Meditation on 2 Samuel

Who am I, Lord God . . . that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little. (2 Samuel 7:18-19)

Self-help programs have been popular for decades, and it’s no wonder. First, you identify an area of your life that you want to change or a good habit you want to foster. Then, you find a book outlining steps that are supposed to bring about the desired result. But often, the outcome is a change in outward behavior, not an inner shift. So the old ways return easily, and you look for yet another program or book to help you.

David had just received a word from the Lord through Nathan. Not only would God continue to bless David, but he had also promised that “your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me” (2 Samuel 7:16). David had seen God’s power and authority many times in his life before this. Yet in this moment, he knew that God wanted to show him more. He saw God’s complete generosity. And that revelation overwhelmed the mighty king.

David sat before the Lord in total awe. Almost speechless, he finally found his voice to praise and worship God. He no longer wanted his ways, he wanted God’s ways; he only wanted to lay his life before God and allow God to do the work that he had promised to do.

It may be hard to imagine, but asking God to reveal who he is really can change our lives—and far more powerfully than a self-help book ever could. He wants to plant his revelation deep in our hearts. He wants to show us newer and newer facets of his love, his justice, his mercy, and his compassion. Revelations like these can break through any barriers we may have set up between ourselves and him—or between ourselves and the people around us. They can fill us with joy and change our perspective on any circumstance.

We have a very generous God. No matter what he has already shown us, he still considers it “too little” (2 Samuel 7:19). Isn’t it wonderful to have a God like this?

“Father, come and open my heart to know you more. Because you are fathomless, there is no end to what you want to show me. Lord, let me see your face!”

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-14
Mark 4:21-25

[Originally posted on “The Word Among Us,” January 28, 2016 (paywall)]

Meditation on Psalm 56:12

In God I trust without fear; what can flesh do against me? (Psalm 56:12)

Around the world today, the feast days of four very different saints will be celebrated.

Fructuosus was a Spanish bishop in an era of intense persecution by the Roman Empire. After refusing to deny his belief in God, he was burned at the stake in a.d. 259; as he and his brother deacons waited for the flames to take their lives, Christians pushed past the guards to ask for the martyrs’ prayers. Fructuosus called out, “I am bound to bear in mind the whole universal church, from east to west.”

Fifty years later, the persecution of Christians revived. Agnes, a beautiful young Roman girl, was reported to the authorities by suitors whose lustful advances she had rejected. She was cruelly executed, earning the title of patron saint of chastity.

On the slopes of the Alps, Einsiedeln Abbey will commemorate its ninth-century founder, Meinrad, who forswore his aristocratic lifestyle to become a hermit there. Over the years, pilgrims flocked to his hermitage, and he hosted them all. One evening he welcomed in two thieves, who murdered him. For this reason, he is the patron saint of hospitality, a man who loved his enemies to the end.

Elsewhere, the Archdiocese of Daegu in South Korea will remember a man who tended his farm, cared for his family, and taught catechesis in the 1860s. For these simple commitments, John Yi Yun-il was arrested, whipped, and beheaded under the anti-Catholic persecution in Korea. He is venerated as the last of the 103 Korean Martyrs.

Faithfulness, hospitality, and chastity: most of us won’t be called on to die for these gospel values, but we should be reminded of their importance by the stories of today’s saints.

All four of these martyrs were remarkable people, but in many ways, they did nothing special other than pursue the call God had given them, even when it led to their death. God doesn’t need you to be a spiritual superhero; he just asks you to be attentive to the call of discipleship he gives anew each day and to hold fast to it in all circumstances.

“Thank you, Lord, for the example of faithful men and women; help me to be faithful to what you have called me to.”

1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
Mark 3:7-12

[Originally posted on “The Word Among Us,” January 21, 2016 (paywall)]

Sheep Without a Shepherd

A meditation from “The Word Among Us,” Mark 6:34-44

Have you ever wondered what it’s like for a shepherd to care for his sheep? We conjure up images of peace and quiet, of green pastures and rolling hillsides. But it’s not always so pleasant. If the shepherd doesn’t keep his flock together and moving in the right direction, he risks losing them. It is also common knowledge that sheep are not very bright. Without proper guidance, an unwitting sheep will graze on food that looks enticing but that is dangerous for it. Should it get lost in the wilderness, it will eat whatever it finds, including weeds and unhealthy forage.

What does this have to do with us? Well, if Jesus is the good shepherd, one of his priorities is to make sure we are eating food that will nourish us. Of course, we are not dumb animals like sheep. But it is still true that without Jesus’ guidance, we risk feeding ourselves in fields of doubt, self-centeredness, pride, or fear.

Jesus wants us to follow him because he knows what is good for us. He wants to give us good things. He wants to feed us with the heavenly food of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He knows that if we eat his food, we will lose our desire for the “food” of the world—the philosophies of life that only spoil and weaken us.

Mark tells us that the people who ate the bread Jesus gave them were filled and “satisfied” (Mark 6:42). And that is exactly what Jesus can do for us. We can experience his love deep in our hearts. His peace can fill our minds and calm our fears. We can experience joy in the knowledge that Christ is in us. We can find the answers to our most pressing challenges and problems—all because we have taken Jesus as our shepherd and guide.

Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you go to Mass. As you sing praises to the Lord, listen to his word, and receive him in Communion, tell him that you want him to fill you. Thank him for shepherding you—and tell him that you want to stay close to him, safe in his flock.

Thank you, Jesus, for being my good shepherd and providing the spiritual food that I need. Lord, I want to be satisfied by you!
Thank you, Jesus, for being my good shepherd and providing the spiritual food that I need. Lord, I want to be satisfied by you!

God Believes in Us Before We Believe in Ourselves

Have you ever wished you could have an extreme makeover?

Extreme-makeover television shows are very popular these days, probably because people enjoy seeing how a plain-looking person or a run-down old house can be transformed into a stunning display of poise and beauty. These shows always end with the “big reveal” of the newly transformed person or home, to the breathless adulation of the people witnessing it. Who wouldn’t be impressed? Something average has been turned into something outstanding!

Perhaps this is why the story of Jonah is so popular. The city of Nineveh was one of the largest and most powerful cities of its time. As capital of the Assyrian empire, it was also known as one of the meanest cities. Gobbling up land and overthrowing kingdoms throughout the Fertile Crescent, the Ninevites were ruthless in the way they waged war and tortured their captives.

So when God first sent Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh to repent, Jonah balked. Converting all those darkened violent hearts? Impossible. All he could see was their brutality. But God saw something more. He saw their potential.

As the story unfolds, we see that Jonah was wrong; Nineveh underwent an extreme makeover of biblical proportions! But even that wasn’t enough for God. He went out of his way to soften Jonah’s hardened heart and show him just how deep his mercy runs.

God believed in the people of Nineveh and Jonah even before they believed in themselves. In the same way, God believes in our potential, even when we don’t understand it or we don’t believe it ourselves. He knows that he can do great things with us. He never loses faith in what we can become or what we can do.

Today, remember that God has an extreme makeover ready for you. No matter how weak or flawed you may think you are, he sees something beautiful and valuable: a person created in his own image and likeness. He can work with that and turn you into something outstanding.

Prayer: “Lord, thank you for seeing such potential in me. Help me to see myself—and the people around me—through your eyes.”

Readings for the day:

Jonah 4:1-11
Psalm 86:3-6, 9-10
Luke 11:1-4

[Originally posted on Word Among Us, 10/07/2015 (paywall)]

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