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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Corpus Christi -- The Body and Blood of the Lord

"This is my body....this is my blood." Mk 14:22

When friends or family die, we often grieve and mourn them in powerful ways. Some will visit the cemetery, even if it is at a distance, every day for weeks or months. Others, leave a chair empty at the table at the dinner table in order to remember their dead. Early in the mourning process, these rituals often lead to tears and groaning, but after a while they help us gently remember all the good the dead brought to our lives. Our rituals bring us comfort and hope, and that is Jesus' intent at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. In it and through it we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, especially on Sunday's, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

The mystery of the Eucharist is something that deserves our daily gratitude. There is no fuller way to honor God than in the breaking of the bread, and there is no more fitting way to remember Jesus than to proclaim his love in service of the hungry and poor.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Widow's Mite

"This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury." Mk 12:43

It is easy to forget that there were no supermarkets in the ancient world, no place to shop and buy supplies for a week or more. The people of Jesus' day would have used whatever they had on hand to prepare a simple meal and may have gone to a small, local shop for barley, oil and the like. All of this to say that the poor widow is most probably giving the money she would use for an evening meal into the temple baskets, preferring to honor God and support the priests and temple personnel rather than eat herself.  Her sacrifice is deep, and makes a lasting impression on everyone who reads about her.

Two matters emerge for us in the modern world. While it is rare in the United States that people have nothing to eat on a daily basis, there are very hungry people here. More than 50 million Americans do not have adequate food each day, and most of them are children and seniors.

Just as important, more than 2 billion people in the world do not eat enough nutrient food each day and even worse, they have what scientists call, "food insecurity."  They may eat today but are not sure they have the resources to eat tomorrow or next week. The stress this kind of living creates can be overwhelming.

Nevertheless, despite their own hunger, the poor are often generous and giving. More, they have faith that moves mountains. Unlike some of us who blame God for every difficult turn our life takes, the hungry continue to pray, worship and offer service to those more needy than themselves, and in this they are examples for the rest of us.

Today give from your substance.

Who has most impressed you because of their generosity?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

St Boniface

"Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him." Jn 14:23

Competence is vitally important in every field of work, and it is especially true in matters of religion, but competence in religious matters is very different from competence in other areas. Competence in religious matters demands that believers know their faith both as a discipline that must be learned through regular study and through prayer which demands a leap of faith.

St. Bonaventure talked about this in his classic work, The Mind's Journey to God. After exploring philosophy, human reasoning and wisdom, Bonaventure finally acknowledges, after an exhaustive effort, that full knowledge of God and God's love is not something we can know by reason alone, but must accept as a gift. 

St Boniface witnessed to these same truths in the 7th century. Challenged by the Pope to preach an orthodox faith to the Germanic peoples, he knew from the start of his mission that orthodoxy without prayer and penance would do little to help people, and it was prayer that led him to establish Benedictine monasteries through the German world and prayer that sustained his faith to the point of martyrdom.
Today, read something to enhance your faith life and pray to know it in your heart.

What have been your most important tools for learning about and sustaining your faith?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

First Things First

"You are not far from the reign of God."  Mk 12:34

The scribe in today's gospel, unlike many other leaders in the Jewish community into which Jesus was born, seems very open to listening to the Lord. In fact, after Jesus answers his question about  the first and most important commandment of the law, he repeats Jesus' response almost word for word. Then Jesus says to him and all his listeners: "You are not far from the reign of God."

Knowing what is the first and most important commandment of the law is not enough to become a disciple. If we really accept that loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves is fundamental to the Good News, then we must live these commandments. In fact, to be a disciple means to be transformed by the truth of Jesus' word, and to change our lives to reflect our new conviction.

All of us know that exercising is important for good health, but unless we actually walk vigorously, or swim or workout, knowing that good health depends of exercise does us no good. The same is true for the gospel. If we believe that to be poor in spirit, meek, and hungry for justice is foundational to Jesus' message, then we must act on these beliefs. We must live humbly and do justice. It is that simple.

Today, pick one of the beatitudes (Mt 5) and live it.

What are your biggest obstacles to loving God and neighbor?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

St Charles Lwanga and Companions

"Grief-stricken in spirit, I, Tobit, groaned and wept aloud. Then with sobs I began to pray." Tb 3:1

One of the delights for Catholics in using the liturgical calendar regularly is that we get introduced to people from many different places and cultures around the world. Reading about St Francis Xavier one is led to the Far East: India, Japan and Indonesia. St Rose of Lima introduces believers to South America with its unique blending of indigenous and Spanish cultures, and each time we read (or visit!) these cultures we are changed, but we need also to be careful in this regard.
Unfortunately, there is little doubt that some Catholic missionary efforts arrogantly tried to impose a form of Christianity that was so embedded in Western European culture that it necessarily disrespected the cultures and religious traditions of the countries and people to whom they went in the name of the Gospel. Many countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, where there were large numbers of indigenous people, resisted Christianity for this reason. King Mwanga of Buganda (now southern Uganda) was on the resisters, and he had little patience with any person, group or any religion that he suspected of colonizing his people and nation in the name of God.

St Charles Lwanga, although a faithful government official in the Kingdom of Buganda, was martyred because King Mwanga, whom he served so faithfully, killed anyone who would not renounce their Christianity. Although Charles saw Christ and Christianity as a path to salvation and eternal life, King Mwanga was blind to anything that came from Europe and threatened his sovereignty. Enraged by the disobedience of his court officials, Mwanga killed Charles and at least fifty other Christians, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, because they refused to let go of something he found threatening. Do we push aside anything or anyone that calls us to change?

Today, ask the Lord to purify your heart so that you might proclaim the gospel with clarity and hope.

What do you think it means to be an everyday martyr?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Money

"Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Mk 12:14

Money is always a problem. Not only do some people have too much, many more have too little, and the ability to issue a currency that is recognized internationally is critically important for nations wanting to do business with other nations.

At the time of Jesus, while Jews were free to produce their own currency for use within the temple grounds, they were forced to use Roman coins to pay their poll taxes. The rabbis, however, reminded Jews that even to touch a coin with the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be divine was idolatry. Trying to trap Jesus, they trapped themselves. Jesus knew of their prohibition against the possession or use of Roman coins, but also knew they would have some to pay their taxes. Merely by carrying Roman coins for Jesus to look at they condemned themselves as idolaters.

Intriguingly, not having a coin puts everyone on notice that Jesus had no intention of offending the law, the prophets or the interpretations of the rabbis with regard to honoring anyone who claimed divinity. There is only one God, his actions proclaim, and he will not enter silly arguments about whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Rather, he will honor the one God by dying for him.

Today, resist winning an argument, and pray for your opponent.

What helps you resist arguing with others for the sake of your image?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Justin, Martyr

"Let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Pt 4:8

No one would suggest that St Justin's love wasn't intense. A philosopher who loved the work of Plato, he was determined to use philosophy as a path to know Christ, and teach the faith with expansive hope. Unafraid to challenge the Roman Senate and Emperor, he begged (some might say demanded) that the Christian life and mission be taken seriously, insisting that even if the Emperor decided to kill him, he could not hurt him since he was protected by the truth. Eventually, his commitment to his faith led to his death by martyrdom.

It is clear in the gospels that Jesus wants little to do with those who are lukewarm. Rather, his message and his life demand extraordinary faith in God and a commitment to a transparent life of service to those most in need. Rooted in the belief that God never abandons his people, even when they worship other gods, the Gospel paints God as a Father waiting for his errant children to return to him, and insists that we find a way to accompany one another despite the cost.

Today, let your love be intense.

What keeps you from loving God and neighbor intensely?