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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King

"My Kingdom does not belong to this world."

When Jesus is asked whether he is the King of the Jews, he responds clearly and unequivocally that his Kingdom is not of this world, thereby rejecting a title that does a disservice to his Father and our faith. That the church celebrates Christ the King is simply a path to help believers and unbelievers understand that Jesus' role is not fundamentally political or hierarchical. Rather, calling Christ a King reminds everyone that the powerful in this world do not have ultimate authority over humankind. Only God does.

As we end another liturgical year, we pause to remember this foundational truth. God is at the center of all that is. We emerge from God's loving heart and return to God as shepherd, bread of life, flowing waters of salvation and King. We belong to God in all ways and for all time. God, like a father, watches over us, challenges us and unconditionally loves us despite our stumbles and sins. We have only to turn to God again at the end of a year to know that God is waiting, watching and anxious for our lives to be centered in love for God and all God's creation. In this way, Christ is our King.

Today, pause in gratitude for all that Christ does in us and through us.

Which title of Christ most draws you into the absolute mystery of God's love?

Friday, November 23, 2012

St Andrew Dung-Lac and his Martyr Companions

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock." Ps 144

Viet Nam has often been a difficult country and culture for Catholics, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries. Between 1820 and 1900 more than 100,000 Catholics were martyred for their faith, and the persecution continued in the 20th century when Catholics living in the northern part of Viet Nam had to abandon family and possessions and flee to the south in order to escape oppression or imprisonment.

Although we know very little about St Andrew, there are multiple testimonies about Catholics of his generation who were forced to renounce their faith and step on crucifixes to demonstrate their total lack of respect for the sacrifice of Jesus.  In the end, Andrew was beheaded for the crime of being a parish priest.

Reading about the Vietnamese martyrs reminds us of other people who have been persecuted, not because of some heinous crime, but for being who they are. Jews, especially in the Holocaust, blacks in the United States, homosexuals everywhere, and women whose voice is ignored or discarded simply because they are women.

Today, pray for anyone persecuted for their faith or identity.

How would you respond to religious persecution?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hope

"All the people were hanging on his words." Lk 19:48

When we are in dark or difficult circumstances, we often look for almost anything or anyone to distract us. We watch too much television or waste time on the computer, hoping for some respite from the ache we feel inside. All of this is natural and understandable, but spiritually unhealthy.

The people portrayed as following Jesus in the gospels might also be falling into this trap. The text tells us they "hung" on this words, but does not tell us why they paid so much attention to the Lord. Surely, not all of them were seeking to enter the mystery of God's love more deeply, nor were they so impressed with his power and insight that they would follow him anywhere. Like people everywhere who have lost their jobs or cannot make sense our of their family's life, they look to Jesus for an escape.

Authentic hope is not rooted in the avoidance of the feelings that can torment us when we are in crisis, but in the letting go of our struggles so that we can know the Lord more deeply and trust in his wisdom more completely. God has promised to be with us in the dark as well as the light, and it is our response to Gods' commitment that can make all the difference.

Today, enter a dark corner of your life and look for God.

What do you do when your life is falling apart?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

"May God grant you joy of heart, and may peace abide among you." Sir 50:23

Like most national holidays, Thanksgiving is a two edged sword. For those recently divorced or separated, going home for a Thanksgiving meal and celebration can be painful. Thanksgiving is a family day, but for those whose families have collapsed there is embarrassment, even shame. On the other hand, for those newly married or who have become new parents, Thanksgiving is a joy, a day to bask in the delight and pride of being family.

How families welcome and celebrate all their members is the measure of their faith and fidelity at Thanksgiving and throughout the year. God reminds us to welcome all to the table of plenty, (Ps 23:5) and Jesus challenges us to to go the highways and byways (Lk 14:23) to seek out the lost and forgotten. Finding ways both to acknowledge the loss and celebrate the joys of family members enriches everyone and assures family and friends that no matter how our life unfolds, our family, like God, will never abandon us.

Today, love someone unconditionally.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving with someone in mourning?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Presentation of Mary

"To everyone who has, more will be given." Lk 19:26

The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is much more central to the spirituality of the Eastern church than the West. Considered one of the East's twelve most important celebrations, Mary's presentation in the temple is found in the non canonical infancy narrative of James. Given to God at three, Mary would remain in the temple readying herself for the time when she would become the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Discerning and defining Mary's role in the history of salvation has always been important to Christians. Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and Mother of the church are all titles of Mary that evoke hope in people's hearts, but it is Mary's Presentation that reminds us of God's cares for us even before we imagine it.  While most of us come to God when we are ready, God seeks us out long before we are aware of his love.

Today pray for someone not expecting it.

What is your favorite title or feast for Mary

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zaccheus

"Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."

Why should Zaccheus come down quickly to join Jesus? Were others vying for the Lord's attention? Were Jesus' disciples urging him to meet with new followers in order to further instruct and form them? Whatever the reason, Zaccheus listens and responds to the Lord and becomes a model for us. 

Often enough we are not exactly sure what we are do to help build God's reign, but others times we know exactly what it is the Lord is saying and we resist. Like those invited to a wedding feast, we think of or make up excuses for not living the Gospel. We don't like how God seems to be acting in our life. We wonder if we are making everything up about life in the Spirit, or we fight God's call because it demands that we let go unconditionally, and we are the kind of persons who want clear explanations before we act.

The Lord call us and wants to stay in our house today. What is so difficult about this? Perhaps because we have other things planned or wanted some time alone, we resist, forgetting that God is never a bother if only we let God be God and live in God's presence with peace. The things we have planned can be moved to another time. The few moments of quiet will keep. God wants to eat with us. We need to learn to drop everything and respond.

Today, ask not what you are supposed to do today, but what God wants you to do.

What are your biggest resistances to God??

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Power of Sight

"Lord, please let me see." Lk 18:41

Sometimes the gospel stories seem stark, and lack detail. This makes sense of course when one remembers that only a few people in Jesus' time were literate, and the intention of the gospels was not to write a biography of Jesus but to announce him as Messiah, son of God and savior of the world. Details were not important in a written form. The story teller could elaborate and fill the text with passion and power. for those who could not read

But the Gospels are not always stark. When the blind man today says "please," we stumble upon an important detail and a telling moment. Not only is the request polite, it pleads with Jesus to look upon a man who is an outcast from his own family and community. Condemned to a life of begging and isolation, the blind man, like Moses, (Ex 33) begs Jesus for help, and becomes an example for all.

Jesus often reminds us that because we have eyes does not mean that we really see. Only those who see with the heart will experience the fullness of the revelation. The blind man, even before he is healed, sees and knows the Lord as Messiah and so approaches him politely, but with hope and confidence. The Messiah's task is to open the eyes of all to the wonders of God's enduring care and love for the world, and because the blind man remembers this, he is healed.

Our task is the same. If we want to see, we must first acknowledge God as creator and redeemer. Only then will we know the Messiah in our hearts.

Today, open your eyes again to the wonder of the created world.

When are you most blind?