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Lead Me Lord

Readings

Malachi 3:1-4; 23-24
Psalm 25: Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Luke 1:57-66

Reflection

Surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The hand of the Lord is with
you who fear the Lord. Many do not wish to fear the Lord. Many like to
love “to choose and see my path,” until, as St. John Henry Cardinal
Newman wrote after a life-changing experience, “...now Lead Thou me on!”

Fear not the Lord, listen not to the messenger of the Lord at your peril
and doom. Those who do listen will find themselves “In the calm light of
everlasting life,” as Newman closed his poem “Lead Kindly Light.” The
original title was “Pillar of Cloud” as he was seriously ill and in a
dense fog out at sea in a ship that had no wind to push it forward.
Deeply depressing.

Seeing a young mother, with two born children, pregnant with a third,
totally abandoned, far from home with little prospects of any family
support, having trust that the Lord has a plan for her is amazing and
hope-filled. She had childlike faith and a mother’s strong will.

“Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith / Home to my God. /
To rest forever after earthly strife / In the calm light of everlasting
life.” How I’ve seen some people, like Newman himself must have, live
in that “calm of light” even in this troubled world.

Newman’s poem was set to music and sung, as the prayer it is, by people
on one of the Titanic's lifeboats. Also by soldiers in the trenches in
World War I. Also courageously by women who were being herded by Nazi
S.S. troops into a concentration camp.

As I draw near to the overwhelming joy and challenge of Christ’s birth,
do I choose to take the hand of the Lord, or do I try to lead by my own
hand?

Prayer

Lord, whatever situation I find myself in today, help me to take Your
hand, let You choose my path, let me be abandoned to You as a child.
I trust in You. Lead me on. Amen.

Monday, December 23
“‘Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way
before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple;
and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is
coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

As you await the birth of Christ, take time to renew your faith. Jesus
prepares the way for us, removing all obstacles on the road to holiness
and redemption.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

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Sunday, December 22

“The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: ‘Ask for a sign from the Lord,
your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!’
But Ahaz answered, ‘I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!’”
Isaiah 7:10-12

Look for signs of God's presence in your life. Though you may not
see Him, trust that He is always near, especially when you need
Him most.

The Time Is Nigh, Are You?
Readings

Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalm 24: Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18 - 24

Reflection

The time is nigh for the baby to be born. Fear, anxiety, wonder,
amazement. Mothers nest. Some, I have seen, become incredibly
active, even to the point of rearranging whole rooms, cleaning
out basements, attics, or closets. Others become sedate, quiet,
contemplative, reflective. Fathers have their steady reaction:
work, work, work. Of course, inside it may be a jumble of emotions
or an incredible, thoughtful anticipation. Of course, a baby can
be a surprise, in that, birth can happen like a thief in the night,
on a day unexpected.

During this Advent, have you been preparing prayerfully, frenetically,
thoughtfully, emotionally? Have you allowed yourself the time to think
or felt there’s no time to think or pray? No matter how many challenges,
the Lord is coming. The Lord is calling you. The Lord who entered this
world through conception and birth is still here with you. Are you here
with Him?

Do not be afraid, the Angel tells Joseph in a dream no less. Let the Lord
enter. To all the beloved you are called to be holy, too. Do not be afraid.
Let the Lord enter. You are called to be holy.

Prayer

Angel of the Lord who spoke to Joseph, speak to me, too. Help me to not be
afraid. Help me to welcome Mary and Jesus into my house. Help me to grow in
the vocation God has given me. Help me to know Emmanuel, that God is with us.
Amen.



Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Love and Joy Come to You

Readings

Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Psalm 33: Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Luke 1:39-45

Reflection

On this last Saturday before Christmas, before the culmination of
our Journey Toward Light, there is a current of joy running through
all of our readings, a current of love and joy. In the Gospel, we
read of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard
Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth,
filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
"... At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the
infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

Read through the Scripture readings. Be conscious of love and joy.
God is love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
Our whole journey, our whole life, it’s always been about love. And
with the love of God, joy comes to us as well. Sometimes we think we
are coming to God, to the baby in the manger. But it’s even truer
that God is coming to us. The baby comes to us. We are on a journey,
yes, but it is God coming to us. He first loved us. He is seeking
what is lost.

Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping
across the hills.

The lover of our soul comes, then he calls us to come! Listen to God
tenderly calling us in the imagery of a lover calling his beloved:
"Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! … O my dove
in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, Let
me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you
are lovely." God created us in his image. He loves us. Jesus desires
our love. He rejoices in our love. He will rejoice over you with
gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of
you, as one sings at festivals.

He rejoices over us. We also can rejoice in him. Exult, you just, in
the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing
joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter
Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned
away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you
have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to
Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God,
is in your midst, a mighty savior!

God rejoices over us. We rejoice in the birth of the Son of God. The
birth of a child is meant to bring joy. Our moms, amidst the struggles
of life, rejoice in the birth of their children. Our plans may come to
naught. We may not understand God’s plans. But the plan of the LORD
stands forever. Get ready to rejoice in the birth of Christ! Love and
joy come to you!

Prayer

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
We desperately need saving. We desperately need your love. Thank you
for coming to me. Thank you for calling me. Thank you for loving me.
I rejoice in your love. I trust in your plans. I love you. No matter
what struggles I face, help me to live in your love and in your joy.
Please help all those in need, especially our moms and babies. May
they also live in your love and joy. Love and joy, come to us all.
Amen!

Saturday, December 21
“...rejoice and exult with all your heart...the Lord has taken away
His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King
of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst...” Zephaniah 3:14-15

Think about your relationships with family and friends; are you holding
any grudges? Work on letting them go and try to forgive someone who has
wronged you or made a mistake.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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IN THE FACE OUR OUR NEIGHBOR

Whoever has fed, welcomed, visited, loved on the the least and poorest of me, will have done it to the Son of God. Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our mother, that she may help us this holy Christmastide, which is already close at hand, to see in the face of our neighbor, especially the weakest and most marginalized people, the image of the Son of God made man.

REFLECTION: Who are the weakest among you? Who are the marginalize? We shoudl certainly help the poor, especially in this season, but there may be others around us who need our help as well. Are there people in your parish, neighborhood, or family you could reach out to? How could you treat them like Jesus?

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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THE DEFINITIVE WORD

How much pain and desperation are caused by self-centeredness which gradually takes the form of envy, selfishness, competition, and the thirst for power and money! At times, it seems that these realities are destined to have the upper hand.

Christmas, on the other hand, inspires in us Christians, the certainty that the final, definitive word belongs to the Prince of Peace, who changes "swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks" (cf. IS 2:4) transforming selfishness into self-giving and revenge into forgiveness ....

Christians are called to give witness to God's love and mercy. We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding. --- Address, January 13, 2014

REFLECTION: Jesus' coming radically changes the world. Most important, this act of mercy is supposed to change our hearts. where is it difficult and demanding for you to do good right now? Is it with a co-worker? Is it in a relationship with a relative? How can you witness to God's love in these situations.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Consecrate Yourself to the Lord

Readings

Judges 13:2-7, 24-25A
Psalm 71: My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I
will sing your glory!
Luke 1:5-25

Reflection

In Judges we hear about the birth of Samson: this boy is to
be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin
the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines…
The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him; the Spirit of the
LORD stirred him.

In Luke we hear about the birth of John the Baptist: He will
be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord
their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of
Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the
disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare
a people fit for the Lord.

Both passages mention the workings of the Spirit. Both speak
of a specific mission from God. Both Samson and John the Baptist
will be consecrated to God from the womb. The word “consecrate”
means to make holy or to dedicate to a higher purpose. The word
“holy” means to be dedicated or set apart for God’s use.

On this Journey to Light, we are not traveling alone. Babies are
born while on this path. Children are growing up while we travel.
Each baby born is a miracle from God our Father. That’s why such
an effort is made at Good Counsel to protect the unborn and to help
homeless moms and their babies. While Samson and John the Baptist
had very specific missions, there is a general call on all of us.
Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy. The apostle Paul says
we are called to be saints. The word “saint” comes from the Latin
“sanctus” which means “holy”, set apart for God.

Our babies, our children, need to be cherished. They need to be
consecrated to God, for they all have a purpose. They need to be
formed. Listen to these words from today’s psalm: For you are my hope,
O LORD; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth;
from my mother's womb, you are my strength… O God, you have taught
me from my youth, and till the present, I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

The importance of teaching and forming our children goes back to Moses.
We read in Deuteronomy: Take these words of mine into your heart and soul.
Bind them on your arm as a sign, and let them be as a pendant on your
forehead. Teach them to your children, speaking of them when you are at
home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up, and
write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. To boil
these words down, God is to be our very life and ever-present on our path.
Are we consecrated to God today? Are we forming our children in this way?
Are we totally dedicated to God’s purpose, God’s ways, God’s path?

Prayer


O Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people; come to
save us without delay! Save our babies, save our children, save us without
delay. I consecrate myself completely to you today and for your purposes.
Help me to form and teach the children and grandchildren that you have
placed on your path with me. May this Advent help us all to live in closer
union with you moment by moment each and every day. Amen!

Thursday, December 19
“Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my rock
and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked...”
Psalm 71:3-4

Jesus symbolizes peace; and yet, there is so much conflict in the world.
Set aside time to pray for peace and an end to all warfare, especially
for the innocent people affected by it.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

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Driven by Faith - Leader


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A Page Out of Joseph’s Book

Readings

Jeremiah 23:5-8
Psalm 72: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of
peace for ever.
Matthew 1:18-25

Reflection

At the first coming of Jesus as a baby, we see the beginning of
the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 11: But a shoot shall
sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall
blossom.

We also await the second coming of Jesus, to bring to fulfillment
the prophecy of Jeremiah from our first reading: Behold, the days
are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot
to David; As king, he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do
what is just and right in the land. We have also heard multiple
times during this Advent season the Responsorial Psalm: Justice
shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace for ever.

We long for Jesus to come again. We long for the complete
fulfillment of the Kingdom of God when all will be made right.
These are promises to hold onto. In today’s Gospel, we hear two
more great promises that were given to Joseph in a dream:

[Mary] will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."

Jesus saves us from our sins and is with us. Great promises to
hold onto, to be sure.

Now, let’s learn something about Joseph from today’s Gospel.
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded
him and took his wife into his home. In fact, every time the angel
of the Lord comes to Joseph in his dreams, the next thing you read
is Joseph taking action and obeying. Take Mary into your home to
be your wife. Name the child Jesus. Flee to Egypt. Take Mary and
Jesus back to Israel. Go to the region of Galilee.

