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Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Good Samaritan

"But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight." Lk 10:33

The story of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known and powerful stories in the Gospels, and for good reason. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Accused of being syncretists, people who mixed religious traditions for their own self centered purposes, Samaritans also built their own temple to which non observant Jews were welcomed in contradiction to Jewish law.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. Too many people label others in ways that not only challenge their belief systems, but denigrate their persons, and Jesus will have none of it. When a Samaritan woman challenged Jesus about Jewish insistence that all had to worship in Jerusalem, he chides her: "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." Reminding the Samaritan woman that God "looks at the heart," (1 Sam 16:7) Jesus holds up the compassionate Samaritan for our admiration.

The Samaritan not only risks his own life by responding to the fellow who has been robbed, he brings him to an inn so that he can rest and recover from the attack. We know nothing else about this particular Samaritan. Whether he worshiped in the  "false" temple on Mt Gerazim in Samaria and therefore was judged unclean by the Jews was irrelevant. That he stopped and aided someone in need is Jesus' only concern.

Today, help someone in need.

What aspect of the story of the Good Samaritan most moves you?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Do not be Afraid

"Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid." Mt 10 30-31

We all love inspiring stories, and the bible and church history are full of them. The Hebrews dramatic escape from slavery in Egypt and their search for the promised land, the faithful endurance of Job even when abandoned by his closest friends, and the willingness of the poor widow to put all she had in the offering box, thrill us. Drawn to the heroic like a fly to honey, we yearn to live big, and when we are moved to live completely for God everything changes. The small thoughts that trap us in fear of failure lift and everything becomes possible if only we trust God with our lives and follow God's direction.

Many years ago, one of our friars, Earl Gallagher, now dead, witnessed helicopter gunships firing on a group of Salvadoran refugees trying to cross a river into Honduras. Without thinking he jumped into the river and began to drag people to safety, especially children. Risking his own life without a second thought, he escaped death but became a target on the authorities in Honduras because he wrote to the NY Times about the slaughter in order to expose the awfulness of the crime against helpless people. 

At the same time, Earl assured everyone who would listen that he had no desire to become a martyr. Rather, he insisted that anyone would have done the same thing. Hearing him tell the story, I knew he believed what he said but also knew why he was a great man of faith. Earl was not looking for attention, nor did he want to be hero. He only did what the Gospel demanded.

Today, remember that God counts the hairs on your head.

What qualities do you think mark the lives of our faith heroes?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Be as Shrewd as Serpents

"Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

Sometimes Jesus' advice to his disciples startles us. Most of us understand the call of the gospel to simplicity and transparency.  Although it might be uncomfortable, we realize there is a challenge in the good news not to worry about how we appear before others, not to try to impress others with our insight or wisdom. If we embody God's wisdom, God will do what God needs to do in and through us.

Shrewdness, on the other hand, is not something we usually associate with gospel living. Shrewd people make deals, compromise their ideals and work a crowd to get their way. It does not sound like a stance the followers of Jesus should take.

While it is clear that Jesus does not want his disciples to take advantage of others, he does want them to protect themselves from manipulation. Shrewdness means not allowing oneself to be trapped by false praise or individual honor. The shrewd person listens with the heart and discerns well what it is God wants, not to enhance his or her personal reputation or prestige, but to enliven and build up the entire community of faith.

Today, listen deeply to who it is God would have you be, and act upon it discreetly.

Have you known shrewd people of faith?

Capuchin Appalachian Mission

My Friends,

If you are looking for a little hope, read what follows. Mark Bonney is a personal friend and a friend of the Capuchins. If you want to offer financial support for a wonderful program, please consider the Capuchin Appalachian Mission (CAM) You can read about it and view a video here: 
http://www.capuchin.org/CapuchinYouthAndFamilyMinistry/OutreachPrograms/AppalachiaMission

Thanks for considering this!

Br Jack

By Mark Bonney -- This year, Capuchin Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM) is leading its 25th Capuchin Appalachian Mission. We have had a remarkable fund raising campaign and, as always, Tom Brinkman, CYFM Director, and his team are doing amazing work preparing us all for the journey ahead. The journey begins on Saturday. I was thinking this morning that this might be a good topic for your daily blog, a simple reminder of the importance of helping the poor and dislocated in society, both at home and afar, more directly than your daily messages which do that more subtly.

The trip for me is both a wonderful way of giving of myself in a tangible way through direct service but it is also the most important of the ways I help CYFM and through that the Province of St. Mary. With that in mind I was wondering if either a link to the CAM page, or if you felt that would alter the blog's purpose, perhaps a separate message sent to the subscribers of your blog might raise awareness of the efforts of CYFM and the CYFM family and perhaps even raise a few extra dollars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Letting God take away your Fear

"As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you." Mt 10 12-13

Letting go of our work and its success or failure is never easy, but the gospel is clear. It is our obligation to preach the Good News in word and deed and leave the results to God. Gospel spirituality is demanding. Called to be pilgrims going from place to place and taking nothing for the journey, we strive to live and speak the Gospel in such a way that God's direction can be clearly seen and experienced by those to whom we are sent.  

Demanding a radical humility, a total putting aside of everything that is not of God, we need always to remember that the Gospel is God's good news, not ours. Our task, like John the Baptist's, is to clear the ground before the Lord and make his path straight. Everything else is superfluous. 

This is not to say that we cannot be good instruments in God's orchestra. Each of us is gifted and our talents are the means God uses to invite people to know and love the Lord. Our insights, compassion, and thirst of justice can be wonderful signs of God's love for the world, but unless they always point towards the Lord, they can get in the way of God's glory. 

Today, let God's light shine and get out of the way.

What blocks you from being Good News?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Speaking the Gospel to the 21st Century

“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Mt 10:6

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music young people enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sheep without a Shepherd

"At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Mt 9:36

Jesus seems always able to summon mercy and understanding when meeting the poor and broken. Somehow he sees those most in need with compassionate eyes and heart, and responds to them without judgement. While Jesus can be hard on those who should know better, he seems never to dismiss the struggling. In fact, the scripture tells us that he sees them as sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus' mercy can easily be taken advantage of, but only those trying to control the world worry about this. While some will surely risk living an unfocused life thinking they have nothing about which to worry since Jesus promises undying love to all even the biggest sinner, Jesus continually seeks out sinners, inviting them to reconciliation and new life.

As C.S. Lewis reminds us in An Examined Life, "God was the hunter and I was the deer. He stalked me, . . . took unerring aim and fired,"(1). Captured by God's love, we find ourselves spending more time being grateful than worrying about our past faults, and discover, to our delight and God's, that we have very little time for wrong doing and sin. Filled with gratitude for all that God is and does, our joyful and free spirits shout Good News.

Today, ask forgiveness of God and move forward.

Which of your faults and sins do you find most difficult to avoid?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Fourth of July

"A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:20

Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I was ministering at a hospital in Boston that cared for many people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.

When today's gospel speaks of a woman bleeding for years, I cringed. Many at the time of Jesus would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life. In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, on the 4th of July, stretch beyond the platitudes of national pride and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural fears gotten in the way of your freedom?