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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Praying with Jesus for Others

"I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them." Jn 17:11

How can we accompany family members during a divorce? What do you say to a hard working friend who, because she cannot pay her mortgage, has lost her home? How do you tell an older friend that he can no longer drive? In fact, there is no good or easy way to tell someone that their life and lifestyle must change radically.

Although they did not realize it at the time they were called to follow him, Jesus' disciples were faced with the daunting prospect of continuing to live the gospel that had captured their spirits without the props they had come to rely upon. For years, the disciples had accompanied Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, no doubt expecting that someday he would march triumphantly into the holy city. That this would not be the case was clear but painful. Jesus' disciples would have to rely on his prayer for them as fuel for their new journey. So do we.

Today, pray for someone who feels completely alone and abandoned.

What sustains you in your faith?

Friday, May 26, 2017

The importance of Friends

"I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father." Jn 16:25

How can we accompany family members during a divorce? What do you say to a hard working friend who, because she cannot pay her mortgage, has lost her home? How do you tell an older friend that he can no longer drive? In fact, there is no good or easy way to tell someone that their life and lifestyle must change radically.

Although they did not realize it at the time they were called to follow him, Jesus' disciples were faced with the daunting prospect of continuing to live the gospel that had captured their spirits without the props they had come to rely upon. For years, the disciples had accompanied Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, no doubt expecting that someday he would march triumphantly into the holy city. That this would not be the case was something that Jesus spoke of in metaphors which his disciples often misunderstood.

Although Jesus had been rejected by the people of his home town, (Jn 4:44) most continued to follow him unreservedly. No longer using figures of speech, especially when he spoke of his own flesh as food for their journey after he died, (Jn 6:48-59) Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for life without him, and it was too much for many. Making sense of suffering often does that to us. When life does not unfold in clear and understandable patterns of our own design, we often seek another path. Will you? Will we?

Today, pray for a friend who you often take for granted.

 Has anyone ever tried to speak with you about your life and lifestyle? How did you react?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

St Philip Neri

"Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves." Phil 2:3

St Philip, a gregarious, funny, and well respected man was committed to humility as essential value for the Oratorians, the society of Apostolic life which he helped found in the sixteenth century. Begun in a church that was sharply divided by the Protestant Reformation, the Oratory invited men to come, to see, to study, reflect and pray without defensiveness about the sins of the church. Instead, the Oratorians were committed to being quiet cells of prayer and hope in a church that had lost its way and needed serious internal reformation. 

Rather than insist upon harsh physical mortification like many other new religious congregations founded after the Protestant Reformation, Philip encouraged the Oratorians to practice spiritual mortification as a way to refocus the church's energies towards God rather than social acceptance. One story about Philip in this regard says it all. After hearing one of his brother priest's give a well received homily, he ordered him to give it again six times in a row so that people would think he had only one sermon.  

Though Philip's action might seem cruel to some, many of my brother Capuchins tease one another that the best homilists among us have only three distinct sermons, and most of us have one! At the same time, we acknowledge that the one thought or one homily, rooted in God's power to save rather than our eloquence, helps people more than all our insights.

Today, pray for the gift of humor as you admit your faults.

Has anyone's humor ever helped you take the next step on your spiritual journey?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Ascension

"Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." Acts 4:2

How to remain alert and aware to the truths of faith is always a great challenge. As Catholics we profess that the Lord is with us, even on a day when we celebrate his leaving. The same challenge lies before families when one member moves a great distance away, or for the families of soldiers when their father, mother, son or daughter is sent to a part of the world where violence and war are erupting on a daily basis. Trying to remember them when they are not at the breakfast table each day is difficult.

In many ways, this was the situation the disciples of Jesus had to face when he ascended to his Father in heaven. They knew he had promised to be with them always, but they missed the comfort of seeing him and listening to his wisdom on a daily basis. They knew they had to carry on, but they were not sure how they would do this. That he promised them the Holy Spirit as a guide and mentor was helpful, but different.

Because we are faced with these same struggles, the church encourages us to create rituals at home and in our families to keep alive the memory of Jesus. We place crucifixes, statutes and images of saints in our homes, not to demonstrate our piety, but to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We gather around our home tables, not simply to eat, but to be grateful for the food we eat and the faith we share. Doing something each day to remind ourselves that God is among us is essential to our faith growth and our hope.

Today, light a candle of hope in your room or home and pause to remember the Light of all Nations.

What practices most help you to remember God's promise to be with us always?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Unknown God

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Closed Doors

"About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16: 25-26

Jailers at the time of Jesus were frequently retired army officers who would have learned how to guard prisoners and take no chances. In Acts, therefore, when the doors flew open in the jail after the earthquake, the jailer presumed all the prisoners had escaped, and was beside himself. According to Roman law, because he had failed in his duties, he would have been liable for the same punishment imposed on the Paul and Silas.

But God had a different plan. Paul and Silas, perhaps knowing the jailer's fate for letting them escape, stayed in the jail, instructed the jailer and his family in faith and baptized them. What a turn of events! Though the jailer would lose his job, he gained the kind of faith that would allow him a freedom to face whatever punishment the authorities might exact of him.

While the stories of faith in Acts might not be repeated exactly in our lives, there will be many small miracles. Doors of hurt, confusion and resentment will fly open if only we allow the Lord to free us and send us in mission to all in need. We may have to change our lives in ways we never imagined, but God will be the strength we need to do whatever he requires.

Today, open a door of forgiveness to someone struggling with faith.

What closed doors imprison you?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being a Voice for Others

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning." Jn 15:26

Having someone to help us, especially when we are trying to discern how to tackle serious and important questions, is always a benefit, and this is true for individuals as well as groups. Pastors, for instance, are glad to have others help with the administration and financial concerns of their parishes, and more importantly, they are grateful to have a parish council work with them to sift through the many questions that emerge about the direction and life of the parish as a whole.

Jesus promises us that the help he will give us will always be available. The Spirit of God, who Jesus calls an Advocate (Latin for helper or voice) will be among us to strengthen and direct us for the sake of the Gospel. We can rely on this Spirit always and proclaim this as the basis for our faith and hope. Our Advocate will also send us as advocates to others seeking to know God more intimately.

The call to be advocates, to speak on behalf of others who are voiceless, is a clear demand of the Gospel, but we must be careful to avoid the arrogance of presuming we know what others want or need. While the Gospel makes it clear that walking with and uncovering the deep human concerns of others, especially about human rights, is an essential element of discipleship, we must learn to speak with not for those whose voice is rarely heard.

Today, thank God for the Spirit as Helper and Voice.

Have you had the privilege of speaking with and on behalf of others who were voiceless?