We have powerful promises to hold onto. let’s thank the Lord. We
want the Kingdom of God to come, let’s pray for it. We want to do
God’s will, let’s take a page out of Joseph’s book. We have the
word of God and the catechism of the church, let’s be obedient.
We have the teachings on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,
let’s put them into action. Let’s each of us do our part to bring
God’s kingdom to them.


Prayer

O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power. You have given us great
and precious promises, bring them to fulfillment. Speak to us
through your word, through Mass, through the teachings of the church.
Give us the desire and will to obey like Joseph. Meet the needs of
moms, babies and families everywhere. Help me to take action and do m
my part to bring your kingdom to earth. Amen!

Wednesday, December 18

“...an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph,
son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child
who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son;
and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their
sins.’” Matthew 1:20-21

God gave us the greatest gift, offering His only Son for us. What can you
do today to honor His loving sacrifice? During this gift-giving season, p
erhaps you can provide a Christmas miracle for a deserving family within
your community or parish.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

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The Big Picture

Readings

Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalm 72: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of
peace for ever.

Matthew 1:1-17

Reflection

Jacob called his sons and said to them: "Assemble and listen,
sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father… The scepter shall
never depart from Judah.”

We hear from our first reading in Genesis, a prophetic utterance
from Jacob regarding his son Judah. Kings will come from Judah.
The Gospel reading today is the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus,
the King of kings.

The interesting thing about the genealogy of Jesus, besides tracing
the line of Jesus through the kings of Judah, is the amount of
scandal you find. Jacob himself had a colorful life, deceiving his
brother out of his inheritance, and being deceived by his father-in-law
into marrying the wrong daughter. Judah’s son came through his
daughter-in-law, Tamar, who deceived Judah by disguising herself as a
prostitute. David had one of his mighty warriors killed to cover up
the affair he had with his wife, Bathsheba. Solomon had 300 wives and
700 concubines. A number of the ancestor kings of Jesus are described
as doing “evil in the sight of the Lord.” Eventually, the Jews go into
exile in Babylon.

How bleak things would have looked for the Jews in exile and at many
points before and after. Would you have kept the faith? Would you have
looked at the circumstances and said the prophecies of a Messiah are
hopeless? Would you have stayed on the path?

Let’s shift now to the present day. A well-known media personality,
Sean Hannity, recently announced he was leaving the Catholic church because
of “institutionalized corruption.” We’ve all heard the different scandals
in the church. Might you feel like one of the ancient Jews living during
one of the dark days of exile? The genealogy of Jesus gives us the big
picture. In retrospect, we can see that Jacob’s prophecy is fulfilled in
Jesus. But it’s an incomplete prophecy, isn’t it? Even in Jesus’ life,
we don’t have the final fulfillment yet.

There’s light at Jesus’ birth, but what would you have done after his
crucifixion? What would you have done when Judas, one of the twelve
apostles, betrayed Jesus? Would you have left the path when the apostle
Peter, the one on whom Jesus said he would build the church, denied knowing
Jesus? Scandals were there at the beginning. And they are not going away
any time soon. Are you thinking of leaving the path? Sometimes we journey
in darkness. Times are confusing. Remember the big picture, though we cannot
see the complete path before us. Remember that Jesus himself said the gates
of hell shall not prevail against the church. Stay on the path! Stay in the
church! Have faith! Stay with Jesus!

Prayer

O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to
teach us the path of knowledge! Today, help me stay on the path. Help me to
keep my eyes on my destination. No matter the darkness, no matter the
circumstances, help me to stay the course. Jesus, I believe in you. Jesus,
I trust in you. Help me to remember the big picture. Amen!

Tuesday, December 17
“The mountains shall yield peace for the people, and the hills
justice. He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save
the children of the poor...” Psalm 72:3-4

There are so many people living in despair, loneliness and poverty
around the world. Consider making a sacrifice—even just a small
one—to help someone less fortunate. This can be as simple as
spending some time with a person living alone, praying for someone
in need or if you have the means, sending a donation to your favorite
charity.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Fences

Readings

Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17A
Psalm 25: Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Matthew 21:23-27

Reflection

Fences. They might make for good neighbors, but they are not good
for our faith.

The first reading today gives us two of the oracles of Balaam, son
of Beor. His utterances contain prophetic blessings regarding the
people of Israel, concluding in our reading from Numbers with a
prophecy pertaining to the coming of Jesus: A star shall advance
from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

The background of Balaam, not found in today’s reading, is also
interesting. He could be called a religious compromiser. He wanted
to straddle the fence. In terms of our Journey Toward Light, he
tried to walk two paths. His oracles declared truth, yet he was
hired by an enemy king to curse Israel.

On his way to the enemy, Balaam is famous for his donkey talking
to him, saving him from “the angel of the LORD standing in the
road with sword drawn.” We read elsewhere in Numbers that Balaam’s
advice led the Israelites to unfaithfulness. In the end, Balaam was
killed in Israel’s battle against the Midianites. Not a great legacy.

The chief priests and the elders of Israel in today’s Gospel also
straddle the fence, but they are more calculating. Jesus asks them
a simple question: “Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly
or of human origin?” They don’t give an answer. They won’t make a
commitment. What do the polls say? What is the popular opinion? It
doesn’t matter what I believe, which answer brings a better result
for me?

Whether we straddle the religious fence because we want the “benefits”
of both sides, or we won’t commit because we can’t decide what’s going
to play out the best for us in the end, we need to come to terms with
Jesus. Are we on his path or not?

If I say,“Teach me your ways, O Lord,” the response of today’s psalm,
it presumes that I both desire his ways and will follow what I am
taught. Why do I want to learn from Jesus, if I will not follow what
I learn. It is a time for action. It is time for me to do the word,
not only hear it. It’s time to go all in. It’s time to live what I
say I believe. It’s time to commit. It’s time for me to get off the
fence. What about you?

Prayer

Jesus, as I continue to prepare in Advent for your birth at Christmas,
help me to recognize the fences I straddle. My desire is to be completely
on your path, to be completely yours. Please give me the strength of
will to commit every part of my life to you. Teach me your ways! Give me
the grace to live what I learn from you. I know I’m not the only one on
your path. Help all those who travel your path. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Monday, December 16
“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me Your paths, guide me in
Your truth and teach me, for You are my God my Savior...” Psalm 25:4-5

Has there been something troubling you lately that you cannot resolve?
Examine your conscience and ask God to guide your heart.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

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YOUR FIRST JOB

Prayer is the first job of your community, and it consists in listening to the Word of God --- This bread, the bread that gives us strength, that lets us go forward --- but also in turning our eyes to him: "Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed," says the Psalm (34:5). He who sees the Lord, sees others. --- Address to the Sant[Egidio Community, June 15, 2014

REFLECTION: Does your prayer life increase your ability to see others? If you want to reach others, do you pray for the ability to do so?

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Without a Doubt

Readings

Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10
Psalm 146: Lord, come and save us.
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Reflection

Without a doubt, there will be times of bad weather on our path. It is
inevitable. And without a doubt, you are likely to experience doubt on
your journey.

Consider John the Baptist. At the beginning of Jesus' public ministry,
John baptizes Jesus. In John chapter 1, John the Baptist gives great
testimony of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world.” “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.” “Now I have seen and testified that he is the
Son of God.”

In today’s Gospel reading, John is in prison. He hears about the great
works of Christ, but he doubts. Jesus gives John great praise: “Amen, I
say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than
John the Baptist.” Yet John sits in prison and doubts. He questions
himself. He questions what he has proclaimed about Jesus. He questions
Jesus. But what reply does he get from Jesus? "Go and tell John what
you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers
are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have
the good news proclaimed to them.”

It’s not uncommon to doubt you are on the right path. This is a faith
journey. We believe without seeing. Do you think that a pregnant mom
in difficult circumstances doesn’t have doubts? Without a doubt, she
does. Do you think a parent who has a sick child doesn’t have doubts?
Without a doubt, they do. Do you think we will never have doubts in
the storms of life? Without a doubt, we will. So what can we do?

Don’t let your doubts turn you from the path. In the letter to James,
we are exhorted to be patient until the coming of the Lord. We are
exhorted to make our hearts firm. Why? Because Jesus is coming. He is
coming to us at Christmas. He is coming to us at the end of the ages.
He is coming to us in the storms of life. The Lord comes to save us!

Rejoice! Gaudete Sunday reminds us that Jesus is near: that His light
will soon pierce the darkness of those cold winter days. As you read
this week's passages, let your heart be filled with anticipation of
what is to come.

Sunday, December 15

“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See
how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient
with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be
patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at
hand.” James 5:7-8

Patience is a virtue that sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, is hard to
come by—especially in this fast-paced world we live in. Open your mind
to taking a step back when you feel yourself losing control; you will
be better equipped to handle that tough situation.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Prophets & Persecution

Readings

Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11
Psalm 80: Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we
shall be saved.
Matthew 17:9A, 10-13

Reflection

Three people join our journey today. In Sirach, we read about the
fiery prophet Elijah. He called down fire from heaven and was taken
up into heaven in a fiery chariot. He boldly confronted the evils
of Ahab, King of Israel, but he also fled into the desert when Jezebel
the queen sought to kill him.

The Gospel reading begins right after the transfiguration, as Jesus and
his disciples are coming down the mountain. They have questions about
Elijah, but Jesus alludes to John the Baptist who “will go before him
in the spirit and power of Elijah.” John is also a fiery prophet persecuted
by King Herod and his wife, eventually executed by Herod through the
machinations of Herodias.

Lastly, today is the memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor
of the Church. He sought to reform his Carmelite order. Though his reforms
were approved, he was cast into prison by the elders of his own order, only
escaping after nine months at the risk of his own life. Though persecuted,
he became a great mystic and doctor of the church.

Two basic themes emerge in these three men: They spoke up and were persecuted
for doing so; They did what was right and suffered for it.

As we travel this path, we also can expect resistance, even persecution.
As practical examples, think of the courage of our mothers to have their
babies in very difficult circumstances. Some moms have to leave their
families because they are pressured to abort to receive their help. Many
worry how they will provide for themselves and a new baby. Others have
been counseled it is easier to just make the “problem” go away.

Take courage today, by the example of moms who choose life. Let your light
shine before the world, come what may. Take heart in our examples of faith
who have walked this journey before us.

