February 17 – Ash Wednesday – Isaiah 40:31
February 18 – Hebrews 10:23
February 19 – Colossians 1:26-27
February 20 – Ephesians 1:18
February 21 – Psalm 25:8-9
February 22 – Jeremiah 29:11
February 23 – Psalm 9:19
February 24 – Psalm 33:22
February 25 – Romans 15:4
February 26 – Psalm 130:5
February 27 – Romans 8:24-25
February 28 – Hebrews 11:1
March 1 – Romans 8:31-32
March 2 – Job 11:17-18
March 3 – Psalm 147:11
March 4 – Lamentations 3:21-23
March 5 – Psalm 119:114
March 6 – 1 Peter 1:13
March 7 – Romans 5:5
March 8 – Psalm 71:14
March 9 – 1 Peter 5:7
March 10 – Romans 15:11
March 11 – 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
March 12 – Psalm 62:6
March 13 – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
March 14 – John 3:17
March 15 – 1 Peter 5:10
March 16 – Romans 12:12
March 17 – Deuteronomy 31:6
March 18 – 1 Thessalonians 5:9
March 19 – John 14:27
March 20 – Philippians 4:6-7
March 21 – Jeremiah 31:33
March 22 – 1 Peter 3:15
March 23 – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
March 24 – Titus 3:5-7
March 25 – Zephaniah 3:17
March 26 – Philippians 4:19
March 27 – Revelation 21:4
March 28 – Palm Sunday – Mark 14:36
March 29 – Psalm 27:1
March 30 – Psalm 71:5
March 31 – Isaiah 50:7
April 1 – Holy Thursday – John 13:15
April 2 – Good Friday – Hebrews 4:16
April 3 – Holy Saturday – Romans 6:4
“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on Eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”
– Isaiah 40:31
Imagine being removed from your home and town and being relocated to a distant area with which you are totally unfamiliar, forced to work for an enemy with no expectation of return to your home. Imagine further that you realize that this situation was avoidable and totally brought on by your own failure to heed warning signs. This is the exact situation of the people of Israel when this passage was written. Yet, it offers hope, not despair. Even in the most difficult circumstances, hope in the Lord promises to bring great things. The images of soaring and running do not simply convey a message of perseverance through hard times, but rather joy and triumph.
In His infinite love, God can provide the greatest of things for those who hope in Him, even if they have fallen and ignored His promptings in the past. In this season of Lent, let us look to build our hope in the Lord and renew our commitment to Him, confident that we can never fall beyond the reach of his saving grasp, as long as we are open to extending our hearts to it.
“Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.”
– Hebrews 10:23
Do you recall the first time someone broke a promise to you? How hurtful and discouraging it was? As we grow older, we soon realize that this is an all too common experience, yet our hearts still yearn for something more. The promises of God are not like human promises. God’s promise is unchanging, unconditional and unfailing.
What is the promise to which this verse refers? It is God’s promise that those who are cleansed by the blood of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and remain faithful to Him will reach eternal life. While the Hebrews faced persecution and experienced weariness in the practice of their faith, this letter encouraged them to hold fast to Jesus and their confession of faith in Him because no one but Christ could offer them the hope of eternal life. This Lent, may find hope in the knowledge that God always keeps his promises and gives us all the graces we need to be faithful to Him.
“But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”
– Colossians 1:26-27
The Christians in Colossae to whom Paul was writing this letter were encountering false teachers who encouraged them to worship celestial beings thought capable of bridging the gap between God and man. Paul makes it clear that it is Christ who is preeminent (Col 1:18) and that all things in heaven and on earth, including celestial beings, were created in Him, through Him and for Him (Col 1:16). It is Christ alone who possesses in totality the power to save us. It is Christ alone who can bridge that gap between God and man and reconcile us to the Father. Christ dwelling in us is our hope.
How often do we look outside Christ to find hope? To our own accomplishments, to political leaders, or to our horoscopes to assure us of what our future holds? Does Jesus hold the preeminent position in your life? This Lent, may we rediscover the riches of the glory of the mystery that is Christ and place all our hope in Him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.
– Ephesians 1:18
God is constantly at work revealing himself to us. As we come to know and understand him with our minds, we come into relationship with him through our hearts. As St Paul beautifully phrases it, “the eyes of our heart.” It is then that the full appreciation of that relationship is revealed. It is then that we can appreciate the hope of eternal life that springs from that relationship. The hope of his call, the hope we have, is to enter fully and eternally into the love of God.
Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.
– Psalm 25:8-9
Will I ever be good enough?
How can I ever become as good as God calls me to be, when someone far greater, Saint Paul, says in Romans 7:15-20:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So, then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
If sin is caused by pride, then forgiveness is gained by humility.
Hope in the goodness and uprightness of the LORD is ultimately rooted in humility. He shows sinners the way…and He teaches the humble.
You will be as good as YOU let God make you.
A humble, contrite and complete Confession—not just once but often—is the sacramental medicine that is our hope.
