May 26 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
In our first reading from Acts we see the apostles finding the need to have structure and rules around who teaches and how for the church. Some have gone out ‘without a mandate’ upsetting people with their teachings. Through the history of the Church, we have seen the wisdom in having a teaching authority and rules to guide that teaching. Ultimately, the teaching authority always emanates from one place – the Word of Jesus. This can only be responsibly passed on by continually seeking to embrace the wisdom and teachings of both Jesus and those church authorities who have gone before us. We should seek not to change understandings to meet our needs, but rather we should humbly seek to share only the truth as given to us by Christ.
As Vincentians, we too have teachings and wisdom which are given to us by Frederic, Vincent, and the Society through the Rule. It is important that we come to know our charism and how it helps and guides us to grow in holiness. It calls us first and foremost to humility; a humility to submit to the one Rule and to Divine Providence, trusting that God is in control. It calls us to submit to instruction through Ozanam Orientation, other trainings and most especially prayer and meditation, where we are led to a spirit to care for those in need. Do I place myself humbly before God, seeking His guidance and strength in caring for others? Do I submit to the Rule and the charism of SVdP, seeking friendship with others, offering service to neighbors in need, and bearing witness to Christ and His Church, growing each day in the five virtues of SVdP? Do I understand SVdP to be a vocation and way of life – not simply a volunteer opportunity?
Lord Jesus Christ, let me hear your call to my Vincentian way of life. Grant me the humility to place myself before you in prayerful submission to your will for my life. Allow me to embrace ministry to those whom you bring before me with loving compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and zeal; seeing them as my master and I as their servant. Help me to be a part of the Vincentian network of charity which offers your hope to the world I pray all of this in your name. Amen
May 19 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Our Gospel message is so straight forward and to the point! Love one another! No equivocation! No conditions! No qualifiers! Just love one another! At the end of the day this is the greatest need any of us has – to be loved! God made us for love. To love Him, to know Him, and to serve Him! We come to know Him through one another, for we are made in His image and He resides in each of us. We serve Him by serving one another, as He calls us to do in and through the gospels. We need to set aside our pride, our anger, our selfishness, our judgements and our fears. In their place we foster humility, patience, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and compassion; for these are the places where we find God and His love for us.
As Vincentians, this is the very essence of who and what we are. We come to those who we find hurting and in need. First and foremost we are called to bring them the love of Christ, making His hope for them evident through the spirit we come in. We look for the presence of God in each person, recognizing that we too have many ‘poverties’ to overcome. Together, we life one another up glorifying God by our love for each other. Do I truly walk in humility, setting aside pride and judgement, that I may bring the hope and love of Christ to those whom I encounter?
Lord Jesus Christ, let me love as you have loved! Let me walk humbly, seeking your face in all I encounter. Let me embrace those who are in so much pain, so much need, so much uncertainty with the loving embrace of your presence, hope and mercy that they may be lifted into your light! If it be your will, allow me to be your vessel of love to another in need this day. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
May 12 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me.” Jesus is the Good shepherd always watching over his flock. A shepherd actually ‘leads’ from behind, allowing his sheep to find their way forward, but being always watchful that they do not stray too far. He guides them with the sound of his voice and the assurance of his presence. I suspect we could say the same things about mothers. They too allow their children to develop their own paths, but they are always ready to do whatever is needed when their children stray too far. A child (even a grown one) always knows the sound of his mother’s voice and is comforted by its presence. On this Mother’s Day, we honor both our earthly mothers and our heavenly shepherd.
As Vincentians, we are shepherds to those we minister to. They often look to us for both guidance and reassurance. Often, what they need more than anything is to know that we care, we are there, and we will not abandon them. Do I seek to be present to those who need me, or do I just want to ‘help’ and move on? Do I offer reassurance, patience, and support in my conversations? Do I seek to guide rather than control?
Lord Jesus, you are my Good Shepherd. Let me seek your voice in humility as I look to serve others, guiding them as they journey through the challenges in their lives. Help me to minister with patience and kindness, gently helping to identify the hope of the future. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
May 5 – Third Sunday of Easter
“Peter, do you love me? ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’ Feed my sheep.” Jesus shows both his love and mercy to Peter – and to us. His only real question to us is “Do you love me?” If we do, then he asks that we care for one another. He knows that we will stumble and fall in our journey to love him and follow him. When we do, he patiently waits for us to rise and continue the journey. Surely if His mercy and forgiveness extends so deeply to those who abandoned him at his time of greatest need and suffering; it extends to us as well. He does not condemn nor ask for an apology. He asks only love – the love which he first gives to us.
As Vincentians, we are called to have the same patience, mercy and love. Especially when our neighbors in need may stumble, we must redouble our efforts to show our love and care for them. In so doing, we reflect the lights and joy of Christ that they might feel the warm embrace of his unending mercy. Do I act with patience when things go awry? Am I compassionate, not condemning, but reaching out even more when I am called to? Do I humbly seek to lift up those I minister to?
Lord Jesus, I do love you, I love you more than life itself. Help me to overcome my failings, offering myself completely to you. Give me courage to always seek your guidance, act according to your will, and offer myself in service only to you; present in those in need. Allow me to embrace the privilege of caring for the poor – my lord and master. Let me be your hands lifting them out of their despair. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
April 28 – Divine Mercy Sunday
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” It is a clarion call to have faith, to believe, even in the face of serious doubts. But here is Thomas, one of those closest to Jesus, who had to ‘see’ in order to come to belief. Can you really blame him? The disciples are hidden away out of fear. Their Messiah has been crucified and now here they are telling Thomas about Jesus coming back. I fear I would have had the doubts of Thomas. Sometimes even now for us – or certainly for me – faith can be hard. When we are hurting, or suffering, or things just are not going the way I think they should, the questions creep in and our faith is tested. But notice, Jesus is patient with Thomas and does show him His wounds that he might come to see and understand – and have faith. On this, Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus is patient with us as well. He is well pleased with those who have total faith with no doubts, but is merciful to those who have doubts and continues to call us to Him in merciful love.