Prayer

Oh God, please give me courage today to walk this journey, to live my faith
and to let my light shine. When resistance or persecution comes, be with me
and help me to be strong. Help all the moms who are bravely choosing life.
Provide for their needs. Bless their children. Help the many organizations
that give assistance to moms in need. Fill me with the fire of your Holy
Spirit, that I may bravely walk the path chosen for me. Amen. St. John of
the Cross, pray for us!

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Who Are You Following?

Readings

Isaiah 48:17-19
Psalm 1: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Matthew 11:16-19

Reflection

Pay close attention to the word “follow” today. Those who follow you,
Lord, will have the light of life.

Today is the memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, whose very
name means light. On our Journey Toward Light, we need light to see.
But, a question to ask: Whose path are you on today? Who are you following?

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus speaks to the crowds in general:

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, “He is
possessed by a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they
said, “Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors
and sinners.”

Essentially, the sentiment is, “I can’t follow John, it’s too hard, and
besides, he’s crazy. I can’t follow Jesus, he’s too easy and hangs out
with sinners.” They stay on their own path. They are not willing to
follow. But what about us?

We say we love Jesus. But are we walking on our own path? Are we asking
Jesus to follow us on the path we have chosen? Or are we humble enough
to walk on his path, choose his ways, and follow him?

Isaiah says in chapter 55, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are
your ways my ways... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so
are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Padre Pio said, “Self-love never dies before we do.” There is always the
temptation to follow our own ways. But Jesus invites us to follow him. As
Isaiah says in today’s first reading, I, the LORD, your God, teach you what
is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.

I invite you to take a moment. Imagine you are one of the disciples with
Jesus. Your sole intent is to follow him. When he is teaching, you are
sitting there closely following every word he says. When he gets up, you
go with him. You watch what he does. You see a man blind from birth receive
his sight. You are there when he forgives the adulterous woman. You are
amazed as Lazarus staggers from his tomb still wrapped in his burial clothes.
You see his compassion for the crowds, the lost, the poor, the sick, the
children. Jesus looks straight at you, challenging you to die to yourself,
take up your cross and follow him. After reading this, close your eyes and
imagine for yourself what it is like to follow Jesus.

Prayer

Jesus, I want to follow you today. I admit that I often go my own way, and
want you to walk on my path. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to realize what it
truly means to follow you. I want to be your disciple. Your word is a lamp
for my feet, a light for my path. Help me to know your word. Shine the light
of your word – not on my path – but on your path. Help me to stay on your
path. Please give me the desire, the will and the grace to follow you. Amen.

Friday, December 13

“Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the
way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the
law of the Lord…” Psalm 1:1-2

Have you heard the phrase, ‘pay it forward?’ Consider setting a positive
example for others around you by performing a simple deed like buying a cup
of coffee for the next person in line; putting a quarter in an expired
parking meter so someone doesn’t get a ticket; or simply smiling at someone
who seems to be having a tough day.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Silence

Readings

Zechariah 2:14-17 or Revelation 11:19A; 12:1-6A; 10AB
Judith 13: You are the highest honor of our race.
Luke 1:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47

Reflection

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness
of the Americas and the pro-life movement. What an important feast
day as we travel the road to Bethlehem!

We know things are not right in this world. As they say, it’s not
rocket science to see and understand this. When Our Lady appeared
to the Indian convert Juan Diego in 1531, things were not right
then either. An estimated 20,000 people were sacrificed a year
in the Aztec Empire. These numbers include children.

Child sacrifice was not exclusive to the Aztecs, but other South
American cultures as well. Within 10 years of Our Lady’s appearance,
ten million natives were converted and baptized into the Catholic
church and human sacrifice ended in Mexico.

The great battle still rages between Our Lady’s children and the devil:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with
the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to
devour her child when she gave birth.

The first reading from Zechariah says: Silence, all mankind, in the
presence of the LORD! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

Perhaps today is a day to share few words, to spend some extra
time in silence recognizing the power of God that came through
Our Lady of Guadalupe and meditating on the following Scriptures
from Zechariah and Revelation:

See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and
the authority of his Anointed.”

Prayer

Lord, we know you desire conversion. We know you care about all of us,
especially the weak and vulnerable among us. Through the intercession
of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we pray for the conversion of hearts and the
end of abortion. We pray that you would protect all life, from the womb
to natural death. Protect us from the enemy. Help us to care for our own
families with great compassion and love, entrusting them to Our Lady.
Protect and provide for mothers everywhere, those with children and
those waiting for their birth. Amen!

Thursday, December 12
“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor
with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name Him Jesus.’” Luke 1:30-31

Mary trusted in God’s plan for her, even though she did not fully understand
it. What is God asking of you? Will you respond with ‘...let it be done to
me according to your word...’? (Luke 1:38)

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Learn From Jesus

Readings

Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalm 103: O bless the Lord, my soul!
Matthew 11:28-30

Reflection

Yoke: a wooden cross piece that is fastened over the necks of two
animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.

Yoke
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.

“Emmanuel,” “God is with us,” takes on new meaning with today’s
Gospel reading: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”

What I simply want to say to you today is Learn from Jesus.
Picture what a yoke is. Reflect on being yoked to Jesus.
Meditate on the words of Jesus, “learn from me.”

What can you do today to learn from Jesus?

Spend time with Jesus today. There are many options. Read today’s
readings. Go to Mass. Pray from your heart. Go to confession.
Receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Spend time in prayer before the
tabernacle. Adore Jesus in Eucharistic adoration. Pray a litany.
Help someone in need. See Jesus in the poor. Do something to help
our mothers and babies.

Take another step in your faith journey and spend more time learning
from Jesus today. More than that, stay yoked with Jesus. He is with us!

Prayer

Jesus, I want to be yoked with you today. I want to learn from you. Help
me to stay in step with you. Have mercy on me and teach me. Teach me to
not run ahead of you. Help me to learn not to fall behind. Step by step,
help me stay with you today.

Wednesday, December 11
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

It’s so easy to lose our way these days: so many distractions, worries
and temptations to knock us off life’s path. When that happens, make time
to read your favorite passage from the Bible.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Comfort for the Journey

Readings

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 96: The Lord our God comes with power
Matthew 18:12-14

Reflection

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.

The journey is not always easy. Of course, as creatures of the
flesh, we desire and look for comfort. A comfortable chair to
sit on. A warm comfortable bed to sleep in. Nice presents around
the Christmas tree, to bring comfort and convenience into our lives.
But our journey with Mary and Joseph to the Light is not about
creature comforts. The comfort our Father has for us answers the
deepest needs of our hearts and souls.

Many of us have been on this journey of life for a long time. If
you are younger, you will soon come to know that each passing year
brings the realization that our lives are so fleeting. The material
or worldly things we have sought in the past haven’t brought the
deeper comfort we need.

Isaiah depicts our condition well:

All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.

This may not seem like comfort at first. Our bodies and all of the
physical things of this world are passing away. Things wear out and
break. We lose things, we lose people. Rust and moth corrupt. We grow
old and all of the things we grasp and hold onto, slip through our
hands like sand in an hourglass. Nothing of this world that we cling
to lasts. Where is the comfort?

Isaiah continues:

Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.

Here is where the real comfort of today's readings begins: The word of
our God stands forever. And what does this word say to us today, what
comfort does it bring on our journey?

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Can you find comfort in this today? Jesus leads us with care. Can let
you let yourself be carried in the bosom of our Good Shepherd? What
comfort! He searches for each one of us particularly. Even if we have
strayed off the path, our Shepherd is seeking us. He will carry us on
his shoulders. When we need extra emotional and spiritual comfort in
our lives, he holds us close to his heart, he carries us in his bosom.
Once on the path, Jesus leads us with care.

Prayer

Jesus, my Good God and Good Shepherd, lead me. Help me to realize that
this world is passing away, and that ultimate comfort is found in your
word, the Word made flesh, that stands forever. Bring me back if I have
strayed from your path. Lead me with care today. Hold me close to your
bosom during the hard days and sorrows of this world. For those who lack
basic comforts like food, clothing and shelter, help me to be an answer
to their prayers. I ask all of this, trusting in the care of my Good
Shepherd, Jesus. Amen!

Tuesday, December 10

“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what
fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then
let all the trees of the forest rejoice.” Psalm 96:11-12

Today, sit in quiet reflection for a few moments outdoors and allow yourself
to be embraced by all of God’s creations.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Do Not Fear

Readings

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98: Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous deeds.
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

Reflection

Since yesterday was the Second Sunday of Advent, the Solemnity
of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is
transferred to today.

We begin today’s journey in the garden of Eden, with the aftermath
of the first sin. God called to Adam after the fall. Adam answered,
“I heard you in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”

Though we have repented, this is just the beginning of the journey.
We must recognize that we are fallen. We have discarded clothes of
self-righteousness, so we may feel a bit naked. We can experience
fear, even when God is calling to us. We need continual conversion
to stay on the right path.

As always, this time of the year brings us not only to the babe in
the manger, but also to his mother, Mary. And that’s where we find
help today, in the Blessed Virgin Mary. A journey is always easier
if we have someone with us on the journey. We can make our journey
with Mary.

Think about this...

Mary is on her way to Bethlehem. And though she will see Jesus in
a more profound way, he is already with her on the journey. Mary is
also our Mother. As the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the
Most High overshadowed Mary, the Holy Spirit overshadows us. As the
body of Jesus was formed in Mary’s womb, so Mary helps to form Jesus
within us as we make our journey. We are going to Jesus, but he’s
with us already! As fear attempts to turn us back, we also take heed
to the angel’s words to Mary. “Do not be afraid.” Why? ”For nothing
will be impossible for God."

If we all stay with the Blessed Mother and journey with her, we will
be sure to arrive at the manger where the Light of the world is to be
found. Mary always brings us to Jesus. If the road is hard, take
comfort. She always brings Jesus to us on the journey.

Prayer

Blessed Mother, help me on my journey today. Continue to form Jesus
within me. At times, I am afraid when I see the dangers on the road.
But I know you will protect me. I know my Guardian Angel is with me,
telling me not to be afraid. I remember the moms and babies, and all
those with me on this journey. Bring us all to Jesus. More than that,
bring Jesus to us as we travel this road together. I ask all of this
in the name of Christ Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem. Amen!


