciples were afraid, perhaps afraid of the unknown, perhaps afraid of what they saw, the threat of the sea, or whatever else, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

There will always be unknowns and there will always be various threats to our safety, to our emotional or financial stability, to the integrity of our relationships, etc. What overcomes this fear is our trust in God, a trust fully founded in love. God loves us with an incomprehensible and infinite love, and if we are able to live in that love, we will live without fear. In John’s First Letter, we hear, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1JN 4:18) That is true of judgment and in all other aspects of our lives. Love conquers even our fears.

Jesus, I trust in you. Increase my trust and increase my love. Take away all my fears and doubts, as my faith grows ever stronger in your love and care for me. Allow me to abandon myself entirely to you, laying all my fears at your feet, and leaving them there as your trusting child. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

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Long Live the King!

The joyous Twelve Days of Christmas have been celebrated, and as we bring the Christmas Season to a close, we commemorate a special manifestation of our Lord, the Solemnity of Epiphany. Our Gospel today, tells us of magi coming from the east, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” We sometimes refer to these magi as “wise men” because of accounts of them being pagans from the East, astrologers, and interpreters of dreams, but our Gospel doesn’t tell us how many magi sought Jesus. We can only assume there were several of them, each accompanied by other family members and many servants, along with loads of supplies and provisions. Their journeys to Judea most likely took between 4 to 12 months, and were constantly met with the difficulties, trials, and threats of the wilderness. They knew the stars, however, and they followed a new star, one that was believed to reveal a new ruler of the people, a newborn king that would unite the human and divine by his death.

When Herod heard of their quest, he was deeply troubled. Nearly forty years earlier, Herod was chosen by the Roman Senate and given the title, “King of the Jews.” The Roman Senate sent Herod to Judea to maintain and monitor the emperor’s interests in the region, ruling over the Jews. Herod, a convert to Judaism, had financed and completed incredible construction projects, including the magnificent expansion of the Jewish Temple. Four walls, including the Wailing Wall, still remain in place from his construction efforts. Hearing of a “new” king would most certainly have meant that he was to be replaced, and this infuriated and enraged Herod.

As we know, Herod plotted to use the magi. After assembling his priests and advisors and getting information about where this king would be born, Herod sent the magi on their way with instructions to return to him with the identity and location of this newborn king so he himself could do homage. The magi, who were very attentive to their dreams, were warned not to return to Herod, and when he realized the magi had foiled his plan, Herod ordered the execution of all the infant first-born sons in the region.

We oftentimes believe and act like we are kings of our own lives. We live day-to-day as if we are autonomous and independent rulers, and would never give up our power and control. And sometimes, we destroy whatever we may see as a threat to our independence, authority, position, title, or wealth. The reality is that none of this belongs to us – all that we “have,” even our talents, gifts, motivations, and good desires, all come from God. We can be like the magi, make a life-changing journey, and present our most precious gifts to our true King, lay all of our treasures, even our very lives, at the feet of Jesus; or we can seek to destroy anything and everything for which we feel threatened, even that which is perfect, beautiful, good, and true.

Some questions to consider: Who sits on the throne of my heart? Is it Jesus? Is Jesus the ruler of my life? Is it he who drives me and motivates me in my relationships with others, in my efforts at work or school, and in my dealings with those less fortunate, the marginalized, or the poor? Am I allowing the fear of “losing” something, perhaps my position, power, or prestige, to keep from acknowledging and submitting to the true King?

Heavenly Father, allow me to imitate the “wise” magi. Give me the courage and humility I need to release myself from the pursuits common in this world and to put Jesus on the throne of my heart, to be ruler of my life. Take away my fears so that I live according to your will and for your glory. Amen.

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Let God Fight for You

Ahaz was King of Judah, ruling God’s people for a period of 16 years in the mid-eighth century B.C. Ahaz was the son of King Jotham, a godly man who tried desperately to get the people to follow God, but was flatly unsuccessful during his reign. When Ahaz became ruler at just 20 years old, he pulled the people farther from God by establishing false pagan practices, burning incense to pagan gods, erecting altars in the Temple to false gods, making and worshiping idols, paying foreign kings with treasures from the Temple, and even offering two of his own sons in human sacrifice to pagan gods. God sent prophets to Ahaz to have him reconcile with the Father, but Ahaz refused to listen and obey; he was more concerned about his material pleasures and worldly profits, glamor, and prestige, then he was about his soul, God’s People, and righteousness. Many consider Ahaz to be the most wicked king in all of Israel’s history.

The Prophet Isaiah counseled King Ahaz that he must trust in God, not man. Isaiah tells him that God will protect his people, but Ahaz has no faith in God; all his trust has been relinquished to the things and people of his world. As regional tensions grew, Judah was being threatened by surrounding kings, but instead of seeking God’s assistance, Ahaz sought to become subservient to the Assyrians, attempting to form an alliance with them instead of trusting God.

God, in his mercy and graciousness, was willing to give King Ahaz a sign so that he could believe and trust in the Lord, but Ahaz rejected him. Isaiah spoke to Ahaz as the representative of David’s family line of descendants, saying that the Chosen People will be given a sign of God’s faithfulness: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (NAB, IS 7:14) Jesus is the sign of God’s love and faithfulness; he is the sign of redemption to all. And yet, he is much more than a sign, he is the perfection of love and all the virtues.

Heavenly Father, do not let me be seduced and trapped by the glamor, glitter, prestige, and profits of this world. Allow me to place my trust in you, and you alone. You have given me the sign of fidelity, your Son, my Savior and my Lord. Let me hear and live according to the words of your Prophet Isaiah, to be not afraid, and to allow me to let go and let you, Almighty God, fight and win my battles in this world. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

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