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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Faithfulness

"Do you also want to leave?"

Jesus' question to his disciples is telling, especially when the gospel reminds us that many returned to their former lives after hearing him speak about his body being real food, real flesh.  From time to time, most believers want to turn away from the Christ. His demands are too great or too confusing. His ministers serve in ways that confound and even scandalize, and too often the most devout show little concern for others, especially the poor.

None of these temptations is new or unique. The body of Christ is weak and broken. The church acknowledges this when she reminds us that the sacrament of reconciliation is a gift to heal a church that while good, is always in need of forgiveness and renewal.

Sometimes it also helps to remember that though each of us can be difficult to live with, we trust that our friends and companions in faith will look beyond our faults and not abandon us. Without doubt we are a broken, bruised and dysfunctional family, but God has never abandoned us. In the light of God's faithfulness, we should never abandon one another.

Today, look at yourself in the mirror and accept what you see.

How do you live well and peacefully despite the dysfunction in your own family?




Friday, August 24, 2012

Conscience

"Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example." Mt 23:2

Learning to be an adult believer, discerning God's will and making decisions for yourself, is a radically difficult but important task for Christians. While the hierarchy of the church can guide us in matters of faith and morals, every Christian faces questions and obstacles regularly which defy easy solutions. Unfortunately, very few adult Christians have spiritual directors who can help in this process, making the effort of living the good news in an authentic and integrated way even more difficult.

Jesus is especially sharp tongued in this regard. While acknowledging the authority of the Jewish leaders, he also warns his followers not to follow their example. While this is still and always true, it is often painful. It is easier for most of us to look to authority figures and depend unhealthily on them to make decisions for us. Every Christian, after listening to those with authority and consulting soul friends and teachers, must eventually choose to follow their well formed conscience. Too often, as Jesus reminds us, the life of our leaders is not something we should emulate, and while sad, should not leave us powerless. The Spirit of God has been promised to every believer as guide, mentor and friend.

Today, practice listening to your heart.

How have you faced difficult ethical dilemmas? 




Thursday, August 23, 2012

St. Bartholomew

"Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Jn 1:47

Some people are naturally open, transparent and accepting. Most of us, however, are not. We fear and resist the judgment of others. What can they know about us, we ask, they have only just met us, and while this is true, it can reflect an unhealthy desire for independence. Only when we realize that the wisdom  and insight of others can be a gift for our own journey do we embrace it and grow from it.

St. Bartholomew is the poster boy for innocence and openness in the gospel, and if we can be open to the lessons he teaches, our lives can be much simpler. People are given to us in life as guides and mentors, and while some remind us what not to be, most can help us take the next step if only we will listen. Bartholomew blurts out, "How do you know me?", but as soon as the Lord answers, his resistance crumbles and he acknowledges Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.

Today, ask for the gift of openness before God and others.

What helps you put aside duplicity and seek transparency?


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Wedding Garment

"My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?"

The gospel about the street person who accepts an invitation to a wedding but does not bother to wear a wedding garment is always puzzling. Why would an king, angry and disillusioned with friends and tribes people who refused to come to his son's wedding, dismiss someone who accepts his invitation for a seemingly innocuous fault? There are as many answers to this question as there are people posing it.

Some suggest that the man without a wedding garment represents the Jewish leaders who refused even to entertain the idea that God would act outside of their authority or understanding. In this case, pride gets in the way of integirty. Most of us have been in this situation ourselves more than a few times.

Others cite the ancient custom that everyone who came to a wedding was given something to wear, making it clear that anyone without a wedding garment was openly dismissive of the king's generosity. But the interpretation that is most intriguing proposes that the man without the wedding garment  is resisting an interior conversion. Unless we accept God's call to change our lives and proclaim the good news, we have no right to come to the wedding. Not wearing a wedding garment is a sign of arrogance that condemns us.

Today, listen for the master's call to the wedding and find a wedding garment!

What makes you reluctant to accept God's invitation to the wedding feast?



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Queenship of Mary

"You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured." Ez 34:2-3

Ezekiel's condemnation of Israel's shepherds pulls no punches. The shepherds enjoy the fruits of their vocations, but care nothing for the sheep themselves. It is a sorry story, and one we have all known. As soon as we take for granted the simple gifts of food, shelter and family, we drift into an empty and shallow life that fails to acknowledge the glory of God each day.

Mary, on the other hand, is an icon of gratitude, a woman wrapped in grace whose every word and action in the scripture is other centered. Not only does she say yes to the angel's invitation to be the mother of Jesus despite having very few answers to her questions, she stands up for the young couple at Cana who have no wine and accompanies her son to his horrific death. Mary never forgets who she is and how much God loves her in the middle of her personal struggles. No wonder she is call Queen.

Today, shepherd those in your care. Don't worry about how much or little they produce.

Who has shepherded you without concern for themselves?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

"The young man...went away sad, for he had many possessions." Mt 19:22

The importance of the life and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) can hardly be overstated. His commentary on the Song of Songs remains a classic in the history of Western Spirituality not only for its rich insights but more because it was addressed to adult novices Bernard had recruited to renew monastic life in the Benedictine tradition.

Bernard's genius allowed him to see in empty spirited and broken men returning from the Crusades candidates for religious life. Before Bernard's reform, very young men were promised to the monastery as Oblates by their families. Afterwards, anyone and everyone could join the monastery after a period of discernment. This change resulted in profound renewal of Benedictine life and a radically new catechesis for monks.

In his 10th sermon on the Song of Songs, Bernard invites his novices to drink from the bride's breasts, "the milk of consolation, from the other that of encouragement, according to the need of each." (Song of Songs) Clearly, Bernard wanted to celebrate the human body and imagination as paths to a deeper knowledge and love of God. Cannot we do the same?

Today, let your imagination lead you to prayer.

How do you imagine the church of the 21st century challenging us to pray for naturally?