We get better one Confession at a time.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11
It is said that after slipping in the mud on the way to her Convent, St. Teresa of Avila’s immediate prayer was reported to have been “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!”
Just as God never changes, His love for us and His desire for our salvation (same thing, actually) never changes. But it bears remembering that all things, including our most painful difficulties, are of God: He either causes them directly or He allows them to happen. Either way, though, the reason is the same. As St. Paul tells us, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28), for He “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).
Thus it is that even Divine Love sometimes manifests itself as “tough love”, and when love becomes “tough”, one might be tempted to think “If this is love, perhaps I could do with less of it!” But Proverbs cautions us to “not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Prov 3:11).
Like many things, this is easier to hear when things are… easy. But when things get difficult… well, that’s another matter entirely. Christ Himself went through the same experience: He spoke frequently about His death, but it was only on the night He was betrayed that He sweated blood in the Garden. But of the many things that this brief interlude in the Savior’s life can teach us, one of the most disturbing and yet comforting lessons is that God makes good use even of our pain, as it can be an instrument of salvation for both ourselves and others.
In the end, the suffering and difficulties endured will be a badge of honor for those who are saved. As the wounds of Christ say “See how much I have loved!”, our own wounds can speak the same words right along with Him.
And for all eternity, there are no words more glorious than these.
The needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade. -Psalm 9:19
We will all be subject to difficult and trying times in our lives. In other words, we will all be needy and afflicted at some point. It is in times like those that we are tempted to believe that we are alone and forgotten. Scripture tells us the exact opposite. It provides us with the wonderful hope that we are not forgotten; that God, aware of our needs and suffering, is there for us to turn to. We can count on the consolation of God. Perhaps it will be provided through an encounter with someone, or maybe a brief moment of calm and peace. Our inner hearts need to open to the path God’s consolation takes. In as much as we need to be attentive to the hope God provides us in our time of neediness, we also need to be ready to be the vehicle of God’s consolation and hope to others. In either case, we need to take the time to build that relationship with God that allows us to more fully open our hearts to the power of His love.
May your mercy, Lord, be upon us as we put our hope in you. – Psalm 33:22
Life in God’s care gives certainty.
With the increased numbers of the world’s population receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, it appears that we stand at the threshold of recovering a sense of comfort for approaching life beyond the virus’ grip. We do not know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. It is none other than the faithful, loving God who created all things, who in His mercy, sent His Son to save us not only from our disobedience and its punishment, but also to protect all His children from all things out of our control. It is Him, who has promised in His covenants from the moment of creation, to make all things new and who at present causes His Kingdom to advance through the world. The road may be rough, but God will be our guide and bring us safely to our destination. When it comes to God, past experience guarantees the future. With Hope in Him we are always comforted.
“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” – St. Padre Pio
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. -Romans 15:4
How do you engage with Scripture? Here, St. Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome about the immense riches of the Word of God, which not only teaches us, but gives us the encouragement we need to persevere in faith and hope. If the Bible remains just words on a page for us, which we read, but do not prayerfully engage, we may never know the depths of its richness. The Lord invites us to encounter Him in the Scriptures, meditate on his Word and put it into action in our lives. Then the Word will be “living and effective” (Heb 4:12), bearing spiritual fruit in our lives and achieving the end for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and I hope for his word. – Psalm 103:5
Do you remember waiting for your parents to come and get you after school. It probably felt like an eternity, especially when we were kids. But we trusted and waited there for either mom or dad, knowing that they would come and get us. We had hope that was founded on our trust in our parents’ love for us, even if it took longer than usual sometimes. We should have the same, rather, a greater hope in God. We trust in His promise to us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. When God promises to do something, we can have confidence that He is going to accomplish it, not necessarily according to our timeline or expectation. We need to have faith that even when things seem to be at their lowest and we feel alone in our struggle against sin and temptation, God has not forgotten us or His promises. As it is said in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget her infant…? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”(NAB) Let us have hope and confidence that the Lord is with us and will never abandon us.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25
Excerpts from Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI:
In hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24).…Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey. Now the question immediately arises:
What sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed?
…The self-understanding of the early Christians was shaped by their having received the gift of a trustworthy hope, when we compare the Christian life with life prior to faith, or with the situation of the followers of other religions. Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).
…A distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that…their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well.…Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content.
…The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life. To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
“I believe what I can see!” For this reason, many find it easy to set aside “faith”. God is not necessarily “ruled out” completely, but tucked away into a near-forgotten corner of the mind, and into a near-forgotten corner of life.
But the truth is that we ALWAYS believe things we don’t see. We wouldn’t trust the gas station attendant or the airline pilot if we didn’t. So the question isn’t whether “seeing” is the only way of “believing”; rather, it is WHEN can we believe without actually seeing?
Our faith is certainly NOT a “blind” faith. We do not accept it with our eyes shut. Rather, like the Saints in our religious art, we look it with our eyes wide open. And while we can’t “see” things that the faith promises, we see their effects as clearly as we see the effects of gravity.
We know that many people in the Church have done some very bad things throughout our history. Because they really didn’t believe and live the faith, they pretty much acted like everyone else.
