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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Shoots to David

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David."

When Jeremiah promises that a righteous shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, he reminds all believers that God can make something extraordinary from nothing. At the same time, the prophet is not speaking about a miracle in a classic sense. Rather,  Jeremiah wants us to remember what happens often in the natural world. There are trees with so much inner life that even when they seem dead, we can take one of their broken branches, stick it in the ground, water it often and before long  it takes root and becomes a young  tree.

Clearly, a branch of Jesse’s tree, even when it seems dead and lifeless after its exile in Babylon, is stronger than we think. God will plant it again so that his faithful followers might have life and believe in his promises. The challenge to believe that God wants to do something great and new in us, even when we are tired and feeling ragged, is uplifting. God’s love is enduring and, like a broken  branch, stronger than we can imagine. 

Plant a good deed in someone’s heart and let God do the rest.

Are there “miracles” in nature that remind you of God’s love?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Transfiguration

"Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. Jn 9:2

Seeing is believing we often say, but Jesus says it differently. Seeing with the heart is transforming. Celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration is supposed to do this for all of us, but too often we only see, we do not see with the heart.

St Paul says it this way: "We see by faith, not by sight," (2 Cor 5:7) and I am always grateful that the apostles did not see, nor understand who Jesus was. Their expectations and experience of the Lord were deep, even embedded, and what they saw of him on a daily basis got in the way of their understanding and acceptance. Despite the fact that Jesus shows them another side of himself in this gospel, they still don't get it. Neither do we, but it does not matter. Jesus will continue to open himself to us and invite us to know him with our hearts not just our eyes.

Today, be quiet, listen and ask the Lord to open your hearts.

Have you had moments in your life of real transformation? 

Bruised Reeds

"A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory." Mt 12:20

All of us are bruised, either by our own families, churches, religious communities or ourselves and our environment. When we fail to listen to our bodies, which never fail to tell us in advance what is happening within us, or our spirits, which we often rush, it is impossible to hear the God who is always present within us and among us. That God promises not to break us when we are bruised assures us of God's patience and compassion. 

In a brief but beautiful book about St Clare, the author, Sr Frances Teresa, a Poor Clare nun, reminds us that we can only be authentically poor when we are generous. In fact, she insists it is God's unfailing generosity, kindness and love for us that makes God poor, and the one we must imitate. When God sees us bruised and bleeding, God reaches out for us, pours himself out and waits for us to respond. It is an amazing image. God's generosity is expressed most completely in giving us the gift of the poor Jesus as companion in life, suffering, death and eventually resurrection.

When we remember that God is always near and anxious to support us when we break or feel like the flame of faith is going out, listen again to the Gospel of Matthew which reminds that is God is closer than we can imagine and wants only what is good for us.

Today, support someone who thinks they are completely broken by sin.

Who or what helped you most when you thought you could not go on?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Judgmentalism

"If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men." Mt 8:12

It can be easy to criticize. Someone eats too much, drinks sloppily, drives too fast, talks too much or is harshly critical of others, are all reasons for standing in judgment of others. More important it allows us not to look at ourselves or the changes we need to make in order to live the Gospel life for fully.

Practicing the Good News by asking for the grace to see others with God's eyes is an important habit to develop, and Jesus offers us many wonderful examples of this. From the man who had no one to bring him to the pool (John 5:7) to the woman who touches the hem of his garment (Mk 5:27) hoping the Lord will cure her, we see Jesus responding to people in pain and isolation not as sinners but as children of God needing a sign of understanding and compassion. Rather than judge them or their parents harshly, Jesus holds them up as people who keep seeking God and God's mercy despite the harsh judgment of others.

At the same time, seeing with God's eyes does not mean we are free to ignore our own faults and sins. Rather, we must continually seek transformation, not to prove to God or others that we are worthy of God's mercy, but for God's glory. There is little more impressive to others than the simple witness of a transformed life. When we recognize God's power at work in us and live with joy and gratitude, we invite others to know the compassion of God.

Today, ask for mercy towards yourself and others.

Which faults in yourself and others do you judge most harshly?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yokes that Do Not Bind

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mt 11:30

Although we might want to deny or ignore it, all of us are yoked to one another in ways beyond our ability to articulate or understand, and these relationships are the source of our life. Whether our family of origin always supported in ways that we wanted is not the point. We are part of them and they of us. Simply put, our parents will always be our parents.

The same is true of God and us. God is our creator and, for Christians, God is also our redeemer. We can deny or doubt these simple truths, but they will remain true whether or not we receive them. God is the source of our life. God is our hope, and God loves us beyond measure. Being yoked to God, while stripping us of a type of false independence, is our salvation.

