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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Noticing the Needy

"They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith." Acts 14:23

Whether the elders appointed to help widows and orphans in the early church were priests is a disputed matter among scholars. That a need was addressed directly and compassionately is not,  and remains a simple and important lesson for us today. When we fail to listen to the everyday needs of those with whom we live and those we are called to serve, the gospel loses its powers to move inquirers to transformation.

Gratefully, most of us don't struggle trying to remember acts of compassion shown to us throughout our lives. A glass of water or juice for a young sweaty child on a hot summer day seems as fresh today as it was then, and witnessing kindnesses to the elderly are always moving. But it is our commitment each day to notice and respond to those in need that convinces seekers about the Gospel's truth and power.

With the social media overwhelmed with incidents and stories about the bombing in Boston, and the desire of many to seek vengeance, our spirits are lifted up not only by the heroism of first responders, but by those who continue to help those impacted by the suffering and death that surround awful events like this.

Today, give a drink to a thirsty child.

What actions most convince you of the power of the Gospel?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joy in the Spirit

"The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52

There is a piece of me that would prefer the text above to read: The disciples were filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit who is the source of Christian joy. When we are alive in God's spirit, there is always joy, a delight if you like in the realization that God dwells within us, strengthens us and empowers us to live the Gospel plainly and fully.

Joy is very different from happiness. While happiness is almost always fleeting since it is attached to something very particular like a lovely Spring day or one's birthday, joy lasts because it is a gift for the soul, one that cannot be taken away or spent. Joy, like salt in meat,  penetrates and becomes part of who we are and how we must live.

The joy of Jesus' disciples astounded their listeners. How could Jesus' friends be so joyful about a hero rabbi who had been beaten and crucified on a garbage heap? How could they sustain a life of joy in the face of so much opposition from the Jewish leaders?  The disciples had been transformed by the Spirit and it was the Spirit alone that sustained them in all things, but especially in joy. Their joy was also, no doubt, the cause of their success in proclaiming the Good News.

Today, remember a joyful moment in your life and be grateful.

What keeps you from being joyful in faith?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lost

"We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way." Jn 14:5

While organization cannot substitute for mission, neither should it be underestimated. It is always helpful to have a plan, a goal and even a map, but this is not the way of Jesus who insists that if some want to be his disciple, they must know and love him who is the fullness of God.

We know that the message of Jesus is slow to enter our hearts in a transforming way, and even when it does, it often weakens, losing its hold on us. Our daily concerns with eating adequately, housing our families and planning for our future often distract us from our Gospel goals, but this should never be cause for despair. Jesus will always insist that his disciples have only to turn towards him to know of his love and willingness to show them again and again the path of life.

Helping friends know the Lord and where he is calling us should be a dimension of every Christian's life. How we do this is another matter. As long as we are willing to listen to others with compassion, even when they are lost, we will be able to help.

Today, listen to someone who is lost.

Do you know where it is God is calling you?


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

St Mark


"God opposes the proud, but bestows favor on the humble." 1 Pt 5b

There are a two traditions, some might call them legends, about St. Mark that emerged in the early church. Both are associated with water. The first is that Mark was the disciple charged with making sure that water, which Jesus would use to wash the feet of the apostles, was available at the Last Supper. The second named John as one of the servants who provided the water that Jesus would turn into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.

Clean drinking water is almost impossible to find in most of the world. Twice every three minutes a child dies from dirty water and though we rarely allude to it, the water used at Cana, because it was used for washing, was probably not drinkable, making the miracle even more amazing. The water that became the "best wine" came from water that would have sickened the guests if they had drunk it before it was transformed.

All of this to suggest that Mark, having brought the water for guests to wash their feet before the wedding, was himself washed clean of his doubts by the miracle he witnessed. More, Mark challenges us to find the Lord wherever we are. Whether we clean a kitchen or read God's word at Mass, the Lord is with us, transforming every moment into Good News.

Today do everything with simplicity and passion.

What are the ordinary tasks of each day that you could do better?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spreading the Good News

"The word of God continued to spread and grow." Acts 12:24

The word of God, indeed, all the actions of God among us, is alike seed. God keeps casting it upon the church and world indiscriminately, and some of it actually takes root, grows and begins to spread and increase. Something so natural becomes a source of hope for all. Seed, earth, wind, insects and water, working together make it possible for the earth to nurture itself and for all to eat.

Because the natural world is so accessible and welcoming to all, Jesus often uses it to teach us about what we are to do and who we are called to be. Christians must become a living word, going about from place to place and allowing God to use us to spread the Good News in word and deed.

More important, when we allow God the freedom to scatter, plant and spread us for God's reign, powerful and transformative things happen.

Today, pick one word from the daily scripture and repeat it throughout the day.

How has God's word planted itself in your life? Has it changed you and others?


Monday, April 22, 2013

Time With

"For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians." Acts 11:26

Relationships take time, and are rarely easy. Paul and the first Christian missionaries knew this and took their time not only teaching the Antiochenes but getting to know them. Every message, even the Gospel, has to be spoken with one's audience in mind, and nothing is more important in this regard than culture.

Historians tell us that Antioch was among the most sophisticated of ancient cities with a large library, a magnificent theater and a half million people. Paul, who was learned, and his companions were beginning to articulate a theology of Christianity that demanded the attention of his listeners, but his willingness to remain in Antioch, to listen and learn were as important as the message he proclaimed.

Listening to others, especially those who expect little from us because we might be more educated or we connected than them, is not only a good strategy, it is a telling act of humility.

Today, listen twice as much as you speak.

What has been the most important thing you have learned by listening?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Salvation for All

“God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” Acts 11:18

Although it is clear from the earliest days of his ministry that Jesus has come, not only for the Jews, but for the entire world, his message is slow to enter the consciousness of his listeners. It is no different for us. Somehow we think Jesus belongs to us exclusively as Christians, and this is simply not true. In fact, it is our duty to announce his saving work to all people knowing he wants to be with all forever.

Belonging to someone or something is important. Often it gives us a sense of identity. We call ourselves Americans, for instance, with a certain pride in all that the United States has made possible for so many, especially immigrants, but when being American or Christian leads to arrogance or dismissiveness of others, it does not serve us or God well.

Discerning how best to root ourselves in Jesus and the Gospel without forgetting that discipleship demands we open ourselves to radical difference and diversity for the sake of God's Kingdom is essential to the Christian journey.

Today, speak with someone you might otherwise ignore.

How do you negotiate being committed to Jesus without being exclusive?