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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter

"Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?" 1 Cor 5: 6b

Easter is such a big and glorious feast that it can be difficult to get our minds and spirits around it, but St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians helps. When Paul reminds us that a "little dough" can leaven the entire loaf, he helps us break Easter into bite size pieces of bread that we can appreciate and enjoy a little at a time.

Easter is first of all about God's fidelity to his people. Fidelity is the most basic of virtues in all our lives. Only when someone has been devastatingly unfaithful to us or God do we realize how destructive relationships can be and some people, unfortunately, have been hurt so badly in  painful and abusive marriages, they choose never to trust others again.

When we read and reflect upon the history of our salvation, we realize that God never abandons his people, never seems to hold a grudge. Though the patriarchs, kings and prophets of Israel regularly fail to live the Torah with integrity and joy, God keeps loving the Jewish people.

More important, our theology asserts that God cannot do otherwise. Hence, the gift of Jesus as ultimate expression of God's love. Jesus is God incarnate who lives among us, suffers, dies and is raised up so that we might know of God's unconditional and total love for us. Alleluia! He is risen and the promise of our own resurrection lies before us.

Today, rejoice that with the little yeast of our good works, God blesses all people.

Who has helped you the most to live in joy and expectation?


Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Saturday

"Let there be light." Gen 1:3

Living without light for long periods of time impacts us in powerful and negative ways. We feel isolated and paranoid. We see and hear things that are not there, and we find it almost impossible to know what time of day or night it is. Forced to go within, we are faced with a terrible emptiness, especially if we have lived our entire lives in the external world.

Recent studies about people living in solitary confinement for long periods of time reinforce these notions. Many people who isolated, even from other prisoners, suffer from severe mental illness and take their own lives. The thought of living without the light of conversation, simple friendship and external stimulus is simply too much to take.

The Easter Vigil reminds us of this in the most basic of ways. God, Genesis teaches us, made light for us and for our delight. God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others. More, God sent the Christ as a light to all nations so that we might proclaim God's love in this most fundamental of ways. The light has come, Easter proclaims, and nothing and no one will ever be able to drag us into eternal darkness. God's light is forever. Nothing says this more clearly than Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Today, be an Easter light for someone living in darkness.

Who has been Easter light for you?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Friday

"There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem." Is 53: 2-3

Often we think of Jesus as a hero, and artists portray him as the perfect Western man. Handsome and rugged, tall and muscular with freshly washed hair and a neatly trimmed beard, the Lord looks more like James Bond than a middle eastern peasant. Of course, because so many of us need a hero, we accept these portrayals easily. It feels better to have a hero than a savior.

But Jesus is no ordinary hero. He will not triumph over the Romans and be like Moses leading the Jewish people to safety and the promised land. Neither will he slay his enemies and stand atop the mountain surveying all he has conquered. Rather, he will, as Isaiah reminds us, be someone from whom people will hide their faces and turn away. His message is too harsh, too difficult.

Jesus' meaning was clear. We must die to ourselves for the glory of God and to lift up those with no voice or power. Though this is Good News for the underclass, it is threatening and frightening to any of us with unearned power or inherited wealth. Money and power are to be used for the good of all, not simply to enhance one's own position.

Today, as we pause to remember Christ's suffering and death, take some extra time for quiet gratitude and reflection.

How do you hear Jesus' freeing message of Good News?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy thursday -- In Flight

"On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household...This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight."

Most of us, like the Israelites of old, are not really sure we want to be set free. Although the Lord leads his chosen people out of Egypt and promises to accompany them to the Promised Land, they, like all of us, must  first go through the desert.

Being in flight or on the road is never easy. We don't have a place or a bed to call our own. The smells and sights of waking up are different every day, and the people we meet along the way are not our friends. Lacking the familiar, we get testy and easily annoyed, and sometimes yearn for the past with all its problems.

Traveling light, not by choice but necessity, our faults and the idiosyncrasies of our family and fellow pilgrims are much more obvious and annoying. Still, we must go forward. The Promised Land beckons us, and as long as we keep it in mind, it is much richer than what we left behind.

Today, let go of  one thing to which you are clinging.

Do your memories of God's intervention in your life hold you down or set you free?


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Betraying God

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Mt 26:21

Truth be told, it is almost impossible not to betray the Lord. Almost every day we face challenges as people committed to the Gospel. Are we willing to speak up and act on behalf of the poor, or do we always wonder about the political consequences of our actions? Do we stand with the voiceless or remain silent when obvious prejudice is expressed? Are we open to new ways of hearing the Gospel and responding accordingly?

These are just a few of the questions that people committed to a Gospel life must answer. Living the Gospel is much more difficult than reading about it or preaching it. A few days ago I was speaking with a clergy friend and both of us agreed that while we are intent on preaching the Gospel carefully and powerfully, at times it is not easy to listen to ourselves or live out what we challenge others to do.

Most important, it is necessary to humbly accept our own weaknesses but not be paralyzed by them. As long as we regularly commit ourselves to handing over our lives to God for God's work we have nothing to fear. God knows our weaknesses, but is more interested in our efforts to live simply and honestly than our ability to do the Gospel perfectly. Perfectionism, with which most of us are afflicted, is much more an ego driven fault than a way to honor God.

Today, ask forgiveness from someone you have betrayed.

What are the ways you most often betray God and the Gospel?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Doing God's Justice

"I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God." Is 49:4

Often we wonder whether our faith life, and especially our works of justice, have any impact in our church or society. We gather with other people of faith, determine to do something together for the good of all, study the issue and situation that is agitating us, and act, but nothing changes. Community organizing and action is hard work, but does not always have the effect we intend. We fail as often as we succeed.

Like Isaiah we can become discouraged and wonder whether God hears our prayer and responds to our good intentions and actions. When our society and church resist our efforts to work together for a world in which everyone eats, has access to decent housing and education, we can lash out at those who oppose us or blame ourselves for not working hard enough, but neither response is true or complete.

Responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit personally and communally is our only responsibility in  faith. When we are willing to plant the Gospel of justice and let God do the work, we gain a new freedom. God will reward us, Isaiah insists, as long as we do not waver from the path of justice and righteousness.

Today, work for good and let go of the results.

What is your most difficult hurdle to overcome when working for justice?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prisoners, Lepers and Servants

"He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth."

Pope Francis startled us again this week with an announcement about the Sacred Triduum. Rather than celebrate the Holy Thursday mass of the Last Supper at St Peter's in Rome, he will preside at mass in a Roman youth prison. Amazing. Of course, his action makes perfect sense, since the liturgy of Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, but it so different from anything we have come to expect, even from someone as charismatic and independent as Pope John Paul II, that we are left with our mouths hanging open.

Isaiah reminds us that God will bring forth justice for all, not by crying out or shouting, but my offering himself as servant of those most in need. On Thursday of this week, when Pope Francis washes the feet of young men in prison, he will challenge us to do think again, like his namesake St Francis, about how we treat the lepers in our society. Are we servants of the broken, people of faith unwilling to break the bruised reed? Do we reduce people in prison to objects, men and women to be feared or pitied? Are they people in prison or prisoners? Anytime we can find the correct questions to ask on our faith journey, we are on the right path.

Today, re-imagine how you want to celebrate the Triduum.

What are your biggest Gospel challenges?