The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

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  • Jesus said to them in reply, “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.” ~Mt 11:.4-5

    In a 2014 graduation speech at the University of Texas (Austin), U.S. Special Operations commander Admiral William McRaven declared: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” His point was that a mundane action, carried out in a...

  • Here’s how Truman Capote sets his short story, entitled “One Christmas”:

    I had a new suit. It had a card pinned to the lapel with my name and address. That was in case I got lost. You see, I had to make the trip alone. By bus. Well, everybody thought I’d be safe with my tag. Everybody but me. I was scared to death; and angry. Furious at my father, this stranger, who was forcing me to leave home and be away...at Christmastime (36).

    It is easy to see how the father in the story did not...

  • Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away. For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes. ~ Ps 1:4, 6

    Most of us are so removed from agricultural realities that we fail fully to embrace the image of chaff in today’s psalm. I recall a field trip with one of my children many years ago to a historic farm where the docent demonstrated the process of threshing and winnowing. The grain was spread out on the threshing...

  • Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” ~ Lk 1:38

    Luke does not tell us exactly what Mary is doing when the angel Gabriel appears, but artists from Italian Fra Angelico in the 15th-century to the British Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse in the 20th-century portray her in quiet reflection, an open book nearby.

    Whether she was actually in solitary reverie—an improbable scenario, given the demands daily life placed...

  • El Greco, The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception

    Who among us hasn’t wanted a recount at some time in our lives? In presidential elections, every four years—let’s be generous—about half of the country would like a do-over. It’s in the nature of elections, like high school athletics. About half of the teams in the state lose each week, don’t they? When I was a debater in high school, I didn’t give a second thought to the debates we’d won, but I’d mull over those we’d lost, thinking about what I might have said.

    One of the hardest...

  • Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Mt 11:28

    As a perennially worried little girl, I had more than occasional trouble getting to sleep. Hearing me as I tossed and turned in the darkness, my mother would come to my bedside and encourage me to turn my cares over to God. More often than not, this helped.

    Now older, slightly wiser, but still carrying a low-grade worry, I continue to revert to this advice almost...

  • If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? ~ Mt 18:12

    What if you are that stray lamb? Perhaps you have gradually drifted off from the flock of your friends, family and faith community a few paces at a time, not noticing how far away you’ve gotten. Or, in keeping with an age that worships individualism and autonomy, you may have intentionally and stubbornly set out on your own, claiming your...

  • Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,“What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” ~ Lk 5:22-23

    As we place ourselves in prayer before the Lord who loves us, we quickly become aware of the stains on our souls. In reflecting on the perfect grandeur of God, the invincible love of Christ, the blessed and blessing presence of the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but notice our many human shortcomings....

  • John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees: "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves,‘We have Abraham as our father.’” ~ Mt3:8-9

    Complacency is an occupational hazard of participating in a two-thousand year old belief system. We grow up with certain rites, rituals, and religious expectations and we don’t really give much thought to how authentically we are acquitting ourselves.

    The exterior facade looks great. That...

  • At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. ~ Mt 9:36

    As a child, I was often reminded not to “toot my own horn.” In the Facebook era, this seems a quaint and even archaic attitude. Self-promotion is the order of the day, as we carefully construct a facade of enviable success. We present ourselves in the best light possible: calm, contented, in control.

    Beneath that...