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Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Body of the Lord

"Do not forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,...and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers." Dt 8: 14b, 15

Nourishing food is as necessary for the spirit as it is for the body. When we do not have access to good and fresh food, our bodies become more vulnerable to illness and our souls have little to satisfy them. How insightful and natural for Jesus to give himself to us as food that recognizes the importance of our bodies and our souls.

The feast of Corpus Christi further reminds us that we are the Body of Christ, living food for all, and while none of us has to be the entire body, we must cooperate with all the members of Christ's body to help create a world where all eat and all have the freedom to pray and worship. Whether we are called to be an eye, a foot or an ear, each of us has a particular role, and when we live it well, everyone benefits. Corpus Christi is a good day to remember never to take food for granted and to celebrate the great gift of God's invitation to be his body in the world.

Today, be food for someone who is hungry.

Have you had the privilege of feeding others with food and/or faith?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Let your Yes mean Yes, and your No mean No

"Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” Mt 5:37

Although it is important to speak carefully and clearly about important matters, we have to avoid becoming disingenuous. Too often, trying to be politically correct, we verbally dance around troubling social issues. More concerned with not making a mistake of offending others, we say nothing, which often results in the needs of the poor being ignored or neglected. People who come to the United States from countries and continents where English is not the first language are especially vulnerable to our failure not to speak clearly about the rights of people to eat, have decent schools, and get adequate medical care.

A few years ago, a woman approached me and asked whether I knew her. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, and then said no, I didn't think so. When she told me that she lived across the street, I was deeply embarrassed. I didn't know her, even though she was at mass every Sunday, because she spoke very little English. A doctor and a woman who wanted to help other parishioners, she was invisible to me.

Jesus asks us to be honest. In my case, it would have been better had I simply said, no, I don't know you, and accepted the consequences. Only when we acknowledge our weaknesses do we have the freedom to correct them and say yes to doing Christ's work in every circumstance.

Today, let your yes be yes and your no, no.

How do you avoid being disingenuous? 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Violence towards Women

"Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Mt 5:28

Reconciliation, especially between and among family members, is critical not only for the people involved but for everyone.  When we realize that one in every four women in the United States suffers domestic violence in her lifetime, and boys who witness violence in their homes are twice as likely to abuse their own partners, (NCADV) we know how important reconciliation is.

Moreover, the cost of domestic violence is enormous. More than four billion dollars is spent in medical and mental health visits as a result of domestic violence and we can only guess at its ongoing effects since most cases go unreported to civil or medical personnel. When Jesus tells his disciples not to look at woman lustfully, he is speaking to us as well.

Lust is a sin against justice. When we look at others as if they are objects, we strip them of their humanity and we need to seek reconcilation. The gospel is clear in this regard. It is an act of violence to look at and treat others as objects.

Today, ask God to help you look at yourself with honesty and integrity.

Who has helped you  be honest about your own actions for the sake of community and the Gospel?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We Preach Christ Jesus

"For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus." 2 Cor 4:5

All of us have obligations. Parents must impart values to their children, not simply in word, but in action. Friends need to be honest with friends, especially when someone is acting in a self destructive way. And all of us must try to be supportive of one another as people of the earth. The kind of competitiveness that drives us to destroy other peoples and nations hurts everyone and can only lead to further violence.

St Paul reminds us that our biggest and most important obligation is to preach the Gospel. Paul, of course, preached it in word and became the single most important voice of the early church. Announcing the Good News in what today is Rome, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Cyprus, Paul took his obligation seriously to go to the end of the earth and tell everyone he met about what Jesus had done for him. Just as important, Paul's interpretation of the Gospel, articulated in his letters, became the ground upon which the early church built a theology and that continues to serve us well.

It is important, from time to time to review our obligations, not just to family and society, but to the challenge of preaching the Good News with our lives. If we can honestly tell ourselves and God that we are trying to be disciples of Jesus, nothing much else matters.

Today, ask yourself how God wants you to preach the Gospel?

Who preaches the Gospel in a way that helps you live it??

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Spirit Gives Life

"Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor 3:5-5

Sometimes St Paul gets it just right. Although it is difficult for us to remember that all we have is a gift, the Gospel clearly calls us to this attitude and stance, and Paul insists that although he has spent years studying the Torah, his knowledge pales in comparison to the gift he received from God to know and believe in Jesus. Only after admitting that he not only ignored the message of the Gospel, but actively worked against it, does Paul realize the gift of the new Covenant in Jesus is beyond anything he could have imagined.

More, when Paul rejects a life that only adheres to the letter of the Law, which he insisted upon as a rabbi, he opens himself and his followers to following the Spirit of the law, and this frees him to know a God of infinite love and mercy who is active in his life. To get to this place of freedom in the Spirit, Paul had to encourage Christians to actively discern God's will, not simply submit to it as if it were a demanding King. Believers must listen, reflect carefully and pray deeply to know God and God's will for us in Jesus.

It is often easier for some Christians to obey the church's teaching authority blindly than to probe and discern carefully what it is the Bishops are saying when they teach. Every adult knows that it his or her responsibility to weigh and sift through many options in life in order to live well. How much more important this is as we search for a way to live the Gospel authentically and completely. Careful attention to and prayerful reflection upon what is happening in the world is an essential element of knowing how to follow Christ in all the circumstances of our lives.

Today, ask God to show you the Spirit of the Law in your discernment.

What is most difficult for you in interpreting the Gospel in our times?

Monday, June 12, 2017

St Anthony of Padua

"Keep me safe O God, you are my hope." Ps 16

For most of our best known saints there is a moment that defines their lives. St Anthony had two. The first happened when he witnessed the funeral procession of the first Franciscan martyrs. Because he had served them as guest master for the Augustinians as they prepared to leave Portugal for Africa, he was convinced their death was a sign from God to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans in order to take up their mission in converting the Moors. When his health would not allow him this privilege, he accepted his limitations and moved to Italy where he committed himself to a life of prayer, study, and simple living, a lifestyle that led him to his second defining moment.

Called to be a substitute preacher at an ordination when no one else was prepared to speak, he was expected by everyone to stumble and stammer, but his eloquence and learning stunned his hearers. His life as a renowned preacher had begun and it would lead him to be the first theology teacher in the Franciscan reform, a remarkable turnabout for a community that so deeply distrusted theology. It was Anthony's great sanctity that convinced  St Francis that Anthony could both teach theology and holiness at the same time.

Today, let God lead you in a path of God's choosing.

What moments in your faith life have been life defining?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Beatitudes

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mt 5:2

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which was recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize.

Without a printing press or a written form that would allow easy distribution of the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the first Christians memorized Jesus' teaching and repeated them often for their own well being and to announce the Gospel. While many contemporary believers still do this, it can be a dangerous practice.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. When we do this, we impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?