Yokes that fit well never bind. Only when we insist of our way without regard for God's desire and dream for us will we feel its limits. When a yoked animal responds to its master's commands, he or she will never know they are restricted as long as they move in the direction their master indicates. Likewise, our life of faith, when we submit ourselves to God's path, will be rich, free and helpful to others.

Today, stand still for God and wait for God's direction.

When has being yoked to God and God's people proved helpful to you?D

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor

"Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Mt 10:37

St Bonaventure University, where I am presently teaching a summer session, promotes, in the spirit of St Francis and St Bonaventure, three core values: peace, the planet and the poor. St Francis, we are told, never failed greet the friars and everyone he met, especially the poor, with the simple greeting: Pace e Bene, Peace and Good, hoping thereby to create an atmosphere of peace and helping all, but especially those who might oppose his new way and fraternity, to trust his motives and desires. Filled with awe at all God's gifts, but especially the gift of creation, Francis challenged his contemporaries to reimagine their relationship to the earth and all God's people.

When Francis first began to follow God's promptings to hand his life to God without fear, he did not envision himself as the founder of a new religious order. Rather, he wanted to live in the world with a new focus and a new dream. Determined to live simply among the poor as a pilgrim and stranger, he wanted to witness to the unconditional love of God by rejecting signs of power and prestige in his society. When others heard the same call, he was happy to welcome and live with them as a sign that God wanted all people to promote peace in a world where everyone had enough to eat and live with dignity.

St Bonaventure, who some call the second founder of the Franciscan movement, was charged with settling the differences between and among Francis' followers especially with regard to their vow of poverty. A theologian, Bonaventure knew that all knowledge, especially Greek philosophy, could work together with the Gospel to intellectually ground the pursuit of God but without thinking one could ever fully understand God and God's ways. When asked to bring his great learning to the struggles of the early Franciscans, Bonaventure proved to be an inspired leader and healer. Minister General of the friars for seventeen years, he led the Franciscan community to a place of honor and humility by his willingness to stand at the center of every controversy as an agent of peace and good.

Today, seek peace with someone with whom you disagree.

What most inspires you about St Francis and the Franciscans?

Monday, July 13, 2015

St Kateri Tekawitha

"'Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!'" Is 6:8

The few writings we have from Kateri Tekawitha are remarkable. How a woman with so little formal catechesis developed such a sophisticated understanding of what it meant to live an heroic life in Christ is astounding.

Struck down by smallpox as a young girl that left her skin pockmarked, she was also partially blind, not a great candidate for marriage in the Native American world into which she was born. Kateri seemed not to care about this, especially after she discovered Christ and began to learn about his life and promises. Having lost her parents in the same  smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured, she ran away from her uncle's home and attached herself to a village near Montreal where a group of Jesuits had established a church and small community of believers. There she grew in faith in more traditional ways. She committed herself to prayer, fasting and service of others.

Kateri's life reminds us that having everything we desire or think we need is not as important as knowing Christ intimately. Whether like Kateri we bear with physical limitations or carry the emotional scars of a difficult childhood matters little if we accept who we are in Christ and see ourselves in God's eyes. Life is not first of all about health, wealth and security in this world. It is about commitment, acceptance and joy in the knowledge of God's love and care for us.

Today, ask to accept yourself as you are and see where God takes you.

What do you think it takes to live an heroic life in Christ in our day?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Moses and His Mother

"Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects, 'Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews, but you may let all the girls live.'” Ex 1:22

In order to live, Moses' mother had to die to her desire to nurture, teach and raise her son. Putting him in a basket she placed him near the river, knowing that Pharaoh's daughter often bathed there. What an awful choice Moses' mother had. Knowing she could not hide him forever, but not wanting him to die or be killed, she trusted that someone would find and help him. 

When Pharaoh's daughter discovered the boy, she knew it was a Hebrew, and when one of her servants suggested finding a Hebrew woman to nurse the boy, Pharaoh's daughter agreed immediately. That Moses' mother was chosen to nurse her own son must have been bitter sweet. Knowing she would not be with her son throughout his life was a terrible burden, but one she readily bore so that he might live.

Baptism is all about being plunged into the waters of life in order to die to self and live for others. Moses' mother was willing to do this for her son and challenges all who read her story to ask themselves how deep their own faith is. Would any of us be willing to sacrifice everything so that another might live?

God is. God's love is so full, so complete, so lacking in self absorption that God is willing to send his son as savior of us all, even to death for our sake, so that we can live with God forever. This promise, this commitment is beyond our ability to imagine. Simply thinking about it is thrilling.

Today, die to some simple pleasure for the sake of another.

Do you know and celebrate the day of your baptism?