April 24, 2022 Sunday Serving - Mercy and Faith

Divine Mercy Sunday Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Big thanks to Maddie Clowers, who helped me with today's reflection.

Mercy: “a love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.” - Mathew Schmalz

Faith: “the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church (1814)

In today’s Gospel we see examples of mercy and faith.

Jesus, who appears to His apostles, shows God’s mercy by uttering these words, “Peace be with you.” Think about it for a moment: the apostles had abandoned Jesus during His Passion, Peter had denied Him and now they were all hiding like cowards. Yet the first words Jesus says to them are words of peace. Here, Jesus reminds us that no matter how far we fall, God's first words to us will always be those of Divine Mercy.

Then, accompanied by that Divine Mercy is a call to radical faith. Jesus says, “As the Father sent me, so I sent you." As God shows mercy to us, so must we show mercy to others: to friends, to enemies, to those we love, to those we can’t stand and everyone in between.

As Maddie puts it: “On this Divine Mercy Sunday we are called to join in the apostles’ mission of mercy. Just as Jesus shows mercy to Thomas’s lack of faith by meeting the standards Thomas set, so must we meet others where they are at in their spiritual journeys. It’s a hard path, but this is the new way of life that Jesus calls us to.”

April 17, 2022 Sunday Serving - Do You Understand

Easter Sunday Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Big thanks to Christopher Rael, who helped me with today's reflection.

Did the resurrection really happen?

We're not talking symbols or metaphors, but reality and history. Did Jesus Christ physically rise from the dead?

If we say no, then Christianity is a scam. Our faith is pointless because there would be nothing to have faith in. Why aim to be holy if the lives of the holy and the unholy both end at death?

However, if we say yes, then we have to acknowledge the magnitude of this event. As Christopher points out: "The Resurrection is one of the most important events in all of Christianity. Jesus changed the entire world by conquering death. When the disciples were in the pits of sorrow, anxiety, anger and fear, this miracle showed them that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the true Son of God."

And for us who may feel abandoned by God in our darkest moments, the Resurrection reminds us that our God is alive and with us!

So as you celebrate this Easter, meditate on this mystery and ask yourself: Do I understand what Resurrection means for my life, the Christian faith and the world.

April 10, 2022 Sunday Serving - For Those He Loved

Palm Sunday

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Big thanks to Marilyn Amador, who helped me with today's reflection.

Has someone ever willingly taken the fall for something you did? A family member who took the blame for your error? A friend who covered for your mistake? How did it make you feel?

For me, I felt bad that the person suffered because of me, but at the same time, I felt so grateful that he/she protected me from those harsh consequences. On this Palm Sunday, and really throughout Holy Week, these are the feelings we should keep in mind.

Jesus, God himself, took the fall for us. Through His Passion, Jesus entered into the depths of God-forsakenness: betrayal, torture, humiliation and finally, death. Holy Week calls on us to remember that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross: our anger, envy, pride, lust, gluttony, greed and laziness; sins that we continue to commit even today.

At the same time, we have to be grateful for the unconditional love of God. As Marilyn puts it:

“[Jesus' Passion] is God’s greatest act of love for us. Although God knows our faults, failures and betrayals, he still gladly died for us. I remember hearing at a homily, that it wasn’t so much the nails that held Christ to the cross, but His love for us. To me, that is the biggest takeaway.”

So as we journey through Holy Week, let us be willing to confront our own sinfulness, but at the same time, give glory to the one who takes away the sins of the world.

March 27, 2022 Sunday Serving - Lord Open My Eyes

4th Sunday of Lent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Big thanks to Ginelle Fontinelle, who helped me with today's reflection.

At the end of my second year of Confirmation classes, my teacher came up to me and said, “I see something in you, not with my physical eyes, but with my spiritual eyes.” At the time, I didn’t fully get what she meant, but now I do.

As Christians, we believe in both the physical and the spiritual—not as two separate places, but rather, as two states of being that interact with each other. However, many times we are like the blind man in the Gospel—not physically blind, but spiritually. We look at events in our lives as meaningless suffering, random coincidence or pure luck.

Yet Jesus calls us out of that darkness. He calls us to not only look at the natural, but also the supranatural. Everything you do matters and everything that happens to you has meaning. Now just like the disciples, we may ask God, “What is the reason?” At times, He will give us a straight answer and sometimes, as Ginelle puts it:

“Sometimes not knowing something or not having something is the gift…when we do get our sight, we then see and appreciate God’s goodness.”

So for this week, look at the moments of your life, not simply as random events but as God continuing his work in the world.

March 20, 2022 Sunday Serving - The Pitfall of Comparison

3rd Sunday of Lent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

“Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

I was watching some Pints with Aquinas episodes during the break and one speaker said something that stuck with me. To paraphrase, he pointed out that if you ask most people whether they were going to Heaven or Hell, most would say Heaven. However, if you asked those same people whether they are worthy of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, most would say no. His point was this: It’s strange that most people believe themselves “good enough” for the greatest heavenly honor but unworthy of an earthly one.

This arrogance is what Paul and Jesus warn us about in today’s readings. When we sin, we have a desire to avoid accountability and rely on comparison. So instead of acknowledging our fault (“I messed up, I am sorry”), we either put ourselves above others (“Well, I’m better than this person”) or we put others below us (“But he/she has done much worse than me”).

