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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Greed and the Gospel

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Lk 12:15

Greed has been a constant theme in the United States in recent years. CEO's making $29,000,000 a year is a commonplace, and, frankly, a scandal. The discrepancy in income between the super rich and the everyday poor is growing and a cause for deep concern. Newsweek In the past, this kind of disparity in salaries has also been the seed of revolution. The simplistic principle that those who produce a billion dollars of profit for a company ought to be rewarded accordingly doesn't help those on the low end of the economic pyramid or the economy!

Jesus had more than a little to say about this, and it is still valuable advice. Money, property and power accumulation are not in themselves the problem. Greed is. The desperate clinging to what we have suggests there is no other world but the one in which we live, and faith challenges this view over and over.

Jesus did not come to straighten out the world but to set its people free, and while some will deny or ignore this gift, it is ours for the taking. When we live generously and with deep regard for those most in need, relationships blossom and the Good News becomes powerful and transforming. It is virtually impossible to turn away from someone we know who is in real need. It is only when the poor remain faceless that our greed overwhelms our beliefs. Opening our eyes to everyone in front of us not only changes us, it can change the world.

Today, ask yourself how much you need to live.

Has your own or another's greed ever impacted your life?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rage

"His disciples came and took away John the Baptist's corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus." Mt 14:12

The beheading of John the Baptist is always a difficult story to read. While the text does not speak of alcohol directly, it is not difficult for anyone who has been around people who drink too much to imagine Herod's drunkenness leading to a promise he cannot break. When his daughter, at her mother's prompting, asks for John's head on a platter, Herod has no choice but to accept her request. Alcohol got him in trouble and his pride made it worse. Too drunk to think clearly, he gives into his wife's rage and orders John's murder.

Anyone who has lived in an alcoholic family has stories like this, and while most of them do not involve murder, too many know the horrors of alcohol abuse. Wives and children have been beaten and families have disintegrated because of alcoholic drinking. Worse, many families endure abusive drinking in their homes because they think the gospel demands their fidelity to the struggling alcoholic, or they feel trapped in a situation from which they do not see another path, and their decision to stay often sets patterns that the next generation find impossible to break.

One wonders what the disciples of John were thinking after they buried John and told Jesus of their master's death. Did they hope Jesus would retaliate? Were they afraid for their own lives? Did they imagine Jesus raising John from the dead?

Most of us skirt the obvious. Alcoholic drinking will eventually kill the body of the drinker and the spirits of the alcoholic's family.

Today, pray for alcoholic families.

What do you do in the face of addiction?


Thursday, July 28, 2016

St Martha

Martha said to him, 'I know my brother will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this.'" Jn 11:26

Because she is sometimes sneered at for complaining that her sister Mary is not helping prepare a meal for Jesus, Martha can be easily dismissed as a second class saint, but she deserves our praise and admiration. Because she is straightforward with Jesus, Martha helps free us from treating the Lord like a plastic amulet whose only purpose is to protect us from harm. Honest and direct, Martha reminds us not to be afraid of the Lord, but to pour out our hearts to him like we would to a treasured friend.

In responding to Martha, Jesus teaches his disciples and all those who were following him that he is their hope and their life, and that through him all will be raised up on the last day. For those who accept this message and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus' promise is the foundation of our faith. As Paul reminds us, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)

Today, ask Jesus to help you better understand his message of salvation.

Are you able to question and challenge the Lord without fear?







Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Clay of God

“Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.” Jer 18:6

Thinking and believing that we are like clay in God’s hands ought to be comforting, but it isn’t always. Because we so want to control our lives, we often push away God’s hands shaping us into what God wants. Though we believe that being “worked” by God makes us wonderful and transparent signs of God’s life in the world, we resist becoming God’s “pots.”

Many years ago, a potter friend of mine give a wonderful workshop on the craft of pottery and its relationship to our spiritual life. First she reminded us that the clay is formed into a pliable ball and then centered on the wheel where the lightest touch begins to shape the ball into the form the potter intends. God is not harsh she reminded us, and from the ball of all are faults and weaknesses, while allowing us enormous freedom in our spiritual journey, God makes us into beautiful and useful pots. At the same time, she noted, only after the pot is formed can it be glazed and fired. The same is true for us. Becoming the person God wants us to become is a long and slow, but ultimately beautiful and purposeful process.

Today, give the delicate and gentle hand of God permission to shape you.

What have been the most important moments in your becoming God’s work?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another Presidential Election


“The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price,  he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Mt 13:46

Often great thinkers and saints come along at a time in church history when there is division, even chaos, and rage. St Francis of Assisi changed his society not by being upwardly mobile, but by choosing to live as a poor person among the poorest of the poor in Assisi. Thomas Becket famouly said: "I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people whether clerk or lay." And Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw a million people dying on the streets of Calcutta and decided to respond to them with love when no one else wanted to see them. All of them were pearls of great price.

Our task today seems very similar. Sometimes the Catholic church is known more for what it condemns than what it promotes, but even a quick view of the bishops document on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. (1) a comprehensive concern for the human family. While the press  trumpets the church’s condemnation of abortion (not the woman who aborts!), the bishops remind us that we must have an “option for the poor and vulnerable,” and promote workers rights, just to name two, if we are going to have an authentically formed Catholic conscience. 

Today, practice virtue and justice.

What do you think it means to be a faith filled citizen in the United States today?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sts Joachim and Anne

 "Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest." Jer 14:17

Although the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, only come to us from a late first century legend, it must have been wonderful  for them to give birth to Mary, and one wonders whether they saw in their daughter the special qualities that would help Mary say yes to God in all things and endure the horror of her son’s crucifixion and death. Only common criminals were beaten and led out of the city of Jerusalem to die on a garbage heap like Jesus was, and though it had to be awful, the image of Mary holding Jesus as he was taken dead from the cross is one of the most moving and comforting of icons in our faith tradition. Surely, Joachim and Anne would have been immensely proud of their daughter as she accepted the horror of her only son’s death.

Today, is a good day to be grateful for our own history, no matter how clouded. Our parents, often with limited resources, did the best they could by us. They fed us, made sure we had access to education and loved us as they knew how. Indeed, we can say this about all our ancestors.  They loved us in the manner than was acceptable in their families and cultures. It does us no good to berate or deny our personal and family history. Rather, we must be grateful for what is and ask God to help us, like Joachim and Anne, to pass on the best of our faith to the generation that follows us.

Today, be grateful for your family, no matter how broken.

What do you most treasure about your own family and faith?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

St James, Apostle

"Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Cor 4:7

What a gift our bodies are! Paul calls them "earthen vessels," and indeed they are. Wonderful vessels that allow us to listen, see, speak, eat, touch others with compassion, and breathe. More important, our bodies are the vessels that allow our spirits to engage others and work together to create a world that is just for all.

Unfortunately, most of us don't appreciate our bodies until they balk or break down. Only when we can't see because of a cataract or walk easily because our knees are swollen or sore, do we realize how well our bodies have served us and God.

In the United States where so many struggle with eating disorders and where there is so much public and private transportation available, we compromise our bodies by not walking or exercising enough. While people rarely call this a sin, we need to think about this. Not eating well or exercising regularly places a tremendous burden on our families and hospital systems and, more important, allows us to take our bodies for granted.

Today, take five minutes to be grateful for your body and how well it has served you.

Have you discovered ways to be grateful for your body on a daily basis.