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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tbe Power of Thirst

"In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" Ex 17: 3.

Do you ever wonder how the friends of Moses felt? Were they angry, confused, hurt?  After all, it was Moses who led them out of Egypt, a place where, though they were slaves, they lived reasonably well.  Somehow it all seems unfair.  In the twentieth chapter of the book of Numbers, Moses is upset with God. He and his people, having wandered in the desert for forty years, are thirsty again. God hears Moses' cry and tells him to speak to the rock when he and the people are thirsty, but Moses challenges God and strikes the rock twice.

Is Moses being punished for striking the rock rather than speaking to it as God told him?  Or is his fault deeper than this? Prophets like Moses are charged to speak and do exactly what God commands. No more and no less.  Moses fails God and his people by acting out of his anger and dismay.  Though Moses' punishment seems harsh, the text can be the occasion for a good question or two. Do we lash out at one another or speak behind others backs when we are hurt or confused? Or do we pray for the grace to seek God's path for us and a just solution through open and honest conversation?

Today, ask for the grace to let go of any hurt or resentment we might be carrying against a friend, a family member or even an enemy.

How do you respond to others when you are angry?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Throwing Our Sins into the Sea

"Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins." Mi 7:18-19

Almost every child learns how to skip rocks across a pond or a lake. With practice we might even manage to make the stone skip six or seven times, but eventually the stone sinks into the water and disappears, and even the best of divers would be hard pressed to find it. The stone which has disappeared, Micah suggests, is like our sins and guilt. God throws them into the sea where they disappear, and even God does not want to find them, but the same cannot always be said for us.

The challenge of the spiritual life is to let go, not just of our possessions and power, but of our sins and guilt. When we cling to anything, even our guilt, we get in God's way. Opening ourselves to God's example, we need to imagine ourselves throwing our sins into the sea. Only those who are too proud think they have to keep asking forgiveness for sins God has dismissed.

Further, when we accept God's forgiveness, our task is simple. We need to forgive anyone who has hurt or sinned against us, and this will the sign that God's desire to forgive us must be shared with all people, especially those who struggle to accept themselves.

Today, turn your back on your guilt and look at others with forgiving eyes.

Whose forgiveness of you has helped turn your life around?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

St Patrick

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." Confession of St Patrick

It should never surprise us how much our earliest experiences in life impact our adult years. When St Patrick, only 16 years old and much like Sudanese and Afghan boys today, was forced into slavery in Ireland, everything changed. Unlike some, however, Patrick's heart, despite the suffering he endured, was touched by the Irish people and after his escape from his captors, he yearned to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Though the church in Ireland is suffering great losses these days, in part because of the sexual abuse by priests and religious in the 20th century, we should not ignore the great work of Ireland's missionaries who went all over the world in the name of the Good News. Fired by the memory of St Patrick's, missionary women and men let go of their homeland and culture to be inserted in churches in North America, Africa and Asia in dizzying numbers, and their influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

We honor Patrick today, and all those fearless missionaries like him, whose faith was such that they could not be silent about how God has transformed their lives. Listen to the Saints words:
Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Today, ask God to send you to someone without faith.

How have you been impacted the zeal of St Patrick and the Irish missionaries?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lazarus

“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day." Lk 16:19

Purple is not only the liturgical color of Lent, it is also the color of royalty. The evangelist tell us that though the rich man, like the priests, dresses in purple and fine linen, he has no name. Is Jesus using code language to challenge his antagonists? We do not know, but it is even more interesting that the poor man, Lazarus, who the rich man never even notices, has a name, an identity and becomes the key figure in the parable.

Lazarus reminds people of every generation, social class, race and culture that it is not our accomplishments or wealth that lead us to God, but our humility and love of all creation which save us. Jesus expresses this bluntly. "It’s terribly hard for rich people to get into the kingdom of heaven! In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom." (Mt 19 23-24) When wealth blinds us to God's will and others' need, we are from the reign of God. Only a change of heart can help us.

Today, pray for anyone you may have dismissed because of their weakness, race or poverty.

How do you understand Jesus when he says that it is terribly hard for rich people to get into heaven?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Service

"Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mt 20:28

When the mother of James and John asked Jesus to put her two sons as authority figures on his right and left, she is only doing what seemed natural. Wanting her sons to succeed, to move up in the world and to be a part of Jesus' entourage, she reminds us of the father of St. Francis who so wanted his son to succeed that he outfitted him in the finest clothes in order to give him every opportunity to impress others and grow wealthy and powerful.



That the mother of James and John and the father of St. Francis get it all wrong should not surprise us since we have all misunderstood the Gospel from time to time. Their only concern and ours ought to be to listen more deeply to the Lord and change our ways.

Service of others is the hallmark of the Gospel, not wealth nor power over others, and authentic Gospel service means trying to make ourselves prayerfully and unconditionally available to God in order to build God's reign not our comfort or influence.

Today, ask God to know how to serve others with dignity and charity.

What are your biggest blocks to serving others freely?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Doing Good

"Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow." Is 1:16

Justice is a common theme in the bible, and while it is proposed as a good in itself, it is also a foundational way to evaluate our lives. As the Catholic church was planted in American soil, it built schools, hospitals, orphanages and so much more. It also began to send missionaries around the world. It was a proud and strong church. Bishops, and sometimes even pastors, could call local civic officials and exert their influence. Young Catholics began to take their place on planning and school boards, and in local, state and national legislatures. While this is the natural path that so many ethnic and cultural groups take in the United States, it can also be very dangerous.

When power becomes a good in itself, justice takes a back seat and institutions like the church become arrogant and self protective. Choosing to look the other way at the sexual sins of its clergy against children, and taking for granted the trust of the people, some bishops sent offending priests to new parishes where they abused more children. How awful! "Make justice your aim: redress the wronged," Isaiah shouts, and his challenge must be ours if we are ever to help heal the abused, and reclaim the trust of the people.

Today, ask pardon for ignoring the gospel demand to live a just life.

Have you been the victim of injustice? Have you been unjust to others?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

God's Mercy

"O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!" Dn 9:8-9

The heartfelt confession of Daniel demands our attention because Daniel does not excuse or try to explain away his sins and faults nor the sins of his people. Acknowledging and accepting his guilt and the guilt of the nation, he asks God's pardon, but expects nothing. He knows that if God acts on behalf of his chosen people it will be a totally gratuitous gift, and his confession and honesty are rewarded. While God punishes the people, he also promises to relent so that Jerusalem will be restored to the glory God intended.

The theme of God's justice and mercy is a constant one during Lent. If God, who sees everything, chooses to forgive, so must we. No matter the sin against us, if we are to act like God towards those who hurt and abuse us, we must forgive. This does not mean we must put ourselves in harms's way. Rather, it means we should let go of any harsh judgments we may have made against those who sinned against us and begin again. We may not be able to repair the  damage done to us or our families, but we need always to love others as God loves us. Moving on with out lives, despite its sorrows and pain, is essential if the life of the Spirit is to be known in the world.

Today, forgive someone who has sinned against you.

What is most difficult in offering others God's mercy?