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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Anointing

"Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers." 16 Sam 13

Anointing people for service and leadership is an ancient ritual that religious traditions use to designate men and women as spokespersons for the entire community. In ancient Israel, priests, prophets and kings were all anointed, so too were some of the objects used for worship. In the book of Numbers we learn of Moses’ obligation to anoint the altar, the Ark of the Covenant, the lamp stand and all the temple furnishings.  In this way, people and objects, having been dedicated to the Lord in a special way, are initiated into a ministry not for their own good but for the salvation of all.

Near his death, Jesus challenges his first disciples and all of us to follow him as a servant with a new "anointing" by washing the feet of others.  Jesus does not want his disciples to be known by their power over others, but by their service of those most in need, thus proclaiming a new freedom and hope for all who are held captive by their faults, sins, gender, state in life, class, poverty, ethnicity and culture.  In other words, leading through service breaks down all the barriers that separate us from one another.

Today, remember your own anointing at Baptism and Confirmation.

Who are the people who wash the feet the neediest in our day?

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Annunciation of the Lord

“"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'" Lk 1 29-20


When the unexpected comes, it often unnerves us. News of a close friend's sickness or the failure of a marriage we admired leaves us speechless and wondering what happened. In our busyness did we miss something important? Were we too self absorbed to notice the struggles others were having? 

The evangelist Luke paints a picture of Mary that emphasizes both her fear and her faith, a stance that encourages us not to be afraid of the unexpected, but to acknowledge our fear and pray for faith at the same time. We should not assume that Mary understood everything that was happening to her when Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She was human, like all of us, and fear would have been a natural response to such a bold request, but Luke also wants us to celebrate Mary's faith that let's go and accepts her new role.

Responding to God at times of crisis is made more possible when we develop a spiritual life on a daily basis. Praying and reflecting about God's life among us in word and sacrament, and celebrating and serving those forgotten or ignored makes is possible to prepare ourselves for life as it comes. If we want to have Mary's honesty and humility, we must practice our faith every day.

Today, listen for the voice of God embedded in every thing you do and everyone you meet.

What about Mary's life calls you to live your faith more deeply?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everyday Holiness

"You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Mk 12:34

When one of the scribes is able to appreciate Jesus' wisdom and agree with the Lord that to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves is the essence of the law, Jesus tells him that he is not far from the reign of God. It seems like a strange compliment, until we realize that while the scribes were likely to know the law and prophets well, they were often more interested in getting the law "right" than living the law well. 

A while ago, I was speaking with a priest friend about the saints we have known, almost all of whom were lay people. Not incidentally, the people we both knew were not scholars, but parents, husbands and wives, grandparents and even some children. What they shared in common was their fidelity in the face of very long odds. They had faced sickness, death, and poverty with courage and honesty. They did not whine about how God had dealt them a poor hand, but were grateful for the God who had accompanied them in their struggles. 

Today, ask God to help you know and live the law of Christ more deeply.

Who is the holiest person you know? Why?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Listening with and Open Heart

"If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts." (Ps 95)

All of us have hard hearts from time to time, and while it is understandable, it hurts others, especially those close to us. Just as important it hurts us. When are hearts are hard we let nothing and no one in, and we pay for it. While we can hear others on the most superficial of levels, it is almost impossible to respond to friends and family with compassion and understanding. We are so wrapped up in our struggles that we ignore the needs of everyone around us.

It often surprises us, especially after a period of hard heartedness, that God never stopped listening to us and urging us to transformation. Neither do our closest friends abandon us when we fail to respond to them.  They may take a step away from us in order to protect themselves, but they do not abandon us, and it is then that we realize what true friendship is. When our hearts do soften, it is good to remember, especially when friends fail to respond to us, that their hearts might be hard for a little while, and our only task is to wait with patience as God waits for us.

Today, ask God to soften your heart.

What or Who most often hardens your heart?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Handing on the Faith

"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children's children." Dt 4: 9

The word tradition is from the Latin verb tradere, which means to hand over. It is an important word for Catholics because we insist that there are two fonts of revelation, scripture and tradition. Scripture alone, without an official commentary, can easily be misunderstood. At the same time, the less than careful use of tradition can become oppressive. Scripture and tradition are the two fountains out of which our faith flows.

Furthermore, when we read the scripture in concert with our Tradition, we should always remember that God's revelation is intended to set us free, not bind us up. Our Jewish brothers and sisters often say that the Talmud, or the commentary on the Bible, is like a fence. The intent of the commentary is to protect the integrity of the word in much the same way that our Constitution protects the vision of the founding fathers. Tradition lets us know we are on the right path, but it is more like a compass than a map that we hand onto our children to guide and console them. In the light of our Tradition, they are challenged to become the living word of God by embodying the best of who we are as Catholics, and discover ever new ways to proclaim God's Good News in the changing world within which we all find ourselves.

Today, be the tradition. Be transparent in your love for Jesus Christ.

Who was your most important teacher about matters of faith?

Monday, March 20, 2017

God's Patience

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full."

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

St Joseph the Worker

"My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

St Joseph was like that for Jesus. It should not be difficult for us to imagine Jesus, even as an infant, turning and smiling when he heard Joseph's voice, and it would have been Joseph's voice in his early years that would have instructed Jesus in the ways of the world and at work. Today as we celebrate St. Joseph the Worker, let us pray that workers around the world will find their voice and hear the voice of the church in their quest for safe and productive work places, and just wages.

Today, pray for a friend whose greeting you cherish.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?