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Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Hard Sayings of Jesus

"Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." Lk 12:51

When Jesus tells us that the “good news” he speaks is a hard word, a demanding word and one that will sometimes bring about division between and among families, we are always unnerved. What could this talk about division mean? Are we not called to be one with each other as a sign of God's unity?

In the film, The King’s Speech, the Duke of York is a terrible stutterer. Though born to nobility, the man who would eventually be known as King George VI, cannot even read a speech on the radio. Battered by his father to try harder, and to speak more slowly, his stammer only gets worse, but what is most difficult for him is the ridicule he is subjected to, even as an adult, by his own brother.

Exhausted and ashamed by his struggles, the future king submits himself to the “cleansing” and “purifying” skill and friendship of a commoner. Slowly he gains some control of his stammer and emerges humble and grateful, and able to play a key role in leading England through the Second World War. This is, of course, exactly what the Lord did for his first disciples and continues to do for us today.

The body of Christ is one but has many members, each with a distinct role without which the whole cannot function completely and integrally. All of us are important in the eyes of God. Each of has a dignity that can never be taken away from us. When we forget or ignore these basic truths, we must be cleansed and purified.

Today, ask not to be afraid of the fire of God.

Have you been refined like gold in the furnace for the service of God's reign?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Remembering the Poor

“Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge”? Ez 18:2

It is tempting to blame our parents or a previous generation for all our woes. Recent political commentary does this in spades. Those wanting to enforce a balanced federal budget claim that not doing so now will unfairly burden our children and their children. In other words, if we don't agree with their insistence that a balanced budget is an absolute, we have no compassion towards the next generation and will put "our children's teeth on edge." What happens to the people who depend on government aid for food, shelter and clothing seems not to matter.

Ezekiel insists that God will not punish the next generation for our sins. Rather, God will set us free, lead us out of exile and restore us to our rightful place as God's holy people. At the same time, Ezekiel does not deny that how we live now has an effect on the next generation, but insists that God desires not to allow our behavior to be death dealing to our children's children. 

Ezekiel wants his generation to repent, to turn again toward God, and to live the law with joy and delight. This remains our task. Only when we accept responsibility for our own sins can we hope to witness to all, especially to our children, that reform and renewal are possible.

Today, don't blame anyone for your difficulties. Rather, ask God for help.

What situations most tempt you to blame others for your problems?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Marriage

"Therefore, what God has joined together, we must never divide." Mt 19:6

Marriage is a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church, and like all sacraments, an enduring sign of God's love for us. The love of wife and husband for one another in faith is a witness to God's unquenchable and total love for us, and the fundamental reason for the church's prohibition against divorce. Since Christ cannot stop loving us, married couples are challenged to love one another through every trial. St. Paul says it most simply.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church... husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. :..."For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. Eph 5: 25-26
The challenge of Paul's sentiments can seem overwhelming to married couples, especially when they are struggling with their commitment to one another. Nevertheless, the vision and hope of Paul remain. There is no clearer sign of Christ's love for the church than a married couple trying to heal one another, push past infidelities great and small, and build their relationship into a transparent witness to Christ's love for the church.

Today, pray for those struggling in marriage.

How important do you think marriage is in and for the church?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

St Clare of Assisi

"(Ezekiel said) I did as I was told. During the day I brought out my baggage as though it were that of an exile, and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness, shouldering my burden." Ez 12:7

Like St Francis, her friend and mentor, St Clare was born into wealth, and although her mother was generous towards the poor and had a deep spirituality, Clare knew that the power which her family's wealth gave her was an obstacle to a full Gospel life.

Because she wanted. like Jesus and Ezekiel, to sell everything she had and give the proceeds to the poor, Clare petitioned Rome to live what she called the "privilege of poverty." Anxious to demonstrate her total dependence on God and the church, Clare wanted both to live within the enclosure and without a dowry, something unheard of in the middle ages. Because women within the enclosure had no means of supporting themselves, the church insisted that nuns have the security of a dowry to protect them from destitution.

