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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Emmaus

"Two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." Lk 24: 13-14
The story of the disciples who meet Jesus "on the road to Emmaus" is one of the most popular narratives in the New Testament. Because all of us have been disappointed, blinded as it were, in the way life unfolds and often disappoints, we can identify with the disciples going to Emmaus. Wanting to make sense out of their hurt, grief and confusion, they become so concerned with their own upset, they do no recognize Jesus walking with them.

Knowing what blinds us to the obvious is important, but only the first step. The Gospel is about transformation, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus are a good example. Did they keep their eyes open after they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread? Were they anxious to return to Jerusalem and let everyone know about Jesus being among them?

These are especially important questions during difficult times. We all have periods of blindness. Grieving can do this. So can the loss of a job, or a physical move to a new city and home, but unless we attend to the loss and ask for new eyes and a new heart, we will miss the grace buried in our grief that makes resurrection possible.

Today, open your eyes wherever you are and be quiet. See what is right in front of you.

What kinds of events blind you to the ordinary?




Friday, May 2, 2014

Sts Philip and James

"Jesus said to Thomas, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.'" Jn 14:6

Really knowing someone is hard work. It is not something that happens in a casual visit, nor can it be easily quantified or articulated. In many ways, knowing oneself and another is something we intuit, and more important, test regularly. How often have we heard people say: I thought I knew him, but his recent behavior is opening my eyes in a new way.

Jesus was not easy to know. He opened the eyes of some and confused many while he lived among us. Some thought he was trying to undermine the law. Others were convinced he was a minor and unimportant prophet and healer, but a few realized he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and they knew this because of his works. As Matthew's Gospel makes clear, Jesus came so that, "The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Mt 11:5)

For those with eyes to see and hearts to understand, it was clear that Jesus had no other motive than to let people know he came from God to set the captives free, and to announce a time favor for all without a voice in the society.  Though Jesus was explicit about his mission, even the apostles were slow to comprehend, believe and proclaim it.  It took the power of the Spirit at Pentecost to free them from the fear that often paralyzed them. It is no different for us.

Today, be a disciple. Open your eyes, ears and heart to the Spirit living within and among us.

Does anyone really know you? Do you know and respect others?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

St Athanasius

"Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard." 1 Pt 4:12

St Athanasius knew well the trials about which St Peter wrote. Five times Athanasius was exiled from his episcopal see in Alexandria, and each time, after returning, he continued to preach the divinity of Jesus without compromise and with power. Undeterred by those who wanted him to soften his stance against Arianism, the heresy which taught that Jesus was created by and therefore subordinate to God the Father, Athanasius would not retreat from the simple but important teaching that Jesus was one with his Father and the Spirit.

Faith sometimes demands great sacrifices. St Paul had to renounce his life as a Pharisee and his persecution of Christians in order to announce Good News, and his new commitment to the resurrected Christ not only cost him his standing among Jewish leaders, it ostracized him from his own family. Considered unclean, even by some fellow Christians because he refused to demand that Gentiles first become Jews before baptism, Paul remained firm in his conviction that those new to faith had only to profess the name of Jesus to be saved.

All of us will experience faith's unreasonable demands, and how we accept and even celebrate these struggles will be the measure of our commitment. Asking the Lord to free us from paralyzing fear makes the journey rich and empoweing to others.

Today, ask to see clearly what it is that faith demands.

Whose faith do you most admire?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

God's Generosity

"For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit." Jn 3:34

Today's scripture reminded me of my mother's gesture when our entire family of six lived in a four room apartment. Not infrequently, one of our parent's siblings would show up for dinner unannounced. When we sat down to eat, mom would look at each of her children and nod. Her message was clear: "One meatball" or one of whatever we were eating. Guests ate first. It was a simple but clear rule. Hospitality trumped hunger!

God is like my mother. Unable to deny his listeners a full share of whatever food is available, Jesus does not ration the bread because, he wants to remind us, when we are generous, there will always be enough for everyone. Think for a moment about the twelve baskets full of bread left over after Jesus fed 5000 people, or how much wine Jesus made from water after his mother told him there was no more wine for the wedding guests. Six stone water jars each containing 20 or 30 gallons seems enough for a very big party.

Neither does Jesus ration the gift of the Spirit. Whatever we need will be available and it does not matter how much we give away. The gifts of the Spirit are limitless. There will always be enough wisdom, understanding, piety and all the rest as long as we remember that God is not stingy. There is no need to cling to the gifts of the Spirit because, in God, there is always more.

Today, be more generous than you think is reasonable.

When are you most generous to others?






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Impossible Love

"God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Jn 3:17

It can be easy to condemn others. People, governments and churches make mistakes. We don't take enough time to properly evaluate a situation, or we fail to ask the right questions, and before we know it, we have made a decision that is shortsighted, even foolish. When, moreover, governments and churches do this, they get attacked. We like having scapegoats.

Gratefully, God does not look to blame us. Rather, God keeps looking for reasons to love and forgive us. As John reminds us, God did not send the Christ into the world to condemn us, but to save us. What else could God do to demonstrate his love? St Paul says it this way:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)
God saves us, not because of our good works or desire for God's love, but because God is God. There is no other explanation. God sees past our sins, focuses on our goodness, and challenges us to do the same.

Today, bathe in God's forgiveness and love.

Have you ever been able to love unconditionally?


Monday, April 28, 2014

St Catherine of Sienna

"The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." Acts 4:32

The Gospels are clear when they remind us of Jesus' goal for his people. Jesus wants us to be one in the Spirit, and promises us that our unity will be the sign that the Spirit lives in us. "And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me." (Jn 17: 22-23)

Unfortunately, too often the church does not live or fulfill Jesus' prayer, and it takes people like St Catherine of Siena to remind Popes and princes of Jesus' desire. Traveling tirelessly between Avignon, Florence and Rome, Catherine is credited with getting Pope Gregory IX to return the papacy to Rome from Avignon where it had moved for largely political purposes.

Further, history highlights not only Catherine's legacy as a mediator but as a mystical writer whose message, especially in her Dialogue, was so sophisticated and nuanced that Pope Paul VI would name her a doctor of the church. When we focus on the goal of Jesus to be at one with all creation, and let go of our own agenda, we can, like St Catherine of Siena, have enormous influence for good in the world.

Today, try not to win an argument but to be at one with whomever is speaking.

Whose willingness to sacrifice their own agenda for the sake of unity between and among believers do you most admire?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Born of the Spirit

"The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jn 3:8

Life in the Spirit can be, at the same time, empowering and confusing. More than once, people have told me that the Spirit told them to speak to me about a dream or insight they had, and while I listen carefully and respectfully, I am also cautious. The Spirit does not often speak in ways that can easily be articulated or quantified, and we must discern carefully what it is the Spirit is saying to us individually and as a church.

At the same time, there is little doubt that the Spirit is alive and works in our lives, and always has. The gospel of John assures us that we must be "born from above," or "born again," and that this new birth is necessary for all. The lives of the prophets and saints are testimony this rebirth. Elijah, frightened by the demands of his ministry, runs away only to have God find him, feed him and send him again to speak God's word. (1 Kgs 19)

In his Confessions, St Patrick writes about his own rebirth, but it was only after his life work proved so powerful that we treasured his words.
And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship. (Confessions)
Easter is a time to listen and test the demands the Spirit makes upon each of us.

Today, listen quietly to whatever God's Spirit might be saying to you.

What signs do you look for when testing the Spirit's word?