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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Epiphany

"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." Is 60:1

Searching for the living God is a life long adventure, and the feast of the Kings reminds us of this. Don't be afraid the astrologers from the East proclaim. As long as you are looking for God, God will find you. Sometimes it will be a star in the sky. At other times, it will be a sunset in summer or a flower in winter that captures us with its beauty and reminds us to keep going, to keep searching. Though God is very near, we do not always sense God's presence, but as long as our spirits remain open, our journey will not be in vain.

The scriptures do not tell us how long the Magi from the East looked in the skies for a sign of God's love. Neither do they tells us how long their journey was, but they do tell us that those who left their homes and followed the star came to Jerusalem expecting to encounter the King of the Jews, and in this they offer us a model for our own lives. Despite Herod's disingenuous questions and assurance that he too wanted to worship the new King, the Magi kept listening to God and their dreams, and that is our task as a new year begins.

The church may be very weak in the United States, and our parish churches almost empty in places, but as long as we accept the call to discipleship, we cannot go wrong. Assuredly, the message about the Messiah came to God's people from beyond their shores, but for those who kept listening to the signs of the times there was no surprise. God will come to us as God wants. We have only to be ready.

Today, expect a surprise.

How has God entered your life in ways you did not expect?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Sts Basil and Gregory

"When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper....our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians." (1) St. Gregory of Nazienzen

The saints whose lives we honor today were, in contemporary language, "soul friends."  Basil, who is recognized as the father of monasticism in the East, could be fierce and unbending. Much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our day, he was a reformer and  made decisions quickly, often without much conversation with others. Gregory, on the other hand, was shy and retiring.  When appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, he lived with friends rather than take up residence at the city's center. Both men were accused of heresy and were slandered by those who resented their power and fortitude. Despite their differences, they remained friends.

All of us need people with whom we walk closely in faith, especially when life is difficult and confusing. Having one other person to accompany us through the dark and light times is a gift beyond words. Gregory and Basil had this in one another, and although their relationship was often under great stress, Gregory reminds us that their "great pursuit...to be called Christians" kept them together in love and hope.

Today, treasure the gift of a  soul friend.

How important have your friends been to your faith life?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Day

"The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child." Lk 2:16-17

Every year the church begins the New Year by holding up Mary, the Mother of God, as a model for believers everywhere. Mary, as mother, is first of all present to Jesus, something that is more difficult than it seems. Being present to another does mean we try to fix or help them, but serve them. Like a good waitperson in a restaurant who does not hover or keep asking how your food is, she makes you feel comfortable. His or her only purpose is to help you enjoy your dining experience Mary is like this for Jesus and us.

Servants also know their place. This is not to say they should be willing to be treated poorly or abused, but because they understand their role, they realize and accept that their purpose is to make space for the other, to encourage, empower, and highlight anything about the person or country they are serving that is good, admirable and trustworthy.

Christians do well to remember Mary's lessons. When we realize that our primary task is to witness to the truth and transforming power of the Christ, we never have to be center of attention, we listen more than we speak, and we live faith as a verb: an action, and a lifestyle, that invites others to live for others. We do this more naturally and simply when we are grateful for the great gift our our faith and our salvation.

Today, serve someone with joy.

Do you have a special devotion to Mary? Why?



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tablets

"I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth." 1 Jn 2:21

We often know the truth, but must always be careful to speak it at a time in a way that others can hear. It is equally clear that we often don't know the truth. Unfortunately, when we make the mistake of judging a book by its cover, or we misinterpret something another says, we jump to conclusions that are not based in fact, but in our interpretation of what was heard without testing its veracity.

There was a word in last week's readings that offered a good example of this. Zechariah, unable to speak after John the Baptist's conception, was asked what name he wanted for his child. Contrary to custom, Elizabeth, his wife, said that her son would be called John, and Zechariah confirmed his wife's choice after calling for a tablet. Even though no one in his family had the name John, Zechariah assured the crowd that Elizabeth's choice was a good one.

