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Saturday, August 19, 2017

God's Inclusive House

"For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Is 56:7) 

The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of hope for all peoples. Though we sometimes worry and fret about the state of the church, especially in a culture that more and more resists organized religion for a more generic spirituality, we should never let ourselves forget that the new covenant in Jesus Christ is the gift of a God who includes all people in his love. 

Again and again in the New Testament we hear this. John tells us that Jesus Christ will "draw all people" to himself, (Jn. 12:32) and Paul reminds us that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) Remarkably, Isaiah echoes what we think are inclusive terms found only in the New Testament. "For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Is 56:7) A simple way to express this conviction is to let the joy we feel shine like a soft light in our personal and family lives, and spread through acts of compassionate justice into the lives of those who are empty of hope.


Today, take some time to pray that the Good News of Jesus will seep, like water enlivening the roots of the tallest trees, into the hearts and lives of all people.

How can you live so that all know God's house is a gift and invitation for everyone?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Teaching Children

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them." Mt 19:13

Unfortunately, for priests and religious these days, this passage has an edge of fear to it. Most of us who minister full time are anxious around children and are very cautious in our relationships with them. How awful!  Jesus wants us to see in children an example who we must become, not a group of people we should avoid. With that said, the passage remains very powerful.

Jesus holds up a child's innocence as an example of what his disciples need to become. Open spirited, engaged, naturally contemplative and without guile, children, who had no voice or rights at the time of Jesus, teach us how God wants us to go about in the world. The Good News is a new way of living, not a set of rules we have to obey.

Jesus asks us to hold onto the freshness and vitality of children as a way to proclaim the depth of God's love. Believing in a God who is always with us must change everything about us if it is to have an effect in the world. Unless people can find in us a zest for life and a commitment to all people, especially those without a voice, our witness will be empty. Like children, we continue to live with joy because of what God has done for and among us.

Today, let your imagination, like a child playing a game, roam with delight.



What about children most speaks to you of the Gospel?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Divorce

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Mt 19:3

Divorce is always difficult and painful, but sometimes it is necessary. When there is physical or emotional abuse, the spouse being abused has little choice. The Gospel never demands that a person submit to abuse for the sake of any relationship, and while many married people struggle to stay in relationships that are empty, there are times when a spouse must leave a marriage.

That being said, the gospel is clear that divorce should be a last resort, and that all of us need to address our hard hearts. It is not only the married, but clergy and religious, too, who too often take life for granted, think too much about what is not working in their lives and become hyper critical of the people with whom they live. Jesus had it right. When our hearts get hard, we can justify anything we do and demonize others. Finding scapegoats rather than looking at ourselves is convenient but robs us of the opportunity for growth as persons and Christians committed by vow to a particular way of life.

Jesus wants the married to succeed, to be faithful, to forgive, forget and work through their difficulties. When marriage or religious life becomes something we can abandon or easily put aside when it hurts to take the next step, we deny God's power to heal and to shine a light on the dark path that we all must sometimes take. Learning from those who accept life as it unfolds because of their faith is a gift we should all treasure.

Today, recommit yourself to your baptismal vows, and pray for those struggling in marriage.

Whose commitment to marriage most enhanced your faith?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Limitless Forgiveness

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full."

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Importance of Gathering

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Mt 18:20

There was an important, and in some circles, still controversial document that emerged from  the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1979. Entitled Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, and never formally approved by the entire assembly of bishops, it became enormously important for the principles it used to guide architects and liturgical theologians in redesigning Catholic churches after the Second Vatican Council.

One principle especially was very important to me personally. Architects, it suggested, must never forget that when we gather for worship nothing is more important than the assembly of believers. Therefore, they should make sure there was a place, whenever possible, for people to gather in faith in preparation for the Eucharist.  This principle resulted in many churches in the United States having large vestibules, sometimes called narthexes or foyers, and served to remind us that when we come together in faith, bringing with us all that has happened to us personally and communally during the previous week, we proclaim that Christ is always among us, always empowering us. 

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” changes everything. God is with us, not only in the person of the priest, in the word and in the breaking of the bread, but when we gather in faith to celebrate Christ among us.

Take a moment today to thank God for the gift of soul friends who walk with you in faith.

How important is the assembly of believers to you when you gather for the Eucharist?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Assumption of Mary

"Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." Mt 1:39

Although Mary is pictured in art and literature in a wide variety of roles, not the least of which would be the Annunciation and Calvary, I prefer to think of her as "on the road," a pilgrim and a disciple, reaching out for those most in need. If I could paint, I would show her, newly pregnant, starting off to visit Elizabeth. It is Mary's willingness to step out of what she knew and was comfortable with that makes her the saint we must imitate.

We celebrate the feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven, not simply because Mary is the mother of Jesus, but because she was his disciple as well. Mary followed Jesus' example by witnessing to the change that she experienced when she said yes to be the Mother of the Messiah. The 13th century Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart says it beautifully.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” Meister Eckhart 1260-1328
 Today, be a mother to someone who seems lost.

What faith experiences have you had that called you to change your life?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

St Maximilian Kolbe

"Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." Mt 18:29

St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, was drawn to a military life as a boy, but soon after entering the seminary he realized that the fight God wanted him to enter was a spiritual one. Although he imagined his life as a "long war", he focused not on the failures of those to whom he was preaching, but on their strengths, and it was this strategy that fostered his work of evangelizing Western Europe and Japan.

Maximilian never forget that it is impossible to pay back God, and this knowledge drove him to pour out his life in gratitude for all God had given him. The gift of life and the gift of faith are pure gifts, not something we earn or deserve. God chooses to give us life and sustain us in it because of God's goodness, not our worth. More important, we cannot earn salvation. God wants us to be with him forever. It is as simple as that. Like a parent, God desires only good for his children and wants them to live in peace forever.

Today,  be as patient with yourself as God is with you.

How would you counsel others to live patiently?