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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Sunday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter, the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Easter is a time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Saturday

"Let there be light." Gen 1:3

Living without light for long periods of time impacts us in powerful and negative ways. We feel isolated and paranoid. We see and hear things that are not there, and we find it almost impossible to know what time of day or night it is. Forced to go within, we are faced with a terrible emptiness, especially if we have lived our entire lives in the external world.

Recent studies about people living in solitary confinement for long periods of time reinforce these notions. Many people who isolated, even from other prisoners, suffer from severe mental illness and take their own lives. The thought of living without the light of conversation, simple friendship and external stimulus is simply too much to take.

The Easter Vigil reminds us of this in the most basic of ways. God, Genesis teaches us, made light for us and for our delight. God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others. More, God sent the Christ as a light to all nations so that we might proclaim God's love in this most fundamental of ways. The light has come, Easter proclaims, and nothing and no one will ever be able to drag us into eternal darkness. God's light is forever. Nothing says this more clearly than Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Today, be an Easter light for someone living in darkness.

Who has been Easter light for you?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Good Friday

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." Is 53:7

Silence is an essential spiritual practice for anyone wanting to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love for us in Jesus. Taking fifteen minutes once or twice a day to sit in the middle of life as it unfolds without saying anything or trying to understand, we give ourselves to God without explanation or expectation and we do this in memory of the Christ who lived and hung upon the the cross for us. When we choose to be quiet like this, inside and out, we usually see more clearly, but not necessarily understand more of God's plan. Rather, in silence we make ourselves available to God for whatever God intends. This kind of abandonment is difficult but necessary, especially during the Sacred Triduum.

Good Friday is a good time to look quietly upon the cross, or in the words of St Clare of Assisi, to gaze upon the God who gave his life for us. There are no words to adequately articulate this mystery, and although we try, there is no making sense of God's incredible sacrifice. God wants to be near us for eternity and so does the unthinkable. God dwells among us, suffers and dies so that we might know more completely the depth of his love. We could never imagine this, nor would we want God to die. Death is Jesus' choice, not to exalt suffering for itself, but to submit himself to his Father's will for our salvation. 

Today, find fifteen or twenty minutes to be quiet with God. There is no need to say anything.



How difficult is it for you to sit quietly in the presence of God?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Thursday

"Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” 1 Cor 11: 23-24

Holy Thursday is a wonder filled day of overwhelming fullness and hope. Not only does the Lord wash the feet of his disciples, he also breaks bread with them and reminds them to do the same for one another and for the world. It is all too much for us to absorb.

Depending upon the culture from which we come, it is like having a meal with our closest friends. The table is beautifully set, the foods are simple but elegant, and the gestures touch our hearts in places we often avoid. God is among us breaking down every barrier that separates us not only from one another but from creation itself. There is a fullness and depth to today's scriptures and liturgy that washes away our doubts and despair, and reminds us that the new Covenant is Jesus promises more than we could ever imagine.

God is with us; God is among us; God is waiting for us to turn again with hope renewed to the gifts he has presented to us in all that is. Every time we break bread with others, every time we offer ourselves to one another in service, we are reminded of the Last Supper and are challenged to live with the conviction that life has meaning beyond that which we can see or understand.

Today, breathe in the gift of the Eucharist and rejoice.

How can we proclaim the power of Christ washing feet and giving us his own Body and Blood to eat and share?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Power of Words

"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." Is 50:4

It is always difficult to know what to say to people who are suffering. Sometimes words get in the way, are empty or miss the point entirely. All of us have cringed at wakes and funerals hearing people try to offer comforting words but failing miserably. While we feel for them and are glad they tried, we sometimes wish they said nothing.

On the other hand, the speeches and sermons of people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King continue to echo the power and importance of carefully crafted words even in a digital age. Who can listen to Dr King's I have a Dream speech and not be moved?

Although we have no recordings of the Prophet Isaiah's words, that he understands how to rouse the weary is clear. Committed to the God he knows from personal experience, Isaiah assures the Israelites that God pleads their cause, looks past their faults and wants to be close to them, even when they turn away from God. Every time we read Isaiah our spirits are lifted with hope and new dreams, a perfect beginning to Holy Week.

Today, speak a simple word of comfort to someone suffering.

Whose words most move you to help others?


Monday, April 10, 2017

Betraying Jesus

"Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'” Jn 13:21

There are moments throughout the Gospel of John especially that remind us of Jesus' full humanity. Learning of Lazarus' death, he weeps, and more than once John tells us that Jesus was troubled. That he was at table with friends and disciples when his feelings bubble up, makes his situation even more difficult. Meals are supposed to be times of relaxation and rest, especially when we are eating at the end of a day, not a time to wonder about betrayal.

The Protestant reformer John Calvin sums it up this way, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” and in doing so the Lord assures us that we are never alone. At the same time, there are situations when we don't want hear about Jesus' feelings. Troubled ourselves, we want Jesus to rescue, not accompany, us. Disappointed, we breathe deeply and wonder where the Gospel is taking us.

Holy Week is leading all of us to Jerusalem and it will not be easy. We must confront our own demons and fears, and admit to the times we have turned away from the Lord, betrayed him and ourselves, by letting our selfishness rule our decision making. In the end, however, Jesus will look past all our shortcomings if we have the courage to ask forgiveness and begin again.

Today, ask to begin the journey again.

What most troubles you about your faith life?




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Anointing

"We gave him the power to die; he will give us the power to live." St. Augustine, Office of Readings

St Augustine often offers us rich food for thought and prayer. In today's Office of Readings, he insists that we should have no shame over the death of Jesus. Rather, he says, "it should be our greatest hope," since we cannot gain eternal life by our own efforts. Life forever in God is a pure gift, such that we can never fully appreciate or understand. How is it that God would want to live with us forever? It can only be that God sees in us what he has created, not the mess we sometimes make of our lives.

Surely this was true of Mary in today's Gospel. No matter what she thought of herself, her willingness to use expensive oil to anoint Jesus's feet and dry them with her hair was a powerful sign of her gratitude and devotion to Jesus. That Judas would criticize Mary and Jesus' disciples for this act of kindness and love, while understandable, is shallow and self serving. Would it not be better for all of us to see with Mary's eyes the torment of the Lord as he prepares himself for death? Wouldn't it be better for us to look at the poor in the same way? Rather than judge and condemn those with nothing, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and see with Jesus' eyes and heart.

Today, ask God to calm your spirit and open your eyes to all those who suffer.

Who has most impressed you with their faith in the face of suffering and death?