Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Abundance

"The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it. I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel." Amos 9:14

Just as is seems that God will abandon his people forever, God relents, forgives and shows mercy. Even, and perhaps especially, when we think we deserve God's wrath, God finds something about us or about our community of faith that urges him to renew his people, and when this happens it is lavish. Imagine the scraggy hills that surround Jerusalem dripping with the juice of grapes. When God let's go, there is no holding back. We cannot absorb his love; it is altogether too much.

For most of us, when God's gratuitous love overwhelms us, we utter simple prayers of gratitude, but before long we forget the source of our joy, and we need another reminder, but no matter where our life takes us, the Scripture promises us that God is never far, and wanting to treat us like royalty.

Today, be grateful for the simplest of gifts.

What are you most grateful for in your faith life?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Famine of the Heart

"Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD." Amos 8:11

Hungering for God's word and hearing nothing is something that every pilgrim experiences. Whether this happens to us when we try to discern between two goods that are set before us, or wanting to know how to act prudently in a difficult situation is not the point. That we cannot hear God is. God is clear that only when we open ourselves to God each day will we be ready for the trials that come to every person.

Amos is warning the people of Israel that unless they listen to God their punishment will be clear. They will not be able to hear God's commands and they will be lost in the wilderness of their own anxiety, a far worse fate than not having enough to eat. When there is a famine people almost always work together to help everyone have something, and while this tactic is not always enough, at least people are working together. When our minds and spirits are confused, there is no exit.

Today, listen to God and ask to know his will for you.

What keeps you focused on living in God?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Prophets of Truth

"Your land shall be divided by measuring line, and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land." Amos 7:17

When God calls men and women to prophesy, there is nothing that can stop them. Surely this is true of Amos. Although threatened by Amaziah, who wants him exiled for presuming to speak for God, Amos reminds everyone that he did not choose to be a prophet, but God chose him, and he cannot not speak God's word. That God's message to Israel is hard and frightening is not Amos' choosing or preference, but God's. Unless the people of Israel repent, Amos warns, they will suffer the ultimate indignity of dying outside their homeland.

Truth will always have its day. In the Office of Readings, David dances ecstatically before the Ark of the Covenant, a display that Mychal, the daughter of Saul, thinks is beneath him because he has "exposed himself to the view of the slave girls." (2 Sam 6:20) Undeterred, David tells Michal that his only desire was to please and thank God, and he will further humble and demean himself so long as his dancing brings honor to God.

Both Amos and David teach us a great lesson. No matter our background or sin, God will use us for good if we submit to God's will for us. Discerning exactly what path we should take will still be difficult, but as long as we are unafraid to let go completely, to accept God's forgiving love, all things are possible.

Today, speak the truth with compassion.

What keeps you from submitting yourself completely to God's path for you?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

"Two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road" Mt 8:28

Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I was ministering at a hospital in Boston that cared for many people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.

When today's gospel speaks of demoniacs who were so savage that no one could travel on the road near where they lived, I smile a bit. Mental illness often takes the form of fierceness, but it is not very deep. In my experience, people who are mentally ill are so full of fear that they act in ways that keeps others from them, but once they know and trust you, they are quiet and cordial. Perhaps Jesus "knew" the demoniacs on many levels, and because he could approach them without fear, their defenses were not engaged and they welcomed him.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, on the 4th of July, stretch beyond the platitudes of national pride and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

St Thomas the Apostle

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Jn 20:25

Doubt is a natural and necessary aspect of faith. If faith is about relationships, then we must have doubt. What person do you know who has not struggled with their most intimate relationships, whether it is with a best friend or a spouse. Sometimes we are hurt or feel abandoned. At other times, we wonder if an important trust has been breached. Whatever the issue, we sometimes doubt the integrity of our relationships, and this is true as well in our relationship with God.

Pope St Gregory the Great says as much in the Office of Readings, "The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples." (Homily on the Gospels) Gregory's point is simple and direct. By doubting the Lord's resurrection, Thomas opens the door for Jesus to draw him more intimately to himself.

If we acknowledge our own doubts and sit with them peacefully, we open that same door. While we should not expect anything as dramatic as Jesus instructing us to put our hands into his side and our  finger into his hands, he will sit with us in our confusion and accompany us through our resistance.

Today, gently open yourself to whatever doubts you have.

Do you have a healthy spiritual way of embracing your doubts?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Following Christ always

"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."  Mt 8:20

Jesus' answer to the scribe who assures Jesus that he will follow him anywhere is telling.  Following Jesus is demanding. There is no way around it. His promises are not attractive to most. "I will be with you always," is a strong commitment, but contains no magic bullet. Jesus does not promise us success or renown. Neither does he promise us a fine home or a large family. Rather, he reminds the scribe and us that the only wealth he has to share with us is his relationship with his Father.

The question before us all, of course, is whether this is enough. Are we satisfied to be a part of his body, to be members of a community of faith that, though broken, is of God and for God? The prophet Amos assures us that God will not abandon us even though "son and father go to the same prostitute," (Amos 2:7) but again the question remains: Is this enough? Will this sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith?

Today, ask for an increase of faith.

What aspect of Gospel life do you find most demanding?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Healing Faith

"If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."

There is a wonderful story about the Chafetz Chaim, a renowned 19th century rabbi, who welcomed people from all over the world to his home in Poland. Many who came felt no urgency to speak with him since they encountered the transforming power of God simply by being in his presence.

One rich young fellow, however, expecting the Rabbi's home to have lovely furniture, was startled by the simplicity he encountered and blurted out, "Rabbi, where is your furniture?" Whether the Rabbi smiled or was annoyed we do not know, but he responded, "Where is yours?" "I'm only a visitor," the young man answered. "So am I," said the Rabbi. There should be little doubt, when we hear this story, that the young man was healed in a way he could never have anticipated.

The woman in today's gospel, who had spent everything on doctors seeking a cure for her hemoorhaging, came to Rabbi Jesus with a very different perspective and attitude. Hiding among the crowds, but believing that Jesus was powerful, she touched the hem of his garment, hoping that even this simple gesture would cure her. Realizing she was healed, and no doubt wanting to slip away quietly, she hears Jesus wonder aloud about who touched him. Full of fear, she acknowledges her "unclean" act only to find the Lord's compassion more powerful than her "sin." "Daughter," he says, "Your faith has saved you."

The lesson is clean and clear. Healing comes when we tell the truth.

Today, acknowledge your need and ask for the Lord's help.

Have you been healed by telling the truth?