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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fools for Christ

"Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." Mt 25:8

The unprepared virgins whose oil has run out are labelled foolish, a word that can be confusing in the New Testament. Paul wants to be seen as a fool for Christ and encourages his companions to be the same. Anxious to be dismissed for the sake of the Gospel, Paul stands out among his contemporaries as a man willing to be ridiculed for the right reason.

The virgins in the Gospel, however, are not seeking attention but only hoping to avoid embarrassment and shame. They knew that bridegrooms, feted  and praised in the week before their weddings, would linger long into the night at parties in their honor. Their foolishness was not a sign of their fidelity to a a cause or person, but a sign of laziness or sloth. They could have prepared themselves for a long night, but did not, and now risk the harsh judgement of their peers.

Each day we are faced with the challenge of discerning how best to announce the Good News. Some days our silence and willingness to listen to others' complaints or problems is a Gospel stance. At other times, we need to search for a way to express our upset, confusion and anger at the lack of justice too many face when they have little money or power in the society. Speaking up on behalf of the poor can be a prophetic action on our part, especially when others are disparaging the poor as lazy or indolent. Authentic Christians know that to be a fool for the sake of the Gospel is a gift.

Today, be foolish in your love for God.

What most frightens you about being considered a fool for Christ?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Strength of God

"I give thanks to my God always on your account." I  Cor 1:4

St. Paul knows what it means to write to the churches he helped found in a manner that focuses on them and not on him. He thanks God for them, for their faith, their faithfulness and the good works they do on behalf of the gospel.

What a powerful lesson there is for us in his greetings to the church in Corinth!  When we learn to begin each day with gratitude and hold our thanks before us like a light, we provide hope for those living in darkness and are reminded that a life of faith is simple. We need always to walk in the light of Christ who will show us the path to hope and thanksgiving because, as Paul further reminds us, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

Paul learned that his weakness, which often haunted him, was a gift which God could use to teach and form new disciples. When we accept this basic truth, our own faith lives become both easier and more intelligible. God will and does use our weaknesses to help others trust and let go into his hands.

Today, embrace your weakness and thank God for the gift of faith.

Have you experienced your weakness as a gift?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

St Bartholomew

"Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Jn 1:47

Some people are naturally open, transparent and accepting. Most of us, however, are not. We fear and resist the judgment of others. What can they know about us, we ask, they have only just met us, and while this is true, it can reflect an unhealthy desire for independence. Only when we realize that the wisdom  and insight of others can be a gift for our own journey do we embrace it and grow from it.

St. Bartholomew is the poster boy for innocence and openness in the gospel, and if we can be open to the lessons he teaches, our lives can be much simpler. People are given to us in life as guides and mentors, and while some remind us what not to be, most can help us take the next step if only we will listen. Bartholomew blurts out, "How do you know me?", but as soon as the Lord answers, his resistance crumbles and he acknowledges Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.

Today, ask for the gift of openness before God and others.

What helps you put aside duplicity and seek transparency?

Monday, August 22, 2016

What's Inside the Heart of a Believer

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence."

It must have been shocking and upsetting for the Pharisees and scribes to hear Jesus assert that only that which comes from within defiles a person. In fact, it is difficult for most of us to hear the great challenge of Jesus to put aside our desire to control ourselves and others with a rigid interpretation of the law. Jesus insists that salvation is not about discipline alone, but about asking God to cleanse our hearts of jealousy, resentment and suspicion of others.

More important still is whether we are willing to help others worry less about how they appear and more about the integrity of their faith lives. St Jerome says it well, "I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord."(St Jerome on Joel)

Most believers know the truth of the gospel from the "inside." They realize that what appears to be a faith filled life is empty unless it reflects an interior commitment to live without guile. When each of us admits that a life of ritual rigidity and lawful integrity is hardly good news, we will begin to announce the gospel as Jesus did.

Today, don't be afraid of an honest self examination.

How do you resist an unhealthy dependence on the law as a substitute for gospel living?