So as we continue through Lent, let us take accountability for our shortcomings and repent. Regardless of how others around you live their lives, on Judgment Day, it’s going to be just you and God.

March 13, 2022 Sunday Serving - Don't Get Caught Sleeping

2nd Sunday of Lent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

If there’s one thing I have noticed about the apostles, it is that they fall asleep at some of the most critical times in salvation history. In today’s Gospel, they do it at the Transfiguration. Luckily, they manage to wake up just in time to witness Jesus in his transfigured state. However, their lack of alertness serves as a lesson for us.

How often do we go through life spiritually asleep? Too tired to pray or too lazy to read Scripture? It is during that spiritual slumber that we can miss out on the graces and signs the Lord wants to give us. We pray for God to help us but when He sends help, in the form of a friend, stranger or opportunity, we’re too sleepy to notice.

So during this Lenten season, stay awake. Look at your surroundings more intentionally, engage in your conversations more earnestly, and aim to do good more consistently. It is by actively seeking heavenly things in our earthly routine, that we ourselves become transfigured through Christ.

March 6, 2022 Sunday Serving - Looking Beyond Lent

1st Sunday of Lent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is tempted by the devil. In Luke’s account of the event, as well as Matthew’s, the devil comes to Jesus after he has spent forty days in the desert. Why did the devil wait till the end of Jesus’ “Lent” to tempt him? Well the Gospel reading gives us a good answer: “....[Jesus] was hungry.”

During Lent, we are called to fast from something: food, social media, gossip, etc. We do our best, experience the spiritual benefits and then Easter arrives. When we are “free” of our Lenten commitments, what happens next?

Like Jesus, we are hungry, but unlike Jesus, we succumb to the temptation to go back to the same habits and distractions that we worked so hard to free ourselves from. For example, I remember going on a one-week sugary food rampage after Lent 2021 (I had fasted from sweets).

So friends, as you aim to stay true to your Lenten fast, also think of your post-Lenten life. Will you go back to wasting hours on Snapchat or TikTok? Will you go back to overeating or eating too much of a certain food? Will you go back to talking about people behind their backs? Or will you fill the hunger with better habits that continue to help you grow in faith and love?

Feb. 27, 2022 Sunday Serving - Your Lenten Theme

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

As Lent begins this week, many of us are racking our heads around what we’re going to give up. Chocolate? Video games? Bad professors?

Although sacrifice is important, even more important is the reason you are making the sacrifice. Throughout the Bible, we see various 40-day/year periods, each with their own unique themes:

Forty days during the Flood | A time of hunkering down: As the Flood covered the land, Noah and his family hunkered down in the ark. Maybe your life right now is very chaotic. The flood waters of school, work and relationships are throwing you all over the place. Let this Lent be your period to spiritually hunker down. Through prayer and fasting, God will strengthen your faith to withstand life’s waves.

Forty days after the Flood | A time of waiting: After Noah sees the mountain tops, he waits forty day before sending out a raven to look for land. Maybe you are in a period of waiting: waiting on a call back for a job, waiting for a loved one to recover from an illness, or waiting on an answer from God. Let your Lent focus on increasing your patience and fortifying your hope.

Forty years before entering the Promised Land | A time of decision-making: The Israelites spent forty years in the desert as preparation to enter the Promised Land. Some of us will be graduating this year, which means decisions have to be made, which brings all sorts of anxiety. We may feel ill-equipped like the Isrealites felt. Therefore, use this Lent for discernment. Read Scripture, bump up your prayer time and talk to God intentionally about the future. Continuously ask for wisdom and understanding.

Jesus’ forty days in the desert | A time of being: Jesus is perfect, so his “preparation” seems kinda pointless. However, there's a lesson to be learnt here: even if everything’s going well for you right now, use Lent as a time to just be in communion with God. No matter how far along we are in our spiritual lives, we can always go deeper.

So, as you plan for Lent, take inspiration from your biblical ancestors. Decide on your theme, your “why,” for Lent and then you can decide on the appropriate sacrifice.

Feb. 20, 2022 Sunday Serving - Be Merciful

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In last week’s readings, we saw an emphasis on justice—giving to someone what they deserve. God is just because He rewards goodness and punishes wickedness (even if it isn’t as immediate as we would like). In today’s readings, we see a focus on mercy.

Mathew Schmalz, a religion professor, once described mercy as “a love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.” In that sense, Jesus calls us to go beyond the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” mentality. We’re supposed to love not only those who love us, but also those who don’t love us.

So how do we show mercy? Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a pretty good list: “Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.”

So during this week, try to take on an attitude of mercy. Show mercy to that annoying classmate, former friend, ex-partner or bad professor. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Feb. 13, 2022 Sunday Serving - Taking God at His Word

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s readings, we see a clear separation between the righteous and the wicked. “For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.” Yet, in everyday life it seems like the wicked are alive and well, thriving even. Furthermore, those who seek righteousness seem to go through the most hardships. So what’s really going on?

An honest answer is I don’t know. As God explains in the book of Job, no human can understand God’s grand scheme, even if we tried to. So does that mean we simply follow God blindly? Nah. It’s quite the opposite. We follow God with our eyes wide open: open to the suffering of others and the evil in the world; but also open to the inherent goodness and blessings of life as well. We should not look at one without the other.

