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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Healing Touch

"If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Mk 5:28

There is a wonderful story about the Chafetz Chaim, a renowned 19th century rabbi, who welcomed people from all over the world to his home in Poland. Many who came felt no urgency to speak with him since they encountered the transforming power of God simply by being in his presence.

One rich young fellow, however, expecting the Rabbi's home to have lovely furniture, was startled by the simplicity he encountered and blurted out, "Rabbi, where is your furniture?" Whether the Rabbi smiled or was annoyed we do not know, but he responded, "Where is yours?" "I'm only a visitor," the young man answered. "So am I," said the Rabbi. There should be little doubt, when we hear this story, that the young man was healed in a way he could never have anticipated.

The woman in today's gospel, who had spent everything on doctors seeking a cure for her hemoorhaging, came to Rabbi Jesus with a very different perspective and attitude. Hiding among the crowds, but believing that Jesus was powerful, she touched the hem of his garment, hoping that even this simple gesture would cure her. Realizing she was healed, and no doubt wanting to slip away quietly, she hears Jesus wonder aloud about who touched him. Full of fear, she acknowledges her "unclean" act only to find the Lord's compassion more powerful than her "sin." "Daughter," he says, "Your faith has saved you."

The lesson is clean and clear. Healing comes when we tell the truth.

Today, acknowledge your need and ask for the Lord's help.

Have you been healed by telling the truth?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Knowing who we Are

"One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, 'My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.'” Mk 5:22

Most humble people have been humbled. Born into wealth or privilege, circumstances conspire against them and they lose everything. The proud complain or curse God; the humble realize that everything they had was a gift and not something they earned or deserved. The proud do almost anything to reclaim what they believe is theirs by divine right. The humble echo the Japanese proverb: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise.
Remarkably, the synagogue official in the today's Gospel is not asking Jesus to help him but to heal his daughter, and Jesus, obviously moved by the request of someone thought to be his opponent, is willing to respond to the official's request. But Jairus becomes an icon of humility for the ages when he acknowledges Jesus' power to heal without the approbation of the authorities. We have only to do the same to be considered disciples of Jesus..

Today, be grateful for all of life no matter how humbling.

What keeps you from humbly acknowledging your weaknesses?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Leprosies

"If you wish, you can make me clean." Mk 1:41

Communicable and deadly diseases always frighten us. Before anyone knew that HIV/AIDS could not caught by a sneeze or sharing a soft drink, there was immense fear in people about something they did not know. Even after it became clear that AIDS could only be spread by the exchange of body fluids through sexual contact, needle sharing and the very rare blood transfusion, people were very much afraid. Something as toxic as AIDS scares us and the same was true in the ancient world regarding leprosy.

That Jesus listened to the desperate pleading of the leper and allowed him to draw near is remarkable. Jesus knew that by associating with the leper he became unclean himself, but it did not matter. The leper was suffering not just from the disease but from the isolation imposed on him and all lepers. Lepers had to tear their clothes and call out "unclean" whenever anyone approached them. What a terrible punishment; what an awful life, but the leper who calls to Jesus for help ignores the teaching of rabbis and so does Jesus. After Jesus cleanses the leper he warns him to tell no one. Of course, the man newly made whole and freed from the desperate loneliness that was his life could not keep quiet. Who could remain silent about such a wonderful gift?

Today, tell someone you have been made clean by the love of God.

How do you think a Christian should respond to people with deadly diseases?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cultural and Religious Difference

"Sarai said to Abram: 'The LORD has kept me from bearing children. Have intercourse, then, with my maid; perhaps I shall have sons through her.'” Gen 6:2

In a culture and country that claims to honor monogamous relationships between spouses, Sarai's willingness, at first blush, to allow Abram, her husband, to marry and sleep with her maid startles us. How can a woman open herself to this kind of infidelity without losing herself in jealousy and envy? For Sarai, the opportunity to mother a child, even if it was born from a second wife was sufficient motivation, but then we begin to wonder who Sarai sees herself to be by offering her maid to anyone, even her husband.

Of course, there are cultural reasons underlying this story, but they nevertheless unnerve us. Is it possible that God could be involved in a situation that seems so abhorrent ? Did God accept, even support, polygamy for the sake of the nation? Commentators suggest that though God held up the divine ideal of monogamy, God allowed polygamy as a human exception. Custom also dictated that Sarai, Abram's first wife, had jurisdiction over any other wives Abram might take. The birth of heirs was clearly more important at the time of Abraham than avoiding polygamy.

All of this for the sake of wondering aloud about how to move forward both with regard to marriage and women's roles in the church. While few would debate that polygamy makes no sense in the 21st century, the bible stories of Abram, Lamech and David to name just three, give us pause. How can we conform to the ideal of God's law while still respecting the integrity of cultures? Further, how best can we integrate cultural differences between and among people so that the Good News is heard by all peoples?

Today, make no judgments about cultural differences.

Are you welcoming to people of other cultures and religious traditions?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Birth of John the Baptist

"The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm." Is 49: 1-2

The word picture of John the Baptist created by the evangelist Luke is both charming and challenging. Clear thinking, focused, lean and a little mean, John was not afraid to say what he was thinking to anyone, even if it put his life in danger. The Baptist is a traditional hero who both knows and accepts himself. Acknowledging that he is unworthy to untie the sandal strap of the Lord, John insists he is not the Messiah. Both honest and transparent, John's reward for his goodness will be a gruesome death.

John the Baptist is also the first to recognize Jesus when he leaps in his mother's womb as the newly pregnant Mary approaches his childhood home. Excited by the arrival of his Messiah, John senses even before his birth that his visitor will change everything about his life, and in this he becomes an example for every Christian.

John is the forerunner of Jesus, the one who will prepare his way and so must we in our culture, country and time.  John's insistence that "He must increase, and I must decrease," (John 3:30) will become a mantra for Christians throughout the ages.

Today, be yourself. Don't try to be God.

What most challenges you in the life of John the Baptist?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Abraham's Generosity

“Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.” Gen 13: 8-9

How easy it could have been for Abraham to struggle mightily with Lot about land and property. That he chose, for the sake of a lasting peace, to offer Lot whatever land he wanted was evidence to God and us of his goodness. How powerful it is to read about someone who thinks, not first of his own power and prestige, but of the common good, and because of Abraham's generosity, after Lot has taken what appears to be the richer and more fertile land, God promises Abraham that his descendants will be more numerous than all the particles of dust all over the land.

Generosity is its own reward. When we have the good sense and grace to think more of others than ourselves, we become peacemakers and justice doers. More important, we offer others an example of God's love for all of us. How clear it is, when we gaze upon the gift of creation that all is gift. Abraham knew this and honored God by offering Lot his choice of land. When we remember his witness and live it ourselves, the world is a different place because God's generosity shines through us.

Today, be unconditionally generous with someone who does not deserve it.

What tempts you to be stingy?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not Judging

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?" Mt 7: 1-2

Although Pope Francis shocked many a couple of years ago when he insisted that he would not judge homosexual persons, it is his ongoing pastoral example that calls believers everywhere not only not to judge others, but to look at their strengths and virtues which is exactly what he did when he decided to celebrate his birthday with the homeless.
When writing his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father further challenged us to revisit our priorities personally and communally,
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.(1)
It should be clear that when the Holy Father encourages us to "hit the streets", he is also reminding us that people who are engaged in trying to help others and proclaim the Gospel have little time to judge others. They are too busy being Good News.

Today, if you are tempted to judge someone, praise them instead.

Do you know people like Pope Francis who refuse to judge others?