Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Desert Epiphanies

"Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Mt 4:1

Twice in Matthew gospel there is an Epiphany, a moment of enlightenment and clarity. for Jesus and all of us, his followers. The first occurs as Jesus emerges from the waters of the Jordan and hears God's words, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is an Epiphany of a kind we all enjoy and seek. It is an affirmation, a light come to us from afar, a confirmation of our identity as God's child.

The second Epiphany is very different. Jesus is in the desert, the place of terrible cold at night and unbearable heat during the day, and he remains there for forty days and nights. This is a dark Epiphany, a time of affirmation surely, but accomplished in the shadows. Though Jesus is ministered to by angels, he is also among wild beasts. His life is being threatened and his integrity is being challenged. Today's Epiphany is daunting, one which most of us would rather avoid.

The challenge of the Gospel is clear. When we can allow God to be God and look for God in the dusty and suffocating corners of life, we are acknowledging that we are made in God's image. God is not made in ours. While we know that suffering is not something we seek in itself, we also know we cannot avoid suffering altogether. Every life is full of light and dark. Knowing that God is always with us, even when we cannot understand God's ways, is the key to our faith. The road to Easter joy must go through Calvary.

Today, return to an unhealed place within your heart and let God be with you.

Recount a time when you discovered God in the "desert."

Friday, March 3, 2017

Not Judging

"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do." Lk 5:31

When the leaders of the Jewish community challenged Jesus about eating with tax collectors, his answer was clear and straightforward. While acknowledging that tax collectors were sick, he reminded his listeners that sick people need help. Implied, of course, is that if we deny our own sinfulness we are like the fellow who sees the splinter in everyone else's eye but ignores the beam in his own. If the Pharisees did not want to admit their own faults, they would have no need of God's help. Our first spiritual task is always to acknowledge our own faults, ask for God's mercy and accept it with joy when it comes.

In biblical times, tax collectors were hated. Not only were most of them Jews who worked for the Roman occupiers, they often charged more than necessary if they thought they could get away with it. More often than not, therefore, they would prey on the poor and the illiterate who were unable to calculate their own taxes. Men who took advantage of the poor were despised by Jesus, but if they showed a willingness to let go of their evil ways, Jesus, the merciful physician, would heal them.

Today, imagine yourself sitting quietly at your own "tax collectors table," and ask for help.

When are you most likely to judge others?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fasting

"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Is 58: 6-7

It did not take the church long to place before us a telling and important reminder about our Lenten practices. Fasting is not a subtle way to lose weight. Neither it is a practice to give us personal satisfaction or assure us that we are close to God. Fasting, and every other Lenten practice, has only one purpose, to draw us into the heart of God for God's purposes, and its value will be known by its fruits.

Are we more just, are we more open to the stories of those who struggle with life and life's most basic demands? Are we slower to judge others? Are we content being God's servants? God's yoke, as Jesus reminds us, is easy. When an ox goes in a straight path, it does not even know it is saddled with a yoke. It simply goes where it is directed. Though a harsh image, imagining God putting the yoke of the gospel around us at Baptism can help us not to struggle against any correction or instruction we receive.

Today, yoke yourself to God and let God lead you.



What is your most difficult "yoke?"

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Carrying our Crosses

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Lk 9:23

Crosses come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, none of them easy but all of them real and important. Some carry a paralyzing fear, others an impenetrable darkness. Still others suffer addictions that terrorize them and their families, but most of us have simpler, if not less heavy, crosses. We talk or eat too much, we don't listen to our friends or God and we wonder whether our lives have impacted anyone or anything. These are heavy crosses indeed.

Following Jesus means accepting who we are, what we've done and what we have failed to do, while at the same time praying to be free of our self absorption and fear. Knowing the Lord will guide and lead us to places, situations and people that will allow him to be known and loved makes this possible and desirable.

Discipleship, Lent teaches us, is not first of all about doing penance or growing in faith, but about following Jesus. The Lord is more concerned about our willingness to repent and begin again each day than about our faults. When our humility deepens we begin to realize that Jesus can even use our weaknesses for the good of others and the announcement of the Gospel.

Today, carry the first cross you encounter without grumbling.

What are your most difficult crosses?









Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Wednesday

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God." Jl 2:13

Repentance or conversion, to which the church calls us as Lent begins, is really quite simple. We are to stop worrying about our troubles, our self image, our wealth, our health and everything else that distracts us from God.

Lent is a time to turn to God again. We are to think about what God wants of us and from us. We are to ask for insight to know God's will and the faith to do it. It is as if we have been sitting looking out a window, which might be very lovely and relaxing, but is not what God is asking of us. God is asking us to look at God and return to our belief in the Good News. Conversion is an English translation of the Greek word, metanoia which simple means to turn back or to turn around. Admitting we are lost in our own fantasies or struggles is the first step. Turning away from them to God is the beginning of our ongoing conversion.

Today ask God to call your name so that you might turn to God again.

Share a moment of conversion that you experienced.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Expectations for Disciples

"Peter began to say to Jesus, 'We have given up everything and followed you.'" Mk 10:28

It is natural to complain from time to time about the treatment we receive from God, and it is good to express this in prayer. Unless we learn how to speak of our disappointment to God as if to a good friend, and to search more deeply within ourselves and our relationships for a fuller understanding and acceptance of our own faults and gifts, we will never really know the depths of God's love.

More often than not, our hurts and complaints about life and our relationships are reflections of unmet expectations. We expect our friends and God to be there when we need them in ways we understand or determine, and often we want our friends and God to take away our suffering and free us from ourselves as if my magic. In truth, this is not good for us, nor is it good when we try to do it for others. Real friends accompany and support, they don't try to fix us. Neither does God, because in our struggle to pray through life with faith, we learn who we really are and hope returns.

Today, try not to complain. Be grateful for those who walk with you in faith.

How do you manage your unmet expectations of God?





Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sell Everything!

As Lent nears, I want to suggest two readings. The first is a new biography of Dorothy Day by her youngest granddaughter, Kate Hennessy, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CO3489Y/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 and the second is an article in America Magazine, A life of service is never easy. Having autism can make it even harder by Gus Hardy.
http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/02/15/life-service-never-easy-having-autism-can-make-it-even-harder

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor." Mk 10:21

The severity of Jesus' demand that we renounce all our possessions can be overwhelming, especially when we read it out of context. The best scholars of the bible always remind us that when we ask God for the strength to let go, to renounce everything for God, God gives us back what we need to live well and serve others. While God's challenge is daunting, it is also necessary. Belief demands that we learn to trust God with our entire lives despite the cost.

When trying to listen to the God who demands everything from us, it is also important to remember that most of us have more than we could ever use or need, and it is our fear and pride that causes us to worry about whether we have enough or how others see us. Rather than let go to simplify our lives, we acquire more and more ideas, stuff and baggage. Jesus might sound harsh, but his message is clear. Don't be afraid to give God everything. The reward is a Gospel freedom beyond anything we could imagine.

Today, recommit yourself to a Gospel life no matter the cost.

Which of your possessions or ideas are most difficult to renounce?