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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Immaculate Heart of Mary

"Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Lk. 2:48

The honesty of Mary's response to Jesus' staying behind in Jerusalem to converse with the teachers in the temple tells us much about prayer. Sometimes only worried and troubled thoughts come to us when we look at the world, our church and families.

The horror of Syrian troops slaughtering their own people, the ongoing effects of the sexual abuse scandal, and the failure of many to raise their families with faith and religious practice leave us speechless, and like Mary we are filled with great anxiety. Unable to escape these realities, we often seek outlets that free us from our obsessions, but do little to acknowledge the helplessness we feel. Mary's response can guide us.

When  we learn to make our anxiety our prayer, everything changes. Though the anxiety does not leave us, it throws us speechless into the heart of God, and this very act becomes our prayer. Confused and hurt, we join Mary in asking Jesus, "Why have you done this to us?" Even in posing the question, we realize that while God has done nothing to us directly, acknowledging our helplessness frees us to accept the sovereignty of God in all matters, and teaches us to live with unanswered questions.

Today, with Mary, make your anxiety your prayer.

What does your prayer sound like when you feel lost, anxious and helpless?






Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sacred Heart

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him,…who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. Hosea 1:3-4

The feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us that we are embodied, that our faith celebrates not just the salvation of our souls, but our entire person. Like the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the feast of the Sacred Heart counters any tendency in the Christian community to forget the God sent his son among us as a fully human person and through him reminded us that God wants to be us with us body and soul forever. How our resurrected bodies might look is not the issue. That we will be with God in our bodies is.

The scriptures are forever reminding us of this, but in a world where so many live in large cities, we can forget the importance of creation, all of which manifests the glory and face of God in marvelous ways. The Canticle of Daniel even reminds creation itself to praise and bless the Lord. Listen:
Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Dew and rain, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
Today's feast calls us to come closer to the heart of Jesus where we will find mercy, consolation and hope. What else could we desire.

Whose loving heart has most formed you in faith?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reconciliation

"If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5 23-24

The healing of broken relationships in families, parishes and religious communities is one of the most important tasks each of us faces. Every society and every church knows the devastating effects of separations that hurt not only those directly involved, but everyone touched by those who are at odds.

In Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs, the fourth and fifth steps which encourage addicts to search their hearts and admit their wrongs to God, themselves and another person are essential for sobriety and a renewed life. When these steps are not taken, everyone suffers, sometimes to death, and while making amends (Step 8) is not always successful, it is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to begin a new life each day.

The gospel today is very demanding in this regard and a good reminder that while living the Good News of Jesus is challenging, it is also freeing. When we harbor grudges against others our spirits are too cluttered to see with God's eyes. Only when we ask for the courage to let go of anything that keeps us from God and our faith communities can we hope to witness to the Gospel with all its power to heal and renew.

Today, acknowledge your faults.


How do you seek reconciliation in your life?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

St. Anthony of Padua

"Keep me safe O God, you are my hope." Ps 16

For most of our best known saints there is a moment that defines their lives. St Anthony had two. The first happened when he witnessed the funeral procession of the first Franciscan martyrs. Because he had served them as guest master for the Augustinians as they prepared to leave Portugal for Africa, he was convinced their death was a sign from God to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans in order to take up their mission in converting the Moors. When his health would not allow him this privilege, he accepted his limitations and moved to Italy where he committed himself to a life of prayer, study, and simple living, a lifestyle that led him to his second defining moment.

Called to be a substitute preacher at an ordination when no one else was prepared to speak, he was expected by everyone to stumble and stammer, but his eloquence and learning stunned his hearers. His life as a renowned preacher had begun and it would lead him to be the first theology teacher in the Franciscan reform, a remarkable turnabout for a community that so deeply distrusted theology. It was Anthony's great sanctity that convinced  St Francis that Anthony could both teach theology and holiness at the same time.

Today, let God lead you in a path of God's choosing.

What moments in your faith life have been life defining?



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Light

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket." Mt 5:14

Last week I had an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin postulants of North America, twenty three remarkably diverse young men who will soon be novices. One postulant is a Chaldean Catholic from Syria whose family emigrated to Canada. Another is a Jewish convert who was born in Israel. Three are from Mexico, others are from Ecuador. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

The gospel today reminds us that we are salt and light, people who are supposed to bring flavor, perseverance, healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men was a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life?

Monday, June 11, 2012

St Barnabas

"The Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Acts 12:2

Few people are able to stand peacefully in the middle of a dispute without taking sides. St Barnabas seems to be one of them. A companion and friend to St Paul, it was Barnabas who assured the the Jewish leadership of the earliest Christian community that Paul's conversion was authentic. This had to be a thorny task. How someone like Paul, who had persecuted Christians, could be trusted was a difficult obstacle in the early church, but Barnabas took on this burden by working with Paul in Antioch.

But Barnabas was not always successful. When Barnabas wanted Paul to take Mark with them to revisit the churches they had helped found, Paul would have none of it. Mark had failed Paul once and Paul was unwilling to risk another falling out. Because of this disagreement Barnabas and Paul went their separate ways for a while, but eventually Barnabas was able to bring about healing among them.

In a church as divided as ours in the United States, it would be good to have a few more Barnabas', people who put aside winning arguments for the sake of unity among us.

Today, listen more than you talk.

Have you been successful as a mediator in your family and/or parish? How did you do this?




Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Body and Blood of the Lord

"This is my body....this is my blood." Mk 14:22

When friends or family die, we often grieve and mourn them in powerful ways. Some will visit the cemetery, even if it is at a distance, every day for weeks or months. Others, leave a chair empty at the table at the dinner table in order to remember their dead. Early in the mourning process, these rituals often lead to tears and groaning, but after a while they help us gently remember all the good the dead brought to our lives. Our rituals bring us comfort and hope, and that is Jesus' intent at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. In it and through it we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, especially on Sunday's, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

The mystery of the Eucharist is something that deserves our daily gratitude. There is no fuller way to honor God than in the breaking of the bread, and there is no more fitting way to remember Jesus than to proclaim his love in service of the hungry and poor.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?