Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Alone with God

"He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone." Mt 14:23

Time alone is important. We need to step away from the pace of life as we usually experience it in order to appreciate how good God is and how fortunate we are. When we rush about trying to get everything done, we miss the wonder of the day and moment.

Years ago when I was trying to learn how to cook (some would say I should stop trying), I found myself so concerned with what I was doing that I failed to appreciate the simple pleasures of cooking. I rarely smelled the onions or garlic sauteing, and I hardly noticed the people with whom I would soon eat. Too concerned with making sure everything was "right," I got it all wrong.

Jesus regularly steps away from his mission to pray. Never letting his readers forget that Jesus is the new Moses, Matthew has him go up a mountain to listen to God and pray, to be quiet and remember who he is and why he has come to among us. Sent by God to announce Good News, it is important for us to remember that though the Lord will suffer much and be persecuted for his ideas and growing power among ordinary people, he is the Messiah of God, the anointed one, the fulfillment of God's promise always to with and among us. To appreciate this, we must spend time alone and in quiet.

Today, find time to get away from everyone and everything. It is not important what you think about, but how you let God be with you.

What have been your experiences of faith when you have stepped away from the busyness of life?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Patience with God

"Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision Clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late." Hb 2:3-4

Waiting can be a struggle. Whether we are waiting for a family member to arrive for supper, or for news about a medical test, our spirits get edgy and anxious. Not sure how to proceed, we realize how often we take for granted the ordinary events of everyday life. Sometimes annoyance and anger fill us, and although our minds tell us we are being foolish, our desire to control life is stronger than our good sense.

The prophet Habbakuk, perhaps the only prophet to challenge God's way of dealing with his people, cannot understand how God can abandon his people and even seem to participate in their destruction. Is this the behavior of an all loving God? Can't God see the good hidden in the hearts of his people? Although Habbukuk is angry, hurt and confused, God tells him to wait, be patient and see what God will do for the people of Israel.

The lesson of Habbakuk is demanding. We cannot look at a single day or year and judge God's actions justly. Unless we step back from our own impatience and pride, we will fail to see that God always turns back to his people, always forgives, always draws near to us in our struggles. The battle we wage within not to miss the "forest for the trees" in our own lives can be exhausting, but is the ultimate test of our faith. God will not abandon us, but we must be patient.

Today, don't rush yourself or others. 

Who or what has taught you the value of patience?







Thursday, August 7, 2014

St Dominic

"Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Mt 16:25

It is frightening for most of us to even consider losing our life for anything or anyone else. The survival instinct we possess is too strong, and while most of us might be willing and able to respond in an emergency to someone in imminent danger, when we have a chance to think about it, we find all kinds of excuses not to take the risk of losing our lives for a cause or another person.

When we hear Jesus tell us that the only way we can save our life is to lose it, we resist and wonder what he can possibly mean. Does he want us all to be martyrs? In fact, Jesus asks only that we trust him and his promise of eternal life. "Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Mt 6:25) When we are full of faith, there is no room for the kind of overwhelming fear that paralyzes us in the face of danger.

St Dominic is a powerful example of what can happen when someone embraces the Gospel without compromise. Conscious that the Albigensians were very critical of the clergy who traveled by horse and had servants, Dominic embraced voluntary poverty in the tradition of the Apostles and for 10 years went from place to place as an itinerant preacher, letting go of his life of privilege for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, ask for the strength to be weak like St Paul so that Christ can work in you.

What faith practice helps you face your fears?



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Peter, the Rock

"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." Mt 16:18

Earlier in Matthew's gospel Jesus tells anyone willing to listen to him to build their houses on rock, not on sand. Sand is soft and when a heavy storm comes it will wash away and houses built on it will crumble. Unfortunately, not only the Pharisees, who build their power on a narrow interpretation of the Law, fall victim to this fault. We build our houses on sand when we think that wealth and power alone can secure a good life for us. Money and influence are not evils, but can too easily fool us into thinking that we have no need of God or faith and that is the danger against which Jesus warns us.

The rock upon which Jesus wants us to build our lives is faith. When we are grateful for someone or something, we naturally want to offer others the same gift we received. Faith is a pure gift, not something we can earn or deserve, and Jesus wants us to be grateful for it, give it away, and offer service to others freely so that they will experience the fruits of our faith without limitation, reservation or the need to reciprocate.

