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Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:2

What makes a saint? Some say the ability to get up after being knocked down. Others insist that humility and acceptance in the face of struggle is the mark of the great saints, and the church often speaks of heroic virtue as the defining characteristic of sainthood. But whatever criteria one uses, today we celebrate all those holy women and men, unknown to most but precious to God and the church, who listened to God's word, embraced it and let it change them.

The saints learned, often at a very young age, that pride, which so often insists that our way and our opinion is right, is the biggest obstacle to authentic transformation. Listening with an open and humble heart is the only way to real freedom. When we allow God to direct our lives for God's purposes. we open ourselves to experience the full sweetness of God's unconditional love and begin to know the delights of a simple Gospel life. The saints teach us a simple truth: only when we learn to live in gratitude for all that is will we know the depth of God's eternal embrace, and celebrate it everyday.

Today, ask God to make you a saint.

What do you think are the marks of sanctity?




Friday, October 30, 2015

Authentic Humility

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14:11

When Jesus told the guests of the Pharisees to take the lowest place at a banquet in order not to be embarrassed if a more important guest arrives, he is not only offering them a strategy, but a challenge with a deeper spiritual meaning. Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

This message, like so many others that Jesus offers us, is counter intuitive. While most people bow to humility as a value, few wear the clothes of humility, especially in the United States. Citizens of our nation are trained from an early age to excel, and to accept both the accolades and privileges associated with "winning."

While wealth and power are by products of a successful life in the United States, this is not the goal of those who profess to live a Gospel life. Gospel success is measured, not in what it produces, but in the seeds of hope that it plants. Never far from the realization that all life is a gift, and all worldly success is temporary, Christians believe that our "success" is an integrated and other centered life, and this is no easy task.

Only those who pause each day to remember God's love in Christ and live in gratitude for all they have received, will be able to humble themselves with the conviction that Christ will reward them for a life committed to service.

Today, don't say something you are thinking. Listen first to others.

Have you had an experience of humility that changed your life?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sabbath Fulfilled

"Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, 'Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?' But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him." Lk 14 3-4

Jesus regularly broke the Sabbath, and we wonder why. He was an observant Jew. He wanted to fulfill the law, not destroy it or supplant it. Why then would he heal on the Sabbath? The answer seems almost too simple. The Pharisees were not interested in the observance of the law, but in catching Jesus in opposition to it. If they could demonstrate that Jesus had no respect for the law, they would win the battle for power and honor. Like so many of us, they wanted to win, they wanted to be right.

Jewish law about the Sabbath, although strict, was not rigid then or now. Mati Goldstein, commander of the Jewish rescue-mission to 2010 Haiti earthquake, said, “We did everything to save lives, despite Shabbat . People asked, ‘Why are you here? There are no Jews here,’ but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives…We are desecrating Shabbat with pride…” 

Clearly, Jews today and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, knew that the law commanded them to help save lives. Jesus also knew this and challenged the Pharisees with an interpretation of the law that they should have known. When people suffer, we need to respond. It is that simple.

Today, treat someone with compassion even if it is inconvenient.

How do you practice Sabbath?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Christ's love never Weakens

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?" Rom 8:35

When we are very honest with ourselves and others, almost everything separates us from the love of Christ from time to time. Whether it is anguish, distress, anxiety, busyness or confusion, is not the point. Struggling to control our own lives, and too often the lives of others, we forget who we are and "play God." The results are never pretty. Our anxiety spikes, our confusion deepens and before long we are lost in a maze of unanswerable questions.

Whenever we resist God's call and act as if nothing is wrong in our lives or try to be or become someone other than who God has made us to be, we fail, and not only hurt ourselves, we hurt others. Marriages and friendships fall apart and too many people, lost in the confusion of their own pride, rush into new projects or new relationships as a response to the loneliness they feel.

When, however, we let go of our need to control the whole world, we rediscover the humility to ask God to show us the path to peace. Only then do we realize that while we turned away from Christ, he never forgot us. Indeed, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Today, ask Christ to guide you.

What most often separates you from Christ?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sts Simon and Jude

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God." Eph 2:19

It is always difficult to write about the apostles. In Luke's gospel, Jesus gathers his disciples and, seemingly in a random manner, chooses 12 of them as apostles. Though we know nothing of Jesus' criteria when selecting his closest associates, we can assume, since all of them died tragically and violently, that he saw something in these men that suggested they would be faithful and straightforward, which is always the bottom line in the Christian life. 

No matter what rank or office we hold in the church, life in Christ always comes back to Baptism. When the church lays hands on our heads, anoints us as priest, prophet and king, plunges us into the waters to die so as to live in Christ, and challenges us to be a light in the world, we receive the same gifts and difficult tasks the apostles received directly from Jesus, and like them our only responsibility is to share our new power and hope with those to whom we are sent.

Very few of us will have our names inscribed on churches or memorials around the world, but all of us do have a role in the church every bit as significant as the one to which the apostles were called. We must live simply and honestly in Christ as a sign of the Spirit's presence in the world and serve, like Jesus, those most in need. When we accept this challenge, our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister change because of the power of Christ working in and through us.

Today, be an apostle. Announce the Good News with simple gestures.

What keeps you from accepting your important role as proclaimers of the Good News?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Of Mustard Seeds and Yeast

"Jesus said, 'What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.'” Lk 13: 18-19

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down, telling them that God's reign is like a mustard seed. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? Challenge after challenge faces the Apostles and disciples.

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we have to trust. The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seeing Anew

"Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect." Lk 13:10

Seeing or learning something new is always exciting but also needs careful reflection. Just because something is new does not mean it is important or transforming. In fact, newness can be a dangerous illusion. Shiny and bright does mean deep and lasting.

There should be little doubt that the Jewish authorities were not worried about Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. False prophets and healers were a dime a dozen and it was rarely difficult to undermine the authority and power of popular healers by challenging them regarding their knowledge of and commitment to the Torah.

Jesus was different. Not only did he know the Law, he lived its spirit in challenging ways, and a reading of the New Testament demonstrates this convincingly. Jesus was not trying to undermine the authority of the Jewish leaders, but wanted them to reform their lives, put aside their fear of the Roman authorities, and see in him God's presence and power. Only when the Jewish leaders refused to acknowledge their own sins did Jesus condemn them and call them "whitened sepulchers." (Mt 23:27)

Today, let yourself be amazed at the healing power of the Lord.

Has the Gospel enabled you to see more clearly what God desires of you?