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Saturday, November 17, 2012

God's Love is Forever

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

A person's word is important. In the ancient world everything was done in word and ritual, and oral agreements were binding. As we near the end of another liturgical year, the lectionary focuses on passages that help us understand that no matter how short life is, or how poorly we have lived it, if we turn to God in hope and faith, we will be saved. God's word in Jesus is true. God's word, Jesus, is true.

The faithfulness of God underlies our entire faith tradition. Though we are often unfaithful both as individuals and communities of believers, God has promised to accompany us in life, to love us, to guide us and welcome us to a place at the eternal banquet forever.

When Mark tells us in forbidding and threatening terms, "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken," (Mk 13;24) we should not be frightened, but rejoice. The gospel writer only wants to wake us up and remind us that no matter what happens within and around us, God will be faithful.

Today, pray for a peaceful death.

How do you speak with others about death and dying?

Friday, November 16, 2012

St Elizabeth of Hungary

"While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me." Lk 18 4-5

While it is difficult to imagine St. Elizabeth of Hungary, like the demanding widow in Luke's gospel,  threatening to hit someone, it is not hard to see her pushing God on behalf of the poor and the needy. Married at fourteen, she led a simple life and had three children before her husband, Louis, died in battle. Making sure her children were well cared for, she committed herself to a life of total service and fed hundreds of people everyday until her own death at twenty four.

Renowned for her care of the needy, Elizabeth so unnerved her husband's family that they evicted her from the palace, an act that only emboldened her. She joined the secular Franciscan order, lived a prayerful and austere life, and was so popular during her lifetime that she was canonized four years after her death. Like the widow of the gospel Elizabeth's life keeps bothering us as we hear Christ's call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

Today, speak up on behalf of someone in real need.

How do you react to people who agitate for change?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Everyday Faith

"Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." Lk 17:33

Jesus regularly reminds his followers to read the signs of the times. Most of us do this naturally and organically when storms or other dangers threaten us. We check the batteries in flash lights, fill up bottles with drinking water and cover our windows with boards to repel hurricane force winds.

Unfortunately, we seem unable to read or follow danger signs in our spiritual lives. We drift away from the regular practice of our faith. We skip an occasional Sunday mass, and fail to begin a meal with prayer. We forget how rich the scriptures are, and take little time for quiet and reflection, all in name of  caring for our families or, God forbid, working in the church.

Jesus alerts his followers to these simple faults and warns them that the consequences will be great for those who fail to keep themselves centered in God. The language he uses is frightening. "I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left." Only those who are awake enough to God's will for them will be saved. It is not so much that his followers have done anything wrong, but have become lukewarm and dulled by an inattentive life.

Today, pay attention to the simplest of God's signs. Listen, look and respond to God all around you.

How do you avoid missing everyday signs of God's life within and among us?


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Exile

"I am lonely as a pelican in the wilderness, as an owl in the ruins, as a sparrow alone on a rooftop: I do not sleep." Ps 101:6-8

Being in exile is never easy or simple. Ask anyone who has been locked into a lifeless marriage, or has been isolated and made a scapegoat in their own family. The pain of being blamed for matters one did not cause and cannot control can be overwhelming.

The Pslamist offers us difficult but helpful images for "exiles." Pelicans do not belong in the wilderness. They cannot eat properly or live as they should. Neither are sparrows supposed to live alone. They fly in noisy flocks and in the United States we often seem sitting together on trees or under eaves of houses.

In trying to help us understand the awful conditions of exile, the psalmist pushes us to accept our fate and find a way to live faithfully within it. His pleading to God for help is a lesson for all. While none of us likes to be away from "home", sometimes it is necessary to appreciate life as God intends it, and being in exile reminds us that no matter where we find ourselves, God is with us.

Learning to pray in exile is essential for believers. Though we are not asked or commanded to be comfortable in exile, we must maintain our faith and pray from the center of our loneliness. Jesus' passion and death testify to this.

Today, reach our for someone who seems lost.

How do you manage those times when life is upside down and inside out?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"  Lk 17:17

Recent days in the New York City area, following Hurricane Sandy, have caused all of us to think about basic needs and services. Not only have most of us been without electricity for a week or more, thousands of homes have been destroyed and many other homes will not be habitable again for months, if ever. The south shore of Long Island and the New Jersey coast have been so battered and bruised that the people who live there are still in shock.

Unfortunately, for most of us, it takes a storm like this to make us think about what we so often taken for granted. Being without electricity and heat for days, and being unable to find gasoline for our cars makes us realize how dependent we are on the services which most of the time time we can find anywhere, and forces us to pause in gratitude.

Jesus reminds us of this same reality. It was a foreigner, someone without a voice or a home, who returns after being healed to thank him. The clear call of the Gospel is to be thankful each day not only for the simple gifts of food, water and heat, but for life itself.

Today, thank someone who provides you with a basic service.

How do you avoid taking life's necessities for granted?


Monday, November 12, 2012

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

"We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Lk 17:10

Frances Xavier Cabrini's parents read to her about the great missionaries of the 19th century, stirring the young girls imagination and filling her with dreams. Clearly, the influence of parents and grandparents is radically important in the faith formation of children, and although it is clear in the ritual of baptism that parents must be the first and best teachers of their children in the ways of faith too many today leave education, both secular and sacred, to experts, and we are all the less for it..

Hearing the heroic stories of missionaries in her own home caused Frances Xavier to dream about becoming a missionary, and her concerns for Italian immigrants led her to cross the Atlantic ocean dozens of times and establish 67 different schools, orphanages and hospitals. From her youthful dream emerged  a woman and a religious community that was determined to make a difference in the United States and beyond and her life story makes us wonder who will excite the imaginations of  the children of the 21st century?

Today, dream about a world transformed by the gospel?

Who has excited you with a gospel dream?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

St Josaphat

"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Lk 17:2

Sometimes it is an early event in our lives that causes us to pause and wonder about God and where God is taking us. St. Josaphat told a friend that as a boy when he was looking at an icon of the crucified Christ, a ray of light from the icon penetrated his own heart, an event he never forgot and which became the foundation of his spiritual life.

Today, Josaphat is honored not only for his martyrdom but as the patron of reunion between what the Second Vatican Council called our separated brethren and the Roman Catholic church.  The word brethren is worthy of our reflection. When we look at all people as children of God, and as our brothers and sisters, our attitude changes. Though we may differ deeply with some of our brothers and sisters, we never denigrate them as persons. Rather, we hold up what is good and exemplary in their lives.

Most of us learned this lesson from our parents. Never wanting to separate from their children,  parents insist on seeing the good in their children, even when their children separate from them politically and religiously.

That is what Josphat did, especially in his final hours. As a mob threatened his community, he asked: "Why are attacking my servants? Take your anger out on me,"St Josaphat and they did. Beaten, shot and beheaded, he died as any good father would in defense of his faith and his "children."

Today, pray for reunion among Christians.

Have you had an experience of Christ's love that continues to sustain you??