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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Listening with the Heart

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep.” Neh 8:9

When the Israelits are willing to listen to the Torah being read aloud, God is moved to forgive them, and Nehemiah encourages them not to be sad but to rejoice. God is easily satisfied. As long as we stay still and listen, God rejoices and wants us to celebrate as well. No doubt it is the same for us.

When people stop and give us their full attention it softens us and opens us to a careful and caring response. Listening openly and without formulating questions disarms whoever is speaking and encourages them to listen in response.

Imagine what it was like for the poor when listening to Jesus, especially as they heard him announce that it was his task to bring them "glad tidings", and liberty to captives. How hopeful they must have been that their lot would change and their families would be blessed with new possibilities.  When we acknowledge our own poverty of spirit, the Lord draws close to us as well.

Today, listen to all of creation. Don't interpret what you hear. Just listen.

Are you aware that God is listening to your concerns and needs?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sts Timothy and Titus

"I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy." 2 Tim 1:4

St Paul's affection and love for Timothy is one of the few instances in the New Testament that allow us to experience the passion present in the first disciples. Paul reminds Timothy of    his roots. Timothy's mother and grandmother were filled with faith and Paul cites their commitment in urging Timothy to live the spirit of the Gospel in a similar way.

Seeing old friends, especially those who strive to live an integrated faith, is always a joy. While many have abandoned the practice of the faith, many more have deepened their commitment by daily prayer, reading and reflection. Some have joined religious book groups; others have entered renewal programs and scripture courses. Some have even become spiritual directors for others.

Joy is an important virtue. Nothing is more able to reflect the delight and gratitude that comes to us in faith. When people encounter believers whose joy is transparent and authentic, they cannot not be impressed and attracted to the One who gives us joy and proclaims through us the  freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Today, seek out an old friend and share your faith and joy.

Who or what brings you joy and hope?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Conversion of St. Paul

"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Acts 22:7

The drama of St Paul's conversion is compelling. Travelling to Damascus, determined to capture and persecute more followers of the "way", the gospel of Jesus, Paul is startled by a great light and, unsure of what is happening, falls to the ground. His companions see the light but don't hear the voice of Jesus. Only Paul hears the Lord's question, and frightened, asks what he should do. Jesus' response is cryptic but clear. Paul is to go to Damascus but his mission has been changed. No longer will he persecute Christians, he will join them.

If only faith was this clear for us. Our conversion, which is ongoing but often happens in hidden ways, is essential to our Christian life, but most of us have to read the signs of  times in the light of the Gospel to know the path we should take. While this might sound difficult, and is surely not as dramatic as Paul's conversion, it is easier if we have a spiritual companion and pray regularly. The freedom to speak with another about our own inner journey and our place in the world guides us, through prayer, to make good, thought through and felt through decisions that foster our ongoing conversion.

Today, speak with a soul friend and pray quietly for ten minutes.

What do you need to do to be open to God's ongoing call?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

St Francis de Sales

"He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd." Mk 3:9

Being ready for whatever comes each day is everyone's goal, but often difficult to do. When we are busy with a matter that demands our full attention, it can be irritating to be interrupted, especially when we determine that our time is precious.  This is not the way of Jesus!

Today's scripture suggests that the apostles and disciples should expect to be interrupted. More, they should be ready to respond. The posture of servant demands that Jesus' followers think more about the poor and lowly who are looking to Jesus for nourishment than their own needs or plans.

A stance so simple should not be confusing or awkward for the disciples, but it is. Too often the disciples forget who they are and why Jesus came. Sound familiar? The lesson today is straightforward. Get ready to welcome anyone who comes seeking faith. Nothing is more important than the discipleship to which we have been called. Stay alert to the seekers all around you. They need the fullness of the Gospel.

Today, make the way of the Lord less cluttered for others.

Who helped you when you were lost and in need?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrating Sabbath

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Mk 3:4

The answer to Jesus' question is clear and uncomplicated. Of course it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. In fact, it is mandatory. Every observant Jew knew this, and the poor especially were no doubt lifted up by Jesus' simple but challenging question to the Jewish leaders.

Often trapped by the parsing of the Torah about Sabbath, the poor needed an Advocate. Without Jesus they had no defense against the Sadducees who were forever talking and writing about ways to break the Sabbath. Jesus is interested in living the Sabbath with joy, not failing to observe every nuance.

Most of the Gospel is simple, and although we know this, too often we leave the interpretation of the Scriptures to experts, and although the work of scholars can be helpful, it should not get in the way of everyday people reading the text regularly and letting it speak to them on its own. Otherwise, we lose the freshness of the text and its ability to live and inspire in every culture.

Today, rest on the Sabbath and worry about nothing else.

What are your best Sunday memories?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Protecting Children

"Do not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises." Heb 6:12

Everyone agrees that we have to protect children. The sexual abuse crisis in our country and church made that very clear, and this is where we ought to begin any conversation about abortion.

When we are able to begin a conversation with a common goal, we almost always make progress. The problem of when life begins, to which everything gets reduced, should not be our starting point in any discussion about abortion.

It is clear that the Catholic church believes unequivocally that human life begins at conception, but this conviction should not stop us from finding common ground with our neighbors about the protection of children. When we are able to build relationships with those with whom we disagree, our conversations are always more straightforward and honest. More important, the likelihood that we actually listen to the position of others and they ours increases exponentially. When we listen, common solutions emerge much more organically.

Hebrews reminds us not to become sluggish in proclaiming our faith, and when we announce good news with power, passion and joy it is easier for others to hear us and even consider our ethical positions. Rather than enter a shouting match with those with whom we disagree, let our joy be the foundation of every interchange, no matter how difficult.

Today, pray for unborn children.

How do you avoid a sluggish faith?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

St Agnes

“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?" Mk 2:1

There are some, citing church teaching that the Bridegroom is always with us, who suggest we should never fast, but they miss the point of this text. Jesus wants his disciples to celebrate life and uses the example of  everyone eating and drinking at a Jewish wedding feast to help his adversaries understand his joyful spirit.

At the same time, Jesus reminds his followers that when they fast they should not do it in a hypocritical way so others are impressed with their devotion to the Torah. Rather, he wants them to fast as a way both to thank God for the food they have and to do penance for those times when they failed to be grateful.

Fasting can be a wonderful practice, especially when we forget to be grateful for all that God is and does for us. We breathe, we walk, we can hear and see, we laugh and we cry. How wonderful human life is. Only when we forget to thank God for all these simple gifts should be consider fasting since we have failed to remember that the Bridegroom is always with us.

Today, eat something slowly and with delight. Savor it.

What practices do you have that remind you of the bridegroom's presence?