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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Teach us to Pray

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name." Mt 6:9

For believers, the first task each day is to acknowledge God and God's place in our lives. The Lord's Prayer both helps us remember this fundamental stance and teaches us how to do it. More often than not, most of us are ready to tell God our story, enumerate our needs and ask for help, but the Our Father reminds us that for the believer recognizing our dependence on God must always be first desire and duty.

Muslims, though using a different name for God, take a very similar stance when they pray the Shahada, "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is the Prophet." Some Muslim scholars suggest that when Muslims pray they are seeking the same blessings that Catholics desire and experience in the Eucharist. Learning to bow our heads at the name of God is another way of accepting God's presence and power in our lives, and is something that would help believers to live more fully in the presence of God.

It is so easy in a world full of information and internet web access to think of ourselves in powerful terms. After all, we can ask Mr Google almost anything and receive 100 million possible answers within two or three seconds. Doesn't this indicate the growing control we have over the world as we know it?  While we do have access to more information than we could every process or interpret, knowledge without gratitude for the One who is all knowing does the believer little good.

Today, say the Lord's Prayer slowly and reverently.

If you, like the Apostles, could ask Jesus how to pray what would you expect him to teach you?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Living with our Faults

"No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Mt 13: 29-30

All of us have faults and most of us have determined to rid ourselves of them without success. If our words get us in trouble regularly, we decide to be quieter, and for a while it works, but as soon as we lose our focus, we find ourselves talking too much about ourselves or others. These are the weeds that grow in our life.  We can try to blame someone else for planting them, but they are ours and we need to be responsible for them. Thank God Jesus recognizes us despite our faults and suggests a response.

The Lord tells us to stop worrying too much about our sins and concentrate instead on doing good. It is remarkable when we think about it that when we have lots of good to do, there is little time for faults and sins. While we might talk too much, spend too much, worry too much or try too hard, when we are focused on living well with and for others, our faults don't bother us as much and neither do they last as long.

It is also a very good practice to look with the eyes of Jesus as others who bother us for reasons we cannot always understand. When we let friends, family and enemies be themselves and emphasize the good they do, we soon learn to tolerate their faults. More important, it usually becomes apparent that their good qualities far outnumber their faults.

Today, let the weeds grow together with the wheat in your life.

Which of your own faults or sins bothers you the most?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

St Mary Magdalene

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni,' which means Teacher." Jn 20:16

Neither the disciples on the road to Emmaus, nor Mary Magdalene, recognized Jesus immediately after the resurrection. Why this was is not clear. The disciples may have been too angry or hurt by Jesus' death, and Mary's grief may have blinded her, but that they did not recognize Jesus is clear. Only after the Lord breaks the bread and calls Mary by name do the disciples and Mary recognize him.

Most of us have experienced this in everyday life. If we are waiting for someone at an airport or bus station and they don't appear with the other arriving travelers, we find ourselves wondering whether we missed the person for whom we are waiting or whether they are on a different flight. We scan the crowds, ask others if they were on the same flight for bus, and sometimes check to see if they are at other exits. Only when the person calls our name or we see them sitting in a corner of the station do we realize that our anxiety blinded us to the obvious.

It is clear that the gospels want to teach us about the resurrected Jesus through signs and sounds. We have only to quiet ourselves and pay attention to see the risen Jesus among us. Every time we gather for the Eucharist the Lord is among us in the breaking of the bread. Every time we pause to listen to him in prayer, he lives within us. When we open our hearts to hear the word as a call to change, we encounter the Christ who is always active, but when are hearts are troubled or distracted by large or small concerns, we miss the presence of the One who is always looking for us.

Today, remember the times the Lord called you by name.

What concerns most often blind you to the presence of God in the world?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Seeing with Faith

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear." Mt 13:16

Seeing is a wonderful gift, one we can easily take for granted. Only an injury to the eye, even a slight one, makes us sit up and take notice. That we can see and appreciate the beauty of all creation is remarkable, and while it seems simple it really is very complex. So many parts of our body have to work together for us to see, and Jesus uses this very basic faculty to teach us about sensing beyond what our eyes and ears and brain working together offer us.

Acknowledging what our senses tell us, especially when it is painful, is important not just for ourselves but for our society. When we see or witness abuse of any kind we cannot simply turn away in denial. Experiencing abusive drinking or encountering spousal abuse unnerves us and sometimes moves us into denial. We don't want to believe what we saw or heard and try to excuse or interpret another's actions to free ourselves from responsibility. 

Some of the Jewish leaders, who could have worked with Jesus to proclaim God's reign, did not want to see, hear or admit that Jesus had remarkable powers and insight, that he understood and interpreted the Torah in a way that freed people to live the Law more fully and deeply. Because they feared their power was being challenged and undermined, they chose to be blind and confronted Jesus at every turn but were never able to dissuade or distract ordinary people from acknowledging what they experienced.  We all need to learn that seeing with the mind and heart is as important as seeing with our eyes alone, otherwise we will miss the transforming power of the Gospel.

Today, open your eyes slowly and look around at the glory of God's creation.

Have you had an experience that helped you see God's action in your life more clearly?




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rocky Ground

“A sower went out to sow...Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots." Mt 13: 3-4

There is rocky ground in all our lives, and while we have to acknowledge it and accept it, we should not obsess about it. Whether our early years were difficult and confusing, or your marriage was sour almost from the beginning, we need to find a way not to let our dark days dissuade us from living with joy and hope. Our parents or our partners may have disappointed us, but God cannot abandon us, and faith demands that we ask God to be the ground of our lives. Only then can we be sure that no matter how rocky life is or might become, God's love will sustain us.

Letting God find the good ground in our lives and asking for the grace to let go of our failures is an important step on our spiritual journey. If we worry too much about the rocky ground, we will miss the good God is already doing within and through us.

Today, be grateful for the God has done in you. Let go of failure.

How has God surprised you on your pilgrim journey?





Monday, July 18, 2016

We are the Famiily of Jesus

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mk 3:35

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Do the Right and Love Goodness

“Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Mi 6:8

It can seem overwhelmingly impossible at times to live simply for God and not worry about personal goals, wealth, property and even our health. God does not ask us to be successful, and the prophet Micah is at his wit’s end trying to convince the people to whom he was sent  that God does not want thousands of rams or burnt offerings from his chosen people, but only their fidelity to a life of gratitude before God for all God does.

Why won’t we believe this? What can’t we believe it? In the West, at least, competition between and among people, especially men, is still a driving force that often artificially props up our self image even if it does nothing for the life of the community, and we convince ourselves, sometimes with the help of televangelists, that God wants us to succeed. When we are really crazy with these ideas we convince ourselves that it is our success that pleases God, and unfortunately our success sometimes attracts clergy who see our wealth as a ticket to their own success as pastors.

Today, walk humbly and see how it feels.

What are your most difficult obstacles in living a life of faith in a culture of success?