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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Accepting Life as it Unfolds

"Jesus said to them, 'Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?' Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm." Mt 8:26

Terror comes to us all. Sometimes it takes the form of a new illness or anxiety. At other times, we are deeply troubled by the sickness of a spouse, friend or child, especially when the doctors seem unable to diagnose the problem. When this happens, we tend to breathe more shallowly and our insides get frantic with worry and concern. Worse, it is often difficult to sleep or rest well when we are overwhelmed with a life threatening situation.

The disciples who were in the boat with Jesus must have felt some of this when they got caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Expecting an easy passage, all of a sudden the sea is so rough and the winds so high that they begin to fear for their lives. Had they not left all to follow the Lord? Would this be their reward?

Jesus assures his disciples that he is always alert and will always be with them, but he does not promise a carefree life. Rather, he insists that the Good News is so good that they need not fear even death itself, a great challenge for the disciples and us.

Today, ask the Lord to assure you he is near.

Friday, June 19, 2015

God as Master

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Mt 6:24

We know the Gospel tells us that can't serve two masters. How about three or four or ten?  When we think about our lives it often becomes obvious that we are trying to do too much for too many people and this can lead to resentment of all those we intended to serve. Time becomes our master, or security or accomplishment or power, but when we stop to reflect upon these matters we know that the Gospel challenge to have one master is spot on and powerful.

We need to commit ourselves on a daily basis to serving God alone. Only God can be our master and the task of the believer is to discern how best to serve this master each day. When we take time to pray about this we often reach a counter intuitive conclusion. Serving God alone does not mean saying yes to every needy person or important cause, but learning to ask God each day how to go forward, how to help, how to serve and how to announce the Good News.

Today, ask God how best to live the Good News.

Which of your concerns most often gets in the way of serving God.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weakness as Strength

"Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. To my shame I say that we were too weak!"  2 Cor 11:18

More than once St Paul brags about his weakness, and for those especially who have been humbled in any way, his boast is a consolation. Weakness can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and weaknesses and encourages us to work with others whose strengths make up for our failings.

There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do or anyway we can change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of weakness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Daily Prayer

"Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be they name." Mt 6:9

For believers, the first task each day is to acknowledge God and God's place in our lives. The Lord's Prayer both helps us remember this fundamental stance and teaches us how to do it. More often than not, most of us are ready to tell God our story, enumerate our needs and ask for help, but the Our Father reminds us that for the believer recognizing our dependence on God must always be first desire and duty.

Muslims, though using a different name for God, take a very similar stance when they pray the Shahada, "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is the Prophet." Some Muslim scholars suggest that when Muslims pray they are seeking the same blessings that Catholics desire and experience in the Eucharist. Learning to bow our heads at the name of God is another way of accepting God's presence and power in our lives, and is something that would help believers to live more fully in the presence of God.

It is so easy in a world full of information and internet web access to think of ourselves in powerful terms. After all, we can ask Mr Google almost anything and receive 100 million possible answers within two or three seconds. Doesn't this indicate the growing control we have over the world as we know it?  While we do have access to more information than we could every process or interpret, knowledge without gratitude for the One who is all knowing does the believer little good.

Today, say the Lord's Prayer slowly and reverently.

If you, like the Apostles, could ask Jesus how to pray what would you expect him to teach you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Generosity

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

The reasons why we are sometimes are stingy are many. Fear of not having enough. Judgments about whether those in need ought to work harder, and simple selfishness are the most obvious, but  the biggest is our unwillingness to trust God completely even though the scriptures are clear. God is is never sparing in love for us, and made in his image, we must do the same for others.

St Paul, in using the same image that we find in Matthew's gospel, assures us that if we are generous in sowing seed  God will be pleased. More, the seed we sow generously will find fertile ground and bear much fruit so that everyone can eat.

Generosity can be easy at times, especially when our life is moving smoothly and surely, but it is always a decision. Life is full of choices and the Gospel challenges us to reflect, pray and be as benevolent as possible, especially to the poor. Worrying too much about how to be financially or emotionally secure cheats us and all those who might benefit from our kindness and unstinting love.

Today, give until it hurts.

To whom is it most difficult for you to show generosity?

Monday, June 15, 2015

And Eye for an Eye

"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil." Mt 5:38

Today's scripture is what scholars call a "hard saying of Jesus." It would be unnatural not to resist it. There must be some way to understand, we reason, that will help us make sense of it, or ignore it, or dismiss entirely it as rabbinical hyperbole.

None of this will work, of course. We must face the implications of discipleship with and of Jesus. The gospels are demanding for very good reasons. The only way Jesus' first followers would be able to demonstrate their total dependence on God would be to respond to evil with kindness, to go beyond even what the law demanded. In Jesus' view, our refusal to be vengeful is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Because we believe in the saving redemption of Jesus, we are strong enough to work for reconciliation despite the cost.

Today, pray to let go of unfettered competition and winning at all costs.

Do you think the gospel demands non-violence?



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Resistance to Grace

"I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others." 2 Cor 8:8

Not infrequently, we intuit that something is wrong, incomplete or lacking in our personal or communal lives. Not easily identified, we sense the need for change even when we are not sure exactly what changes we should make, and this not knowing can led to paralysis.

When St Paul senses this struggle in the Corinthian community, he reminds them that the believing community in Macedonia asked, even begged, despite their own struggles, to help those who were preaching the Gospel. Would the Corinthians accept the invitation to let go of their resistance and respond beyond their means to the needs of the leadership and the community?

Stubbornness can be powerfully disruptive and undermining of the community's life and purpose. Those who use their energies to resist the positive direction the community needs to take for the sake of the Gospel make everyone's life more difficult. They question everything and everyone, and often intimidate those who find it difficult to speak under the best of circumstances. When this happens to us, an examination of conscience is in order.

Today, ask God to change your attitude.

What areas of your faith life do you most resist?