But what of those who really DO just that? We see things we don’t really see elsewhere. We see St. Maximillian Kolbe singing with joy while being starved to death in a concentration camp. We see the Missionaries of Charity devoting their lives to nothing but the welfare of the poorest. And even in the ordinary good priest we find in our own parish, we find someone who gave up all the normal rewards of life – marriage, families, wealth – for our sake. And when we look throughout our Catholic history, we see millions just like these.
The faith might be unseen, but when we see the faith lived out, we are seeing the most wondrous things imaginable…
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? – Romans 8:31-32
Without including the exact word, this passage is one of the most powerful messages of hope in all of Scripture. In God, we have the strongest advocate possible. God has demonstrated the deepest of love for us by sending his only Son to suffer and die so that we may be saved from sin. If he is willing to do that for us, there is nothing he would not give us. Yet, this is the promise and the hope He gives to those who love Him. This is the source of our ultimate peace and joy when we enter into that deep relationship with Him. Armed with the confidence this message gives us, our prayer takes on a deeper meaning and we can obtain a deeper appreciation of the totality of the love of God.
At another level, this message can give us great comfort in dealing with trials we encounter in this life. Just a few years after these words were provided to the Church at Rome, the Roman Christians began a period of prolonged persecution. With their church under attack, this same message offered a sense of hope and comfort. Today, it is not hard to see the many threats and attacks the Church continues to endure. While we are not guaranteed the elimination of suffering and persecution, let these words of St. Paul provides with the hope they were intended to provide.
Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday; its gloom shall become like the morning, and you shall be secure, because there is hope. – Job 11:17-18
The path is always brighter on our Father’s side.
Light and dark are opposites; therefore, it is easy to compare the two. Think of them as being two different paths through life. The paths taken by the wise and the wicked are as different as light and darkness. Choosing the path to follow is a life or death decision. The path of the wise is like the dawn’s first rays of light that gradually increase to greater brightness. The path of the wicked is characterized by complete and utter darkness that causes instability and stumbling. The path brightened by the Lord and traveled along with Him is full of Hope.
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his mercy. – Psalm 147:11
At first glance, it may seem like this Psalm is painting the Lord as a tyrant or bully who enjoys striking fear in his people. The second part of this verse clarifies this for us: the Lord takes pleasure in those who trust him, those who look to him as a loving and tender provider, those who never doubt his mercy. Fear of the Lord is not the fear that we experience when we face uncertainty or adversity, but a stance of awe in the presence of so loving a Creator.
At a general audience in 2014, Pope Francis reflected on fear of the Lord in this way: “This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of Our Father who loves us so…This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy…with the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father.”
Today and always, may we look to our Lord as a merciful and loving God and place all our hope in Him.
But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope: The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent. They are renewed each morning- great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21-23
What a beautiful verse we have here about the true meaning of hope. We are hearing this week at Mass from the prophet Jeremiah who it is believed possibly wrote the Book of Lamentations. He was living in a time of despair as Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians and the people exiled. In the midst of this book filled with sadness is a declaration of hope. What is the reason for this hope in a time filled with utter despair? It is in the Lord God and His faithfulness to the covenant He had established with His people. It was because of the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel that Jerusalem had been destroyed but it will be because of the faithfulness of God that they it will eventually be saved. We today can have this same hope on a spiritual level. We may be dealing with a sin that we have committed that we feel is too serious to be forgiven or we may have certain sins that no matter how many times we try to fight against them we are unable to free ourselves from them. We should never despair of the mercy of God. He is faithful and never tires of forgiving us. We must be willing to go to Him with continued hope in His mercy. He is not like us who eventually may be tired of dealing with someone else’s mistakes and forgiving. The mercy of God is renewed every day and we can hope in this mercy throughout the whole of our life, until the very last breath.
You are my refuge and shield; I hope in your word. -Psalm 119:114
The Psalms are inextricably linked to King David. From his days as a ruddy youth, David was a warrior at heart. As a boy, the heavy equipment of a soldier was too much for him to bear. As he faced, Goliath, the giant, the importance of a shield would not have been lost to him. It might literally have been the difference between life and death.
Psalm 119:114 presents the “shield” as a powerful metaphor for God’s Word. A shield does not take away the enemy’s onslaught. It offers “refuge” amid the onslaught. So too, the Word of God does not take away our troubles; it is our hope.
David, confident in God’s Word that he would be king of Israel, faced the giant with the little he had—a sling and some stones. And, David’s hope was not disappointed.
What is Goliath in YOUR life?
Does hoping in God’s Word mean for you a kind of wishful thinking that God will just take your troubles away? After all, even Jesus had to accept the cup that would not pass.
Both Jesus and David found strength in God’s Word to be strong in faith in times of struggle. God’s Word was assuredly their “refuge and shield.”
Today, may our right-ordered hope in God’s Word be renewed and strengthened. Let us pray also for those who are facing the giant of despair or suicide—that they may wield the sling and stones of hope all the way to victory.
Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:13
“May you live in interesting times” goes an old Chinese curse… and in some respects our times are as “interesting” as any in known human history. That Christianity is under attack by its supposed “friends” as well as its enemies is nothing new. Every heretic from time immemorial sought to “save” Christianity from being “mired” in a superstitious past that would doom it to irrelevance in the future.
But the frequent and apparent “death” of the Faith and of the Church is always followed by the same thing that followed the death of her Founder: an unexpected and utterly impossible resurrection.
But that doesn’t mean that we simply sit back and watch it all unfold.
“Gird up your minds” – to “gird” means to gather up, to tuck in one’s loose clothing in preparation for labor or battle. We are in for a fair dose of both, and we must suitably prepare our minds for whatever lies ahead. Saying Rosaries, doing Novenas, and frequenting the Sacraments are all indispensable, but if we are to love God with “all our mind” as well as “all our heart and soul”, more is required. We are called to defend the Faith and the Moral Law as well as live it out, and for that we must prepare ourselves as best we can.
We can take heart in that the Revelation of Christ – the Catholic Faith- itself can withstand any storm, as the worst innovations of hell are incapable of killing it. We can confidently set our minds to the task without any thought of despair, as we know that both grace and grace’s Giver will never desert us.
Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:5
“Hope does not disappoint”. At first read, this statement sounds counter intuitive. We have all had experiences where something we have “hoped for” did not happen. But the concept of hope of which Paul speaks is much different. It is not “wishful thinking” which carries with it some level of uncertainty. Rather, it a firm and confident expectation in God’s plan for our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hope Paul speaks of is a “hope in” God, rooted in the knowledge of the infinite depth of God’s love for us. A love that, in the words of the Evangelist John, compelled him to give us his only Son so that we may have eternal life.
I will always hope, and will add to all of your praise.
Psalm 71 is the prayer of an elderly person who has lived an honorable life. As the strength of youth escaped him, the psalmist found his only refuge in a faith relationship with God This was his strength, his only assurance. Younger people, especially those who sought the position the psalmist possibly had (priest or scribe?), might have employed shameful methods to “climb the ladder” to success. What was the elderly person’s recourse? Prayer despite what evil others might think.
The elderly man suffered from the modern disease of obsolescence. He was expendable, for he had few friends. Yet, he implored God to rescue him, to maintain his position in the community. He prayed for shame on his enemies and a chance to proclaim the great deeds of God. Such announcements and teaching gave the old psalmist his purpose.
The psalm ended with a prayer for revival. Life for the elderly psalmist had only one meaning: the chance to praise God and proclaim his mighty works. This hope gave the elderly man comfort. In the culture of ancient Israel, praise and proclamation of God was honorable. Even at the end of life, such activity gave the psalmist honor and shamed his adversaries.
Psalm 71 give us a template for aging. Getting older doesn’t guarantee we make and keep friends. It doesn’t insure reputation. In fact, as we grow older, we might feel life and opportunity has passed us by. But, as long as we have breathe and life and reason, we have a chance to give our life purpose. Like the author of Psalm 71, we have a chance to show our love and respect for God. We have a chance to praise our Maker and extol his works, even to our critics.
How have you praised God this week? How have you told others about what God has done for you? How has this praise and proclamation given you hope?
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:7
What worries you today? It is interesting that St. Peter doesn’t simply tell us not to worry, but recognizes that worries arise as part of the human experience. As we navigate the challenges of daily life and seek to care for those entrusted to us, we will undoubtedly face concerns that seem beyond our strength. We know that even Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph experienced anxiety as they searched for the child Jesus who had been lost to them for three days (Luke 2:48). Though they were distressed, they still had boundless confidence in God’s providential love. It is to this love that St. Peter invites us to entrust all our worries and cares. God makes our cares His own because we are His and He wants only what is for our good. When we turn to God, instead of relying on ourselves, we can truly exchange our worries for hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
– Romans 15:13
How do we think about God? Do we see Him as a judge who is waiting for us to make a mistake and then to punish us? Do we see Him as some far away presence who made the world and then allows it to run on its own course without any concern for its destiny? Or do we see Him as a merciful Father who is always wanting what is best for us and truly loves us His children? The latter is the truth about our Father in heaven. He is not the God of wrath and destruction and fear, but the God of Hope. And He fills us with joy and peace through our belief in Him. Anything that we have we receive from God, who is the source of all goodness. We do not do anything on our own. We have to realize that if God asks us to believe and have hope, then He will supply us with the grace to do just what He asks. We have to respond to His promptings. We should not doubt His goodness and then go and live as if He is not present with us. God is with us always, most especially through the Holy Spirit which dwells with all of God’s Church. May we be open to the promptings of the Spirit, and live in the gifts He bestows on His children.
So, what is this love test, you ask? Saint Paul reminds us that love bears all thing, believes all things, endures all things. He sums up his treatise on love by saying, Love never fails.
Love never may never fail; people fail to love. There is a song in the Broadway classic, A Chorus Line. It’s called, “What I Did for Love.”
Considering what Jesus, or even Saint Paul, did for love, what for love did you do?
