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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Be a Light

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket." Mt 5:14

In early January, I had an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin novices of North America, seventeen remarkably diverse young men. One novice is a Chaldean Catholic from Iraq. Another is from Columbia. Two are from Mexico and another is an Indian from. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

The gospel today reminds us that we are salt and light, people who are supposed to bring flavor, perseverance, healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men was a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Resting

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

There are advantages living in a friary where everyone is over 70. No one is embarrassed to admit they need a nap, even two short ones! Years ago, even when the brothers sneaked away in the afternoon for some horizontal prayer, they rarely admitted it because it seemed like something only the weak did or those who lacked zeal.

After the apostles report to Jesus about all their missionary journeys, he encourages them to go away to a deserted place and rest, no doubt because he senses how tired they are. After all, the transition they had to make from their lives as fishermen to apostles of a minor rabbi must have been difficult, even if they were literate. Becoming a public person is always demanding, and even more so in a society that was in a constant struggle with the Romans. 

Rest is something we all need, not just physically but spiritually. Slowing down, breathing deeply and taking time to be intentionally aware of God's presence, support and challenge is essential for a healthy spiritual life.

Today, take ten minutes to do nothing.

How much time do you take each day to rest quietly in God?






Thursday, February 2, 2017

God's Rules

"Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him." Mk 6:20

Good people like John the Baptist often trouble us. A few years ago in Kansas City, Ardie Bland, a judge who once sentenced people protesting nuclear weapons to jail, had a change of heart after hearing another group of protesters defend their actions. When the prosecuting attorney asked 80 year old Fr. Carl Kabat whether he taught people to obey the rules, the priest answered, "God's rules." Citing Rosa Parks as an example of someone who disobeyed the rules that made her, a black person, move to the back of the bus, the priest obviously moved Judge Bland, a black man.

Knowing that the law would not allow him to ignore the fact that protesters trespassed on government property, the judge sentenced the defendants to answer five troubling questions. The fourth, You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Fr. [Carl] Kabat says that you should disobey ungodly laws. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades? 

Fr William Bichsel, SJ, answered this way. We give people reason to believe there is no God. We need to follow Jesus: lay down your arms, forgive one another, love one another. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say give us this day our daily bread. We mean nobody should be without bread. We say forgive us our trespasses. We mean nobody should be without forgiveness. Do we give people reason to believe there is no God by our failure to live the Gospel?

Today, pray to be true to your Gospel convictions.

How would you answer Judge Bland's question?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Presentation of the Lord

"Suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire." Mal 3:2

Rituals are important in all our lives. That Jesus, Mary's first born son, would be presented in the Temple and offered to God for service, was ritually important in Jewish law and culture. Parents knew that giving birth to a son was a great blessing that called them to celebrate God's gift to them. To go to the temple in gratitude was as natural as washing their hands before eating. The Torah was clear and observance of the Torah delighted God and brought joy to believers.


Rituals are still important, especially for people of faith. Blessing one self with holy water while making a sign of the cross upon entering a church reminds believers of their baptism and its promises. And the breaking of bread at Mass challenges us to divide our food like Jesus did at the miracle of the loaves and fish so that all might eat. 


Unfortunately, because these powerful rituals have to compete with all the information that comes our way in a modern society, it is easy to forget their meaning and miss their power. Religious rituals ought to help us center ourselves many times each day in the memory of God's saving love, but emails and text messages sometimes take their place. While the computer  and cell phones are here to stay, we need to be cautious not to let them strip us of the call to transformation that the Gospel demands.


Today, bless yourself before each meal and pause to remember the great gift of food.


Which rituals in your life help you remember God's gracious love?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Prejudice

"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."

How many signs do we need to believe that God is among us? It is a beautiful morning in California. Cool with a promise of clear skies and a warm afternoon, it is difficult not to rejoice in the glory of another day. I know there are some, especially the chronically ill, for whom a day like this means little. Others are struggling with family difficulties or the lack of a job that allows them to support their family, but there is no excuse for not breathing deeply, enjoying the simple wonder of clean air and asking God for the faith to live this day fully in Christ.

Jesus warned the people of his day about very similar things. Although he was among them as a clear sign of God’s love, many refused to look at him as a gift to the world and kept challenging him to prove himself according to their narrow standards. Some rejected him because he was a carpenter's son. Other's turned away because he came from the wrong town. The lesson was clear then and now. Unless we open our hearts and spirits to all people and look at them with God's eyes, we might miss meeting the Messiah in our everyday lives.

Today, expect to be surprised.

What prejudices do you have that you need to confront?

Monday, January 30, 2017

St John Bosco

"We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another." Heb 10:24

St John Bosco was a dreamer. Realizing at a very young age that violence only begets violence, John Bosco listened to the God of his dreams and began to treat other children with kindness and compassion, an action that was so counter cultural it caused others to laugh at him.

The author of Hebrews, like John Bosco, insists that rousing others to love and good works is one of the primary works of believers. Only when we encourage one another to lives of service and compassion do we live as Jesus asks.

There is an important lesson in John Bosco's life and the letter to the Hebrews. While it is reasonable and understandable to leave or avoid the church because of its obvious dysfunction and confusion, we must try to live counter intuitively. The best way to enliven others is from within the messiness of the church as it strives to live the gospel. Encouraging others works best when we acknowledge our own weakness and inspire others to live in peace and harmony despite our differences.

Today, encourage someone who is struggling.

Who has encouraged you to patience with yourself and others?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Comfort of God's Voice

 "Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord." Ps 31

It is remarkable how often the scriptures remind us that God draws near to us at the most difficult times of our life. Like a good friend, God often appears when we least expect it and accompanies us through the dark nights of disappointment and illness. At the same time, God does not rescue or fix us. Rather, God stays close but does not invade our lives.

When we are crushed in spirit we are often tempted to speed up and get away from uncomfortable situations, but we need to slow down and let God be with us. Remember how the prophet Elijah, full of fear after preaching God's word and warning, tried to run away from his new enemies and asked God to take his life because he was no better than his ancestors.  But an angel tapped Elijah on the shoulder, offered him something to eat and gave him the strength to travel for 40 days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. After arriving at Horeb another angel appeared to him and told him that God was about to pass by and he should wait to hear God's voice. Expecting God to be loud, Elijah discovered that God was not in the wind, the fire or the earthquake but in a tiny whisper. Assured of God's love, Elijah knew God's strength would protect and guide him.

Today, listen for God's voice however it comes.

How has God protected you when you were full of fear and heartbreak?