Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Resisting Revenge

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart....Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Lev 9: 17-18

Rooted in the Book of Leviticus, Jesus' command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us is one of the more troubling of Jesus' hard sayings. How can we pray for those who persecute us, especially if they are members of our own family or parish? Isn't it more natural to avoid them, to not think about them and live without them as companions in faith?

At the time the gospels were written, Jesus' insistence that we love our enemies was especially difficult since most his followers were considered unclean. Willing to interact with Gentiles and sinners, Jesus' disciples were sometimes excluded from their own families. Indeed, the early Christians had a very rough road to walk, and they needed to hear and remember that Jesus taught his disciples to think like God, to be like the Forgiving Father of Luke's gospel, to welcome sinners and sit at table with them like Jesus did. (Luke 5:29)

There is no doubt that learning to love our enemies is an ongoing battle, one that we will often lose, but one which we cannot avoid. Nothing speaks the Gospel more clearly or deeply than the lives of believers willing to go beyond what seems reasonable in order to proclaim Good News. When we love our enemies, no one can deny the power of Jesus' life and teaching alive in us, and while our enemies might not choose to join us, they will surely respect our faith filled lives.

Today, for the sake of the Gospel, pray for the grace to reconcile with someone who hurt you.

What are the hardest sayings of Jesus for you to understand and accept?



Friday, February 17, 2017

Faith Overcomes Fear

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1

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?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Telling the Truth

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." Mk 8:35

We often do things to save ourselves. We lie, we deceive and manipulate others and situations, all to protect our reputation. Of course, we know that when we act in this way we are being dishonest, but the alternative seems uncomfortable at best and impossible at worst. Although we know that lies follow us around like a bad penny, we get trapped in our pride and embarrassment. Literature is full of stories that emerge from a simple dishonesty but grow into terrible tragedy.

Is anyone in literature a more heinous Iiar than Iago in Shakespeare's Othello? While clever and insightful, Iago schemes, deceives, and manipulates others for his own gain. Eventually his lies result not only in Desdemona and Othello's death, but his own. Lies kill our spirits by diminishing both the liar and anyone who welcomes the liar's deceit for his own gain.

In today's gospel Jesus not only warns his disciples that he will be killed for telling the truth, he teaches them that wealth and power are unworthy goals for the believer. The only way to gain life, he insists, is to lose it, to let go, to put aside the mask of invincibility and put on the clothes of compassion and justice. Lent is about facing the lies we tell ourselves and examining the lies our culture promotes.

Today ask for the courage to face the truth about yourself.

What are the "lies" we need to confront in our lives and society?


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thinking with God

"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Mk 8:33

St Peter, because of his good will and strong temperament, is forever getting himself in trouble. Quick to speak and offer an opinion, in today's scripture he challenges Jesus not to speak about his own suffering and death, and assures the Lord that he will intervene if anyone tries to hurt him. Though Peter had good will, he did not have good sense,. He spoke before he understood God's intent for Jesus, and Jesus puts Peter in his place in very direct terms. Get behind me Satan, these are human words not God's.

Most of us are too timid to take chances like Peter. We wait, gauge our responses and hope for the best. Though we might avoid mistakes, we rarely witness to the one in whom we believe without dotting every I and crossing every T.  Do we need to ask for the courage and faith to change?

Today, ask God for Peter's big heart and passion.

Whose courage do you most admire?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

God our Refuge

"In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!" Gen 8:11

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us found protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God.

Listening to Pope Francis, I am often struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Furthermore, if our refuge is the Christ, the one sent by God to fulfill the Covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, then we must spend time with Christ is prayer, study, celebration and service of those most in need. Otherwise, we build on sand!

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sts Cyril and Methodius

"Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." Mk 8:15

The use of the vernacular, or the language of the people, has long been controversial in the Church. Even today there are those who think we should return to the use of Latin in the liturgy primarily because it is not a "living" language and, therefore, less subject to misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

When Sts Cyril and Methodius, whose feast we celebrate today, wanted to make Slavonic the language of the liturgy the Bavarian bishops reacted, fearful they would be stripped of their influence in the Slavic world. Clearly, the preaching of Cyril and Methodius was having  a powerful effect on the people. That the liturgy might also be celebrated in a language the bishops could neither speak nor understand made them very anxious.

Power is almost always an issue in our lives. When we lose the power to speak, to see clearly, to drive a car, own a home or influence a vote, we can react violently against authority and God.  We want our voice and our freedom. The Bavarian bishops were so afraid of losing their ability to guide the church that they forced Methodius into exile for three years, to no avail. Cyril and Methodius were trying to spread the gospel with every tool at their command. That they were impeded, even stopped for a while by those who should have celebrating their efforts, only made them stronger and more effective.

Today, ask God to remind you of the gospel injunction to love your enemies.

How do you empower the powerless?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

God Everywhere

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."

How we miss the everyday Epiphanies in our life is always a mystery. The wonders of creation, the gift of faithful and faith filled friends, and the power of common worship all offer us opportunities each day to celebrate God's presence within and among us, but we fail. Admitting these faults allows us to begin again, but Jesus is angered with those who fail to see God all around them and have the gall to ask for new signs. Until we learn to slow down enough to celebrate the presence of God is so many people and places, we cheat ourselves and God of being grateful.

The saints are those who recognize their faults, ask for help to overcome them and are humble enough to begin their pilgrimage over again each day. St Augustine resisted God's call for years because he preferred to live comfortably and without responsibility, thinking he was better than others. His mother, like most mothers, knew better. She prayed that he might open his eyes, see God and be captured by God's love. Eventually, her prayers were answered and Augustine became one of the most prolific and effective preachers of the early church.

Today, open your eyes and let them slowly move around wherever you are to discover God's presence and promise.

What distracts you most from the presence of God within and around you?