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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pentecost

"Each one heard them speaking in his own language." Acts 2:5

Calling Pentecost  the birthday of the church can be a distraction. Pentecost is not only the beginning of the church, it is an event that changes everything in the disciples' lives, transforming them in ways they could never have anticipated. Not only do the disciples discover the courage to speak and live the Gospel despite the cost, people hear them without benefit of knowing Hebrew, Greek or whatever language the disciples were speaking. The transformation that takes place in the disciples' lives is so palpable that others "hear" their message not only with words but because of the disciples' witness. 

Pentecost belongs to all of us. It promises us knowledge strength, wisdom, insight, understanding and so much more. Pentecost empowers us to trust God to lead us beyond our fears and into the fullness of faith. It assures us that God is always close, and ready to lead us along the path of light. Though darkness will come to all, the light of Christ will never fail and the Spirit of God will be our guide.

As we enter more deeply into the 21st century we need to ask God to draw us into a new Pentecost, a time of reform, renewal and hope, a time of mercy. The gospel does not lack any power, but our lives do not always "speak" the the transformation the Spirit promises. Pentecost is a time to begin again to live the Gospel without limits.

Today, speak and live the Gospel simply and let the Lord work through you.

Have you ever experienced a personal Pentecost? How has it changed your life?



Friday, May 22, 2015

The Spirit Guides into Service

"I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord; he will guide you to all truth."
Unconditional service of others is an essential element and mark of authentic Christianity. The willingness to care for others in need simply because they are in need is a powerful sign to the world that our cause is purely motivated. We reach out for the neediest, even our enemies, because we see Christ in every person and God's hand in all creation. This gospel challenge, however, is difficult and can seem overwhelming.

When people asked Mother Teresa how she managed to care for the thousands of people dying on the streets of Calcutta, her answer was always the same. I don't. I respond to one person at a time, and while she sometimes was criticized for not addressing the structural deficiencies that caused so much suffering and death, her witness agitated and energized people all over the world to do something about the underlying causes of poverty.

Christ continues to send us, his disciples, into a bruised and battered world, and it is our willingness to accept this mission of compassion and care for the forgotten and voiceless that demonstrates to people and nations that God's spirit is still alive within and among us.

Today, don't be afraid to help someone in need with whatever you have: a smile, a glass of water, a kind word.

What are your biggest obstacles and fears in giving yourself as a servant to others in Christ's name?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nearing Pentecost

"The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console." St Cyril of Jerusalem

Thinking of the Spirit as a true friend who saves, heals, teaches, counsels, strengthens and consoles ought to fill us with hope. We are not alone, ever, and the Spirit is our assurance that in all we do and are, God is with us in whatever role we need.

True friends are like that. No matter where we are in life, they stop, listen, reflect with us and respond for us and for our good. Knowing, experiencing and believing that the Spirit is God's way of assuring us that we have a true friend to accompany us on every step of our spiritual path is almost overwhelming in its beauty.

Those who have been blessed with a soul friend in their daily lives know this deeply. Realizing that God wants to be like that soul friend for us reminds us powerfully of the intimacy God seeks with us even when we fail to respond, but our negligence should not depress us. God waits for and upon us. God is like a vigilant and patient friend who knows us better than we know ourselves and is anxious to express his never failing love for us.

Today, ask the Spirit to be your friend in a way you can understand and celebrate.

Have you known God's spirit as soul friend? What is that like?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Knowing our Faith

"Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” Jn 17: 25-26

Ever year, when he was on the novitiate staff, one of our friars from Australia conducted a little contest with our novices, asking them to name the six states of his homeland. With a twinkle in his eye, he reminded the novices that he has already given them a hint, knowing full well that the majority would not know there are six states in Australia, much less be able to name them.

I always enjoyed hearing about this exercise because it is true about so much of the world. How many countries in Africa? How many in Europe or South America? There is so much about the physical world we don't know. Why should we be surprised that Jesus has to pray that his disciples will not forget that He will always live in them through his Spirit. In truth, most Catholics know little about the Holy Spirit even today, and too many do not realize how vital the Spirit is to their daily lives. Praying to the Spirit and living in the Spirit's presence is a good practice for all.

Today, pray to the Holy Spirit for strength to live and announce the Gospel.

Has the Holy Spirit ever been active in your life? If so, how did you respond?


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Unity

"Father, keep them in your name that you have give me, so that they may be one just as we are one." Jn 17:12

Many years ago, after a visit to Japan for what seemed like a very long month, I was anxious to return home to the United States and the cultural world within which I was raised. On my trip, traveling through Tokyo, which is a very diverse and and sophisticated city, I searched for a McDonald's, ordered a big Mac and sat on the curb to eat it. Every Japanese who passed me smiled. Whether they understood my loneliness or were amused by my straightforward behavior, I didn't know, nor did I care. I needed a break from what felt like a barrage of cultural differences, and Jesus' prayer that we be one was the furthest thing from my mind.

Unity with other believers as a sign of God's presence and love between and among us is a very tall order, especially when living in a multicultural world. So many things separate us. Race, gender, family values, language, politics and so much more. We have only to pick one of these areas to work on with others with whom we differ to realize how challenging Jesus' wish for us is.

Nevertheless, unity within the Catholic church and among churches all over the world is Jesus' prayer and we cannot ignore it. Learning to let go of aspects of our culture and tradition that only separate us and do nothing for justice in the world  is an essential goal for believers.

Today, pick one area of your life that separates you from others and work on it.

What most motivates you to break down unnecessary disunity in your life?



Monday, May 18, 2015

Remembering Jesus' Prayer for Us

"I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them." Jn 17:11

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 clear but painful. Jesus' disciples would have to rely on his prayer for them as fuel for their new journey. So do we.

Today, pray for someone who feels completely alone and abandoned.

What sustains you in your faith?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dealing with Trouble

"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” Jn 16:33

One of the dangers in being called to ministry is that we very often encounter people when they are in acute distress. Their children are addicted and acting out, their parents are in jail, a sister is seriously mentally ill or a brother is unable to tell the truth, and they look to us for insight and wisdom. The list of woes goes on and on, and often skews our worldview. Life feels like a very dark place and unless we are careful we begin to believe that the entire world is a mess.

Because Jesus understood that life would be difficult for his disciples, especially if they continued to proclaim the Good News, he offered them a way to understand and interpret their ministerial efforts through the experience of a woman giving birth. While the pain of child birth is intense, the result is pure joy. A child is born, a new life begins and hope replaces despair. Such would be the life of those who remained faithful to the gospel. Darkness can become light, and sadness can be transformed into hope, but we must pause each day to remember that we are not alone, that we are accompanied by a body of believers who, while they suffer, also know great joy.

Today, remember that your life has already produced great gifts for God.

How do you manage to remain centered in a world full of heartache?