Monday, December 9

“The Lord has made His salvation known; in the sight of the nations
He has revealed His justice. He has remembered His kindness and His
faithfulness toward the house of Israel…” Psalm 98:2-3

Do you know someone who is in need of a kind gesture? Perhaps they’ve
recently lost a loved one, are experiencing depression, or simply
can’t seem to catch a break in life. Writing an encouraging note or
offering a willing ear can help restore their hope.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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Sunday, December 8

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in
harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with
one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, then, as Christ
welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:5-7

Jesus wants us to live in harmony with one another and in doing so,
we can glorify God. If you find yourself on the verge of a
disagreement this week, take a deep breath, remain calm and respond
from a place of love.

Oh, But For The Grace of God

Readings

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace
forever.
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

Reflection

Today in the Gospel, we hear the story of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying,
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! I am baptizing you with
water, for repentance.”

Take a moment, and let’s place ourselves there on the banks of the
Jordan River. There’s a rough man, clothed in camel’s hair with a
leather belt around his waist. Can you see him standing there in the
water? He’s crying out. Can you hear him? “Repent!”

If you look around, there are two groups of people. There appear to
be many common, everyday people – poor and humble – standing in groups
near the water, humbly acknowledging their mistakes, their failures,
their sins, heads downcast, waiting to stand before the Baptist, to
have the cleansing waters of the Jordan, of repentance, pour over them,
washing them clean. Lots of tears mixed in with the water, but lots of
relief, joy, even laughter, as they glimpse a light in the darkness,
hope in the valley of the shadow of death.

But there’s another group. They are standing apart. Do you see them?
Aloof. Looking down on the foolishness of the crowds, the mobs. They a
re dressed in fine clothes. Can you see their haughty expressions, their
disdain? If you listen, can you hear their comments? “I’m glad I’m not
like them.” Untouched. “Thank you, God, that I’ve got everything together.”
Not much joy. They look well respected, there in the light of day, but
they don’t seem particularly happy.

Now, I realize I’m standing there in my fine clothes. I’ve got my arms
folded on my chest. I’m actually rubbing shoulders with the second group,
not really that close to the edge of the water. There is that thought,
buried deep, that not everything is right with my life. But what will
my colleagues think? They don’t seem to need change. But with a desperation
I didn’t know I had, I run towards the light reflecting on the water,
towards the Baptist. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I don’t care who’s
looking. I just need help, I need hope, I need light in my life. I need God!
I fall in the sand, tears streaming down my cheeks, not worrying about my fine
robes. I get up. Now my clothes are in the river, soaking the water in,
feeling heavy. The clothes are dragging, a pull that still wants to hold me
back. But no, I don’t care anymore. I let go of everything holding me back.
I need to change. I push through to John. The only words that I can find,
as I feel the water flow over my bowed head, quite a spectacle in all my
fine clothes, “I repent!”

Prayer

Jesus, I need you today. There are so many things that drag on my soul,
that seem to hold me back from you, from your grace, from your mercy. But
I repent. I set aside all the “things” that make me look right. I let go
of my pride, my self-righteousness. I need you. Make my path straight. Help
me make this journey to the light. Lead me to yourself, the lowly, poor babe
in the manger. Amen!





Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

Gastric Sleevers - Leader

2018 Summer 5% Challenge for the Shooting Stars Team - EL Leader

Driven by Faith - Leader


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The Harvest is Abundant but the Laborers are Few

Readings

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Psalm 147: Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5A, 6-8

Reflection

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and
gave them authority over unclean spirits to
drive them out and to cure every disease
and every illness.

This is a sure reflection of the crisis in our Church today:
The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.

This helps us to reflect back on our tradition, on our heritage
and history as Catholics – where our church started, with Jesus
and the Twelve disciples. The authority they have was given to
them by Jesus, and the authority the Church has was given to her
by Jesus.

Man cannot change that. We are not the authors or the Creator.

It is in this time of turmoil and in this culture of
self-gratification that we are called to be laborers. To follow
and share the Church’s teaching on human dignity, from conception
to natural death and to never compromise.

Prayer

Lord God, help us always to uphold your law and to never give in to
the pressures of society. Today let us especially pray for our good
and faithful priests, bishops and cardinals, that they may be
steadfast and courageous in their faith. And we pray for the Holy
Father, that he may lead us in orthodoxy and tradition, as the seat of
St. Peter. All for Jesus, all through Mary. Amen. St Ambrose, Bishop
and Doctor of the Church, pray for us!

Saturday, December 7

“Praise the Lord, for He is good; sing praise to our God, for He is
gracious; it is fitting to praise Him.” Psalm 147:1

What are some of your favorite Christmas carols? Today is a perfect
day to play them as you contemplate the imminent arrival of Jesus.
Go ahead—indulge in a little loud singing, too!


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

Keep Walking With Jesus-Leader

Hopeful Hearts Breaking Free From Hurts - Leader

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Readings

Isaiah 26
Psalm 118: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Matthew 7:21,24-27

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciples, "Not everyone who says
to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who
does the will of my Father in heaven”.

Jesus continues...

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like
a wise man who built his house on rock. And everyone who listens to these
words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his
house on sand.”

Faith alone is not enough; we need faith and works.

We need to put into place what God has asked of us. Yes, we are Pro-Life,
but not just because we say we are; we work to put our beliefs into action
through the all weserve.

Let us build our house on rock, not sand. We must know our faith and
understand it. We must own our faith and put it into action.

Prayer

Lord God, thank you for the gift of our faith. Help us to be courageous in
putting our faith into action. Give us the perseverance to serve you joyfully
all of the days of our lives. Amen.

St Damien of Molokai, pray for us!

Thursday, December 5
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house
of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light...” Psalm 118:26-27

Let His light shine upon you for all the world to see and let nothing extinguish
it. Today, make it a goal to say a prayer for each person you love and care about
as the days approach Christmas.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Trust in the Lord

Readings

Isaiah 25:6-10A
Psalm 23: I shall live in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life.
Matthew 15:29-37

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. As we reflect on
this gospel passage, let us also reflect on the miracles God has provided in our own
lives.

Some have claimed that the real ‘miracle’ in this story is that everyone shared the
food and there was enough to go around. That is not a miracle. Let us never deny God’s
greatness. Let us ask for the eyes to see those miracles and to have the faith to know
that the Lord will provide what is needed for us.

Let us take a moment today to reflect on the miracle of life. What a profound, amazing
miracle life is. Let us share this message with those we encounter, so they too will be
reminded of the beauty and gift that the miracle of life is.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for all of the miracles you have given us, especially the
beautiful miracle of life. We ask for the grace to see and recognize those miracles –
the big ones as well as the everyday miracles. We ask, Lord, that you use us to share
this message with those mothers who may be contemplating abortion, that they are able
to see what a blessing and miracle God has worked in their lives. We ask this in Jesus’
name. Amen.

Wednesday, December 4

“On that day it will be said: ‘Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is
the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!’”
Isaiah 25:9

We have so much to be thankful for. Light a candle in gratitude for all that God has given us.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Justice Shall Flourish

Readings

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.
Luke 10:21-24

Reflection

Today, the first reading is where we get our ‘Jesse tree’. This reading is
essential in understanding who Jesus is and the importance of His victory.
He brings both judgment and hope:

But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

And in the Gospel we see Jesus giving praise to God for giving the gift of
faith to the childlike. It is a reminder to us that our very faith is a gift
from God.

Jesus says to his disciples:

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

When we are able to see the fruits of our labors, that is a gift from God,
though that is not always the case. However, we can rest assured that on the
day of our judgement all will be revealed.


Prayer

Lord, help us to persevere in Your work, whether we see the fruits of our labor
or not; give us the strength to continue in this fight. Amen.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 3
“Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I give You praise, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from
the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to the childlike. Yes,
Father, such has been Your gracious will.” Luke 10:21

Do you remember the unbridled excitement you felt as a child, waiting for
Christmas morning, when you and your family all gathered lovingly around
the twinkling tree? Take a moment to recapture that feeling and hold it
in your heart for the next four weeks—with a conscious effort to remember
the reason for the season.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Week 1, Day 2

Lord, I am not worthy
Readings

Isaiah 4:2-6
Psalm 122: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord
Matthew 8:5-11

Reflection

Today’s Gospel is the story of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant. It is a story of the centurion’s faith and his humility. We are reminded of our own unworthiness everytime we prepare to receive Our Lord in the sacrament of Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Prayer

Lord God, we ask for the grace of increased faith. We ask to have faith as the centurion had faith, and we ask for increased humility. We ask for a servant’s heart. All for Jesus, all through Mary, Amen.

Monday, December 2

“Come and save us, Lord our God; let Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:3

In order for God to save us, we have to open our hearts to His forgiveness. Today, make it a point to confess your sins and vow to do better next time.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Stay Awake
Readings

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

Reflection

What powerful readings we have to reflect on today!

In the second reading from Romans, we are reminded to resist the temptations of the flesh and to prepare for the coming of Our Lord. It is a great start as we enter this penitential season of Advent.

In the Gospel, we are reminded that our days are numbered. Every moment of every day is a gift from God, and we will decide how we will use it. We cannot go back in the past and make up for lost time, but we can choose at this moment to live an intentional life.

St. Alphonsus Liguori says, “There are two ways you can lose your soul: mortal sin and voluntary distraction.” If Satan cannot get us to sin, he certainly can distract us from God. Now more than ever we are surrounded by constant distraction.

Let us take this season of Advent to reflect and prioritize our lives back to the One who created us. Let us remember we are not promised tomorrow, today is all we have. So let us not miss an opportunity to fight for the weakest and vulnerable among us – TODAY!

Prayer

Lord God, we ask for the grace to stay focused on you. Help us to be good stewards of our time and to not waste a moment given to us on frivolous things. Give us the strength to resist the pleasures of the world and to stay focused on building Your Kingdom. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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New Season of Advent is upon us. I will post a daily short reflection with the hopes that you can spend 10 minutes in reflection to prepare us for the birth of our Savior.


Sunday, December 1

“And do this, understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12

Identify something that’s preventing you from fully living the life God intends and picture yourself putting on an armor of light against it. Allow this warm, positive energy to repel the behavior or feeling you’d like to eliminate. As you light the first candle on your Advent wreath, remember that “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others...”
(Matthew 5:14,16)

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/23/18 3:51 P

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Lord, Make Us Turn to You

Today's Readings

Micah: 5:1-4
Responsorial Psalm: Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Hebrews: 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

Reflection for Today

The short Fouth Week of Advent begins today and ends tomorrow morning. Turn to the Lord even more with your heart, not just your sacrifices. Last minute shopping – is that a sacrifice, a duty, an obligation? Final Christmas preparations – madness or a joy? Traveling or getting the home ready. Never enough time. Offer it all to the Lord.

