Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christ the King

"Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent." Col 1:18

Although we can and often do turn away from God and the covenant God made with us in Jesus, God cannot and will not renege on his promise to be with and guide us always. Paul is clear about this. The Apostle to the Gentiles acknowledges that although the Jews were often disobedient, abandoned the law and worshiped false Gods, God was and remains merciful to them and us. Paul wants his Gentile listeners to know this and be comforted. The God who has come to us in Jesus is proof of this. The new and eternal covenant, Jesus is the incarnation of God's promise, a gift we can reject but which will never be withdrawn.

The challenge of God's promise is demanding. Made in God's image, the only way we can demonstrate to others and especially to our enemies that God's love lives in us is to love everyone no matter how often our love is rejected to ridiculed. If God is forever faithful so too must we be faithful. This is not to say we should or must allow ourselves to be abused. Rather, while we ought to withdraw quietly from any situation that allows another to strip us of our good name or reduce to an object of their wrath, we must stand ready to reconcile with our oppressors for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, enjoy God's everlasting love.

What must you let go of in order to love like God?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is anyone listening?

"Teacher, you have answered well." Lk 20:40

Jesus always answers well, but sometimes his answers were dangerous. Never consumed with his own welfare, but unfailingly ready to protect and give voice to the poor and forgotten, Jesus speaks up despite the risk to his person and position. In many ways this is the reason for his suffering and death.

Imagine what the leaders of the Jewish community thought when Jesus held up a poor widow as an example of authentic generosity.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mt 12: 41-44
Widows had no standing in the ancient world, and their lot was even worse if they had no sons. Ignored and forgotten by most, the woman about whom Jesus speaks remains faithful and generous, a fact that shamed the Jewish leaders and anyone else who reduced a person's value to property and wealth. Whenever we speak up on behalf of the voiceless, we follow Jesus.

Today, listen to someone who you usually ignore.

Who are the people in your neighborhood to whom no one listens?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hope

"All the people were hanging on his words." Lk 19:48

When we are in dark or difficult circumstances, we often look for almost anything or anyone to distract us. We watch too much television or waste time on the computer, hoping for some respite from the ache we feel inside. All of this is natural and understandable, but spiritually unhealthy.

The people portrayed as following Jesus in the gospels might also be falling into this trap. The text tells us they "hung" on this words, but does not tell us why they paid so much attention to the Lord. Surely, not all of them were seeking to enter the mystery of God's love more deeply, nor were they so impressed with his power and insight that they would follow him anywhere. Like people everywhere who have lost their jobs or cannot make sense our of their family's life, they look to Jesus for an escape.

Authentic hope is not rooted in the avoidance of the feelings that can torment us when we are in crisis, but in the letting go of our struggles so that we can know the Lord more deeply and trust in his wisdom more completely. God has promised to be with us in the dark as well as the light, and it is our response to Gods' commitment that can make all the difference.

Today, enter a dark corner of your life and look for God.

What do you do when your life is falling apart?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

St Elizabeth of Hungary

"You did not recognize the time of your visitation." Lk 19:44

St Elizabeth of Hungary was born into and married royalty. She had access to money and power, but when her husband died on his way to fight the sixth crusade, she decided to leave the palace and follow Conrad, her Franciscan spiritual director, to Marburg where she continued her life of compassion for those most in need.  Conrad wrote that Elizabeth "built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table."(1)

People of faith like Elizabeth, especially the married and families, are the ground upon which the church builds communities of compassion for the poor and justice for all. After all, it was the faith and courage of our parents and grandparents, so many of whom were immigrants, who came to this country and built, hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and shelters because they knew that faith demanded they respond to the struggles they saw all around them.

Though the structures might change, the demand of the gospel to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty will never change. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who is the patroness of Catholic Charities, remains an icon who challenges our generation not only to pray for justice in our churches, but to live the gospel in our streets.

Today, pray in gratitude for those who give their lives to care for those who cannot help themselves.

How can you live Elizabeth's values in your life?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

All is Gift

"I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Lk 19:27

Faith, though a free gift from God, has responsibilities. We must give faith away and that means announcing the freedom that God bestows upon his people. When we fail to accept this Gospel mandate, we risk losing everything. Faith is not about making us more comfortable but about assuring us that because we have been saved, we need to spend God's gift by creating a more just world.

Unfortunately, Christians too often forget this message. Like children who take the gifts they receive at Christmas for granted, we forget that all of life is a gift, and rather than celebrate all that God does for us, we wallow in a shallow place that feels like happiness but that has no substance. We cling to things, people and places as if they belong us. Worse we sometimes use others for our own purposes rather than celebrate who they are before God.

Grateful people sometimes bubble over with thanks, but most of the time they are quiet. They listen more than they talk and encourage others to express themselves. By doing this, those to whom they listen become grateful themselves and their gratitude ripples out and washes all those around them. Grateful people cleanse the world by celebrating all that God is and does with and for his people.

Today, listen to someone who thinks poorly of  him or herself.

What keeps you from living a grateful life?


Monday, November 14, 2016

Vanity

"So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Who of us is not vain? For some, it is their bodies or the color of their hair they worry about. For others, it is their insights or the sharpness of their minds. We think our memories of past events are accurate even when others have a different version, and it is vanity that makes us lukewarm. More interested in how we appear, we fail to hear God's call to surrender our lives to him without question and trust his guidance.

St Paul knows a lot about vanity, and it is not an offense to him to suggest that it is his own vanity that allows him to be so insightful. Paul warns others that God sees through our pretensions and loves us in spite of our silliness. Offering others the same love God gives us when their vanity shows is a good spiritual practice.

Today, check your vanity at the door of our heart.

In what areas do you catch yourself insisting on your own opinion?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What do you want from God?

"What do you want me to do for you?" Lk 18:41

That Jesus asks a blind man what he wants is amazing.  It seems so obvious that the man wants to see, but Jesus asks anyway.  When the man says that he wants to see, Jesus heals him but at the same time reminds him that something even more important has happened.  The young man can see because he believed in Jesus' power.

The story, which first seems to be about a blind man recovering his sight, becomes a story about all of us.  When we place our trust in and hand over our lives to the Lord, we are saved.  The humility that allows us to let go of our fear and our pride and ask for help, makes it possible for the Lord to change our lives. Asking for help is difficult and can sometimes make us feel weak, but it is a necessary step in the spiritual life.

In our society, the desire and willingness to help others with compassion and understanding is strong. Most of us feel better about ourselves when we reach out to those in need. Accepting others help, however, is difficult for most, and causes us to wonder what we would say to Jesus if He asked what we wanted him to do for us.

Today, ask the Lord for the help you need to live the Gospel more fully.

Are you able to ask for help, even financial assistance, when you need it?