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Saturday, July 2, 2016

God's Harvest

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Mt 9:38

Too often this passage is reduced to a commentary on religious or priestly vocations, and that is a shame. It is clear to anyone who reads the scriptures regularly that Jesus is much more concerned with all people hearing the Good News and living it than with reforming the lives of the community's leaders. While a hierarchy will develop in Christianity over time, the role of leaders is not first to govern, but to create an environment that frees people to enter the mysteries of faith.

At the same time, Jesus is concerned that so few people seem ready to risk their lives to follow the Gospel. Most of us have an attitude that suggests we should leave well enough alone, but this stance does not advance our own lives or the lives of the community. Jesus invites us to make monumental changes in life, and while this prospect is daunting, we need to ask for the faith to pray with Jesus to make us laborers who are willing to stretch our imaginations and dreams to conform to Jesus' vision.

Today, be one of God's laborers.

Whose efforts on behalf of the Gospel most moved you to belief in God?








Friday, July 1, 2016

Fresh Wineskins

"People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Mt 9:16-17

When we get stuck in the past, we cannot advance the Good News, and this happens to all of us from time to time. We know this is the case when we smile at ourselves or friends who remind us that we sound just like our parents! Caught up in the way things "used to be," we fail to recognize or fully appreciate the advances that the present generation is making.

Because the Jewish community of Jesus' time was so locked into a traditional understanding and interpretation of the Torah, they could not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. Although Jesus continually assured them that he had no intention of changing or doing away with even the "smallest part of a letter of the law," their defenses were up and their hearts were closed to how God wanted to renew them.

A good and healthy spiritual practice finds us asking regularly, not simply what we might do to preserve God's word, but how can we advance it to a new generation. Only when the young hear our excitement for them to be the face of a new Evangelization will they be unafraid to push the Gospel forward.

Today, drink deeply of the new wine of Jesus.

Who or what has helped you appreciate the always new wine of the Gospel?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

God Our Healer

Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." Mk 2:17

Like most Catholics born in the middle of the last century, I was schooled to believe that the best way to live a devout life was to get to mass as frequently as possible, and to confession every week. These religious practices, good in themselves, often led people of my generation to worry about trivial matters in a way that was out of proportion to the faults themselves. Worse, we often struggled every day to be better, not so much to honor God, but to "earn" our salvation. Unfortunately, while we became good practicing Catholics, our call to discipleship often got lost in the shadows of our compulsions. When the focus of the spiritual life becomes our personal holiness, union with God often takes a back seat.

Today's gospel offers us a different perspective. God is not someone hovering over us, counting our sins, but a healer who wants to lay hands of hope upon us and draw ever closer to us on our journey. When we accept the help of the divine physician everything changes. Facing our weakness allows us not to obsess about our faults like we once did, but to celebrate God's tender mercy. More important, acknowledging our sins each day reminds us to be humble and non judgmental, and to look at every person with God's compassionate eyes.

Today, accept your need for God and glory in God's never ending acceptance.

Who has helped you accept God's unconditional love?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mercy for the Broken

"People brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher." Mt 9:1

Mercy is a constant theme for Jesus. Always concerned that the poor and crippled, who often thought of themselves as unworthy of God's love, would to be afraid of God or fear they were being punished for their sins, Jesus reminds them that his Father's love was not a gift for the successful but for the faithful. No longer should anyone think their worth was determined by their status in the community.
Jesus reminds the leaders of the Jewish community and us that mercy towards paralytics is the path we must take if we wish to know God's desire for us. In the 11th chapter of the prophet Hosea we read:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (1-4)

If God bends down to feed us, must we not do the same to those who are hungry for mercy?

Today, offer a hand of mercy to someone who expects rejection.

How do you understand God's mercy?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sts Peter and Paul

"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." 2 Tim 4:6

St Paul uses sports metaphors regularly, urging his disciples to follow him in the race, and not to be afraid to compete with anyone who might be distracting God's people from their goal of unity with Christ. Most of us can relate to Paul in this regard, but we need to be careful. Competition has its pitfalls. Too often, when we are trying to be better than others, we diminish their efforts in order to exalt our own, and this is not Jesus' or Paul's intent.

Believers cannot measure their effectiveness in proclaiming the Gospel because the results of our efforts are God's work, and unless we can let go of our need to be right, we miss the point of Jesus' message. The Lord wants us to be passionate about the Gospel but reminds us that once we have done what we know is right, we must leave the rest up to God.

This simple rule of thumb is also good advice for leaders and parents. While we have an obligation to teach the fullness of our faith to all, especially our children, we must also allow them to interpret the Gospel and live it in a way that frees them to do God's work and not simply please us.

Today, live the Word boldly and let God work.

Who has been your best and most effective teacher in the ways of faith?

Monday, June 27, 2016

St Irenaus

The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

What are the great and wonderful works of God that move you most forcefully to contemplation and transformation?

For some creation itself fills us with wonder and awe. St. Francis of Assisi might be the patron saint of these believers. Francis not only praises sun, moon, fire and water, he calls them his sisters and brothers. Gratitude for creation is the ground of Francis' unique spiritual path while disregard of God's creation is the root of sin.

Others focus their awe on the human person. Both the complexity and simplicity of people stretch us to wonder. We can think, feel, respond to others, love and laugh, and the ease with which we do all these complex actions is amazing. St Irenaeus, whose feast we celebrate today, says it this way, "The human person fully alive is the glory of God."(Irenaeus)

Taking time each day to thank God for all God has done and does can help us grow in the spiritual life. Grateful people exude a joy that both lifts others' spirits and gently challenges them to conversion.

Today, praise God for God's wonderful works.

What most moves you to wonder and awe?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Having a Soft Heart

"If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts." (Ps 95)

All of us have hard hearts from time to time, and while it is understandable, it hurts others, especially those close to us. Just as important it hurts us. When are hearts are hard we let nothing and no one in, and we pay for it. While we can hear others on the most superficial of levels, it is almost impossible to respond to friends and family with compassion and understanding. We are so wrapped up in our struggles that we ignore the needs of everyone around us.

The prophets knew this well, and it is the reason they regularly resisted God's call to announce good news and remind people to listen to God. When no one is listening, it is very difficult to keep speaking, yet that is what God demands of us. Because we never know when someone's heart will soften, we must continue to live and proclaim the Gospel. It does not matter if we are heard. It is not about our success. It is about being faithful to God as God is faithful to us.

It often surprises us, especially after a period of hard heartedness, that God never stopped listening to us and urging us to transformation. Neither do our closest friends abandon us when we fail to respond to them.  They may take a step away from us in order to protect themselves, but they do not abandon us, and it is then that we realize what true friendship is. When our hearts do soften, it is good to remember, especially when friends fail to respond to us, that their hearts might be hard for a little while, and our only task is to wait with patience as God waits for us.

Today, ask God to soften your heart.

What will it take to soften your heart for the sake of the Gospel?