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Saturday, June 2, 2012

“By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?” Mk 11:28

When someone's life or message make us uncomfortable or angry, it is easy to challenge their authority. The assumption, of course, is that they have none and we do not have to listen to them. President Jimmy Carter, who by most accounts was an unsuccessful president, often makes Americans uncomfortable with his insistence that we need to learn to listen to everyone, even those who challenge our government, if we want a lasting peace. His only authority for doing this, since he is no longer president, is the integrity of his personal life and faith.

Jesus is like this in the gospel. When challenged about who has given him authority to speak, he traps his opponents by asking them a question about John the Baptist's authority. If the Pharisees acknowledge that John was a messenger of God they would have to listen to him even though his he is demanding that they reform their lives. If they say John is not from God, they will anger the people who accept John's message. Because the leaders of the Jews are concerned only with losing their own authority, they fall silent and withdraw to plan more attacks upon Jesus. Jesus' invitation to the Pharisees to understand their faith differently falls on deaf ears.

Today think about what tactics you use not to listen to others who hurt or agitate you?

Whose authority do you trust most and why?




Friday, June 1, 2012

St Justin, Martyr

"Let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Pt 4:8

No one would suggest that St Justin's love wasn't intense. A philosopher who loved the work of Plato, he was determined to use philosophy as a path to know Christ, and teach the faith with expansive hope. Unafraid to challenge the Roman Senate and Emperor, he begged (some might say demanded) that the Christian life and mission be taken seriously, insisting that even if the Emperor decided to kill him, he could not hurt him since he was protected by the truth. Eventually, his commitment to his faith led to his death by martyrdom.

It is clear in the gospels that Jesus wants little to do with those who are lukewarm. Rather, his message and his life demand extraordinary faith in God and a commitment to a transparent life of service to those most in need. Rooted in the belief that God never abandons his people, even when they worship other gods, the Gospel paints God as a Father waiting for his errant children to return to him, and insists that we find a way to accompany one another despite the cost.

Today, let your love be intense.

What keeps you from loving God and neighbor intensely?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visitation

"Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'" Lk 1: 41-42

More often than not, especially if we have good friends, a problem shared is a problem halved. The story of Mary's visit with Elizabeth always lifts our spirits as Mary reaches out for her cousin who is also pregnant for the first time. Elizabeth's response is full of delight, "How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" No doubt when Mary stays with her for "three months," she is even more consoled.

The feast of the Visitation not only plunges us more deeply into the mystery of God's unfolding love for us in Jesus, it suggests very practical advice for our everyday lives. When we try to interpret God's action in our lives without another set of ears, we risk conceit and self absorption. Elizabeth and Mary, both living the mystery of God's love for them in extraordinary ways, offer us a compass for our own lives. In Latin we say nemo judex in causa sua, no one is a judge in her own case. When faced with discerning how best to respond to God especially when we doubt our own insight, the counsel of a soul friend is essential. 

Today, listen to the voice of a friend as you ask God for direction and peace.

What steps do you take when faced with decisions about how God is acting in your life?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peter's Complaint

"Peter began to say to Jesus, 'We have given up everything and followed you.'" Mk 10:28

It is natural to complain from time to time about the treatment we receive from God, and it is good to express this in prayer. Unless we learn how to speak of our disappointment to God as if to a good friend, and to search more deeply within ourselves and our relationships for a fuller understanding and acceptance of our own faults and gifts, we will never really know the depths of God's love.

More often than not, our hurts and complaints about life and our relationships are reflections of unmet expectations. We expect our friends and God to be there when we need them in ways we understand or determine, and often we want our friends and God to take away our suffering and free us from ourselves as if my magic. In truth, this is not good for us, nor is it good when we try to do it for others. Real friends accompany and support, they don't try to fix us. Neither does God, because in our struggle to pray through life with faith, we learn who we really are and hope returns.

Today's gospel finds Peter complaining to Jesus about everything he and the apostles have had to give up to follow him, and though Peter doesn't get the words out, we suspect that he is wondering what reward he and the disciples will receive for their efforts. When Jesus assures Peter that all who let go of home, friends, family, and culture, will receive a hundred times as much, Peter seems satisfied. However, it will take time for Peter (and us) to understand that the hundredfold Jesus promises is not what he expects. In letting go into the arms of God, we receive the gift of the church, Christ's body, a community of billions of people to accompany us through life. Indeed, the hundredfold is more than we could ever imagine!

Today, try not to complain. Be grateful for those who walk with you in faith.

How do you manage your unmet expectations of God?

Monday, May 28, 2012

God's gaze

"Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, 'You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'" Mk 1o:21

How powerful it is to hear the evangelist say that Jesus looked at the rich young man and loved him. He did not scold him or reject him. He loved him with the hope that the young man would be able to take his advice.The same is true of all of us, although we often ignore or forget this simple request. That God looks at us with love is too much to believe, but whether we believe it or not is beside the point. God believes in us and loves us day after day.

It is also true that we need to let go in order to fully appreciate God's loving gaze. Until we experience loss, emptiness and the powerlessness that comes from trying to help others without success, we will never fully understand Jesus' command to sell everything and follow him. In fact, we do not need most of what we have, and if we have the faith to let go even that which we think we need, life will be very different. God's gaze of love will sustain us in our emptiness and show us the path to a full gospel life.

Today, let God look at you with love.

Who has looked at you with unconditional love simply because it is the gospel thing to do.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost

"Peace be with you." Jn 20:19

Ours is a God of second chances. And third chances and on and on. Immoderately and overwhelmingly forgiving, God is always urging us to begin again, to trust and not be afraid. Jesus' greeting of peace in today's gospel is our assurance that God's patience has not worn thin, if anything it is fuller and deeper. Though his disciples abandoned him at his most vulnerable, Jesus forgives and greets them with the power of Shalom/Peace, a word that means be yourself, don't be afraid, I want you to know of my love and acceptance even in your weakness.

That Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter is no accident. For the Jews the time after Passover was a time of catechesis, a time to learn and enter more deeply into the mystery of the God's love, and a day to mark and celebrate the gift of the Torah on Mt Sinai. God had not only passed over the Jewish people, saved them and set them free from slavery, he gave them the gift of the Ten Commandments to guide and console them.

Similarly, for Christians, Pentecost is the time to remember how God's love in Jesus did not die with his death. Rather, he has been raised up and given us the gift of his Spirit who will accompany us every day, even when we forget God's love. God is giving his disciples and us a second chance to understand and be transformed by the Spirit. Though we will fail and fall along the way, God will always be waiting to pick us up and send us on our way.

Today, be grateful for all the second chances in your life.

What does Pentecost mean to you?