Does your love bear all things by bearing with the difficult people, places and things in your life?
Does your love believe all things, even those things that morally challenge our libertine culture? Is your rightly ordered private belief consistent with the way you live publicly, or have you adopted the misguided notion of saying, “I’m personally opposed, but….”
Does your love endure all things when others fail to love you, hurt you or even hate you, and YOU are called to the heights of Christian love?
Love never fails because Jesus never fails to love—even to His death on the Cross.
In terms of the love never fails test, NOW ask yourself, “How am I doing?” Here is some daily, spiritual medicine, if you need the grace to do better.
An Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured. Amen.
In any event, night or day, the haunt of worry can crush us as nothing else. And for good reason: life means everything or nothing, there is no in-between. To think that life means nothing gives yields despair. But if we are to think that life means everything, how are we to avoid worrying about it?
But life means everything only if there is life after death, and life after death is something that comes from God alone.
Therefore, everything we might worry about… the things that happen or might happen… they are not really in our direct control. We cannot ourselves give life its true meaning, nor can we give ourselves salvation.
But we do have a promise: love God, love neighbor, and we shall live. Let us plan, then, rather than worry… plan on building on the faithfulness in our lives (and there is some in every life), and on choking out the weeds of sin (also in every life!), imploring God’s grace to bear us up.
We can then look forward to the good rather than fear the bad, as everything is in the hands of the loving Father, Who will do almost anything to make sure we never have to worry again.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Throughout our faith journey, there has no doubt been times when we have felt uncertainty or doubt. Maybe it comes about if we undergo difficult life events or endure suffering that we find impossible to understand. Or we encounter a popular teaching or a position that we know is contrary to our beliefs, but we cannot quite put together a coherent argument to refute it, leaving us doubtful. The Church in Thessalonica that Paul was addressing was undergoing similar circumstances. Simultaneously, it was subject to early persecution and to false teachings about the second coming of Christ. In this single sentence, Paul provides the encouragement they need to continue in the faith. The message is the same for us – go back to the basics. Remember and reflect on the support we have from Christ and the Father. A support which can never let us down, it is “everlasting” encouragement. In our uncertainty, it is all the more critical that we continue to put our trust in God, who has our best interests at heart. As Paul says elsewhere, “Hope does not disappoint”. The hope we have comes from the love God has for us. Stay close to Him, stay connected and trust.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
– John 3:17
Coming on the heels of the most memorized Bible verse in the Western world (Jn 3:16), this verse tells us something important about the way Christ viewed His own mission, To give the world hope. He knew His Father’s original purpose in sending Him was not to “condemn the world.” Christ’s mission was solely to save the world; it was never His purpose to
condemn the world. He came to a world that was already lost and separated from God. Salvation necessarily implies judgment—two sides of the same coin. In contrast to condemning the world, God’s purpose was to save the world. The apostle, John, repeated the word “world” in this verse three times to show that no one is excluded from God’s promise. Jesus is God’s means to save sinners. God’s purpose for sending His Son into the world was not to condemn mankind but to save some who would believe. To give the world hope.
The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. – 1 Peter 5:10
Are you suffering right now? Then these words of St. Peter will be a great source of consolation. He is reminding the early Christians who were facing both persecution and the trials that come with living in our fallen world, that suffering has a limit. While on earth, we will certainly suffer, but we will not be overcome by it. When we endure trials that seem too much for us to bear, we can take solace in knowing that we do not suffer alone. Christ is with us. He himself strengthens and restores us, so that we can persevere until we reach the eternal glory of heaven to which He has called us.
Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.
– Romans 12:12
When St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, the Christians at that time were undergoing persecution by the Roman government. St. Paul was preparing for his first visit there and sent a letter ahead of his arrival. He wanted to teach them about the faith and to tell them why he was coming and that he was coming in good will. He wanted to give them hope in the name of Christ for whom they were being persecuted. Some of them were enduring martyrdom and many more would over the centuries at the hands of the Roman government. But they were to rejoice in all of this because of the reward that awaited them. St. Paul knew that the ways of the world could not conquer the love of Christ and he wanted to tell the people that they too would be conquerors over death if they had hope in the Lord Jesus. We too can learn something from this in our current situation. It seems that more and more the culture is going against the practice of the Catholic faith and the true living out of that faith. Our response should not be to go along with the crowd and water down our faith but to be hopeful in the Lord Jesus’ promises to us of everlasting life. Remember his words to the disciples in Luke 21:19: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.
– Deuteronomy 31:6
As we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day today, consider how this holy hero exemplified the words of Deuteronomy 31:6. As a youngster, raiders kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Confronted with his own dire circumstances, Patrick became better, not bitter. He did not cower in do fear or be in dread of them. Instead of hatefully resenting his captors, he fell in love with the Irish people. So much so that having escaped to freedom in his homeland, he was driven to return as a bishop to bring the good news to pagan Ireland.
Clearly, Saint Patrick was strong and of good courage. He realized that God was with him, even as he missed home and hearth. He never felt forsaken by God, nor would he deign to forsake Ireland.
