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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Jesus, the Gate

"I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Jn 10:9

Gates are important for shepherds, ranchers and dairy farmers. Not only do they protect live stock from predators, they also provide a safe haven for the animals themselves. Jesus calls himself a gate because he wants to protect us and give us a sense of security in his Father's love. He also wants us not to be afraid to offer others a safe place in God's house, and this becomes the task of every person committed to the Gospel.

When we realize how much God wants to protect and guide us, we are humbled. Looking past our faults and sins, God keeps giving us examples of faith to assure us that we, too, can strive to live the Gospel fully. The two Popes canonized last week illustrate this. John XXIII told us to "see everything, overlook a great deal, and correct a little." John Paul II reminded to be in solidarity with the poor despite the cost, and to help create a peaceful world rooted in justice. Both men were gates whose lives encourage us to do the same in our generation.

Today, protect someone's reputation because it is the right thing to do.

Who has been a gate of faith for you?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lasting Discipleship

"Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'” Jn 6:67

When friends are not who we thought them to be, especially if they speak poorly of us, we are disappointed and disillusioned.  We might even be tempted to end our friendship, or at the very least step away from it for a while. Shock does that to us. Unsure of someone else, we also wonder how we missed something important about them. Were we so needy that we failed to realize that our relationship was not as secure or as deep as we imagined?

John's gospel reminds us that not all of Jesus' disciples remained true to him. Confused by his teaching about his body being real food and upset by his failure to be they Messiah they wanted and expected, more than a few abandoned him and his teaching, but Jesus did not reject them or us. Although the Lord wonders aloud whether any of the apostles also want to leave, the apostles, led by Peter, remain faithful even though they do not understand everything the Lord is teaching.

Discipleship, like friendship, is built not on completely understanding the other, but on trusting that the relationship is authentic and rooted in God's love and the truth of the Gospel. Because we know that God is faithful, we can trust that whatever God teaches is for our good and glory of God. Trusting God is the root of our faith and faithfulness.

Today,  ask not for understanding but acceptance.

How do you manage the loss of a friendship?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Conversion is a Lifetime Challenge

"Saul, Saul, why are your persecuting me?" Acts 22:7

Almost everyone has a conversion experience or three. Struggling for an identity or reflecting on the scriptures, there is a moment that stops us and reminds us who we are. Though it is not always life changing, it can be.

For St Paul, who thought of himself as among the most observant of Jews, it surely was. Blinded by a great light on his way to Damascus to continue his persecution of Christians, he heard a voice telling him, "I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." (Acts 22:8) Unable to see because of the great light, his companions led him into Damascus where Ananias healed him of his blindness and told him to return to Jerusalem and be baptized. Not long afterwards God told Paul to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles among whom he would find his life's mission.

While it appears that for St Paul the memory of his dramatic conversion was all he ever needed, we can be sure that this is not true. While all who open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit will be led more deeply into Christ and into mission, there will be moments of disabling doubt and confusion when we will wrestle with God and with life. Only after we lose the battle to be in charge of our own lives and throw ourselves again at God's feet and ask for mercy, will we find the path to the next stage of our journey. Indeed, God has a mission for all, but it is God's mission, not ours.

Today ask God to send you again on his mission, not yours.

How can each of us continue to be converted in Christ?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ongoing Education in the Faith

“'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?'” Acts 8:31

Unfortunately, in a Twitter world where all communication is limited to 140 characters, too many believers cling to or focus on one phrase from the Gospel and use it as a lens for their spiritual lives. Doing this almost always leads to misunderstanding and confusion.  The New Testament cannot be fairly read or understood when we remove it from its own cultural context and setting.

An example might help. Luke (10: 38-42) tells us that when Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha, Mary sat at his feet and Martha, busy about all the preparations for his visit, complained that Mary was not helping and wanted Jesus to correct her. Instead, Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part.

