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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Breakfast with the Lord

"Come, have breakfast." Jn 21:12

The ordinariness of Jesus's spirituality intrigues us. Let's have breakfast? Really? Could he have said this? Why not? The spirituality of St. John's gospel, although complex with ideas and notions, is really very simple. As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams says: "St John's gospel is measured, it's careful, it's rhythmical and poetic. It's beautifully constructed, but it is extremely simple," (1) and that is what makes is so accessible and real.

A spirituality of the 21st century ought also be simple. In a society as complex and overrun with information technology as ours, a spirituality rooted in the everyday events and lives of ordinary people can help us enter the mystery of God's love in Jesus more organically and naturally.

Having Jesus prepare breakfast for his disciples after they had spent all night fishing invites us to know and love someone who sees and responds to our everyday lives in the most direct and natural way. More, it can help us live a spiritual life rooted in the ordinary events through which we encounter God everyday.

Today, ask someone to share breakfast with you.

How can you make your spirituality more ordinary and natural?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lost and Found

"It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them." Jn 6:17

Imagine yourself in a small boat at night when a sudden storm starts blowing you all over the place. The day has been long and you need to rest, but the storm is fierce and demands your attention. You need help, but feel very much alone. If this sounds like more than a few days and nights you have had, then you know how the apostles felt during the storm on the sea of Galilee. Very much afraid when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they want to take him into a boat and possess him when suddenly they reach land.

Today's gospel is best understood as a metaphor for life, and especially for those who are grieving. The bereaved often feel "lost at sea". Nothing they are experiencing after losing a friend or having a loved one dies seems ordinary or understandable. Tempted to panic, they may seek solace in all the wrong places, when what they must learn is to wait for their "boat" to reach land again. This can be easier said than done, but it was very necessary for the disciples to experience what it would be like not to have Jesus with them all the time, and it is just as important for us.

Stay still when you want to run or scream, and try not to panic. We may not be able to see the Lord all the time, but he is with us, guiding us to a place where we we will be safe and able to start over.

Today, remember a time when you felt lost and discovered that God was with you in ways you did not know.

What would you tell someone who feels lost at sea?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Countering Fear

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

Fear is a powerful and dangerous motivator, so strong at times it can overwhelm our good judgment and cause us to harm ourselves and others. When a mother can't afford to feed a child, she might do almost anything to find food. Anyone who has lived among the very poor knows this. Women everywhere have sold themselves to support their children, and fathers have stolen money and goods for the same purpose.

We don't know how fearful the disciples were when Jesus told them to feed the hungry themselves, but they immediately resist his command to feed those who are following him. “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Afraid, perhaps, that they would not have enough for themselves, the Lord will have none of it. Jesus insists that there is always enough if we take not what we want to feel comfortable, but what we need to stay alive and healthy. Sharing the goods of the earth is a foundational Gospel principle.

Today, think and pray about what it feels like to be hungry.

Have you ever fed anyone simply because they were hungry?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

God's Total Generosity

"For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit." Jn 3:34

Today's scripture reminded me of my mother's gesture when our entire family of six lived in a four room apartment. Not infrequently, one of our parent's siblings would show up for dinner unannounced. When we sat down to eat, mom would look at each of her children and nod. Her message was clear: "One meatball" or one of whatever we were eating. Guests ate first. It was a simple but clear rule. Hospitality trumped hunger!

God is like my mother. Unable to deny his listeners a full share of whatever food is available, Jesus does not ration the bread because, he wants to remind us, when we are generous, there will always be enough for everyone. Think for a moment about the twelve baskets full of bread left over after Jesus fed 5000 people, or how much wine Jesus made from water after his mother told him there was no more wine for the wedding guests. Six stone water jars each containing 20 or 30 gallons seems enough for a very big party.

Neither does Jesus ration the gift of the Spirit. Whatever we need will be available and it does not matter how much we give away. The gifts of the Spirit are limitless. There will always be enough wisdom, understanding, piety and all the rest as long as we remember that God is not stingy. There is no need to cling to the gifts of the Spirit because, in God, there is always more.

Today, be more generous than you think is reasonable.

When are you most generous to others?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

No More Scapegoats

"God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Jn 3:17

It can be easy to condemn others. People, governments and churches make mistakes. We don't take enough time to properly evaluate a situation, or we fail to ask the right questions, and before we know it, we have made a decision that is shortsighted, even foolish. When, moreover, governments and churches do this, they get attacked. We like having scapegoats.

Gratefully, God does not look to blame us. Rather, God keeps looking for reasons to love and forgive us. As John reminds us, God did not send the Christ into the world to condemn us, but to save us. What else could God do to demonstrate his love? St Paul says it this way:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)
God saves us, not because of our good works or desire for God's love, but because God is God. There is no other explanation. God sees past our sins, focuses on our goodness, and challenges us to do the same.

Today, bathe in God's forgiveness and love.

Have you ever been able to love unconditionally?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Born of the Spirit

"The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jn 3:8

Life in the Spirit can be, at the same time, empowering and confusing. More than once, people have told me that the Spirit told them to speak to me about a dream or insight they had, and while I listen carefully and respectfully, I am also cautious. The Spirit does not often speak in ways that can easily be articulated or quantified, and we must discern carefully what it is the Spirit is saying to us individually and as a church.

At the same time, there is little doubt that the Spirit is alive and works in our lives, and always has. The gospel of John assures us that we must be "born from above," or "born again," and that this new birth is necessary for all. The lives of the prophets and saints are testimony this rebirth. Elijah, frightened by the demands of his ministry, runs away only to have God find him, feed him and send him again to speak God's word. (1 Kgs 19)

In his Confessions, St Patrick writes about his own rebirth, but it was only after his life work proved so powerful that we treasured his words.
And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship. (Confessions)
Easter is a time to listen and test the demands the Spirit makes upon each of us.

Today, listen quietly to whatever God's Spirit might be saying to you.

What signs do you look for when testing the Spirit's word?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Annunication

“"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'" Lk 1 29-30


When the unexpected comes, it often unnerves us. News of a close friend's sickness or the failure of a marriage we admired leaves us speechless and wondering what happened. In our busyness did we miss something important? Were we too self absorbed to notice the struggles others were having? 

The evangelist Luke paints a picture of Mary that emphasizes both her fear and her faith, a stance that encourages us not to be afraid of the unexpected, but to acknowledge our fear and pray for faith at the same time. We should not assume that Mary understood everything that was happening to her when Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She was human, like all of us, and fear would have been a natural response to such a bold request, but Luke also wants us to celebrate Mary's faith that let's go and accepts her new role.

Responding to God at times of crisis is made more possible when we develop a spiritual life on a daily basis. Praying and reflecting about God's life among us in word and sacrament, and celebrating and serving those forgotten or ignored makes is possible to prepare ourselves for life as it comes. If we want to have Mary's honesty and humility, we must practice our faith every day.

Today, listen for the voice of God embedded in every thing you do and everyone you meet.

What about Mary's life calls you to live your faith more deeply?