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Friday, July 15, 2016

Bruised Reeds

“A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”  Mt 12:20

The wonderful Australian writer and vocalist, Monica Brown, has a beautiful chant on her album, Holy Ground, called: In Jesus Name. Reminding us over and over again that Jesus does not break the bruised reed nor quench the wavering flame, she wonders: Cannot we do the same, in Jesus name?

Mary Magdalen is a powerful example of a suffering  woman, a bruised reed, who Jesus heals. Mentioned at least fourteen times in the gospels,  Mary (not the prostitute!) is the one from whom “seven devils went out.”  Grateful for her healing, Mary follows the Lord doggedly, and is the one who rushes to the tomb on Easter morning and hears Jesus say: “Go to my brothers and tell them that, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father.’” Because of this great commission, St. Augustine calls Mary Magdalen the Apostle to the Apostles.

Gratitude for the Lord’s mercy is an essential element in the Christian life, and there are few better than Mary Magdalen in teaching to teach us this.

Today, do not despair in your brokenness, but remember the Lord’s healing power.

Have you known extraordinary healing in your life or in the lives of friends and family?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

St Bonaventure

"Take nothing for the journey." Mt 6:7

How to proclaim the gospel in a way others can hear it and be transformed is always a question for Christians. It is clear that the mere announcing of the gospel is hardly enough to convince others of its truth or power. While hearing the word of God can introduce others to the wonder of the good news, by itself it does little to convince others to live it. Only witness of and to the word has a lasting effect in others lives.

When Jesus instructs his disciples to take nothing for the journey, he is not exalting simplicity of life and lifestyle in itself. Rather, he is reminding them that the only way they will stand out in life is to live the gospel for its own sake. Carrying nothing assures those to whom they are sent that they have no ulterior motive. They are not announcing Good News to gain privilege or voice or power. They are living the Good News so that others might know its freeing and empowering effects.

St Bonaventure had regularly to remind the early Franciscans of this truth. Voluntary poverty, in the radical form it took in the 13th century, was an attempt to say that wealth and power were not goods in themselves. Unfortunately, the friars sometimes exalted poverty for itself. The more dire and abject the friars appeared, the more they would be admired. Only when the choice of poverty challenges others to listen to God's word and to build a more just world does it make sense as a gospel practice.

Today, ask God to show you how to live more simply for the sake of the Good News.

Does voluntary poverty and simplicity of life make any sense to you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

St Kateri Tekakwitha

"The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level." Is 26:7

Isaiah regularly offers the people of Israel a path of return to God and God's ways. As long as they do justice and make restitution to those people and nations from whom they have stolen and against whom they have warred, God will remember them and welcome them home.

This simple lesson should not be lost on us. When we honestly assess our behavior, we realize how often we have lusted after what others have, and whether it is their property, their influence or their reputation does not matter. When we have allowed ourselves the freedom not to work for others on behalf of God, but to struggle against them for our own gain, we must confront and address this sin.

At the same time, this is never easy. When someone unjustly tries to take from us our good name, we have the right to resist, but never violently. Only when we insist with a peaceful heart that others allow us the same dignity we offer them, will we be doing God's work. Those who willingly admit their own wrongs and respond in justice to those they have ill treated are always more successful in the pursuit of God's desire for the world.

Today, pray for your enemies.

Who do you most admire for their honesty and willingness to step in the shoes of another?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Humility

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." Mt 11:25

Knowing exactly what Jesus means by childlike is not easy. In the ancient world,  because children had little economic value until they could work, it was counter intuitive to imitate them. Nevertheless, Jesus holds them up for us as a model of faith life. Unless we are as vulnerable as children were in Jesus' day, we will think too highly of ourselves and the haughtiness that can accompany education, power and wealth get in the way of our witness to the Gospel.

Jesus does not want us to follow him for its social value. Otherwise, he would have told us to wear multiple tunics, carry money and wear fine sandals so that those who met us would be impressed with what following Jesus did for us. Rather, he tells us to take nothing for the journey so that all will see in us people whose only task is to announce the Good News. Like John the Baptist, we go before the Lord to prepare the way.

When we think about people who have humbled themselves for us, we are always moved. On a recent trip to Africa, I was met at the airport like a Hollywood personality, and although it was embarrassing, I knew it is not about me, but about what those welcoming me hoped I could help them do for their communities of faith. For those who are public figures announcing the Good News, this Gospel is especially important. It is not a big head that gets us into heaven, but a big heart.

Today, listen to others like a child listening to a bedtime story.

Whose childlike faith helped shape yours?

Monday, July 11, 2016

God Desires to be Merciful

"But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Mt 11:24

Most of us are familiar with Abraham's willingness to wager with God in the book of Genesis. Familiar with and close to God, Abraham is unafraid to approach God, even push God, to forget our sins and embrace us anew. Aware that God is thinking about destroying the wicked city of Sodom, Abraham first asks God whether 50 innocent and good people would change God's mind about destroying the city. When God says yes, Abraham keep lowering the number until God is willing to forgive the entire city of Sodom if Abraham can produce 10 good people. 

The God we meet in the book of Genesis is tender, compassionate and merciful but often for reasons of guilt and shame we are unable to accept this God. Thinking we are deserving of punishment and retribution, we resist allowing the God of Genesis to come near us for fear we will have to offer others the same solicitous love God shows us, but God is bigger than our fears. While God wants us to forgive our enemies, God's love is not conditional. As long as we ask for help, God is there, trusting that the reception of this kind of mercy will help us see others as God seems them.

Today, imagine God waiting for you with open arms.



What keeps you from believing in the all forgiving God that Abraham encounters?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

St Benedict, Abbot

"Break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the LORD." Hos 10:12

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire Law and Prophets to as few words as possible while still retaining the fullness of truth they embody. Jesus does this in his response to those trying to "trip him up" by reducing the Law and Prophets to two values: Love God totally and your neighbor as yourself.

This same lens is used by the founders of the great religious movements of the Christian West. In order, as Hosea says, to break up a new field, St. Benedict first fled the insanity of his times to live for three years in the desert. Returning finally, he gathers like minded men around him in order to lead a communal life. Committing themselves to stability, Benedict and his followers also insisted that ora et labora, prayer and work, be the foundations of monastic life. Whatever other iterations might develop to foster gospel living, these two pillars must endure.

The genius of this particular gospel path allows others who follow to "read the signs of the times" and ask how these founding charisms might live in every age. Because the values of prayer and work are so rich and deep, as long as they remain the building blocks for every age, new expressions might develop for those who want to lead an authentic monastic life in the 21st century.

Today, pray to take hold again of the building blocks of Christianity: Love God and neighbor.

What are the most important signs of the times to which we must respond in our day for the Gospel to be heard?