For me, any time I feel overwhelmed by the suffering around me, I try to remember all those times that God came in clutch for me. Do I still feel frustrated, confused and even lost at times? Yes. But as the saying goes, “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us.”

So for those of you who are going through a rough stretch, don’t quit. Sometimes the only way to get out of a situation is to go through it. But be assured, that God is with you every step of the way.

Feb. 6, 2022 Sunday Serving - Allow Him Into the Mess

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Last semester, Fr. Moreno did room blessings for CCCers. On that day, I remember sprinting to my dorm room to give it a quick cleanup. At first I thought, “My room isn’t that dirty;” however, when I raised my blinds to let the light come in, I was like, “Oh…”

“Light is good, but what it reveals often is not.” In today's readings, we hear of Isaiah, Paul and Peter as they encounter God’s light. In seeing God’s greatness, they at the same time, become aware of their own sinfulness.

We have similar experiences with God and with one another. When a friend does a good deed or a noble act, we applaud them while at the same time thinking, “I don’t think I could do that,” or “They’re holier than me,” or “I need to do more stuff like that.” When we encounter goodness, we often notice the lack of goodness in us.

So what do we do? Feel sorry for ourselves? Nah. We allow God in, through prayer and the Sacraments. Like St. Paul says, “ the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

So allow God into the messy room of your life. He wants to help you clean up.

Jan. 30, 2022 Sunday Serving - Out of Your Comfort Zone

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

We have all probably heard of getting out of your comfort zone, but why should we? Well today’s readings give us a reason, a means and an expectation when taking that leap into unfamiliar territory.

The reason: God calls us to more. The First Reading talks about how the Lord called the young Jeremiah to be “a prophet to the nations.” For Jeremiah, such a role probably had never crossed his mind. Similarly for us, when we stay sheltered in our comfort zone, we aren’t able to see the abundance of grace that God wants to give us. The grace of new friends, new experiences and new missions are only found when we take a step outside ourselves.

The means: Love. It’s as simple as that. There are many ways to step out of your comfort zone, but as the Second Reading puts it, “a still more excellent way” is to love. To love is to will the good of the other. Love naturally pushes us out of our comfort zone because our focus is on someone other than ourselves. Volunteering with an organization, taking your significant other out or supporting a friend by attending their event are just some examples of going out of your comfort zone in love.

The expectation: It won’t always be smooth sailing. When trying something new, not everyone will be on board. In the Gospel, we see Jesus preaching in his hometown and the people becoming infuriated with him. When you step out of your comfort zone, especially in terms of the spiritual life, some people will not be with you. Nevertheless, pray for guidance and keep moving.

In the end, comfort is good, but growth is better. As Catholics, let’s pray that God nudges us out of our comfort zones every now and then to help us grow into what He wants us to be.

Jan. 23, 2022 Sunday Serving - Setting Boundaries

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

So often we hear about setting boundaries, watching out for red flags or protecting our energy. We know that this is important because there are dangers all around us, both physical and spiritual. But how do we go about setting those boundaries?

In the First Reading, we read about Ezra and Nehemiah. In their time, the Israelites were in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem after it had been destroyed. Ezra and Nehemiah take two different approaches to rebuilding Jerusalem. Ezra focuses on the spiritual (teaching the citizens about Scripture) and Nehemiah focuses on the practical (rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem).

As Catholics we can take similar approaches when setting or resetting boundaries. On the spiritual side, we need to know our faith. As my mom often quotes to me, “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.” Reading Scripture, listening to Catholic speakers and praying are all ways we can form our conscience to know when someone has crossed a moral line or gone too far.

On the practical side, we need to be honest with ourselves and vocal with others. If something is making you uncomfortable, say it; if you can’t say it then try to leave the situation. So often we can fall victim to peer pressure and then we’re the ones left damaged in the aftermath.

So, what are your boundaries? For your relationship, friendships, work dynamics?

Jan. 16, 2022 Sunday Serving - Power of Intercession

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Minor Spoiler Alert: I am going to be talking a bit about the movie Spiderman: No Way Home.

Have you ever wanted to intervene in a situation but didn’t? Wanted to say something to a friend but hesitated? I think we have all experienced not stepping in when we should have or taking the “I don’t want to get involved” approach. However, today’s Gospel shows us that there is value in interceding on someone’s behalf.

John recounts the Wedding of Cana where Jesus performed his first major miracle. Interestingly, this miracle was prompted by Mary’s intercession. It is through Mary bringing the concern of the wedding guests to Jesus that Jesus then takes action. Funny enough, I saw a similar parallel in Spiderman: No Way Home: Aunt May intercedes on behalf of the villains, telling Peter (Spiderman) that he is obligated to try to fix them. In both scenarios, we then see the unthinkable happen: Jesus turns water into wine and Spiderman heals his archenemies.

Our takeaway from these stories should not be that we must involve ourselves in every situation. Rather, it calls us to be more attentive to the needs of those around us. Whether it be through prayer, word or deed, our intercession, even in seemingly insignificant moments, can lead to a miracle.