Although it took almost to the end of her life, St Clare's desire to live with nothing of her own was finally accepted by Rome when her Rule was approved in 1253 just a day before her death, and this profound breakthrough continues to inspire women of the 21st century to live the Gospel simply and without guile.

Today, ask yourself whether you need everything you have.

What spiritual practice might help you live the Gospel more simply and fully?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

St Lawrence, Deacon

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

There is an old saying: You can't win it unless your in it, and this is especially true when trying to live the Gospel.  Unless we are committed to live the Gospel with integrity everyday, we can never hope to know its joys. Summer in the Northeast United States teaches this lesson especially well.

Gardeners who are willing to put only one tomato plant in the ground can hope all they want for a treasure trove of tomatoes but one plant can only produce so much fruit. Only those who are willing to risk many plants and have the energy to water them everyday can hope for a large crop. The same is true for our good deeds. While one generous act a day is good, we must be willing to sow many seeds of God's love every day to announce the reign of God, especially to those without faith.

St Lawrence is most famous for a good deed that though we cannot authenticate it, continues to impress us with its power. Commanded by the Roman prefect to gather up the riches of the church in order to strengthen the Emperor's war efforts, Lawrence asks for a few days to inventory the churches treasures. During this time he gathered up the broken: the lepers, the blind, the lame and the orphaned and brought them to the Roman prefect declaring: These are the treasures of the church! Shortly after his daring declaration, he was martyred.

Today, sow good deeds without worrying about their success.

Who sowed the Good News in your life?


Monday, August 8, 2016

Seeking out the Lost

"What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?" Mt 18:12

What's your opinion? While Jesus seems to think that it makes perfect sense to leave the ninety nine sheep to care for themselves as he goes in search of the one lost sheep, one wonders how the disciples might have answered if Jesus had simply posed the question and let them respond. What do you think they would have done?

At first glance, it makes no sense to leave ninety nine sheep alone to search for the lost one, but Jesus is making an important and challenging point with his followers. The lost are important. The healthy, he says in another place, don't need a physician. The sick do. (Mk 2:17) Jesus wants us to let go of the security of wherever we are to look for those who have lost their way, and this is often a hard challenge. Knowing who and where we are, especially in relation to power, is important. Otherwise, we will never be able to speak truth to power, but Jesus pushes us nonetheless.

Often in Christian terms we must be people who are both/and. We must so deeply know who we are that we are unafraid to let go of our security to seek those who forget or reject their own heritage and faith. Because we are rooted in the memory of Jesus we know that wherever we are, we are in Christ who is the source and summit of our lives, and can risk anything in order to proclaim the message of Jesus. The apostles knew this. So did the great saints. We can learn it a day at a time.

Today, open your spirit to the lost and do it without judging them.

Are there places, people and communities that you avoid?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

St Dominic

"Dominic was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy." Office of Readings for the Feast of St Dominic

The feast of St Dominic is an important one for Franciscans. Dominic, like Francis himself, is called Holy Father by Franciscans in order to help the friars minor understand that anyone who professes poverty and itinerancy is indeed a Father to us. More helpful, perhaps, in understanding this custom, is the short biography of St. Dominic from today's Office of Readings.

Most of us strive to have a peaceful spirit, to live with "great equanimity" but often enough this desire fulfills our hopes and understanding of holiness, not necessarily God's desire for us. When Dominic is described as a man of "great equanimity" his biographer is clearly talking about a God given gift since he reminds us that Dominic lived a life of equanimity "except when moved to compassion and mercy." In other words, there are moments when it is important to be quiet, reserved and outwardly peaceful, but there are others times, especially when someone is suffering and in need of God's companionship, that we need to let go of all restraints in order to give ourselves totally, like God, to the person in need.

Parents know this virtue in regard to their small children. When a child is sick, there are no limits to their compassion and understanding. They attend to their children with a kind of fierce determination and love. Our task, of course, is to offer this same compassionate commitment to our enemies. Only then can we be sure that our desire is from God.

Today, let go of self concern and reach out for anyone in great need.

Who has shown you unconditional concern in your confusion and suffering?