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Saturday, December 1, 2012

The First Sunday of Advent

"Be vigilant at all times." Lk 21:35

The lesson of Advent is simple, direct and uncomplicated. Pay attention to life as it unfolds. If we look at life with eyes of faith, we will discover God everywhere and in every circumstance. For those living in the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey areas, this was especially evident in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Though there was massive destruction, there was also a generous and wondrous response.

Thousands of people in the Tri-state area, deeply moved by the need of their neighbors, collected, food, clothing, batteries, flashlights, pumps, generators and so much more for those whose homes and neighborhoods were flooded and destroyed, and their response continues even today. The people responding to those in desperate need have already begun to celebrate Advent because they paid attention to the signs of the times and acted for the good of others.

Today, listen to creation.

What situations keep you vigilant and responsive?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Staying Awake

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life." Lk 21:34

With Thanksgiving just past, the notion of a drowsy heart is not difficult to comprehend. Late on Thanksgiving afternoon, most of us grow tired from all the feasting and talking. Some even sneak away for a nap. The combination of reconnecting with family and friends, and overeating make us drowsy, even in heart. Jesus warns us about this.

While Thanksgiving is a convenient way to understand Jesus' caution about carousing and drunkenness, it is not the best of examples. Thanksgiving happens once a year, and Jesus is warning us about an insidious attitude of entitlement. When we are full of food, ourselves, comfortableness, even family, we can take our blessings for granted, and forget our dependence on God for life itself and all its gifts.

As another liturgical year ends, the church asks us to recommit ourselves to a life of faith and service, thereby demonstrating to the world that God is still alive within and among us.

Today, breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of life.

What circumstances cause you to have a drowsy heart?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St Andrew, Apostle

"For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." Rom 10:9

Salvation, Paul reminds us, is more than simple belief in God. We must tell others about God's goodness to all of human kind. We must announce the graciousness of God with power and conviction. St Andrew did this so intently that he was martyred for his faith.


Peter's brother, Andrew hears the invitation of Jesus to follow him and does not hesitate. He leaves everything to be a disciple of the Lord. Even when he was being martyred he asked to be crucified on an X shaped cross because he did not think he was worthy of being crucified in the same way Jesus was.

When we learn to speak honestly, courageously and naturally about the great gift of our faith, our discipleship is deepened and our witness becomes more powerful.

Today, Confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What are your biggest hurdles on the road to salvation?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

God's Invitation

"Blessed are they who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb." Rev. 19:9

The poor in almost every time and culture are rarely invited to important weddings. Unable to afford a gift, or even dress properly, they are not only ignored,  they are not even seen or considered. That is why the gospel is so unnerving and empowering.

All are called to the wedding feast of God with humankind. No one is excluded because of race, culture, ethnicity, or poverty. God desires all of us to come closer in order to know and experience the depth of God's love. Nothing says this more dramatically than being invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Almost everyone has been startled and delighted by an unexpected invitation to a wedding or a party. It thrills us to realize that others see us as worthy guests, not simply because of what we can bring, but because of who we are. When people honor us by wanting us to know and enjoy their closest friends we see ourselves very differently. Knowing that God finds us desireable and important changes everything.

Today, celebrate God's invitation to the wedding of the Lamb.

What invitations have you received to know and celebrate God more deeply?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

God's Glory

"Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!" Rev 15:3

What are the great and wonderful works of God that move you most forcefully to contemplation and transformation?

For some creation itself fills us with wonder and awe. St. Francis of Assisi might be the patron saint of these believers. Francis not only praises sun, moon, fire and water, he calls them his sisters and brothers. Gratitude for creation is the ground of Francis' unique spiritual path while disregard of God's creation is the root of sin.

Others focus their awe on the human person. Both the complexity and simplicity of people stretch us to wonder. We can think, feel, respond to others, love and laugh, and the ease with which we do all these complex actions is amazing. St Irenaeus says it this way, "The human person fully alive is the glory of God."(Irenaeus)

Taking time each day to thank God for all God has done and does can help us grow in the spiritual life. Grateful people exude a joy that both lifts others' spirits and gently challenges them to conversion.

Today, praise God for God's wonderful works.

What most moves you to wonder and awe?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The End

"Do not follow them." Lk 21:8

When we are desperate, we are tempted to follow anyone or anything. A serious illness, a child's disappearance into addiction, or the promise of wealth when we are struggling financially, can cause us to make very bad decisions. So anxious are we for relief, we listen to voices within and without that help us escape but not endure our trials through faith and authentic hope.

Jesus is clear. There will be people from every corner of our lives assuring us that they have the "answer" to our problems or concerns. When we listen and uncritically accept their directives or advice, we are almost certain to follow a path to nowhere. We might be more settled financially or find some temporary relief from our heavy hearts, but unless we learn to enter the darkness with trust in God, we will take the easiest path over and over without peace.

As Jesus prepares his disciples for life without him, he advice is caring and kind but uncomfortable. Don't run away. Don't expect to live without suffering or confusion, but be assured that I will be with you even to the end of time.  (Mt 28:20)

Today, sit still wherever you are and accept the discomfort of life as it is.

What voices do you listen to in crisis?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Expectations

"This poor widow put in more than all the rest." Lk 21:3

In our recent presidential election campaign, Mitt Romney angered and upset many people when a video of a meeting with wealthy donors emerged in which Governor Romney suggested that though 47% of Americans pay no federal income tax, they feel entitled to government help and support.

Entitlement is a dirty word in our culture these days, and for good reason. If people believe they need do nothing to receive help, it undermines the infrastructure of our country which depends on everyone doing his or her part to create a system that treats all people fairly. No matter what you think of Governor Romney or President Obama, when it became apparent that many of the 47% to whom Governor Romney referred were unemployed veterans, seniors and the working poor, his advisors quickly tried to explain his comments in a more favorable light.

One wonders, reading today's gospel, whether the rich to whom Jesus refers in today's gospel as not giving as much as the poor widow to support the temple, would want to explain their actions as well, but Jesus is not looking for an explanation. Rather, he is reminding those who manage the temple finances that the widow had a legitimate expectation of help since the Talmud directed observant Jews to care for widows and orphans.  That the rich ignored or dismissed the widow's gesture and goodness becomes a powerful lesson for the "wealthy" of every age.

Today, give from your substance.

Who has helped you when you were poor in Spirit?