“What should we do?” is an excellent question to keep before us in our daily prayer. We often know what needs to be done; sometimes it’s just hard to carry out. But there are also times when we come before the Lord searching for the direction, wisdom, and strength to live our faith with conviction and power.
Tag Archives: Guidance
Study: Who are the messengers in my life? Who are the people who have alerted me to blessings and burdens in my life?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the openness to hear these messengers and take their words to heart.
Serve: Who in my life and I called to offer a message? What do I need to say…and what do they need to hear?
A Christmas Carol
Part III: The Spirits of Christmas
The Spirits of Christmas play a crucial role in Scrooge’s conversion. Their task is to show images of Christmas throughout time, revealing how the holiday is filled with blessings. In the images they reveal Scrooge learns the error of his ways, as feelings of guilt, remorse, anger, and sadness wash over him as he watches the effects of his life choices.
It is important to note that the three Spirits of Christmas are messengers. They are the heralds who reveal to Scrooge the meaning of Christmas. Yet they are not the holiday itself. Their presence in the story points to the power of our choices – where our words and actions over time make tremendous effects upon our life. As Scrooge discovers how his life might have been, he begins to yearn for a better and happier one.
In the Gospel this week we discover another messenger. John the Baptist arrives, baptizing people and proclaiming God’s wonderful deeds. People flock around him, inspired by his words and longing for hope.
As the crowds come to John they ask him, “What should we do?” as they pursue their lives. To each John answers with justice and fairness. He speaks with power and might, filling the people with expectation.
Many begin to wonder if he is the Christ. John answers immediately: NO! There is one coming who is mightier. John is merely the messenger, pointing the way to Jesus.
Like the crowds, we may often find ourselves looking for those who bring hope. We may discover in life an unhappiness, a dissatisfaction with ourselves and the choices we have made. We look to many remedies, yet we know in our hearts that our longing will only be satisfied by God alone.
Perhaps their are people in our lives that have a message for us to hear; may we be open to their words and take them to heart – trusting that their insights can help us on the journey of life.
Perhaps their are people in our lives that we are called to offer a message; may we have the courage to speak up – offering and directing others to insights that can help them embrace the power and beauty of life.
During these last few days of Advent, may we recognize in our lives the messengers sent by God to announce the Good News of Christ. As we prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming, we have the opportunity to look within and discern the path we have taken through life. We can ask “What should we do?” as the challenges of life appear. May we trust that the Lord will make His will known to us, inviting us to follow with full and open hearts.
Study: When was a time when I failed to speak up? When was a time I failed to listen?
Pray: Call upon the Lord for the wisdom to know when to speak and when to take heart to the words of another.
Serve: Is there someone in my life right now that I am called to speak to? Or listen to?
Do you remember the Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” that we used to hear as children? It is a simple yet profound tale. A young boy is given the responsibility to watch over the animals in the event of an attack from the wolves. Bored of his duties he calls out “Wolf!” and laughs as the area villagers come running.
Delighted with his game the boy cries “Wolf!” a few more times, each time getting the attention of the people. Finally disgusted with his actions they no longer respond, even when a real wolf shows up and attacks the child; his failure to keep watch prevented his message from being heard.
In the first reading today Ezekiel says that being a prophet is a lot like being a watchman. The watchman was responsible for protecting the people from bandits and wild animals. The watchman was required to stay alert, remaining vigilant and ready to call out in a moment’s notice should danger arise.
If danger came, and the watchman failed to alert the people, then the watchman was at fault. But if the watchman called the alarm and no one came, then the people were at fault. Simply put, if the watchman does his duty and no one comes, then those who hear the warning and fail to respond are held accountable.
Likewise, anyone who hears a word of encouragement or guidance and fails to respond is also accountable. Ezekiel, the Psalm, and the Gospel today all point out that there are times when we must open our hearts to messages that we may not want to hear. We may be tempted to “harden our hearts.”
Let’s face it. No one wants to be told what to do. No one wants to be disciplined or chastised; we love our freedom and independence too much for that! Yet there are times when the Church is empowered to keep watch, lest members of the community drift into choices and actions which are harmful and destructive.
This is not easy! The scriptures today alert us to the fact that there are moments when we may be asked to either give or receive a hard word out of love. We might have to give it – to help another from making a mistake. We might have to receive it – and allow another to help us from falling into trouble. Keeping watch is never easy, but without the support of each other, we run the risk of a far greater harm.
Study: Reflect on a challenging time in your life. How did you give and/or receive strength from others?
Pray: For what particular strength do you need to ask the Lord? Come to the “Living Stone” who is Jesus and seek the strength you need!
Serve: Where can you cooperate with others right now? How can your strength help others ?
Imagine a piece of construction brick or stone. At a distance the pieces look the same, with similarities in color, texture, shape, and size. Yet on closer examination we perceive that every piece of brick or stone is different; when seen clearly each stone is unique.
