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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trinity Sunday

"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth." Jn 16:12

God is a relationship.  We need to chew on this notion for a while. We might also say that God as Trinity is perfect love. Whatever we say, however, will be inadequate. When we are searching for ways to understand who God is, we can only speak analogously. We can say God is like something we know, a marriage for instance. When a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man unconditionally they create something new, and I don't necessarily mean a child. Whenever anyone loves another unconditionally and receives love unconditionally, something new emerges. In God, that someone new is the Holy Spirit.

Too heady? Perhaps, but we are trying to get our heads around a mystery, and while words will always be inadequate, we must try. The mystery of the Trinity is at the heart of our faith because it calls us as Christians to be communion of persons without subordination or domination. In the mystery of the Trinity, every person is called, despite their limitations and sins, to be in a union of equality with others without a hierarchy that makes one person more important than others.

Simply put, we reflect the Trinity when we look at one another with awe and wonder, not seeking to control the other or be controlled  by them, and when we allow this communion to proclaim the Good News. It is not so much what we say, but how we treat one another because we see each person the finger of God.

Today, pray that all your relationships will speak of God's presence and peace.

Whose love for you has been so unconditional that it led you to believe more deeply in God's unconditional love?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Becoming like Children

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mk 10: 14-15

Unfortunately, for priests and religious these days, this passage has an edge of fear to it. Most of us who minister full time are anxious around children and are very cautious in our relationships with them. How awful!  Jesus wants us to see in children an example of who we must become, not a group of people we should avoid. With that said, the passage remains very powerful.

Jesus holds up a child's innocence as an example of what his disciples need to become. Open spirited, engaged, naturally contemplative and without guile, children, who had no voice or rights at the time of Jesus, teach us how God wants us to go about in the world. The Good News is a new way of living, not a set of rules we have to obey.

Jesus asks us to hold onto the freshness and vitality of children as a way to proclaim the depth of God's love. Believing in a God who is always with us must change everything about us if it is to have an effect in the world. Unless people can find in us a zest for life and a commitment to all people, especially those without a voice, our witness will be empty. Like children, we continue to live with joy because of what God has done for and among us.

Today, let your imagination, like a child playing a game, roam with delight.



What about children most speaks to you of the Gospel?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Marriage

"Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Mk 10:9

It is hard to overstate the importance of marriage in our church. A strong, loving marriage is not only a sign of God's enduring love for us, it is the best and most natural ground of family life. It is from good Christian marriages that we learn the virtues of tolerance, tenderness and forgiveness as well as love and fidelity, and while many marriages fail, the struggle that so many Christian married couples make to endure difficult times and work together for the good of their family sustains us during our own times of weakness and confusion in faith.

The gospel insists God has always intended that marriage be permanent and that divorce should be considered only when every effort at reconciliation fails. While we must be wary of urging or forcing people to remain in abusive situations, the importance of marriage in the church is clear. There is no richer sign or natural lens with which to view and understand Christ's love for the church than the love of a married couple. Because both the bible and the church teach that God cannot stop loving us, they remind married couples that their commitment to permanence and exclusivity in their marriage helps us understand and appreciate God's love for us more deeply.

Today, pray for the married, especially those whose marriages are weak or struggling.

What do you think are the best ways to encourage the married to persevere and celebrate their vocation?


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Drink of Water

"Jesus said to his disciples: '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. 'Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.'" Mt 9: 41-42

To live the Gospel and gain its benefits is simple. Give a thirsty person something to drink in the name of the Christ. But it is also simple to break the law.  Anyone who teaches an innocent person to sin, to reject the Gospel, to disparage others, to steal another's reputation, to control others for their own gain rather than announce the Good News, will reap the wrath of God.

Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty and caring for the sick and needy is a privilege. It is how the Gospel teaches us to witness to what we have learned. Knowing that faith and all it contains is a gift helps us to remember never to think of our faith as a private possession for our own salvation but as an offering from God that we need to share with the same gracious love God shows us.

Today, offer someone a drink of water.

How would you teach the young not to take faith for granted but to share it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Competition and the Gospel

"There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” Mk 9:40

Competition, especially between and among men, is natural and can be fun. Who can find and wear the loudest shirt or jacket, which football team plays the best and the smartest (even if they lose most of the time) or who knows where the least expensive restaurant is are only a few of the ways we compete, but the Gospel challenges us not to be competitive about power.

Newly called as an apostle, John is troubled when others claim they are acting in Jesus' name but do not follow the Lord and asks Jesus how he should respond. Only concerned with helping others, Jesus cautions John not to worry about having control of every situation, but to broaden his perspective. As long as others are not preaching or acting against him, Jesus is content to encourage them to do good, especially on behalf of those who are struggling in life.

The simple wisdom of the Gospel reminds us not to over complicate the teaching of Jesus, nor to make it something that must exclude other religions. When we can find areas in our faith traditions that allow and encourage us to work together for the good of all, we should eagerly embrace them. Nothing that helps the lost and gives voice to those to whom no one listens should be ignored in the name of Christianity or to prove that we are right. Only when we focus of those in desperate need can we be sure we are following Jesus.

Today, pray for those who work for interfaith cooperation.

How do you avoid unnecessary competition?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Accepting Difference

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Mk 9:37

While it is clear that Jesus treated children with dignity and respect and his contemporaries often did not, the Gospel is not so much about children's dignity but about the importance of every person, women and slaves especially, in the eyes of God. Because many societies exclude people because of gender, class, ethnicity or disease, it was important for Jesus to demonstrate to his followers and his enemies that no one was less in the sight of God.

The power and challenge of Jesus' teaching remains difficult. Early in life we learn that some people don't work as hard as others, are lazy, or are welfare cheats, and this just about the people in our country. The people of other nations, especially those with whom we have been at war, are "gooks," towel heads and savages without regard for human life. As children we simply absorb this language without thinking, but as adult Christians we have to make a conscious effort to let go of our dismissive labels which can protect us from acknowledging our fears about people of other races, classes or cultures.

Today, examine your attitudes towards anyone who is "different" from you.

Have you had to face prejudice in your own life because of your gender, race or culture?



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Holding the Impossible

"This kind can only come out through prayer." Mk 9:29

One of the dangers in being called to ministry is that we very often encounter people when they are in acute distress. Their children are addicted and acting out, their parents are in jail, a sister is seriously mentally ill or a brother is unable to tell the truth, and they look to us for insight and wisdom. The list of woes goes on and on, and often skews our worldview. Life feels like a very dark place and unless we are careful we begin to believe that the entire world is a mess.

When the disciples were unable to cast out a devil from a young boy, his parents complained to Jesus. Jesus listened carefully and reminded the boy's parents that everything was possible for those who believed. When the boy's father professed his faith, Jesus healed the young boy, and assured the disciples that they, too, could heal but that they needed to pray more. Good advice for all of us. Prayer itself does not assure healing, but reminds us to grow in the faith that allows us to let go and depend completely on God.

Today, hold the impossible in your hands and ask the Lord for help.

What do you do when faced with impenetrable problems in life and ministry?