Smiling as I read the text, I realized that the word tablet to twenty first century young people meant a small computer like device with a touch screen that they could use to access the internet and the digital world. Though the bible and today's young people use the same word, they mean something very different, and there is a lesson for us in this. While we always have to listen carefully and discern how and when to speak, we cannot avoid the most important demands of the Gospel. Loving our enemies, reaching out for those most need and living simply are Gospel truths we all know, and when we live them with passion, we proclaim Good News.

Today, examine your conscience in the light of the Gospel.

What Gospel truths are most difficult for you to face?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Anna's Fidelity

"There was a prophetess, Anna,...(who) never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." Lk 2: 36, 39

There are people, even today, who are called to live in almost total silence and dedicate their lives to prayer. The Poor Clares, for instance, are powerful women all around the world who live quietly, usually on the outskirts of towns and cities, and work to create a sacred space where God can work in them and for us. They pray in common, before the Blessed Sacrament and privately, and usually make altar breads or sew vestments for the Eucharist to support themselves. Remarkably, although they rarely make enough money to pay their bills, many believers, grateful for their deeply committed lives, are happy to bring them food, money and other necessities because they realize how important their lives are in the church.

Anna, the prophetess, might have been a Poor Clare or a member of one of the other contemplative communities in the church. Anxious to know God and do God's will, and even more anxious to proclaim God's desire to all who yearn for a Messiah, Anna would have slipped to the background in order to offer her prayer and serve God, and in all of this she offers contemporary people powerful lessons.

Life is not about being seen, recognized or lauded, but about being faithful to the vocation to which God calls us. If that means listening more than talking, praying as much as working, and living compassionately with other like minded women in an enclosed space, or working the streets tirelessly among the poor, we have only one responsibility: Be faithful to our call to live the Gospel and let ourselves be drawn more deeply into the mystery of God.

Today, take five minutes to remember that you are, before all else, a child of God.

Do you know an Anna in your life?



Monday, December 28, 2015

Meeting Simeon and Anna

"The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him." Lk 2:33

One of the most joyous moments for many couples of faith is to have their child baptized at Mass on a Sunday morning. In many parishes, the parents are invited to approach the altar after the post communion prayer and hold their new born up before the entire assembly. The smiles on their faces and the loud applause of God's people always lifts my spirit as I imagine God clapping, too.

The Gospel today invites us to join the new parents Mary and Joseph as they approached the temple. We might imagine them being stopped by friends and strangers alike wanting to congratulate them and offer them a blessing and a prayer.  Surely, their hearts must have overflowed with joy when Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, (Lk 2:27) took the infant Jesus into his arms and declared that he was gazing upon the "light to reveal you to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Lk 2:32) Though they could not have understood completely what was happening to them or what their own role would be, they knew that Simeon and Anna were filled with delight, and so were they. The Glory of Israel and the light of all nations had been born to them.  And to us!

Today, be a light to those around you.

Can you remember a time of joy in your own faith journey?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holy Innocents

"When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under." Mt 2:16

Today seems like a perfect day to celebrate all the children who have been lost, stolen or killed for the sake of power, money or unearned prestige, especially the children of Palestine and Syria. Imprisoned behind walls on the West Bank or chased from their homes to Europe and beyond, they are as lost as Jesus must have been in Egypt. These children remind us that too often we act as if life is ours for as long as we like and we can spend it any way that pleases us, but the Christian gospel demands something else.

All life is a gift from God and must be spent as a gift for others. When we fail to remember this most fundamental faith demand, we too often wallow in our own failures and losses. That our well- intentioned deeds do not always result in success is not the point. That we freely offer others the gift of ourselves is. That is why Christ came among us. He was and is a sign that God cannot and will not abandon us, even when we turn away from God and fail to live the Gospel. We have only to lift our heads to find God waiting to lead us again along a path of other centered love.

Today, remember the innocents: the children of Palestine and refugees.

How does faith help you face unspeakable evil?