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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Gift of Wisdom

"The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered:...Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong." 1 Kgs 3: 5,7

What are the deepest desires of your heart? This is the question God poses to Solomon, and the King's answer both pleased and startled God. Solomon asks for an understanding heart and Wisdom, qualities we most often associate with aging, but Solomon is a young man who understands how important it is to know right from wrong  and to be just and merciful.

It is intriguing and revealing to question ourselves in the same way God questioned Solomon. When we or our loved ones are sick, we usually ask for health. When we lose a job or are behind on our rent or mortgage, we ask for work or another way to pay our bills. Solomon asks for wisdom, not for power, wealth, influence or skills as a warrior, and becomes a model for all. When we have the courage to ask to be whatever it is God needs us to be, we can let go, trust God and live life to the full.

Today, ask God for an understanding heart, especially towards those who have hurt you.

What do you think are the marks of a wise person?




Friday, July 25, 2014

Sts Joachim and Anne

"Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow;...will I remain with you in this place." Jer 7: 4-5

Although we know little about Joachim and Anne, the apocryphal gospel of James assures us they they were just, not only to their neighbors and family, but to all, and because they were so faithful to the law and to God, despite Anne's barrenness, they are signs of hope for us even today.

Most of us can easily recall people, even our parents, aunts and uncles, who were filled with faith despite the heavy burdens they carried. My own parents lost a child to what we now call sudden infant death syndrome, but kept and even grew in their faith. This is not to say they ever understood God's plan. My mother wondered aloud many times and asked: Why would God send a child, only to snatch him away before he has had a chance to live? These questions, I have no doubt, were only her way of expressing her feelings aloud. No matter what happened in her life, mom would try to get to daily mass, helped others less fortunate than herself, and never failed to pray in the morning, evening and before meals.

It is good that we hold up a married couple as saints, and we could do with even more. Marriage is, after all, the primary way most people live the Gospel and we should never suggest that it is a lesser vocation. Anyone who honestly discerns that God is calling them to marriage and family is fully alive in Christ, just as Joachim and Anne were.

Today, thank God for whatever path to which God had directed you to live the Gospel.

What about the sacrament of marriage most strikes you as holy?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

St James, Apostle

"Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Cor 4:7

What a gift our bodies are! Paul calls them "earthen vessels," and indeed they are. Wonderful vessels that allow us to listen, see, speak, eat, touch others with compassion, and breathe. More important, our bodies are the vessels that allow our spirits to engage others and work together to create a world that is just for all.

Unfortunately, most of us don't appreciate our bodies until they balk or break down. Only when we can't see because of a cataract or walk easily because our knees are swollen or sore, do we realize how well our bodies have served us and God.

In the United States where we overeat as a nation and where there is so much public and private transportation available, we compromise our bodies by not walking or exercising enough. While people rarely call this a sin, we need to think about this. Not eating well or exercising regularly places a tremendous burden on our families and hospital systems and, more important, allows us to take our bodies for granted.

Today, take five minutes to be grateful for your body and how well it has served you.

Have you discovered ways to be grateful for your body on a daily basis.




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Word beyond the words

"Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them." Mt 13: 6-7

Whenever we are preoccupied, it is difficult to hear or see clearly. Health care professional, for instance, remind us that whenever possible we should have a friend or a spouse, a second set of ears, accompany us when we visit a doctor to hear about a new health care concern. Somehow when we try too hard to hear, we miss important elements about our condition when we are alone or overly focused.

The same can be true whenever we are threatened, and it is clear that this was happening to many of the Jewish leaders when they listened to Jesus. Rather than listen carefully, think, reflect and respond to the young rabbi Jesus with interest, they rejected him out of hand because his message unnerved them. Instead of asking clarifying questions, they accused him of perverting the Torah and misinterpreting the Prophets. For a while Jesus was patient with them but eventually he made it clear that he would no longer offer his insights about the Law to those who refused to listen deeply.

It is important to remember that all of us can feel threatened and upset when someone challenges our interpretation of the Gospel or commitment to the Church. When this happens, stop, listen and don't feel compelled to answer immediately. If possible, wait a day or even a few days. Then, when we know we must clarify or challenge others, we will do so with grace and kindness.

Today, listen to someone carefully but say nothing.

What practices most help you to listen to others with whom you disagree?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God's Word in our Mouth

See, I place my words in your mouth!
This day I set you
over nations and over kingdoms,
To root up and to tear down,
to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant. (Jer 1:9-10)

It can be difficult for us to be as humble as Jeremiah, and let God put the words we must say to announce the Good News directly into our mouths, and this can be even more arduous if we think of ourselves as reasonably articulate. God's assurance to Jeremiah really is an astounding promise and challenge. As long as Jeremiah lets go of his anxiety about being too young, and remains still and welcoming to God, God will give him the words he needs to be a prophet.

Jesus makes a similar pledge to his disciples in Luke's Gospel. "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Although most of us will never suffer the same threats as Jesus' first disciples and be dragged before the civil authorities for preaching the Good News, Jesus' promise remains because, in some ways, our challenge is more difficult. 

How often do we find ourselves trying to be too polite or careful so as not to offend those with power, money or political office? St Paul is clear: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2 Tim 4:2) In other words, don't be afraid, God still puts the words we need into our mouths if only we trust.

Today, speak simply and without pretense about God's desire for the world.

Who has been the clearest proponent of a Gospel life for you?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Throwing our Sins into the Sea

"Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins." Mi 7:18-19

Almost every child learns how to skip rocks across a pond or a lake. With practice we might even manage to make the stone skip six or seven times, but eventually the stone sinks into the water and disappears, and even the best of divers would be hard pressed to find it. The stone which has disappeared, Micah suggests, is like our sins and guilt. God throws them into the sea where they disappear, and even God does not want to find them, but the same cannot always be said for us.

The challenge of the spiritual life is to let go, not just of our possessions and power, but of our sins and guilt. When we cling to anything, even our guilt, we get in God's way. Opening ourselves to God's example, we need to imagine ourselves throwing our sins into the sea. Only those who are too proud think they have to keep asking forgiveness for sins God has dismissed.

Further, when we accept God's forgiveness, our task is simple. We need to forgive anyone who has hurt or sinned against us, and this will the sign that God's desire to forgive us must be shared with all people, especially those who struggle to accept themselves.

Today, turn your back on your guilt and look at others with forgiving eyes.

Whose forgiveness of you has helped turn your life around?

Sunday, July 20, 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

Unless our words of commitment and faith are followed by deeds of love, they are empty. The psalms often challenge us to discipline our lives so that we might always assure ourselves and God of our authentic desire. Discipline demonstrates, even and especially when we are unsure of what God wants of us or how to take the next step on our spiritual journey, that we are serious about living of and for God.

Discipline can take many forms. Not only must we be committed to regular prayer, but fasting, silence, spiritual reading, simple acts of service and speaking regularly with a spiritual companion are practices that remind us that we are about God's desire for us, and that results are not as important as our willingness to submit ourselves daily to being a sign of God's plan, not our own.

Today, make an examination of conscience about your commitment to the daily discipline of the spiritual life.

How important is discipline in your faith life?