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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mustard Seeds

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches." Mt 13 31-32

Faith is a strange and wonderful gift. While many of us spend our lives teaching about it, faith's mystery always remains. Faith can never be quantified or measured, only treasured. In his classic work, The Mind’s Journey to God, the Seraphic Doctor, St Bonaventure insists that while it is possible to uncover the “traces” of God’s work in creation using observation, logic, and reflection, eventually we must submit ourselves to the mercy of God who leads us beyond logic into the heart of the mystery itself.

How important it is to remember that only when we let go of our own powers of reason can God open us to the wonders of the gift that God gives freely, completely and gratuitously. Like a mustard seed, which takes root and grows in God's time, faith challenges us to trust that even when we do not feel its power, it is will blossom and bear fruit in ways that honor the God who gives it freely and generously.

Today, let faith grow in you like a mustard seed.

Have you ever been surprised by the power of your faith?

Friday, July 21, 2017

St Mary Magdalene

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni,' which means Teacher." Jn 20:16

Neither the disciples on the road to Emmaus, nor Mary Magdalene, recognized Jesus immediately after the resurrection. Why this was is not clear. The disciples may have been too angry or hurt by Jesus' death, and Mary's grief may have blinded her. Only after the Lord calls her by name does Mary recognize him.

Most of us have experienced this in everyday life. If we are waiting for someone at an airport or bus station and they don't appear with the other arriving travelers, we find ourselves wondering whether we missed the person for whom we are waiting or whether they are on a different flight. We scan the crowds, ask others if they were on the same flight for bus, and sometimes check to see if they are at other exits. Only when the person calls our name or we see them sitting in a corner of the station do we realize that our anxiety blinded us to the obvious.

It is clear that the gospels want to teach us about the resurrected Jesus through signs and sounds. We have only to quiet ourselves and pay attention to see the risen Jesus among us. Every time we gather for the Eucharist the Lord is among us in the breaking of the bread. Every time we pause to listen to him in prayer, he lives within us. When we open our hearts to hear the word as a call to change, we encounter the Christ who is always active, but when are hearts are troubled or distracted by large or small concerns, we miss the presence of the One who is always looking for us.

Today, remember the times the Lord called you by name.

What concerns most often blind you to the presence of God in the world?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Living the Sabbath

"The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Lk 6:5

Sabbath and Sabbath law is complex, confusing, impossible and important. Unfortunately, in Jesus' day those who interpreted Sabbath observance lost sight of the purpose of Sabbath and attached so many proscriptions to it that the average person could never hope to know or observe them all.

The poor knew they could glean corn and other produce after the owners or tenant farmers had picked the field clean, and could do this on the Sabbath because gleaning was not considered work by most rabbis. The Pharisees, however, said that rubbing the grains of corn off the cob was a form of harvesting and preparing a meal, and this was forbidden on the Sabbath.

In truth, there were many rabbis who would have suggested that the poor be encouraged to glean on the Sabbath since doing deeds of mercy was not only permitted but required. Because Jesus knew this, he reminded his listeners that David took the bread of offering and gave it to his companions as an act of mercy.

Sabbath observances and rest have a very distinct purpose. Because we so often forget who we are and how much God loves us, we need to stop every seven days and remember the mercy of God. If God's mercy does not encourage us to act like God, especially on behalf of the poor, then the purpose of the Sabbath is lost, and we would be better off not observing it at all.

Today, look at the people around you, not with the eyes of the law, but with eyes of mercy.

Do you take Sabbath rest seriously?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

God's Yoke

"My yoke is easy, my burden light." Mt 11:30

All of us have people in our lives who get under our skin.  Almost anything they say makes us defensive and resistive. Though we cannot easily articulate what it is that disturbs us about the other person, it is very real and disabling. Often enough the person who annoys us at every turn is a mirror image of ourselves. If we find ourselves talking too much and not listening carefully enough to others, we resent it when others prattle on and seem not to hear the opinions of others.

On the other hand, it is good to remember that our personality gets under the skin of others. Self reflection can be humbling, but it can also take the edge off our annoyance and calm our spirits. More important, it can be the first step in recognizing and accepting the call to conversion and transformation.

Jesus has a ready answer when we allow our own faults or the foibles of others to bother us unnecessarily. Come to me, he insists, don't be afraid. I will be your guide and protection; I will make your burdens much lighter but you must let me help. Stop trying to figure out what it is about yourself or others that bothers you. It is a waste of time and fruitless. Place my yoke around your shoulders and walk the path to which I direct you. In me, everything is possible.

Today, pray for someone who annoys you.

What is the heaviest burden the Gospel asks you to carry?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Burning Bushes

"An angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush." Ex 3:2

All of us have experienced times and people about whom we feel compelled to speak. When Moses saw a burning bush, approached it and learned that God wanted to speak to him, he had to tell other about his experience. Elijah hears God, not in a strong wind or an earthquake, but in a tiny whisper, and realizes in the middle of his fear, that God is calling him. He cannot resist. Again, when Isaiah, hearing God wonder who to send, responds: Here I am, send me!

The great figures of the Hebrew bible announce God's presence and love whenever they encounter it, and so does Jesus. Not only does the Lord speak of God, he is God's Word enfleshed, the one about whom we cannot be silent, and this is the essence of the 4th chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John become models for all the apostles and disciples. No longer does it matter that they abandoned Jesus in his greatest need. Forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they become, despite great personal danger, proclaimers of the Word.

Today, let your joy speak to others of God's presence within you and among us.

What experiences of God have you had about which you cannot be silent?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Being Grateful in the Midst of Struggle

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Mt 11:21

The name Francis is often in the news these days. Pope Francis has made it so. Humble, honest, and unafraid to speak his mind, our Pope has captivated the imagination of many around the world and has consistently employed his new prominence to speak out on behalf the voiceless. Calling the church to return to its foundations, Pope Francis is living up to his name. When asked why he chose the name Francis, he was clear, “The poor, the poor. When he (Cardinal Hummes of Brazil) spoke about the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi,” said the pope, who took the name of Francis, “Then, I thought of the wars.”

St Francis of Assisi, the Pope's new model, not only thought about the poor, he became poor and allowed God to turn his life upside down. Like the 3rd century martyr, St Maximilian, who said "I am a solder of Christ, I cannot fight," Francis fought not for dominance over his neighbors but for Gospel purity. Wanting to live so poorly that he and his brothers would have nothing to defend, he directed the friars to own nothing, eventually convincing the Roman hierarchy to approve their way of life. Francis' example continues to inspire thousands of women and men today.

Today, live simply so that others can live.

What should be our response to the poor?


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Faith's Demands

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword." Mt 10:34

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

The gospel does not permit easy answers, but insists that we search beyond selfishness to see the needy with God's eyes and remember that it was the poor who first listened to him because they were desperate for hope. Only when we acknowledge our own weaknesses can we look at others with compassion and understanding.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?