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Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Wonder of Marriage

"What God has joined together, no human being must separate." Mk 10:9

Marriage is a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church, and like all sacraments, an enduring sign of God's love for us. The love of wife and husband for one another in faith is a witness to God's unquenchable and total love for us, and the fundamental reason for the church's prohibition against divorce. Since Christ cannot stop loving us, married couples are challenged to love one another through every trial. St. Paul says it most simply.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church... husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. :..."For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church."
The challenge of Paul's sentiments can seem overwhelming to married couples, especially when they are struggling with their commitment to one another. Nevertheless, the vision and hope of Paul remain. There is no clearer sign of Christ's love for the church than a married couple trying to heal one another, push past infidelities great and small, and build their relationship into a transparent witness to Christ's love for the church.

Today, pray for those struggling in marriage.

How important do you think marriage is in and for the church?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seeing and Hearing God in the World

"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." Lk 10:24

All of us have seen marvelous things. We have watched children turn into responsible adults, and enjoyed seeing young people enter society with a thirst and a willingness to work for justice. We have seen bald eagles and marvelously powerful waterfalls, and more important than anything else from a faith perspective, we have seen God's face and love in all creation, in the sacraments and the committed service of people all over the world.

Jesus' warning is clear. He tells the disciples not to take for granted what they are seeing and experiencing in him. Not only does he feed 5000 people with a few loaves of bread, and heal a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, he embraces the poor and a lifestyle that challenges everyone to live more simply and to depend completely on his Father.

The problem for most of us is that we get easily distracted from what really matters. Caught up in a world that demands multitasking, we are often too tired to pay attention to the people God gives us as companions in faith, and ignore the suffering all around us because we are too busy to care deeply. Listening to Jesus in this gospel means slowing down so that our eyes and ears can see and hear the glory of God all around us.

Today, stop for five minutes and look around.

What makes it most difficult for you to do the things you know you are called to do?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Job's Apology

"Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more." Job 40:5

The story of Job is powerful, unnerving and compelling, but it is also very difficult to read. God allows Satan to tempt Job, and the righteous man is struck down. Everyone around Job dies and he loses all his many possessions, but does not curse God. 

Finally, however, after enduring more than seems reasonable even for the best of people, Job has had enough, curses the day he was born, and asks God to help him understand why he has to bear these terrible burdens. God reminds Job both that he has a purpose beyond what one can easily see or understand, and is stronger than Satan. 

Only then does Job accept that God has not abandoned him and promises God that he will never question him again. With that God gives Job more than he had before his suffering and allows him to remarry, raise a large family and live 144 years. 

How often we speak when we are in pain and confusion without considering the consequences. How often, too, we wish we could take back our harsh judgments and self protective pronouncements. Job's story promises us that we can begin again. We have only to listen to God and accept forgiveness.

Today, don't say something on the tip of your lips.

How do you explain the trials all people endure? Why do bad things happen to good people?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Holy Father, Saint Francis

Devotion to and love for St Francis of Assisi has endured for more than 800 years, and for good reason. Not only did Francis turn the 13 century upside down by kissing lepers and forcing his contemporaries to treat the chronically ill as people worthy of dignity, his life and lifestyle continue to inspire contemporary Christians to live simply, respect all creation and identify with the poor and sinners.

In a letter to a Minister Provincial that is typical of his passion and indicative of why so many love him, Francis writes: 
If you love the Lord and myself, His servant and yours, ...there (should) be no friar in the world, who  has sinned, as much as one could sin, that, after he has seen your eyes, never leaves without your mercy, if he seeks mercy. And if he would not seek mercy, you are to ask him, if he wants mercy. And if afterwards he would have sinned a thousand times before your eyes, love him more than me.
What a lesson for us living in a violent and wildly competitive world. Forgiveness is essential to any authentic reconciliation, and if we can believe the gospel, we must offer it to others not seven times but seventy seven time.(Mt 18:22) Only when we work in faith beyond what seems reasonable can we hope to bring peace to the world.

Today, forgive anyone who has hurt you.

What most impresses you about St Francis and Franciscans?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Blessing of Emptiness

"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." 

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? What a challenge?

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we have to trust. The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Guardian Angels

"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." Mt 18:5

Every child needs and deserves protection, someone or even an entire community who want to guard and defend them and help them enter adulthood as responsible and committed people. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and children everywhere are made to work and even fight wars at a very young age. What must this do to a child's psyche and soul?

The feast of the Guardian angels reminds us of how fragile we all are, but especially children. Angels, as sign of God's protective love, help us remember our obligation to one another. We are to protect one another's reputations, privacy, and integrity, but especially we are to let children be children. The horror of the sex abuse of children and the proliferation of child pornography alert us to how needy we are for sanity, healing and a healthy society.

Today, be a guardian angel to someone in need.

Who has been a guardian angel to you?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Therese of Lisieux, Doctor

"Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Lk 9:47 

St Therese was a girl of fifteen when she entered the Carmel of Lisieux, a choice that led to many struggles her entire religious life. Living with older women who often criticized her for petty faults, she determined to perform simple acts of charity for all her sisters without notice, and these gentle acts of  love became the foundation of what she called the little way.

Therese also struggled in a culture and with a spirituality that emphasized the fires of hell and eternal damnation, but did not give in. Her blood sisters, who recorded her words and insights as she neared death, tell us she offered her last communion for Fr Hyacinthe Loyson who others called a renegade for leaving his religious community, marrying and fathering a child. Therese saw only a man in need of prayer and hope.

Therese's little way remains an attractive path for many in the twenty first century who feel overwhelmed by information overload and the demands of overly busy lives. The little way is clear, accessible and direct. While some might argue that the path of Therese does not address the structural injustices that divide our world so deeply, others would insist that each of us can help one another one kind act at a time.

Today do something simple for someone without them noticing it.

What do you think of Therese's little way?