We use stones all the time in our building and construction. We use them in walls, fireplaces, foundations, and paving. Stones possess an inherent toughness – they are the bones of the earth – which makes them useful and vital in life.
In the second reading we hear how the Scriptures use the image of a stone in our life of faith. Peter writes that all people should come to Jesus, a living stone, so that we might be built into a spiritual house. Following the example of Jesus, we become “living stones” that all might see God’s kingdom here on earth.
Stones remind us of two important points. First, stones are strong, and we are called to live our faith with the same durability and toughness. Life is not easy, and there are times when we recognize our weakness and failures. Yet through our relationship with Christ we gain strength and power that we do not have by ourselves. Through Christ our talents and gifts become strong resources to be used by God.
Second, in construction stones are used in cooperation with others, and this same cooperation is part of our human experience. Take a stone or brick out of a wall and it becomes weaker; take a person out of a community and a change is felt. Simply put, just as a stone adds strength to those around it, so to our lives make a profound difference on those around us.
As living stones we offer our God-given strengths and abilities to build up God’s people here on earth. Sharing our lives, we become a powerful tool through which Jesus Christ continues to be revealed to all people through time.
Stones teach us about strength and cooperation. These insights are part of every human experience and are used throughout our lives. As God’s living stones we discover that our faith gives us power when we work together with those around us. May that power help us to build God’s kingdom, leading others to Christ.
Study: When have I experienced a life-changing moment? How has this helped me to become a better person?
Pray: Ask God for guidance to face new challenges with courage and strength.
Serve: How can I help someone in the midst of great change? How can I support them?
There are moments in life which transform us forever. During these times we experience profound and lasting change, and from these moments we find that we are a different person with new insights and awareness.
Sometimes this process of change can take a protracted period of time – weeks or even months may pass while we are in a period of transition and renewal. Sometimes, however, the transformation takes a single moment; an event or encounter can completely alter the course of our lives.
The baptism of Jesus was just such a life changing experience. This event is the first step in the adult life of Christ. Here is a simplified review:
* Jesus (as an adult) is baptized by John
– the Father and Holy Spirit are present!
* Jesus goes immediately to the desert
– he spends 40 days in solitude
* Jesus is tempted by Satan
– he confronts 3 tests of faith
* Jesus begins his ministry
– he preaches, heals, and picks disciples
John’s baptism initiates a series of events that lead to the transformation of the adult Jesus. Outside of the birth narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, nothing is really known about the Lord until this moment. Indeed, it is from this point on that Jesus must confront the revelation of his mission on earth.
Some scholars argue that after his baptism Jesus became fully aware of his ministry and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. It was at this point that he began to understand the fullness of his Father’s plan. This is why he went to the wilderness immediately after his baptism – he needed to think things out! This is why the devil came to him there – in hope that Jesus could be tempted NOT to fulfill his mission.
It was his baptism – a public event – that allowed the Lord (and other people as well) to see the plan of salvation. In a single moment history changed as Jesus begins his earthly ministry.
Our own transformations can be equally vivid. May we see in the Lord’s baptism a sign that we too can change, growing closer to God, aware of how our lives can bring life and hope to others.
Study: In your personal life, what have been some of the best “signs” that have pointed you in the right direction? Is it a person, an experience, or perhaps an activity?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the spiritual sight to recognize God’s signs within our daily lives.
Serve: How might you be a source of direction and guidance for another? How might your life point the way for another to follow?
I often am traveling in unfamiliar places. Unsure of my directions, I am extra careful when it comes to reading the road signs; all it takes is one wrong turn to cause a delay or even greater confusion.
Road signs are important for travel. They guide us, remind us of our distance and time, reassure us about our direction, and help us reach our destination safely. These signs make certain that the trip will result in our timely and secure arrival.
We use signs in other parts of our lives as well. We look for cues from one another in our relationships to show us if we are on good terms with others. We have progress reports to help us assess how our work is going. And we often ask for evaluations after programs to determine if the presentation was helpful. All of these examples show us that signs aid us in living our lives in a healthy and happy fashion.
In the Gospel we hear the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus. It is a classic tale about the reversal of fortunes between this world and the next. Yet the twist in this parable happens when the rich man, from the midst of his suffering, wants to go back and warn his brothers about their impending fate. Abraham reminds him, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”
This sobering statement reminds us that our choices result in consequences that hold us accountable. Our words and actions make a difference, for good or evil, and the great power of our choices affects ourselves and others in many ways.
Yet Abraham’s reply can also fill us with hope. We possess the Scriptures; we know the commandments God offers us. With these signs we can journey through life aware of our opportunities and responsibilities. God has given us everything we need to face our joys and sorrows in this world, and with these “road signs” we trust that we will be united with God completely in the eternal world to come.