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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Follow Me

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men and women."

Almost everyone has a conversion experience or three. Struggling for an identity or reflecting on the scriptures, there is a moment that stops us and reminds us who we are. Though it is not always life changing, it can be. When the Apostles heard Jesus invitation to follow him, they knew who they were and who they were called to me. The same was true for St Paul when he was blinded by a great light and heard a voice telling him:"I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." (Acts 22:8) Unable to see because of the great light, his companions led him into Damascus where Ananias healed him of his blindness and told him to return to Jerusalem and be baptized. Not long afterwards God told Paul to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles among whom he would find his life's mission.

While it appears that the Apostles and St Paul rarely wavered from the path of Jesus, we can be sure this is not true. Because all who open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit will be led more deeply into Christ and into mission, there will be moments of disabling doubt and confusion when we will wrestle with God and with life. Only after we lose the battle to be in charge of our own lives and throw ourselves again at God's feet and ask for mercy, will we find the path to the next stage of our journey. Indeed, God has a mission for all, but it is God's mission, not ours.

Today, ask God to strengthen you in your doubts.

What or who most helps you when you struggle with your faith?

Friday, January 23, 2015

St Francis de Sales

"In whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection." Introduction to the Devout Life

Lawyer, bishop, and writer, St. Francis de Sales remains an important figure in the spirituality of the Christian West because of his personal commitment, despite a quick temper, to gentleness, understanding and compassion.

Modern readers might quibble with Francis' metaphors and style in the Introduction to the Devout Life, but it is difficult to overestimate his importance. Convinced that every person had a vocation with limitations and gifts, he wrote eloquently and convincingly about how everyone, Popes and lay people alike, could practice devotion and grow closer to God.

It is sometimes unfortunate that when our church reminds us to pray for vocations, we focus almost completely on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While these vocations are important, unless we celebrate marriage as the sacrament to which most people are called, we risk undermining the foundation upon which the church is built.(1) Francis de Sales would never have made this mistake.

Today, be grateful for your vocation.

What married person do you most admire for their holiness?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Keeping Faith Simple

"Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach." Mk 3: 14-14 

Years ago, a wise priest friend and mentor told me that if anyone has more than three non negotiables in a relationship, they shouldn't be in that relationship. At the time, he was helping me learn the art of pastoral counseling, and it was advice he often gave to married couples. 

Imagine, he said, what it would be like for you to come to my rectory and find little notes up everywhere about which cup to use for coffee, how to say mass, which vestments to use and exactly where to park your car. I don't imagine you would want to return to help in this parish. When married couples find themselves in this kind of relationship, especially with regard to how to raise children, the marriage really struggles.

In today's gospel, Jesus chooses twelve apostles to whom he gives the power to preach and cast out demons, nothing more. As long as the apostles remember who they are who and they must follow, they will avoid making the same mistake as the Jewish leaders who tried to control God's people by dozens of laws and in the process lost sight of the God who is the ground of our spiritual lives.
Today, living simply and follow the way of the Lord.

Whose faith do you most admire for its simplicity and power?




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jesus, the Flowing Waters of Life

"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Jon 3:4

Jonah's challenge is both similar and very different from the apostle's. Jonah must walk through Niniveh and remind its citizens that unless they reform, their entire city will be destroyed. In this aspect of his ministry Jonah is a forerunner of the apostles, but Jonah is reluctant to assume his new role. In fact, he hopes he fails. His dislike of the Ninivehites is deep. He does not want them to reform and hopes that God will destroy them.

The apostles, on the other hand, while no doubt having their own prejudices, are not reluctant at all to follow Jesus. Jesus' personality and power draw them like fresh water in the desert. They do not hesitate leaving their boats and their families to follow the one who promises a new reign and a new world order.

There is a bit of Jonah and the apostles in all of us. Because no one can escape hurt, like Jonah we sometimes harbor and hold onto painful memories that cling to us like an ink stain on a new shirt. We scrub and launder the shirt over and over, but the stain remains. Though we know we have no choice but to find a new shirt, we cling to what seemed so clean and fresh but is now ruined. Unless we change shirts, we will be unable to begin again, and that is exactly what the apostles do. Because the law as they heard it interpreted left them cold and lifeless, they follow Jesus, the living water and are born again.

Today, let go of anything that is keeping you from the enjoying the living water of faith.

Who has been like water in the desert for you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

St Agnes

"He is out of his mind." Mk 3:21

When people do really good things for no apparent reason it is sometimes easier to question their motives than to enjoy their kindness. That is what seems to have happened to Jesus. Rather than celebrate his honesty, integrity and healing power, people suggested that he was "out of his mind." How awful, but how common.

I had the privilege of working with lots of people who others think are out of their minds, and in some ways they are, but simply because someone is mentally ill does not mean they don't think, feel, love, and care about the world. Perhaps it is our own fear of mental illness that gets in the way of our seeing the person behind or inside the illness, but it would be awful if, because of our fear, we missed the glory of God fully alive in them. Too many people missed knowing God incarnate by reducing Jesus to a "crazy person", and the same could happen to us.

If we cannot find Jesus in the next person we meet, no matter how "mad" they might seem, then we need to examine our hearts. Jesus was clear when he warned his contemporaries about having eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear. We need to pray not to sin in this same way.

Today, think of someone who others dismiss as "out of his mind" with eyes and ears anxious to know the person behind the illness.

What has been your experience with people who are mentally ill?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sabbath Time

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mk 2:28

When Jesus reminds the Pharisees that his disciples are hungry and need not worry about a particular Sabbath prohibition about picking grain on the Sabbath, they are scandalized. How could this young rabbi presume to to interpret the law so loosely? Jesus is clear. While the Sabbath is important and necessary, it should no be an unnecessary burden on people's hearts, especially those who struggle to make a living.

The same is true for the obligation to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday. While the law of the church regarding Sunday Eucharist is important because it helps us honor God, and remember we are a community of faith who travel together in Christ, it should never get in the way of common sense. If we are sick or age makes it difficult and dangerous to get to mass safely, we need to find other ways to honor God and support the community.  If we are more afraid of breaking the law than praising God, we can tie ourselves in knots and become totally self absorbed rather than celebrating the God who is always near.

Today, ask God to help you see the big picture about faith.

What does it mean to you to be an adult Catholic?


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Resentment

“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Children often complain about a sibling receiving more food, more desert, more attention or more affection. Sometimes they protest to their parents directly, sometimes to grandparents or friends, and while their lament sounds like it is rooted in justice, it is really an expression of their fear that they are invisible and unimportant not only their parents but to everyone. Because they have tried so hard to please their elders and superiors, they think they have earned and deserve their affection and love. 

Like resentful children, the Pharisees sound like they are concerned for the Law and its careful observance, but in fact they are afraid that they are losing the  empty power over the poor which they so carefully crafted. They want Jesus to recognize, honor and obey the law according to their insights, but Jesus will have none of it. Like the Pharisee in Luke's gospel who marches to the front of the synagogue comparing himself to sinners and announcing his goodness, they expect God to reward them for their fidelity to the law, only to learn that the law is not a competition but path that helps us live in God's presence as humble servants. 

Today, ask God to free you of any resentment you might have.

Are there issues in your life that cause you resentment?