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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Chosen

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Christ is our head and foundation. He is the one upon whom our lives our built. He chooses us, not to overwhelm us with responsibility and burdens, but to be his body in the world. If we remain in him, the true vine, we will not only have the strength do whatever he asks, the glory of his love will be plain for all to see in the fruit we bear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.

What does it take to remain united to Christ in difficult circumstances?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Awe and Wonder

"As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number." Acts 16: 4-5

What does it take to grow stronger as an individual and a family? In the early post Pentecostal church, the disciples knew how important their unity in faith was for themselves and for the community of believers. When we argue over the smaller details of life and faith, we hurt ourselves and others, and scandalize those who look to people of faith for the willingness to put aside their differences for the greater good of all.

Thomas Merton once wrote that people will know who we are by the way we walk, talk and pick things up and hold them in our hands. When we walk, and don't rush past, all we see, when we speak with compassion and understanding, and when we hold everyone and everything with tenderness and delight, we proclaim the Gospel with power and clarity. Our reverence for the God who lives everywhere and in everyone invites all to gratitude.

Today, pray for the unity of your family and our church.

Whose integrity and reverence for all creation shaped your faith?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chosen

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Christ is our head and foundation. He is the one upon whom our lives our built. He chooses us, not to overwhelm us with responsibility and burdens, but to be his body in the world. If we remain in him, the true vine, we will not only have the strength do whatever he asks, the glory of his love will be plain for all to see in the fruit we bear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.

Do you believe that you have been chosen by God to be Jesus' disciple?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Importance of Joy

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” A friar friend, gently prodding a group of clergy, once asked them to bow their heads, screw up their faces and pray. Only a few participants smiled until the end of the prayer when my friend suggested that if they were happy they ought to inform their face.

It can be difficult to smile, relax and enjoy others when we are troubled or in the middle of a debate like the early church we learn about in Acts of the Apostles. Not sure how best to fold the gentile community into the church, the Apostles struggled with one another. Paul saw things one way; James another and it is clear that everyone was trying to convince the others of their point of view. Being right often kills joy and rather than proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, we act like a group of children after losing a ballgame. 

Today, smile at someone randomly.

Who helps you express the joy you feel as a disciple of Jesus

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Disputes

"But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'" Acts 15: 5

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Passion

"Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch." Acts 14: 24-26

The apostles and disciples were full of passion after Pentecost. So filled with the hope of God's reign changing everything, nothing could stop them in going from place to place despite the danger to themselves and their families. They had heard the good news and been transformed by it. Passionately, they move onward and upward, convinced the reign of God and Jesus' return was very near, but we should have no doubt that they also tired with the tremendous effort of trying to be all things to all people.

The same thing happens to us. When we are young, we can be passionate about changing the world, raising a family, building a career, and cleaning the environment. Our passion drives us and seems unstoppable. Even though we often fail, we get up, move on, and search for new ways to live authentically, but being passionate also comes at a high cost. Because we spend an enormous about of energy in rushing from place to place and cause to cause, we find ourselves exhausted and worn out.

A change is in order. We must learn to harness our passion, listen to our bodies and discern how best to move forward as disciples. Allowing God to direct our lives not only frees us from the constant need to perform and succeed, it reminds that only in God are all things possible.

Today, be passionate about being alive.

Whose passion for the good and for God most changed you?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Courthouse

"The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Jn 14:25-26

If you have ever been to a courthouse for a trial then you know the setting for St. John’s gospel. John suggests that not only Jesus, but the entire church is on trial, and that both Jesus and the church have an Advocate, a spokesperson who will testify on their behalf. This Advocate is the Holy Spirit. In the ancient world, if you were accused of a crime, it was important to haven an important figure in town speak on your behalf, someone to insist that you were more than your faults. The Holy Spirit is the one John designates as our spokesperson.

Not infrequently, when our spirits are low, we forget all those who care about and love us. Overwhelmed by our own guilt or weakness, we slip into a kind of darkness that blankets every thing we do and are. Though we know that life is not all darkness, we have periods of time when it seems that way, usually because of the accumulation of burdens.

A sick mother, a child acting out, a husband who can’t find work, a mortgage payment due without sufficient funds, a small business that is struggling, a car that seems always to need expensive repairs are all events we have experienced. As long as we are carrying only one or two, we can usually find light in our darkness, but when they start to pile up we can feel overwhelmed and wonder where God is.

Today, scripture reminds us that no matter how heavy our burdens, there is someone, the Holy Spirit, who is prepared to speak on our behalf and whose job it is to hold up before others who might be judging us that we are people of  good character and commitment to God. The Holy Spirit will enumerate all our good deeds and insist that others see us as faith filled and honest. How wonderful to have such an Advocate.

Today, remember that God is on your side.

Who has been your best defender and spokesperson?