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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost

"Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them."

The winds of Pentecost are cleansing, empowering and renewing. Freed of the limitations of the Old Law, the Gospel assures believers that the Spirit of God will be their guide and strength. What might have made the first disciples anxious before the Spirit's coming upon them, now is a tool of rebirth, something that becomes their strength. Remembering that Jesus told them many times not to be afraid, the Apostles and disciples trusted the fire of the Spirit's power to be their gateway to a rekindled faith life.

Pentecost, one of the three most important feasts in the liturgical calendar, is both a consolation and challenge to believers. When we accept the promise of Jesus to be with us always through his Spirit, and allow ourselves to be bathed in this assurance, our lives change. We discover a strength, even in difficult times, that is more than we could have imagined, and we know with a new certainty that we are not alone.

Lifted up by the fire of God's love, we are sent into the world as a challenge to others to let go of the empty values of wealth and power over others for our own satisfaction, and led into and by the light of faith into a lifestyle that finally hears and responds to Jesus' command that we take nothing for the journey. Our gift is the peace of God that we give away freely to those seeking a new way of life. Simple and without conditions, God's love is open to all who are willing to be possessed by God's spirit and root themselves in the commitment to share all God's gifts with all people.

Today, let the fire of the Spirit tell you how to live in Christ.

Have you ever been "blown away" by faith and its promises?


Friday, June 6, 2014

Our Faith Stories

"There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written." Jn 21:25

All of us have faith stories we can tell about how God entered and changed our lives. At times, it is simple. People speak about sitting in church expecting nothing when a great peace comes over them. While they can't describe it adequately, they know that God touched them in a way that altered their lives forever, and although they may forget it at times, the memory is never far away.

The early church was very conscious of how God was within and among them. Knowing the Spirit would always direct them, they had to choose among the many faith stories they heard in order to announce the Good News of Jesus with power and conviction. When John reminds us that it would be impossible to record all the marvelous things Jesus did, he is not speaking literally but figuratively. So many of Jesus' actions were life transforming that anyone of them can help us remember how fortunate we are to be people of faith.

It is important for us, especially parents and older people, to tell our faith stories. Young people need to know that God acted in our lives in marvelous ways, especially when we were struggling or lost. Only then will they realize that our faith is not simply an adherence to a dogma, but a living expression of gratitude to the God who is always near.

Today, pray in gratitude for the simple gift of faith.

If you had to tell your faith story aloud, where would you begin?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Do You Love Me?

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Who wouldn't be distressed if a friend and colleague questioned you over and over again about your loyalty and love? It is unnerving and upsetting, to say the least, when someone you trust seems to doubt your integrity. That Peter is troubled is not the point, however. Jesus is asking Peter not simply to be his friend, but to love him unconditionally just as Jesus loves Peter, which is another matter altogether.

When you read it plainly and openly, the Gospel is very demanding. Jesus challenges us to love one another, even our enemies, in the same way God loves him and us. It is a daunting task, but one we can complete with God's grace. While the Gospel is impossible when we think we must live it alone, it becomes a joy when we enter it with God and all the saints who have ever proclaimed God's name.

Today, ask for the grace to love God unconditionally.

Have you known the unconditional love of God in difficult circumstances?




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

St Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

"A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, 'We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?'” Acts 23:9

Being a missionary has always been difficult. One must leave the comfort and security of a culture, family and religious system that one knows, and enter a totally different world asking God to show you the path to integration and transformation. The best missionaries have always been the most attentive listeners, people who sense the goodness of the people to whom they have been sent. Knowing they are called, like St Paul, to discover the God who is already present in every culture and people, women and men missionaries live in gratitude and awe because of the God they encounter in the people to whom they have been sent.

St Boniface knew these challenges in spades. Sent to the German church that had lost its way, Boniface had to minister with compassion to an uneducated clergy and a community that was more interested in its own interpretation of the Gospel than the word preached by Jesus. Preaching reform and renewal, Boniface's influence was deep because he not only called people to reexamine their values, he also established houses of prayer throughout Germany. The church only prospers when it builds its catechesis and worship on a foundation of prayer.

