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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gratitude

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"  Lk 17:17

A few years ago, following Hurricane Sandy, people in the Northeast United States were forced to think about basic needs and services. Not only were most of us without electricity for days, thousands of homes were destroyed and many other homes remain uninhabitable today.

Unfortunately, for most of us, it takes a storm like this to make us think about what we so often taken for granted. Being without electricity and heat for days, and being unable to find gasoline for our cars made us realize how dependent we are on the services which most of the time we can find anywhere, and forced us to pause in gratitude.

Jesus reminds us of this same reality. It was a foreigner, someone without a voice or a home, who returns after being healed to thank him. The clear call of the Gospel is to be thankful each day not only for the simple gifts of food, water and heat, but for life itself.

Today, thank someone who provides you with a basic service.

How do you avoid taking life's necessities for granted?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Blessed are they who live their Faith

"Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Lk 11:28

There are some who might get upset with this passage from Luke. When a woman in the crowd seems to praise Jesus’ mother saying, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed," Jesus reacts. A person’s life is not of value, he says, because of her parents or relatives, but by her willingness to listen and live the good news. The Jesus of the gospels would never disparage his own mother’s goodness, but he would and does use the words of an anonymous woman in the crowd to remind his listeners that being born a Jew guarantees nothing. Were he alive today, he might well say that being born a Catholic means little unless one lives one’s religious faith and tradition.

Jesus was trying to remind his Jewish brothers and sisters that they were not better than others simply because of their religious clothing, roots or heritage. Rather, he wanted them to live their faith with integrity and a deep sense of justice not by lording it over others but by always remembering their own slavery in Egypt and their times of exile from the Promised Land.

Today ask God for the grace to go beyond the essentials of religious practice and the courage to make your faith the foundation of your life.

What could Jesus' challenge to the rich young man to go sell everything and follow him mean in your life?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Our Lady of the Rosary

"Through you shall all the nations be blessed." Gal 3:8

The rosary is a fascinating prayer. For Catholics born prior to the Second Vatican Council, it was one of the first prayers we learned. Simple, straightforward and clear, we prayed it often individually and as families. While the rosary may have lost some of its luster in the last 40 years, I feel sure it will return to the devotional lives of Catholics in the 21st century because it is a simple form of contemplation and so much like the method at the heart of the Centering prayer movement.

The Cistercian, Thomas Keating, has become one of the best known teachers of Centering prayer. Keating suggests we find a quiet place, sit still and straight, breathe slowly and deeply, and then repeat a word or mantra, like Jesus or peace or help me Lord.  When our attention wanders, we begin again by repeating our mantra, word or the Jesus prayer.

Isn’t that what the rosary helps us do? As we repeat Hail Mary's we focus on a mystery of Jesus' life to help us stay centered and rooted in Christ. There is no need to concentrate on every word of the Hail Mary. Rather, we breathe, enter into one of the mysteries of the Lord's life and ask the him to keep us “centered” in his presence. For those who might find the idea of centering prayer intimidating, the rosary is a wonderful invitation to contemplation, a prayer form to which all of us are called.

Today, ask the Lord to keep you quiet enough interiorly so that you might be startled by the God who is always with us.

Do you have a special devotion that helps you pray everyday?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Intercessory Prayer

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Jesus is clear with his disciples. Do not be afraid of God. Don't think you can bother God, or pester him. God is waiting for us to draw close and to seek from him everything we need. While it is important to speak with God as a trusted friend, we must also realize that even our closest friends sometimes hesitate to help us, unsure of whether their response is really in our self interest.

In recent years, spiritual writers have tweaked our understanding of intercessory or petitionary prayer, urging us not simply to ask God for what we need or to help others, but to ask God to make us available to God for God's will for ourselves or others. This minor shift in how we pray can be very helpful in teaching us how to be for God and God's desire in all things.

We do this well in other areas of our lives. Think for instance of those times you asked a spouse or friend how you might help them in the kitchen or in preparing for a gathering. Anxious to do only that which will really help, we avoid imposing our suggestions upon others. Rather, we offer them our time and talent in a way they can use.

Today, ask God to make you available to God for God's work in the world.

What is it like for you when a friend offers to do anything you want?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Asking Jesus to Help Us Pray

"Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray.'" Lk 11:1

What did Jesus' disciples see or sense when Jesus was praying? What did they want to learn from him? Did he seem especially quiet or reflective when he prayed? Were his disciples afraid of what they were experiencing?

Learning to pray, while simple, is difficult, but studying the Our Father can be powerfully instructive.
Acknowledging God's sovereignty before all else is important because it reminds us that God is always among us, aware of our needs and anxious to be near us. Only after we put all our trust in God do we ask for forgiveness and our daily bread. In other words, asking for help is secondary to honoring the God who is always near. When we follow these simple directives, no matter what prayer we say, we will be praying as Jesus taught us and the results will not matter.

Today, say the Our Father with gratitude.

What are your biggest obstacles to a more consistent prayer life?


Monday, October 3, 2016

Our Holy Father St Francis

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Lk 10:13

The name Francis is in the forefront of the news these days. Pope Francis has made it so. Humble, honest, and unafraid to speak his mind, our Pope has captivated the imagination of many around the world and has consistently employed his new prominence to speak out on behalf the voiceless. Calling the church to return to its foundations, Pope Francis is living up to his name. When asked why he chose the name Francis, he was clear, “The poor, the poor. When he (Cardinal Hummes of Brazil) spoke about the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi,” said the pope, who took the name of Francis, “Then, I thought of the wars.”

St Francis of Assisi not only thought about the poor, he became poor and allowed God to turn his life upside down. Like the 3rd century martyr, St Maximilian, who said "I am a solder of Christ, I cannot fight," Francis fought not for dominance over his neighbors but for Gospel purity. Wanting to live so poorly that he and his brothers would have nothing to defend, he directed the friars to own nothing, eventually convincing the Roman hierarchy to approve their way of life. Francis' example continues to inspire thousands of women and men today.

Today, live simply so that others can live.

What should be our response to the poor?


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Learning from the Good Samaritan

"But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight." Lk 10:33

The story of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known and powerful stories in the Gospels, and for good reason. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Accused of being syncretists, people who mixed religious traditions for their own self centered purposes, Samaritans also built their own temple to which non observant Jews were welcomed in contradiction to Jewish law.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. Too many people label others in ways that not only challenge their belief systems, but denigrate their persons, and Jesus will have none of it. The Good Samaritan, he reminds us, not only risks his own life by responding to the fellow who has been robbed, he brings him to an inn so that he can rest and recover from the attack. We know nothing else about this particular Samaritan. Whether he worshiped in the  "false" temple on Mt Gerazim in Samaria and therefore was judged unclean by the Jews was irrelevant. That he stopped and aided someone in need is Jesus' only concern.

Today, help someone in need.

What aspect of the story of the Good Samaritan most moves you?