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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Yoked to Jesus

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of hear." Mt 11:29

Thinking of Jesus as meek is counter intuitive. Because the Lord never seems afraid of the leaders of his day, we don't think of him as submissive to anyone or anything except his Father. At the same time, obedience and the submissiveness it implies is the key to the Gospel. Acknowledging and accepting our total dependence on God frees us not to worry or fret about success, but to trust that God will have God's way in the world.

When Jesus encourages us to take the yoke of his obedience upon our shoulders, he is assuring us that we will never be alone. Like a pair of oxen, Jesus and each of us, will work together to bear the weight of every burden and pull the wagon of God's message to the world. Moreover, it should be no surprise that Jesus sent his disciples "two by two" to announce the Good News. Knowing how difficult it would be to stand out, sometimes in opposition to Jewish leaders, Jesus wanted his disciples to support one another by living simply and not worrying about results.

Today, help someone who seems heavy burdened to accept their yoke.

When have you felt most burdened by life, but supported by your faith?

Friday, July 4, 2014

New and Old Wine Together

"People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Mt 9:16-17

When we get stuck in the past, we cannot advance the Good News, and this happens to all of us from time to time. We know this is the case when we smile at ourselves or friends who remind us that we sound just like our parents! Caught up in the way things "used to be," we fail to recognize or fully appreciate the advances that the present generation is making.

Because the Jewish community of Jesus' time was so locked into a traditional understanding and interpretation of the Torah, they could not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. Although Jesus continually assured them that he had no intention of changing or doing away with even the "smallest part of a letter of the law," their defenses were up and their hearts were closed to how God wanted to renew them.

A good and healthy spiritual practice finds us asking regularly, not simply what we might do to preserve God's word, but how can we advance it to a new generation. Only when the young hear our excitement for them to be the face of a new evangelization will they be unafraid to push the Gospel forward.

Today, drink deeply of the new wine of Jesus.

Who or what has helped you appreciate the always new wine of the Gospel?


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Independence Day United States

"Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD." Am 8:9-10

Unfortunately, independence rarely comes to individuals or nations without violence. Because people often want to possess others as if they were slaves, people feel compelled to fight for their freedom. This was the case for the pilgrims who came to the United States from England.

Seeking religious liberty, the pilgrims left their homeland in order to live in a place that would respect and protect their desire to live and worship as they chose. First settling in the Netherlands, eventually, in order not to lose their English language skills, they came to America because, like the people about whom Amos wrote, the Pilgrims were experiencing, "Not a famine of bread...but for hearing the word of the Lord."

Regrettably, however, the Pilgrims did not extend religious liberty to others in the New World, and their rigidity was mirrored throughout the early colonies. The state of New York, for instance, banned Catholics from holding public office until 1806, and while Maryland offered Catholics full civil rights, Jews did not enjoy the same privilege. In other words, the freedom that we celebrate of the fourth of July each year had to evolve over many generations before it became the law of the land, and when we forget this, we imperil everyone's freedom.

Today, celebrate religious freedom and pray to end violence in the name of religion.

What happens when people don't respect one another's religious beliefs?












Wednesday, July 2, 2014

St Thomas, Apostle

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone." Eph 2:19-20

Feeling like a stranger can be very beneficial, especially if we are traveling in a foreign country. Only those with too much chutzpah think they belong everywhere, and Americans are notorious for this. Some American tourists, believing they own the world, hurt and anger people of other countries and cultures. Acting as if they are entitled to anything they want because they can pay for it, the embarrass themselves and their country, often without even knowing it.

Poor people almost never feel this way, but this is not to say they have no pride or sense of themselves. Rather, because their poverty makes them dependent on others, they are slow to judge, demand or condemn. The Jews of Jesus' day were like this. Knowing their country was occupied by the Romans, they walked cautiously through life, anxious not to lose the few privileges they had, and it was their humility that make it easy for Jesus to change their lives.

Although the Lord did not come among us to free us politically, he gives us a much greater gift by inviting us to be a part of his Body as "the household of God." Reminding us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Paul assures us the as long as Jesus is our cornerstone, the ground of our faith, it does not matter how rich, important or powerful we are in the world. All that matters is our commitment to be the Christ in the world.

Today, glory in the gift of your relationship with Christ.

How has faith given you a sense of belonging?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Guilt's Purpose

"They cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?'” Mt 8:29

Sometimes our faults torment us, and this is not all bad. Our pride gets in the way of our seeing and acknowledging the accomplishments of others, or our judgmentalism makes it impossible to recognize the beam in our own eye. When this happens, God's presence and encouragement are the last things we think about. Rather, we become obsessed with our own success and image.

On the other hand, it is important not to forget God's saving mercy and rely on it more when we find ourselves so distracted by our own sins that we think of little else. Not infrequently, I suggest to people that they can be guilty for ten minutes a day, but after that their guilt becomes an impediment to God's desire for the world. When we spend too much time thinking about or planning a path to purity of intention and action, we risk believing that we are in charge of our own lives, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Guilt can help us reflect and change, but we need always to ask God to help us discern what most advances God's reign. Guilt's purpose is to call us back to the path of honest and transparency, and when we accept God's way, like the young man returning to the home of his father after wasting his resources, we find God waiting to welcome us and set us on the path of  new life.

Today, examine our conscience and ask God to redirect your life.

Has your guilt ever helped you change for your own good, and God's?




Monday, June 30, 2014

Terror and Faith

"They came and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!' He said to them, 'Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?'”

Terror comes to all of us. A family member or close friend receives a diagnosis of a serious illness or a child in the military is posted to a country at war and our hearts start beating too fast. Our minds run away with us and we start projecting negative scenarios. Unfortunately, when this kind of "stinking thinking" gets hold of us, it is very difficult to get out of the cycle of darkness.

The apostles, we sometimes forget, were ordinary men hoping the Lord would rescue them from burdensome lives and free their nation from Roman occupation. When Jesus tried to help them see him for he was, they either turned away or hoped their interpretation of what he was saying was flawed. No one wants to let in the ultimate terror, but that is exactly what Jesus demanded. When the Lord told them that he had to suffer and die, they assured him they would not allow anyone to harm him, not realizing that unless Jesus died they could not be saved. When, moreover, they realized they might have to face the same fate, their fear reached new heights.

Terror endured for the sake of God's reign saves us, and while it is natural to for another path, we have only to ask God for the strength and integrity to endure and accept whatever will proclaim the coming of God's reign with power and transformation. Our only consolation in all that we must suffer is that the Lord will be at our side and give us resilience to persist through every trial with him as our guide.

Today, ask for the courage to face any terror that comes your way.

What strengths do you have to face the struggles of life as they unfold?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Discipline

“Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?” Ps 50:16

Although discipline can be overrated as a spiritual practice, it can just as easily be underrated. Without the discipline of daily prayer and reflection, it is very difficult to trust oneself or God. Imagine what would happen to an athlete who worked at her craft once a week. No matter how hard she worked, she would not be able to compete at a high level if she only worked at her sport once a week.

It is a good practice to examine our spiritual habits from time to time, and either renew or change them as the situation demands. If we find ourselves praying the rosary each day, but without much focus, we should consider changing, either by finding an aid that helps us pray the rosary more intentionally, or letting go of the rosary for a while in order not to take Mary's intercession for granted. The same lens might be used with any prayer that has become something we do solely by rote.

Without discipline our spiritual lives will weaken over time. Only when we make time for God and God's work can we be sure that we are serious about knowing God more intimately and serving God more generously.

Today, make an inventory of your spiritual practices.

What spiritual practices have been most helpful to you to living your faith?