Jan. 9, 2022 Sunday Serving - God Stands With Us

The Baptism of the Lord

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Have you ever talked with a little child before? Some of them can be so shy. In response to their shyness, we often bend down to their level to help them open up. In a similar way, the Baptism of the Lord is God’s way of bending down to our level so He can raise us up to His.  

Why did Jesus get baptized? The sinless one receiving a baptism of repentance doesn’t really make sense. However, Jesus receives this Sacrament not to repent but rather to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). God saw humanity’s struggle with sin, and instead of dealing with it from a distance, He decided to stand among us and with us. In doing so, He opens the path of salvation for those who share in Jesus' baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus’ baptism reminds us that no matter how far we fall, God is on our side. Furthermore, it challenges us who are baptized to follow His example when we serve others. As the song “Come Back To Me” says, “Trees do bend, though straight and tall / So must we at others call.”

Jan. 2, 2022 Sunday Serving - A Different Way

The Epiphany of the Lord

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, we see the three magi making their way to Bethlehem to pay homage to the baby Jesus. After their visit, they returned to their country by another way. This scene reminds us of a stunning truth: any time we encounter Jesus, we don’t go back the same way we came. 

As we begin 2022, we need to ask ourselves: what path are we going to take? Will it be the path of old grudges and resentment or the path of forgiveness? Will it be the path of tirelessly complaining or the path of continuous gratitude? Will it be the path of fear or the path of love?

I pray that throughout the new year that you will be able to see the path God is calling you to. May you act in love and hope, remembering Isaiah’s words, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Is 60:1).

Dec. 26, 2021 Sunday Serving - The Grace of Family

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph frantically search for Jesus before finding him in the temple. When they ask him why he was there, he replies rather cryptically, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

How beautiful yet nerve-wrecking it must have been raising the Son of God? There must have been several times when Mary and Joseph didn’t understand Jesus’ actions or know how to respond to him. Yet, there must have also been many moments where they experienced unimaginable grace.

We face similar scenarios in our families as well. Every family has its issues and dealing with those issues can be tough. Many times, we avoid certain family members altogether because we don’t want to, or know how to, handle the messy stuff. However, the Second Reading reminds us that we must show “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” As Bishop Barron puts it, we are not only called to love those we like, but also those that God has given us.

So as we enter the new year, let us love our families more deeply, especially those relatives we struggle with. Through prayer and good deeds, you’ll be amazed at the moments of grace you can experience with them.

Dec. 19, 2021 Sunday Serving - Christmas and Family

4th Sunday of Advent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, we recount the second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation. After her encounter with Gabriel, Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth. During her visit, Elizabeth (and her baby John) are filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a heart-warming scene.

Christmas is a time for family. However, depending on your family, the season can be a great banquet or a fierce battlefield. Family feuds, politics and grudges can often turn the season into one of arguments. So what should we do if our family gatherings aren’t all holly-jolly?

Well, we follow Mary’s lead: we bring Jesus into the mix. The same way Mary blessed Elizabeth by bringing baby Jesus into her home, so can we bless our families by bringing Jesus to our gatherings. We can do this in a lot of ways: we can spend extra time with elderly relatives or those who are often neglected, we can take the lead on certain family traditions and put a new spin on it, we can forgive family members (this one is a big one) and we can lead grace before meals (if your family doesn’t typically do it, you can start the tradition).

As we approach Christmas Day, let us all in our own little way fill our homes with the Holy Spirit in anticipation of Christ.

Dec. 12, 2021 Sunday Serving - "What Should We Do?"

3rd Sunday of Advent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, the crowds ask John The Baptist, “What then should we do?” This question comes after John commands the people to “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance” (Lk 3:8). During Advent, John’s words apply to us too. Furthermore, the prophet gives us some tips on how to produce good fruit.

First, he calls us to give alms. “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.” Whatever extra you have, give it to the person who doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be only material goods, you can give off your time and talent as well.

Next, the prophet tells the tax collectors, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” For us, this can be seen as a warning against taking advantage of others or abusing others' generosity. Whether intentional or not, there are times when we are guilty of over-asking or unnecessarily burdening a friend for our own convenience. Just as we are called to give alms, we must be mindful of how we ask for it.

Lastly, John says to the soldiers, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” For those of us with power/authority, this is a call to use it wisely. We must not bully or stifle others nor treat our positions lightly. No matter how small your role: a store manager, a student leader or an older sibling; serve others like Christ.

So to close, do good, avoid evil and “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”(Phil 4:6)

Dec. 5, 2021 Sunday Serving - Heed the Voice

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Today’s Gospel has a rather grand opening. Luke starts off by introducing several figures of importance in the ancient world: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee…” (Lk 3:1). Yet, these figures are not the focus of the narrative. Rather, Luke points us to John The Baptist, who is “a voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Lk 3:4).

Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. However, in this secular world, it's one of the noisiest times of the year. It’s very easy for us to focus on the commercialized grandeur: Santa Claus, buying gifts, partying, etc. Yet, just like Luke, we need to shift our focus to the “voice in the dessert.”

