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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Authentic Humility

"O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income." But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." Lk 18: 11-13

It is abundantly clear that Jesus demands humility as a foundational value for his disciples. All of life and faith is a gift, not something we earn but something given to us freely by God out of love. Whenever we take credit for any thing we do without first thanking God for the gift of faith denies our dependence on God for all that is good within and among us.

The days of Lent find most of us trying to fast, pray and act mercifully towards those most in need, all of which is good and laudable, but unless we remember that our prayer, fasting and kindness to the needy are acts of gratitude for all that we have been given, we miss the point of the Gospel.

The reason the tax collector is held up by Jesus for admiration and imitation is because he acknowledges his sin as a tax collector for the Roman occupiers of Palestine. Not only did tax collectors do the work of the Romans, they sometimes cheated their own country men and women in order to make a living. Admitting his weakness and sin, the tax collexctor does not excuse his behavior, but asks God for mercy. We must do the same.

Today, pray in gratitude for God's mercy.

What aspect of a Gospel lifestyle is most difficult for you?Hu

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fig Trees

"For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?" Lk 13:7

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Today,  reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Signs of the Times

"Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Lk 12:56

Jesus often uses nature to help his listeners understand how plain the Gospel message is. When they hear thunder or see lightning in the sky they know to get out of the water or away from trees. In a similar way, our spirits regularly tell us that there is something brewing is us that needs attention.

When we become moody or resistive to the simple requests of friends or family, it ought to be a clue that something is wrong and needs our response, not our reaction. More important, we need to listen to our inner voice when it urges us to reach beyond our normal boundaries to help others, many of whom we will never know.

Poverty is everywhere in the world, and we have no choice as Christians but to respond to those in desperate need. Not to look at or see the world's poor, especially migrants streaming out of countries where their own leaders torture and chase them is a horror too plain to ignore.

Today, listen to or watch a report on the world's hungry.

Are you rushing too much making it impossible to hear the signs of the times?

Wednesday, October 19, 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 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,  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.

Today ask for the help you need to face your own frailties.

How do  you interpret the hard saysings of Jesus?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sts Isaac Jogues and John de Brefeuf

"Do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” Lk 12:12

One of the most difficult situations every missionary faces is learning the nuances of another language. Knowing the idiomatic expressions, the intonations and the humor of other languages requires a life long effort, and even then most people never lose the accent from their fist language. Nevertheless, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say, that the Holy Spirit will teach them. Good advice, even today.

When John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions came to the New World they knew very little about it, and undoubtedly did things that frightened the Native Americans they encountered. Rene Goupil was killed for tracing the sign of the Cross on a child's forehead, and we will never know how the Native Americans interpreted his gesture. Could they have believed Rene was harming the child? Were the missionaries able to communicate their dreams and purpose? We trust that their intent was always good, but some of what they said and did was misinterpreted, and that is a good lesson for us.

Knowing the culture into which one is inserted, even while living in the United States, is vital for good and lasting relationships. While none of us want to make seriously egregious mistakes when speaking and living with people from different cultures, it is bound to happen, and this can lead either to a deepened appreciation for one another or create fissures between and among us that are very hard to heal. For those who desire a deeper relationship and not a lasting break, it is vital to listen deeply and ask the Lord for the words that will help us articulate the power of the Gospel in a way others can understand.

Today, listen to someone from another culture or race and say nothing.

Have you ever had to ask God for the words to speak the Gospel?

Monday, October 17, 2016

St Luke

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Lk 10:2

St Luke is credited with writing Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospel, in all  more than 25% of the New Testament. Sometimes called the Gospel of St Paul because Luke often traveled with Paul and was his disciple, Luke wrote primarily for Gentiles. Not as concerned as Matthew's gospel with demonstrating that Jesus was a Jew and the new Moses, Luke writes about the poor, women, the sick and the underclass, assuring the Gentiles that the Gospel of Jesus was intended for all people, not just the Jews.

How we proclaim Jesus to people from different cultures, nations and races is critical to inserting the Gospel into places it has never been heard. We know this not only because so many believers before us lived the Good News with passion, but also by their mistakes. If Christianity is proclaimed primarily as a religion of the West, especially the European West with all of its cultural symbols and rituals, it will never become the Good News about which Luke wrote.

We need to remember this lesson as 21st century disciples. As nations around the world find their own identity, they need to know that the Gospel will marry with their culture without destroying it, and the Christianity they embrace can celebrate the great mysteries of faith in a way that makes cultural sense to them. Knowing this will free those new to the Gospel to hear and embrace, in their own cultural context, the freedom that Jesus promises to all.

Today, ask St Luke for the grace to know how to speak the Gospel to all those struggling with faith.

What do you think missionaries in the 21st century ought to emphasize about the Gospel?


Sunday, October 16, 2016

St Ignatius of Antioch

"Whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops." Lk 12:3

One of the great qualities of saints is that they don’t bring attention to themselves. St. Ignatius of Antioch is a wonderful example of this. Famous for telling his followers, "I am Christ's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may become Christ's pure bread,” Ignatius begged his friends not to stop his martyrdom. So confident that the Lord would protect him, the saint knew the strength he received from God would be a sign to others of God’s unconditional love. At the same time, as one reads further in Ignatius' letter, there is a hesitancy, a moment of fear perhaps. He says, "If then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you now."

Most of us, while admiring Ignatius’ faith, would be more likely to tell our friends to ignore our craziness in seeking martyrdom and write it off as the dream of a madman. Because we are afraid of the unknown and more concerned with the life we have and know, even if it is full of pain and confusion, we hesitate thinking about and asking God for the grace of a peaceful death, much less a martyr’s death.

Today, ask for the humility to let God be God and to trust that God's grace will be enough even when we face death.

Are you prepared to die?