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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sharing Our Bread

"Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!" Prv 9:5

Today's scriptures challenge us to re-imagine discipleship. In the book of Proverbs wisdom is a gracious hostess who creates a peaceful and welcoming environment and invites us to be ourselves in her presence, to sit at her table, to eat her food and drink her wine.

When in John's gospel Jesus becomes wisdom incarnate, the one who reminds us to feed the hungry even before eating ourselves, we realize that discipleship is more about being a host to others than preaching the Good News with words alone. We must become a people who live the Gospel in such a way that all can encounter the Christ dwelling among us through the Spirit.

While it will always be important to gather for worship every Sunday, unless the Eucharist moves us beyond prayer to action it will not have the power Jesus intends. Only when Christians spend their faith during the week doing justice for the forgotten and voiceless will people experience us as a living gospel.

Today, preach the gospel with your lives.

Who or what has helped you understand and live the life of a disciple?


Friday, August 17, 2012

God wants to save us

"I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord GOD." Ex 18:32

Many believers struggle with what to them appears to be a very vengeful God in the Hebrew bible. There any number of passages that would demonstrate this, including a verse from today's first reading in which God seems to be abandoning a wayward son to death, "Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die; his death shall be his own fault." Only when we keep reading do we hear God's bottom line: I take no pleasure in the death of anyone!

God wants to save us. We can never hear this sentiment too often. At times when we are desperate, hurt, angry or confused, we forget God's goodness to us and the world. We hear only our sadness and rage, not God's care, and unless we pause to hear the entire message of the Bible we will get lost in the darkness. No doubt this happened to Jesus' first disciples, but when they let the Holy Spirit work in them everything changed. The same can be true for us.

Today, accept the darkness. Then look for the light.

How can we learn to listen to the fullness of God's promise?




Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marriage

"They are no longer two, but one flesh." Mt 19:6

It is hard to overstate the importance of marriage in our church. A strong, loving marriage is not only a sign of God's enduring love for us, it is the best and most natural ground of family life. It is from good Christian marriages that we learn the virtues of tolerance, tenderness and forgiveness as well as love and fidelity, and while many marriages fail, the struggle that so many Christian married couples make to endure difficult times and work together for the good of their family sustains us during our own times of weakness and confusion in faith.

The gospel insists God has always intended that marriage be permanent and that divorce should be considered only when every effort at reconciliation fails. While we must be wary of urging or forcing people to remain in abusive situations, the importance of marriage in the church is clear. There is no richer sign or natural lens with which to view and understand Christ's love for the church than the love of a married couple. Because both the bible and the church teach that God cannot stop loving us, they remind married couples that their commitment to permanence and exclusivity in their marriage helps us understand and appreciate God's love for us more deeply.

Today, pray for the married, especially those whose marriages are weak or struggling.

What do you think are the best ways to encourage the married to persevere and celebrate their vocation?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Limitless Forgiveness

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full."

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Assumption of Mary

"Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed." Lk 11:27

Today's feast doesn't need a lot of explanation. Mary is the promise, in the flesh, of our own resurrection. Because it is so obvious that Jesus loved the one who carried him in her womb and fed him the milk of her breasts, he wants her to be with him forever in the flesh, and her reward is the promise of our own.

Not infrequently, people wonder what heaven might be like. The promise of this feast is that we will be with the Lord and all those who have gone before us in the flesh, not necessarily a flesh like we know now, but in our resurrected bodies. Just as Jesus was not limited after his resurrection by the body the apostles saw in the Upper Room, there was no doubt that it was Jesus. Neither, some day, will we have any doubt about who it is that has prepared a place for us.

To understand more deeply the substance of this feast, take a moment to think about how important it is to be with those who have loved us and whom we have loved. Not to be with and see them ever again would be a terrible burden. Today's feast promises us that God knows our yearning and will respond with the gift of a place at the eternal banquet.

Today, let those close to you know of your love.

How do you imagine heaven? What do you hope for?

St Maximilian Kolbe

"Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 18:3

St Maximilian Mary Kolbe is a modern hero, not so much because of his accomplishments in founding a magazine with 1 million subscribers, but because his faith was strong enough to allow him to volunteer for death. Troubled while in a Nazi concentration camp that another prisoner with a wife and family was condemned to death, he volunteered to take his place. A few days later, he was a martyr.

As children most of us, full of romantic dreams, have no doubt that if called to be a martyr, we would say yes to this supreme sacrifice. As we age, however, and become more worried about our health and success, our resolve usually wanes. Maximilian Kolbe is a saint because he remained steadfast in his willingness to give up his life for the sake of another and the gospel. A true child of God: innocent, transparent,  and vulnerable, Maximilian entered the Kingdom of God singing.

Today, ask God to renew your dreams of serving God completely, despite the cost.

What holds you back from being childlike in your faith?


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grief and Loss

"They were overwhelmed with grief." Mt 17:23

Matthew's gospel is blunt about the feelings of the apostles when Jesus tells them he will suffer and die. They are full of grief. Jesus' announcement was not something they expected. In may ways they saw him as invincible, beyond the suffering of ordinary people. That they did not understand his mission, or theirs for that matter, is clear.

Grief, as anyone who has experienced it knows, is not a pure emotion. While we might indeed ache and moan at the death of a friend, it is not simply the loss of a loved one that makes us feel this way. Our own loss is powerful as well. While we might not want to admit it, we are sorry for ourselves. Because our lives were so entwined with the person we've lost,  we wonder how we will negotiate the ups and downs of life which we always shared.

Today, remember that Jesus is always with us.

How have you managed your own grief?