As Vincentians, we minister to those who are hurting and suffering in life. We look to grow in holiness by overcoming our own woundedness, fears and prejudices as we minister to others. We are the wounds of Christ that they may see His love and goodness through us and rejoice in the hope he brings them. In the strength of their faith, we are reminded of Christ’s call to us to live in faith even when it is difficult. Am I patient with those I minister to, as Christ is patient with me? Am I merciful to others as He is to me? Does their faith and woundedness help me to be strengthened in my faith and trust in God?
Lord Jesus, help me to overcome my doubts and fears, trusting always in your goodness, mercy and love. Allow me to be the wounds of your cross, which help strengthen the faith and hope of others. Help me to minister with patience and humility, always helping others to see you in all things. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
April 21 – Easter Sunday
Rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made!! This week is Holy Week. It is all about the Passion, death, AND resurrection of our Lord Jesus. That last part is most important – for without the resurrection, nothing else matters, and with the resurrection everything is possible. The passion and death on the cross make the resurrection possible. They also give meaning to the suffering we have in our lives. They connect the pain of the cross to the glory of the cross, for it is through the pain and suffering that we recognize the glory. I am saddened for those who have no faith, for their suffering then has no meaning, and the pain must be unbearable. As Catholics, we are called this week to immerse ourselves once again into the passion and suffering of Christ through our focus on the cross, that we might also join in the glory of the resurrection and our salvation – the victory of Christ over sin and death!
As Vincentians, we are called to see how our suffering and the suffering of those we minister to connect us all to the cross, which gives us the hope of the future. We are called to walk humbly in prayer and thanksgiving, rejoicing in the Lord through the way we live our lives and the way we care for others. Do I walk in humility in my ministry, reflecting the joy and hope of our Lord Jesus to all I encounter?
This week, our St. William conference lost a Vincentian – Mary Tom Clemons. Mary Tom was one of the original Vincentians when our conference starting in the early 2000’s. She served for eight years as Vice President until the fall of 2016. She has continually been one of our most faithful and compassionate home visitors. Within the church she was often affectionately referred to as “Sister Mary Tom”. She was not perfect – far from it – and she knew it. What she was though, was Vincentian through and through, even before she was a Vincentian. She has always been a woman of deep faith, a love for Christ and for the less fortunate, and had a heart far bigger then she would ever admit. She was a registered nurse spending the last 20 years of her work life working for the county health department. She knew many of those she served through SVdP through her previous work. Not unlike the rest of us, she complained about this or that, but at the end of the day, she only wanted all of those who were hurting to find help and the hope of Christ. She was never too busy to care or to help.
I suspect the vast majority of our conferences have a Mary Tom. They are a treasure because they show us the way forward in our relationship with God. They help us to see that it is not always easy, and never a straight line. They help us to understand that if we stay in prayer, walk in humility, and fix our gaze on Christ and those He brings before us, that we are on the right path. They teach us that our hope is in the Lord. Mary Tom and those like her provide us the path to follow in how we live our lives. Easter reminds us of the gift and grace God bestows upon us. Mary Tom was at peace with her destiny because she knew her destiny was unity with Christ. This week she joins Him as an honored guest at the Easter celebration. May she rest in peace at the heavenly banquet of the Lord.
Lord Jesus, grace me with humility that I might always walk in prayer, fixing my gaze squarely on you as I care for those you bring before me. Allow me to never be too busy to help those in need. Allow me to be a reflection of your light showing to all the hope and glory of your passion and resurrection. Help me to accept my sufferings with the joy of connectedness to your suffering that through your cross, I might embrace your glory. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
April 14 – Palm Sunday
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The words reverberate in the air. They are the words of an innocent and suffering person who does not understand and has, for the moment, lost all hope as we listen to them in Psalm 22. They are the final words of our Lord Jesus, as he takes on the full weight of all our sinfulness. Jesus always looked back to the teachings of the prophets and the psalms as he instructed and informed the present and the future. For one final time, in his final cry, he points to the Psalmist’s cry – and provides an answer. I do not abandon you – I save you, offer you redemption and eternal salvation. Jesus gives meaning to the suffering each of us endures – the crosses we must come to bear. It is the ultimate trust – all must be abandoned and turned over to God – control is out of our hands – and at that moment, we come to understand the immense love and mercy of God.
As Vincentians, I suspect we have all faced painful times in our lives when we have momentarily felt abandoned and had to bear crosses that may have felt unbearable. It is precisely at these times that God walks most closely with us. At the time, it is hard to see and understand, but over time, with the help of others, we come to see God’s mercy in our suffering. We provide that support, helping to carry the cross for those we minister to. It is through our eyes that they can begin to see the hope through the darkness. Am I prepared to sacrifice, to step into service as Simon the Cyrenian did, to help others to carry their crosses? Will they see through me the presence of God in their lives? Will they feel His mercy and compassion? Am I willing to share in their suffering as Jesus accepting mine?
