by Deacon Ken and Marie Finn
BEFORE YOU BEGIN:
Pray and ask God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit.
“THE PARACLETE, THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, WILL INSTRUCT YOU IN EVERYTHING, AND REMIND YOU OF ALL THAT I TOLD YOU.” (JOHN 14:26)
FIRST DAY Reread last week’s readings.
- What was a helpful or new thought from the readings or from the homily you heard on Sunday?
- From what you learned, what personal application did you choose to apply to your life this week?
SECOND DAY READ ZEPHANIAH 3:14-18 FIRST READING
(“He will rejoice over you with gladness.”)
- What are we to do with all of our heart? Zephaniah 3:14
- Why is Israel to rejoice and shout for joy? Zechariah 9:9
- What has the Lord removed, and of what is there no further need? Zephaniah 3:15
- On the day of the Lord what shall be said? Zephaniah 3:16
- What did Jesus say to his disciples? Matthew 14:27
- What does perfect love do? 1 John 4:18
- What is the Lord, our God, called? What will he do to you, and what will he do because of you? Zephaniah 3:17
- What will people no longer call you, and what does the Lord call you? Isaiah 62:4-5
- What will the Lord remove from among you? Zephaniah 3:18
Personal – How have you been renewed in God’s love? How does the joy show in you since the personal realization that Jesus has come into your heart? Give examples.
THIRD DAY READ PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7 SECOND READING
(“Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice!”)
- What are we to do always? Philippians 4:4
- Why do we rejoice in the Lord? Psalm 85:7
- What should be made known to all, and who is near? Philippians 4:5
- What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- What was God, our Savior, to us when he appeared, and what did his mercy do for us? Titus 3:4-6
- Kindness is a fruit of whom? Galatians 5:22
- What are we not to have, and what are we to do in everything? Philippians 4:6
- What does anxiety do to us, and what does a kindly word do? Proverbs 12:25
- What will guard our hearts and minds in Christ? Philippians 4:7
- What did Jesus say he was leaving his followers? (Note: This is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22)John 14:25-27
Personal – What acts of kindness have you shown towards your spouse, children, parents, friends, co-workers, and neighbors?
FOURTH DAY READ LUKE 3:10-18 GOSPEL
(“He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.”)
- To whom were the crowds talking, and what did they ask him? Luke 3:10, also see Luke 3:2
- What was John’s reply to the crowd, who else came to him, and for what reason? Luke 3:11-12
- What did John tell the tax collectors? Luke 3:13
- What did Jesus tell his disciples his Father was pleased to give them, what should they do, and what did he say about the heart? Luke 12:32-34
- What did the soldiers ask John, and what three things did he tell them to do? Luke 3:14
- What were the people beginning to think about John? Luke 3:15
- What did John say to the priests and Levites when they asked him who he was? John 1:19-20, 23
- When John answered the people, with what did he say he was baptizing them? Who did he say was coming, and of what was John not even worthy? Luke 3:16
- With what did John say the “one who was coming” was going to baptize them? What did he say about the winnowing fan? Luke 3:16-17
- What does the Holy Spirit give us? Acts 1:8
- What did John preach to the people? Luke 3:18
Personal – In what way have you shared your clothing and food with someone who has none? Examine your conscience:
Do I have excessive clothing cluttering my closet?
Do I spend a lot of money on food?
Have I extorted anyone?
Have I accused anyone falsely?
Have I been dissatisfied with my wages?
Seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week.
FIFTH DAY READ ISAIAH 12:2-6
(“God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.”)
Read and meditate on Isaiah 12:2-6.
What is the Lord saying to you personally through this reading?
How can you apply this to your life?
SIXTH DAY READ ALL OF THE COMMENTARY
In this reading the church joyfully anticipates the Messiah’s coming through the words of the prophet Zephaniah. The prophet’s exuberant message anticipates a revelation that cannot be contained: The Lord is in our midst and his presence gives us joy. Zephaniah points out that great gladness results when we allow God to be with us. We sin when we try to find happiness in ways that bring a cutting off of ourselves from fellowship with God, the only person who can make us truly joyful.
There is an old saying that joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. One can be very hot and thirsty and be very happy to receive a cold glass of water. The person may be in complete turmoil, but for a few moments he is happy. Because joy is the presence of the Lord, a person may have his own personal life under attack through sickness, accident, death of a loved one, or even a divorce, and still be joyful and at peace.
To experience God in our midst goes far beyond any technical explanation. We are told that the Holy Spirit is upon us; he has appointed us to preach Good News to the poor; He has sent us to heal the broken hearted. This joy of knowing that he is in our midst, knowing that his Spirit is upon us comes when we faithfully follow him and obey his Word. This is the anticipation of joy that Zephaniah tells his people about and it applies, especially today, to you, wherever you are. If you want to be joyful, draw close to the source of joy by obeying God. Then listen as God rejoices over you in song.
How powerful and yet how wonderfully strange that a man in prison would be telling a church to be joyful. But Paul’s attitude teaches us a very important lesson: Our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Paul is saying that we may not be able to control the circumstances, but we always can control our response to those circumstances.
Paul takes up the joyful anthem; the Lord himself is near, dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Paul was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him, the Holy Spirit was within him and he had nothing to fear (1 John 4:4). Paul is urging the Philippians to be joyful, and he is speaking to you; maybe you need to hear this.
It is easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously. If we have not experienced joy lately, we may not be looking at life from the right point of view. Never having to worry about anything is not an escape from responsibility. We all have worries in work, in our homes, schools and with our families.
Do you want to worry less? Paul is saying that we need to turn our worries into prayers. Then pray much more. Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray. The peace that you receive is God’s peace, and his peace is different from the world’s peace (John 14:27). This peace is not in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. This is a real peace, and it comes from knowing that God is in control of our life. This means our destiny is set, our victory over sin is certain, and this is a peace that surpasses all understanding.
The message of John the Baptist broke upon the people like a giant clap of thunder. He did not tickle the people’s ears. He was not cute or an entertainer. His message was not good news, it was news of terror. John had lived in the wilderness and sometimes fire would break out. The animals would come out of their nicks and crannies, scurrying in terror from the menacing flames. It was to them that John likened the people who came to be baptized.
The Jews thought that God would judge other nations with one standard, and the Jews with another and that as sons of Abraham they were exempt. John told them that racial privilege meant nothing, that life, not lineage, was God’s standard of judgment.
John’s message took root in unexpected places, among the poor, the criminals, and the soldiers. They were painfully aware of their needs. Many people then, as well as today, failed to see that respectability is not always connected with right living. John states that respectability can hinder right living if it keeps us from seeing our need for God.
If you had to choose between them, would you protect your character even if it ruined your reputation? John warns of impending judgment by comparing those who refuse to work for God to chaff, the useless outer husk of the grain. In contrast, he compares those who repent and reform their lives to the nourishing grain itself. Those who refuse to believe in God will be discarded because they have no value in furthering God’s work. Those who repent and believe hold great value in God’s eyes because they are beginning a new life of service for him.
The first reading tells us that the Lord is in our midst. The second reading reveals that peace is not worrying, but praying, about everything. The Gospel calls us to more than respectability; it calls us to right living.
This week, let your witness to right living have a strong measure of joy. Start with yourself and take a spiritual, emotional and physical inventory of yourself. Be honest, specific and joyful. Take any area of you that needs correcting and pray constantly every day for just that one area of brokenness.
You do not need to tell yourself how bad you are; you need to tell yourself how blessed you are to have someone forgive and love you. Jesus loves you so much he died for you. So look at an area of yourself that you can change this week. Share this change with a loved one, a friend, or maybe a clergyman.