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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wisdom

"Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity." Jas 3:17

The fruits of wisdom are rich and powerful. Purely motivated people are more concerned with the needs of others than satisfying their own wants. Unfailingly gentle, the wise are constant and sincere in their friendship and love. When we meet wise people we know them because of their good fruits.

In Northeast United States, it is early Fall. There is less light both in the morning and evening. It is a natural time to slow down, rest, and be grateful for all that life has brought us, and wise people know that it is important to welcome all that is, not just that which feels pleasant or helpful for us. When we judge life, especially as it unfolds for us and around us, we are often too quick and harsh to condemn that which makes no sense. Because something is dark, we shun it, even though it might be darkness that will help us most to eventually see the light and live in it.

Wisdom, James reminds us, is compliant and full of mercy, not only towards others, but for ourselves and those who we might be tempted to dismiss as self centered. When we quietly allow ourselves to be patient with those who annoy us, their goodness in the eyes of God emerges and our wisdom grows.

Today, put on the mantle of peace.

What do you think are the marks of wisdom?

Friday, September 21, 2012

No Roots

"They receive the word with joy, but they have no roots." Lk 8:13

People often speak about wanting to raise their children like trees with deep, strong roots and expansive branches that extend their shade to everyone in the world. It is a beautiful image, and one most of us would want to embrace and make our own, but it is not the only image Jesus offers us.

Jesus warns us that many receive the Word with joy, but because they have no roots, they are unable to survive when struggles come upon them. At times the trials are simple, but devastating. The loss of a job, a failure in school, or an upset with a close friend can shake us to our foundations. While we realize that these kinds of trials come to everyone, unless our roots are deep in faith, we will wither without the strength of God's presence.

In the United States these days, we are faced with what can seem like an overwhelming problem. Our children are not going to church. This is not to say that they are without faith, but the regular practice of our religious traditions, especially Sunday mass, is radically important for the health of our faith communities. Like every other plant or shrub, we need to help our young people get rooted in the soil of our parishes if we hope to sustain ourselves in the 21st century.

Today, ask for the gift of patience and endurance in your practice of faith.

Why do you think people don't have roots that can sustain them in faith?




Thursday, September 20, 2012

St Matthew, Apostle

"Follow me." Mt 9:10

Matthew must have been amazed and delighted when Jesus called him to follow. Amazed because he was a tax collector, a man despised for what he did and who he was. Tax collectors were most often Jews who worked for the Romans. Upfront, they would pay the Romans the taxes of those from who they collected taxes and then charge Jews whatever they could, and this would often be exorbitant and excruciating.

Matthew also would have been delighted. Here was Jesus, a prominent Jew and rabbi, calling him, accepting him, sitting down at table with him when everyone else in the community was shunning him. Matthew knew that he was being given a second chance and he was anxious to take it.

The message of the gospel is clear. All of us will get a second chance and it is up to us to take it, to follow the Lord and let go of behaviors and practices that oppose God's law and God's desire for us. As long as we are willing to admit that we are in need of a physician, the Lord will come to us like a doctor who sees only that we are in need. The Lord wants to heal us. How wonderful.

Today, acknowledge your weakness.

Who looked at you with love when you could not accept or love yourself?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

St Andrew Kim and the Korean Martyrs

As we celebrate the feasts of the Korean martyrs, it is a good time to pray for Korea, a country that remains divided over ideological lines. Unfortunately, like many countries struggling to maintain their independence and values, Korea had had a long history of division. Until 1883 it lacked religious freedom, a prohibition that led to the deaths of Andrew Kim and his companion martyrs, 92 of whom were lay people.

What must it be like to live in a divided country?  When the Berlin wall was toppled in 1989, many touching but painful stories of families living on both sides of the wall without any means of communication emerged. Anna Kaminsky left her baby in Berlin to visit her fiance in Sweden. The next day the wall went up and left her with a terrible choice. Because her fiance, a writer, was an enemy of the state, she could not return to East Berlin with him, but if she stayed in Sweden she would not be able to visit her son. Pregnant with her second child, a daughter, Anna returned to East Berlin to raise her children, a choice that prevented her new born daughter from ever meeting her father who died before the wall came down.

