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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Listening to the Cry of the Poor

"If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead." Lk 16:31

The story of the rich man and Lazarus, who lay at his door hoping for a morsel of food, is painful to read. It is not that being rich is bad. Rather, the rich are more likely to ignore the world as it is because they are comfortable. The Jews of old knew this well. God had reminded them often never to forget how they had been enslaved, otherwise they would be no better than the Egyptians who used them for their own profit. Life has not changed very much in this regard.

It is very easy to take for granted the "riches" we have. Whether our wealth lies in money and property or friends, family and honest work, we are at risk. When God's goodness to us is taken for granted, we begin to believe that we have earned everything we have, forgetting our "unearned privilege." As a boy, although we did not have much money, I went to school everyday, drank clean water, ate nourishing food and slept in a warm bed. I never thought much about these "riches." I did not earn them. They were my right, and I thought everyone in the world benefited from the same gifts. When it became clear to me that this was not the case, I knew my conscience would never rest until I did something for others out of justice, not simply out of love.

The rich man forgot who he was, and even Lazarus lying at his door did not wake him up. He ignored the injunction of Isaiah, "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." (Is 58:10) We can do the same with the message of Jesus. "Whatever you did for these the least of my brothers and sisters you did for me." (Mt. 25:40)

Today, feed someone who is hungry for hope, faith, compassion and understanding.

Share your experiences of feeding others.

Friday, September 23, 2016

God, the Refuge of Refugees

"In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge." Ps 90

The U.N High Commission on Refugees asserts that there are more than 50 million refugee children around the world, ( LA Times) the highest figure since the Second World War. It has to be a terrible thing to be torn from one's home by violence, political unrest and war, and it is important to Christians not to turn away from the images and stories of people who have fled their homes and risked their lives crossing oceans and deserts seeking a new home. They are the face of the suffering Christ

At the same time, we need to be grateful for those countless women and men who risk their lives as caregivers and aid workers for the homeless and hungry at home around the world. Catholic Relief Services alone has more than 5000 people working in 93 countries who respond as best they can to more than 100 million people a year. Though we hear little about these heroes, they are the face of the Catholic Church who rarely seek recognition and fame, but reach out for the needy because it is the right thing to do.

Today, take a moment to be grateful for those who risked their lives for you.

Who has risked their lives for you?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

St Padre Pio

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light." Lk 8:16

What must we do when our inner demons urge us not to display the light God has given us? This is no idle question, but a deep struggle of conscience that many saints have had to face in their lives. The doctor of the church, St. Hildegaard of Bingen, very much wanted to ignore the dreams and visions she had from an early age, but her confessors and spiritual directors, convinced of their value, insisted that she share them. Eventually they reached St Bernard of Clairvaux, the great founder of the Cistercians, who brought then to Pope Eugenius III. When Eugenius read them, he knew they were a gift from God that would enlighten many peoples hearts with the power of the Gospel.

Padre Pio is another saint who struggled mightily with the gifts God gave him. Blessed with the Stigmata, Pio was frightened when first presented with the gift of Jesus' wounds appearing in his own body. Writing to his friend, Padre Benedetto, Pio told the priest that when he first received the Stigmata he thought he was dying, and would have died had not God intervened. Worried about the reaction of others, Pio asked God to take the outward sign of the Stigmata from him. Willing to endure the pain of the wounds, he did not want to face the questions and doubts of his confreres and superiors about their authenticity.

With both saints, there was no choice. God wanted to speak and be a light in the world through them. Neither Hildegaard nor Pio was permitted to extinguish their light or avoid public scrutiny. More important, while not as dramatic, none of us are free to let the light of God shining in and through us be extinguished. Rather, our lives of faith are designed to be a guide for others seeking to know God's Good News.

Today, let your light, no matter how weak, shine for God's glory.

What most troubles or unnerves you about being God's light in the world?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St Matthew

"Follow me." Mt 9:10

Matthew must have been amazed and delighted when Jesus called him to follow. Amazed because he was a tax collector, a man despised for what he did and who he was. Tax collectors were most often Jews who worked for the Romans. Upfront, they would pay the Romans the taxes of those from who they collected taxes and then charge Jews whatever they could, and this would often be exorbitant and excruciating.

Matthew also would have been delighted. Here was Jesus, a prominent Jew and rabbi, calling him, accepting him, sitting down at table with him when everyone else in the community was shunning him. Matthew knew that he was being given a second chance and he was anxious to take it.

The message of the gospel is clear. All of us will get a second chance and it is up to us to take it, to follow the Lord and let go of behaviors and practices that oppose God's law and God's desire for us. As long as we are willing to admit that we are in need of a physician, the Lord will come to us like a doctor who sees only that we are in need. The Lord wants to heal us. How wonderful.

Today, acknowledge your weakness.

Who looked at you with love when you could not accept or love yourself?

Monday, September 19, 2016

St Andew Kim, St Anna Park Agi and the Korean Martyrs

"Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources." Lk 8:2-3

Of the 98 Korean martyrs who Blessed John Paul II canonized in 1984, more than half were lay women, among them Anna Park Agi. Abandoned in prison by her husband and son who could not endure the torture imposed on them, Anna was steadfast. Even when her husband and son visited her, imploring her to remember her children and family, Anna refused to renounce her faith and begged her son and husband to return to the faith even if it meant a new imprisonment.

Women like Anna, even if they are not as well known or celebrated as Andrew Kim and Paul Ch┼Ćng Ha-sang, who wrote and preached publicly in defense of the faith, continue to offer us a great challenge. How many people, especially women without the freedom to peach, continue to offer us an example of fidelity and courage despite the limitations imposed on them by the society and the church!

Luke reminds us that there were many women who accompanied Jesus and provided for him and his disciples from their resources as they went about the work of announcing the Good News. Because these women did not seek a more public role in a society that was often blind to their insights and sanctity, we do not know their names or histories, but we continue to benefit from their witness and faithfulness. 

Today, thank a woman who has encouraged you in faith.

Who are the people without loud voices to whom we need to listen more closely/

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Light for Others

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” (Lk 8:16)

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?