Listen. Think. Act.

Posted on December 29, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God

Listen. Think. Act.

Our Lady of the RosaryThat is a mantra or slogan for many different groups. Some seek to battle prejudice and bias. Other groups hope to eliminate poverty or reduce crime. I have even found some companies use it as a way of increasing engagement among their employees. In a nutshell, it is about taking in what you have heard and then reflecting on it before you act. The most fruitful actions are those that take place after careful reflection.

This is an important thing to remember for those trying to live a stewardship way of life. If we are honest with ourselves, too often most of us jump to conclusions too quickly or act in ways that cause friction because we didn’t really think about the consequences of our actions. We are moving too fast in a world that seems to be moving ever faster.

When the shepherds came to visit Jesus, the newborn king, they told Mary everything that the angels had told them. Luke tells us that after hearing all this, she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” No response. No panic. No action. Her reflection was the appropriate response.

In this New Year, you and I would do well to remember this Gospel account of Mary, the Mother of God. Let us resolve to listen more, reflect often, and then act accordingly. We are called to use our gifts wisely, sowing them in good soil. If we just throw them out, allowing them to simply fall wherever they may, have we really used them for God’s glory? We need to listen. Think. Then act.

The Most Powerful Woman in the World

Posted on December 27, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 1, 2017, Mary, the Holy Mother of God

It is wisdom that the Church begins the New Year with Mary, the Holy Mother of God as its portal. For Mary is clothed in the wonder of history. She is the iconic feminine figure who has been shaped with maternal care from the most sketchy of Scriptures. Of her we know so little from the text. Even Paul only mentions her once in all his works and that is minimal. Mary would have it that way, self-effacing as she seemed. Paul’s words are in the context of her magnum opus: birthing the Savior. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4:4-5).

For Paul, Mary is nameless. (more…)

Fourth Friday of Advent

Posted on December 23, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

ML 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalm 25; LK 1:57-66

Daily Advent Challenge 12-23The Responsorial Psalm for today has a wonderful refrain for the last days of the Advent season: “Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”

As Christmas draws near, we have a tendency to race to the finish. We put our heads down and plough straight ahead getting that last thing at work done, shopping for that last item, or putting out that final decoration. But this is the time to actually spend more time in prayer, reflection, and doing works of charity.

Too often in stewardship we lose sight of the reason why we are called to be good stewards in the first place. Our actions can begin to ring hollow if we don’t remember the reason we are doing something. All our actions in the name of stewardship are to give glory to God and to lead others to Jesus Christ. More money in the collection and more hands to do the work of the Church are often fruits of a parish community living a stewardship way of life, but it is never the primary reason we do anything. So, when trying to do the best you can in walking this way of life, lift up you head and see. He is coming again. He will come when we least expect it. And He is the reason for it all! Yes, your redemption is near at hand!

Daily Advent Challenge

There are just a couple days until Christmas. Who do you know that needs some encouragement during this season? Call them today to see how they are doing. Help them lift their heads to see.

So This Is Christmas?

Posted on December 22, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for Christmas

“And so this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.” -John Lennon

Nativity of Our LordThis year marks my 48th Christmas!

Forty-eight times I have celebrated the feast of God becoming man in the Incarnation. Forty-eight times I have sat in front of a Christmas tree and opened presents from those who love me the most. Forty-eight times.

Forty-eight seems like a lot to me, and for those older than me, that means even more Christmases to celebrate.

I have some great Christmas memories. I also have some memories of Christmas days that didn’t end up quite like I had planned. But all in all, there have been forty-eight times when Christmas just took over all my being for a day.

This year, Christmas will begin that really big change in my life. I will turn on the radio and I will be asked in a song, “And so this is Christmas and what have you done?” This year I will say that I fell short again, but next Christmas? Next Christmas, I will say that was the year I truly made a difference in my world. Yes, I am holding out for Christmas #49.

Hopefully, after reflection about the months gone by, you will be able to say, “This was the best year yet! I really used my gifts from God to impact the world around me.” If not, let’s make a resolve to meet up again with next year’s Everyday Stewardship reflection for Christmas.

That will be the year for which God has been waiting. Right?

Fourth Thursday of Advent

Posted on December 22, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

1 SAM 1:24-28; 1 Samuel 2: 1-8; LK 1:46-56

Daily Advent Challenge 12-22Two days ago our Daily Advent Challenge was to read Mary’s Magnificat and reflect on maturity of faith. The Magnificat is today’s Gospel reading and it comes to us paired with the reading from 1 Samuel, where Hannah offers Samuel to the Lord. In one reading, a mother accepts the will of God in the form of a son, and in the other, a woman offers her gift back to God. Both show a great maturity of faith. Our children are only entrusted to us for a time, but in the end, they belong to the One who created them.

If you are a parent, let’s face it: Christmas can be a stressful time. Can you find this year’s special present in time? Will you be up all night wrapping or putting together toys? But let’s put this all in right perspective: The greatest gift you can give your child this year is an understanding of who created them and to whom they still belong.

The love I have for my three children is great, but it will always pale in comparison to the love God has for them. And because of that, I have an awesome responsibility to care for these gifts, help them to grow, and then offer them back to God like Hannah.

Don’t let the chaos of the season get in the way of what really matters in this life. And if you are not a parent, pray for the children you encounter in your life, that they may come to know in a profound and meaningful way the child born in a manager over 2000 years ago.