But who is this voice? Well it comes in various forms. While the Jews had John The Baptist, you might have: a classmate who is inviting you to do some charity work, a fellow parishioner who wants you to do a retreat or a friend who is concerned about a certain bad habit of yours. The voice comes in different ways but it ultimately comes from God. He is calling us to repent and draw closer to Him this season. So as we go on break, enjoy the vacation but also stay alert to the voice in your life that is crying out “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Nov. 28, 2021 Sunday Serving - Pray For Strength

1st Sunday of Advent Year C

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

As college students, we often say we don’t have enough (fill in the blank): time, money, motivation, confidence, etc. We see ourselves as lacking something and unable to take action because of it. Today’s readings give us the good news that God is happy when we just give what we have, no matter how small it may be.

In the First Reading, we see Elijah perform a miracle with the near empty jar of flour and the jug of oil. He wouldn’t have been able to perform this miracle if the woman had not been willing to share the little she had. Often times, when we are running close to empty; financially, physically or spiritually, someone asks for a helping hand. Although our first instinct might be to walk away, if we give the little we have, in faith, God can produce tremendous grace out of that moment.

This principle also applies to our personal relationship to God. Most of us have used the excuse that we don’t have time to pray. However, the Lord’s Prayer takes less than a minute to recite (the Hail Mary prayer can be prayed in 30 seconds). So even on our busiest day, it’s still possible to carve out a minute for God.

In the end, exhaustion will often be the default setting of our lives as students. However, just like the poor woman in the Gospel, we can still make great contributions with the little we have.

Nov. 14, 2021 Sunday Serving - In Times Of Distress

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

When going through today’s readings, one can’t help but think of the current situation we’re in. The pandemic, and everything that has come with it, has definitely felt like “a time unsurpassed in distress” (Daniel 12:1). Just trying to finish this semester might feel like an unending tribulation. However, even in these times, God’s will is active at work.

The style of writing in today's First Reading and Gospel is called apocalyptic. When we think of the word “apocalyptic,” destruction and chaos typically come to mind; however, apocalyptic comes from the Greek word apokaluptein, which means to “uncover or reveal.”

When faced with disaster or catastrophe, we must be alert to what God is revealing to us, whether it be on a grand scale or in our own lives. Now I know what you’re thinking: that sounds all well and good, but when everything is falling apart in our lives, it’s hard to look past the craziness. I agree. But here’s a tip to help you out:

When you feel overwhelmed by the chaos, take a minute, close your eyes and do some intentional breathing. Create that inner space of calm, and then invite God into that space. Ask him for the vision to see what He is revealing to you in the chaos and to act accordingly.

Nov. 7, 2021 Sunday Serving - Give What You Got

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

As college students, we often say we don’t have enough (fill in the blank): time, money, motivation, confidence, etc. We see ourselves as lacking something and unable to take action because of it. Today’s readings give us the good news that God is happy when we just give what we have, no matter how small it may be.

In the First Reading, we see Elijah perform a miracle with the near empty jar of flour and the jug of oil. He wouldn’t have been able to perform this miracle if the woman had not been willing to share the little she had. Often times, when we are running close to empty; financially, physically or spiritually, someone asks for a helping hand. Although our first instinct might be to walk away, if we give the little we have, in faith, God can produce tremendous grace out of that moment.

This principle also applies to our personal relationship to God. Most of us have used the excuse that we don’t have time to pray. However, the Lord’s Prayer takes less than a minute to recite (the Hail Mary prayer can be prayed in 30 seconds). So even on our busiest day, it’s still possible to carve out a minute for God.

In the end, exhaustion will often be the default setting of our lives as students. However, just like the poor woman in the Gospel, we can still make great contributions with the little we have.

Oct. 31, 2021 Sunday Serving - The Responsibility To Love

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, Jesus declared love as the greatest of all the commandments: first of God and then of neighbor. However, how well are we keeping that commandment?

Many times, we confuse “love” with “like.” To “like” is all about preference e.g. “I like playing football”, “you don’t like eating pickles” or “they like helping people.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking something, but our likes and dislikes change all the time. They fluctuate based on how we feel.

When it comes to love, at least in the Christian sense, things are a lot more serious. Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So the love Jesus is calling us to is not something trivial, it’s a full-on responsibility. Whether you like someone or not, whether you are happy or sad, you are called to radically love.

Is that hard? Extremely. We’ve all been in a scenario where we wanted to pray but we were tired or someone asked for help but it was inconvenient. However, just like the saints before us, (Mother Teresa, St. Therese, St. Francis), we must stay faithful to God’s command. He didn’t tell us to “like”, he told us to love.

“To love is to will the good of the other as other.” - St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and patron saint of students

Oct. 24, 2021 Sunday Serving - Call Out To Him, He Will Return the Call

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Every now and then, life throws us the unexpected and we are left blind like Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel. We are unable to look ahead because all we see is the darkness of the unknown. What do we do at that point?

In his blindness, Bartimaeus heard Jesus approaching and called out to him. He called out regardless of the discouragement of others and when Jesus called him, he quickly discarded his cloak and ran to the Lord. In turn, the Lord healed him.

So then, we must do the same. In our dark times, we should call out to the Lord for help regardless of what others may think. And when he calls us, we must “take courage” and act, throwing aside our cloak of comfort to follow Jesus wherever he may lead us. It is through this act of faith that we are able to see the glory God plans for us.

Oct. 17, 2021 Sunday Serving - Do You Know What You're Asking For?

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

“What do you want?” It is a simple question, but when asked by God, it should not be taken lightly.