It is Peter's faith that allows him to recognize Jesus as the Messiah of God, the one who has come into the world for the salvation of all. Because Peter responds in faith, Jesus tells him he will be the rock upon which he will build the church. The same is true for us. When we live in faith we can be the rock upon which Jesus continues to construct his Kingdom, and a source for others to know the love of the living God.

Today, be grateful for your faith and share it whenever possible.

Has someone or some teaching of our faith been a rock for you?





Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Transfiguration

"You will do well to be attentive to it (the prophetic message), as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." 2 Pt  1:19

There are times when a light goes on in our spirits and we know who we are before God and what we are to do. Sometimes God's call is simple. We know not to act, but to sit quietly and wait. At other times, we are sure that we should visit a sick friend or make a phone call to sibling or former coworker. While these actions might seem unimportant, we know different. Our spirits call us to reach out for the needy and respond to those who are lonely or afraid. Listening to God in quiet prayer and reflection each day helps us attend to God's gentle promptings,  reminds us that God is always present within and among us, and that we have only to respond to God when God calls.

The apostles Peter, James and John began to learn this lesson when Jesus took them up a high mountain. Whether the apostles were anxious about taking this unusual journey with Jesus is not clear, but it seems they were very anxious when Moses and Elijah appeared to them. Not sure how to respond, they could not discern that Jesus was telling them he was the new Moses and the new Prophet who would fulfill for and through them everything that God planned for his people.

Learning to be still, and to listen to God everyday will help us not to make Peter's mistake and stammer out our willingness to remain in any place where the Lord speaks to us. Jesus is inviting his apostles on another part of his journey. There is no need for them (or us) to cling to him or to anything that reminds us of him. Rather, we are to trust that his desire for us will be made clear to us as we attend to his word and offer service to the needy.

Today, practice being still and listening to the voice of God in the ordinary events of the day.

Have there been moments in your life when you knew clearly what God wanted from you?


Monday, August 4, 2014

Blindness

"Then his disciples approached and said to him, 'Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?' He said in reply,...' Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'"

It can be very sad to acknowledge how blind we have been in life. Not only do we fail to see the sick and needy around us, we often are blind to the needs of our closest friends. When we are too concerned with our own image, power or needs, we lose focus, forget our ideals, and everyone and everything around us suffers.

Unfortunately, none of this is new or particular to people of the present age. Jesus tried to help his disciples see the errors of the Pharisees, but his task was difficult. The men he chose as apostles, though insightful, did not come to Jesus from a place of power and influence. As fishermen, they had to be decent business men but would have been wary of crossing the Jewish authorities for fear they would be condemned  and even shunned by their contemporaries.
Finding a place within and a community of disciples with whom to walk the way of the Gospel is important. Being strengthened by others who seek to know and live the Good News is an essential element of the faith about which Jesus preached. Because Jesus knew the path of righteousness which he proclaimed would be a struggle for all, he was forever reminding his followers to go "two by two" and to work together to be faithful to God. The same is true for our generation.

Today, open your eyes and look around. Judge nothing. Simply look and reflect about what you see.

What spiritual practices help you see the world the way God sees it?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

St John Vianney

"Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'” Mt 13: 29-31

How often we begin a project, hesitate or pause for a bit, and never return to it. We can claim we don't have enough time or excuse ourselves by citing more pressing priorities, but not finishing a project can be depressing and painful. Not completing what we have begun begins to stare us in the face emotionally and give us pause about beginning something new.

Peter's faith is tested when Jesus tells him not to be afraid and to come to him across thee water. Initially grateful and willing, after he begins to move towards Jesus, Peter realizes that the winds are stronger than he thought and his fear overwhelms him.

Forgetting that it was Jesus who called him and Jesus who would sustain him, Peter offers all a lesson about faith and trust in God when he relies on his own strength and begins to sink. Only when we accept our total dependence on God for life, for strength and for the gift of eternal life are we able to let go and not be unduly afraid of the "winds" of change, diminishment and death.

Today, ask God for the strength to walk across the troubled waters of your life.

What are greatest faith challenges?