The Blessed Mother visited Elizabeth to be of help. Elizabeth is overcome with humility that she, the “Mother of my Lord” visits her. Her own baby leaps for joy. Can you imagine such a scene! In this beauty, painted on myriad canvases, these women transcended the moment and entered into Eternity. They brought us into Eternity. Can I embrace such a moment with those around me, those I know and love, even the stranger, the widow and orphan?

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. O shepherd of Israel shine forth around me, in me, through me.

Prayer for Today

Oh Blessed Mother of Jesus, help me to see as you did, that my soul may magnify the Lord and my spirit may rejoice in God my Savior. Amen.


Let Go and Let God!

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12/21/18 9:38 P

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The Infant Leaped for Joy

Today's Readings

Song of Songs: 2:8-14
Responsorial Psalm: Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Luke 1:39-45

Reflection for Today

Today’s Gospel we hear about the visitation. A pregnant Mary travels to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is also with child, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the infant leaped [for joy] in her womb.” What a testimony to the life and dignity of the human person in utero!

The first person to recognize Christ Our Savior was an unborn baby, a child in the womb, the unborn, John the Baptist. Despite these mothers’ situations – Elizabeth being late in her years and Mary not yet fully wed to Joseph – their unborn babies had a purpose to fulfill; they each had jobs that only they could do.

Every child is created with purpose and meaning. No life is ever created without the hand of God. Therefore, no pregnancy is ever an accident. God does not make mistakes. That baby was created because God has a plan for that child’s life. If Mary or Elizabeth were alive today and in the same situation, many ‘friends’ and doctors would be encouraging them to abort. Let’s pray today for all women who find themselves pregnant.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, in Your love for us, protect against the wickedness of the devil, those helpless little ones whom You have given the gift of life. Touch with pity the hearts of those women with child in our world today who are not thinking of motherhood. Help them to see that the child they carry is made in Your image – as well as theirs – made for eternal life. Dispel their fear and selfishness and give them true womanly hearts to love their babies and give them birth and all the needed care that a mother alone can give. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Let Go and Let God!

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12/18/18 8:52 A

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Saint Joseph, Pray for Us

Today's Readings

Jeremiah: 23:5-8
Responsorial Psalm: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Matthew 1:18-25

Reflection for Today

In today’s Gospel we see how obedient and courageous Joseph is; a man of integrity and kindness.

Often times, the babies born in Good Counsel homes are lacking a father figure in their lives. The love of a thousand women cannot make up for the lack of love from a man. Men, especially fathers, play a special and vital role in a child’s life: to love, protect and encourage. Even though we may not all be blessed with wonderful fathers that have strong traits like St Joseph, we are blessed with God the Father, who gave His only begotten Son, that we may be redeemed.

Prayer for Today

Lord God, help us to live a life of gratitude. Help us to always strive to be good stewards of the gifts we have been given. And Lord we ask You to heal any brokenness in our family tree, past and present. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/16/18 9:40 P

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Rejoice in the Lord Always!

Today's Readings

Zephaniah: 3:14-18A
Responsorial Psalm: Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

Reflection for Today

Rejoice in the Lord always! It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles and frustrations of life. The second reading is a good reminder to us to have faith that God hears and answers us. He does not abandon us, and to always, in everything, give thanks and praise.

In today’s Gospel “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” We are called to serve. God has so richly blessed us, and we are to take our blessings and share them with those who have less.

Prayer for Today

Lord God, give me a servant’s heart and a missionary’s spirit so I may seek to fulfill Your will for me by serving my brothers and sisters in need, with joy and thanksgiving. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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How am I Helping to Prepare the Way for Jesus?

Today's Readings

Sirach: 48:1-4, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm: Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Matthew 17:9A, 10-13

Reflection for Today

We see in the Gospel today that the three disciples are asking Jesus why the scribes say Elijah must come first. He replied, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”

Elijah’s second coming was to pave the way for the Messiah, much like John the Baptist’s role, and much like our role. Today’s Gospel is a call to action. How is God calling me to pave the way for the second coming? How am I helping to prepare the way for Jesus? Am I prepared to face the challenges?

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, I ask that You give me the grace and strength to follow the examples of Elijah and John the Baptist, to pave the way for You to come again in Your glory. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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12/11/18 8:33 A

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God Pursues Us to the Very End

Today's Readings

Isaiah 40:1–11
Psalm 96: The Lord our God comes with power
Matthew 18:12–14

Reflection for Today

In the Gospel today we still have the same theme – hope – and God’s faithful devotion to us. This is a wonderful Gospel reading because it is so easy for us to feel insignificant in this world. Maybe we feel like no one cares or no one understands us or what we are going through.

“God has seen our unloveliness – the deep brokenness and rebellion in our hearts – and instead of withdrawing, He pursues us to the very end.” –Matt Chandler

Maybe you feel unimportant sometimes, but the truth is the God of the universe pursues you. Picture this: Jesus looks at the cross and then at you – “You’re worth it,” He says.

Prayer for Today

Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice, thank you for loving me so much that You pursue me to the end. Thank you for Your mercy, which I do not deserve. Help me to show Your love and mercy to all of those who I encounter. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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12/10/18 8:45 A

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Lord, Open My Eyes to See You

Today's Readings
Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 85: Our God will come to save us!
Luke 5:17-26


Reflection for Today

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus shows us that He is God.

Jesus wants us to have faith in Him, as the men did who hoisted up the paralyzed man. They did not need to see to believe. They had ‘blind’ faith in Jesus, and He blessed them for that and healed the paralyzed man.

But Jesus knows our hearts and He knows that some people are of little faith and need to see to believe. So He reveals His healing power to the scribes and Pharisees so they ‘may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’

We all would like to think that we have that ‘blind’ faith in God, but let us take some time today to really reflect on our own faith and the way that we pray. Do I constantly ask God for signs and ignore them? Are my eyes truly open to seeing God’s glory around me?

Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see You in the small and simple things in life. Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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Second Sunday of Advent

Today's Readings
Baruch 5:1 – 9
Psalm 126: The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Philippians: 1:4 – 6, 8 – 11
Luke 3:1 – 6


Reflection for Today

In the readings today we see a common theme. HOPE.

It is clear through these readings that God will not forsake us. When we are feeling low and hopeless, we can always turn to scripture, to these readings in particular and remember God’s promises. God cannot tell a lie; therefore, we know this is the truth. We hope it brings you peace as you reflect on God’s faithfulness and love for you today.

In the second reading, Paul says to the Philippians, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is not over until it is over. There is always hope for renewal. This is the message we try to share with our mothers that come to Good Counsel; God will not forsake you.

Prayer for Today
Holy Spirit, increase my hope in you. Give me the courage to trust in You, even when I am feeling vulnerable. Thank you Lord for Your love and faithfulness to me, a lowly creature. Give me courage to spread the good news to others. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today's Readings
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98: Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done marvelous deeds
Luke 1:26-38


Reflection for Today

Where are you?

That’s God’s first question to Adam and Eve.

Where are you?

How would you respond to God today?

After Adam and Eve fell from Grace, it was in pain she would bear children. It is through sweat that he would work for food.

A priest who visited Good Counsel once said that it is through the pain of childbirth mothers may expiate many sins.

For sure, many mothers forget all their pain after labor when they hug their child the first time.

Full of Grace is what Mary was told. She is a superior example of what it means to be human. She is forever our mother and our guide. Let us ask her for strength, guidance and wisdom each day of our lives.

Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, help me to always be willing to see my faults and learn from them. Help me to strive to become the best version of myself. Give me the courage that Mary had, to accept Your will for my life. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/7/18 9:36 A

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If Jesus Told You to Keep a Secret, Would You?

Today's Readings
Isaiah 26:17-24
Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Matthew 9:27-31


Reflection for Today

If Jesus told you to keep a secret, would you?

Do you keep secrets of your friends or associates now?

Jesus sternly told two blind men whom he healed, “See that no one knows about this.” What a challenging command. Now you have sight and you are not supposed to tell anyone.

Did Jesus not know they would tell? A perplexing Gospel message.

They were healed because of faith. Jesus commanded His disciples to proclaim their faith to the ends of the earth.

In the Diary of St. Faustina Jesus tells her to ask her superior for a special favor. When the favor is denied, St. Faustina asks the Lord why He wanted her to do something He knew would be refused. The Lord explained it was for her to be obedient.

Prayer for Today
Lord God, I believe in Your healing power. I ask that you heal all of those who suffer with addiction, mental or physical disabilities. I pray especially for the healing of the family; for healing of all brokenness that has entered the family. You are the divine physician and I trust in You. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Remain in the Comfort of God’s Company

Today's Readings
Isaiah 26:1-6
Psalm 118: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Matthew 7:21, 24-27


Reflection for Today

In the first Reading today we learn that being in God’s favor brings us safety and love. Living a good and holy life will keep us in the comfort of God’s company. For those who lose faith and trust in God, they will fall weak to their ego and sense of superiority. They will suffer for their false sense of dominance and perfection. Their lives will be left to unhappiness and a world of ruins.

The Responsorial Psalm tells us to believe in God because his mercy endures forever. His love and trust is more worthy than another human being’s. How often do we find ourselves taking the word or assurance of another, rather than relying upon Jesus’ proven history? Through prayer and good works a Good Counsel mom will always find success. Resist the temptation to rely upon another person whose faith is lacking, offering false evidence will leave you further from the Lord. First finding out “I’m pregnant” a single mom may think, “I can’t ever be a success.” But through prayer and seeking God’s path many have already prevailed.

In today’s Gospel, we are urged to listen to the word of God. Good fortune will belong to those who follow the word of God. Those who do not listen will suffer a life of hardship. It may not be the easiest advice to take. For those who listen in spite of the challenge, great joy will follow.

Prayer for Today
Lord I have heard Your word, give me the strength and courage to follow You. When I am tempted to take the easy route, give me the strength I need to fight temptation and to hold fast to Your teachings. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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God Reveals Wisdom to the Childlike

Today's Readings
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Luke 10:21-24


Reflection for Today

If I’ve gone to school, gotten degrees, certificates, even years of experience at work and in life, still God reveals wisdom to the childlike. Have I done it all wrong? No.

Childlike is the innocence of accepting, of seeing and believing how God’s Grace works in every one around me, and even in me. What is this grace? It is the grace to see good in others, to find a deep sense of peace in the midst of turmoil, to know that the Lord brings good even out of evil.

“All things work out for the best,” mother used to say. Sometimes very hard to believe. Have faith, trust, pray.

