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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent

"Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God." Rm 15:7

Few people have the skill and patient endurance to welcome others as their primary ministerial role. When I was a boy, welcoming visitors was an especially important element in my home if you wanted to live there in peace. Although we did not have a television when I was young, we did have a radio and it often played in the background as we went about our daily chores and life. If, however, someone knocked on our apartment door, the radio was turned off immediately. There could be no distraction from welcoming whoever visited, even if it was a salesperson.

St Conrad of Parzham, the Capuchin saint who is patron of the friary where I live, is often pictured with a ring of keys in his hand or on the cord that encircles our Capuchin habit. Conrad spend almost his entire life as a porter, the friar who responds to the front door bell. It was Conrad's task to welcome any and every visitor with the compassion of Jesus. Whether it was a beggar asking for food, a troubled wife needing to talk for a few minutes, or a donor wanting to give the friars something to help them live and serve the church, Conrad welcomed them all. It was his only job, and he did it with reverence  and love for all who came to the front door of the friary. 

When we welcome others with delight and warmth, especially those with whom we struggle, we change their lives and ours. It is a simple but very difficult role, but when we do it for the glory of God, God's name is announced with joy and hope.

Today, welcome the first person you meet for the glory of God.

Have you known people whose warm welcome of all changed people's lives?

Friday, December 2, 2016

St Francis Xavier

"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

St Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuits along with St. Ignatius Loyola, was the among the first Jesuit missionaries. With his mind and spirit focused on going to China, Francis left Italy without language skills or money. Despite these difficulties, Francis kept his eye on the prize and at every stop along the way preached the gospel, baptizing thousands in India and Japan. That he never realized his dream of preaching the gospel to the Chinese seems insignificant now. He did God's will and that is all that matters.

Francis Xavier is a powerful reminder of what we can become when we place our total trust in God and let God do God's work wherever we are sent. None of us walks the pilgrim path of faith without obstacles. St. Augustine reminds us that we are like pieces of pottery, shaped by instruction and fired by tribulation, and should never fear the kiln. Rather, he encourages us to focus on what God is making of us while we are being tried by fire. (Augustine sermon)

Today, ask God to tell you where you ought to go to proclaim the gospel.

What are your strengths when trials come?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Gift of Sight

"Then he touched the eyes of the blind men and said, 'Let it be done for you according to your faith.'” Mt 9:29

Seeing is a wonderful gift, one we can easily take for granted. Only an injury to the eye, even a slight one, makes us sit up and take notice. That we can see and appreciate the beauty of all creation is remarkable, and while it seems simple it really is very complex. So many parts of our body have to work together for us to see, and Jesus uses this very basic faculty to teach us about sensing beyond what our eyes and ears and brain working together offer us.

Acknowledging what our senses tell us, especially when it is painful, is important not just for ourselves but for our society. When we see or witness abuse of any kind we cannot simply turn away in denial. Experiencing abusive drinking or encountering spousal abuse unnerves us and sometimes moves us into denial. We don't want to believe what we saw or heard and try to excuse or interpret another's actions to free ourselves from responsibility. But, in truth, we all need to learn that seeing and accepting what we see is important for us and for the world.

Today, open your eyes slowly and look around at the glory of God's creation.



Have you had an experience that helped you see God's action in your life more clearly?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Be as Solid as a Rock

"But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

Sometimes we get confused about who or what our rock is.  Too often we rely exclusively on our knowledge, insight, wealth or experience as guides, and while all these tools are important and helpful, they cannot be our rock.  For a Christian there is only one Rock, the Christ of God, the one who was promised from the beginning, who came among us as a man and who continues to guide and direct us.  The Christ, our Messiah, is the fulness of God's love and the new Covenant. Keeping the memory of Christ's love fresh is a daily challenge.

When Jesus, in today's gospel, reminds us to build our house on rock, not sand, he invites us to use our  imaginations. Picture a house with four corners each of which is built on a rock, and ask yourself, in a transparent examination of conscience, what the rocks of your life are that others see in you.  To do this more simply, ask yourself what your passion is, how you spend your time, who you trust?

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, this reflective exercise almost always reveals some sandy spots.  For some it is an addiction to alcohol or other chemicals that obsess them. Others know this because our behavior, no matter how careful or hidden, gives us away. For others, their rock is success at any price, despite its effects on their family.  For too many, it is blindness to the world as it is, and for a few it is using prayer and religious devotion as an escape. None of these rocks last.  They crumble and our house begins to list and topple. Christ is the house in which we live and Advent is a time to do ordinary maintenance on the foundation.

Today, pick one pillar and work at making it a cornerstone of your life.

What and who have been the rocks upon which your have built your lives?