Lord Jesus, help me to see your face, hear your voice and feel your presence in the darkness of my despair. Help me to humbly be your presence to others as they struggle. Give me the grace to accept all circumstances you place before me – both mine and those of others – that I follow your will as you would have me. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
April 7 – Fifth Sunday in Lent
This week we hear about the prostitute whom the Pharisees brought before Jesus. They were trying to trap him to give them reason to discredit him. Their motivation was not pure, but was driven by their pride, arrogance and envy. Jesus confronts them with truth, making them confront their own treachery. They try to use the law to establish their own righteousness. But Paul reminds us in our second reading that our righteousness comes not from the law but only from faith in Jesus. Once the Pharisees walk away, Jesus is left alone with the prostitute. He does not condemn her, but rather offers her mercy and new life by moving forward and sinning no more. Jesus has provided each of us clear guidance on how to live as well, but offer mercy to us in place of judgement when we sin. Paul tells us to walk away from the ‘rubbish’ of sin which is all loss, and to pursue maturity in Christ by following him.
As Vincentians, we are called to set aside our judgement of others as well, and to offer them mercy instead. We give guidance to them on choices that can help them to move forward, and we offer them the support we can to grasp those choices that they may find hope. We continually have to make choices about our resources available to us and how to best share those resources. We need to take care to have our choices born out of faith in Christ and guidance from the Spirit. Judgement of the ‘worthiness’ of this person or that should not be part of the consideration for all people are worthy in the eyes of Christ. Do I set my judgements aside and seek the guidance of Christ in all my interactions with those I minister to? Are prayer, humility and mercy my guideposts in ministry?
Lord Jesus, help me to set aside my judgements of others and situations. Give me the courage to stand up in mercy reaching out to others with the hope and compassion of Christ Jesus. Grace me with the humility to recognize that all I am and I do is only through the goodness and mercy of God’s love for me. Help me to use the gifts He gives to me in pursuit of perfect maturity in Christ by living only in the faith of Christ. I pray all of this in your name! Amen
March 31 – Fourth Sunday in Lent
This week we hear the story of the Prodigal Son. It is a story we are all familiar with and shows the great mercy of God and the importance of forgiveness. Sometimes forgotten is the reason Jesus told this parable. The scribes and Pharisees were complaining because Jesus was associating with and eating with tax collectors and sinners. This is a story not only about forgiveness, but also about who we forgive and associate with. One might say from the parable, it is easy to forgive your son – after all, he was the man’s own flesh and blood. The bigger takeaway from the point Jesus is making may be that we forgive even the ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’. You see, we are all brothers and sisters in the human family and we are all sinners. We must forgive those who are not like us, and welcome them, even invite them into relationship with Christ. In fact, forgiveness of those who are different, and extending Christian friendship to them should be celebrated.
As Vincentians, we are called to minister to the poor, the vulnerable and all those in need. Many of them have made mistakes. Our forgiveness of them and acceptance of them may be the hope they need to recover and move forward. When we give them the gifts of mercy, forgiveness, understanding and kindness, they will give us the gift of humility and gratitude in return. Those are gifts we should pay attention to that we might grow in them as we strive to grow in holiness. Do I welcome relationship with those who I minister to, not only providing help, but providing Christian friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance? Do I celebrate with them in the victories over challenges in life? Do I seek to learn from their humility and gratitude?
Lord Jesus, give me the courage to not only offer help through ministry, but to also offer friendship, encouragement and understanding. Allow me to set me judgements aside and to extend an attitude of forgiveness and understanding. Help me to see the humility and gratitude in those I minister to, that I may extend that same attitude to you. I pray all of this in your name! Amen
March 24 – Third Sunday in Lent
“The Lord is kind and merciful.” The Responsorial Psalm this week is a reminder to us of the mercy which God shows toward us – but it is also the mercy we are called to show towards others. What is mercy at its core? Unconditional love! Compassionate love! The depth of that mercy from our Lord was on full display on Calvary. We did not earn it, and His mercy does not pass judgement on us. Rather, it offers redemption to those who seek it. Jesus took the judgment of our sins unto himself, as God fulfills his fidelity to the saving promises and merciful initiative by which he bound himself to his people in an eternal covenant. In the story of the fig tree, we see that mercy is to be cultivated and formed, giving all the chance to grab hold of it.
As Vincentians, we are called to a life that allows us to be life giving to others – and as a consequence life giving to ourselves. We are called to be transformed and to follow Christ through service to those in need, and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. When we touch another in mercy and compassion, we touch the face of God – and become the light of Christ! Do I minister to those in need with complete compassion and mercy? Do I set my judgements aside that they may see Christ through me?
Lord Jesus, through our work with those in need, let us offer to them our compassionate mercy as given to us by our Lord. Allow them to see Christ in us and us to see Christ in them. Jesus, you are mercy and compassion for us all. Let us fix on gaze on you that we may never be distracted. I pray all of this in your name! Amen
March 17 – Second Sunday in Lent
This week we hear about the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John. It is a glimpse of the heavenly joy that is to come. Jesus has just shared with the apostles that he will be killed at some point. They come to this event likely with great fears about their futures. This glimpse of heaven is a reminder to them of the hope and joy of the future. It is that hope that they can hold onto to sustain them through the challenges and uncertainty that is to come.
