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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” Jn 20: 27-29

We wonder about Thomas. Is he "all of us," full of doubts that inhibit our relationship with God and most of the people in our lives? Is he our stubborn younger brother or sister who was spoiled as a baby and still resists change not to his or her liking? Was Jesus annoyed with Thomas for not listening to the other disciples who assured him the Lord had risen?

None of these questions is answered definitively in today's Gospel. What we can be sure of is that Jesus addresses Thomas' doubts and reminds him that others, who will not have the joy of seeing Jesus in the flesh, but who believe anyway, are blessed. That's us, at least most of the time. Born into faith filled families, most of us treasure the gift of faith, practice it and accept both its limitations and its delights. We know that faith is not intended to free us from every trial, hurt and confusion, but we also believe that faith will sustain us even at those times when life makes no sense, or we must endure suffering and loss.

The mercy of God, we learn, is always available to us no matter how often we take faith for granted or turn away from its teachings. With Thomas, we open our eyes to the work of the Lord all around us and realize how blind we have been. Even as we look, God's mercy is at work.

Today, offer mercy like God, freely and without exception.

How have you experienced God's mercy when you were struggling?




Friday, April 25, 2014

Doubt

"When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by Mary Magdalene, they did not believe. After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either." Mk 16: 10-11

Doubt is often a way to protect ourselves. If we have been burned by an unscrupulous business, or these days, an internet company, we pull back and condemn computers, social networks and businesses in general. Years ago, when banks proved unresponsive to their customers' request to withdraw monies, people literally put their cash under their mattresses. When we are hurt or angry, we become very defensive.

No doubt, Jesus' closest disciples reacted in much the same way after his crucifixion. Brokenhearted and full of grief, they refused to listen to anyone who suggested they had seen Jesus. Only when he appeared to them directly, did they believe and respond to his command to go into the whole world without fear to announce God's gracious love for all.

Living through periods of doubt is natural for every believer. Sometimes, too busy with matters that don't really matter, we fail to pray, worship or offer service to others in need, but more often something frightens or confuses us, and we wonder where God is. In fact, God is where God always is, it is us who have moved or turned away. Opening our hearts and praying to be without fear can change everything.

Today, pause before a meal and invite the Lord to be with you as he was with his disciples after the resurrection.

Have you been full of doubts after a loved one died?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A New Power

"Many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand." Acts 4:4

When something is true, good and empowering, it grows. The primitive church, within days of Jesus' death, began to increase and grow strong. No doubt some worried at the time whether a cult was emerging, especially if they had not heard of Jesus before his death, but more were filled with hope because of what they were witnessing. Jesus was dead but his disciples were demonstrating a kind of power, grace and goodness that was electric and stimulating. Could their claims that the Messiah had come among them and was now raised from the dead be true?

Acts tells us that "about five thousand" people believed in Jesus soon after Pentecost. This was a remarkable number in a land where most people were poor and had more to do than follow a prophet who his disciples claimed had risen from the dead. Their message was clear and strong. God willed that all people be saved, and that a good life on earth was not the end. In fact, Jesus followers claimed that the traditional signs of success: a large family, property and good health, were not the ultimate signs of God's love and affirmation. Rather, God had created us, not to worry first about our daily bread, but to love one another in God's name, and if we did this consistently and unselfishly, the world would be a different and more peaceful place.

The message of Jesus, in today's jargon, went viral. Putting aside violence and competition for the sake of others and a peaceful world, made sense, and although it stumbled at times, its power and possibility excited those who were open to it, then and now.

Today, pray for a new energy among those committed to the Gospel.

What about the Good News excites you?


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Proclaiming our Salvation

"Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.'” Acts 4: 19-20

All of us have experienced times and people about whom we feel compelled to speak. When Moses saw a burning bush, approached it and learned that God wanted to speak to him, he had to tell other about his experience. Elijah hears God, not in a strong wind or an earthquake, but in a tiny whisper, and realizes in the middle of his fear, that God is calling him. He cannot resist. Again, when Isaiah, hearing God wonder who to send, responds: Here I am, send me!

