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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hate

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thought of the hated one brings deep distress.

Nevertheless, Jesus suggests that the world will, even should hate us, if we live the Good News authentically. People who live for others, who oppose societies in which some are isolated because of culture, the color of their skin or their lack of education and wealth, who insist that all people are worthy of love, are hated because they are always working for justice.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chosen

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Christ is our head and foundation. He is the one upon whom our lives our built. He chooses us, not to overwhelm us with responsibility and burdens, but to be his body in the world. If we remain in him, the true vine, we will not only have the strength do whatever he asks, the glory of his love will be plain for all to see in the fruit we bear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.

What does it take to remain united to Christ in difficult circumstances?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

St Damien of Molokai

"I have told you this so that  my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." Jn 15:11

Most saints are identified with where they were born. St. Francis, for instance, was born in Assisi, making both Assisi and Francis famous. But some saints, because their lives took a different course, are identified with the city or place where they ministered. Today, we celebrate St. Damien of Molokai, who, although he was born in  Belgium, lifted up the island of Molokai as a holy place because it was the home of those who were exiled there as lepers.

Damien forced the people of his day to look at lepers as people who were sick, not sick people. By emphasizing their humanity in the middle of their isolation, Damien not only helped change the way we look at the sick, but helped lepers seem themselves differently. His efforts to treat lepers with dignity led to decent housing, adequate health care, and most important of all, joy to those who had been abandoned because of their illness. Though the lepers for whom Damien gave his life were not cured, they surely were healed by the tender care Damien offered them and by his efforts of their behalf.


Today, thank God for your human and Christian dignity.

Who taught you most suffering with dignity?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Disputes

"But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'" Acts 15: 5

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?





Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Passion

"Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch." Acts 14: 24-26

The apostles and disciples were full of passion after Pentecost. So filled with the hope of God's reign changing everything, nothing could stop them in going from place to place despite the danger to themselves and their families. They had heard the good news and been transformed by it. Passionately, they move onward and upward, convinced the reign of God and Jesus' return was very near, but we should have no doubt that they also tired with the tremendous effort of trying to be all things to all people.

The same thing happens to us. When we are young, we can be passionate about changing the world, raising a family, building a career, and cleaning the environment. Our passion drives us and seems unstoppable. Even though we often fail, we get up, move on, and search for new ways to live authentically, but being passionate also comes at a high cost. Because we spend an enormous about of energy in rushing from place to place and cause to cause, we find ourselves exhausted and worn out.

A change is in order. We must learn to harness our passion, listen to our bodies and discern how best to move forward as disciples. Allowing God to direct our lives not only frees us from the constant need to perform and succeed, it reminds that only in God are all things possible.

Today, be passionate about being alive.


Whose passion for the good and for God most changed you?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Deeds not Talk

"Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth." I Jn 3:18

Talk can be easy. Action is always more difficult. In the U.S. culture people are very used to saying "I love you," or "love you," at the end of every phone conversation. This is not a bad custom in itself, but when it is not followed by action, it becomes hollow. How many times can we say "love you" to grandparents, for instance, and never visit them even when they live in the same county or town.

Today's second reading from the first letter of St. John is intended to comfort those who are stumbling and struggling with divisive teaching in the community, and to reassure them that no matter how confusing life might be, we must live the good news, not just debate it. How best to articulate faith in Jesus was a necessary step in the early church's growth. That some were trying to use these disagreements for their own political gain was unfortunate but understandable. As the early church began to grow and gain followers, who would lead it became not just a matter of theological orthodoxy, but of power and control.

There will always be debates in a church as culturally and religiously diverse as ours but the lesson of  today's scripture is clear. We can endure disagreements about how to preach God's word as long as we are all trying to live the gospel in our daily lives.

Today, ask yourself whether you spend more time arguing about the truth than living it.  

What is your best experience of working through differences in your parish or family?