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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tiredness

"Strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed." Heb 12:13

When we find ourselves regularly overtired, our bodies are telling us something very important. Unless we slow down, we will be unable to find the energy to complete our everyday tasks with discipline or joy. Exhaustion is not of God and is a reminder to work less or ask others for help. There are numerous examples of this in the bible.

Jethro, Moses' father in law, seeing how many people are coming to Moses for advice on a daily basis, warns Moses that he needs help and suggests a path.
Now, listen to me. Let me give you some advice...you should also choose some of the people to be judges and leaders. Choose good men you can trust—men who respect God. Choose men who will not change their decisions for money... If you do this as God directs you, then you will be able to do your job without tiring yourself out. (Ex 18)
Jesus also chooses twelve apostles to accompany him on his journey to Jerusalem and learn the Good News firsthand. Jesus' example will empower the Apostles to preach the Gospel and to recruit other disciples to accompany them. Eventually, there will be thousands of newly baptized people, all of whom will be commissioned as proclaimers of  God's reign.

Unfortunately, too many clergy and church leaders forget these examples and their failure to seek help is dangerous to them and to Jesus' message. When leaders get exhausted they make poor judgments, find themselves short tempered and more often than not disparage the very people sitting in front of them at Sunday Eucharist. Unless all learn to work together for the good of God's message and people, we will fail to live the sacred commission we have all received at Baptism.

Today, ask someone for help.

What most tires you out in trying to live the Gospel?

Friday, August 23, 2013

St Bartholomew

"Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus,) Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 'I’m going out to fish,' Simon Peter told them, and they said, 'We’ll go with you.' So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing."
Imagine working all night without success. You are a fisherman, but today you will return home without anything to show for your efforts. Suddenly, you see someone on the shore. You don't recognize him, but he asks whether you have any fish. Is he a buyer or just an inquirer? When he suggests you throw your net on the other side of the boat you are reluctant to act, but you do it and almost immediately your net is so full you can't lift it from the water.

Peter knows what has happened. The Lord has come to them after the resurrection and the lesson is clear. Jesus has not abandoned them, but the path to hope will be different than they expected. No longer able to do everything their own way, the apostles and disciples must "throw their nets to other side" Though their lives will ill be difficult, they will catch more fish than they could ever have imagined.

Nathaniel, who most scholars think is Bartholomew, the one without guile, is also with the disciples when Jesus appears to them. Innocent and straightforward, it will probably be easier for him to change his ways and be open to whatever Jesus asks when he travels as a missionary to India and Armenia. More important, his violent death at the hands of King Astyages is testimony of his willingness to endure anything for the sake of the Good News, and remains a potent example for all who claim to be Jesus' disciples today.

Today, ask for the grace to be yourself without guile before God and others.

What keeps you from being yourself as a person of faith?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fidelity

Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth's love for her mother in law reminds us of Jesus' love for us. Unable to leave us behind, the Lord promises to go before us to prepare a place for us so that where he is we too might be. That the scriptures help us understand God's love through the love of a woman for her mother in law should not surprise us. Anything and anyone can help us understand and appreciate the mystery of God's love if only we open ourselves to it.

Every year in Northeast United States as I watch the leaves fall from the trees, the days get shorter, I wonder how I will know God's love in the winter and if the Spring will bring new growth. Though the appearance of nature may shift and change as the days grow short, God, even when he appears to be hiding, endures. Like Ruth loving her mother in law, God walks with us through every darkness and promises to guide us even when we can't see where we are going.

At other times, it is the women and men who are always around our parish churches who remind us of God's fidelity. The church seems magically to open every morning, the altar is prepared for the Eucharist even before the priest enters the church, and coffee is made Sunday after Sunday because so many of God's faithful servants complete the everyday tasks without notice or accolades. How fortunate we are to have them.

Today, be grateful for God's faithful service of all.

What events and people help you to appreciate God's everyday fidelity?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Queenship of Mary

"My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?" Mt 22:12

Being disingenuous, shady or dishonest is never an acceptable Gospel stance and Matthew's parable of the king who invited family, friends and eventually street people to a wedding banquet is a good example of this.

When those first invited to the wedding find a variety of excuses, the king tells his servants to go to the highways and byways and invite anyone they encounter. Determined to have a fitting wedding celebration for his son, the King surprises us when he sees someone without a proper wedding garment and instructs his servants to bind him hand and foot and cast him into the darkness. What message can Jesus be offering us? After all, the fellow was recruited from the street, how can the king expect him to have a proper wedding garment?

Some scripture commentators remind us that it was often the custom to offer a late arriving guest a wedding garment, but everyone would have known that the bottom line when going to a wedding was to wear clean clothes. That someone would arrive without taking time to clean up was a serious offense to any host but especially to the king.

Jesus' point is clear. When being invited to enter God's reign, gratitude dictates that we ask God to free us from our faults and purify out hearts so that we might witness to the Gospel and the power of God's love with joy. Accepting an invitation to be a disciple demands we "clean up"our lives.

Today, ask the Lord to free you of an deeply embedded fault.

For what are you most grateful about your call to be a disciple?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

St Pius X

"The last will be first, and the first will be last.” Mt 20:16

Because gratitude for the ongoing presence, love and support of God is the foundation of the Christian life, it is important never to forget that all we have and are is gift. This simple truth is radically important to the believer. While all our lives will have dark moments as well as times of light, God is present in all as friend, lover and mentor. For this reason and so many others, therefore, we need to be grateful and pray to be free of fear.

The disciples and apostles did not always appreciate this teaching of Jesus. Peter asks the Lord, because he and the other apostles had sacrificed so much to follow him, what kind of reward he and they could expect. (Mt 19:28-29) Jesus' response, while gentle, is also a challenge. Promising Peter that his reward will be great, Jesus also reminds him that the "last will be first and the first last," and this warning is important for all to hear. There should be no doubt that the Lord is generous, kind but also just. If we find ourselves thinking or acting in a way that suggests we deserve more because of our good deeds, we will find ourselves in the last place.

St Pius X, Pope, never forgot his humble origins. In his last will and testament he wrote, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I wish to die poor.” Always grateful, he rejected the pomp of the papacy and reached our for the poor, sending a papal delegation to Peru on behalf of indigenous people who were being unfairly treated on plantations. His example continues to inspire us.

Today, be grateful for whatever life brings.

When do you most often forget to be grateful for life and God's presence in it?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Perfection

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mt 19:21

Perfection is a multifaceted word in English and can refer to many different things. Getting a score of 10 for a competitive dive or a mark of 100 on an exam indicate perfection to some, but it is not what the word perfect means in the Scripture. Literally, we could translate the Greek teleios as complete, as in having all our fingers, toes and body parts, but a better translation means being yourself without guile or posturing.

Being ourselves before God and others is difficult. It means accepting ourselves as we are without pretension, and letting ourselves be known by others without deception. Obviously, this is a life long pursuit and can never be accomplished without a large helping of grace. God can do in us what we cannot do for ourselves, but this is often a hard and painful lesson. Most of us want to define perfection and draw its parameters according to our own insights and desires. Worse, we work for perfection diligently and obsessively, and only when we fail over and over again do we finally submit to God and ask to be who God would have us be.

This last is a strange kind of perfection. Like Paul who lived his entire life with a "sting" in his flesh, it means living with and even treasuring our weaknesses because they not only teach us much about ourselves, they demand we learn and practice compassion towards others.

Today, let God make you as perfect as God needs you to be for others.

Which of your faults is most difficult to bear?