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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Corpus Christi

"Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." Lk 9:13

Fear is a powerful and dangerous motivator, so strong at times it can overwhelm our good judgment and cause us to harm ourselves and others. When a mother can't afford to feed a child, she might do almost anything to find food. Anyone who has lived among the very poor knows this. Women everywhere have sold themselves to support their children, and fathers have stolen money and goods for the same purpose.

We don't know how fearful the disciples were when Jesus told them to feed the hungry themselves, but they immediately resist his command to feed those who are following him. Afraid, perhaps, that they would not have enough for themselves, they try to reason with Jesus, but the Lord will have none of it. Jesus insists that there is always enough if we take not what we want to feel comfortable, but what we need to stay alive and healthy. Sharing the goods of the earth is a foundational Gospel principle.

The Feast of Corpus Christi demands we pray about all this. People should not have to live in fear for their next meal, but millions still do and it should offend every Christian to reflect upon this, especially on the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord. If Catholics reduce the feast of Corpus Christi to Eucharistic celebrations or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, they do a disservice to Jesus command to "give them some food yourselves." (Lk 9:13)

Today, enjoy the Eucharist and feed someone who is hungry.

How do you understand Jesus' command to be the Body of Christ?

Friday, May 31, 2013

St. Justin, Martyr

"I thank the Lord and I praise him. I bless the name of the Lord." Sir 51:12

Justin, Martyr must have been a great help to his contemporaries. A philosopher who found the Gospel to be compelling and true, he was an apologist, someone whose intelligence and insight allowed him both to explain and defend the teachings of Jesus, even in the face of persecution.

People like Justin are prized in every age, especially by those committed to a Gospel life but who feel inadequate to defend their choices themselves. Apologists free us from trying to comprehend something that in the end is a mystery by assuring us that our commitments are rooted in something more real than our own needs.

Of course, Justin is not honored today solely because he was a good or insightful teacher and mentor to the early Christian community. We prize Justin's memory because his commitment to the Lord was so deep and lasting, he was willing to die for it, and while all of us hope for this kind of faith, few of us have it. Justin's faith was more than careful reasoning and deep inquiry. It was his way of being in the world and being saved. So it is for all of us when we submit to the gift of faith.

Today, thank God for the inestimable gift of faith.

What aspect or teaching of the Gospel is most difficult for you to understand or accept?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Visitation of Mary



"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zep 3:14


The Visitation of Mary is another of the gospel scenes that has fascinated and challenged Christians forever. A young woman, newly pregnant, visits her newly pregnant older relative, and spends three months with her.

What was their first meeting like? How did they spend most days? What kinds of conversations did they have? Because we have no answers to these questions, we supply the ones our reflection and prayer generate. This is good, something all of us ought to do regularly with the mysteries of faith. 

How we imagine Mary and Elizabeth together not only gives us insight into their relationship, it tells us much about where we are in life and faith. Are we joyful about being "pregnant" with the living God? Are we anxious to let others know about how being the "bearer of Good News" affects us and changes our life on a daily basis? 

Listening to and reading the reflections of newly pregnant women teaches us that everything changes in a woman's life when she knows she is pregnant. Not only do her eating habits change, she becomes very conscious of getting extra rest when possible, and is more careful driving a car. Simply put, a pregnant woman starts to live, not solely for herself but for the child she is carrying, and in this she teaches us one of the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. 

Believers in Jesus, knowing they have been saved, live for others, and while this attitude and conversion is tested everyday, there is no doubt about our call. We are disciples challenged to announce Good News by the way we live for others.

Today, visit someone struggling with life, even in your own home.

What have been the joys of being Christian in your life?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reverencing all Creation

"The universe lives and abides forever; to meet each need, each creature is preserved. All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has he made in vain, For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?" Sir 42: 23-24

All that is, is for us. Our first task is to stand in awe and gratitude before the God who loves us so. Too often we take for granted the wonders of creation. Trapped in teeming cities or lost in the wilderness, we scratch and claw competitively for our little piece of creation. What a shame. Clearly, the earth can produce enough food for all to eat, but too often we lack a commitment to share it.