A mother at Good Counsel gave birth to a baby boy with a serious heart condition. His breathing was labored and his tiny body was very weak. Every moment was painful to watch, and yet she hoped and prayed for the best. But baby Thomas was taken by the Lord. At his grave side burial the pastor said, “Where he has gone he will not return. Where he has gone we someday hope to go. Let us work and pray to join him in the Glory of the Lord.” This gave Thomas’ mom much hope in the midst of such pain. I saw in her a childlike innocence of accepting God’s will for her son.

Prayer for Today
Father God, help us to receive each moment as given by you. Thank You for giving us this time, these joys and sufferings. Help us to have a complete childlike trust in you no matter how long we live, no matter how much we learn. Help us to love as You love and to always have a grateful heart. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

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Trust in the Lord

Today's Readings
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Matthew 8:5-11


Reflection for Today

In today's first reading, the message God is telling us is to look to the house of the Lord, which means we must take His direction, live in peace, and avoid false gods.

Today’s Gospel message instructs us to incorporate in our daily lives thanksgiving for God's goodness and love. God blesses those who trust in Him and follow his direction, just as those for whom you are in charge, must follow your instruction. Loving God helps us to achieve a life in grace.

Just as in today’s Gospel, when Jesus entered the town of Capernaum, He praised a centurion for his trust and belief in Him.

Prayer for Today
Jesus, give us faith to know that You are God and You are in control. When we are feeling doubt, give us the grace to focus on Your almighty power. Increase our faith in You Lord. Amen.

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Reflection for Today

Today's reading begins addressing brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all...

As we begin our Advent journey, the second reading reminds us that at the core of Jesus’ teachings lies the mandate to increase and abound in love for one another and for all. We learn that how we should conduct ourselves to please God is for our own good and for others. Here at Good Counsel we have an opportunity to act as models in doing what is expected of us. Doing so demonstrates to others that our own behavior serves as encouragement for others to follow.

Our Gospel today encourages us to stand strong prepared to face the Son of Man. It is incumbent for each of us to reflect daily asking forgiveness for our sins and resolve to walk closer in God’s path.

Prayer for Today
Lord God, prepare our hearts to receive you. Give us the grace to follow you and to lead by example. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on You as we anticipate Your coming. Amen.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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CHRISTMAS DAY – THE SAVIOR
by Bishop Robert Barron

In the Gospel of Luke, we discover the Annunciation to Mary. Here is what the angel Gabriel says to the Virgin: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33).

No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning here: this child shall be the fulfillment of the promise made to King David. He will be the king of the world, the one who would bring unity and peace to the nations.

The angel confirms this to the shepherds in the fields: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord: (Luke 2:11). Saviour is Soter in Greek, which means “healer.” This was rendered in Latin as Salvator, Saviour in English. In old myths and legends, the true king would bring healing to his country, just as a wicked king would make the whole country sick.

Further, this healer is “Christ and Lord.” Christos means anointed, and this has a clear Davidic overtone, for David had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel, and all of his successors had been anointed. This baby will be the point of ordering for the entire world; he’ll be the ruler and governor, the one who sets the tone.

And this is further emphasized by calling him “Lord”—Kyrios in Greek, Dominus in Latin. He is the one who should dominate us, rule over every aspect of us.

With the angel’s next words, everything is turned upside down: “And this shall be the sign to you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” The new David, Christ the Lord, the Dominus, the center and orderer of all things, the emperor of the universe…is a baby? And a baby wrapped up so it can’t move? And lying where? In the grubby place where the animals eat?

Here is all of the poetry and all of the drama of Christmas. Indeed, the divine power is made manifest in weakness, for the divine power is nothing other than love, giving oneself away, being bound to the other, becoming food for those around you.

Finally, alongside the single angel there appeared an entire army of angels. We should not get sentimental about these angels. These aren’t cute, chubby babies playing harps. They represent the army of heaven, which is more powerful than all of the armies of earth. The Prince of Peace has an army that is more powerful than anything that is in the world.

There are the glad tidings of Christmas. A new king has come, bringing with him an army of heavenly messengers, and he intends to bring peace and unity to the nations.



Let Go and Let God!

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12/24/15 11:16 A

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ADVENT DAY 26 – FEAR NOT
by Bishop Robert Barron

389 39 42

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.

The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.

The angel goes on: “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The angel of Bethlehem is the first great evangelist, for he tells the good news, and it’s news for all people. Later on, Jesus will tell his disciples to declare his Lordship to the ends of the earth.

Well, what precisely is the good news? The angel tells us: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Why is David emphasized? Along with Abraham and Moses, David was the most important figure in the history of Israel. He was born, of course, in Bethlehem and thirty years later became king, first in Hebron over the southern tribes, and then in Jerusalem over the whole of the nation. He was the king who united Israel, who defeated the enemies of the people, and who brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Over time, the conviction grew upon Israel that a mysterious descendent of David would be king, not just for a time and not just in an earthly sense, but would rule forever and for all nations.

This definitive king of the Jews would be king of the world: the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Let Go and Let God!

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12/23/15 11:36 A

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ADVENT DAY 25 – THE GREAT LESSON OF BETHLEHEM
by Bishop Robert Barron

The prophet Micah says that Bethlehem-Ephratha is “too small to be among the clans of Judah” but “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). Micah is himself one of the minor prophets and so it is only appropriate that he speaks of a small city, little Bethlehem, from which the great Messiah would come.

How common this is in the Bible: the reversal of expectations, the little giving rise to the great, wonderful things coming where you least expect them. The stuttering Moses speaks up to mighty Pharaoh, the slaves face down the Egyptian army, tiny David kills the giant Goliath.

And this last connection is the important one here. Bethlehem is the city of David, the city of the shepherd King. When Samuel came to that town to find the new king, he went through all of Jesse’s splendid sons and then was told there was one more, little David out in the fields. And it was this overlooked one whom God anointed.

This just seems to be God’s way, and that’s why the Messiah would be born in that tiny town, in an out of the way cave under the earth, because there was no room for him in the inn. Yet, through God’s amazing grace, great things can happen, including the birth of the Messiah.

Looking at the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem teaches us three great messages: greatness comes from smallness, never give up hope, and trust always. With those three convictions in our hearts, we’re ready for Christmas.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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ADVENT DAY 24 – JOSEPH THE JUST
by Bishop Robert Barron

306 46 31

We know almost nothing about Joseph. There are legends and stories, of course, but the Scriptural evidence is, to say the least, meagre. Yet some very powerful spiritual themes emerge in the accounts of Joseph, all of which focus on the birth of Jesus.

First, we look at the sadness and the quandary of Joseph. He had become betrothed to Mary and this union had been, according to the religious law of the time, blessed by God. And then he finds that his betrothed is pregnant.

There is something terribly universal and contemporary about this scene and about the psychological dynamics involved. An engagement that has to be called off: how embarrassing and difficult that is in itself. What will people say?

But there is more. It has to be called off because of an irregular pregnancy. For someone who is law-abiding and concerned with his status in the community, this would be the profoundest kind of embarrassment. And more to the point, this must have pained him at the deepest emotional level: the feeling of betrayal by one he had loved.

It is a wonderful tribute to the piety and goodness of Joseph that he didn’t vent his frustration in a way that almost everyone would have understood and countenanced. He swallowed his pain and looked to the feelings of Mary. “Unwilling to expose her to shame,” he resolved to divorce her quietly. Still, this must have been an emotional maelstrom for him.

At the deeper level, it is a spiritual crisis. What is God up to? What does God want him to do? Joseph can’t see a good way forward.

Then the angel appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” Joseph realizes at that moment that these puzzling events are part of God’s much greater plan. What appears to be a disaster from his perspective is meaningful from God’s perspective.

Next we read, “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Matthew 1:24). Joseph was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest purpose. Like Mary at the annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 23 – THE MOTHER OF GOD
by Bishop Robert Barron

As we near the feast of Christmas, we return to the beautiful and familiar Gospel story of the Annunciation as told in Luke. The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary, betrothed to Joseph. Now angels might strike us as romantic figures, but, judging from the typical reaction to them in the biblical narratives, they are frightening, disorienting, and unnerving. Mary, we hear, was “deeply troubled” by the appearance of the angel.

Who wants his ordinary routine interrupted, his ordinary manner of imagining and seeing undermined? The breakthrough of the supernatural into the natural is always a bouleversement, a turning upside down.

And then the terrible words: “You shall conceive and bear a son…Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High.” And all of this without aid of a man. She must have sensed, right away, how this would appear, first to Joseph and then to anyone else: that she had been unfaithful.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God.” Now we, after many centuries of Christianity, take these words for granted. How must they have sounded to Mary? Would she have had any clear idea what they meant and what they entailed? To be overshadowed, invaded, and controlled utterly by a power beyond one’s imagining.

And did she have any clear sense that this pregnancy and birth would result in the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt, a participation in the passion and death of her only son? Could she have seen any of it? None of this could have been part of Mary’s plan. Yet she says, “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.”

The German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart saw something with great clarity—every Christian has the vocation of Mary, to bring Christ to birth. We each do this in our own way and style, according to the exigencies of our unique vocation. But we do this, he saw, the same way Mary did: by abandoning our projects and plans, our sense of the good life, and acquiescing to God’s purpose working through us.

Let Go and Let God!

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12/20/15 10:41 A

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ADVENT DAY 22 – THE NEW DAVID
by Bishop Robert Barron


Along with Moses and Abraham, David was the most important figure of the Old Testament. His kingship represented the fulfillment of so many of the expectations of Israel, and his reign became synonymous with peace and empire.

Moreover, David had received an extraordinary promise, which is recorded in the second book of Samuel. Through the prophet Nathan, God informed David that his line would last forever, that a son of his body would rule forever.

During the long years that followed the time of David, Israel remained haunted by this great king and by this even greater promise. Soon after David’s reign, his united empire fell apart, and the kings of both north and south proved to be pretty pathetic characters. Still the people, prompted by their prophets, hoped that the definitive king would emerge from David’s line.

This is precisely the hope articulated by one of the minor prophets, Micah, a seer who lived and wrote in the eighth century BC, some 250 years after David. Channelling the words of the Lord, Micah says, “You Bethlehem-Ephratha, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to ruler in Israel; whose origin is from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:1).

Why Bethlehem? Because that was the city of Jesse, the city of David. It was, across Israelite history, a tiny place, an insignificant “suburb” of Jerusalem, but it was David’s city, and the promise was that a descendant of David would be the great ruler.

