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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Third Sunday of Easter

"It happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." lk 24:14

The story of the two disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus seems always to lift our spirits. Listening to Jesus disciples, who are dispirited and upset but clinging to a shred of hope because some of their women friends reported that Jesus' tomb was empty, we find it easy to identify with them. Though the women insist that Jesus is alive, the disciples Jesus encounters seem reluctant to believe again, perhaps not wanting to risk further disillusionment.

Most of us have wandered away from or become confused on our own faith journeys. Sometimes we get lazy, take the Lord's goodness for granted, and forget that faith is hard work. At other times, like the Emmaus disciples, we doubt, especially in the face of serious problems, and that is when we must return to the basics of our faith.

We must practice faith daily through prayer, especially the breaking of the bread through which we recognizer Jesus, and good works. Otherwise, the questions we face will overwhelm us, and like the Emmaus disciples, we will be unable to recognize Jesus when he is right in front of us.

Today, break bread with someone who is hungry and discover Jesus again.

What are your most difficult hurdles on your faith journey?

Friday, April 28, 2017

St Catherne of Sienna

"They saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, 'It is I. Do not be afraid.'" Jn 6:20

Catherine of Sienna, unlikely doctor of the church, is one of those saints who challenges all our unexamined assumptions about wisdom, education and sanctity. The 25th child of parents who lost most of their children to early death, Catherine, though uneducated, became one of the most important writers of the 14th century. Her letters and mystical writings remind us to keep Christ close despite the cost.

In a letter to her spiritual spiritual director she writes: "You should not wish to turn your head because of the thorns of so many persecutions, for he is indeed mad who would abandon the rose for fear of its thorns." (Letters) Though unsaid here, it is clear that Catherine was able to ignore those who persecuted her because she knew that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was her guide and protector and having the rose was more important than the thorns that tore at her life.

The Easter scriptures are forever reminding us that the Gospel, though liberating and empowering, is too difficult to live without the strength of an Advocate, someone who stands behind us, encourages us and assures us that God is with us no matter how heavy the burdens we might have to carry.

Today, be an advocate for someone who seems lost.

Have you ever experienced the strength and support of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Feed the Hungry

"When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, 'Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?'” Jn 6:5

Fear is a powerful and dangerous motivator, so strong at times it can overwhelm our good judgment and cause us to harm ourselves and others. When a mother can't afford to feed a child, she might do almost anything to find food. Anyone who has lived among the very poor knows this. Women everywhere have sold themselves to support their children, and fathers have stolen money and goods for the same purpose.

We don't know how fearful the disciples were when Jesus asked them where they would get food to feed everyone who was following them, but Philip reminded Jesus that even with two hundred days wages they could not feed everyone. Afraid, perhaps, that they would not have enough for themselves, the disciples try to dissuade him from responding tho the hungry, but the Lord will have none of it. Jesus insists that there is always enough if we take not what we want to feel comfortable, but what we need to stay alive and healthy. Sharing the goods of the earth is a foundational Gospel principle.

The Gospels demand we pray about all this. People should not have to live in fear for their next meal, but millions still do and it should offend every Christian to reflect upon this. When Jesus tells his disciples to "have the people recline," he is telling us to do the same. Only when we share what we have with those in need do we experience the full power of the Gospel.

Today, feed someone who is hungry.

How do you understand Jesus' command to respond to those who present themselves to us for help?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Proclaiming Jesus Despite the Cost

"We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29

All of us have experienced times and people about whom we feel compelled to speak. When Moses saw a burning bush, approached it and learned that God wanted to speak to him, he had to tell other about his experience. Elijah hears God, not in a strong wind or an earthquake, but in a tiny whisper, and realizes in the middle of his fear, that God is calling him. He cannot resist. Again, when Isaiah, hearing God wonder who to send, responds: Here I am, send me!

The great figures of the Hebrew bible announce God's presence and love whenever they encounter it, and so does Jesus. Not only does the Lord speak of God, he is God's Word enfleshed, the one about whom we cannot be silent, and this is the essence of the 5th chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John become models for all the apostles and disciples. No longer does it matter that they abandoned Jesus in his greatest need. Forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they become, despite great personal danger, proclaimers of the Word.

The Easter season must animate us in the same way. Acknowledging and celebrating God's glory within, around and among us, we announce God's love to whomever will listen. Ignoring those who resist, we go everywhere in His name proclaiming the Good News of our salvation.

Today, let your joy speak to others of God's presence within you and among us.

What experiences of God have you had about which you cannot be silent?


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Caring for the Poor

"The Lord hears the cry of the poor." Ps 34

The early church struggled mightily with its relationship to the Gentiles. Not sure whether Jesus wanted them to impose the entire Torah on newly converted Gentiles, the apostles and disciples were deeply divided. After 14 years of insisting that there was no need for Gentiles to observe the entire Torah, Paul was anxious to settle the matter. His letter to the Gentles (Acts 21:25) is one of his many responses. Reminding his readers that there was a matter more fundamental than circumcision or dietary laws, Paul highlights the concern every Christian should have.

Unless the first Christians attended to the needs of the poor, the message of Jesus would fall on deaf ears. With the contemporary church struggling with diminishing attendance, and the continued fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, Catholics need to remember, no matter what divides them, if they remain attentive to and responsive to the poor, the Gospel will continue to be preached and God's reign built. Nothing is more important.

Today, let go of arguments. Care for the poor.

How do you settle disagreements in your family?

Monday, April 24, 2017

St Mark, Evangelist

"Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another." 1 Peter 5:5

Commentaries on the scriptures are full of midrash, a homiletic method of biblical explanation that fills in the gaps that the text does not reveal directly. There is a Mirash about the miracle at Cana which concerns Mark, whose feast we celebrate today. Legend has it that he was one of the servants who filled the six stone water jars with water. When Jesus changed the water to wine, Mark was especially moved by Jesus' power and compassion, and it was at Cana that he decided to follow Jesus as a disciple.

Though we cannot "prove" any of these stories through the lens of history as we record it today, we can be sure that something stirred the hearts of those who encountered Jesus to follow him and risk their lives to proclaim the good news he was preaching.  The same is true for us. Very few conversions that last are built on intellect alone. Only when our hearts are moved does the truth of the Gospel change us forever.

Today, think about the experiences of faith you have had and be grateful?

What stories of conversion most impacted your faith life?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Born Again

"How can a man once grown old be born again?" Jn 3:4

For many who have tried to live a life of faith, the answer to Nicodemus' question is not that difficult. Most of us have been reborn many times. For some it is a movement in the church, like Cursillo or Marriage Encounter, that lifts their spirits and opens their hearts to a deepening of their faith. For others, it is the baptism or the marriage of a child. For some, it is the death of a young person or parent that at first troubles them greatly, but then forces them to reevaluate their lives and make a fundamental option for faith.

Young people willing to give themselves over to God's plan are often the occasion of a rebirth for me. For more than twenty years I have been associated with the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, (MMAF) a group of lay people committed to living the Gospel all over the world by reaching out to the poor and distressed in the developing world. These Missioners are extraordinary people of faith who suspend their lives and careers in order to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Teaching them is always a renewal for me. I almost never leave a class with them when I am not energized by God's spirit living in and among them. Indeed, I am reborn.

Today, ask the Lord to give you a rebirth, and do not ask how this is to happen.

Have you been reborn in faith? Has your rebirth endured?