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Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Beatitudes

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mt 5:2

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which was recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize but dangerous.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. We need to be careful not to impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?

Friday, January 27, 2017

St Thomas Aquinas

"Christ is mediator of a new Covenant." Heb 9:15

No theologian in the history of the Christian west has been more influential in shaping theological thought than Thomas Aquinas. A prolific writer whose works include the Summa Theologica, his thought also helped Christians probe the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, as a path to new insights about the Gospels.

There is a wonderful lesson in Thomas' life for all of us. As the 21st century unfolds we need to find new and probing ways of helping the Gospel live in this age, and while the wisdom of the past will always be an aid in this regard, it must be supplemented by tools contemporary believers recognize and use. How the Internet and other social media will open up paths to a new Evangelization is still to be seen, but surely needed.

Today, be wise. Say nothing. Just listen.

What thinker or social media has helped you enter the Gospel message more deeply?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mustard Seeds

"It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants." Mk 4:31

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, telling them that God's reign is like a mustard seed. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? Challenge after challenge faces the Apostles and disciples.

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we 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?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sts Timothy and Titus

"I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy." 2 Tim 1:4

St Paul's affection and love for Timothy is one of the few instances in the New Testament that allow us to experience the passion present in the first disciples. Paul reminds Timothy that his mother and grandmother were filled with faith and that he can rely on them as examples for his own faith growth

Seeing old friends, especially those who strive to live an integrated faith, is always a joy. While some may have abandoned the practice of the faith, many others have deepened their commitment by daily prayer, reading and reflection, and in all of this, they fill us with joy and hope.

Joy is an important virtue. When people encounter believers whose joy is transparent and authentic, they cannot not be impressed and attracted to the One who gives us joy and proclaims through us the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Today, seek out an old friend and share your faith and joy.

Who or what brings you joy and hope?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Conversion of St Paul

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’" Acts 22:6-8

Most conversions are not as dramatic as St Paul's, but almost all of us have Epiphany moments, times when the light goes on and we see clearly how God has been active in our lives, and most of these events come when we least expect them. At the same time, it is important not to focus too much on any single event or moment in our lives. Conversion moments are intended to give us a direction, not trap us in the past clinging to consolation.

It is important to take time regularly to reflect on our own conversion story. Asking ourselves how God has entered and redirected our lives, though distressing at times, helps us remember that God is always near, inviting us to move more deeply into the mystery of his love. When we do this with others, moreover, we build a community of faith that strengthens all who are willing to share and grow together towards the heart of God.

Today, take a moment to pray in gratitude for your own conversion moments.

What about your own conversion continues to guide your faith journey?

Monday, January 23, 2017

St Francis de Sales

"In whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection."  Introduction to the Devout Life

Lawyer, bishop, and writer, St. Francis de Sales remains an important figure in the spirituality of the Christian West because of his personal commitment to gentleness, understanding and compassion. More important, Francis insisted that all people are called to holiness, and to live a "devout life."

It is sometimes unfortunate that when our church reminds us to pray for vocations, we focus almost exclusively on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While these vocations are important, unless we life up marriage as the sacrament to which most people are called, we risk undermining the foundation upon which the church is built.(1)

Today, be grateful for your vocation.

Do you think of marriage as a vocation?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Power of the Holy Spirit

"But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Mk 3:29

All of us doubt. We doubt ourselves and the adequacy of our skills. We doubt the reliability of friends and family. We doubt the ability of our civic leaders to govern, and we doubt God, or more precisely, we doubt the God we created or think we learned about in school or church. Hearing that God is all powerful, we sometimes naively think that God's power allows God to heal at will, depose unethical leaders and make the world a more just place. But saying that God is all powerful does not mean that God takes away our freedom. God's power is much more extensive then our self centered desire or limited view of the world.

Letting go of the fear that God will not act for us and for our good is the greatest challenge most of us face. Because we do not understand all of God's ways, we panic and begin to pray only for what we see and perceive, and while this is understandable, we must pray to let go totally into God's good hands and trust. Practicing this every day is the essence of prayer.

Today, pray for an increase in faith and to accept God's mercy.

What aspects of faith are most challenging to you?