As Vincentians, we can be the transfiguration event for the people we visit. We bring them hope in the midst of challenges. That is not the only transfiguration that can happen during these encounters though. St. Vincent tells us the poor are our Lord and master. They have much to teach us about humility, patience, kindness, generosity and trust. Do we look for the presence of Christ in them when we visit? Do we seek transformative moments for our souls in these encounters? Do we learn the lessons they offer to teach us?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the presence of your goodness in ly life. Help me to see your presence in each person I visit. Open my heart to the lessons they offer me, particularly in humility, trust and patience. Give me the grace to understand they have more to give to me then I have to offer to them. I pray all of this in your name! Amen
March 10 – First Sunday in Lent
Each year on the first Sunday in Lent, we are reminded of the journey into the desert and the temptation of Jesus. But it is not really about Jesus, for there was never any danger of His falling for the temptations. Rather, it is about Jesus resetting the ‘clock’ for us. Adam, when faced with temptation gave in and fell prey to the devil. Jesus rejected the devil and showed each of us the correct response. Our Responsorial Psalm from psalm 91 says “be with me Lord, when I am in trouble.” Paul’s letter to the Romans says “What does scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart…for if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
As Vincentians, one of the greatest temptations we can face is the temptation of pride – believing that we are the catalyst for change and healing and positive answers for those we minister to. Satan works hard to convince us of our own self-worth. He tries to use the good we do to draw us away from the source of all goodness. It is humility which helps us to overcome pride. Reminding ourselves that nothing we accomplish is accomplished without God. It is good in the Lenten season to take time to remind ourselves of the need to keep our focus always and everywhere on our Lord Jesus and to not “put the Lord our God to the test.” Do I thank God every day for the opportunity to be His servant? Do I give credit and glory to Him for what he allows and enables me to do?
Lord Jesus, I pray this Lenten season that you will shield me from the temptation of pride and help me to grow in humility. I praise you and worship you as the source of all that is good. Allow me to be a vessel serving you in whatever way you call me to. Let me look at those whom you bring before me, and see in them what it is that you call me to. Help me to recognize Lord that as I serve them, they serve me. In Christ’s name! Amen
March 3 – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Can a blind man act as a guide to a blind man?…Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye when you miss the plank in your own?… A good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit.” These three statements of truth from our gospel this week point to the notion that you have to get your own house in order to effectively help others. It is easy to look at the shortcomings of someone else and be critical. Sometimes we do this to take focus away from our own problems. It is important that we take the time to address our own shortcomings first, that we might see clearly to help others. As we enter Lent, we are given the opportunity to enter the desert and reflect upon our needs and relationship with Christ, and the changes we need to make, that we might be Christ to others.
As Vincentians, we focus on helping others who are in need. This is noble work that we do. We can sometimes get so wrapped up in this though that we forget that our primary purpose is to grow in holiness ourselves. When we lose sight of that, we lose perspective and become ineffective or burn out. This gospel – and Lent – serve as reminders to us to pay attention to our needs and relationship with God. It is that relationship which gives us the strength perspective to effectively minister to those in need. Do I spend time in prayer daily, receive Eucharist frequently, and seek time for reflection and meditation? Do I take time for retreat that I may renew my relationship with Christ?
Father, you are the source of all that is possible. Help me to always bring my needs and the needs of others to you in prayer. Give me the humility to recognize the need I have for you in my life. Grace me with the desire to spend time with you that I might have more to give to others. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
February 24 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…give to everyone who asks of you, be merciful…stop judging…stop condemning…forgive.” REALLY?? This must be simply metaphorical or a suggestion – right? Jesus is on a roll in his Sermon on the Plain. He follows up what we heard last week (the ‘Blesseds and the woes’) with probably the hardest teaching yet. It is hard for us to embrace the notion of loving our enemies –not just leave them alone, not just respect them, but embrace them and love them. Our first reading gives us the clue as to why we should and must do this. David does not harm Saul (who was trying to kill David) when he finds him sleeping because Saul has been anointed by God. Jesus reminds us that everyone person – even our enemies – is a child of God. To harm even the worst of these is to harm God. To love them is to love God. Many of us do not have ‘true enemies’ – those who are out to kill us. But we can read enemies as a wide spectrum of those who think or are different than us. Those who we are uncomfortable with, shy away from, or try to avoid. These too are children of God whom we are to embrace.
As Vincentians, we are often called to embrace those who are different than us, who we might find hard to understand or embrace. In the poor, the suffering, the sick, the imprisoned, we find people living a reality we are not comfortable or familiar with. Often they are different than us and make us uncomfortable. Especially in home visits we can find ourselves going into places that make us think. But in each instance, we encounter Christ in the suffering for each person is a child of God. God teaches us to embrace them (and Him) if we open our hearts to them. Think of it this way – why wouldn’t we desire to encounter Christ as often as possible? Where ever Christ is – that is where I want to be! In a home visit; in ministering to the suffering; we encounter Christ. And in humility, we learn how to embrace and love those who are different, those who make us uncomfortable, and those who are our ‘enemies.’ Do I look to encounter Christ each time I minister to someone who is suffering? When I go on a home visit, do I view it as a visit to the home of Jesus?
Father, help me to see the presence of Christ in everyone I minister to. Let me seek to encounter Christ in each home visit in humility and compassion. Help me to set aside my judgements, my prejudices and my fears that I may offer mercy, forgiveness and my very self in help of others. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
February 17 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke’s gospel this week does not mince words in his telling of the Beatitudes. Where Matthew says “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, Luke is more direct –“Blessed are the poor.” Matthew’s gospel seems to be more about attitudes while Luke is more about choice and action. The message is take care of the poor, take care of the hungry, take care of the weeping – or woe to you. In our first reading, we hear the message “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” and our Psalm tells us “blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” We have a choice to make not just about our attitudes but about our actions. If we trust in and follow the call of Jesus, we will find hope and salvation. Woe to those who choose another path.