Many of us blame the bad things that happen to us to excuse our own lack of virtue or mistreatment of others. If not YOU, we all know someone. Just watch the evening news.
Be strong and of good courage. Surrender life’s hurts to the Lord. Let Him turn life’s lemons into lovely lemonade.
Saint Patrick – Pray for us.
For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:9
The world is full of good things, no one can deny that. But the world also contains far more difficulties than we would prefer: sickness, loss, pain, death, telemarketers – that sometimes we wonder how on earth a God Who is all-good can let such ugliness persist.
And it’s a perfectly fair question.
It bears remembering that salvation is tied to “love”, on our part as well as on God’s. But love is a free decision, a free choice that man makes. It is not something that a robot can do. “Before man is… good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him“ (Sir 15:18).
It is important to remember that the ONLY reason God made us is to be His beloved. But it’s hard to make a choice when one has no clue as to what those choices are like. The good things we see on earth are tiny little hints of the eternal goodness that awaits those who are saved, and the bad things are shadows of hell.
Despite our inclinations, THAT must remain their only real significance to us. Getting stuff like wealth or fame – or avoiding stuff like pain and death – can easily become ends in themselves. But you really CAN’T “take it with you”, and it is the height of folly to act like you can.
Lent is a particularly good time to “recalibrate” ourselves and return to this truth, as the little sacrifices we make are all a preparation for the greatest celebration of all: the reminder that all the evil we endure really CAN be put to death, and all the good we see is almost nothing compared to what is offered us by Christ.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
– John 14:27
We hear these words at every Mass just before the sign of peace, and it may be easy to take them for granted or to take them lightly. But the peace of Christ is a gift that we should always treasure. It is unlike any peace which is human in nature, since it comes directly from the love of the Father and the Son. It is more than just a calming influence or a sense of tranquility. Rather, it is a communion of our hearts with the Lord. In this life, it is a foretaste of the eternal life in heaven, where we will be drawn into the love of the Father and the Son. Accepting his peace means accepting him into our very being, in the confident hope of fully accepting it in eternal life.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Amidst anxiety-provoking chaos and confusion, when no one seems to have the answers we seek, where can we find hope? Whether we face a personal crisis or a worldwide pandemic, God remains our refuge and keeper, the source and object of our hope. With faith grounded in God’s covenant promises, we believers can have inner peace, allowing us to live life joyfully as well as radiate peace and joy outwardly even in dark and challenging circumstances because of the salvation that is ours in Christ alone.
“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” – St. Padre Pio
I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – Jeremiah 31:33
Do you ever feel discouraged because of your sins? This was the situation of the people of Israel. They had repeatedly transgressed the law and been unfaithful to the Lord. Yet, He did not abandon them. Instead he extended even greater mercy. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised a renewed relationship. They would be a people uniquely His own. Like Israel, we too belong to God, but not merely as His chosen people, but as His beloved children. Through our Baptism, we become His adopted sons and daughters through Christ Jesus. So the next time you feel discouraged, remember to whom you belong. God is faithful even when we are not. We can confidently place our hope in His mercy.
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
– 1 Peter 3:15
It always seems that we are filled with all kinds of excuses in our life. If we do something wrong and we are called out on it, we are always ready to explain to others what went wrong and why it was not our fault. Why, then, do we not find the words to tell others about why we are hopeful? To do this, others first need to see hope on our faces. This is the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus to give us the grace to live the life we are called to live by God the Father. We are not called to live in fear and anxiety. We are called to live a life of faith in the Son of God. But then, if we are living differently and others see our example, we should be ready and willing to proclaim what the Lord has done for us by His death on the Cross and His Resurrection. The New Evangelization calls for all Catholics and all Christians for that matter to proclaim the Gospel in their daily life. But we need to have the virtue of hope and then be ready to proclaim what the Lord Jesus has done for us and for all people. Because by giving others the reason for our hope, we are giving them the reason for their hope as well.
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
It has been said that you can’t have Easter without Good Friday.
Jesus endured the transient pain of Good Friday because He never lost sight that He would ultimately see the eternal glory of the Resurrection. This is a lesson for us in the momentary affliction we sometimes face.
Focus on what is essential, what is eternal. We are realists about the pain we experience now; but we are equally certain of what is promised. And because we are promised something better, we are assured of the glory that is to be revealed. Our gaze is fixed o what is coming, and not on this transient moment we call “now.”
One must be thrilled at the prospect of what is coming. We read, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”
Elsewhere we see the promise of God, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:5-7
Man tends to be a creature of extremes, swinging from one end of some mood to the other. This is especially true in man’s view of himself.
There’s been what one might call “the dark ages” of man’s self-image. Man was so totally depraved, said Martin Luther, that even after receiving salvation we were like “dung heaps covered in snow.” In other ages – like ours – man is so full of himself that he might believe that anything is true and good merely because he wants it to be.