Over the years, many commentators suggest that Luke was writing about the so called active and contemplative life, but contemporary cultural insight helps us realize that sitting at a rabbi's feet was the role of men called to the rabbinate. Martha is angry because Mary is assuming a role to which she could not aspire. A woman's place was in the background helping with the ordinary chores, but Jesus challenges this stereotype, not just among men and women, but what it meant to be a rabbi. Teachers and leaders had to be servants, not privileged operatives with power over others.

The Ethiopian eunuch reading the scriptures alone knew he needed help and asked Philip to instruct him There should be little doubt that Philip responded to this seeker's request using all the information and skill he had. Blessed with so much wonderful scholarship and insight, we ought to follow Philip's example in the 21st century.

Today, pick up a Catholic study bible and read the introduction to one of the Gospels.

Who or what most helped you to understand the scriptures more deeply?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sts Philip and James

"Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me, Philip? Jn 14:9

Sometimes it is amazing to acknowledge how little we know about ourselves and others with whom we live even after many years together. In part, this is a result of the culture of individualism and privacy that so pervades U.S. culture, but it is more than that. Too often, busy about so many things, we fail to spend time, even waste time, with ourselves, our families and God.

Being with others is rarely revealing all at once. Only time spent listening to others with our hearts over the course of many years affords us real knowledge of the other. Learning to waste time with God  and others each day, despite its frustrations, will allow us to know and love God and the people with whom we live more deeply. More important, it affords God the opportunity to tell us more about God.

It is a small, but significant, comfort to know that even the apostles suffered from spiritual “blindness" and "deafness.” Philip does not know the Lord after years spent with him, but perhaps after the Lord’s correction, Philip will listen more to Jesus’ teaching about who is and from whom he comes.

Today, take five minutes to be quiet. Do not worry about distractions.

Who most impresses you with their ability to be quiet and listen?

Monday, May 1, 2017

St Athanasius

"He gave them bread from heaven to east." Jn 6:31

It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like for Christians at the beginning of the fourth century. For three centuries they had been persecuted. Welcome neither in Jerusalem's synagogues nor Rome's temples, they hid in the catacombs or died in the Coliseum, but within fifty years of the conversion of Constantine, Christianity became the state religion and anyone who sought office in the Roman empire had first to be baptized.

St Athanasius was about 20 yrs old when Constantine first professed faith in Jesus and led a tumultuous life. Exiled five times from his see in Alexandria, he continued to defend the divinity of Jesus in a world that wanted compromise at any price, and held up St. Anthony of Egypt and his simple life as a model for all Christians. That he remained faithful to the most basic teachings of Christianity despite great personal suffering makes his life a challenge for believers everywhere.

The struggle to live a faith based life at the beginning of the 21st century is great. With the explosion of  the newly emerging social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, there is enormous competition for our attention. How the practice and life of faith fits into all of this is unclear, but with Athanasius we can recommit ourselves to live simply and transparently as witnesses to God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

Today, be grateful for anything and anyone who reminds you of God's love for us in Jesus

Who most impresses you with their simple life of faith?



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Christ our Food

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

The apostles and disciples were full of passion after Easter. So filled with the hope of God's reign changing everything, nothing could stop them in going from place to place despite the danger to themselves and their families. They had heard the good news and been transformed by it. Passionately, they move onward and upward, working for the food that would endure forever. Convinced the reign of God and Jesus' return was very near, they worked tirelessly for the sake of the Gospel, but soon enough the tired and faltered.

The same thing happens to us. When we are young, we can be passionate about changing the world, raising a family, building a career, and cleaning the environment. Our passion drives us and seems unstoppable. Even though we often fail, we get up, move on, and search for new ways to live authentically, but being passionate also comes at a high cost. When passion becomes rushing, a change is in order. We must learn to harness our passion, listen to our bodies and discern how best to move forward as disciples. Only when we allow God to do God's work and direct our lives can we hope to be free from the constant need to perform and succeed that derails so many.

Today, be passionate about being alive.

Whose passion for the good and for God most changed you?