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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Come Follow Me

"Go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Mk 10:21

Readers naturally wonder about Jesus' tone when responding to the rich young man. Was he hard edged, knowing how difficult his challenge was? Was he gentle and inviting, hoping the young man would not be intimidated or afraid. Although Jesus was inviting him to wonder and awe, few of us would realize this on first reading this Marcan text.

Getting rid of what we have can be powerfully freeing, if only we listen deeply and realize what a marvelous invitation Jesus is offering us. Not really concerned with what we have but how attached we are to it, Jesus knows that following him as a pilgrim demands that nothing get in the way of our speaking and living the good news. If people see us as wealthy and deeply secure in the world, they might follow us for a while, but as soon as the demands of the gospel become apparent they will fall away. Jesus is asking the rich young not to let this happen to him, and his warning to us is no different. Unless we depend on the Lord for life and security, the gospel will not be heard.

Today, think not about what you have, but what you can become if you stop clinging to things.

How do you feel about "selling" everything to follow Christ


Friday, October 12, 2012

Unity in Christ

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28

What promotes the kind of unity that Paul trumpets in his letter to the Galatians? The answer is simple and direct. We must let go of our prejudices and narrow thinking, and become totally vulnerable to one another. When this happens, each of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, looks not to differences between and among us, but what similarities bind us as believers.

Of course, letting go of narrow thinking is never easy, especially when we are not even conscious of it. Most of us are guilty of this from time to time, especially culturally.

Many years ago I was at a conference in Italy when a friar offered what I thought was a wonderful invitation to our brothers in the developing world to work together for justice. Inadvertently, his speech was interpreted by many as patronizing, as wanting to create something for those living in the developing world without first asking their input. Initially I was defensive, but after reflection I realized that I would not want anyone making suggestions for our country without an in depth conversation with those of us who live here.

Unity is hard work, but in faith, Paul insists, when we see ourselves in Christ, we will surely move towards living the prayer of Jesus that all become one.

Today, listen without having to respond to someone who thinks differently than you.

How do you envision overcoming the artificial divisions within our faith community?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Divisions in our Lives

"Every Kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste." Lk 11:17

Divisions within ourselves, our families and our faith communities, while natural and in some ways necessary, are painful and confusing. Too often in contemporary society we feel divided within ourselves. We have obligations to our families, our churches, our employers, our parents and so much more. When we fail to attend to any or all of these, we become harried and guilty. Unable to pay attention to everyone and everything at once, we excuse ourselves but don't change our lifestyles.

The same reality holds true in our relationships with our families and faith communities. Not infrequently, concerned that people could not possibly do one more thing, I would worry about parishioners who gave what seemed like too much time and effort to the church. Hesitant to suggest they let someone else assume a leadership role for fear they would walk away in anger or hurt, I would watch as these friends of God exhausted themselves in the service of others to the detriment of their personal or family health.

Jesus warns his adversaries about this. Divided among themselves concerning how best to live the Law, they accuse Jesus of all manner of faults but the Lord sees through them. Unable to heal one another or find common ground, they shift their focus to a "scapegoat" who, for a few minutes or days, will free them from self reflection and arrogance. Unless we find ways to reflect upon and change our obsessive patterns, everyone will be unhappy.

Today, take 10 minutes to sit, breathe and reflect.

How do you adjust to an impossible daily schedule?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Asking God for Help

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Jesus is clear with his disciples. Do not be afraid of God. Don't think you can bother God, or pester him. God is waiting for us to draw close and to seek from him everything we need. While it is important to speak with God as a trusted friend, we must also realize that even our closest friends sometimes hesitate to help us, unsure of whether their response is really in our self interest.

In recent years, spiritual writers have tweaked our understanding of intercessory or petitionary prayer, urging us not simply to ask God for what we need or to help others, but to ask God to make us available to God for God's will for ourselves or others. This minor shift in how we pray can be very helpful in teaching us how to be for God and God's desire in all things.

We do this well in other areas of our lives. Think for instance of those times you asked a spouse or friend how you might help them in the kitchen or in preparing for a gathering. Anxious to do only that which will really help, we avoid imposing our suggestions upon others. Rather, we offer them our time and talent in a way they can use.

Today, ask God to make you available to God for God's work in the world.

What is it like for you when a friend offers to do anything you want?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

"We were to be mindful of the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do." Gal 2:10

The early church struggled mightily with its relationship to the Gentiles. Not sure whether Jesus wanted them to impose the entire Torah on newly converted Gentiles, the apostles and disciples were deeply divided. After 14 years of insisting that there was no need for Gentiles to observe the entire Torah, Paul was anxious to settle the matter. His letter to the Gentles is one of his many responses. Reminding his readers that there was a matter more fundamental than circumcision or dietary laws, Paul highlights the concern every Christian should have.

Unless the first Christians attended to the needs of the poor, the message of Jesus would fall on deaf ears. With the contemporary church struggling with diminishing attendance, and the continued fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, Catholics need to remember, no matter what divides them, if they remain attentive to and responsive to the poor, the Gospel will continue to be preached and God's reign built. Nothing is more important.

Today, let go of arguments. Care for the poor.

How do you settle disagreements in your family?

Monday, October 8, 2012

You Knit Me Together

"O LORD, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar...Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works." Ps 139

Psalm 139 is so evocative and positive that it can sustain us especially during periods of personal spiritual darkness. Affirming in a way that startles us, the psalmist reminds us that God is always seeking us, like an ardent lover who cannot and will not take "no" for an answer. As God pursues us, even if we try to run away, there is no place to escape God's ardent yearning. In all of this, God is portrayed as someone who not only made us wonderful, but who also wants us to live in wonder and awe at the beauty of being alive and in God.

Because so many people are busy about weighty matters, it is easy to lose focus. The demands of job, family, and fraternal life can suck the life out of a day leaving us tired and disoriented. When this happens, we need to return to Psalm 139 and read it slowly. No matter how fast we go or how we try to avoid God's loving gaze, we cannot escape his love or care. As the psalmist reminds us: "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." (139:8) Disciplining ourselves to take a few minutes each day to remember this and be grateful can make all the difference.

Today, remember that God is nearer to us than we re to ourselves.

How have you experienced God pursuing you?


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Good Samaritan

"But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight." Lk 10:33

The story of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known and powerful stories in the Gospels, and for good reason. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Accused of being syncretists, people who mixed religious traditions for their own self centered purposes, Samaritans also built their own temple to which non observant Jews were welcomed in contradiction to Jewish law.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. Too many people label others in ways that not only challenge their belief systems, but denigrate their persons, and Jesus will have none of it. When a Samaritan woman challenged Jesus about Jewish insistence that all had to worship in Jerusalem, he chides her: "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." Reminding the Samaritan woman that God "looks at the heart," (1 Sam 16:7) Jesus holds up the compassionate Samaritan for our admiration.

The Samaritan not only risks his own life by responding to the fellow who has been robbed, he brings him to an inn so that he can rest and recover from the attack. We know nothing else about this particular Samaritan. Whether he worshiped in the  "false" temple on Mt Gerazim in Samaria and therefore was judged unclean by the Jews was irrelevant. That he stopped and aided someone in need is Jesus' only concern.

Today, help someone in need.

What aspect of the story of the Good Samaritan most moves you?