Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Judgmentalism

“Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?"
When we don't like or are holding a resentment against someone, we can find any number of spurious reasons to undermine their reputation or good name, and although we might be subtle in our criticism, anyone listening can sense our dislike and hostility. As Jesus began to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, his listeners, especially those who had something to lose if Jesus became too powerful, attacked him where they though he was most vulnerable, his simple and poor background and family.

It's easy to find and even exploit the faults of others. They are usually on full display. Those who talk too much or too loudly are rarely quiet in public places. Those who think they know everything, are rarely reluctant to offer their opinion. If we look for faults, we can always find them, but this is not what the Gospel demands of us. When we, like Jesus, see and respond to people's yearning and affirm their strengths, everyone benefits. Thought their faults might not diminish, their goodness is experienced and enjoyed by all.

Today, chose not to have an opinion in a conversation. Just listen.

Who most impresses you with their discretion and wisdom?

Friday, July 3, 2015

July 4th

“May God give to you of the dew of the heavens. And of the fertility of the earth abundance of grain and wine."

Unfortunately, independence rarely comes to individuals or nations without violence. Because people often want to possess others as if they were slaves, people feel compelled to fight for their freedom. This was the case for the pilgrims who came to the United States from England.

Seeking religious liberty, the pilgrims left their homeland in order to live in a place that would respect and protect their desire to live and worship as they chose. First settling in the Netherlands, eventually, in order not to lose their English language skills, they came to America because, like the people about whom Amos wrote, the Pilgrims were experiencing, "Not a famine of bread...but for hearing the word of the Lord."

Regrettably, however, the Pilgrims did not extend religious liberty to others in the New World, and their rigidity was mirrored throughout the early colonies. The state of New York, for instance, banned Catholics from holding public office until 1806, and while Maryland offered Catholics full civil rights, Jews did not enjoy the same privilege. In other words, the freedom that we celebrate of the fourth of July each year had to evolve over many generations before it became the law of the land, and when we forget this, we imperil everyone's freedom.

Today, celebrate religious freedom and pray to end violence in the name of religion.

What happens when people don't respect one another's religious beliefs?












Thursday, July 2, 2015

St Thomas, Apostle

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone." Eph 2: 19-20

Being a stranger in your own country, church or home is very difficult, and yet that is what happened to the earliest believers in Jesus. Excluded from the synagogue after the destruction of the temple when they refused to reject their belief in Jesus, the first Christians were lost, confused, and hurt. There is good evidence that they very much wanted to remain within the Jewish community and even take leadership roles, but their commitment to Jesus made this impossible, and this is why Paul, who knew this hurt himself, insists that belief in Jesus was enough for them to think of themselves as "members of the household of God."

Belonging is so central to our identity. Unless we belong to a family, a tribe, a nation or a religious tradition, we can easily get lost. How important it is to have friends and family with whom to talk over problems and share joys! How awful when we feel alone in the middle of a crowd. We can thank St Paul for recognizing and addressing this concern for the first Christians. Never forgetting how essential his Jewish roots were to his understanding of God's plan, Paul formulates a theology and spirituality for the earliest Christians that allowed them to develop as believers despite the loss they felt in being excluded from the synagogue.

Today, thank God for belonging to Christ in the church.

What most helps you have a sense of belonging to Christ and the church?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Unconditional Obedience

God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a burnt offering on a height that I will point out to you.” Gen 22:2

What kind of God is this who asks a faithful servant like Abraham to sacrifice his own son? At first reading, it sounds like God is an abusive father who tests his friends with impossible tasks. Some might even say that God is cruel in playing with Abraham's spirit in this way. That we know the end of the story mollifies us only a little. Yes, Isaac will be spared but at what price? Will he be scarred forever and afraid of a God who wanted his father to sacrifice him? Will he ever trust God himself?

No matter how painful, we must try to enter the story of Abraham and Isaac as it is presented to us, not only for our own spiritual growth but as servants and disciples of a God who challenges us to announce Good News to the poor and set captives free. Because the poor and captives are more likely to face the kinds of impossible challenges presented to Abraham, we need to walk with them  and learn from them as they discover a God who will show them a path to freedom and light.

