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Saturday, August 10, 2013

St Clare

“Gaze upon Christ, consider Christ, contemplate Christ, as you desire to imitate Christ.” St Clare

St Clare, who calls herself the little plant of St. Francis, often speaks of gazing upon God and Christ. It is a fascinating way of entering into contemplation. One does not have to understand as much as appreciate what one is gazing upon. Gazing is an act of the heart, not unlike what a parent does watching a child sleep. 

We must be quiet and rested in order to gaze freely and without unnecessary distractions. Gazing implies a kind of recollection, very much like what we might do late on a summer day as the sun sets. Appreciating the beauty without trying to control or stop it, we sit next to a river or in a park and enjoy the wonder of creation as another day ends. 

Contemplatives like St Clare work to quiet their spirits in order to appreciate all that God is and does. They do not cling to or try to possess God. Rather, they sit in God's presence and learn to walk through life at a pace that does no harm to any creature. Like St Francis among the animals, St Clare and her sisters celebrate the beauty of God in all that is, making it possible to see with the eyes of the heart and draw others to the beauty of God's love expressed through the gift of creation.

Today, breathe deeply and gaze upon whatever is in front of you.

What helps you to quiet your spirit and gaze delightedly upon God's creation?




Friday, August 9, 2013

St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

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

There is an old saying: You can't win it unless your in it, and this is especially true when trying to live the Gospel.  Unless we are committed to live the Gospel with integrity everyday, we can never hope to know its joys. Summer in the Northeast United States teaches this lesson especially well.

Gardeners who are willing to put only one tomato plant in the ground can hope all they want for a treasure trove of tomatoes but one plant can only produce so much fruit. Only those who are willing to risk many plants and have the energy to water them everyday can hope for a large crop. The same is true for our good deeds. While one generous act a day is good, we must be willing to sow many seeds of God's love every day to announce the reign of God, especially to those without faith.

St Lawrence is most famous for a good deed that though we cannot authenticate it, continues to impress us with its power. Commanded by the Roman prefect to gather up the riches of the church in order to strengthen the Emperor's war efforts, Lawrence asks for a few days to inventory the churches treasures. During this time he gathered up the broken: the lepers, the blind, the lame and the orphaned and brought them to the Roman prefect declaring: These are the treasures of the church! Shortly after his daring declaration, he was martyred.

Today, sow good deeds without worrying about their success.

Who sowed the Good News in your life?


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Denying Ourselves

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Mt 16:24-25

The essence of Jesus' message is other centeredness, a virtue that is both difficult and dangerous. It is difficult because it demands that we think of others first, even when they haven't earned our attention or concern, but Jesus is clear when he tells us that it is the sick who need a physician, not the healthy. The gospel demands patience, consistency and compassion, but when the other person ignores our outstretched hand or pushes us away, we can be easily discouraged.

Other centeredness is also dangerous. Too often wanting to please others or being afraid of disappointing them, we worry more about our goodness than the other's need. Anxious to "fix" the sick as a way of proving our fidelity to God, we ignore others in need, even members of our own family. Having a good "soul friend" can help us avoid this danger. All of us need someone to show us how to let go of our pride and will in order to let God do God's work.

The saints often struggled in this area. St. Francis, trying to imitate Christ in every way, punished his body so severely through fasting and work that he had to apologize to "brother ass" at the end of his lfie and ask God's pardon for abusing himself in the name of the Gospel. Practicing a prayer of listening each day can help us trust God more than our own disordered inclinations. Sitting quietly before God and asking for insight and generosity are the keys to leading an other centered life.

Today, pray for the gift of discernment to do God's will not your own.

Who most impresses you with their concern for others?






Wednesday, August 7, 2013

St Dominic

"A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them, or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil." St Dominic

While preaching at the Eucharistic liturgy, with few exceptions, is confined to ordained men, much preaching in retreat centers and para liturgical settings is done lay women and men, and for those of us who have heard it, it is uniformly informed, powerful and challenging. The Dominicans especially have fostered this practice. Known as the Order of Preachers, they conduct workshops and seminars on preaching around the country in order to emphasize the importance of hearing a wide variety of preaching styles and voices so that everyday people might be attracted to the Gospel.

