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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Vocation

"They chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism." Acts 6:5

Acts of Apostles tells us why the Apostles chose Stephen to help them in the mission of Jesus. Stephen was "filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," but it simply names the others. Why did the Apostles choose Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas? Why we have we been chosen as disciples?

Every person has gifts, many of which are hard to see and appreciate. When someone is a good listener, we appreciate their ability to sit quietly and pay attention to us without being distracted, but we can also be frustrated when they choose not to have an opinion about our concerns. Others have the ability to articulate matters carefully and succinctly, but can also make us wonder if life is as transparent and easy as their words seem to make it.

No doubt Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas had gifts that benefited the community, but we should not expect them or our friends to have answers to every problem. Rather, we pray to be grateful for the uniqueness of what each person brings to us, and seek to make our gifts available to others. Doing this regularly will us find and celebrate our vocation.

Today, pray to hear God's daily call to live the Gospel as a gift for others.

Have you discovered gifts in others that you never knew were there?


Friday, May 16, 2014

The Miraculous Works of Jesus

"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these." Jn 14:12

Jesus uses the phrase "whoever believes in me" often in John's Gospel. He promises us that we will never be thirsty if we believe in him, that we will not remain in darkness, and most tellingly that we will not die, but live forever. When he also assures us that we will do even greater works than the ones he did, he plants the seed in the hearts of his disciples about the power of the Spirit in the church. Doing the works of Jesus in the world does not belong only to the leaders in the church, but to all.

The question posed by John's Gospel is clear. What works are we called to do on behalf of the Gospel? How can we announce Good News with our lives? Although it might sound outrageous, we are all called to do miracles, to care for those who don't deserve it, reject us and waste our love. More, we are challenged to love our enemies for the sake of the Gospel, and when we do this, Jesus' becomes believable.

Today, ask God to help you do the impossible for the sake of the Gospel.

What miracles have others done for you?



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Solace for the Broken

"Do not let your hearts be troubled...I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Jn 14: 1,6

When I was a boy, I remember my mother talking about a friend of mine saying: Trouble always finds that boy. I wasn't sure exactly what she meant, but I did know that "Billy" seemed always to be under suspicion. Either because he started a fight or stole some penny candies from the corner store, our parents warned us not to befriend him. It must have been a lonely time for Billy. Although he was a good ball player, he was rarely chosen first when we picked teams for a game, and seemed always to be walking home from school alone.

Jesus is forever trying to appeal to people like Billy. He tells those who labor and are heavy burdened to come to him and find rest, and reaches out for women and men who the authorities label as unclean. In many cases, Jesus was successful in these invitations. Tax collectors ate with him, and sinners sought to touch him. Hopeful of a new life or a new lease on life, the broken found in him an understanding friend and companion.

How to appeal to those rejected by our society and invite others who have chosen a dark and destructive path to know the Lord is always the task of believers. Because Jesus challenges us to see with his eyes, we need always to try to look past what isolates sinners from society in order to find that core part of them that is anxious for redemption and life in a community. While we might often fail in our endeavors, we can never stop trying.

Today, have a conversation with someone who seems lost.

Who has brought you comfort when you were troubled?


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Humility

"When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: 'Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" Jn 13:16

When Jesus assumed the posture of a slave and washed the feet of his apostles, he startled them and us. That we ought to be kind to one another and welcoming to all, even our enemies, is clear, but that we should kneel down and wash others' feet made no sense at the time of Jesus and continues to feel alien to us. While we might offer someone access to a bathroom to refresh themselves, the idea of washing their feet would never occur to us.

In Jesus' day washing feet was common, but it was done by women and foreign slaves. Heads of household would never wash feet, and although many of the great figures of the Hebrew bible offered kind service to their friends and family, Jesus' willingness to stoop to wash his disciples feet signalled a new kind of leadership and a radical view of God.  Jesus' challenge was clear. We must see ourselves as less in order that God can be more.

Today, think about the God in others, not your own power or prestige.

Who taught you most about a life of Christian service?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

St Matthias

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love." Jn 15:9

Having someone near, especially in difficult circumstances, can be important and helpful. Knowing we are not alone reminds us that another will walk with and help us interpret whatever life brings. More important, Jesus promises us that his presence will never fail, that there is nothing we can do to turn God away from us. We can ignore or forget God's love, but God cannot forget us.

It is important to recall God's fidelity, especially when nothing about God or church feels right. Sometimes, stumbling through the dark woods of life's struggle, we can be distracted and doubt God's mercy, but the scriptures are forever reminding us that just as God loves Jesus, Jesus loves us.

It is also critical to have spiritual practices that remind us to turn each day, even several times a day, to God and seek God's understanding and intercession. Some do this by praying the Angelus morning, noon and evening. Others begin the day with five or ten minutes of quiet reflection, stop midday to honor God and end he day with an act of contrition and a prayer to sleep well. The form of our prayer is not as important as its regularity. Developing habits of prayer assure us that every day we will pause to remember the God who remains in and sustains us in life and grace.

Today, find a few moments to thank God for God's fidelity to us through the Spirit.

What practices do you have that help you remain in God as God remains in you?


Monday, May 12, 2014

When I am Weak then I am Strong

“'How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you and you do not believe.'"

Jesus' words are nothing but plain. Clear and straightforward for anyone who wants to listen, he tells his disciples and his opponents that he is the Messiah, the anointed one of God, but the Pharisees continue to bait him, trying to trap him into what they can call blasphemy. Jesus is not phased. Sure of himself and his role, he faces the Pharisees down and accuses them of not believing the works he does.

Honesty is a radically important virtue for any believer. Only when we admit and tell the truth about our faults and our faith can we hope to witness to the saving work of Jesus in a manner that challenges others to believe. Honesty about our weaknesses and the strengths given to us by God invites others to be honest about themselves and assures them that if they give themselves to God, potent change is possible. There is nothing more powerful than watching God work miracles in us and for others despite our weaknesses.

Today, admit your faults and see what God will do for you.

Has God ever worked good in you and for others through your weaknesses?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Discrimination

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning,...If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” Acts 11: 16-17

Discrimination is an interesting word and notion which can have a variety of meanings. We can a discriminating ear with regard to music, especially music that can be sung easily and well by the entire congregation. Music ministers with a discriminating ear look for music that allows and even encourages all to sing. We might also have a discriminating palate that allows us to eat foods that are both good for us and delicious.

At the same time, we can discriminate against others because of race, culture, gender, religious background and sexual orientation. Discriminating against anyone because of their identity is a sin. We are not free to dismiss or disregard others who are different from us. Rather, the believer needs to see others first as persons. There is no such thing as a prostitute, for instance. There are men and women who sell themselves for sex, but first they are persons who we must gaze upon with the eyes of Jesus. If we look upon or down at them as prostitutes, we reduce them to what they do. They are objects, not subjects.

In the early church, Jesus' disciples had to be very careful not to use the lens with which they were raised to dismiss people who were not Jews, friends or associates.  Because Jesus demands that we look at every person as a child of God, Peter is careful not "to hinder" God and God's work by discriminating against foreigners and strangers.

The label of unclean was not a category Jesus' friends could use, especially when gentiles came to them wanting to know more about Jesus and his values. Rather, Peter, and all who were commissioned to announce Good News, had to welcome everyone in the same way Jesus welcomed sinners, Pharisees and the sick. This Gospel imperative has not changed. We must welcome all who are seeking to know the Lord more deeply.

Today, do not discriminate against anyone who seeks to know Jesus.

What kinds of people are most difficult for you to welcome into your life?