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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Renounce All

"Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” Lk 14:33

The severity of Jesus' demand that we renounce all our possessions can be overwhelming, especially when we read it out of context. The best scholars of the bible always remind us that when we ask God for the strength to let go, to renounce everything for God, God gives us back what we need to live well and serve others. While God's challenge is daunting, it is also necessary. Belief demands that we learn to trust God with our entire lives despite the cost.

Those who accept the call to marriage, for instance, know that there is an immense amount of listening, responding and letting go, but the reward of a marriage well lived is the gift of a relationship that, as Paul reminds us, evokes Christ's love for the church. If either spouse becomes rigid and unbending, the marriage falters and fails to be the sign of God's love that the world needs. Likewise, those called to a communal life as vowed religious know the emptiness of holding onto ministries or positions of power when God says let go.

When trying to listen to the God who demands everything from us, it is also important to remember that most of us have more than we could ever use or need, and it is our fear and pride that causes us to worry about whether we have enough or how others see us. Rather than let go to simplify our lives, we acquire more and more ideas, stuff and baggage. Jesus might sound harsh, but his message is clear. Don't be afraid to give God everything. The reward is a Gospel freedom beyond anything we could imagine.

Today, recommit yourself to a Gospel life no matter the cost.

Which of your possessions or ideas are most difficult to renounce?

Friday, September 2, 2016

St Gregory the Great

" I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living." (Ps 27)

Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory. These are the four great doctors of the Western Church. Called great because their insight about the Gospel as a living organism which could, when properly understood, interpreted and preached, influence people of every generation, the Greats of the Christian West have left a lasting imprint on the church.

Gregory, like so many others saints, lived fully in the world in his early days, but after five years as prefect of Rome, lost confidence in the society to direct or discipline itself. Hoping the monastic life would give him some clarity about how to live the Gospel, he joined the Benedictines, but shortly thereafter the Pope sent him to Constantinople as his representative.

A success in Constantinople, he was called back to Rome, and elected abbot of the Benedictines. Walking through Rome one day he chanced upon a group of young Anglo Saxon boys who were being offered for sale. Moved by their plight and his conversation with them, he went to England with the hope of implanting the Gospel, but because of the upset of the Roman people, he was recalled to Rome and soon afterwards was elected Pope at the age of fifty.

Straightforward and scrupulously honest, Pope Gregory disciplined wayward priests, used monies from the papal treasury to care for Jews and the sick, and reformed the liturgy. but it was his instructions to bishops on how to conduct their office, read for a thousand years, that sealed his place among the Greats of the Christian community.
It is with profound sorrow we have to admit that though the harvest is great, the labourers are few, because, though the people are ready to hear the Word of God, there are few to preach it. Lo, the world is full of priests, yet in the harvest of the Lord a labourer is very rare, for we undertake, it is true, the office of the priest hood, but its duties we do not fulfill. Yet weigh well, dearly beloved, weigh well the words of the text: "Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He send labourers into His harvest." Pray then for us that we may have strength to labour for you as we ought, that our tongue may not be slack to exhort, and that, having undertaken the office of preaching, our silence may not prove our condemnation at the tribunal of the just Judge. (Homily of St Gregory)
Today,  dare to be great in Christ.

What most keeps you from the living the Gospel with abandon?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sometimes the Old is Just Old

“The old is good.” Lk 5:39

A few years ago about sixty of us gathered for our 50th high school reunion. Almost as soon as we arrived, we found ourselves talking about the “old days." Looking at old photographs, we remembered names we hadn't spoken in decades and reveled in what used to be.  It was fun, warming and satisfying, but I know it is not the way to live each day.  Sometimes when we older friars gather we forget that there are young men with us who have heard our stories a thousand times, and who, very frankly, are bored with us. Perhaps it is because we not just remembering the past, we seem to be stuck in it.

Jesus warns us about this in today’s gospel.  For some of his Jewish clansmen and family there is a resistance to the “new” word that Jesus is announcing.  Satisfied, or at least comfortable with what they know of God and God’s revelation to Israel, they do not want to hear anything that might suggest something was lacking in their own faith.  But Jesus insists that one can’t pour old wine into new wineskins, otherwise the wineskins will burst and all the wine will be lost.