The great figures of the Hebrew bible announce God's presence and love whenever they encounter it, and so does Jesus. Not only does the Lord speak of God, he is God's Word enfleshed, the one about whom we cannot be silent, and this is the essence of the 4th chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John become models for all the apostles and disciples. No longer does it matter that they abandoned Jesus in his greatest need. Forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they become, despite great personal danger, proclaimers of the Word.

The Easter season must animate us in the same way. Acknowledging and celebrating God's glory within, around and among us, we announce God's love to whomever will listen. Ignoring those who resist, we go everywhere in His name proclaiming the Good News of our salvation.

Today, let your joy speak to others of God's presence within you and among us.

What experiences of God have you had about which you cannot be silent?



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter's challenges

"Peter said, 'I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.'” Act 3:6

The Easter transition that Jesus' disciples were called to make was in many ways the most difficult. To let go of their loss, confusion and disappointment after Jesus' death, and believe that they would live forever in Christ was a great struggle, not unlike other trials recounted in the scripture.

Abraham was ninety nine years old when God called him to be the father of many nations. It must have been overwhelming for him to listen to God and respond in faith. How is it possible for an old man and his ninety year old wife to have a family, especially after they had, no doubt, mourned their failure to produce an heir?

We also read of the frustration of the Jewish people in the desert after being freed from Egyptian slavery. Upset that there was little food and almost no water, they complained to Moses and wondered whether they were not better off in Egypt. How could the desert be a place of promise and hope?

The Easter season presents all of us with the same challenge. The Lord has been raised up and promised us life forever. Can we believe this? Will we? Only when we ask for the grace to let go of our limited view of life in Christ will we be able to embrace the final promise. God wants to live with us forever and has gone before us to prepare a place for all. God's commitment is simple and straightforward. We have only to accept it.

Today, no matter how you feel, ask for the grace to believe in God's Easter promise of life forever.

Which life transitions have been most difficult for you to accept?








Monday, April 21, 2014

Regret

"On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people, 'Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.' Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart." Acts 2: 36-37

A few days ago, while talking with a friend suffering in a nursing home, he told me he wished he had taken the opportunity to visit Assisi when he was younger. Too busy to "waste" time going to Italy when he was first ordained priest, his body would no longer allow him to travel long distances, and he had to depend on photos and videos to see Assisi, Rome and La Verna, the places so important to St Francis and his dreams for the church and the friars.

Everyone has some regrets. A hospital chaplain once wrote that he never met seriously ill people near death who said they wished they had spent more time at work. Rather, concerned that they spent too much time proving themselves by their accomplishments in the marketplace, the dying wonder whether anyone will remember them!

Some of the Jews who had failed to listen Jesus had these same regrets. Acts of the Apostles tell us "they were cut to the quick," by their shortsightedness, and wondered aloud what they might do to correct their mistakes.  Peter's response is quick and to the point. Repent, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God's promise remains no matter how often we have overlooked it.

Today, pray that the seed of the great Easter promise of life forever with God will take root in your heart.

How do you respond to your regrets?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

God's Embrace

"Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence; Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption." Ps 16: 9-10

One of the recurring themes of the Bible reminds us that God will not and cannot abandon us. God has promised through the Patriarchs and prophets to be with us always, and reinforced this promise in Christ, but just as a fish is unaware of the water in which he lives, we are often forgetful that the air we breathe in faith is God. Called Spirit, (pneuma in the Greek), God breathes in us not only to give us life but to sustain us along the way.

Immersed in this promise we are confident that in and with God we can do anything, go anywhere and live simply. Christians who are rooted in God's embrace and fidelity have the courage to live their faith without fear. Knowing they are not about success or power for power's sake, Christians accept the consequences of their commitment, and seek more to serve others than advance their own agenda.

Today, accept and celebrate God's embrace.

What experiences most convince you of God's faithful love?