Today, pray for those who face a daily martyrdom in their own homes.

Have you experienced faith in another cultural context? What was it like?


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Raining God's Grace

"As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world." Jn 17:18

St Cyril of Jerusalem, using the simplest of metaphors, helps us understand the Christ in a very accessible way:
But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water?...Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
That Jesus' Spirit is like rain invites us to sit by a window, watch the rain come down and imagine it nurturing and nourishing every plant and tree we can see. When it penetrates the roots of an oak tree, it allows the oak to be itself, strong and majestic, but when it drenches the roots of a tomato plant, it makes it possible for the plant to produce tomatoes. The miracle of grace and growth is obvious and important.

Our lives, lived in faith, should be like rain in others' lives. It is not our task to change those around us, but to help them become themselves in faith. When we give of ourselves freely to those in need, they can become the person God intends and needs them to become for the sake of God's reign. As God sends Jesus, and Jesus send us, so must we send others in Jesus' name to be signs of God's love.

Today, pray that those closest to you will become God's face in the world.

Who has been like rain in your faith life?

Monday, June 2, 2014

St Charles Lwanga and Companions

"Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace." Acts 20:24

One of the delights for Catholics in using the liturgical calendar regularly is that we get introduced to people from many different places and cultures around the world. Reading about St Francis Xavier one is led to the Far East: India, Japan and Indonesia. St Rose of Lima introduces believers to South America with its unique blending of indigenous and Spanish cultures, and each time we read (or visit!) these cultures we are changed, but we need also to be careful in this regard.

Unfortunately, there is little doubt that some Catholic missionary efforts arrogantly tried to impose a form of Christianity that was so embedded in Western European culture that it necessarily disrespected the cultures and religious traditions of the countries and people to whom they went in the name of the Gospel. Many countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, where there were large numbers of indigenous people, resisted Christianity for this reason. King Mwanga of Buganda (now southern Uganda) was on the resisters, and he had little patience with any person, group or any religion that he suspected of colonizing his people and nation in the name of God.

St Charles Lwanga, although a faithful government official in the Kingdom of Buganda, was martyred because King Mwanga, whom he served so faithfully, killed anyone who would not renounce their Christianity. Although Charles saw Christ and Christianity as a path to salvation and eternal life, King Mwanga was blind to anything that came from Europe and threatened his sovereignty. Enraged by the disobedience of his court officials, Mwanga killed Charles and at least fifty other Christians, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, because they refused to let go of something he found threatening. Do we push aside anything or anyone that calls us to change?

Today, ask the Lord to purify your heart so that you might proclaim the gospel with clarity and hope.

What do you think it means to be an everyday martyr?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Plain Talk from Jesus

"The disciples said to Jesus, 'Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.'” Jn 16:29

Especially in the United States, it is important to speak plainly. As a nation, we ask our politicians to work with and for us, to seek simple and honest solutions to common problems and to be straightforward in their approach to difficult choices they may have to make. When our politicians fail in this regard, as they often have in recent years, we wonder about their priorities and whether they are really working for us or are more committed to their party loyalties.

The Jewish community had multiple political divisions at the time of Jesus. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and the Zealots were struggling among themselves for control of the Jewish community, and too often their battles obscured the law and the prophets, making it difficult for everyday believers to know what to think, to believe, and how to worship authentically.

Jesus, on the other hand, spoke plainly and with enormous common sense. Careful to include the poor every time he taught, he challenged the leaders of the Jewish community to remember the fullness of the law and not parse it so minutely that everyone was confused. Met with joy and hope by his listeners, Jesus defended the poor at every turn and assured the Jewish leaders that those without a voice had a dignity greater than any fault they might have. In doing this, Jesus also reminds us not to focus on our faults but on the mercy of God.

Today, let your yes be yes and your no be no.

What happens to you when others speak plainly about their faith?