St. Dominic would have appreciated his followers efforts. Committed, like Francis of Assisi, to a deep reform of the church through simple living, care for the poor and careful teaching, Dominic is best known for his defense of the faith against the Albigensians. Successful, not simply because of his insightful and precise teaching, but because he was committed, like the Albigensians, to an ascetical life, Dominic appealed to ordinary people seeking to live the Gospel more fully.

It would surprise few people these days if Pope Francis encouraged the church, especially its leaders, to live and preach more simply so that more and more people would be attracted to the power of the Gospel lived with transparent joy and integrity. That women and men lay preachers, in the spirit of St Dominic, might lead this reform would be a wonderful gift to the church.

Today, pray for the ongoing reform of the church.

What kind of preaching most moves you to live the Gospel/






Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Powerlessness

“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Mt 15:27

When we read about the disparity of wealth in the United States, most of us can feel very powerless. Knowing that 10% of the American people control 75% of the wealth is disconcerting and discouraging. What power does the average person have to help change our country's policies? In 2014, for instance, 268 members of congress were millionaires and their net worth was 9 times that of the average American. Why would congress want to alter this scenario? Often depressed by their powerlessness, the poor lose heart and the will to work for change. 

The Canaanite woman in today's gospel who asks Jesus to free her daughter of a demon is a remarkable example of someone who, despite overwhelming odds. refuses to be put off by Jesus' insistence that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Far from allowing herself to be distracted by the rejection of Jesus and his disciples, she continues to advocate for her daughter. That she compares herself to a dog eating scraps from its master's table finally gets Jesus to look at her and acknowledge her faith. 

Giving into discouragement or despair is not an option for Christians when they advocate for the poor. No matter the cost, believers must continue to follow the example of the Canaanite woman and work together with other people of faith for a just life for all in our society and around the world. (Charity in Truth)While we might not be successful all the time, the justice of our cause will surely move the hearts and minds of other believers to work for a society that refuses to allow some to live in destitution while others hoard resources.

Today, ask he Lord to teach you how to help the poor.

What aspects of life make you feel most powerless?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Transfiguration of the Lord

"While he was praying Jesus' face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." Lk 9:29

Change is necessary in all our lives, but always implies a struggle. Because we are comfortable in a particular circumstance despite its difficulties, we often choose to make excuses for not changing. Friends of mine, older now and needing to think about moving to a smaller home or condo, express a thousand reasons for staying exactly where they are. Despite the fact that their home presents some physical dangers for older people, they prefer to adjust and be careful not to hurt themselves rather than move, and while all of their friends understand their reluctance, it does make us wonder.

Jesus experienced resistance in his apostles as he headed for Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish life and power. His followers, delighted by their master's healing power and message of liberation for the poor, wanted to stay in the Northern part of Palestine and go from town to town gathering new disciples, thinking they would strengthen their hand when eventually they would arrive in Jerusalem. But Jesus would have none of it.

Determined to move towards Jerusalem, and his death, Jesus reveals himself to his disciples on the mountain of the Transfiguration. Showing himself as the successor to Moses and Elijah, Jesus lets his friends know that he is more than they think and more than they bargained for. He is the Messiah of God, and his message and purpose go far beyond the liberation of the Jewish nation from Roman domination. Though it will be frightening and confusing, if Jesus' disciples want to continue to follow him, they must accompany him to Jerusalem and all that it implies. So must we.

Today, let the Lord show himself to you as he is.

What are your most challenging resistances to change?


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rest

"When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick."

All of us try to get away from time to time, and it is important. Whether we are weary from work, the sickness of friends, family concerns or life in the church, rest and relaxation are essential. Unless we find time to stop and intentionally accept the uncontrollable nature of life, we get exhausted and find ourselves getting short tempered with all around us.

After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus tried to get away to a quiet place to rest, pray and commune with his father, but his desire was thwarted by circumstances beyond his control. People in need followed him and his naturally compassionate heart was moved to help them, but the disciples, perhaps trying to protect their Master, wanted him to dismiss the crowd. Jesus listened but told his followers to stretch what little food they had so that everyone might have something to eat.

There are two lessons here. We must rest, but the needs of the poor and the sick are often not convenient and we must respond to them in the moment. Careful discernment is needed. Unless we rest, we will be good to no one, but when there is overwhelming need directly in front of us, we must trust God to give us the strength to do whatever must be done.

Today, be compassionate when you don't feel like it.

What most helps you rest?