In the Gospel, we see James and John express their desire to Jesus; they ask Him to grant them positions of power in His kingdom. Jesus responds, “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They reply yes, but little do they know that the positions they are asking for would be the positions of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus during His Passion. Probably not the kind of glory they had in mind.

Do you know what you’re asking for? So often we want things that won’t do us any good or may be harmful to us. The typical traps are wealth, honor, power and pleasure. These wants aren’t inherently bad, but when we ask for them with the wrong motives, that’s where things go south.

God always knows what’s best for us and wants what’s best for us. Plus, He wants to hear our desires. So when you offer your requests to God in prayer, end it humbly like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Oct. 10 , 2021 Sunday Serving - What's That One Thing?

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

When it comes to romantic relationships, we all have deal breakers: physical traits, habits, or personalities that we won’t accept, compromise on, or adjust to. Shorter than 5’6? You’re out. Don’t have a sense of humor? Not interested. Can’t build a chicken coop? Thank you, next.

In today’s Gospel, we see a man ask Jesus for the way to earn eternal life. Jesus lists the commandments and the man says he has kept them all. Things are looking good, but then Jesus tells him to sell all he has and follow Him. The man “went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Losing his wealth was his deal breaker. But what’s yours? What’s that thing, or things, you won't accept, even if it brings you closer to God? Is it forgiving someone who wronged you? Letting go of a habit that is bad for you? Accepting the call to a vocation that you may not like at the moment?

Whatever your deal breaker is, offer it to God. Ask Him for the strength to overcome whatever is holding you back from a deeper relationship with Him.

Sept. 26 , 2021 Sunday Serving - How Do You Treat The “Others"

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

It’s easy for us to be good to our friends. It’s tough for us to be good to our enemies. However, who we often forget about are the “others.” Who are the “others”? They are those people who aren’t our friends but aren’t necessarily our enemies, either. We share spaces with them but we never truly engage them. To us, they are always “the other guy in the class”, “the other girl at the meeting” or “that other person that my friend hangs out with.”

In the First Reading, we see the Holy Spirit descend on Moses’ camp. Eldad and Medad, who were part of the camp but were not with the rest of the elders, began prophesying. The elders wanted to stop them; Eldad and Medad were the “others.” However Moses refuses, saying that the Lord sends his spirit on all his people.

So who are the “others” in your life? Try engaging them sometime. It’s in these little encounters that the Spirit plants seeds of good.

Sept. 12 , 2021 Sunday Serving - Living Life in Faith

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s readings, we see a basic summary of what it means to live a faithful Christian life.

In the First Reading, Isaiah proclaims that God is his help. Having faith in God means that when things go wrong, we stand firm knowing that we are not alone. When we say “God is good, all the time,” that includes those times of doubt, anger, despair, loneliness or complete defeat. No matter how big the struggle, God is bigger.

In the Second Reading, we are taught that faith in God also comes with obligations. It’s not enough to just say we have faith, but we must love our neighbor. Through both corporal and spiritual works, we have to serve others.

And lastly in the Gospel, Jesus explains to us probably the most challenging part of our faith: denying oneself. What does it mean to “deny yourself?” It means to reject those parts of ourselves that aren’t in keeping with Christ e.g. jealousy, selfishness and pride. Changing our habits and behavior can be difficult, but Jesus says it is a requirement for following him.

So in a nutshell, the Christian life consists of trusting in God for all things, serving others in love and denying ourselves so we can become like Christ. Easy? Not at all. But that’s what we got do, little by little, everyday.

Sept. 5 , 2021 Sunday Serving - Come to the Healer

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Many of us are suffering from wounds that aren’t physical: self-doubt, anxiety, trauma, depression. This is made even more clear with September being Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is so prevalent that, based on the stats, it is likely that someone in your friend group has thought about taking their own life. This shows that there is a deep need for healing in our culture.

Today’s First Reading and Gospel share the theme of healing. Although the readings focus on physical ailments, God can heal the mind and soul too. When we are struggling mentally or spiritually, we can ask God to heal us. A fellow CCCer once made the point that we can ask God to heal our past traumas and experiences because His power transcends time. So if there is something weighing on your heart, past or present, offer it up to God.

God also invites us to play a role in the healing of others. Checking in on friends when they are going through a rough time, praying for them or simply being an uplifting presence in their life are just a few ways God brings healing to others using us.

So while you’re enjoying your Labor Day weekend, make some time to check in on your friends and family. A little love goes a long way.

If you're thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Aug. 29, 2021 Sunday Serving - Reason For Tradition

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Tradition is defined as a set of beliefs or customs passed on from generation to generation. We encounter traditions in various settings; in our families, in organizations and most notably for us, in our faith. In today’s readings, we see what tradition is meant for and what it is not meant for.

In the First Reading, Moses calls the Israelites to follow the commandments God has taught them so they may be “a wise and intelligent people.” Tradition is often meant to share acquired knowledge and wisdom with future generations. Looking at our 2000-year-old Catholic tradition, we can imagine how much knowledge and wisdom is present. Even in the Mass, from the gestures we make to symbols we’re surrounded by, all of it speaks to a history of revelation, obedience, struggle and joy. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of our Tradition is to keep close to God.

