Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Living with Failure

“A sower went out to sow...Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots." Mt 13: 3-4

There is rocky ground in all our lives, and while we have to acknowledge it and accept it, we should not obsess about it. Whether our early years were difficult and confusing, or your marriage was sour almost from the beginning, we need to find a way not to let our dark days dissuade us from living with joy and hope. Our parents or our partners may have disappointed us, but God cannot abandon us, and faith demands that we ask God to be the ground of our lives. Only then can we be sure that no matter how rocky life is or might become, God's love will sustain us.

Whether St Francis of Assisi ever reconciled with his father is not known. That we don't know about this suggests that Francis' choice to live simply and reject the values and wealth of his family was a death blow to the support he hoped for and which most of us yearn for from our families. While Francis was remarkably successful helping warring towns reconcile, it must have hurt him deeply that he failed to convince his father that his choice of radical poverty was of God. 

Letting God find the good ground in our lives and asking for the grace to let go of our failures is an important step on our spiritual journeys. If we worry too much about the rocky ground, we will miss the good God is already doing within and through us.

Today, be grateful for the God has done in you. Let go of failure.

How has God surprised you on your pilgrim journey?

Friday, July 14, 2017

St Bonaventure

"Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Mt 10:37

Sometimes, the Gospel is very simple. Feed the hungry. Give a drop of water to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. At other times, the discernment we need to make about how to live the Gospel in the spirit in which it was written, it is not so easy.

St Bonaventure, who some call the second founder of the Franciscan movement, knew this struggle well. Charged with settling the differences between and among Francis' followers especially with regard to their vow of poverty, Bonaventure succeeded where others failed. A theologian, Bonaventure employed Greek philosophy together with the Gospel to intellectually ground the pursuit of God without pretending one could ever fully understand God and God's ways. This wisdom allowed him to bring his great learning to the struggles of the early Franciscans.  Alwasy seeing  the middle way, a path that honored everyone on it, Bonaventure proved to be an inspired leader and healer. Minister General of the friars for seventeen years, he led the Franciscan community to a place of honor and humility by his willingness to stand at the center of every controversy as an agent of peace and good. In a society like the United Statees that is so divided, we are challenged to do the same.

Today, seek peace with someone with whom you disagree.

What most inspires you about St Francis and the Franciscans?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

St Kateri Tekewitha

"As soon as Joseph saw his father, he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arm" Gen 46:29

Most of us have done our share of sobbing. When a beloved parent or spouse dies, when a friend moves or turns away from us, when our government or church fails miserably at protecting the most vulnerable, we find ourselves weeping in sadness and fear. Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob sobs so loudly when he encounter his brothers who sold him into slavery, that everyone hears him, even Pharaoh.

Sadness is a necessary part of all our lives. Only the loss of something or someone precious allows us to know how blessed our lives are, and how important it is to treasure what we have when we have it. Too often we take for granted our health, our wealth, our family, our faith and our friends, failing to take time each day to be grateful for the simplest but most important aspects of life and faith.

Sadness can also be deceiving. As Longfellow reminds us, we can sometimes think of people as cold when they are only carrying secret sadness, and while we might be tempted to avoid them, they are friends in need of compassion. Joseph could have punished his brothers, but his heart, so full of sadness for so long, was also filled with understanding and tenderness.

Today, don't run away from sadness. Transform it into compassion.

How does faith help us understand and accept sadness?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Proclaiming the Good News

"As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you." Mt 10 12-13

Letting go of our work and its success or failure is never easy, but the gospel is clear. It is our obligation to preach the Good News in word and deed and leave the results to God. Gospel spirituality is demanding. Called to be pilgrims going from place to place and taking nothing for the journey, we strive to live and speak the Gospel in such a way that God's direction can be clearly seen and experienced by those to whom we are sent.  

Demanding a radical humility, a total putting aside of everything that is not of God, we need always to remember that the Gospel is God's good news, not ours. Our task, like John the Baptist's, is to clear the ground before the Lord and make his path straight. Everything else is superfluous. 

This is not to say that we cannot be good instruments in God's orchestra. Each of us is gifted and our talents are the means God uses to invite people to know and love the Lord. Our insights, compassion, and thirst of justice can be wonderful signs of God's love for the world, but unless they always point towards the Lord, they can get in the way of God's glory. 

Today, let God's light shine and get out of the way.

What blocks you from being Good News?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Knowing your Audience

“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Mt 10:6

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music they enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

A

Monday, July 10, 2017

St Benedict, Abbot

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

St Benedict, who is widely credited with founding the monastic movement in the Christian West, is a fascinating character. Like John the Baptist and so many others who found greed and all kinds of vice in their societies, Benedict felt like a sheep in the midst of wolves. Knowing he could not live the Gospel in a society that was so lost, he fled to a cave near Mt Subiaco to pray and to grow closer to God, but after three years, when a group of monks asked him to lead them, he left his cave only to be undermined by the monks themselves who objected to his strict rule of life and leadership style.

Soon after returning to the caves, other monks, who were more open to disciplining their lives, came to Benedict for guidance and before long there were so many that Benedict organized them into groups of twelve and wrote his now famous Rule of Life. Emphasizing work and prayer, Benedict's simple directives continue to guide men and women monks and nuns around the world, and can help everyone who is willing to allow the Spirit to direct their lives.

Today, examine your conscience in order to evaluate your lifestyle.

Have you ever been challenged to be as shrewd as a serpent but as simple as a dove?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Holy Places

“Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!” Gen 28:16

Two things strike the reader of Genesis. Jacob's dream allows him to see God in places he did not expect. More important, the text implies that we often forget that God is everywhere and fail to see God or notice God's passing by or presence. There are any number of reasons for this. Sometimes we are so caught up with our own concerns that we fail to see anyone or anything else. We can rush past a needy person, not because we do want to help or don't have the means, but because we don't even see them. At other times, we are satisfied with the God we have and fail to look further.

There are holy places in all our lives which really challenge us to recognize that we can find God everywhere if only we slow down, pay attention, and attend to those directly in front of us. Every day there are opportunities to be amazed by God. We have only to notice and respond.

Today, make holy a place in your own home by noticing how God is present there.

Where do you most often find God?