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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost

"Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them." Acts 2:2

The winds of Pentecost are cleansing, empowering and renewing. Freed of the limitations of the Old Law, the Gospel assures believers that the Spirit of God will be their guide and strength. What might have made the first disciples anxious before the Spirit's coming upon them, now is a tool of rebirth, something that becomes their strength. Remembering that Jesus told them many times not to be afraid, the Apostles and disciples trusted the fire of the Spirit's power to be their gateway to a rekindled faith life.

Likewise, lifted up by the fire of God's love, we are sent into the world as a challenge to others to let go of the empty values of wealth and power over others for our own satisfaction. Rather, we offer the peace of God that we give freely to those seeking a new way of life. Simple and without conditions, God's love is open to all who are willing to be possessed by God's spirit and root themselves in the commitment to share all God's gifts with all people.

Today, let the fire of the Spirit tell you how to live in Christ.

Have you ever been "blown away" by faith and its promises?

Friday, June 2, 2017

St Charles Lwanga and Companions

"They seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully." Mk 12: 3-4

Charles Lwanga, a catechist who refused to renounce his faith even after seeing many of his Ugandan companions martyred, reminds us again of the power of God's grace. Despite being lured by King Mwanga into the royal court and promised real power over others, Charles would not deny  his faith. More, even after he was condemned to die, he continued to urge others to follow Christ.

Although it is sometimes forgotten or ignored by Catholics, Charles was killed along with nine Anglican young men who might not be called martyrs but certainly gave their lives for the Gospel, and deserved to be honored for their sacrifice. Although Charles is revered in Africa and throughout the world for his willingness to die for his beliefs, his life is also a good reminder to work together with other Christians for a just world. While we might disagree about how to speak of the Eucharist or the role of the Holy Father, we surely do agree about what it means to serve and cling God in the face of persecution.

Today, accept whatever suffering comes to you because of your commitment to the Gospel.

What do you most admire in people willing to give their lives for the faith?



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Jesus Challenges Peter

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." Jn 21 15-21

Who wouldn't be distressed if a friend and colleague questioned you over and over again about your loyalty and love? It is unnerving and upsetting, to say the least, when someone you trust seems to doubt your integrity. That Peter is troubled is not the point, however. Jesus is asking Peter not simply to be his friend, but to love him unconditionally just as Jesus loves Peter, which is another matter altogether.

When you read it plainly and openly, the Gospel is very demanding. Jesus challenges us to love one another, even our enemies, in the same way God loves him and us. It is a daunting task, but one we can complete with God's grace. While the Gospel is impossible when we think we must live it alone, it becomes a joy when we enter it with God and all the saints who have ever proclaimed God's name.

Today, ask for the grace to love God unconditionally.

Have you known the unconditional love of God in difficult circumstances?





Wednesday, May 31, 2017

St Justin, Martyr

"I thank the Lord and I praise him. I bless the name of the Lord." Sir 51:12

Justin, Martyr must have been a great help to his contemporaries. A philosopher who found the Gospel to be compelling and true, he was an apologist, someone whose intelligence and insight allowed him both to explain and defend the teachings of Jesus, even in the face of persecution.

People like Justin are prized in every age, especially by those committed to a Gospel life but who feel inadequate to defend their choices themselves. Apologists free us from trying to comprehend something that in the end is a mystery by assuring us that our commitments are rooted in something more real than our own needs.

Of course, Justin is not honored today solely because he was a good or insightful teacher and mentor to the early Christian community. We prize Justin's memory because his commitment to the Lord was so deep and lasting, he was willing to die for it, and while all of us hope for this kind of faith, few of us have it. Justin's faith was more than careful reasoning and deep inquiry. It was his way of being in the world and being saved. So it is for all of us when we submit to the gift of faith.

Today, thank God for the inestimable gift of faith.

What aspect or teaching of the Gospel is most difficult for you to understand or accept?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Visitation of Mary

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zep 3:14


The Visitation of Mary is another of the gospel scenes that has fascinated and challenged Christians forever. A young woman, newly pregnant, visits her newly pregnant older relative, and spends three months with her.

What was their first meeting like? How did they spend most days? What kinds of conversations did they have? Because we have no answers to these questions, we supply the ones our reflection and prayer generate. This is good, something all of us ought to do regularly with the mysteries of faith. 

How we imagine Mary and Elizabeth together not only gives us insight into their relationship, it tells us much about where we are in life and faith. Are we joyful about being "pregnant" with the living God? Are we anxious to let others know about how being the "bearer of Good News" affects us and changes our life on a daily basis? 

Listening to and reading the reflections of newly pregnant women teaches us that everything changes in a woman's life when she knows she is pregnant. Not only do her eating habits change, she becomes very conscious of getting extra rest when possible, and is more careful driving a car. Simply put, a pregnant woman starts to live, not solely for herself but for the child she is carrying, and in this she teaches us one of the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. 

Believers in Jesus, knowing they have been saved, live for others, and while this attitude and conversion is tested everyday, there is no doubt about our call. We are disciples challenged to announce Good News by the way we live for others.

Today, visit someone struggling with life, even in your own home.

What have been the joys of being Christian in your life?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Recognizing God's Strength in Others

"Gorify me, Father." Jn 17:5

Early in my ministry as a priest, I met an older man who was helping his wife die.  It was not an easy task. His wife had a form of cancer with external sores that had a terrible odor.  Nevertheless, everyday he visited her in the hospital, gave her a big kiss and asked how her night was.  Though his wife could not answer easily, she always smiled softly and thanked him for coming.  After watching this simple but profound drama, I asked the man to step into the hallway with me. I wanted to ask him how he was doing and tell him how much I admired his sacrifice.  Looking at me a little strangely, he said, “It’s no sacrifice, Father. We have been married for 47 years, and although I was not always the best husband, my wife always supported me, always encouraged me. Coming here each day is a privilege I would not want to miss.”

My older friend was suffering and rejoicing, just like Jesu.s  He would have done anything to help his wife and ease her suffering, but he knew there was little he could do.  Staying with her, helping bathe and feed her each day, though difficult, was something he properly called a privilege.  This is the kind of suffering most of us can never avoid.  It comes to us as an ordinary part of life, and faith tells us to respond in love.

Jesus, ready to return to his Father, asks God to recognize his work of suffering on earth and that is exactly what I do in prayer when I ask God to remember people like my older friend who lived the Gospel in such a basic and vital way.

Today, ask God to glorfy your work for others.

Who do you admire for their willingness to suffer for others without complaint?


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Holy Spirit

"We have never even heard there is a Holy Spirit." Acts 19:2

For many years, one of our friars from Australia conducted a little contest with our novices, asking them to name the the six states of his homeland. With a twinkle in his eye, he reminded the novices that he had already given them a hint, knowing full well that the majority would not know there were six states in Australia, much less be able to name them.

I always enjoyed hearing about this exercise because it is true about so much of the world. How many countries in Africa? How many in Europe or South America? There is so much about the physical world we don't know. Why should we be surprised that the disciples in Ephesus tell St Paul that they have never even heard of the Holy Spirit. In truth, most Catholics know little about the Holy Spirit even today, and too many do not realize how vital the Spirit is to their daily lives.

This is all the more serious when we realize that it is the promise and gift of the Holy Spirit that sustained the earliest Christians after Jesus ascended into heaven. For the first community of believers the Holy Spirit was strong, palpable and very real. It was the Holy Spirit that allowed them to let go of their fears, proclaim the Good News and go to the ends of the earth baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today, pray to the Holy Spirit for strength to live and announce the Gospel.

Has the Holy Spirit ever been active in your life? If so, how did you respond?