Daily Advent Challenge

PAUSE! Christmas is just three days from now! Your challenge is to slow down, take some time to relax, pray, and offer yourself to God.

Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Posted on December 21, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

SG 2:8-14 or ZEP 3:14-18a; Psalm 33; LK 1:39-45

Daily Advent Challenge 12-21In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth receives Mary at her home. When the Holy Spirit moves Elizabeth, she testifies to the reality of the Messiah being the child in Mary’s womb. It will then be Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for his cousin’s public ministry.

It is Elizabeth’s graciousness both in her hospitality and her remarks that provide the setting for this story. When we are gracious, we open ourselves up to become an instrument of God’s peace and love.

Graciousness, another characteristic of an Everyday Steward, allows others to see the effect God has had on our lives. It is not always enough to just share our gifts with others. It is how we share them that can make all the difference. The good steward finds joy in generosity and that joy can become contagious.

Daily Advent Challenge

If you bake or cook, make something for someone else as a gesture of hospitality. If you don’t do either, invite someone out to lunch or dinner. It does not have to be expensive. Graciousness lies in the gesture, not the amount spent or the culinary skill achieved.

Pleased as Man with Men to Dwell, Jesus, Our Emmanuel

Posted on December 20, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, December 25, 2016, The Nativity of the Lord

God created the world out of nothing the power of his Word. He spoke and it came to be. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. He caused the mountains to rise up from the sea. He filled the sea with fish and the land with animals. Finally, by the power of his Word, he created man and woman to be the crowning achievement of his great work. He created in us hearts to hear his word and mouths to proclaim it.

When he called Israel out from among the nations to be a people peculiarly his own, he sent them prophets to proclaim his word among them. Such was the prophet Isaiah who speaks to us in today’s first reading. He proclaimed to the people of Israel—and to us today—the good news of peace and salvation from God. Through the prophets, God promised Israel a mighty savior who would forgive them their sins and lead them in the ways of peace. Not only would this great Messiah lead Israel to freedom, but all the nations would witness the great power of God at work through this Savior. (more…)

Fourth Tuesday of Advent

Posted on December 20, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 7:10-14; Psalm 24; LK 1:26-38

Daily Advent Challenge 12-20Today’s Gospel tells the cornerstone story for Advent, the Visitation. The angel Gabriel visits a young unwed girl and tells of God’s plan for her to bear the child of God. Her answer then sets into motion a chain of events that changes all of human history. Her “yes” is why you are even reading this or why any of this matters. It is her example of true stewardship that leads to God crashing into humanity as the Incarnation.

The US Bishops’ pastoral, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, has as a primary conviction that we are called to be mature disciples that answer the call of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. When God called Mary, she could have spent many days and weeks contemplating her answer. Who would blame her? However, even though she was young in years, she was mature in faith. The cost to a young unwed girl at this time of history and in this part of the world could be quite high. But her faith in God was her strength. To be strong enough to answer as Mary did is the goal. It would be great if we could all just be that wise and mature, but that is not how humanity always works. But like the angel Gabriel said, “Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Daily Advent Challenge

Read Mary’s Magnificat contained in Luke 1:46-55. Read it slowly and reflect on each line. Ask God to give you the maturity of Our Lady.

Fourth Monday of Advent

Posted on December 19, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

JGS 13:2-7, 24-25a; Psalm 71; LK 1:5-25

Daily Advent Challenge 12-19Today’s readings tell us the stories of Manoah’s wife and Elizabeth, both of whom were barren, but with the power of God, they became pregnant with child. The children born to these women weren’t just “average Joe’s” either. They were Samson and John the Baptist, two important figures in salvation history.

In stewardship, sometimes it can feel that our fields are dry and bearing no fruit. We can feel that even though we keep trying to cultivate our gifts and offer them back to God for his glory, nothing around us changes. The poor are still among us. Hearts are still hardened. The community we live in still appears to be fractioned.

But our gifts are not our own. We cannot will certain things to happen that are not in God’s plan. We are called to simply grow that which we have been given the best we can and offer it back to the God who created all things. We are stewards, not owners. But here is the hope we hold in our hearts: God will bring forth a rich harvest from the field that appears dry and hardened. Stay faithful to God for he is always faithful to his own.

Daily Advent Challenge

Can you identify a struggle you are having in living out your stewardship way of life? Name it and place it completely in God’s hands. You might be surprised what God can create out of our hardships and chaos.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Posted on December 18, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 7:10-14; Psalm 24; ROM 1:1-7; MT 1:18-24

Daily Advent Challenge 12-18The name Emmanuel means, “God is with us.” This is a title we use for Jesus frequently during the Advent and Christmas season, but its impact should stay with us throughout the year. The Incarnation, God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ, broke into our world in a profound manner that means that God is not only with us, God is us. The relationship offered to you and I by God is now more intimate and meaningful because of the birth of Jesus Christ.

God is truly with us and our goal is to be truly present to him throughout our day. To be prayerful, another characteristic of an Everyday Steward, means more than reciting prayers and setting aside 10 minutes a day. Our goal is to experience the presence of God throughout the day in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of living. When we begin to sense God’s presence at all times, and we realize that being with God does not mean one of us has to be talking all the time, than we can truly attest to our reality in a quiet voice at any time, “Emmanuel, God is with us.”

Daily Advent Challenge

Take a day and setup reminders on your phone or other device to alert you hourly. At each hour, try to feel the presence of God. Spend a minute or two in prayer if needed to calm your spirit enough to be open to his presence.