As Vincentians, we recognize that the poor have much to offer us because they already recognize that trust in the Lord is all we have. We often see the generosity of the poor which is born out of humility and trust in God. They teach us not only how to receive but also how to give. Those who are suffering greatly are graced by God by His presence and faithfulness in their lives as He walks with them and shares in their pain. We have much to learn from the suffering when we come to them in humility, compassion and trusting in God to guide us. Do we come in true humility with trust and faith in God? Do we come with an open heart ready to learn from those we serve?
Father, help me to see your presence in those I minister to. Help me to embrace their pain and their crosses with them that I might be touched by their trust and faith in you. Help me to see their generosity to others so that I too might become more generous. Lord, walk with me as I walk with the poor, the hungry and the suffering. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
February 10 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our readings this week present to us three men called by God: Isaiah, Paul and Simon (Peter) – all of whom are certainly not the prototypical ‘candidates’ you would consider for doing God’s work. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips (certainly sinful); Paul was a persecutor of Christians; and Simon was a simple fisherman with a hot temper and a stubborn streak. Each of them would likely have been incapable of being competent in ministry to God, much less hugely successful, on their own initiative. But when called by God and led by God, they could not be stopped. We are nothing without Him, but everything with Him. They each humbly accepted God’s will for them and gave of themselves with total commitment to Him. By accepting and cooperating with God’s will for them, they became the very prophets, saints and leaders that God wanted them to be and that we as Church needed.
As Vincentians, we are also called by God to minister to those who are suffering in His Church. We come from many backgrounds and have many deficiencies. I suspect many of us feel unequipped to do this work. But God will and does equip us with all we need when we open ourselves to his call to us. We can take heart from the example of these three who gave of themselves in total humility and selflessness and acted with great passion in cooperation with God. When we do, His strength and goodness will overshadow any deficiencies we have. Do I offer myself in complete humility to God? Do I discern and allow Him to guide all my actions that they may be fully aligned with His will for me and those I minister to? Do I embrace all He gives me with the passion of Peter, Paul and Isaiah?
Father, give me the courage to say yes to your call to me. Help me to recognize in true humility my total dependence on you, accepting that guided by you in cooperation with your will all things are possible. Allow me to submit in selflessness and with great zeal in ministering to all who you bring before me. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
February 3 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes even truth and love are not well accepted in the places you would most expect them to be. Our readings this week carry a message of ‘the scriptures being fulfilled in the hearing.’ That doesn’t mean everyone likes what they hear. And Jesus tells us that ‘no prophet is accepted in his native place.’ When you proclaim the gospels – the truth of Jesus Christ and what he calls us to – many do not want to hear –even those you would think receptive. Our challenge is to hold fast to the truth, delivering it with love and kindness to those who will hear it.
As Vincentians, we will find some we minister to who do not want to hear the truth of their situation or the gospel. One of the virtues we are called to by St. Vincent is simplicity. For St. Vincent, simplicity meant speaking the truth by being open, honest and authentic in all our dealings. He also calls us to gentleness and humility. These speak to how we deliver truth – with kindness and patience reflecting the teachings and love of Christ. Do I seek to be honest with my neighbors in need even when the message is difficult to deliver? Do I discern God’s will in all things that I may act in the fullness of truth?
Father, help me to seek your will and truth in all situations. Give me the courage to be true to the virtue of simplicity when ministering to others. Grace me with the gentleness to deliver even difficult messages with compassion and mercy. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
January 27 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our second reading this week talks about the many parts of one body. We are all part of the body and all have equal roles to play. We all support the one body – the Church united as the bride of Christ to give glory, honor and praise to God our Father. In our Gospel, Jesus announces that the“Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” as he has “been anointed by the Spirit to bring glad tidings to the poor.” Jesus’s mission is the body to which we are all united through our baptism and confirmation, where we too are anointed by the Spirit.
As Vincentians, we are called to fulfill our mission, united to Christ Jesus in His, anointed by the Spirit, bringing glad tidings to the poor. We are called to come in humility, connecting ourselves to the mission of Christ, and acting as one body, sharing the love and hope of Christ with all. Through our witness and with great passion, we fulfill our call by giving glory to God through the care we give to those in need. Do I offer myself in service, with great humility, that God may use me to fulfill His will? Am I always aware of both my role and the roles of other Vincentians in building up the body of Christ? Do those I serve recognize Christ through my service to them?
Father, grant me the passion of Pentecost, that I might embrace the love and care for the poor which Christ calls me to. Unite me to His mission with a humility of service, acceptance and gladness in the work you bring me to. Allow me to fulfill my role as a part of the whole body that I might help to build up the kingdom of God. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
January 20 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our second reading this week from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tells us all about the Spirit? He tells us, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit….But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” All gifts that we have come from the Spirit. They come in different forms according to our needs, but they all come from the same Spirit. And we act with confidence that God will give us what we need when we need it, in the way we need it through the Spirit.
As Vincentians, we trust completely in the Lord to deliver to us that which we need, believing in God’s Divine Providence. Today we receive the reassurance that indeed, the Spirit will provide us with the wisdom, the knowledge and the ability to help those who God brings to us for assistance. We only need to listen for the voice of the Spirit speaking to our hearts and follow where God wishes us in humility and service. Do I humbly accept God’s will for me? Do I truly listen for the voice of the Spirit, and open myself to the gifts and graces bestowed on me? Do I pray to know God’s will, or that God know mine?
