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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ascension

"Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." Acts 4:2

How to remain alert and aware to the truths of faith is always a great challenge. As Catholics we profess that the Lord is with us, even on a day when we celebrate his leaving. The same challenge lies before families when one member moves a great distance away, or for the families of soldiers when their father, mother, son or daughter is sent to a part of the world where they are thrust into the middle of a way. Trying to remember them when they are not at the breakfast table each day is easy enough but difficult and painful.

In many ways, this was the situation the disciples of Jesus had to face when he ascended to his Father in heaven. They knew he had promised to be with them always, but they missed the comfort of seeing him and listening to his wisdom on a daily basis. They knew they had to carry on, but they were not sure how they would do this. That he promised them the Holy Spirit as a guide and mentor was helpful, but different. They could not see the Spirit in the flesh like they saw Jesus, and like most of us, they resisted change.

Because we are faced with these same struggles, the church encourages us to create rituals at home and in our families to keep alive the memory of Jesus. We place crucifixes, statutes and images of saints in our homes, not just to demonstrate our piety, but to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We gather around our home tables, not simply to eat, but to be grateful for the food we eat and the faith we share. Doing something each day to remind ourselves that God is among us is essential to our faith growth and our hope.

Today, light a candle of hope in your room or home and pause to remember the Light of all Nations.

What practices most help you to remember God's promise to be with us always?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Changing Lifestyles

"I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father." Jn 16:25

How can we accompany family members during a divorce? What do you say to a hard working friend who, because she cannot pay her mortgage, has lost her home? How do you tell an older friend that he can no longer drive? In fact, there is no good or easy way to tell someone that their life and lifestyle must change radically.

Although they did not realize it at the time they were called to follow him, Jesus' disciples were faced with the daunting prospect of continuing to live the gospel that had captured their spirits without the props they had come to rely upon. For years, the disciples had accompanied Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, no doubt expecting that someday he would march triumphantly into the holy city. That this would not be the case was something that Jesus spoke of in metaphors which his disciples often misunderstood.

Although Jesus had been rejected by the people of his home town, (Jn 4:44) most continued to follow him unreservedly. No longer using figures of speech, especially when he spoke of his own flesh as food for their journey after he died, (Jn 6:48-59) Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for life without him, and it was too much for many. Making sense of suffering often does that to us. When life does not unfold in clear and understandable patterns of our own design, we often seek another path. Will you? Will we?

 Has anyone ever tried to speak with you about your life and lifestyle? How did you react?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Paralyzing Fear

“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you." Acts 18:9

All of us get stuck at times. We think too much about tomorrow or next week or we can't let go of a hurt that happened last week or last year. Obsessed with matters we cannot change, we fail to live each day as it unfolds. This happens to me regularly, but especially when I am planning a long and complex trip. 

Getting to Nairobi, Kenya takes a minimum of 19 hours flying, none of which is much fun especially if you have a middle seat. When I think too much about situations like this days or months before I am to travel, I miss the delights of a simple meal with friends or the wonder of the Eucharist celebrated with children approaching the table of the Lord for the first time.

Imagine Paul's fear when Jesus told him to risk everything for the Gospel, even and especially when he was addressing former Jewish friends who thought of him as a idolater, or Gentiles who believed his was mad or worse! Paul prevailed, even unto death, because he remembered that the Lord was with him always even when God felt distant. The same is true for us if only we will listen.

Today, sit with your fear and ask the Lord to sit next to you.

Can you remember a time when your faith helped you speak even when you wanted to keep silent?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

St Matthias

"And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE. Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives, though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Fidelity to God's word is the hallmark of every believing Christian, and we should never underestimate its importance. Though the foundations of houses especially those with an underground cellars, are rarely seen, they provide the house with stability. We do the same in our fidelity to God's word by trying to live a faith filled life and witnessing to the gospel in our daily lives.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

God's Generosity

"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now." Jn 16:12

How many ways can God tell us of his love? God promises Abraham that he will be the Father of many nation and assures Moses that he will free the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Even when the Jews fail to live the Covenant and reject God's ways, God does not turn away, especially when there are believers who, despite the cost, remain faithful.

What more can God promise or tell us? What can Jesus mean when he says he has so much more to tell us? The answer is simple but, perhaps because of our own selfishness, difficult for us to believe. God's desire for us is more than we can imagine. God wants to live with us forever, no matter how we turn away or seek worldly acclaim.. God wants us to be at peace and happy for eternity. We have only to accept the gift and live generously for others.

Today, take a few minutes to imagine God's love for the world.

Who is the most generous person you know? Have you thanked them recently?


Monday, May 11, 2015

Compasses not Maps

“Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’" Jn 16:5

Transitions are always difficult. We become accustomed to living in a particular way. We eat at the same time. sleep at the same time, and go to work at the same time. We are, as it were, slaves to our schedules. Then everything changes. A baby is born and though there is great joy, there is also a terrible shock to the system. New parents don't eat, sleep or do anything without first thinking about the baby. And then, all of a sudden, the child is ready for school, and they are faced with another transition. How to let go of their child into a much bigger world.

The gospel today is all about transitions. When Jesus first called his apostles he told them: Follow me. They followed him, like slaves, and were at peace. Now he is readying them to hear a new commandment. Go, as my friends, into the whole world without me in the flesh. The transition the apostles are challenged to make is daunting. In the beginning of their ministry, Jesus gave them a map. Here is where we are going. Watch me and do the same. Now he offers them a compass and tells them not to be afraid, they no longer have to be slaves to what they have learned. They are his friends and his compass, the Holy Spirit, will guide them.

Living in a world that shifts from maps to compasses is unnerving. There is much less security in discerning how best to get where the compass directs us. It might be across mountains or oceans. We don't know, but we have to go, and the Lord promises us only one thing, that His Spirit, our compass, will direct us, and help us to find the right words to proclaim his mission when we get wherever he send us.

Today, trust that the compass the Lord offers us is sufficient for the community of faith.

Who or what has been a compass in your life?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hate

"The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God."

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Nevertheless, Jesus suggests that the world will, even should hate us to the point of killing us, if we live the Good News authentically. People who live for others, who oppose societies in which some are isolated because of culture, the color of their skin or their lack of education and wealth, who insist that all people are worthy of love, are hated because they are always working for justice.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?