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Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Gift of the Advocate

“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you."

Having someone to help us, especially when we are trying to discern how to tackle serious and important questions, is always a benefit, and this is true for individuals as well as groups. Pastors, for instance, are glad to have others help with the administration and financial concerns of their parishes, and more importantly, they are grateful to have a parish council work with them to sift through the many questions that emerge about the direction and life of the parish as a whole.

Jesus promises us that the help he will give us will always be available. The Spirit of God, who Jesus calls an Advocate (Latin for helper or voice) will be among us to strengthen and direct us for the sake of the Gospel. We can rely on this Spirit always and proclaim this as the basis for our faith and hope. Our Advocate will also send us as advocates to others seeking to know God more intimately.

The call to be advocates, to speak on behalf of others who are voiceless, is a clear demand of the Gospel, but we must be careful to avoid the arrogance of presuming we know what others want or need. While the Gospel makes it clear that walking with and uncovering the deep human concerns of others, especially about human rights, is an essential element of discipleship, we must learn to speak with not for those whose voice is rarely heard.

Today, thank God for the Spirit as Helper and Voice.

Have you had the privilege of speaking with and on behalf of others who were voiceless?


Friday, April 29, 2016

God is our Refuge

"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." Jn 15:13

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.


What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?



Thursday, April 28, 2016

St Catherine of Siena

"You are my friends if you do what I command you." Jn 15:14

Catherine of Sienna, unlikely doctor of the church, is one of those saints who challenges all our unexamined assumptions about wisdom, education and sanctity. The 25th child of parents who lost most of their children to early death, Catherine, though uneducated, became one of the most important writers of the 14th century. Her letters and mystical writings remind us to keep Christ close despite the cost.

In a letter to her spiritual spiritual director she writes: "You should not wish to turn your head because of the thorns of so many persecutions, for he is indeed mad who would abandon the rose for fear of its thorns." (Letters) Though unsaid here, it is clear that Catherine was able to ignore those who persecuted her because she knew that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was her guide and protector and having the rose was more important than the thorns that tore at her life.

The Easter scriptures are forever reminding us that the Gospel, though liberating and empowering, is too difficult to live without the strength of an Advocate, someone who stands behind us, encourages us and assures us that God is with us no matter how heavy the burdens we might have to carry.

Today, be an advocate for someone who seems lost.

Have you ever experienced the strength and support of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Simple Joy

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Jesus wants us to be a people of joy, and he wants this for us no matter how heavy our burdens might be. Though the Lord is clear, it is also difficult to embrace and proclaim his message. Jesus promises us that his father will be the source of our joy by living in us despite our faults, but most of the time we want more. We want to be free of worries and struggles, and not to obsess about issues and situations that feel overwhelming, but this is the crux of our difficulty.

Joy in Christ is not about feeling better or more secure. To be a people of joy is a decision we must make on a daily basis, but we can only do this with faith. Our society often presents happiness and joy in unreal terms and fills us with expectations that are not of God. Eating whatever we want when we want, dressing well, having our own homes and cars might appear to make us happy, but this kind of joy never lasts. It is a mirage.

Authentic joy in Jesus is relational. The only real happiness is a consequence of opening ourselves to love and offering love to others, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus commands it. When we do this, everything changes. Our lives are not reduced to our accomplishments, our wealth, our importance in the society or church, but are measured solely by our willingness to be vulnerable to the love and transformation Jesus ask us to embrace.

Today, offer someone a joyful smile for the sake of the Gospel.

What kind of joy do you desire?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Middle Ground

"Some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'”  Acts 15:6

Finding a middle ground between two very different view points can be very difficult. We have only to look at our Congress these days to know this. Without denigrating people on either side of the political divide, we all realize that the Congress has to do something in order to keep the government functioning and vital. While everyone realizes that we elect people to govern us so that they can find a path that helps everyone equally, the attainment of this goal is never easy.

The first disciples of Jesus experienced this. Wanting to welcome Gentiles and traditional Jews to the Way of Jesus, they worked hard to interpret Jesus' teaching in a manner that would allow Jews to understand Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law, and Gentiles to enter the church without having to become Jews, but their efforts were never completely successful. Like many today, they wanted both to cling to the mores with which they grew up, and join the body of Christ without losing their identity.

In the twentieth first century the disciples of Jesus continue to search for ways to accept and benefit from the new  digital technology while not letting go of our basic values. How we use the internet and social media to announce the Good News without reducing the message of Jesus to tweet or three is a challenge and an opportunity upon which the health of the church rests. Remembering that following Jesus has always demanded careful thought and discernment can help.

Today, ask yourself whether you are clinging to the past for your own comfort or as a witness to the power of Jesus.

Whose wisdom has helped you discern difficult personal and family challenges?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Transforming Fear

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples, especially after Pentecost, we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation. Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was stoned so badly in Iconium that his persecutors thought he was dead, but in fact he lived, left that town and continued to announce the Good News despite its cost.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

St Mark, Evangelist

"Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another." 1 Peter 5:5

Commentaries on the scriptures are full of midrash, a homiletic method of biblical explanation that fills in the gaps that the text does not reveal directly. There are midrashim about Mary, for instance, at Cana which suggest what she was thinking when she told Jesus, "They have no wine."

Another Mirash about the miracle at Cana concerns Mark, whose feast we celebrate today. Legend has it that he was one of the servants who filled the six stone water jars with water. When Jesus changed the water to wine, Mark was especially moved by Jesus' power and compassion, and it was at Cana that he decided to follow Jesus as a disciple.

Though we cannot "prove" any of these stories through the lens of history as we record it today, we can be sure that something stirred the hearts of those who encountered Jesus to follow him and risk their lives to proclaim the good news he was preaching.  The same is true for us. Very few conversions that last are built on intellect alone. Only when our hearts are moved does the truth of the Gospel change us forever.

Today, think about the experiences of faith you have had and be grateful?

What stories of conversion most impacted your faith life?