But to our modern thinking our Faith says: We are all defective… stained, dirty, or whatever you want to call it. We often want what we should not, and even when our desires are not evil they tend to be out-of-balance. Or, as GK Chesterton wrote: “Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.” No matter how good we think we are, there is no getting around it.
But to those who think of themselves as Luther’s “dung heap”, the Faith reminds us: It is pointless to “wash off” a dung heap, as you’ll keep washing until there’s simply no heap left to wash. Since there is NO man alive who cannot be cleansed by Baptism (or “re-cleansed” by Reconciliation), there is no such thing as a living human being who is beyond hope.
In a nutshell: we all need the “bath of rebirth” whether we realize it or not, and the same bath can save anyone who wants to be “clean”. Again, as GK Chesterton noted: “We’re All In the same boat, and we’re all seasick together.” But through His Church God offers a lifeline to all; it is up to us to grasp it, and only in this way do we become what God intends for us to be.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. – Zephaniah 3:17
This is perhaps one of the few (if not the only) places in the Bible, where God is depicted as rejoicing (singing), and it is us, his people, over whom he is singing loudly and joyfully. When we sing his praises joyfully, we mirror his happy singing to us. Like two good friends, or lovers, singing songs to each other, we find ourselves in a relationship of joyful singing with our God.
The Lord is not sad, disappointed, angry, capricious, but happy, singing, joyful. In fact, his love for his people is so extensive that it fills him with gladness. When we rejoice heartily in God’s salvation, when we truly embrace the joy he offers us, it sinks deep into our hearts and overflows with song. Yes, even during in Lent, as we remember and pray for His mercy, singing His praise will aid in our effort.
God’s presence means continued protection from our enemies. It means a relationship of joyful love with him. His being “in our midst” means that we are not alone, we are not living in the same sorrowful, cynical world that many people see, but a far greater one—one where hope can actually be fulfilled. This passage about God being “in our midst” or “with us” is as important to remember in Lent as it is so easily done in Advent, when we reflect on Immanuel, “God with us.”
God’s constant presence with us is no small thing. It shows us that God is on our side and we are on his. In fact, he promises “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20). His presence changes everything. By the power of his Cross, the Lord casts them out and we find ourselves saved, delivered, redeemed. He truly is “a warrior who gives victory” (3:17). Jesus has fought the fight for us. He has won our salvation, so we have cause for great rejoicing.
“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” – St. Padre Pio
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:19
God will give you what you need through Christ. How can we compare anything we receive through Christ with material things? The needs that Christ fulfills in us is deeper than any human longing for possessions, wealth, or power. It is a need that only Christ can meet. As Augustine reflects, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. In these words, he sums up the only way our deepest need can be met. The Lenten practice of fasting gives us a way to detach ourselves from material food. In a sense it allows us to focus on what we truly need, as opposed to what we think we want. Can we use that practice to focus our attention on Christ and allow him to fill our deepest need in the way only he can?
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. – Revelation 21:4
In this passage from the Book of Revelation, St. John the Apostle is being given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. God will dwell with the human race there. Because of his nearness, all tears and suffering will cease. Death will be no more because Christ is victorious over both sin and death. While we are still living under the old order, we will suffer and experience the pain of trial and loss, but this vision of eternity can give us great hope. Our pain and suffering that we currently endure can be united to Christ’s. As we share in his suffering, we will soon share in his victory, when we will be so close that we can look upon His face and will reign with Him forever.
Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” – Mark 14:36
If you have ever seen Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” you know that the movie begins with Jesus’ Agony that He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. The devil is present there, to reference another line of Scripture in Mark’s Gospel after Jesus’ Temptation in the desert. At the end of the Temptation it says that the devil left Jesus for a time. Now is the time that Scripture speaks of. The devil has returned to tempt Jesus into despairing of the Father’s presence in the darkest moment of His earthly life. The clip shows Jesus in deep prayer and anguish and reciting this line of Scripture. The devil has released a snake toward Jesus and at the end of the clip Jesus rises to His feet and crushes the serpent’s head. It is a portrayal of the divine courage that Jesus had because He knew that all the while the Father was with Him. For you and for me, we also are called to have this courage when we undergo suffering and the temptation to despair. We can remember our Lord’s agony and ask Him to unite our sufferings with His so that it can be fruitful towards our salvation and even that of other people for whom we offer it. The Lord Jesus knows our sufferings and, when we suffer, we can see it as a way of having the privilege of sharing in His victory on the Cross.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
– Psalm 27:1
David’s use of the word “light” here shares a long tradition of Scripture authors before and after him. He may have heard some of these passages as a boy. The Lord may have revealed this picture of Himself as light into David’s spirit while he tended sheep in the fields. However, it came to him, the thought brought David both peace and joy.
In this context, David is proclaiming that God is with him even in the midst of trouble. This is a common theme in his writings. So many times, David had seen this truth already. From facing a lion in the wilderness to confronting the giant Goliath, David had experienced God’s presence and deliverance.
When the Bible talks about God being light, it is in sharp contrast to the darkness that exists in this world, and in each one of us. David was keenly aware that the darkness within men, their sinful nature, brought all manner of darkness into the world.
