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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Freedom from Exile

"I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers." Is 43:19

What is the newness about which Isaiah speaks? More important, is ts an ongoing event that we can experience in our day?

Most of us love new things. A new home, a new car, a new cell phone, all offer us a moment of three of delight, and although these pleasures are like the tide that quickly receedes, we often seek them out in the hope that their joy might be lasting.

Isaiah is speaking about something much more profound, much more complete than an new gift or purchase we make. The prophet is assuring the Israelites, while still in exile, that God has not abandoned them, no matter how they feel. Reminding his readers of the love of God so present in their escape from Egypt and their consolations in the desert, Isaiah insists that what seems empty and barren now will soon be made new.

Jesus promises even more. Not only will we be freed from the exiles we experience in this life, we will will join Jesus at the eternal banquet. Indeed, this is something new!

Today, imagine a world and church healed by the saving grace of God.

How have you experienced God's saving love?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Our Refuge

"O, Lord, my God, in you I take my refuge." Ps 7

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us found protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God.

Listening to Pope Francis' first homily, I was struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Furthermore, if our refuge is the Christ, the one sent by God to fulfill the Covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, then we must spend time with Christ is prayer, study, celebration and service of those most in need. Otherwise, we build on sand!

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A shameful Death

"With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Wis 2:19

The testing of our spirits is always a struggle. We see, or prefer to see ourselves, in a certain light, but not until our self image is tested do we know whether the self we want to be and have others know is authentic. All sorts of questions emerge about our spirituality when we lose our temper, speak poorly about others, or hold a grudge. At the same time, it is not healthy to reduce ourselves or anyone else to their faults.

The book of Wisdom alerts us to the fact that all of us will be tested, but especially the Christ, and it is Jesus who gives us an example of authenticity under the most threatening of circumstances. Ironically, it is Jesus obedience and submission to God's will that most convinces us of his claims to divinity. While others might be able to accept their own death as an ordinary dimension of life, Jesus embraces death for us so that he might demonstrate God's unconditional love for us and free us for a life with him at the eternal banquet.

Of course, none of us seeks suffering and diminishment, but few us escape the daily tests to our spiritual values. Fears, anxieties, darkness come to everyone who lives even a few years. How we respond to these trials will be the ultimate mark of our commitment to the Gospel.

Today, die to one memory that traps you in self pity.

Which areas of your life are most "testing" for you?




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mothers

"Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." Is 49:15

The importance of a loving mother in the life of a child can hardly be overemphasized. Mothers are routinely asked to find time, day and night, to listen to, console, and advise their children on matters as simple as a haircut and as complex as the choice of a life partner. More important, they have the   burden of creating a safe space, emotionally and spiritually, for their entire family.


No doubt it is because so many mother's astound us by their heroic virtue that we hold them up as icons of hope and imitation. Perhaps you read last year of a young mother, Stephanie Decker, who shielded her children from the ravages of a tornado only to lose both her legs. Unable not to help her children when they were in great danger, she was willing to risk anything to help them.


When Isaiah assures us that God's love for us is even fuller than a mother's love for her children, he opens an image of God that is both powerful and challenging. If we are made in God's image than we must be capable, like Stephanie Decker, of loving others as God loves us. More, we must put aside anything that gets in the path of living the Gospel fully, not for our own salvation, but to announce Good News.

Today, let go of your own safety to help others.

What story comes to mind when you think of God never forgetting us?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Willfulness

"I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me." Jn 5:30

Very little in life is more difficult than letting go of our own will. Even, and perhaps especially, when we are struggling with how best to go forward as a disciple of Jesus, we cling to our own opinions and desires, and often fail to ask for help. Our consolation: Jesus struggled, too.

One of the most poignant verses in the gospel of Luke has Jesus practically begging God, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." (Lk 22:42) Clearly, the specter of submitting himself to the horror of a painful death so threatens Jesus that he asks his Father for mercy.

We should never be too proud to ask for help to find our spiritual path. St. Paul uses the powerful and evocative image of body (1Cor 12) to remind us that eyes can see but can't walk and feet can walk but not see. Only when the parts of our body work together for the good of all can we be called the body of Christ. And even more compellingly, Paul says, "If one part(of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Today, ask for the strength to whatever God asks.

What issues most challenge your need for control?




Monday, March 11, 2013

Flowing Waters

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jn 5:7

Flowing waters evoke growth, life and hope in and around us. They remind us that God wants to feed us, desires that we live along the fresh waters of a river so that we can benefit from the fruit and vegetables that will flourish there. Flowing waters also remind us of baptism and God's desire to cleanse us for service to others.

The difficulty faced by the fellow who has been ill for 38 years is clear. His disability doesn't allow him to enter the flowing waters, and he has no one to help him.  That he would still desire to know the cleansing and healing waters after suffering for 38 years is remarkable in itself, and Jesus, the one who will be known as flowing waters, rewards his patience and dream by telling him to take up his mat and walk.

Healed, the newly cleansed fellow faces his greatest challenge. Will he realize that his healing is a call to serve others, especially those who have been suffering for a long time? Unless he does, his new life will fail to bear the fruit promised by God to those living near flowing waters. The lesson should not be lost on us.

Today, be grateful for the cleansing waters of Baptism.

What kind of service has most enriched your life?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Long life in God

"No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying; No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime." Is 65:20

Isaiah's promise that God wants us to live a long life of peace, especially when we read and reflect upon it during Lent, is designed to assure us that no matter what difficulties we might be experiencing individually or as a church, God is and will be faithful. God has a plan full of promise, beauty and joy, a desire for all to know the fullness of life forever.

At the same time, it can be difficult to wait upon God. We want what we want when we want it, and when we become too anxious, we fail to be discerning and patient. Clarity can and will come to us if only we quiet ourselves, listen carefully to the scriptures, read the signs of the times, and allow God to work through us.

These days as we await the election of a new Pope, many are anxious and agitated. Some are hoping for change. Others want a return to a more narrow interpretation of our Catholic faith. This kind of anxiety can get in the way of our daily life and our ability to live the Gospel simply. No matter who is elected as Pope, or what path takes to help us live the Gospel more deeply, the promise of Isaiah should sustain us. God wants us to live forever in peace and hope, and the election of Pope can never change that.

Today, rest in God's promise of life forever.

What practices most help you live a peaceful life of quiet discernment?