Father, help me to hear your voice through the promptings of the Spirit. Give me the humility to listen for your will in all things. Allow me to see and use the gifts you give to me for service to others, that I might glorify your name and be a conduit of hope. Allow me each day to allow your Spirit to be my guiding light. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
January 13 – Baptism of the Lord
Why was Jesus baptized? He had no sin, no need for repentance which John the Baptist was offering. Even John questioned Jesus being baptized by him. It seemed backwards to him. But it was necessary to reverse the sin of Adam and the course of history. The Baptism of Jesus serves as the bridge between his entrance to the world (Epiphany) and his public ministry. Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan and went into the depths of sin taking all the burdens and sins of mankind upon His back, and stepping into the place of all sinners. “He emptied himself, took the form of a slave, and was born in the likeness of man. He humbled himself, obedient even to the point of death…and God highly exalted Him.” While he was without sin, he joined in humanity and attached the sins of all man to himself that he might then rise up from the water, sanctifying them into waters of life, offering to each of us the salvation which had been lost. And God said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased!” We are to be baptized and drink from the waters, and then go out and give life to others, thereby becoming holy and saintly.
As Vincentians, we are called to connect ourselves to the needs, the sufferings and the pains of those whom God places before us. We are called to join in total humility and obedience to God’s will and Divine Providence. We are called to be life giving to others that they too may become sharers in the heavenly feast. Do I come before the Lord in total humility and obedience? Do I take on the pain and suffering of those whom I serve, joining myself to them and walking with them?
Father, give me the grace to drink from the waters of baptism, that I may have the humility and courage to go out, serving those you call me to. Help me to live in obedience always seeking your will. With your help, allow me to be the person you created me to be as you marked me and claimed me at my baptism. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
January 6 – Epiphany of the Lord
What an astounding scene it must have been at the Epiphany. Three wise-men see a star and trust totally in its direction to come in search of a baby boy to do him homage. Mary and Joseph have endured hardships trusting completely in the guidance of an angel. We know these events changed the course of history because we already have the rest of the story. We know of Jesus’ ministry, his passion, death and resurrection. But Mary, the apostles, the magi – none of them knew because the play book was still being written. It was still 30 years before Jesus was to begin his ministry and revelation would begin to unveil the full mystery of the Incarnation. All they had to go on was trust in the words of an angel and faith in the guidance of a star. They all give us the ultimate example of having faith and putting our trust in God. They all come to this historic point, full and trust and full of humility centered entirely on the notion of giving glory and paying homage to a little child who is their God. Jesus teaches us to change ourselves to conform to God – and by changing ourselves, through our witness and example, we begin to open the door to change for others. It is our job to bear witness to Christ through our lives. God will take care of changing the hearts of those who see us.
As Vincentians, do we approach our ministry and those we care for with the same heart, the same trust and the same humility with which the magi, Mary and Joseph came to the Epiphany? For it is Christ himself who we minister to. We are called to center ourselves fully and completely on His will. He is our Lord and we give him glory and praise by doing him homage. Vincent told us the poor are our Lords and masters. Do we truly see them as such, and seek and accept God’s will for both them and us?
Father, may I see your presence in the poor and bow down in homage before them. Help me to truly embrace making you the center of my life, acting with total humility and selflessness. Give me the zeal and passion to focus all my efforts on caring for others as you did. Let me see the light of your presence in the poor, and allow me to reflect that same light back to them by my actions. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
December 23 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
Two women come together and rejoice in their shared good news. Both are to give birth, even though by human measure, neither should have been able. One was thought too old and the other had not had relations with a man. And yet, both understood that nothing is impossible for God. Both rejoiced that God was blessing and using them. And the child Elizabeth was carrying, recognized the presence of one greater than he even from the womb. Where God’s will is accepted, embraced and fulfilled, great joy resides.
As Vincentians, we are to bring the presence of Christ to others by embracing God’s will with the same zeal that Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist had. In us and in our compassion for others, they can witness how God can replace sorrow with joy. Through our joy, the hope of Christ burns brightly. Do we recognize God’s will and willingly follow it with humility, zeal and joy?
Father, help me to be open to the possibilities of life as Mary and Elizabeth were. Give me the humility they displayed to accept your will and direction for my life and the lives of others. Fill me with the joy of John who leapt in the womb at the presence of Christ. Allow the hope of Christ to envelope my very being that it might radiate out to others through my every action and word. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
December 16 – Third Sunday of Advent (Guadete Sunday)
Our readings this week are full of joy as we anticipate and feel the presence of the Lord coming toward us. Rejoice! I say it again rejoice. And the second sentiment is kindness and charity. John the Baptist gives voice to the charity which Jesus will both model and preach when he comes. Paul tells us in the second reading that “your kindness should be known to all.” The reality is these two concepts are inseparable. Kindness begets joy and joy spawns kindness. Both are given to us in the gift and grace of a little baby boy who is pure love. Pure love envelopes all that is around it and shines forth in kindness, joy, and charity.
As Vincentians, we are called to ”cry out with joy and gladness….confident and unafraid, for our strength and our courage is in the Lord,” says our Responsorial Psalm. There is only one response our ministry can have to those whom Christ brings into our lives. We reach out in love and compassion. We do so confident that our Lord will inspire us. We do so with the kindness he instills in us. And we come in joy because of the gift He has given us. Do I reflect the joy of God’s love in all my interactions with others? Do I have trust and confidence that God will always give me the answers I need and He wants me to have?
