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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wisdom

"For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward." Mk 9: 40-41

The fruits of wisdom are rich and powerful. Purely motivated people are more concerned with the needs of others than satisfying their own wants. Unfailingly gentle, the wise are constant and sincere in their friendship and love. When we meet wise people we know them because of their good fruits.

In Northeast United States, it is early Fall. There is less light both in the morning and evening. It is a natural time to slow down, rest, and be grateful for all that life has brought us, and wise people know that it is important to welcome all that is, not just that which feels pleasant or helpful for us. When we judge life, especially as it unfolds for us and around us, we are often too quick and harsh to condemn that which makes no sense. Because something is dark, we shun it, even though it might be darkness that will help us most to eventually see the light and live in it.

Wisdom, James reminds us, is compliant and full of mercy, not only towards others, but for ourselves and those who we might be tempted to dismiss as self centered. When we quietly allow ourselves to be patient with those who annoy us, their goodness in the eyes of God emerges and our wisdom grows.

Today, put on the mantle of peace.

What do you think are the marks of wisdom?

Friday, September 25, 2015

"'The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.' But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying." Lk 9: 44-45 

Rejection is always painful whether it comes from a superior, a coworker or a family member. Usually we become defensive and angry even if we saw the rejection coming for a long time. We also struggle to understand it and put it in a category that protects us from further harm. But rejection comes to everyone in life and unless we learn to accept it for what it is, we will struggle with it more than necessary.

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand much less accept what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time. As long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Purpose of Jesus' Prayer

"Once when Jesus was praying in solitude." Luke 9:18

It is a perennial question to ask what Jesus prayed about when he stepped away from the crowds and his friends. The gospels offer us some hints about this. We know he pleaded with his father to take the terrible burden of the cross from him, and asked God to protect his disciples, but there is little information about the nature of his private prayer.

Today's gospel suggests that Jesus' prayer  was a prayer of discernment, a time of sifting through which of his followers might understand who he was. If some of the disciples were going to be apostles and leaders, it was important to him to know which of them had been absorbing his message. He was not among them to enhance his own power or importance, but to do the will of his Father, and he needed to find like Spirited men to accompany him. Many expect him to seek strong, well known Jews to walk with him, but he picks ordinary people to live and articulate the message he received from his Father. It is no different today.

Most of us learn about the gospel from everyday people. It is not the most insightful, the most powerful or the most well known people who help us understand the Good News. It is the people we meet everyday at the market, in church or at a ballgame. Rarely eloquent, the people who live the gospel transparently in their everyday lives show us a face of God that moves us to change and live for others.

Today, pray for the strength to live the gospel in an ordinary way, and let God do the rest.

From whom have you learned most about a gospel life?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Doubt

"Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, 'John has been raised from the dead.' " Lk 9:7
Fear and doubt are ordinary and necessary experiences in life, especially for people of faith. Only those who refuse to think about the mysteries of faith, or live in denial about the struggles with which faith presents us believe they will never be afraid or have doubts.  From St Thomas, the Apostle, to Blessed Mother Teresa, the great figures in our faith tradition had doubts with which they had to struggle continually.

In the Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day, in describing the struggles of her baptism in the Catholic church, says it this way:
One part of my mind stood at one side and kept saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure of yourself? What kind of an affectation is this? What act is this you are going through? Are you trying to induce emotion, bring about faith, partake of the opiate of the people?’ I felt like a hypocrite if I got down on my knees, and shuddered at the thought of anyone seeing me…
Today, ask not to be afraid of your doubts. God can lead you through them into new hope.

What are your biggest faith struggles?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

St Padre Pio

“Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money." Lk 9:3

One of the most important and uncomfortable steps in the spiritual life is letting go of everything to follow Christ and often this includes letting go of the ideas and practices with which we grew up.  As a child I was taught, or believed, that morning prayers, prayers before class in the parochial school, meal prayers and night prayers were all I needed to learn and do as a good Catholic boy. 

Of course, I was also expected to go to Mass on Sunday, confess my sins most Saturday's (as long as I could avoid Fr. D who was loud and harsh!), and learn to serve mass. But none of  these practices were my prayers. They were obligations  I had to fulfill, not celebrations to enjoy.  To be a Catholic, I thought, was to wait upon God's grace and be thankful when it came.  I went to mass, waited for the priest's word to which I would respond and waited for his absolution, all actions done to me, not something I initiated.

Of course, these practices and my attitude were supposed to change as I grew into adulthood, but it was difficult.  But the church pushed me, especially after the Second Vatican Council, to learn how to take responsibility for feeding myself and others.  It was difficult, and sometimes still is but clearly it is our personal responsibility to gather with other people of faith, reflect on the scriptures and mysteries of the church, and live an active and responsible Catholic life. We are not called to be passive recipients of grace, but active players in the mystery of salvation.

Today, ask God what you must put aside in order to live the Gospel more fully?

Which childhood religious practice is most difficult for you put aside in order to follow Christ more deeply?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jesus' Family

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mk 3:35

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?


Sunday, September 20, 2015

St Matthew

"Follow me." Mt 9:10

Matthew must have been amazed and delighted when Jesus called him to follow. Amazed because he was a tax collector, a man despised for what he did and who he was. Tax collectors were most often Jews who worked for the Romans. Upfront, they would pay the Romans the taxes of those from who they collected taxes and then charge Jews whatever they could, and this would often be exorbitant and excruciating.

Matthew also would have been delighted. Here was Jesus, a prominent Jew and rabbi, calling him, accepting him, sitting down at table with him when everyone else in the community was shunning him. Matthew knew that he was being given a second chance and he was anxious to take it.

The message of the gospel is clear. All of us will get a second chance and it is up to us to take it, to follow the Lord and let go of behaviors and practices that oppose God's law and God's desire for us. As long as we are willing to admit that we are in need of a physician, the Lord will come to us like a doctor who sees only that we are in need. The Lord wants to heal us. How wonderful.

Today, acknowledge your weakness.

Who looked at you with love when you could not accept or love yourself?