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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Orphans

"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Jn 14:18

More than once, I have heard people whose parents had recently died say that they felt like orphans. Not until my mother died did I understand what they meant. There is a kind of hole in life when one's parents die. More than a feeling of loss, there is a sense of emptiness. The people upon whom we depended, not to make decisions for us, but to help us discern important steps in life, were no longer with us and we wondered where and to whom we might go.

Jesus, though preparing us for his return to his Father, promises us that we will not be orphans, that we will not be alone, that His Spirit will continue to guide and help us. At the time of Jesus, family was the primary lens through which people understood their role in life, but Jesus wanted his followers to remember that he was redefining their understanding of family. No longer would we be bound only to the rituals and practices of the families and religious traditions into which we were born, but animated by Jesus' Spirit, to the family and body of Christ, making it impossible to be orphans!

Today, pray for those who feel totally without family of any kind.

Have you ever felt like an orphan in the church?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hate

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thought of the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Called

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.

What does it take to remain united to Christ in difficult circumstances?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Importance of Joy

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” A friar friend, gently prodding a group of clergy, once asked them to bow their heads, screw up their faces and pray. Only a few participants smiled until the end of the prayer when my friend suggested that if they were happy they ought to inform their face.

It can be difficult to smile, relax and enjoy others when we are troubled or in the middle of a debate like the early church we learn about in Acts of the Apostles. Not sure how best to fold the gentile community into the church, the Apostles struggled with one another. Paul saw things one way; James another and it is clear that everyone was trying to convince the others of their point of view. Being right often kills joy and rather than proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, we act like a group of children after losing a ballgame. 

Today, smile at someone randomly.

Who helps you express the joy you feel as a disciple of Jesus

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Disputes

"But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'" Acts 15: 5

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Overcoming Fear

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples, especially after Pentecost, we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation. Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was stoned so badly in Iconium that his persecutors thought he was dead, but in fact he lived, left that town and continued to announce the Good News despite its cost.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Remembering who we Are

"Why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God." Acts 14:15

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods'd name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)