Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Epiphany

"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" Mt 2:2

Stability is something we all seek.  We want a permanent job, a house or apartment of our own that we can afford.  We want our children to do well in school and enter strong solid marriages.  It goes on and on.  Stability is like a prize that we cannot live without, but today's readings ask us to make a very deep examination of conscience.

What kind of stability are really seeking? Jesus does not promise us that we will have a land to call our own, but assures us that God will always be with us in the flesh, and will send his Spirit to dwell within us and among us forever. Rather than building temples, we are God's holy tabernacle. We are a pilgrim people who build places of worship and call them churches, but the real church is us! United in faith with the assurance that God will be our anchor, we are set free from the compulsive need to live in one place, have the same job forever, and measure our success by what we have rather than who we are.

Our challenge on the feast of the Epiphany is straightforward: How open spirited are we?  How ready are we to welcome the message of salvation and hope no matter where it comes from? The story of the Magi is still told today because it reminds us to let go of our limited understanding of the gospel and listen with open spirits to the epiphanies happening all around us every day.

Today, ask God to give you a stable relationship in faith to continue your journey.

Have you had an Epiphany lately?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Loving those with Whom We Journey

"So start to love your neighbor. Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless pauper into your house. Clothe the naked, and do not despise the servants of your kin...  By loving your neighbor, by having care for your neighbor, you are travelling on a journey." St Augustine's Treatise on St. John

Thinking of the spiritual life as a journey is a helpful metaphor because it frees us from needing to be someplace or get somewhere.  People on journeys or pilgrimages  are not much concerned about social status, political views or cultural norms.  Rather, they are seekers who want to experience something new, something different from what they have always known.  Seekers are the kind of people who eat to live, not live to eat.  They are not tourists who need to see ten things every day, but pilgrims who want to experience each day as it comes. They are more concerned with knowing the people and community in which they live  than accomplishing something for their own satisfaction.

St Augustine reminds us that the best way to begin a journey and live as pilgrims is to love our neighbors, whoever they might be.  When we break bread with the hungry and give a place in our hearts to the homeless everything changes.  We realize that the hungry and homeless are people just like us, not objects to be fed but children of God with whom we will travel. It is not simply our generosity that is so attractive to those who witness our love, but our relationship with the poor that will call others to "get on the bus" as together we seek God.

Today, don't go looking for someone in need, love the neighbor right next to you.

What have been the highlights of your own spiritual pilgrimage?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sts Basil and Gregory

"When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper....our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians." (1) St. Gregory of Nazienzen

The saints whose lives we honor today were, in contemporary language, "soul friends."  Basil, who is recognized as the father of monasticism in the East, could be fierce and unbending. Much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our day, he was a reformer and  made decisions quickly, often without much conversation with others. Gregory, on the other hand, was shy and retiring.  When appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, he lived with friends rather than take up residence at the city's center. Both men were accused of heresy and were slandered by those who resented their power and fortitude. Despite their differences, they remained friends.

All of us need people with whom we walk closely in faith, especially when life is difficult and confusing. Having one other person to accompany us through the dark and light times is a gift beyond words. Gregory and Basil had this in one another, and although their relationship was often under great stress, Gregory reminds us that their "great pursuit...to be called Christians" kept them together in love and hope.

Today, treasure the gift of a  soul friend.

As the New Year begins, how can you grow in fidelity to God and your friends?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Day

"Behold, peace is no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God has sent down to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us. A small bag, perhaps, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead." St Bernard of Clairvaux

That God's mercy in Christ is like "a bag bulging with his mercy," reminds us that God is waiting, especially as we begin a new year, to pour out upon us new gifts and new dreams, and it is for us to discover and discern how best to share God's mercy with all people.

Each year our Holy Father invites Catholics and all people of good will to begin the New Year by praying for world peace in the hope that all people will pause and remember that their own human dignity is compromised and threatened unless everyone works together for justice upon which a lasting peace might be built. Last year, building on the gospel reminder that, if we want justice to spread across the globe, we need to be other centered, Pope Francis asked:
How did we spend the time God gave us? Did we use it, above all, for ourselves, for our self interests, or did we know to spend it also for others? How much time did we set aside to be with God, in prayer, in silence and in adoration?
Today, re-imagine how you might help those most in need.

What helps you to let go of self interest in the name of the common good?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Eve

"In adoring the birth of our Savior, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body." St Leo the Great

All of us have experienced the rebirth that comes when a fraying relationship is renewed or a family member returns from overseas service. We feel renewed, uplifted and hopeful. What seemed dark and threatening is changed into a new life we thought might be lost. We experience a kind of rebirth that galvanizes and strengthens us.

Pope St Leo the Great says it beautifully. Christ's birth is our birth, too. We learn that God, no matter how far we have drifted from the path of gospel life, chooses to be with us, to be among us, to be one of us, and there is no way we can adequately articulate the wonder of this gift.

At the same time, while free, unconditional and total, God's love is not weak, but demanding. We must share God's free gift of new life and love with every other person, not because we will be rewarded, but because so many people yearn for the hope Christ's birth implies. God wants to gift us with new life each day. We have only to welcome God to know we are reborn day after day.

Today, let go of the past year in order to begin the new year with hope.

What are your faith based New Year's resolutions?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Anna, The Prophtess

"There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher...She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem." Lk 2: 36, 38

St Bernard of Clairvaux, in a remarkably moving and demanding sermon, begs Mary to help her sons and daughters:
Let humility be bold, Mary, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
Reading Bernard's words always lifts my spirits. It is clear that the Saint thought of Mary as his sister, mother, and friend, someone to whom he could speak plainly and with abandon. Mary was not an historical figure, but a living, breathing companion with whom Bernard could plead and beg.

Perhaps Anna, the Prophetess, who welcomed Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Temple, also saw Mary as a young friend with whom she could share her life and her dreams. Maybe Anna even asked Mary to help her and all the people for whom Jesus came.

Bernard's and Anna's example should embolden us. Both Mary and Jesus are meant to be accessible players in our personal and communal lives. We should never be afraid to approach them and ask for help and guidance.

Today, imagine you are one of the people in the Temple when Mary arrives to present Jesus to God. Stop her and ask for help.

What has helped you draw close to Mary and the saints?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

"Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:"Lord, now let your servant go in peace;your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel." Lk 2: 27-32

Waiting for someone you have never met is anxiety producing. Whether we are at a bus station or an airport, we scan the faces of the people who are exiting and wonder if they are the one we are to meet. Simeon, who Luke implies is an old man, waits each day until finally Mary and Joseph arrive to present their first born son for consecration in the temple, and when he sees the Christ, he does not hesitate. Simeon knows this is the One promised of old and sings for joy.

The question presented to us is the gospel is clear. Do we recognize the Christ among us? Do we take time to search the faces of the poor, the forgotten, the ignored and the despised in order to remind them they are the beloved of God, the chosen ones?  Saints of every age have reminded us of this obligation. Mother Teresa said it this way, "Every person you meet is Christ in disguise."

Today, expect to be surprised by Christ.

Has someone from whom you expected little revealed to you the face of Christ in an entirely new way?