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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Healing Divisions

"I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose."

Though  I rarely comment on politics in this blog, the text today certainly seems to apply to our nation and church. Like most Americans, I am befuddled by the sniping that seems in full swing among President elect Trump, the media and the newly elected Congress, and I am angry. What happens to us as a people and a church when we fail to look at issues and concerns from the other side of wherever we stand, and more important, what happens when we only think about protecting our own assets?

Jesus faced this in his life and warned his sisters and brothers in the Jewish community against being so divided that they collapse. Surely, he would say the same to us in our country and church. How is it possible not to work for a deeper unity when so many people are in need? Unless we find a way to speak with one another about critical issues like hunger, housing, health care and immigration reform, we will be clanging symbols that the rest of the world rightly ignores.

Today, be silent. Say nothing for a while and see what happens when you listen.

What do you think most divides us as a country and a church?

Friday, January 20, 2017

St Agnes

"He is out of his mind." Mk 3:21

When people do really good things for no apparent reason it is sometimes easier to question their motives than to enjoy their kindness. That is what seems to have happened to Jesus. Rather than celebrate his honesty, integrity and healing power, people suggested that he was "out of his mind." How awful, but how common.

I had the privilege of working with many people who, though labelled "crazy," changed my life. Their kindness, compassion and insight about life and faith forced me to reevaluate my tendency to judge or dismiss them. In retrospect, I think it was my own fear of mental illness that got in the way of my seeing the person behind or inside the illness.

Today, think of someone who others dismiss as "out of his mind" with the eyes and ears of God.

Has a mentally ill person every touched your life?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Called to Serve

"He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach." Mk 3:14

What does it mean to be with someone? We can be together in the same subway car, in the same business, in the same town or city, but this is not what Mark's gospel means when it says that Jesus appointed twelve apostles to be with him. Though the apostles themselves did not fully understand what Jesus was doing when he called them to follow him, they did know he wanted them to preach and drive out demons in his name. That their call would irrevocably change the world was not immediately evident to them. Like us, they were challenged to follow the Lord by faith not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

When I was in the seminary, our canon law professor often repeated a Latin phrase, Nemo judex in causa sua. No one is a judge in his own case. Because we are called to ministry in a community of believers, we don't decide how to serve and evangelize others, but trust the community of faith to call us to use our gifts for the good of all.

It is good to reflect upon our vocations regularly.  How are we "with the Lord?"  Are we living committed lives of service and evangelization. Are we anxious to discern what else the Lord might want from us?  Do others recognize in us a power that comes, not from our own efforts and study, but as a gift from God?

Today, ask God to call you again and send you as his disciple into the world.

Have you experienced God's call to live a Gospel life and serve others?


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Cost of Following Jesus

"Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to Jesus also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon." Mk 3: 8-9

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down. When people from all over follow him, Jesus reminds them that he has no place to lay his head.

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises his disciples that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will always love them, but will also makes huge and important demands on them. They must live like him, without family or wealth, but also be full of hope and compassion. God will guide them and care for them, he insists, but they have to trust.

The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Doing Good on the Sabbath

"Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?"

Jews have always valued the Sabbath, both as a way to remember God's gracious love of them and to observe God's laws. It is important to remember that very few societies in the ancient world had time away from work. People, especially the poor, worked everyday and rarely had time for themselves. When God rested on the seventh day, God reminded all of us to stop, celebrate and rest. The Jewish people took this example very seriously, and their strict observance of the Sabbath is testimony to this.

At the same time, Jesus, without dismissing the importance of Sabbath, challenges the rigidity of Jewish observance by asking the telling question: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? The obvious answer is yes. Not only must we do good, we must also seek to live the underlying values of the Sabbath. Rest is good and important, but seeing the struggles of the sick and suffering and responding to them is just as necessary.

Today, rest completely and see how your refreshed spirit will urge you to do more good.

How do you obtain a balance in your life between work and rest?

Monday, January 16, 2017

St Anthony, Abbot

"Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord." Ps 89

No matter how far Anthony went into the desert, people followed and found him. Though unlettered, he was gifted with so much wisdom, that many were drawn to him, hoping to absorb some of what he had learned in silence and solitude. Reputed to have lived for twenty years in a single walled room, Anthony grew in faith and devotion. While some thought that the isolation he sought would drive him crazy, Anthony grew more quiet and serene because he had found God and himself in the silence.

Obviously, not everyone is drawn to the life and lifestyle of St Anthony, but Anthony does teach everyone a basic truth of life. When we learn how it is that God wants to work in us, we have only to follow God's promptings to be at peace. Some will be drawn to God by a life of total involvement with the world. Others will find themselves and God in a life among the poor or as missionaries. A few will be drawn to the hermetical life like St Anthony. Where we arrive in life is not the issue. How we get there is.

Today, pray for the grace to be totally open to whatever God wants for you.

Have you met someone whose lifestyle at first confused you but whose peace taught you to follow God no matter the cost?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jesus has wedded Us!

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Mt 9:15

Everyone in the ancient world knew how important weddings were. A time for families and tribes to deepen their bonds with one another, weddings lasted at least a week and the entire time was given over to the celebration of the new couple and the promise their marriage contained for their families, tribes and faith communities. No one would suggest that a wedding feast was a time to fast!  That is why Jesus uses the idea of wedding to help his disciples understand his commitment to them. He was their bridegroom and they were his bride.

Another aspect of weddings at the time of Jesus gives us even more insight. After a man was betrothed to his intended bride, he would leave her and return to his father's house, but before departing he would say, I go to prepare a place for you, the same words Jesus uses to assure his disciples that he would return for them after his death and bring them to the bridal chamber he had prepared for them forever in heaven.

Today, rest in the realization that Christ has betrothed himself to us forever.

What image do you use to help yourself remember Christ's eternal and total love for you?