Under David, for a brief and shining moment, Israel was united, but soon after David’s death, the nation fell apart. The dream then was that the new David would bring the tribes back together.

But then there was an even greater dream. Listen again to Micah: “For now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” A united Israel would become a magnet to draw the rest of the world. When the whole world would come under this Davidic king, all would be well.

All of this is meant to signal to us just who this Jesus is and what his mission would be. Watch how, throughout his public life, how he gathers the tribes of Israel, going out to the woman at the well, to the man born blind, to Zacchaeus, and to the Gerasene demoniac. Notice how he engages in open table fellowship. Notice how he heals and forgives. He is not simply being a nice, inclusive fellow; he is doing what the Davidic Messiah was expected to do. He is gathering the nations in the new kingdom of God.

Let Go and Let God!

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12/19/15 8:34 A

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ADVENT DAY 21 – THE RETURN FROM EXILE
by Bishop Robert Barron

Sometimes, as we wait, we can feel like we are in exile. Exile is a huge theme in the minds of the Biblical authors because two great exiles practically define Israelite history: the exile in Egypt and the exile in Babylon. In both cases, God’s holy people, his specially chosen race, was enslaved by a foreign power.

The prophet Baruch, who was the secretary to the prophet Jeremiah, writes from Babylon, from the land of exile. At the time, Jerusalem, the holy city which, had been ravaged by the Babylonians and left abandoned, its temple and walls in ruins. With this in mind, Baruch tells the Israelites to “take off your robe of mourning and misery and put on the splendor of glory from God forever” (Baruch 5:1). With his prophetic eyes, he envisions the day when God would lead his people back home.

In light of Baruch’s prophecy and this long history of exile and expectation, we turn to the Gospel of Luke. Luke begins by mentioning all of the major representatives of the powers oppressing Israel: Tiberius Caesar, the king of the world; Pontius Pilate, his local representative; Herod and his brother Philip, Roman puppets; Annas and Caiaphas, collaborators.

These were all of the people who were, in various ways and to varying degrees, oppressing Israel. But look how artfully this passage is composed: after mentioning these high and mighty figures, Luke tells us that the word of God came, not to them, but to this odd figure in the Judean desert, this strange and obscure prophet called John.

God’s ways are not our ways. God does not regard people and events the way we do. How strange that he would come to this seemingly insignificant figure!

And what is the message God brings to John? The deliverer is coming! The Messiah! Not just someone who will liberate Israel provisionally and politically, but someone who will liberate them from their ultimate exile, their alienation from the Lord.

Israel is going to be definitively saved, brought home to God. So get ready to receive the Messiah.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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ADVENT DAY 20 – WAITING IN HOPEFUL EXPECTATION
by Bishop Robert Barron

333 53 48

We are an Advent people—a people who wait. Something (or better someone) is coming, and the best thing we can do is to wait in hopeful expectation.

Here is how the great prophet of Advent puts it: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands” (Isaiah 64:7).

Now does this mean that we do nothing? That we sit like lumps waiting for God to do something with our lives? No. In fact, there is something very “active” about waiting.

Do you remember how lively and attentive you are when you are eagerly waiting for someone to arrive? When you watch for every car that comes by when you are waiting at the airport? Every sense strains to take in what is happening; your mind is alive with expectation. Your spirit is jumping. This is, I think, what waiting means in the spiritual sense; this is the mood of Advent.

Here are some practical suggestions for these remaining days of waiting. First, examine your conscience on a regular basis. Realize the prevalence and power of sin in your life, being especially attentive to the recurrent problems.

Second, pray. The Liturgy, the Scriptures, the Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Jesus prayer—whatever works for you. But lean into God with a special fervor and attentiveness during these final days of Advent.

Third, ask for forgiveness. Seek the forgiveness of those who you have hurt because of your sin. There is no better way to access our own helplessness before God.

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 19 – WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
by Bishop Robert Barron

342 55 114

Everyone is, in principle, interested in repentance. Whenever that call is uttered in a clear and uncompromising way, people tend to respond. No matter how high they might seem in the society, no matter how self-confident, they ultimately want God.

And so, like those who in the time of John the Baptist, we ask “What should we do? How should we live our lives?” This question, of course, tells us something else about repentance: that it has to do with action more than simply changing our minds

We know our lives have gone off the rails in different ways, and we want to get them back on track. This is possible only through certain things we do. The spiritual life is, finally, a set of behaviors.

So what does John the Baptist tell us to do? His first recommendation is this: “whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none” (Luke 3:11). This is so basic, so elemental—yet so almost thoroughly ignored! In the Church’s social teaching, we find a constant reminder that although private property is a social good, the use of our private property must always have a social orientation.

Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum, “If the question be asked how must one’s possessions be used, the Church replies without hesitation that man should not consider his material possessions as his own but as common to all.” And then this startling line, very effective for an examination of conscience: “when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over.”

An early Church Father, St. Basil the Great, expressed this idea even more radically and in tones that echo John the Baptist: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry. The cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked. The shoes you allow to rot belong to the barefoot. The money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. You do injustice to every man whom you could help but do not.”

So what should we do this Advent, we who seek repentance, we who await the coming of the Messiah? Serve justice, render to each his due, and give to those who are need.


Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 18 – THE DANGEROUS GOOD NEWS
by Bishop Robert Barron

In Greek, the word “Gospel” is euangelion. Eu means good and angelion means tidings or message. This is where the word “angel” comes from, meaning simply “messenger.”

Now we automatically associate this word with religion, as in evangelization or evangelical. But at the time of the Gospels, the term euangelion was associated especially with military victory. It was the good news of triumph in battle. More to it, euangelion was associated with the deity and accomplishments of the emperor of Rome. By Jesus’ time, it had become a commonplace that the Roman emperor was considered a god. Thus when an emperor was installed, euangelion was proclaimed. And when the emperor would write a new law or win a military victory or in any other way assert his command, it was announced as euangelion.

So can you see how dangerous it is to announce the record of Jesus as a “gospel”? This good news has nothing to do with the Roman emperor and his army. It is proposing, in effect, a new emperor. And then for good measure, the writer Mark adds that he is writing the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Well, those were fighting words, for “son of God” was another title reserved for the Roman emperor.

Do you wonder now why Christians were persecuted for the first three centuries of the Church’s life? Do you wonder why every single apostle except for John was martyred? Do you wonder now why they threw Christians to wild beasts? It’s because they announced the true euangelion.

But what, or who, was this new emperor intending to fight? And what would be the nature of his military victory? John the Baptist provides us a clue. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But one was coming who was greater than John, one for whom John prepared the way, and that greater man would baptize in the power of the Holy Spirit. He would take on all of human sin and swallow it up in the divine mercy.

That’s the new emperor, and that’s the dangerous good news.

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 16 – ASK FOR JOY
by Bishop Robert Barron

In his letter to the Philippians, a people with whom Paul felt a special closeness, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Notice first of all that this is a command: Do it. Rejoice. Joy comes when we actively do it. It is not a matter of sitting around waiting for some emotional state to come over you.

But what makes this possible? To rejoice, we must first put away selfishness and learn to love. When we find ourselves joyless or listless, often the best thing we can do is some concrete act of love.

What do I mean by that? Look again to the Gospel: “Let the man with two coats give to him who has none. The man who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11). It’s pretty clear and pretty basic: Give your life away to those in need.

Next Paul says, “Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. The Lord himself is near” (Philippians 4:5). One of the obstacles to joy is that we convince ourselves we are finally in charge of our lives. It is up to us to know everything, to control everything. And what does all of this frenzy produce? Usually more anxiety and less joy.

That’s why Paul tells his beloved Philippians that the key to joy is turning your life over to God, trusting in him, having confidence that he will lead you.

This is the way of all of the saints. Listen again to Paul: “Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude” (Philippians 4:6). God delights in caring for us, and he wants us to ask for joy. Again and again in the New Testament we are urged to do exactly this. As a sign of our dependence upon God and a token of confidence, we are invited to ask and ask and ask.

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 14 – CHANGE YOUR MIND
by Bishop Robert Barron

128 23 13

The desert is the place where we do away with our distractions. There we are stripped down to the basics and have to confront the truth about ourselves. That’s where John the Baptist meets us.

His theme is simple: metanoiete. Reform. Change your mind. Change your attitude. Look anew. The implication is that we are so self-absorbed that we will miss what is most important, what John calls “the reign of God,” namely, Jesus.

God’s way of ordering things has arrived, and we need to wake up, to pay attention. For two thousand years, the Church has echoed John’s message, telling the world to pay attention to Jesus, to see what is there to be seen. Heaven and earth have met, God has come to meet us, God’s way and style and substance are now a flesh and blood reality.

We hear that “Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him, as they confessed their sins.” It’s a strange paradox, visible up and down the centuries, and even to the present day: the call to confession is attractive. We know, deep down, that the reminder that we are sinners is not repellent but strangely alluring.

We know in our bones that confession is good for the soul. In the twelve-step programs, the admission of one’s powerlessness and the conducting of a searching moral inventory are requisite to recovery. The last thing they need is to hear, “You’re just fine.”

So this Advent, let’s hear the message of John the Baptist, and like the throngs from Jerusalem and Judea, we should repent and seek forgiveness.

Sometime this weekend, go to confession, especially if you haven’t been for a while, and find the joy that stems from true repentance.

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 13 – BE READY
by Bishop Robert Barron

St. Luke tells us that, “The word of God was spoken to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:2). The word came not to one of the high and mighty, or one of the lords of society, living in an impressive palace or temple. It came to John in the desert.

And that word tells us that God is about to act. Just as he brought his children home from exile in Babylon, so now he is going to bring them back from an interior, spiritual exile.

John speaks: “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear for him a straight path. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be leveled. The windings shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth” (Isaiah 40: 3-4). John is saying that his job is to prepare for the mighty coming of the Lord. He is to build the highway that will facilitate his arrival. Change is coming, a revolution is on the way.

So prepare the way of the Lord.

And how should we prepare? Through the baptism of repentance. Baptism—an immersion in water—reminded first century Jews of the Exodus, passing through the Red Sea, leaving their ways of slavery behind. Baptism reminded the people that God would humble the powers of their time as he once humbled Egypt and Babylon.

Repentance (metanoia) means going beyond the mind that you have. How our minds are conditioned by the fallen world! How our expectations are shaped, stunted by what has gone before! It’s time, John is saying, for a new mind, a new set of eyes, a new kind of expectation. God is about to act! Be ready!

