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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Don't Look at Me!

"John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God.' The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus." John 1:35

John the Baptist is one of the most remarkable figures in the bible. Never seeming to care much about his own reputation, John insists over and over that his role is clear, simple and straightforward. He must recognize the Christ, the Messiah of God, and get out of the way. We could all learn from him.

Along the way of more than 50 years of Capuchin life, I have met many John the Baptist's. Some were church sacristans and ushers; others were people who week after week visited nursing homes and hospitals simply because it was the right thing to do. They did not expect recognition or praise. They wanted only to serve God in the sick and needy.

As we enter more deeply into ordinary time in the liturgical calendar, take a few moments to pray and be grateful for all those unseen and humble people who make your life easier and fuller. Pray for volunteers everywhere who want only to help others know God by drawing no attention to themselves or their good deeds.

Who are the people you most remember in gratitude because of their kindness and generosity?



Friday, January 16, 2015

St Anthony of Egypt

"The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart." Heb 4:12

St Anthony of Egypt is often compared to St Francis of Assisi. Like Francis, Anthony heard God call him in the gospel passage, "Go sell all you have and come follow me." Anthony complied immediately and fled to the desert to live a life of austerity, penance and prayer. But, just like Francis, Anthony got it wrong, and God called him back to his society so that he could help others find God in a society gone mad with wealth, power and lust.

Most of us have known the rushing of God's spirit upon us, at least for a time, but we don't always respond as completely St. Anthony and St. Francis because we are fearful that a call as radical as this might disrupt our lives and everyone around us. Today's feast reminds us not to be afraid. God's word is living and effective. We have only to rely on God to do the work of God. When we ask for the grace to put aside our fear, as Anthony and Francis did, all things become possible and we are able to discern God's design for us.

Today, trust that God's sword will not harm us.

Have you risked responding to God when you were afraid of his two edged sword?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Walking in Faith with Friends

"They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying." Mk 2:3-4

Where would we be without friends? A paralyzed man who hears about Jesus has no way to see or visit the Lord unless friends help him. Though Jesus is  surrounded by needy people, the paralytic's friends are not deterred. They go up on the roof, dig through it and lower their friend in front of Jesus. It is really an amazing scene which the scribes cannot spoil with the mumbling about Jesus not having the power to forgive sins. So anxious not to lose their teaching role in the society, the scribes think nothing about the paralytic while the man's friends think of nothing else. Who doesn't yearn for friends like this?
The twelfth century monk and writer, Aelred of Rievaulx, says it this way:
No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy. ― Aelred of Rievaulx Spiritual Friendship
There is a second lesson today. We must be good friends, not just by offering others help and companionship, but by accepting the compassion of friends. The paralyzed man allowed his friends to bring him to Jesus, and that is the key to his healing. Had he resisted, Jesus could not have helped him. We, too, must submit ourselves in gratitude to the gentle love of our friends.

Today, be gracious and accept the help of your friends.

To which friends are you most grateful?


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hiding with Christ

"The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, Jesus dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, 'See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.'” Mk 1:43

Not wanting to be the focus of people's adulation, Jesus hides from the people after curing the leper because he knew that flattery rarely led to imitation and discipleship.  Jesus wanted the Jewish leaders and the people who first listened to him to fall in love with his Father and commit themselves to God's will.
This was and is a hard lesson for us. It is natural to want security and answers to life's problems and concerns. We go to doctors to avoid and address health issues and financial advisors to help us invest our money wisely and safely, but Jesus did not come to promise us protection from life's every day trials but to accompany us on every journey. He is the new Covenant, the fullness of God's love, the one who will always be with us as a guide. We should not expect him to shield us from difficulty but to be a light in the darkness.

Today, pray to be aware of God's unconditional love and presence.

Who has been with you through every dark night?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Allowing God to Come Close

"Jesus approached, grasped the hand of Peter's mother in law, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them."

Like most Catholics born in the middle of the last century, I was schooled to believe that the best way to live a devout life was to get to mass as frequently as possible, and to confession every week. These religious practices, good in themselves, often led people of my generation to worry about trivial matters in a way that was out of proportion to the faults themselves.

Worse, we often struggled every day to be better, not so much to honor God, but to "earn" our salvation. Unfortunately, while we became good practicing Catholics, our call to discipleship often got lost in the shadows of our compulsions. When the focus of the spiritual life becomes our personal holiness, union with God often takes a back seat.

Today's gospel offers us a different perspective. God is a healer who wants to lay hands of hope upon us and draw ever closer to us on our journey. When we, like Peter's mother in law, accept the help of the divine physician everything changes. Having confronted our weaknesses, we are freed of our compulsions and return to our daily work more energized and committed to the only one who can make us whole.

Today, who yourself to God as you really are and ask for healing.

What happens when we acknowledge our weaknesses and submit to God?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Friendship

"He is not ashamed to call them “brothers” saying: I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise you." Heb 2:12

It is difficult to overstate the importance of friends, especially soul friends, people who walk with us in faith. When we stop to think about all the times in our lives when we were struggling with important decisions, it was almost always the advice or the prayer of a friend or mentor that settled us. In my early days as a friar, there was an older priest who was forever warning us not to miss the forest for the trees, and his mentoring words of wisdom often come back to me when I start to stare at a problem so closely that I fail to see the big picture. Stepping back from a difficulty is always in order when we try too hard to do the right thing.

Knowing how important friendship is, however, is not enough. We cannot simply pray for friends to help us; the gospel demands that we become friends to one another. Listening to the ache of friends, sharing their joys, feeding them when they are hungry, and delighting in their everyday triumphs, is as powerful a sign of God's love as Jesus' miracles.

Today, rejoice in those who remind you by their love of the presence of the living God.

What have you learned about friendship that you most treasure?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Call of the Apostles

"Come after me."  Mk 1:17

The call to discipleship comes early in Mark's gospel.  Jesus sees Simon and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen, working their trade.  He calls them and they follow.  Mark is clear, sharp and uncomplicated. The text suggests that Simon Peter and Andrew needed to follow the Lord immediately or they would be left behind.

What was it that attracted the first apostles to follow Jesus? Were they simply in the right place at the right time? Sometimes being in the right place means standing still, not rushing about anxiously simply because we are uncomfortable. Stilling ourselves, breathing deeply, becoming aware of everything and everyone around us is the foundation for good decisions. Only when we are quiet internally and externally are we able to hear others and God deeply.

Furthermore, waiting patiently because we trust the person who asked us to meet her in a particular place at a particular time allows us not to fret needlessly about situations we cannot control. Developing daily practices of listening deeply to God and everything and everyone around us will prepare us to hear whatever it is the Lord would ask us to do.


Today, take five minutes of quiet to sit still, listen and ask for guidance.

What is the best advice you ever received about living your faith?