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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Race, Money and Sex

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28

The radical equality between and among us as believers in our access and relationship to God both shocked those who first heard Jesus preach it, and continues to startle and upset many today. At the time of Jesus, there were clear rules about hospitality and tribal responsibilities in the Jewish community. While charity had always to be shown to anyone, even strangers and enemies, when Jesus insisted that there was no distinctions between Jews and everyone else in the world, he called into question what it meant for them to be the Chosen people. That Jesus shatters the distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, and male and female made no sense, offended their understanding of the Torah, and even undermined their image of God. 

Paul's letter to the Galatians is not saying that ethnicity, wealth and gender don't exist, but that everyone, without exception, can know, love and be loved by God equally. While those of us who profess to be Catholic Christians will continue to have our own rituals, prayers and spirituality is not in question. That others who have a different spirituality can approach God in their own way is the point of the text. There is no need to compare or contrast. Rather we must work for unity among all peoples in Christ, even those who do not profess his name. This is not to say that we should not announce the Good News of Jesus to all people, but there is no need to force it upon anyone. We must live in Christ and proclaim his love with our lives. In this way, Christ can be Christ and do his work.

Today, pray to put aside any distinctions that make one person better than another.

How can we foster authentic equality among us in God?




Friday, June 21, 2013

One Master

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Mt 6:24

We know the Gospel tells us that can't serve two masters. How about three or four or ten?  When we think about our lives it often becomes obvious that we are trying to do too much for too many people and this can lead to resentment of all those we intended to serve. Time becomes our master, or security or accomplishment or power, but when we stop to reflect upon these matters we know that the Gospel challenge to have one master is spot on and powerful.

We need to commit ourselves on a daily basis to serving God alone. Only God can be our master and the task of the believer is to discern how best to serve this master each day. When we take time to pray about this we often reach a counter intuitive conclusion. Serving God alone does not mean saying yes to every needy person or important cause, but learning to ask God each day how to go forward, how to help, how to serve and how to announce the Good News.

Years ago I remember asking a bishop not to tell his priests that he often got up in the middle of the night to write his weekly newspaper column. It might have been fine for the bishop since he was a chronic insomniac, but it was not good modeling for men who were already trying to manage and lead two or three parishes.  I am not sure he listened when I asked him to stop, but I still wonder what master he was following by trumpeting his compulsions.

Today, ask God how best to live the Good News.

Which of your concerns most often gets in the way of serving God.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

St Aloysius Gonzaga

"Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. To my shame I say that we were too weak!"  2 Cor 11:18

More than once St Paul brags about his weakness, and for those especially who have been humbled in any way, his boast is a consolation. Weakness can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and weaknesses and encourages us to work with others whose strengths make up for our failings.

There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do or anyway we can change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of weakness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Aloysius Gonzaga is a good example of someone who recognized that despite his family's wealth and desire for him to seek power over others, he could only fulfill his destiny by renouncing his family's affluence and join the Jesuits in the pursuit of God. Freed by the Society of Jesus to honor God totally, Aloysius plunged into the care of plague victims only to succumb himself to the disease.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Daily Prayer

"Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be they name." Mt 6:9

For believers, the first task each day is to acknowledge God and God's place in our lives. The Lord's Prayer both helps us remember this fundamental stance and teaches us how to do it. More often than not, most of us are ready to tell God our story, enumerate our needs and ask for help, but the Our Father reminds us that for the believer recognizing our dependence on God must always be first desire and duty.

Muslims, though using a different name for God, take a very similar stance when they pray the Shahada, "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is the Prophet." Some Muslim scholars suggest that when Muslims pray they are seeking the same blessings that Catholics desire and experience in the Eucharist. Learning to bow our heads at the name of God is another way of accepting God's presence and power in our lives, and is something that would help believers to live more fully in the presence of God.

It is so easy in a world full of information and internet web access to think of ourselves in powerful terms. After all, we can ask Mr Google almost anything and receive 100 million possible answers within two or three seconds. Doesn't this indicate the growing control we have over the world as we know it?  While we do have access to more information than we could every process or interpret, knowledge without gratitude for the One who is all knowing does the believer little good.

Today, say the Lord's Prayer slowly and reverently.

If you, like the Apostles, could ask Jesus how to pray what would you expect him to teach you?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Generosity

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

The reasons why we are sometimes are stingy are many. Fear of not having enough. Judgments about whether those in need ought to work harder, and simple selfishness are the most obvious, but  the biggest is our unwillingness to trust God completely even though the scriptures are clear. God is is never sparing in love for us, and made in his image, we must do the same for others.

St Paul, in using the same image that we find in Matthew's gospel, assures us that if we are generous in sowing that God will be pleased. More, the seed we sow generously will find fertile ground and bear much fruit so that everyone can eat.

Generosity can be easy at times, especially when our life is moving smoothly and surely, but it is always a decision. Life is full of choices and the Gospel challenges us to reflect, pray and be as benevolent as possible, especially to the poor. Worrying too much about how to be financially or emotionally secure cheats us and all those who might benefit from our kindness and unstinting love.

Today, give until it hurts.

To whom is it most difficult for you to show generosity?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Resistance to Grace

"I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others." 2 Cor 8:8

Not infrequently, we intuit that something is wrong, incomplete or lacking in our personal or communal lives. Not easily identified, we sense the need for change even when we are not sure exactly what changes we should make, and this not knowing can led to paralysis.

When St Paul senses this struggle in the Corinthian community, he reminds them that the believing community in Macedonia asked, even begged, despite their own struggles, to help those who were preaching the Gospel. Would the Corinthians accept the invitation to let go of their resistance and respond beyond their means to the needs of the leadership and the community?

Stubbornness can be powerfully disruptive and undermining of the community's life and purpose. Those who use their energies to resist the positive direction the community needs to take for the sake of the Gospel make everyone's life more difficult. They question everything and everyone, and often intimidate those who find it difficult to speak under the best of circumstances. When this happens to us, an examination of conscience is in order.

Today, ask God to change your attitude.

What areas of your faith life do you most resist?


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dangers along the Way

"We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry." 2 Cor 6:3

Despite our best efforts, we often get lost on our Gospel pilgrimage. We get too busy or not busy enough. We waste time or crush too many tasks into a small window of time, and all these behaviors distract us from our primary role as Christians, to witness to the saving love of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.

Almost the entire second letter to the Corinthians is Paul's attempt to convince his opponents that his motives are pure and his message clear. He does not want to do anything to separate permanently from them or discourage them from following their own pilgrim paths, but he does need to warn them that they are not at one with the rest of the community. After his warnings, Paul, like us, must be patient and wait for God to work.

Waiting is almost always anxiety producing. Not knowing what we must do or how best to address difficulties within ourselves or our communities can lead to poor choices when we try to force solutions. Paul's willingness to work with his opponents and his struggle to find an honest path of reconciliation should fill us all with hope.

Today, do nothing about a difficult situation. Pray.

Who taught you most about how to keep your focus during trying times?