That’s why in the Gospel, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” They used traditions to look ‘holy’ rather than to be holy.

So, although the word “tradition” is looked upon negatively nowadays, it is a means of sharing wisdom across the ages. For us as Catholics, it’s our job to learn about our tradition. So everytime we make the Sign of the Cross or say “Amen”, let’s do it, not to ‘look holy’, but to grow ever closer to God.

Aug. 22, 2021 Sunday Serving - It's Your Decision To Make

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

The start of a new semester is like the start of a new calendar year. There is this mixture of emotions, from excitement to nervousness. And like with a new year, we often come up with resolutions for the new semester: study harder, go to the gym, try to have a social life. However, today’s readings remind us that out of all the plans we have, there is one critical decision that has to be made: are we going to put God first or not?

In the First Reading, Joshua asks the Israelites to make a decision as they settle in the Promised Land: will they serve God or the false gods? Some of us are like the Israelites; we’ve overcome a huge hurdle or accomplished some great task and now as we enter into the semester, we’re riding high. Stay alert! It is during these times of great success that we let our guard down and in doing so, we begin to follow the false gods of pride, lust and envy. Keep God at the center of your life.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks the apostles what their decision will be after he told his followers that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Some of us are like the followers: we have encountered difficulty (financial, academic or personal) and as we enter this semester, we are tempted to drift away from God. Don’t walk away! It is when we face challenges that we need God the most. Things may not change overnight, but with God at the center, you will make it through.

So as we begin the new semester, whether we’re highly motivated or deeply discouraged, put God first. We do that through daily prayer, attending Mass, and serving each other with kindness and love.

Aug. 15, 2021 Sunday Serving - A Lesson in Hope from Mary

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

“Oh, I’m dead inside,” my old highschool friend said casually, as she was describing to me how her studies at med school were going. Despite this being a common sentiment I hear from almost everyone studying medicine, I do think she was expressing a feeling that we all can relate to. With all the chaos that's been going on for the past year and a half, many of us have felt a little dead inside: hopeless, emotionally numb or depressed. However, despite how dark things may appear, today’s readings remind us that there is still reason to have hope.

In today’s Gospel, we hear Mary’s Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” She speaks not only of the great things God has done but what He will do for “those who fear him in every generation.” No matter how bad things get, God is still God. Hope is placing our trust in His promises and not relying on our own strength but on the Holy Spirit. Mary, who accepted the role as Mother of God, shows us what it means to live in hope. When we live in hope, our actions are filled with a unique energy and "haste" that impacts and inspire others.

So if you’ve been feeling pessimistic, meditate on today’s readings, especially the Gospel. May Mary’s Magnificat inspire you to hope and fill you with the Holy Spirit.

Aug. 8, 2021 Sunday Serving - Engage The Strangeness

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Many of us are cradle Catholics; we were born into and grew up in the Catholic faith. Due to our upbringing, it is easy for us to overlook the strangeness that’s often present within our faith. Today’s Gospel is a good example.

In today’s passage, the Jews are murmuring because Jesus called himself the “bread that came down from heaven.” Now, we have the benefit of Catholic teaching to understand what Jesus meant; however if we were placed in the Jews’ position, I’d think we’d have a similar level of confusion and skepticism. This man is not only claiming to be from God, but is telling us that in order to achieve eternal life, we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. To any rational human being, that is strange if not insane.

And yet that is essentially what Jesus offers us through the Sacrament of the Eucharist; not a symbol, not a representation, but his Real Presence. So today at Mass, spend some time pondering this mystery of the Eucharist. This strange yet beautiful gift of grace.

Aug. 1, 2021 Sunday Serving - There is More

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

After performing the miracle of the loaves, Jesus is followed by the crowd. He says to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

I think many of us CCCers can relate. In the beginning, most of us kept coming to the CCC because we “ate the loaves” and were filled; either literally (e.g. Dollar Lunch and Faith & Fellowship dinners) or symbolically (e.g. finding community and having a place to chill). However, just like he did with the crowd, Jesus called us and continues to call us to more.

He invites us to go deeper into communion with Him, because He is the Bread of Life. Through Him, we “put on a new self” as St. Paul says in the Second Reading. But what is this “new self”? It is simply the best version of you: a version that is fully alive and aligned with God’s purpose for you.

So, whether you’re still munching on the “loaves” or growing in your faith, there is always more in Christ.

July 25, 2021 Sunday Serving - A Simple Offering

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

“Does what I do matter?”

We have all asked ourselves some version of this question at various points in our lives. Oftentimes, the challenges of life can seem so insurmountable that anything we do would not be good enough. This applies to the big stuff like climate change and social justice but also the smaller more personal things like maintaining a relationship or passing a class.

In today’s Gospel, we see a boy, one among thousands, offer five loaves and two fish to Jesus. Through Jesus, this simple offering becomes a meal for over 5000 people. For the boy, that must have been a mind-blowing experience. He participated, no matter how small you consider the contribution, in a miracle.

In a similar way, we can participate in miracles in our own lives by offering our time, talent and treasure to God, no matter how small. I know it’s hard to think that when everything seems hopeless or unfixable (I have been in that negative headspace before). However, we have to remember that only God can see the full picture.

So when faced with a challenge, offer God your loaves and fishes. You’ll be amazed at feast He can create.

