A good start on one 2021 goal

Freezing Fog
I’m enjoying the frozen fog in the trees of Madison, WI as I sit with God in Lectio Divina.

As I wrote recently, I was successful in completing one of my three goals for 2020—reading the Bible daily, thus reading through all 73 books of the Bible in one year!

This year I sensed a need to spend more time in smaller chunks of the Bible. I wanted to get back to practicing Lectio Divina and decided to use the Gospel reading for each day (lectionary) to move my way through the four Gospels.

Yesterday I saw a meme that said: “I’d like to cancel my subscription to 2021. I’ve experienced the free 7-day trial and I’m not interested.” We have gotten off to a rough start! But I am finding that my time with God in Scripture, unhurriedly reflecting and praying, is making a difference in how I see God, myself, and the world in 2021.

So far in eight days I have experienced the following:

Friday, January 1 — Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of GodLuke 2:16–21
And they [the shepherds] went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

What the shepherds heard and saw, they made known concerning the Christ child. Hearing and seeing the Good News should lead us to declare as we share with others.

Father, you have revealed so much to me and made me privy to your great work of salvation. May I not keep it to myself, but share with others in such a way that they will be able to share with others.

Saturday, January 2 — Saints Basil the Great and Gregory NazianzenJohn 1:19–28
“What do you say about yourself?” [John] said, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John (the Baptist) certainly had a specific role and ministry as the forerunner to Jesus, of preparing the way for the Lord. Yet every disciple of Jesus shares in the ministry of being a “voice of one crying in the wilderness” in which we found ourselves. Not only are we to conform our lives to the Lord, “make straight the way of the Lord,” we are to call others to that life-altering encounter as well.

Sunday, January 3 — The Epiphany of the LordMatthew 2:1–12
When they [the Wise Men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.

In Matthew 2:2 we find the Wise Men arriving in Jerusalem and asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”

After meeting with Herod and explaining the purpose of their pilgrimage, Herod feigns devotion in order to discover more about this potential rival and says, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

Worship is the focus of this entire narrative. When the Wise Men reach the house where the Child lived, guided by the star, they entered and fell down and worshiped him. They fell down. This was no nod of the head, or stiff bow or even a genuflect of the knee; they fell down upon both knees and they worshiped. What can we learn from the Wise Men as we approach this same Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? O, come let us adore him!

Monday, January 4 — Saint Elizabeth Ann SetonMatthew 4:12–17, 23–25
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” … And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

The coming of the kingdom of heaven elicits a response from us. We are called to repent. To repent is to recognize our current condition and turn away from it and in so doing turn to God; it is to go in the opposite direction—do a 180 degree change. We cannot remain in our life and practice of sin and enter the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, January 5 — Saint John NeumannMark 6:34–44
And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

There are obvious connections between the story of the feeding the 5,000 and the Eucharistic meal that Jesus offers us at every Mass. It was in this context in John’s Gospel that Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life. The disciples want Jesus to send the crowds away so that they can find their own sustenance. But Jesus turns the tables and tells them, “You give them something to eat.”

This continues to be the dilemma for God’s people. Too often the successors of the apostles are sending people away to fend for themselves and all the while they have access to the blessed Bread of Life and could provide life and nourishment to the flock.

Father, I pray a great awakening on men who are often more concerned about the social issue du jour than for the eternal destiny of those placed under their charge. I pray for a mighty move among these men and if they are not willing to give us something to eat, may another take their place.

Wednesday, January 6 — Saint André BessetteMark 6:45–52 (Actual day of Epiphany)
Jesus has fed the multitude. He puts his disciples in a boat. He dismisses the crowd. He goes up into a mountain to pray. It’s around 3:00 a.m. and the disciples are still on the lake frantically rowing against the wind. Jesus sees them in distress. He goes out to them walking on the water. But we are told, “he meant to pass by them.”

In the early days of my life and labor in this new location I am entering new areas and even some potential challenges. The religious and political landscape is tempestuous and the gale force winds are downright fearsome. I seek to row as the water washes over the boat. I look at Jesus as the disciples did and say, “You are not asleep in the boat. You’re not in the boat!” Then I look up and see a figure, a person seemingly with intention to walk right past me. Walk right past me? How is this happening? Who can walk on water?

Lord, if it’s you, why do you intend to pass me by? Like the disciples, I cry out to you. You come my way and get into my boat. The winds calm down. I don’t fully understand you or your intention. My heart is hard! Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thursday, January 7 — Saint Raymond of PeñafortLuke 4:14–22
And he taught in their synagogue, being glorified by all. … And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

So the crowds in the synagogues were amazed and spoke well of Jesus as he taught them, even when he returned home to Nazareth. However, in Nazareth they still considered him as Joseph’s son and for them that limited the impact of his words.

Our perception of Jesus, if it is not grounded in divine revelation, will erect barriers and we will attempt to discount his teaching and his authority in our lives.

Friday, January 8 — Our Lady of Prompt SuccorLuke 5:12–16
“…and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face…”

This comes from the story of Jesus cleansing a leper. The leper was in a sad state of affairs, and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

This is the second incident of bowing before Jesus in the Scripture readings this week. The first was on Sunday when the Magi saw the child Jesus and they fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2).

Jesus healed the leper and he went away whole, 100 percent cleansed of his leprosy. This healing miracle began with an act of worship and a statement of faith: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” What does God want to accomplish in my life through worship that is grounded in faith?

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