Father, I rejoice in the Lord always! Give me the courage to embrace your hope, your kindness and your joy with confidence trusting in your Divine Providence. Allow me to humbly embrace through prayer and petition those whom you bring to me in ministry. Help me to bring glad tidings to the poor that they may come to know your love and joy as I do. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
December 9 – Second Sunday of Advent
December 8 – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
We celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary this Saturday. She is the Patroness of SVdP as well as for our country. The Feast celebrates the fact that she was without sin (the only human other than Jesus who can make that claim). She was without sin, but she was not without free will. She could have refused God, but she chose to allow God to enact His plan. We too have free will and the ability to allow God to enact his plan in and through our lives – or to reject it. We who are related to God by the grace of our baptism are given opportunity after opportunity to allow his plan to reach its fulfillment within us. Mary had ultimate trust in God’s love and plan for each of us. She gave total and complete submission to His will. We hear throughout the gospels that she “kept all these things in her heart”. She accepts with gratitude all that God gives us and seeks His will in all things. She is the model of silent suffering, merciful kindness, compassionate love, and graceful strength in the face of adversity.
As Vincentians, Mary is our eternal Mother and the embodiment of all we should aspire to be. She shows us the path to pure holiness. Do I accept all that God brings before me with gratitude and without hesitation? Do I seek and follow His guidance in all decisions. Do I allow His plan to become reality through my life? Am I the comfort to others that Mary is to me?
Father, thank you for the gift of Mary, our eternal and loving Mother. Allow me to see in her all that you call me to be. Allow me to embrace your will for my life and for the lives of those I minister to as she embraced your will. Grant me the humility, the gentleness, the selflessness, the patience and the passion to follow in the model of love and compassion our Blessed Mother has shown us. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
December 2 – First Sunday of Advent
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” These are Saint Paul’s words to the Thessalonians from our second reading this week. He is looking toward the final judgment and making clear what is most important in the eyes of the Lord – love for one another leading to growth in holiness. As we begin the season of Advent, we look forward to both the birth of a tiny child AND that final coming as well. We enter with a sense of anticipation, but also with a warning in the gospel to stay vigilant – to not become drowsy. Advent is a season not only of anticipation, but also of preparation. We prepare our hearts to receive the hope which Christ brings to us.
As Vincentians, our entire ministry is a response to that call to holiness by responding to God’s love for us by loving our neighbors in the same way. We bow humbly before the Lord recognizing the great gift that He is to us and the hope that He brings to all. This is a time for us to prepare our hearts and souls. What changes do I need to make in my life? How do I reflect the hope of Christ to those who I come into contact with? Do I lift my soul to the Lord daily?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of salvation. Help me to stay vigilant. Allow me to walk humbly, serving you at all times. Help me to abound in love for others so as to be blameless in holiness before God. Give me the grace to prepare fully in anticipation of the hope which is to come. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
November 25 – The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
We enter our final week of the liturgical year. It is also the week, when more than any other, we pause as Americans to give thanks for all the blessings which we have received and the many gifts we have to be thankful for. Our gospel on Thanksgiving Day recounts the story of the ten lepers who were healed – only one of whom offered thanks for the blessing. All ten were suffering and likely had bitterness or sadness about their lot in life. And yet, when they were graced with healing which gave them new hope and a new beginning, only one found his way back to our Lord. The new Liturgical year offers each of us healing an renewed hope for the future as we anticipate the birth of our Lord. It is only fitting that we bring an attitude of thanksgiving to the fore.
As Vincentians, we have all experienced both those who show little or no gratitude and those who are totally grateful. So many have all the reason in the world to feel bitterness about their circumstances in life. And yet, they find their way past the bitterness and are filled with gratitude for the help we bring. It is their faith which leads them to see God’s hand in the help they receive. Am I appreciative of all that I have? Do I recognize the blessings God has bestowed on me? Do I give glory, praise and thanks to God each and every day?
I pray for each of you that you may find the time to spend with your family this Thanksgiving. As we enjoy our families, let us also take some time to remember those who are less fortunate – those who have no family, those who have no faith, those who are hurting and those who lack basic necessities.
Lord Jesus, help me to see your hand in all that I have. Let me see the many blessings in my life. Give me the courage, the humility and the grace to stop and offer thanks to you for all I have. Be with those who find themselves suffering during this time. Let them bear their crosses in faith and see the hope that you offer to each of us. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
November 18 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 17 – St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Our readings recently have been increasingly about faith and the importance of trust in God AND following where God leads us. Our second readings from Hebrews have reinforced that Jesus is our model and salvation. Our first reading this week closes with, “Those who lead many to justice will shine like the stars forever.” This is where the readings about the end of time become less about something we hope will be in the far future and more about the way that we are living our faith now. We need to lead the many to justice. We are called to lead others to justice. We are called to help them see His Presence in our actions, our care for the poor, the struggling, the sick, and all who are dependent on our compassion. We are called to live our faith, reflecting the love of Christ here and now, that we might shine like the stars.
St. Elizabeth is a kindred spirit to the work we do in SVdP. She was the daughter of the King of Hungary. But she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick. Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing. Daily she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest in the land, who came to her gate. She lived a short life dying at the age of 24 in the early 1200’s. She shared the zeal – the passion – Vincent had for serving the poor. She is the patron saint of Catholic Charities. Like St. Vincent, she saw the need to live our faith now in obedience to the example of Jesus. Do I look to live my faith today, by bringing justice or do I rely on the hope of the future? Do I let my prayer lifeform my actions and lead me to compassion and mercy for the poor and struggling?