But David is always comforted by turning his gaze back to God’s perfect light — holiness, righteousness, and grace. He seeks to be near that light, knowing it will deliver him from the darkness around him in that moment.
David also recognized that being near God’s light would reveal the darkness inside him. Knowing he could never gain salvation on his own, David was grateful for God’s grace to show the way.
Some scholars put this Psalm early in David's adult life, when he found himself running for his life from King Saul. But situations he mentioned, such as the wicked coming against him and surrounding him and betrayals by false witnesses, could describe various points in David’s life.
The psalm can be looked at as two different stanzas. It begins with a confident statement against fear. The next section takes on an intimate tone, as David requests to stay in God’s presence every moment — that is where his true safety lies.
From there David is led into a prayer seeking reassurance that God is still near to him in his trouble. Finally, his spirit calmed, David affirms his trust in God’s goodness, even if he must wait to see it.
You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth. – Psalm 71:5
In the final analysis, there’s no getting around it. Life means one of two things: everything, or nothing. By itself, it seems (as it did to Macbeth) that:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
If true, what is there to live for? Job? Money? Pleasure? Love is nothing more than a fleeting phantasm, and righteousness a mere fairy tale. There would be nothing left but to say “Let us eat and drink… for tomorrow we die!” as did the fools in Isaiah’s time. Ancient Israel always had the promise that, despite appearances, life DID mean “everything”… although they didn’t have a very clear idea how. That, the prophets foretold, would be made known at the proper time.
FINALLY! After a 400 year hiatus during which there was no prophet in Israel, and the best pagan philosophers stagnated after making so much progress, Christ appears and says “NOW is the time of fulfillment!” But even to a hopeful humanity it might have sounded too good to be true… and on that Friday so curiously called “good,” those desperate hopes are apparently quashed. The evil one, it seemed, had the last word: “Life’s but a walking shadow…”
The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced. – Isaiah 50:7
This passage from the Prophet Isaiah comes at the end of a discourse describing the trials and torment suffered by the one who proclaimed his messages truth. Sometimes, the result of putting our trust and hope in the Lord can be painful. We can face insult, ridicule, or, most likely in today’s society, the scorn of indifference. We have no further to look for an example of this than Christ himself. He faced all these reactions up to the point of hatred, rejection, betrayal and death. Despite this, he gave us a model for putting trust in God, who delivered him from death to the glory of the resurrection. He did not escape pain and death, but, overcame it to bring about our redemption. Yes, trust in God may prove difficult, but it will not let us down.
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. -John 13:15
This quote of Jesus does not only pertain to the washing of His apostles feet at the Last Supper , but to each breath He took while with them. Jesus didn’t teach just with words. His life was a conscious example lived in the presence His disciples , and recorded in the Gospels for us. Two crucial truths that Jesus’ life teaches us are; 1) how God lived as a human, and 2) how we should live as humans. Our challenge is not just to know the words and deeds of Jesus’ life. We need to understand those words and deeds as something from God as He lived among us and then incorporate those words and deeds into our own lives. Jesus’ life calls us to follow in His steps!
As our Lenten journey comes to a close, let us thank our heavenly Father for the many truths that Jesus taught during His earthly mission, and the many deeds that He performed. Let us ask Him to help us move, from knowledge and admiration to obedience and emulation, in
order for our hope of joining Him when this life has ended, may nurture our own and our neighbors’ present happiness. Let us ask this in, Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have a Blessed Easter!
“Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” – St. Padre Pio
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. – Hebrews 4:16
Why is it that we can approach the throne with confidence? We hear in today’s Second Reading of the Good Friday liturgy of our Lord’s Passion that we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weakness. Every time we look upon the crucifix or reflect on His passion, we see that the God of the universe took upon Himself the limitations of our human nature and endured every sort of trial and pain, so that we, who were once separated from God by sin, could draw close to Him again. Though tested in every way, He did not sin, but instead conquered sin, so that we could approach him with complete trust and without fear. On this Good Friday, may we approach the cross with trust and love to seek the grace we need to draw ever closer to Jesus.
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. -Romans 6:4
Have you ever been to a funeral? When it is for a Catholic, the casket is draped with a white cloth and the Paschal candle is placed at the front of it. Why do we do this? These symbols are used at the funeral to recall a time when they were used previously, namely, our Baptism. At our Baptism, we were clothed in a white garment and were given a lighted candle that took its flame from the Paschal candle. These symbols then at the casket of the deceased show to the faithful that this person was baptized into the death of the Lord. When we are baptized, we are buried with Christ in His own Baptism. That is what was symbolized in Baptism by immersion, where the catechumen would be submerged in water and then brought out again. It is the dying to the old life of sin and rising with Christ to our new life of grace. It means that even as we live our life here on earth, we are called to have our ultimate focus on the life to come. Everything we do here on earth should have Christ as its source and Christ as its goal. And because of our Baptism, we have hope that we shall rise with Christ in His Resurrection to our new life in the Kingdom of God. May we watch in hope today at the tomb of Christ as we await His glorious Resurrection!