And the truth is this. Unless we are ready to embrace whatever helps the world to know God more fully, we will fail in the mission Jesus handed on to us. Christ is given to us, not simply for our own salvation, but for the salvation of the world.

Today, pray for a new insight about faith and embrace it.

Who or what has helped you grow in your faith oommitment to be Good News?


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fishing God's Way

Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." Lk 5:5

It is natural to wonder what it was that moved Peter to obey Jesus and lower his nets for a catch. Peter is the fisherman, not Jesus, and has been fishing all night with no success. Despite being tired, Peter listens to the Lord's command, and hauls in a large number fish, but this is not the point of the story. That the Apostle's will "catch" men and women is, and it is still the story.

Our task as Christians is to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ with passion and conviction, all the while knowing that it is not our eloquence or insight that will move our hearers but the power of God alive in us and in the Word. When we have the faith to listen, discern and obey God's command, even if it is counter intuitive or contradicts our experience, our success as evangelizers, like Peter's, will be assured.

Today, let go of your prejudices about how to be effective disciples and let God guide you.

Who or what has been most effective in your understanding and living of the Gospel?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We all have Vocations

"Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her." Lk 4:39

Tomorrow, I will complete 55 years of Capuchin life. It hardly seems possible. 55 years ago, after a silent 8 day retreat (no easy task for me), I was clothed in the Capuchin habit with more than two dozen other frightened young men. It was an amazing day and its memory brings me to a point of deep gratitude. When I entered the Capuchins I could never have imagined the wonderful friars I would meet and live with, the education I would receive, and the opportunity to meet, teach and serve people from so many different cultures and countries. Though not without its struggles, Capuchin life has been a great gift! 

It is these rich memories that make me stop and pray in gratitude with Peter’s mother in law whose story is told in today’s gospel. When Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law she gets up immediately and waits on all those assembled. The immediacy of her response is what most impresses me. She doesn’t hesitate at all or ask to rest, something that would seem perfectly natural after a severe fever. Anyone who has suffered with a high fever knows how tired one can be when the fever passes. But, then again, perhaps that was part of the miracle. Not only was she freed of fever, she got her strength back.  In the light of God’s goodness to me, and conscious of how often God has forgiven me, I hope that I will always want to serve others immediately like Peter’s mother in law.

Today, be grateful for your vocation.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, August 29, 2016

We are the Body of Christ

"We have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor 2:16

Often I find myself praying in gratitude for the people I have met along the way, especially people who could easily have walked away from faith because their journey was so difficult. Many of these people are the cornerstones of our parishes and faith communities, but many others are from the developing world where their contact with parishes as we know them is limited. Strong in their faith, these powerful and committed believers continue to study, reflect and celebrate the mysteries of faith despite their poverty. They are, for me, contemporary heroes who I not only admire but try to emulate.

St Paul regularly boasts about the believers who came to faith through his ministry. Never claiming them for himself, but for Christ, Paul reminds them that they "have the mind of Christ," and it will sustain them. Knowing how difficult it is to live their faith when few support them, Paul holds up the glory of their witness to Christ as an example for all to follow.

Today, boast about someone others ignore.

What helps you endure in faith on a daily basis?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Christian Response to Violence

“'I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'... So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl." Mk 6:26

The beheading of John the Baptist has always been one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament to read. Horrific and barbaric, we cringe and withdraw from the image of someone bringing the head of another human being to a banquet to satisfy the rage of a woman whose marriage has been condemned.

Unfortunately, to the horror of most people in the world, this scene has been repeated often in recent years. Beheading Christians simply because they are Christians is a tactic of ISIS whick does its job well. Horrified and enraged, people around the world vow vengeance and Isis wins. By goading the world to respond, they continue the cycle of violence making reconciliation difficult if not impossible.

Pope Francis, in responding to these atrocities, reminds believers that despite the awfulness of what we are witnessing, we must continue to live the Gospel: "Wars are always madness: All is lost in war, all is to be gained in peace, In deploring all of these, I wish to assure my prayers and my solidarity for those who are being held in captivity and for their families, and I appeal to the humanity of the kidnappers to free their victims,"  Solidarity with all people trapped by war and the willingness to seek new roads to peace is the only Gospel response.

Today, pray for anyone, especially children, caught in wars they cannot possibly understand.

What do you think is the Gospel response to overwhelming violence?