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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Get Behind me Satan

"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."


Peter is one of my favorite gospel figures.  Anxious to help, sure of himself and committed to following the Lord, his impulsiveness often gets the best of him. On one occasion, he quickly answers Jesus' inquiry: Who do you say that  am?  The Christ, Peter says, the Messiah.  Unfortunately, while Peter's answer is correct, his understanding is lacking.  He wants Jesus to be a kind of military leader who drives the Romans out of Jerusalem and reclaims the Holy City for the chosen people.  More, if Jesus is an earthly king, he probably thinks that his own position as a disciple will afford him enhanced status among his peers.  


In today's gospel, Peter stands up again for the Lord as a defender and protector, but this time the Lord’s response is harsh.  “Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle to me.”  Although I have often prayed not to be an obstacle for others, especially to their faith life and journey,  I know that my quick tongue and harsh judgments have often hurt others.

That is why I think it is so very important to develop simple practices to accept our faults and address our  anxieties. Rather than strike out verbally, we need to work for reconciliation and healing.  My parents suggested a way to do this when  they told me never to make important decisions quickly, to sleep on them and if possible to wait a week or more before acting. Later, a 12 step friend told me: Things that are are urgent are rarely important, and things that are important are rarely urgent. Had I listened more closely to my parents and friend, I might have saved myself and others unnecessary hurt.


Today, try reading the scriptures not for insight but for transformation.  

What practices most root you in faith?


Friday, September 1, 2017

Using our Talents

"To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability." Mt 25:15

That everyone has a talent is probably self evident to most of us, and oftentimes we are very grateful for the talents of a friend who can tweak a computer, fix a faucet or sit with us when we are lost.  While the talent might not seem very important to them, when we are in need, the talents of generous friends are precious gifts.

What is not self evident, however, is that our talents, in a gospel context, are not for ourselves.  Each of us has been gifted by God for the sake of others.  We are part of a community, we are the body of Christ, and as a community of faith we can only be ourselves and function well when all the parts are playing their proper role.  We do not need a hand to be a foot, or an ear to be a mouth.  We need each part of the body to be itself for the good of the whole.

Today, rejoice in your talent and share it with whomever needs it.

To whom are you most grateful for sharing their time and talents with you?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fools for Christ

"Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." Mt 25:8

The unprepared virgins whose oil has run out are labelled foolish, a word that can be confusing in the New Testament. Paul wants to be seen as a fool for Christ and encourages his companions to be the same. Anxious to be dismissed for the sake of the Gospel, Paul stands out among his contemporaries as a man willing to be ridiculed for the right reason.

The virgins in the Gospel, however, are not seeking attention but only hoping to avoid embarrassment and shame. They knew that bridegrooms, feted and praised in the week before their weddings, would linger long into the night at parties in their honor. Their foolishness was not a sign of their fidelity to a cause or person, but a sign of laziness or sloth. They could have prepared themselves for a long night, but did not, and now risk the harsh judgement of their peers.

Each day we are faced with the challenge of discerning how best to announce the Good News. Some days our silence and willingness to listen to others' complaints or problems is a Gospel stance. At other times, we need to search for a way to express our upset, confusion and anger at the lack of justice too many face when they have little money or power in the society. Speaking up on behalf of the poor can be a prophetic action on our part, especially when others are disparaging the poor as lazy or indolent. Authentic Christians know that to be a fool for the sake of the Gospel is a gift.

Today, be foolish in your love for God.

What most frightens you about being considered a fool for Christ?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Being Prepared

"You also must be prepared." Mt 24:44

Due diligence is an important quality in life. We ought to be prepared for whatever it is God wants of us. Preachers, for instance, should not presume or take advantage of God's promise to give us the words we need to confound our enemies or those who think differently than us about God or faith without adequate preparation. Reading, reflection and meditation on God's word are essential for anyone commissioned to proclaim God's word.

Everyday Christians, all of whom have a vocation or a call from God to live and speak Good News, must also prepare themselves by a faith filled life that values personal and communal prayer, spiritual reading, especially of the Bible, and good works of charity and justice. Pope St Clement says it this way, "There are many gates that stand open, but the gate of justice is the gateway of Christ."

Today, make a choice to live more simply for others.

How do you prepare your heart for the struggles that come with living your faith?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Facing our Resistance

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence."

It must have been shocking and upsetting for the Pharisees and scribes to hear Jesus assert that only that which comes from within defiles a person. In fact, it is difficult for most of us to hear the great challenge of Jesus to put aside our desire to control ourselves and others with a rigid interpretation of the law. Jesus insists that salvation is not about discipline alone, but about asking God to cleanse our hearts of jealousy, resentment and suspicion of others.

More important still is whether we are willing to help others worry less about how they appear and more about the integrity of their faith lives. St Jerome says it well, "I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord."(St Jerome on Joel)

Most believers know the truth of the gospel from the "inside." They realize that what appears to be a faith filled life is empty unless it reflects an interior commitment to live without guile. When each of us admits that a life of ritual rigidity and lawful integrity is hardly good news, we will begin to announce the gospel as Jesus did.

Today, don't be afraid of an honest self examination.

How do you resist an unhealthy dependence on the law as a substitute for gospel living?

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Passion of John the Baptist

"He went off and beheaded John in the prison." Mk 6:27

Readers of John's gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

St Augustine

"You have searched me and you know me, Lord." (Ps 139)

Augustine of Hippo wrestled with God for years. Resistant to anything or anyone who couldn't help him understand life as he experienced it, his life turned around when he met St Ambrose in Milan. A seminal thinker and writer, Ambrose got Augustine's attention through kindness and helped open his mind and heart to the Gospel by his brilliant preaching, but it was the voice of a child telling him to "take and read" that moved Augustine to read the thirteenth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Hearing Paul tell his readers that the night was over and it was time to live decently moved Augustine towards baptism.

Best known for his Confessions, a work which the saint thought should be read aloud, Augustine remains one of the most controversial figures in the Christian West as well as one of its most accessible writers. St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, John Calvin and almost every theologian of note, relied heavily on Augustine in their theological and pastoral writings, but some of Augustine's writings, especially about the Jews and original sin, continue to trouble contemporary readers. Nonetheless, Augustine remains a figure of immense importance whose writing continues to inspire believers everywhere.

Writing about love, Augustine asks: "What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."(Augustine) For Augustine, love is a verb not a noun. It is something that we must act upon and share. More important, it is not always something we feel but something we decide to live and involves all the senses. We must love what we see and hear and walk towards those most in need.

Today, live your faith by keeping your eyes and ears open to all.

What keeps you from acting upon the Gospel everyday?