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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stoning our Enemies

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel.

Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves. A young friar who has worked a twelve step program for a many years had a series of three questions to help him discern when he must say something in a trying situation. He would ask himself whether something needed to be said, whether he was the person to speak and, finally, whether something needed to be said at that very moment. If the answer was no to any of these questions, he would hold his tongue, and his reluctance to hurl a verbal stone provided him with many moments of peace and reconciliation.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Openness of Spirit

"When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him: “My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations." Gen 17:3

In the ancient world, people often had their name changed to indicate a new status or importance. Abram becomes Abraham when God announces to him that he will not only be a father (Abram) but the father of many (Abraham). Remember that Abram was 99 years old when God renamed him. The message is clear. God can do anything. Our task is not to doubt but to be open to whatever God wants of and for us. God's dramatic promise to Abraham should embolden all of us.  As long as we are willing to welcome God and God's desire for us, we have nothing to fear. The Patriarchs, prophets, kings and saints all demonstrate this.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress and mystic is a powerful example of this. When a woman entered the anchorage, a small room attached to a church or monastery, she committed herself never to leave. The idea of living our entire lives in an anchorage is daunting for most of us, but Julian, who some commentators thought had lost her entire family in the plague, not only wrote a theology that was optimistic, she insisted that illness was not a punishment for sin but something everyone had to endure and accept in life. So committed to the God who spoke to her, Julian called Jesus her father and mother and, with Abraham, proclaimed that God fills all who believe with joy and compassion if only we open ourselves to these gifts.

Today, no matter how you feel, ask God to make your life a sign of God's love for all.

What must you do to open yourself to God's dream for you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Standing Together in Suffering

"You should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”  Dn 3:18

The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego always lifts my spirit. Thrown into a raging fire because they refused to to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's God or the golden statue he made, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assure the king that their God will protect and save them even if he allows them to die in the fire. That they are protected from the fire, while spectacular, is almost incidental because they are living the simple truth that saints have always insisted upon. They serve God, pray and care for the needy, not to be successful, but to be faithful, and it is the failure to live faith in this way that condemns the servant in today's gospel who, after being forgiven a large debt, refuses to forgive his fellow servant in a small matter.

God protects, God forgives and God sets us free over and over to begin again. Made in God's image, we are to save one another from the "fire" of shame that reduces people to objects of need, rather than subjects of our compassion. If God is compassionate, understanding and accepting, so must we have hearts of kindness and mercy

Today, offer someone who cannot repay you an ear of compassion.

Has anyone ever stood with you in suffering without judgment?

Monday, March 19, 2018

God belongs to all the Earth

"The nations shall revere your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory." Ps 102:16

Although it is clear from the earliest days of his ministry that Jesus has come, not only for the Jews, but for the entire world, his message is slow to enter the consciousness of his listeners. It is no different for us. Somehow we think Jesus belongs to us exclusively as Christians, and this is simply not true. In fact, it is our duty to announce his saving work to all people knowing he wants to be with all forever.

Belonging to someone or something is important. Often it gives us a sense of identity. We call ourselves Americans, for instance, with a certain pride in all that the United States has made possible for so many, especially immigrants, but when being American or Christian leads to arrogance or dismissiveness of others, it does not serve us or God well.

Discerning how best to root ourselves in Jesus and the Gospel without forgetting that discipleship demands we open ourselves to radical difference and diversity for the sake of God's Kingdom is essential to the Christian journey.

Today, speak with someone you might otherwise ignore.

How do you negotiate being committed to Jesus without being exclusive?