Let Go and Let God!

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ADVENT DAY 12 – WANDERING FROM GOD
by Bishop Robert Barron


At the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, we find the line: “Midway on the journey of our life, I awoke to find myself alone and lost in a dark wood, having wandered from the straight path.” Again and again, in the spiritual tradition, the good life is described as a walking of the right path. The Prophet Isaiah asks, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” (Isaiah 63:17).

What this really means is that we are lost. Isn’t it terrible being lost? Think of the last time you were lost—I mean really lost—in your car or walking in a strange town. There is something uniquely sinking about that experience. You know where you wan to go, but you’ve totally lost a sense of how to get there. To be in sin is to have lost the way, lost the direction, lost sight of the stars and the other means of navigation. It is to walk all sorts of paths but not the right one.

In the same passage from Isaiah above, the prophet continues, “Why do you let us harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” (Isaiah 63:17). How often the Bible speaks of the “heart,” which means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. God wants to penetrate our heart, so that he is the center of our souls.

Have our hearts become hardened, so that God cannot get in? Is there a deep resistance in us to grace?

When we have wandered from God, off the right path, we are alienated from him and we sense him as a challenge to our freedom and fulfillment.

This Advent, stop your wandering. Open your life to the will and purposes of God.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Today we reflect on the people who introduced us to Jesus.


Scripture
“When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’”
Luke 5:20

Reflection
Inspired by St. Ambrose, whose memorial we celebrate today, we begin by reflecting in gratitude for all those who have helped us in our faith journey. St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, was a high Roman official in Milan whose honesty and integrity so impressed those around him that they demanded he become their bishop even before he was baptized. Ambrose agreed and became an outstanding theologian and Doctor of the Church. He sold all he had to give to the poor, and was an example to others—most importantly to St. Augustine of Hippo, whom he instructed and baptized.

Like St. Augustine, we all have been introduced to the Christian faith by others. They are family members, best friends, pastors, or religious men and women. Jesus recognizes this dynamic in the Gospel reading as he was moved by the faith of those who carried the paralyzed man to him. To the paralyzed man himself, Jesus proclaimed the supreme act of God’s mercy and the forgiveness of his sins (Luke 5:20).

Some criticized Jesus, accusing him of blasphemy since only God can forgive sins. Jesus asked whether it was easier to forgive sins or to tell the man to arise and walk. And then Jesus told the man to arise and walk, befuddling everyone present.

We are recipients of mercy from those who introduced us to Jesus. We can also reflect on our vocation to share what we have received with others.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Second Sunday of Advent

God’s gift of mercy helps us live in fellowship
with one another, with our community, and with the world.

Scripture
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
Baruch 5:9

Reflection
This year, the second Sunday of Advent marks a special week in the history of the Church. On April 11, 2015, Pope Francis issued the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a document that states that a holy Year of Mercy will begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which falls this year on the second Tuesday of Advent. During this Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis invites us to reflect on the mystery of mercy, “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.”

This is the gift of mercy that the prophet Baruch proclaimed. Baruch was prophesizing during a time when the Jewish people were in exile, and he promised that God had not forgotten them. God would lead the people with joy, helping them receive the righteousness and mercy that only comes from him. God’s promise would be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, who, in his words and actions, embodies the mercy of God. This is the salvation also promised by John the Baptist in the Gospel reading Luke 3:6.

Continuing the theme of mercy, in today’s second reading from Philippians, Paul writes from prison to a community that is special to him. He sees the fruits of God’s mercy in their sharing of the gospel. The Greek word used in Paul’s letter, koinonia, can also mean “fellowship,” because Paul witnessed the community taking responsibility for one another, caring for one another. These are qualities they could only receive in taking the gospel of mercy to heart.

God calls us to reflect on the gift of mercy this week so we may also live in fellowship with one another, with our neighbors, and with the world.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Our most challenging and immediate task
is to bring God’s presence to our loved ones.

Scripture
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’”
Matthew 9:37–38

Reflection
Advent is a time for renewal as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. And we take this journey in companionship with our families, friends, and local parish. We are the laborers Jesus is calling to the harvest.

Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the Gospel and to bring the healing presence of his Father to the world. At this stage of the journey, Jesus asked his disciples to bring the message to “the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6)

The Jewish people were the first to hear Jesus’ teaching. They had history with God. They remembered the story of the Exodus, when God led them from slavery to freedom. They remembered God’s patience with them when previous generations turned their backs on him. And if at times it seemed that God had abandoned them, more frequently they received God’s justice as mercy. “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.” (Isaiah 30:18) In sending the apostles to proclaim and to heal, Jesus was fulfilling God’s message of mercy for his generation.

Our immediate task is to bring God’s healing presence to those closest to us. This is challenging, because healing can be a long process and letting go of our own pain for the sake of forgiveness is difficult. But there are many opportunities to ask for forgiveness and forgive in return. In this way we as families and communities can become a sign of God’s grace in the world.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday of the First Week of Advent

Like the two blind men, when we admit our own blindness and need for mercy, we too shall be healed.

Scripture
“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’” Matthew 9:27

Reflection
Faith in the New Testament did not mean simply making a one-time decision for Jesus Christ. After the initial commitment, faith means continuing on the road, learning each day how to live in relationship with Jesus. And what is it that we discover on that road?

In the Gospel of Matthew, the verb “to follow” Jesus does not simply mean walking behind him. It means that the blind men were already following Jesus as his disciples. They had already answered Jesus’ call to faith. They had already begun the road of salvation, trusting in the person of Jesus.

The two men were blind, but they continued to journey with Jesus, praying for healing. At the end of the day, Jesus responded, “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” (Matthew 9:29–30).

The two blind men recognized their need for Jesus’ mercy. They received and accepted it. In sharing their story, Matthew calls on all disciples of Jesus to recognize the ways they are blinded by selfishness and sin, pride and arrogance, ignorance and indifference to the needs of others. As Christians, we are already on the road of faith with Jesus, but he offers so much more than we can imagine. Coming before Jesus to admit our blindness and our need for mercy and forgiveness will open us to a deepening awareness of his healing presence.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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12/3/15 10:35 A

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Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier

We remember St. Francis Xavier,
who listened to God’s words and acted.

Scripture
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
Matthew 7:26

Reflection
St. Francis Xavier, whose feast day is today, was a man who heard the words of Jesus and acted on them. Francis Xavier’s family were of proud Basque minor nobility. At age 19, Francis went to Paris to study, and there met Ignatius of Loyola. Francis was a young rebel quick to take offense, but he mellowed under Ignatius’s influence, and directed his passion to the service of God.

Francis, along with Ignatius and five other young men, founded the Jesuits. For a time Francis served as Ignatius’s assistant. When the King of Portugal petitioned Ignatius for Jesuits to be missionaries in India, Ignatius sent Francis, his most beloved companion, knowing he would never see him again. After a six-month journey at sea, Francis arrived in Goa, India, in 1542.

Francis began an extraordinary ministry in Asia. For ten years he traveled, preached, and ministered in Southeast Asia. He arrived in Japan in 1549, and after two years in Japan, Francis set out to minister in China. Worn out by his labors, he died on the island of Shangchuan within sight of mainland China.

Francis’s life was one of fasting and prayer, preaching and ministering to the sick. In his travels, he converted tens of thousands to Christianity.

While we might not all be called to the heroic efforts of St. Francis Xavier, we are called by the same Holy Spirit who led him on his journey to hear the words of Jesus Christ and act on them. Today is the day to listen and to discover where God wants to lead us.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

When we are open to God’s healing mercy—
like the crowd in the story of the loaves and fishes—
we will receive it.

Scripture
“Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for the crowd.’”
Matthew 15:32

Reflection
At times, we may wish that we had lived in Jesus’ time and been able to witness his miracles of mercy and grace. The feeding of the five thousand would have been one such time.

Jesus had just spent the day with the crowd healing the lame, the wounded, the blind, and the mute (Matthew 15:30–31). He was no doubt exhausted. The disciples wanted to send the crowd home, but Jesus had compassion for them—he was physically and emotionally moved by their troubles. These people had so little in life, and in their desperation they came to Jesus looking for healing.

In Jesus’ time people did not have the kind of freedom as we would understand it. The Romans, princes, high priests, and aristocracy held all the positions of wealth. The majority of people scratched out a living day to day and were treated with contempt. And yet, here was Jesus, moved by these people, radiating God’s mercy to them. At the end of the day, he takes a few loaves and fish, blesses them, and distributes them to the crowd.

Jesus offers this same mercy to us. But because we are taught to be self-sufficient, we don’t recognize our need for his mercy. We would rather approach Jesus with a deal in hand, us doing our part and he doing his. Beneath the veneer, we are frightened sinners, thinking that we can hide from God. While we hold these illusions, Jesus will be a distant friend. It is only when we recognize our personal poverty and our need for forgiveness that we can hope to experience the depths of Jesus’ mercy toward us.
Pope Francis
“It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension.”
Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 17 March 2013

Advent Action
► Plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation during the season of Advent.
► Pray a 3-Minute Retreat today.

Prayer
Lord, help me to accept you as my Shepherd, so when I walk in the dark valleys of life you may comfort me.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Even in times of hardship, God is still with us, offering us his grace.

Scripture
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
Isaiah 11:1

Reflection
We all have plans for our lives, hopes for our futures, ambitions, personal dreams. We all also have had hardships— economic woes, the loss of a job, a spouse leaving without notice—when our plans didn’t work out the way we expected. In these times, what we thought was a flourishing tree has been shorn away, leaving a stump.

Isaiah prophesied in such a discouraging time, when the Kingdom of Judah was being besieged by the Assyrians. Jerusalem barely survived the siege. The Assyrians settled for a negotiated peace, with Judah paying a massive ransom.

The kings had brought war upon themselves, and their track record had not been stellar—even though the preservation of the lineage of King David had been prophesied. Isaiah’s message critiques the king’s and aristocracy’s behavior in mouthing allegiance to God but failing to care for the poor.

Isaiah reveals that God’s dream for Judah is for the kingdom to have a ruler who would be graced with the Spirit of the Lord, giving him wisdom, understanding, strength, and knowledge. In vivid terms, Isaiah describes how peace would reign with the cow and the bear grazing together, and a lion eating hay like an ox (Isaiah 11:1–10). These are images of hope for the people who could accept the grace of the Lord.

God has similar dreams for us, attainable if we are open to his grace. When we accept his grace, a new bud will blossom from the roots—no matter how shriveled we may feel.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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