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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Remembering Jesus' Prayer for Us

"I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them."
How can we accompany family members during a divorce? What do you say to a hard working friend who, because she cannot pay her mortgage, has lost her home? How do you tell an older friend that he can no longer drive? In fact, there is no good or easy way to tell someone that their life and lifestyle must change radically.

Although they did not realize it at the time they were called to follow him, Jesus' disciples were faced with the daunting prospect of continuing to live the gospel that had captured their spirits without the props they had come to rely upon. For years, the disciples had accompanied Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, no doubt expecting that someday he would march triumphantly into the holy city. That this would not be the case was clear but painful. Jesus' disciples would have to rely on his prayer for them as fuel for their new journey. So do we.

Today, pray for someone who feels completely alone and abandoned.

What sustains you in your faith?

Friday, May 18, 2012

"You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy." Jn 16:22

One of the dangers in being called to ministry is that we very often encounter people when they are in acute distress. Their children are addicted and acting out, their parents are in jail, a sister is seriously mentally ill or a brother is unable to tell the truth, and they look to us for insight and wisdom. The list of woes goes on and on, and often skews our worldview. Life feels like a very dark place and unless we are careful we begin to believe that the entire world is a mess.

Because Jesus understood that life would be difficult for his disciples, especially if they continued to proclaim the Good News, he offered them a way to understand and interpret their ministerial efforts through the experience of a woman giving birth. While the pain of child birth is intense, the result is pure joy. A child is born, a new life begins and hope replaces despair. Such would be the life of those who remained faithful to the gospel.

This is good reminder for those suffering from painful memories or a stress filled life. What feels awful as it is happening can be transformed by the power and love of God. Darkness can become light, and sadness can be transformed into hope, but we must pause each day to remember that we are not alone, that we are accompanied by a body of believers who, while they suffer, also know great joy.

Today, remember that your life has already produced great gifts for God.

How do you manage to remain centered in a world full of heartache?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ascension

"Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." Acts 4:2

How to remain alert and aware to the truths of faith is always a great challenge. As Catholics we profess that the Lord is with us, even on a day when we celebrate his leaving. The same challenge lies before families when one member moves a great distance away, or for the families of soldiers when their father, mother, son or daughter is sent to a part of the world where violence and war are erupting on a daily basis. Trying to remember them when they are not at the breakfast table each day is difficult.

In many ways, this was the situation the disciples of Jesus had to face when he ascended to his Father in heaven. They knew he had promised to be with them always, but they missed the comfort of seeing him and listening to his wisdom on a daily basis. They knew they had to carry on, but they were not sure how they would do this. That he promised them the Holy Spirit as a guide and mentor was helpful, but different. They could not see the Spirit in the flesh like they saw Jesus, and like most of us, they resisted change.

Because we are faced with these same struggles, the church encourages us to create rituals at home and in our families to keep alive the memory of Jesus. We place crucifixes, statutes and images of saints in our homes, not to demonstrate our piety, but to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We gather around our home tables, not simply to eat, but to be grateful for the food we eat and the faith we share. Doing something each day to remind ourselves that God is among us is essential to our faith growth and our hope.

Today, light a candle of hope in your room or home and pause to remember the Light of all Nations.

What practices most help you to remember God's promise to be with us always?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Unknown God

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

St Isidore the Farmer

"Never give us praying. And when you pray keep alert and be thankful." Col 4:2

Though most Catholics will not celebrate the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer today, he is a someone who reminds us of very basic, but often forgotten or neglected, principles of Gospel life. We have only one life and must learn to recognize God in the middle of it. Most of us, unfortunately, because we are so busy about making a living, going to school or raising children, have learned to pray as the day begins and then go to work, but that is not what Isidore teaches us.

There was no disjunction in Isidore's life between his spiritual quest and his everyday chores. As a farmer, he prayed as he worked. Long days behind a plow allow for this kind of piety, and while it is not a good idea to operate heavy machinery and meditate, we do have to find more ways to integrate daily life with our spiritual quest.

Pausing to take a breath or three throughout the day is a spiritual practice which can help us live more naturally and in tune with the rhythms of the earth. Many have also found it helpful to pray as they wait for the computer to turn on each day, and others find sites like Sacred Space very helpful. In any case, unless we find ways to breathe deeply and acknowledge the God who is always among us, our lives will lack the fire the Gospel intends.

Today, stop twice intentionally, breathe and be grateful for life.

What practices do you have that help you attend to God's loving presence?


Monday, May 14, 2012

St Matthias

"And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE.  Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Fidelity to God's word is the hallmark of every believing Christian, and we should never underestimate its importance. Though the foundations of houses especially those with an underground cellara, are rarely seen, they provide the house with stability. We do the same in our fidelity to God's word by trying to live a faith filled life and witnessing to the gospel in our daily lives.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Maps and Compasses

"I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends." Jn 15:15

Transitions are always difficult. We become accustomed to living in a particular way. We eat at the same time. sleep at the same time, and go to work at the same time. We are, as it were, slaves to our schedules.
Then everything changes. A baby is born and though there is great joy, there is also a terrible shock to the system. New parents don't eat, sleep or do anything without first thinking about the baby. And then, all of a sudden, the child is ready for school, and they are faced with another transition. How to let go of their child into a much bigger world.

The gospel today is all about transitions. When Jesus first called his apostles he told them: Follow me. They followed him, like slaves, and were at peace. Now he is readying them to hear a new commandment. Go, as my friends, into the whole world without me in the flesh. The transition the apostles are challenged to make is daunting. In the beginning of their ministry, Jesus gave them a map. Here is where we are going. Watch me and do the same. Now he offers them a compass and tells them not to be afraid, they no longer have to be slaves to what they have learned. They are his friends and his compass, the Holy Spirit, will guide them.

Living in a world that shifts from maps to compasses is unnerving. There is much less security in discerning how best to get where the compass directs us. It might be across mountains or oceans. We don't know, but we have to go, and the Lord promises us only one thing, that His Spirit, our compass, will direct us, and help us to find the right words to proclaim his mission when we get wherever he send us.

Today, trust that the compass the Lord offers us is sufficient for the community of faith.

Who or what has been a compass in your life?