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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lost

"It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them." Jn 6:17

Imagine yourself in a small boat at night when a sudden storm starts blowing you all over the place. The day has been long and you need to rest, but the storm is fierce and demands your attention. You need help, but feel very much alone. If this sounds like more than a few days and nights you have had, then you know how the apostles felt during the storm on the sea of Galilee. Very much afraid when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they want to take him into a boat and possess him when suddenly they reach land.

Today's gospel is best understood as a metaphor for life, and especially for those who are grieving. The bereaved often feel "lost at sea". Nothing they are experiencing after losing a friend or having a loved one dies seems ordinary or understandable. Tempted to panic, they may seek solace in all the wrong places, when what they must learn is to wait for their "boat" to reach land again. This can be easier said than done, but it was very necessary for the disciples to experience what it would be like not to have Jesus with them all the time, and it is just as important for us.

Stay still when you want to run or scream, and try not to panic. We may not be able to see the Lord all the time, but he is with us, guiding us to a place where we we will be safe and able to start over.

Today, remember a time when you felt lost and discovered that God was with you in ways you did not know.

What would you tell someone who feels lost at sea?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Waste not, want not

"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."

Many of us can remember sitting at our kitchen table forced by our parents to stare at cold, uneaten food. We would not be allowed to go to bed, they warned, until every morsel was eaten. While some today may think this behavior abusive or cruel, it was effective. We learned that wasting food, and anything else for that matter, was wrong, and while Jesus was not concerned about the same things as our parents, he did not want his disciples to waste something as precious as food, even when it appeared there was too much for the crowd to finish.

Waste is something which everyone should avoid. Several years ago the mother of a friar from Australia was visiting us in Boston, and could not watch us pour clean water down the drain after meals when so much of Australia was suffering from a devastating drought. Unfortunately, most of us have to experience a terrible loss before we appreciate fully what we have.

Easter is a good time to develop gratitude practices that help us remember, no matter how difficult life might be, to be grateful for all of earth's gifts. Clean water, adequate food, and clean air should not be taken for granted. One has only to travel to the developing world to know how precious these simple gifts are, and Jesus reminds us not only to treasure the gift of nourishing food but to share it with the hungry.

Today, sit for a minute and drink a glass of water slowly.

What memories help you to remember not to waste anything in life, especially friendship?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drunk on Christ

"Blood of Christ, inebriate me." Anima Christi

Spiritual writers are always searching for images and metaphors that help them and us understand more deeply the mysteries of faith, and because the Easter season explores Baptism and the Eucharist so often, it stretches our imagination and prayer in ways that can shock us.

Though abhorrent to some, especially those whose lives have been undermined by the abuse of alcohol, the idea that the blood of Christ should inebriate us is one that Christian writers have often employed. The Anima Christi, a 14th century prayer that many older Catholics memorized as children, is probably the best known, but today's selection from the office of readings by St Gaudentius of Brescia explores the same image. When we receive the blood of Christ, Gaudentius writes, our "hearts, like capacious wineskins," expand and change, and that is the point.

Our hearts need to change. They have to become bigger and more open to the power of Christ's love. Because wine in moderate amounts can do this, we need to probe its possibilities. Otherwise, we risk stagnation and death.

Today, open your heart to new ways of knowing the boundless ways God loves us.

Is there an unlikely image that has helped you expand your knowledge of God?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Imprisoned?

"During the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,(and) led them out." Acts 5:18

It is one thing to be set free from prison, and quite another to live a new life. When the angel of the Lord freed the apostles from prison, they did as they were told by the angel. They proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ and risked their safety and lives. The real test of our faith is not that we believe quietly in our hearts, but that we announce what has happened to us despite the consequences.

Many of us are trapped in prisons of our own making. We may have had some success, or we are comfortable where we are in life, but when our success and comfort become ends in themselves we are imprisoned and without a defining voice. We speak kindly, we act gently, but our lives lack power because we never say anything that might risk our security. Too much of a good thing makes us boring. The Arabs say it this way, "All sunshine makes a desert."

Today's scriptures remind us of how fruitful the apostles' lives were when they stepped out of their fear and comfort to live the gospel in a much more public way. Their example is a powerful stimulus to us. Only when we rely totally on God can our lives have the transforming effect on others that the Lord intends.

Today, live your faith publicly.

Whose faith has most impacted the way you understand the gospel and live a life of faith?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Just Distribution of Goods

"The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common." Acts 4:32

One of the most vexing questions that bedevils Christians is the right to private property. Especially in these days as we prepare for another presidential election, the question of private property becomes radically important. This is not to challenge the radical right of people to possess and protect things as their own, but rather to pray about how to discern what level of private property protects both the rights of individuals and the common good.

The question of discernment is most important here. Discernment, in a classical sense, is the sifting through of two goods. Granting that famous athletes and movie stars need to protect themselves and their families more than the rest of us, their homes are among the most egregious examples of excess in this regard. Why any family with one child would build a 22,000 square foot mansion with an elevator is incomprehensible to most, but it does get us thinking and praying about what is adequate and necessary. When the rights of a few are protected to the detriment of the many, the question of how best to distribute food and goods must be engaged by thoughtful and prayerful believers.

Today, think about justice in the distribution of goods.

How do you think we ought to apply the

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rebirth

"How can a man once grown old be born again?" Jn 3:4

For many who have tried to live a life of faith, the answer to Nicodemus' question is not that difficult. Most of us have been reborn many times. For some it is a movement in the church, like Cursillo or Marriage Encounter, that lifts their spirits and opens their hearts to a deepening of their faith. For others, it is the baptism or the marriage of a child. For some, it is the death of a young person or parent that at first troubles them greatly, but then forces them to reevaluate their lives and make a fundamental option for faith.

Young people willing to give themselves over to God's plan are often the occasion of a rebirth for me. For more than twenty years I have been associated with the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, (MMAF) a group of lay people committed to living the Gospel all over the world. Although most of the Missioners are young by my standards, there are always a few who come to Maryknoll as older people wanting to reach out to the poor and distressed in the developing world. In any case, these Missioners are extraordinary people of faith who suspend their lives and careers in order to follow the call of God to go to all nations and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Teaching them is always a renewal for me. I almost never leave a class with them when I am not energized by God's spirit living in and among them. Indeed, I am reborn.

Today, ask the Lord to give you a rebirth, and do not ask how this is to happen.

Have you been reborn in faith? Has your rebirth endured?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today's feast has caught fire among many Catholics. People are very drawn to the idea that God is merciful beyond our understanding, and anxious to reconcile with us. The Thomas of today's gospel is a ready example of this. Hurt or angry, perhaps both, Thomas wants nothing to do with a so called appearance of Jesus. He insists that he will test the risen Jesus himself by placing his hand into Jesus' side and his finger into the nail marks of the Lord's hands. Only then will he believe that the Lord who was crucified and died is alive again. Indeed, Thomas' heart was as locked as the doors of the room where the disciples were staying.

Hurt and anger do strange things. Not only do they close us off from others, they isolate us from ourselves. Hurt and anger surround us with a wall of protection that gives us a sense of security, but leaves us naked, unmasked, alone,and very vulnerable, just the opposite of what we intend. Thomas needs to let go into God's mercy, but his self protective attitude is inhibiting God's word and work. All of us have experienced this, but sometimes seem unable to act otherwise.

Divine Mercy Sunday insists that we need not fear God or be full of shame. We have only to lift our heads, or shift our eyes to find God waiting, more ready to heal us than we can imagine or desire.

Today, ask God for mercy so that you can heal others.

Have you known someone who was merciful to others who had hurt them?