These painful questions are also necessary for every believer because it is our concept of God that most affects our everyday life. If we think of God as someone who is always watching us like a prison guard, we might behave but we certainly won't believe. Rather, we will try to skirt the edges of faith in order to avoid condemnation, but never know the joy of being in love with God who promises never to stop loving us.

Today, revisit a dark time in your life and invite God to be with you as your probe its meaning.

How do you interpret the the test of Abraham? Can you make sense of it?




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hagar's Jealousy

"Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing with her son Isaac; so she demanded of Abraham: 'Drive out that slave and her son!'"

Selfish ambition is a tough nut to crack, especially in a culture like the United States. Almost every day our children hear that they can strive for anything in this country, and if they work hard enough they can fulfill their dreams. While this is part of the "myth" of the United States and continues to draw people from all over the world to our country as immigrants, it is a dangerous notion when left unexamined.

All of us know people like Sarah, and, of course, there is a bit of the selfish, worried, and self -absorbed person in all of us, but we cannot allow the "sinner" in us to direct, much less, dominate our behavior. When Sarah could not bear Abraham a son, she was content to let Hagar do so, but soon after God blessed her with Abraham, she wanted Hagar and Ishmael gone from Abraham's life. We must ask for the grace to welcome all people into our lives, even those who threaten our power and prestige.

Today ask God to fill you with compassion and integrity to combat any naked ambition.

Has ambition ever undermined your life or the life of your community? Please leave a comment.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Proudly Catholic

"Lord, save us! We are perishing!" Mt 8:25

Though we know that sudden squalls were common on the Sea of Galilee, this passage, like so many others, is not simply about a storm at sea. Jesus knew that all kinds of violence would visit his disciples and he wanted them to be ready. He and his followers would be laughed at, ridiculed and threatened. Would his disciples run away from the struggle and from him? Would they posture about being unafraid and try to convince the Lord and themselves that they would follow him everywhere?

Little has changed for Christians, especially for those who want to grow in discipleship. There are innumerable reasons to turn  away from a life of faith and especially from the Catholic church. As Pope Francis has reminded us consistently, we have sometimes been so focused on a few key issues, especially about sex and sexuality, that we can lose sight of the larger Gospel picture that Jesus paints, and when this happens we open ourselves to hurtful and challenging criticism. Tempted at times like this to seek a different path, we need to pray not to forget all that people of faith and our church does and promotes.

In truth, there are many reasons to be proud of our Catholic faith. One powerful example emerges from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Though 46 million Americans live in poverty, and 1.6 million children spent time in a shelter or emergency housing last year, we can be proud that the CCHD, working with local communities and the poor themselves, has sponsored more than 8000 community based projects over the past forty years that are designed to chip away at the awful specter of poverty in the United States. Indeed, we are standing with the poor in the awful squalls that assault them everyday.

Today, face the squalls in your life head on and work together with others for the common good.

Why do you stay in the Catholic church?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sts Peter and Paul

"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me."

Discovering our role in life is always important. Some are called to be husbands and fathers, others women religious and prophets, still others leaders and community organizers. More important to remember, these roles shift, change and are sometimes turned upside down, and the measure of our  character is our ability to understand and eventually accept these role changes.

The challenge to change roles was important in the lives of both Paul and Peter. Peter was married, perhaps a father, and had a role in his society, even a prominent one, as a fisherman. Fishermen like Peter had to be savvy businessmen and multilingual if they wanted to compete with Greek speakers who would also have been fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They had also to be able to negotiate contracts about taxes with their Roman masters. Leaving all of this security to follow Jesus was difficult. Only someone who spoke with power could have convinced Peter to let go of everything he had worked for and treasured.

Paul, on the other hand, was a respected rabbi and teacher, especially among prominent Jews. When he was willing, after Jesus' death, to challenge Christians who appeared to reject the Torah and the authority of the rabbis, his reputation for fearlessness grew. Again, like Peter, only the power of Jesus to reach him in his blindness moved Paul to let go of his reputation among leading Jews and in his own words pour out his life "like a libation" for the sake of the Gospel.

Together today in the liturgical calendar, we hold these two men up as examples. Unless we are willing to listen with our hearts to the saving promise of Jesus we will be unable to accept the transformation to which Jesus calls us.

Today, examine the roots of your faith.

What kinds of experiences have helped you enter the mysteries of faith more deeply?