July 18, 2021 Sunday Serving - Rest and Reflection

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

As the saying goes, life is a marathon. However, in this fast-paced world, everybody’s sprinting. We get so caught up in the chaos of work, school and relationships that we don’t take the time to catch our breath. Even worse, it’s so easy for us to lose sight of why we’re running in the first place. In today’s Gospel, we see the importance of reflection and rest.

The apostles, after being sent out, return from their mission to update Jesus. Jesus responds, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Here Jesus reminds us to take moments out of our busy lives and spend time with Him. God wants us to talk to Him, not because He doesn’t know something, but because we get a chance to reflect on our own lives.

Daily reflection breaks us out of the “just going through the day” mentality. Sticking with the running analogy, examining our days let’s us see how far we’ve come and what adjustments we have to make to get to where we want to be. Reflection becomes even more impactful when coupled with rest. Stepping away from the noise of our lives and spending time in silence is good for mind and the soul.

So here is a habit you can consider taking up: at the end of each day, spend 10 mins in silent reflection (use a timer if you want). Reflect on this: What are 3 things that I am grateful for, today? What are 2 sins that I committed? What is 1 thing that I can do better tomorrow? Then end with a prayer.

July 11, 2021 Sunday Serving - Go with an Empty Stomach

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Usually when I am invited to any gathering where there’s going to be food, I avoid eating any heavy meals beforehand. That way, I have the maximum amount of stomach space to enjoy the delicacies to come. This mindset of emptying oneself in order to receive the fullness of something good is present throughout the Bible, especially in today’s Gospel.

Jesus sends the Twelve out on mission, but he instructs them to carry very little. Considering the countless dangers they could have encountered, Jesus’ instructions come across unreasonable at best and downright insane at worst. However, the lesson Jesus is trying to teach us is that any good that we do is through HIs grace. So in order to receive fullness of that grace, we have to empty ourselves first.

This applies to all aspects of our life. You cannot receive the fullness of a new relationship if you are still carrying baggage from a previous one. You cannot achieve the fullness of your strengths if you are still carrying the insecurity of your weaknesses. You cannot become a human being fully alive if you are carrying the dead weight this world so often puts on us; materialism, egotism and all the other petty things of this world.

So, God is inviting us to a banquet of grace. To truly receive it, we have to empty our spiritual stomachs of all the trash we've been consuming. So ask yourself, what can I give up to receive more grace today.

July 4, 2021 Sunday Serving - No Place Like Home

July 4, 2021 | 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

We often use the saying, “There’s no place like home” to highlight the joyful side of returning home: mom’s cooking, childhood memories and meetups with old friends. However there is a shadow side to this saying. Home can also be a place of unique conflict. Family and friends, who knew you intimately, can treat you based on how they remember you rather than who you are now.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus returning home to Nazareth. The people saw that Jesus was different from how they previously knew him but couldn’t reconcile how this “carpenter” could become such a wise prophet. So they rejected him. This reaction caught Jesus by surprise because “he was amazed at their lack of faith.”

Reflecting on this passage, most of us can relate to both Jesus and the hometown Nazarenes. There are times when we are trying to improve ourselves and it is the people closest to us who try to tear us down or judge us based on past versions of ourselves. On the flip side, there are times we have treated family and friends badly based on our biased versions of who they are.

God calls us to be disciples on mission, and the hardest part of that mission is at home. However, Jesus gives his example: do what you can with what you have, invite but never impose and above all else, act in love.

June 20, 2021 Sunday Serving - An Almighty Father

June 20, 2021 | 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

Today's readings speak on the topic of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "by faith, man completely submits his intellect and will to God" (CCC 143). However, we know that having faith is easier said than done.

In the Gospel, Jesus calms the storm, leaving the disciples in awe. He then turns to them and ask, "Do you not yet have faith?”

We have all been like the disciples in this scene. We get anxious, nervous or even terrified of a situation and instead of submitting to God, we dwell on our fears. Just last week, I found myself panicking because of my struggles getting an internship. Despite taking it to prayer, I still dwelled on my anxiety. But later that week, I got a response and I now have an interview on Monday. God took care of it.

No matter what the situation, God is always in control. He keeps us in his embrace like a father holding a child. So the next time you feel frightened by the storm, remember who commands the sea.

June 13, 2021 Sunday Serving - Dig Deeper

June 13, 2021 | 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

By Omar Combie | CCC Student Assistant

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus speaking to the crowd in parables but “to his own disciples he explained everything in private.” At first glance, this seems a bit odd. Why didn’t Jesus just reveal the truth to the crowd from the get-go?

Well the Church teaches that God desires us to love Him, know Him and serve Him. He reaches out to us, not through imposition but invitation. So instead of throwing the fullness of Truth at the crowd, Jesus invites them to dig deeper by providing puzzling parables.

In our own lives, we encounter experiences that we find strange or confusing. Often, we are tempted to view these as just dumb incidents or silly scenarios. Many in the crowd might have dismissed the parables as just nice stories with good morals but those who dug deeper, found so much more in Jesus Christ.

So we are called to dig deeper: deeper into those aspects of faith we don't fully understand, deeper into those uncomfortable topics that we're not sure how to talk about, and most of all, deeper into union with Christ.