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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Catechetical Sunday

"The Lord opened my ears that I may hear." Is 50:5

The word catechesis is from the Greek meaning to echo or resound. Every believer is to echo the saving work of Jesus Christ and re-sound his message. Most often we think of this element of our mission as Christians in a formal sense, that is to teach what Jesus taught, but in fact it means much more than this. To be a catechist we must echo Jesus message with our life and lifestyle. We are called to be signs of the living God in our everyday lives.

We infrequently think of this challenge until we are faced with a question we can't answer or a life challenge that feels overwhelming. It ought to comfort us to know that Jesus felt this in his life and, when faced with the ultimate challenge, he willingly gave his life so that we might live. The same challenge confronts us at the beginning of the 21st century. Too often we take our faith for granted. We go to church on Sunday, we listen, and we often leave without hearing or interiorizing the message of the Sunday scriptures and the breaking of the bread.

That is why the church asks us to reflect on the words of Isaiah this Sunday. The prophet begged God to open his ears that he might hear, and perhaps that is all we need to do today. If we ask God to open our ears and heart, God will, and the rest will be up to us.

There is a temptation most of us face in all of this. Unless we hear God speak very directly to us, we hesitate to act, but God is shouting at us on a daily basis in the faces and lives of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the homeless. Jesus says so himself at the end of St. Matthew's gospel. Whenever you feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned and clothe the naked, he says, you do it for him.

Today, ask God to let you hear his word and see what happens.

How do you echo the Good News in your daily life?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

"Standing by the cross was his mother."

The fidelity of Mary to Jesus, especially during his suffering and death, has been a consolation to believers since the beginning of Christianity. While his closest friends abandon him at the moment of his most acute need, Mary does not, and her refusal to leave her son in his suffering challenges us to live our faith in a much more complete way.

At the same time, a less than careful understanding and appreciation of Mary's role in the story of our salvation, can be dangerous. Suffering in itself is not a good, and Mary's fidelity should not encourage any of us, but especially women, to accept abuse or unnecessary suffering. Jesus is always about challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees at every turn when the lay heavy burdens of others and do nothing to help. Mary's courage is similar. Though she can do nothing to ease her son's suffering, she is not passive. She accepts her fate, but does not seek it.

Today, accept what you must, but work to change a society and church that sometimes idealizes the suffering of women.

Which women in your life most impress you with their endurance and fidelity?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Exaltation of the Cross

"Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped." Phil 2:6

Grasping for glory trips most of us up from time to time. Sometimes it is a job that gives us an exalted sense of ourselves. At other times, we take credit for a child's success or a spouse's happiness. All of this is natural, of course. Because we often wonder about our own value, getting a promotion or having a child succeed can make us feel better about ourselves for a brief time, and although it is a hollow triumph, we cling to it.

Paul reminds us that Jesus does not do this. He clings to nothing but his relationship with his Father. Nothing else really matters and living in his Father's embrace is enough. While this ought to be true for us, our faith is usually too weak to rest completely in God as our Father, consolation and strength.

Daily prayer can help in this regard. When we take time to acknowledge our need and hand ourselves over to God without holding back, we have no need to cling to anyone or anything, and while people and simple success in life will still delight us, failure will not overwhelm us.

Today, let go of something or someone without which you think you cannot live.

What spiritual practices most help you to let go?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

St John Chrysostom

"Pray for those who mistreat you." Lk 6:28

The challenge of today's gospel is clear and demanding. Not only must we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, we must pray for those who mistreat us. While no believer denies the truth of these injunctions, it is important to remember that they are counter intuitive and our first and most natural response is to strike back against our enemies and those who hate us.

Living the gospel demands patience and endurance. We will not always succeed in living the gospel simply and openly. We will rail against God and those who undermine us or speak ill of us, but the gospel will not change. We must. A daily commitment to begin again, to see others, especially those who mistreat us, with God's eyes, will allow us to witness to God's desire for the world, and plant seeds of hope for the next generation.

Today, pray for someone who hurt you.

How do you live the hard sayings of Jesus?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Change

"The world in its present form is passing away." 1 Cor 7:31

Life is rushing past us so fast that it is often difficult to stay alert. For those of us living in large cities, the speed can be overwhelming. It is hardly possible to take a step without seeing someone in need, or someone who is manipulating or oppressing others. After a while, it is tempting to keep your head down and rush around with everyone else. While we know this is a mistake we cannot afford to make as gospel people, the reality of 21st century life can feel unmanageable.

The times demand that we learn to slow down and listen even more intently than ever before. Though it will do no good to return to the religious practices of an earlier time as if they were magic, we very much want to maintain the values of our ancestors. A reflective life lived in the midst of demanding times can be a powerful sign to the people of our day that Christ is still the foundation of our lives and the reason we care so deeply for others.

Today, slow down, pray and wait for God to show you the way.

How best can we witness to Christ in the 21st century?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Praying all Night

Let us not forget to pray today for all those impacted by the horror of September 11, 2001.

"Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God." Lk 6:12

It is a perennial question to ask what Jesus prayed about when he spent the night in prayer. The gospels offer us some hints about this. We know he pleaded with his father to take the terrible burden of the cross from him, and asked God to protect his disciples, but there is little information about the nature of his night prayer.

Today's gospel suggests that Jesus' prayer during the night was a prayer of discernment, a time of sifting through which of his followers should be apostles and leaders. It was an important and difficult time, and his choices surprise us. Knowing he would be judged harshly, we expect him to seek strong, well known Jews to walk with him, but he picks ordinary people to live and articulate the message he received from his Father. It is no different today.

Most of us learn about the gospel from everyday people. It is not the most insightful, the most powerful or the most well known people who help us understand the Good News. It is the people we meet everyday at the market, in church or at a ballgame. Rarely eloquent, the people who live the gospel transparently in their everyday lives show us a face of God that moves us to change and live for others.

Today, pray for the strength to live the gospel in an ordinary way, and let God do the rest.

From whom have you learned most about a gospel life?


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sabbath Rest

"I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil." Lk 6:9

Jews have always valued the Sabbath, both as a way to remember God's gracious love of them and to observe God's laws. It is important to remember that very few societies in the ancient world had time away from work. People, especially the poor, worked everyday and rarely had time for themselves. When God rested on the seventh day, God reminded all of us to stop, celebrate and rest. The Jewish people took this example very seriously, and their strict observance of the Sabbath is testimony to this.

At the same time, Jesus, without dismissing the importance of Sabbath, challenges the rigidity of Jewish observance by asking the telling question: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? The obvious answer is yes. Not only must we do good, we must also seek to live the underlying values of the Sabbath. Rest is good and important, but seeing the struggles of the sick and suffering and responding to them is just as necessary.

The law of God should never be used as an excuse not to do good. We rest in order to remember God's love and respond to others as God did and does. There is no other way to observe the whole law and the prophets.

Today, rest completely and see how your refreshed spirit will urge you to do more good.

How do you obtain a balance in your life between work and rest?