Just as important, Sirach reminds us, we must treasure every person as a gift from God. St. Francis of Assisi offers us a wonderful example of this in his treatment of lepers. Fearful of contracting leprosy which in the 13th century was thought to be contagious, Francis and his contemporaries avoided lepers and isolated them socially. Relegated to the margins of every town and village, lepers were instructed to ring a bell or call out "unclean" if anyone came too close to them.

After God graced Francis with the courage to confront his fears and kiss a leper, everything changed. Francis so identified with lepers that he lived among them on the outskirts of Assisi, and went about proclaiming God's special love for the voiceless and forgotten. His message of peace and the dignity of every creature not only moved the people of his day, it continues to challenge us to see all creation as God's gift.

Today, pray for and speak with a "leper" in your world.

How do you understand and appreciate all creation as a gift of God?





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Amazement and Fear

"The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." Mk 10:32
 
Marks's reminder, which occurs over and over again in his Gospel, is compelling. Despite the cost and the risk, Jesus is leading his disciples to Jerusalem where he will confront the Jewish leaders, be condemned, beaten and crucified on a garbage heap outside the city walls. What kind of power did the Lord have that enabled him to proceed into what we know was his certain death?

Determined to announce God's unconditional love despite the danger drove Jesus to Jerusalem. As God would not give up on his people, neither could Jesus. His life mattered little if he did not submit himself to the consequences of his challenging words and actions, and in all of this he witnesses to us about the "cost of discipleship." How we must honor the martyrs, not only of ages long past, but in our own time. 

Recently I was with a group of older sisters several of whom ministered in Central America, and their most enduring memory was of women and men who had been martyred for no other reason than they ministered to and among the poor and helped them create cooperatives in order to live more humanly. Living the  Gospel was simple but deadly. We must live for others no matter the danger or consequences. 

Today, pray not to be afraid of your own "Jerusalem."

What do you think of people willing to risk martyrdom for the sake of God's reign?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Doing Justice is a Prayer

"The just one’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High. The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten."  Sir 35: 8-9

Doing justice is rarely pretty or without agitation for the just person and the society in which she lives. Insisting that everyone has a right to life, food, housing, education, medical care and speech will always upset some, especially if the just person speaks on behalf of people in prisons or others who we blithely say should be deprived of their human rights because of a crime.  While it might be necessary to imprison people for serious offenses against the society, we must never forget that they are human persons, beloved by God and worthy of our respect.

The wisdom of Sirach suggests that doing justice is like burning incense in the temple. We offer the rightness of our actions humbly but with joy, making a "sweet odor before the Most High." It can be difficult to remember this truth and this lesson when we have been hurt and outraged by another's action. The recent difficulty in finding a cemetery to bury the young man who planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston marathon reminds of this. Funeral directors were afraid of the violent reaction some might have towards them if they helped Tamerlan Tsarnaev''s family bury their son.

God promises never to forget our just actions, despite the cost to us or our faith communities. Doing what is right no matter how difficult the circumstances is always a challenge, but one we must accept if we are to claim God as our unconditionally loving Lord.

Today, ask God for the eyes to see your enemies with God's eyes.

Have you experienced God's love as unconditional?




Sunday, May 26, 2013

Perseverence

"Stand firm in the way set before you, in prayer to the Most High God." Sir 17:21

Half way through any long journey, pilgrims get weary. It is natural and uncomfortable. We forget where we came from, even who we are, and all sorts of anxieties bubble up about where we are going. If you have ever been on a very long plane trip, you know the feeling. The air is stale, food tastes very bland, and you can only walk for a brief period of time in circles.

Prayer in the middle of our journey is radically important but usually dry and unattractive. We begin to doubt whether we are praying to God or for ourselves and our minds wander even more easily from the God who lives within and among us.

At the same time, prayer is absolutely necessary in the middle of our pilgrimage despite its emptiness, and it is good at times like this to remind ourselves that we are not alone. While we might feel lonely and disoriented, the great "cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) does surround us with faith and the assurance that we are going somewhere. Though we might feel lost, God is very near.

Those who travel frequently can find all kinds of suggestions for making the trip more comfortable, even how to minimize jet lag, but the Christian must be wary of this advice. Being on pilgrimage is not about being comfortable, but learning to be at home with the God who dwells within and the church that walks with us no matter how flat the landscape and unattractive the environment.

Today, be where you are.

What are the biggest obstacles you encounter of your pilgrim journey?