Lord Jesus, help me to see the injustices of society and help me to work against them. Let me see the hope of the future but understand my call to live today. Help me to submit in obedience to the example of Christ in bringing justice and compassion to all who are in need. Let me act with the passion, zeal and conviction of St. Vincent and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
November 11 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus calls the attention of his disciples to the poor widow in today’s gospel. There are three aspects to the poor widow we should take note of. First is why she is in poverty? It is the injustices of the societal norms of the times which place her in poverty. Second, despite these injustices and obstacles which she faces, she still is generous and caring for others. She gives even when she would have every reason not to. Third is her faith in God. She was rich in faith while those who gave only from their surplus were poor in faith.
As Vincentians, we often times find these same aspects in the lives of the poor we minister to as well. Many are victims of social injustice and an economic system which disadvantages them. Despite the obstacles, so often we see great faith and generosity in those we serve. How many times I have heard it asked, why they gave that money away when it could have helped them. And the reply is so simple – because someone else needed it. We would do well to learn from the poor, – faith and generosity grounded in trust in the Lord. Do I call out the systems and practices which work against the poor improving their lives? Do I recognize the generosity of self-sacrifice? Does my faith persist even in the face of injustice?
Lord Jesus, help me to see the injustices of society and help me to work against them. Give me the courage to give sacrificially as did the widow. Grace me with faith so strong that it persists and increases in times of sorrow and pain. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
November 4 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus provides us with clarity this week as the scribes try to trip him up. Which commandment is the greatest, they want to know? Realize that we are not just talking first out of ten. No, there were 613 laws which Moses gave in the Torah. But Jesus did not focus on the 613 or the details of them. Rather, he went right to the source of all law, God himself. God, the source of all freedom and salvation, the source of redemption, and the perfection of love itself. We are to love God with all our being. Our focus is to be on God alone, for His love for us commands nothing less. And our love of Him – when true and complete – cannot help but bring us to love of our neighbor as ourselves. For when we are truly focused on God alone, we cannot help but recognize God in our neighbor.
As Vincentians, it is in the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized that we find and share the love of God. It is through our ministry that we come to know that it is in the Lord that we find our strength. It is here that we find the immensity of His compassion and mercy. Do I seek God’s mercy for those I minister to as well as for myself? Are my eyes opened to His unending love for all of us? Is my focus completely on His love for us and my love for Him?
Lord Jesus, open my eyes to your love for me. Give me the humility to seek only your love and your will. Help me to reflect that love in all that I do. Let me love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. And let me love my neighbor as myself. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
October 28 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our gospel this week we hear the story of the blind Bartimeaous, who throws away his cloak in total trust, obedience and faith in the Lord. He doesn’t walk away because the cost is too steep (the wealthy man). He doesn’t place conditions for following (James and John). His cloak is all he has, but he does not hesitate. He has total faith and total trust in Jesus. And he follows him with total commitment. We too are called to bring our needs to Jesus and to have total trust that he will provide for all that we need.
As Vincentians, we should not look within ourselves for answers to our problems or those of our brothers and sisters in need. We should look only in one place. We should look to God, turning to him in prayer, and listening intently for the answers he provides. Do we have total trust that God will provide us the answers we need? Are we willing to walk away from any conditions on our requests to God? Are the prayers we lift up to our Lord filled with requests or filled with a seeking of His will?
Lord Jesus, help me to trust in you as Bartimeaous did. Give me the courage to let go of all that keeps me from a total commitment to you. Help me to seek your will in all things. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
October 21 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our gospel today we hear “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask you.” How many times do we approach God in this way? I know I certainly do so repeatedly ‘even though I know better.’ But as Jesus tells us, “we do not know what we are asking.” In other words, be careful what you wish for. Our Responsorial Psalm gives us the proper attitude and approach we should come to God with. “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” We should come to the Lord humbly seeking His mercy placing our trust fully and completely in Him.
As Vincentians, this captures the essence of our ministry. We come to God, seeking mercy for ourselves and for those whom He brings before us. Even when we do not understand or like where God is leading us, we must trust completely in His Divine Providence. Every time we give over to God that which belongs to Him (everything), we grow a little more in holiness. Do I trust in His ways at all times? Do I walk in humility before God? Am I willing to offer myself sacrificially that His mercy and goodness may be seen by others?
Lord Jesus, help me to always place myself before you in service and gratitude. Allow me to grow each day in humility, sacrificing my needs and desires that I may make know your mercy in the lives of others. Give me a heart that fully commits to you and trusts in your ways. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
October 14 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In our gospel this weekend we hear the story of the rich young man who comes to ask Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He is a good and virtuous person who obeys the commandments, is already generous and appears headed in the right direction. But Jesus tells him he must get rid of all his property and come and follow Him. Are we to take from this that we should have no money or material goods? Of course not. But what we must rid ourselves of
are any barriers or obstacles that keep us from fully committing to Jesus. Fully committing means giving ourselves over to Him that He may use us as He sees fit. It is about trusting completely in Him and submitting fully in humility to Him. As Vincentians, we are called to approach the poor and vulnerable in complete humility and trust. We are to be a vehicle for Christ to work through. One problem we can have when caring for the poor is we care for them instead of allowing Christ to care for them through us, and allowing them to see the face and love of Christ. Mother Teresa tells us “The poor are hungry
not only for food, they are hungry to be recognized as human beings. They are hungry for dignity and to be treated as we are treated. They are hungry for our love.” Do I minister with complete love, coming with humility and trust in God? Do I set my prejudices to the side?
Lord Jesus, help me to minister with complete humility and trust. Help me to remove the barriers in my life that keep me from fully committing to you and to the poor. Let me be consumed by my love for you, that I may become that which you give to me. We pray all of this in your name. Amen