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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Dying In and For Christ

"Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life." Rom 6 3-4

Every major religious tradition reminds us that we cannot escape death, and all our attempts to deny this simple reality lead us nowhere. St Paul admonishes those who waste too much time worrying about death.  "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor 15:57) That Jesus has already rescued and saved us from ultimate death is a fundamental teaching of our faith.

Islam also insists that while death is inevitable, so is resurrection, but in order to be ready, we must work to get close to God now. “Though we know death is certain, we have not prepared ourselves for it. Though we know paradise is definite, we have not worked for it...What are you waiting for? Death is the first visitor from the Almighty bringing good or evil tidings… so get closer to your Lord!”(Hamid al-Qasyirasi)

Mark Twain reminds us that the fear of death is really the fear of life. Those of us who are afraid to live, even though we are breathing, are moving quickly towards death. In fact, if we don't resolve and ask God to help us live fully, we are already dead because we miss so much of life.

Today, meditate on your own death and pray to accept what feelings arise.

Who has taught you most about death and dying?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Compassion

"Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” Mt 8:6

Not infrequently, we can feel like the centurion in today's Gospel whose servant is suffering dreadfully. A rare form of cancer or a difficult to diagnose heart ailment strikes a friend out of the blue, and everyone begins scrambling to understand, to help find a doctor, to get a second opinion, to choose a form of treatment, and all of this before our friend has begun to accept his illness and decide on a path of action. At times like this, what we really need to do is offer our friend the same compassion Jesus extends to the centurion and his slave.

Compassion is the quiet presence we can offer to those who are lost, confused, anxious and doubtful.  It is rarely surrounded with a multiplicity of words. Rather, it is like an open hand extended to others with love and tenderness. It is not condescending or judgmental.  It is the simplest form of love and lets all know that they are not something to be fixed, but friends who need a companion with whom to take the next step. Because the centurion is so full of genuine compassion for his servant, Jesus is anxious to help him, and ready to help us if only we present ourselves to him with humility and trust.

Today, offer a stranger compassion.

Who showed you the kind of compassion Jesus offers to the centurion and his servant?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Forever

"I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." Gn 17:7

When Abraham heard that he would be the father of many nations, he was very much afraid. After all, he was ninety nine years old and could not imagine that God would choose him for so noble a task. I can imagine that for a time at least, he thought he was going mad and that everything God said to him was only a dream. Abraham had been unable to conceive a child with Sarah and now this! How could it be. No doubt Abraham expected that God would lay heavy burdens upon him, and he was not sure he was up to the task.

But God's demands are light. Abraham had only to keep the covenant which God make with him in a unilateral way. He didn't have to worry about penalties and punishment. He had only to be circumcised so that there would a sign "in his body" that indicated his acceptance of the living God. God wanted Abraham to know peace and he wants us to be at peace, too.

The Covenant with Abraham, as Pope John Paul II reminded us often, has never been broken by God. Jews are God's chosen people and always will be. That Jesus is the new Covenant, the fulfillment of the old Covenant, is something we need to announce with passion and hope, but we can never forget that God's Covenant with Abraham is true and forever. The proof of our acceptance of this truth of our faith lies in our treatment of Jews as our brothers and sisters.

Today, glory in God's covenants with us.

Have you ever been frightened by God's call?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sts Peter and Paul

"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." 2 Tim 4:6

St Paul uses sports metaphors regularly, urging his disciples to follow him in the race, and not to be afraid to compete with anyone who might be distracting God's people from their goal of unity with Christ. Most of us can relate to Paul in this regard, but we need to be careful. Competition has its pitfalls. Too often, when we are trying to be better than others, we diminish their efforts in order to exalt our own, and this is not Jesus' or Paul's intent.

Believers cannot measure their effectiveness in proclaiming the Gospel because the results of our efforts are God's work, and unless we can let go of our need to be right, we miss the point of Jesus' message. The Lord wants us to be passionate about the Gospel but reminds us that once we have done what we know is right, we must leave the rest up to God.

This simple rule of thumb is also good advice for leaders and parents. While we have an obligation to teach the fullness of our faith to all, especially our children, we must also allow them to interpret the Gospel and live it in a way that frees them to do God's work and not simply please us.

Today, live the Word boldly and let God work.

Who has been your best and most effective teacher in the ways of faith?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

St Irenaeus

"Sing to him, sing his praise, proclaim all his wondrous deeds." Ps 105

What are the great and wonderful works of God that move you most forcefully to contemplation and transformation?

For some creation itself fills us with wonder and awe. St. Francis of Assisi might be the patron saint of these believers. Francis not only praises sun, moon, fire and water, he calls them his sisters and brothers. Gratitude for creation is the ground of Francis' unique spiritual path while disregard of God's creation is the root of sin.

Others focus their awe on the human person. Both the complexity and simplicity of people stretch us to wonder. We can think, feel, respond to others, love and laugh, and the ease with which we do all these complex actions is amazing. St Irenaeus says it this way, "The human person fully alive is the glory of God."(Irenaeus)

Taking time each day to thank God for all God has done and does can help us grow in the spiritual life. Grateful people exude a joy that both lifts others' spirits and gently challenges them to conversion.

Today, praise God for God's wonderful works.

What most moves you to wonder and awe?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Giving from Substance

"Do to others what you would have them do to you." Mt 7:6S

Many older people often find themselves wondering what kinds of gifts they can leave their children. Making wills that try to distribute their resources equally among their children, they sometimes deny themselves simple pleasures because they want their children to have more than they had. Even when their children are doing well, many still want to give them more. Whether this desire to help their children is rooted in altruistic love or their need to feel needed is never clear, but it gives us pause to think about the inheritance we receive from God.

Parents and others with an inheritance to share with their children and family would do well to follow God's example. When we are able to assure those around us that they are never alone, that no matter what they do, what foolish path they follow, they can always return to us and God, the need to keep giving the next generation more than they can ever use will dissipate. Our children need our unconditional love, not our old books and china!

Today, treasure the inheritance of God's enduring love and presence.

What gift of faith given to you by God and your mentors do you most value?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stop Judging

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?" Mt 7: 1-2

Although Pope Francis shocked many a couple of years ago when he insisted that he would not judge homosexual persons, it is his ongoing pastoral example that calls believers everywhere not only not to judge others, but to look rather at their strengths and virtues. When writing his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father further challenged us to revisit our priorities personally and communally,
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.(1)
It should be clear that when the Holy Father encourages us to "hit the streets", he is also reminding us that people who are engaged in trying to help others and proclaim the Gospel have little time to judge others. They are too busy being Good News.

Today, if you are tempted to judge someone, praise them instead.

Do you know people like Pope Francis who refuse to judge others?