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Monday, September 26, 2016

St Vincent de Paul

"It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them." St Vincent de Paul (1)

St Vincent de Paul has always been one of my favorite saints. His words are clear, direct and uncompromising. Two of his more noteworthy sayings are: “Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?” And, "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."

But no saying of Vincent has impacted me more than his demand that we love the poor, not just feed them. In truth, one can only know the power of this directive by experiencing it. Of all the ministries to which I have been called, it is my encounters with the poor, the homeless and the bed ridden that have been most life changing.

For many years I offered mass on Sunday’s at the Shattuck hospital in Boston. The Shattuck welcomed Boston’s street people, many of whom remained in the hospital for years. One fellow, I’ll call him “Charlie,” had been a police officer for many years. Unfortunately, his own life unraveled with drug and alcohol abuse and he found himself homeless and living on the streets. By the time he arrived at the Shattuck his diabetes had taken away one of his legs, but his spirit had been transformed by a return to his faith, and he became an advocate for many of the patients whose lack of education or social anxiety made it impossible to voice their own concerns and needs.

Today, ask God for the grace of merciful eyes and a forgiving heart.

Have you known poor people whose faith challenged and changed you?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Accepting all who Work for Faith

"Whoever is not against you is for you.” Lk 9:50

Competition, especially between and among men, is natural and can be fun. Who can find and wear the loudest shirt or jacket, which football team plays the best and the smartest (even if they lose most of the time) or who knows where the least expensive restaurant is are only a few of the ways we compete, but the Gospel challenges us not to be competitive about power.

Newly called as an apostle, John is troubled when others claim they are acting in Jesus' name but do not follow the Lord and asks Jesus how he should respond. Only concerned with helping others, Jesus cautions John not to worry about having control of every situation, but to broaden his perspective. As long as others are not preaching or acting against him, Jesus is content to encourage them to do good, especially on behalf of those who are struggling in life.

The simple wisdom of the Gospel reminds us not to over complicate the teaching of Jesus, nor to make it something that must exclude other religions. When we can find areas in our faith traditions that allow and encourage us to work together for the good of all, we should eagerly embrace them. Nothing that helps the lost and gives voice to those to whom no one listens should be ignored in the name of Christianity or to prove that we are right. Only when we focus of those in desperate need can we be sure we are following Jesus.

Today, pray for those who work for interfaith cooperation.

How do you avoid unnecessary competition?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Listening to the Cry of the Poor

"If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead." Lk 16:31

The story of the rich man and Lazarus, who lay at his door hoping for a morsel of food, is painful to read. It is not that being rich is bad. Rather, the rich are more likely to ignore the world as it is because they are comfortable. The Jews of old knew this well. God had reminded them often never to forget how they had been enslaved, otherwise they would be no better than the Egyptians who used them for their own profit. Life has not changed very much in this regard.

It is very easy to take for granted the "riches" we have. Whether our wealth lies in money and property or friends, family and honest work, we are at risk. When God's goodness to us is taken for granted, we begin to believe that we have earned everything we have, forgetting our "unearned privilege." As a boy, although we did not have much money, I went to school everyday, drank clean water, ate nourishing food and slept in a warm bed. I never thought much about these "riches." I did not earn them. They were my right, and I thought everyone in the world benefited from the same gifts. When it became clear to me that this was not the case, I knew my conscience would never rest until I did something for others out of justice, not simply out of love.

The rich man forgot who he was, and even Lazarus lying at his door did not wake him up. He ignored the injunction of Isaiah, "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." (Is 58:10) We can do the same with the message of Jesus. "Whatever you did for these the least of my brothers and sisters you did for me." (Mt. 25:40)

Today, feed someone who is hungry for hope, faith, compassion and understanding.

Share your experiences of feeding others.

Friday, September 23, 2016

God, the Refuge of Refugees

"In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge." Ps 90

The U.N High Commission on Refugees asserts that there are more than 50 million refugee children around the world, ( LA Times) the highest figure since the Second World War. It has to be a terrible thing to be torn from one's home by violence, political unrest and war, and it is important to Christians not to turn away from the images and stories of people who have fled their homes and risked their lives crossing oceans and deserts seeking a new home. They are the face of the suffering Christ

At the same time, we need to be grateful for those countless women and men who risk their lives as caregivers and aid workers for the homeless and hungry at home around the world. Catholic Relief Services alone has more than 5000 people working in 93 countries who respond as best they can to more than 100 million people a year. Though we hear little about these heroes, they are the face of the Catholic Church who rarely seek recognition and fame, but reach out for the needy because it is the right thing to do.

Today, take a moment to be grateful for those who risked their lives for you.

Who has risked their lives for you?