No doubt there are many stories like this unfolding in Korea today. Although we live a world of email and cell phones, the more than 22 million people in North Korea are cut off from the 48 million people who live in the South. Families and friends in both Koreas cannot visit one another, celebrate birthdays or mourn deaths. How awful.

Today, pray for those who live in refugee camps and others without the freedom to see their families.

How do you manage the painful divisions in your family and our church?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Love never fails

"Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13:13

We hear St Paul telling us that love is the foundation of the Gospel so often that we often fail to pause and reflect upon it. It's no different when we hear friends or family say good morning, or good night. We hear them, but because they say the same thing everyday, we fail to appreciate their greetings. A slow reading of the 13th chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians can be a richly rewarding practice, and it might even help us listen to the gentle greetings of friends more intently.

How important it is to remember that unless we live and act in love, everything that the gospel commands of us is empty. We might be prophets for our own time, but no one will hear us if we don't live in love. All of us have experienced this in our everyday lives. When our tone or attitude is harsh, nothing we say, no matter how important, is heard. Our arrogance gets in the way of God's truth.

A recent column in the NY Times that recounted an appearance by Cardinal Dolan and the comic Stephen Colbert at Fordham University went a step further and insisted that others might experience our love more easily if we use humor to proclaim the Good News. (Dolan and Colbert)  But when Colbert was asked what  to do when Christian leaders speak with hate, especially about homosexuals, the comic was blunt. “If someone spreads hate,” he said, “then they’re not your religious leader.” St. Paul would have answered in the same way.

Today, no matter what you must do, do it with love.

How can we speak the truth with love?

Monday, September 17, 2012

One body, Many parts

Today Franciscans celebrate the Stigmata of St. Francis, a feast that reminds them not to be afraid of the Cross. 

"Now the body is not a single part, but many." 1 Cor 12:14

Just as we are beginning to think the scandalous behavior of the Christian community in Corinth will be its undoing, Paul reminds us that all is not lost. As long the body of Christ works towards unity, and the many parts of the body contribute to the whole, the church can be healthy despite its differences and sinful behavior.

What a rich image this is for the 21st century church in the United States. Though believers on both ends of the Catholic spectrum would want us to believe that there is only one way to be Catholic, Paul's metaphor challenges all univocal interpretations of the Gospel. When each part of the body, no matter how different or odd, contributes to the health of the body, the unity, not the uniformity of the church, is preserved.

Paul's principle is especially obvious in the developing world. When exorbitant wealth makes it impossible for the poor to live with dignity, the church must work for a systemic answer. Wealth in itself is not the issue, the hoarding of resources is. When any member of the society cannot live an integrated human life, the society itself is sick, and the church must speak and act on behalf of the poor because the essential unity and health of the body is threatened.

Today, ask yourself whether your values and lifestyle help others.

When has the church best expressed its unity despite its radical diversity?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Community Divisions


"You meetings are doing more harm than good." 1 Cor 11:17

Often when a liturgical scriptural reading is from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians our spirits drift to the passage we have heard so many times at weddings. Love is patient, kind, does not hold grudges, and we affirm what we hear, but it hardly reflects the the fullness of what Paul wants to say to the Corinthians. 

In fact, Paul castigates the Corinthians for many of the their practices, the worst of which was the failure of the more affluent Corinthians to share their pre Eucharist meal with the poorer members of their community. Paul is scandalized by their behavior and lets them know it.

It can be difficult for adults to hear or accept correction, even when we need it. Americans can be especially resistive to anyone suggesting that their lives are less than exemplary, but all of us need to reflect upon our behavior. At times we can attack the messenger, a reaction that is both a disservice to someone trying to help us, and decidedly unchristian.

Today, ask someone to help you reflect on your unexamined reactions that injure others.

Can you remember a time that a friend challenged you to change and helped you?