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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Healing Relationships

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you." Mt 18:15

Sometimes the Gospel offers us very practical advice. In Matthew's Gospel, the evangelist reminds his readers that Jesus wanted us to heal broken relationships without resorting to public accusations or allegations especially of a personal kind. When we attack one another and try to make it appear that we not assaulting the person, but the person's ideas, we sin and this offense must be addressed, but quietly.

Conversations about difficult matters should always begin in private. In this way, we can be sure that we are honestly seeking to have an authentic relationship with our conversation partners and not simply trying to be right and win an argument. If convincing someone that their opinion is unfounded is more important than hearing them with an open spirit, we are not living the Gospel.

The book of Proverbs reminds us: "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs," (10:12) and it is the loving person who remembers to seek out those with whom they struggle in order to seek a path of healing.

Today, listen to someone with whom you disagree twice as long as normally would.

Have you been successful in healing a relationship by speaking with the other in private?


Friday, September 8, 2017

St Peter Claver

"We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips." St. Peter Claver

The feast of St. Peter Claver is one I always enjoy celebrating, first because Fr. Peter Claver Eich was my vocation director.  That Fr. Peter Claver was also a great athlete did not hurt his invitation to me to consider becoming a Capuchin.  But even more important, St Peter Claver attracted me because of his heroic life and the service he offered to slaves in what today is Cartegena, Columbia. Leaving his home in Spain, never to return, St Peter Claver's bold spirit captured my youthful imagination and spoke to me of possibilities that I did not want to consider.  After all, I fancied myself as an athlete, and in the words of an early basketball coach, would someday “make a difference at center court.”  Never mind that I was 5’ 9” and slow.  I understood basketball from the inside and dreamed of playing professionally.

The story of St. Peter Claver’s life made me reconsider my priorities and forced me to think beyond sports to a world of religious heroism.  Here was a man who spent almost forty years on the docks of Cartagena waiting to care for slaves who had been so badly treated on their journey from Africa that one third of them died in transit.  As soon as the slaves landed, Peter would rush to them with medicine, food and (dare I say it) tobacco.  As he himself said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."(1)

What a powerful sentiment!  That we must speak to people with our hands before we announce the gospel to them remains powerful advice.

Today, offer someone a helping hand.

Whose physical love and compassion moved you to be more response to others?


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nativity of Mary

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Mt 1:23

Birthday's are festive times, and although Mary probably didn't celebrate hers like 21st century Americans, we ought to celebrate it with real joy. Mary is the one who’s "yes" to the angel and God made possible the entrance of Jesus into history and her birthday might be a time for us to light a few candles to remember her life and her sorrows.

There are few saints who teach us more about accepting and celebrating life as it unfolds than Mary. Apparently content with her life, especially after she was promised in marriage to Joseph, her life turned upside down when she was still a young girl. A visit from an angel invited her to know God in a more intimate way than anyone before her, but this knowledge came at a great price. She would be talked about and ridiculed, forced to flee her country and family, and when she was free to return to Palestine after Herod's death, she would be faced with the awful burden of watching her son suffer and die as a common criminal.

No wonder we want to celebrate her birthday. Mary's nativity invites us to trust that even that which appears and feels like an overwhelming sorrow, will be transformed by God into hope for all peoples and all nations. Happy birthday, Mary. Thank you for showing us the path to hope in darkness.

Today, ask God for the grace to embrace whatever comes your way.

What it is about Mary that most moves you to say yes to God's path for you?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Loving God more Deeply

" Jesus said: 'Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.'"

Often, when I was involved in community organizing, we would say that we had a broad influence in the community and had developed leaders in many churches and congregations, but we did not have sufficient depth. In other words, we could have influence in a particular issue but probably did not have the kind of power that would last. Those with power were not likely to ask our opinion or be concerned with our position. They would not have to worry about us unless we put down deeper roots and became a more integral part of the community’s consciousness.

Jesus seems to be suggesting the same to his disciples. Because God’s love is deep, not just broad, we need to go into "deeper waters." God does not just love us as his children, but as Bernard Lonergan, the great Canadian theologian reminds us, God is in love with us. God’s love is active, powerful and transforming. God’s love is total, complete, everlasting and gratuitous. We cannot earn God’s love. God is in love with us as we are and calls us to love others as he loves us. Being in love with someone means that you have not settled for a good companion in life but are seeking to make the love you experience the foundation of everything you are and do.

Today, love someone more deeply than you loved them yesterday.

Who changed your life by loving you more deeply?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Simon's Mother in Law

"Simon's mother in law got up immediately and began waiting on them."

Many years ago on a trip to Honduras I had the privilege of visiting the Mesa Grande refugee camp where more than 30,000 Salvadorans were encamped. Despite being in a virtual prison the people were filled with joy as they built a community of faith and solidarity which sustained them as the waited to go "home."

One refugee story, told to me by priest friend who was ministering there, remains in my heart. Even though they were in grave danger, one community that he accompanied back to Salvador had taken the time to bury their church bell before fleeing, promising to ring it again when they returned from exile. Imagine their joy, he said, as they watched men from their village exit the buses, dig up the bell, hoist it to the tower and ring it in order to call everyone to a homecoming Eucharist.

How like Simon's mother in law! Cured, home again, she gets up and waits on others.

Today, pray in solidarity with the 40 million refugees in the world, more than 10 million of whom are hungry, sick and exposed to the elements.

What does "home" mean to you? How do you pass on your values to your children?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Learning from Everyone

"Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority." Lk 4:31

While very few would suggest that education is unimportant, it can be overrated. My own parents were bright and wise people who had little formal education, yet they were respected in my neighborhood. They worked hard, had a deep faith and understood life from the inside. Though they were rarely asked their opinion, they knew what they knew and were not afraid to ask for help. Like Jesus, when they spoke, they spoke with authority.

Jesus did not seem to worry much about the education of the the men he called to be his apostles, but the leaders of the Jewish people seemed to think this was a soft spot in the life of the new community. Anxious to stop Jesus' disciples from speaking about their Lord, they called them in and threatened them, only to have Peter and John insist that they had no choice but to speak of Jesus. Clearly, Peter and John were not worried about their lack of education and were not intimidated by threats from the Jewish leaders.

It is always good to take a few moments and ask ourselves to whom we are most likely to listen. Do the highly educated intimidate us into silence about important matters? Are we unwilling to speak of our faith to people of power and prestige in the community?

Today, take time to listen to someone you might otherwise ignore.

What most impresses you about the faith you witness everyday?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Perfectionism

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." Lk 4:18

Like most Catholics born in the middle of the last century, I was schooled to believe that the best way to live a devout life was to get to mass as frequently as possible, and to confession every week. These religious practices, good in themselves, often led people of my generation to worry about trivial matters in a way that was out of proportion to the faults themselves. Worse, we often struggled every day to be better, not so much to honor God, but to "earn" our salvation. Unfortunately, while we became good practicing Catholics, our call to discipleship often got lost in the shadows of our compulsions. When the focus of the spiritual life becomes our personal holiness, union with God often takes a back seat.

Today's gospel reminds us that Jesus had a different perspective. God is not someone hovering over us, counting our sins, but a healer who wants to lay hands of hope on the blind and draw ever closer to the oppressed. When we accept the help of the divine physician everything changes. Facing our weakness and acknowledging our poverty allows us not to obsess about our faults like we once did, but to celebrate God's tender mercy. More important, admitting our sins each day reminds us to be humble and non judgmental, and to look at every person with God's compassionate eyes.

Today, accept your need for God and glory in God's desire to be with you in your poverty.

Do you obsess about being perfect? What has this to do with the Gospel?