Daily Bread

Dn 7:15-27; Dn 3:82-87; Lk 21:34-36

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from … the anxieties of daily life.
I don’t associate anxiety and drowsiness, but it makes sense that our hearts, as the center of compassion, might seem to sleep when we are overwhelmed by life’s daily cares. My husband and I had the opportunity to take a vacation involving a couple of flights, negotiating several large cities, and about 1500 miles of train travel. I realized that in the rural Missouri town we call home we rarely think competitively — arriving first, getting good seats, protecting our stuff. But where there are many people who are traveling it’s hard not to think, “Me first!” We decided to mindfully avoid seeing others as potential rivals for the goodies of life, and instead, just enjoyed folks and even made a couple of friends.
God of abundance, calm my anxious heart and teach me that there is always enough.

Dn 7:2-14; Dn 3:75-81; Lk 21:29-33

Praise and exalt him above all forever.
The Canticle of Daniel is a heart-felt, full-throated, joy-filled song of praise. One can feel the elation even when it’s read in a monotone — but please don’t do that. I’m reminded of a shape note singers gathering — an experience not to be missed. Singers sit in a square as each takes a turn as the leader, announcing the hymn and keeping the beat. What’s most noticeable is that everyone participates. Everyone. There are no spectators at a shape note sing and every hymn is sung in four-part harmony at full volume. At a recent sing, after one rousing hymn, one man yelled out, “This is better than Prozac!” Singing, just to praise God, is not something we do often enough. It might be the closest experience of heaven on earth.
Sing praise with heart and mind and soul — sing praise!

1 Rom 10:9-18; Mt 4:18-22

He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
God established a favorable foundation for this courageous and faithful encounter. The Galileans formed a vibrant religious community, well-versed in Scripture with great enthusiasm and reverence for its application. Many respected teachers came from Galilee, including Jesus who earned the distinction of rabbi. It was an honor for the rabbi to choose his followers as it indicated a belief that the select had great potential. Imagine the surprise of the lowly fishermen to be singled out in such a way. Their immediate response makes perfect sense; their entire existence yearned for this moment.
May we be gracious and willing in answering the Lord’s call.

Dn 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28; Lk 21:12-19

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Developing a solid relationship with the Lord and leaning on him at all times readies us for unsettling situations. The Lord assures us that he’s always present. Following his commands allows us to face the future with conviction and security, no matter what it may hold. God won’t leave us to stand alone in fear or uncertainty. We’re not guaranteed an easy path, but we can be confident that it won’t be traveled alone. Only when we place our hope and trust in God can we be at peace. We will see beyond the tribulations of the present to the bigger picture of the promise of eternal life.
Let us rest confidently in your protection, Lord.

Dn 1:1-6, 8-20; Lk 21:1-4

He noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
In purely monetary terms, the widow gives little. Jesus doesn’t assess the currency’s value but the size of the sacrifice. Proportionally, she gives lavishly. She contributes, despite her own need, with generous and pure intentions. She gives from her heart, not just her purse. She holds nothing back. She’s likely equally unselfish with her time, attention, love, compassion, prayers and forgiveness. Her generosity prompts us to consider not how much we give, but also how and why. The widow doesn’t give for show, but we benefit from watching and questioning what holds us back from giving extravagantly.
Give me the grace, Lord, to offer you all I have.

1 Mc 6:1-13; Lk 20: 27-40

God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.
Some say Catherine of Alexandria never existed. But she was one Joan of Arc’s “voices,” and if you can’t believe a 17-year-old French girl, who can you trust? One of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers,” saints most often turned to in time of need, Catherine is the patron of the hospice where my sister was dying in 2009. Maybe a spiritual time machine let the wicked King Antiochus, who persecuted the Maccabees, also hear her voice: “I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, and I am dying in bitter grief.” Now it’s my turn to listen.
I will give you thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, I will declare all your wondrous deeds.

1 Mc 4:36-37, 52-59; Lk 19:45-48

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things.
What great readings for “Black Friday”! Judas Maccabeus reclaims and reconsecrates the Temple “on the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it,” celebrating an eight-day feast now known as Hanukkah. Jesus, too, storms the Temple, which had become a mall crazed with shoppers. “Black Friday,” with exactly that name, also grips Honduras, where I live. And “Thanksgiving Day” is not even celebrated here! Income inequality kills the poor, but for the stores the whole week, the whole month, is “Black Friday,” till they’ve squeezed every peso they can out of us. Thank God Advent is just around the corner!
O Lord, in your hand are power and might; it is yours alone to give grandeur and strength to all!

Sir 50:22-24; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Lk 17:11-19

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” 
In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln revived the feast of Thanksgiving, it was in the middle of the Civil War. Despite “our sins,” the President said, “the Most High God … hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” We celebrate “the bounties which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come.” Nowadays, we have almost obliterated the beauty of this day as shopping hours trample its peace, but perhaps a new appreciation of family helps keep the day in perspective. Diverse versions of family now bless our lives as we gather at one table together. No more civil wars, we pray!
Every day will I bless you, O God, and I will praise your name forever!

2 Mc 7:1, 20-31; Lk 19:11-28

Since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each one’s beginning, … he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life.
The Maccabees lived around the year 100 B.C.E., but they were no millennials! Their mother mocks the Greek tyrant Antiochus, while boosting her sons’ courage in their native language, namely, Hebrew, with the promise of resurrection. It’s not the Maccabees’ fault Antiochus tried to erase their culture! But let us celebrate Thanksgiving in whatever language, and those “family values” that inspired the Maccabees, no matter how our particular family is configured.
O Lord, keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings!

1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63; Lk 18:35-43

The king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of burnt offerings.
As Ordinary Time is winding down, the church tries to squeeze the stirring adventures of the Maccabees into one short week. It’s like trying to tweet “Harry Potter”! Antiochus Epiphanes — the Voldemort of our tale — is actually welcomed by a submissive Israel. They love his Greek ways! So he built a gymnasium, always a sign of decadence, desecrated the Temple, and tore up and burnt the scrolls of the Law. He especially liked to watch his new subjects worship his statue while eating unclean meats. But at least one family refused to choke that food down, and the resistance was born. Stay tuned.
O God, the snares of the wicked are twined about me; redeem me from their oppression!