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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fear and Faith

"Enough, Lord. Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." 1Kgs 19:4

Elijah is afraid. He has done God's work and vanquished the prophets of Baal, but now he is being threatened with his own life. Escaping into the desert, he sits under a broom tree and prays for  death.

Elijah's despair is deep. Even when an angel offers him food and drink, he hesitates. After eating he goes back to sleep still unable to see a future for himself. Only after the angel gives him a second meal does he listen and begin his forty days journey to God's holy mountain where God will reveal himself not in a loud and violent wind, or an earthquake or fire, but in an almost inaudible breeze.

Listening for God's voice is hard work. While we want God to be clear, distinct and understandable, God rarely speaks in a voice we can hear with our ears. Rather, we must pay attention to life as it is and let God speak through the ordinary events of everyday. Only then can we be sure that God is a not a magical presence but an almost indefinable hope, someone who accompanies us quietly to the places and people he designates.

Today, listen quietly. God is speaking.

How have you heard God speak in the everyday events of your life?

Friday, August 10, 2012

St Clare

"Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard see, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move." Mt 17:20

The feast of St. Clare is important to the church for many reasons. For a woman of the 13th century to resist her family's desire to enter a marriage that would strengthen their ability to defend themselves was remarkable in itself, but for Clare it was only the beginning. Clare's desire to follow Francis and live a radically simple life of poverty was unheard of in the church of Rome. Women who entered monasteries needed to be protected. To live without a dowry was unthinkable. But St. Clare was different.

Not only did Clare beg for (some say demand!), the privilege of poverty, which would allow her to rely totally, like the friars, upon the goodness of the faithful for her daily bread, she did all of this while living in an enclosed monastery without the freedom to beg from door to door. The Roman authorities did everything they could to dissuade her from what seemed like a foolish gamble, but her understanding of her call to witness to the goodness of the church by relying totally on their charity for her daily needs, won the day for her and us.

St Clare's star continues to shine in the 21st century. The Poor Clares remind us every day that a life of prayer, community and poverty is not only possible but necessary in a world obsessed with wealth and power. St Clare's daughters shout the gospel and sing its glory in a different key. The gospel does not trumpet what we own or who we control, but the One who is at the center of our heart.

Today, simplify your life.

Who challenges you to live more simply and transparently?




Thursday, August 9, 2012

St Lawrence, Deacon

"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Jn 12:24

St Lawrence reputedly said while being grilled on an open fire as punishment for his failure to obey the the Roman Prefect : Turn me over. Like so many other stories, it misses the point.

St. Lawrence should be known for something very different. When the Roman Prefect demanded Lawrence bring him the treasures of the church, Lawrence went throughout the city and gathered all the poor and sick declaring: These are the riches of the church. The Roman Prefect, embarrassed and enraged, demanded that Lawrence be burned like an animal and Lawrence accepted his punishment for telling the truth. Indeed, the poor and sick are our greatest treasure.

We must all, like Lawrence, fall to the earth and die if we want to witness to the the gospel in an authentic way. Unless we have the faith and courage to let go of our narrow and limited world views, we cannot bear the fruit of God, the fruit that will last forever.

Today, ask not to be afraid of the daily dying demanded by the Gospel.

Who has died so that you might live?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A New Covenant

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jer 31:33

God cannot simply give up on us. Though the Israelites broke the Covenant he made with them, God promises Jeremiah that he will make a new covenant with his people, one not written on stone tablets, but on the hearts of those he loves. This new covenant will assure everyone that God's covenant is not simply a set of rules or regulations to which we must respond, but an act of love, a gift that though we will never fully appreciate it, will keep us close to God in every circumstance.

Though it may not be as full or fulsome as God's covenant, most of us have experienced the blessing of a covenant with others. The married, of course, but also those of us who have been promised the free love of another for the asking. Surely, those of us who went as pilgrims to Africa recently, knew this gift. Often, I felt surrounded by all those who were praying and thinking of us.

The free gift of those who accompanied us in Spirit reminded me of my father's question to me as a boy whenever he was able to come to one of my baseball games. He never asked if we won the game, but only if I had fun. While I did not realize it at the time, my father was helping me understand more deeply that life was not all about winning and losing, but enjoying and celebrating each moment of life. In many ways, God asks nothing more of us, only that we celebrate life at every juncture and realize that He is never far.

Today, be grateful for the Covenant God makes with us in Jesus.

Who has assured you that despite your faults, they will never abandon you?


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

St Dominic

"Dominic was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy." Office of Readings for the Feast of St Dominic

The feast of St Dominic is an important one for Franciscans. Dominic, like Francis himself, is called Holy Father by Franciscans in order to help the friars minor understand that anyone who professes poverty and itinerancy is indeed a Father to us. More helpful, perhaps, in understanding this custom, is the short biography of St. Dominic from today's Office of Readings.

Most of us strive to have a peaceful spirit, to live with "great equanimity" but often enough this desire fulfills our hopes and understanding of holiness, not necessarily God's desire for us. When Dominic is described as a man of "great equanimity" his biographer is clearly talking about a God given gift since he reminds us that Dominic lived a life of equanimity "except when moved to compassion and mercy." In other words, there are moments when it is important to be quiet, reserved and outwardly peaceful, but there are others times, especially when someone is suffering and in need of God's companionship, that we need to let go of all restraints in order to give ourselves totally, like God, to the person in need.

Parents know this virtue in regard to their small children. When a child is sick, there are no limits to their compassion and understanding. They attend to their children with a kind of fierce determination and love. Our task, of course, is to offer this same compassionate commitment to our enemies. Only then can we be sure that our desire is from God.

Today, let go of self concern and reach out for anyone in great need.

Who has shown you unconditional concern in your confusion and suffering?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doubt and Faith

"When Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" Mt 14: 30-31

Fear and doubt are ordinary and necessary aspects of faith. Only those who refuse to think about the mysteries of faith, or live in denial about the struggles with which faith presents us believe they will never be afraid or have doubts.  From St Thomas, the Apostle, to Mother Teresa, the great figures in our faith tradition had doubts with which they had to struggle continually.

In the Long Lonliness, Dorothy Day, in describing the struggles of her baptism in the Catholic church,  says it this way:
One part of my mind stood at one side and kept saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure of yourself? What kind of an affectation is this? What act is this you are going through? Are you trying to induce emotion, bring about faith, partake of the opiate of the people?’ I felt like a hypocrite if I got down on my knees, and shuddered at the thought of anyone seeing me…
Today, ask not to be afraid of your doubts. God can lead you through them into new hope.

What are your biggest faith struggles?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Transfiguration

"Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. Jn 9:2

Seeing is believing we often say, but Jesus says it differently. Seeing with the heart is transforming. Celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration is supposed to do this for all of us, but too often we only see, we do not see with the heart.

St Paul says it this way: "We see by faith, not by sight," (2 Cor 5:7) and I am always grateful that the apostles did not see, nor understand who Jesus was. Their expectations and experience of the Lord were deep, even embedded, and what they saw of him on a daily basis got in the way of their understanding and acceptance. Despite the fact that Jesus shows them another side of himself in this gospel, they still don't get it. Neither do we, but it does not matter. Jesus will continue to open himself to us and invite us to know him with our hearts not just our eyes.

Today, be quiet, listen and ask the Lord to open your hearts.

Have you had moments in your life of real transformation?