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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reconciliation

"But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed." Ex 18:26

The healing of broken relationships in families, parishes and religious communities is one of the most important tasks each of us faces. Every society and every church knows the devastating effects of separations that hurt not only those directly involved, but everyone touched by those who are at odds.

In Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs, the fourth and fifth steps which encourage addicts to search their hearts and admit their wrongs to God, themselves and another person are essential for sobriety and a renewed life. When these steps are not taken, everyone suffers, sometimes to death, and while making amends (Step 8) is not always successful, it is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to begin a new life each day.

Ezekiel makes this very plain. When we turn back to God and to those we have harmed by our wickedness, life in God will be renewed and hope restored.

Today, acknowledge your faults.

How do you seek reconciliation in your life?

Friday, September 29, 2017

St Jerome, Doctor of the Church

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St. Jerome

St Jerome is one of the most important scripture scholars in the history of the church. His translation of the bible into Latin, completed in the 4th century, was the basis of every translation into modern languages until the middle of the 20th century. His brilliance and discipline were such that he was able to produce not only a translation of the bible that continues to be a resource for contemporary students of scripture, he also wrote dozens of commentaries on the bible, and more than a hundred letters.

This being said, Jerome was a volatile, tempestuous and driven man. Reading a few of his letters makes you glad you were not in his sights. Jerome lived at a time and in a church that badly needed reform and his answer was a rigid asceticism. In what many consider his most famous letter, he warns St. Eustochium about every possible threat to her virginity while also acknowledging that even when he went to the desert to escape the insanity of the Rome of his day, he was tormented by fantasies of Roman dancing girls.

Jerome because is a powerful example of how God works with us as we are and uses even our faults for the good of others. Jerome’s life reminds us that when we submit ourselves to God, great things happen, and that God and history remember all the good Jerome did and underplay his shortcomings. What a wonderful lesson for us.

Today, ask for forgiveness of your sins, but don’t forget to be grateful for the gifts God has given you.

Have you experienced God dismissing your faults but using your strengths?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sts Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

"War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail." Rev 12 7-8

Although it is easy to forget it in our information saturated culture, messengers are important. In many parts of the world, there are women and men who write letters for those in their families or villages who are illiterate, and many of them try not just to communicate a message in a literal way, but seek to put tone and feeling into their writing. In more recent times, messengers carry important letters from business to business to make sure the letter arrives safely and without delay.

In the ancient world, angels were messengers. Their primary task was to speak on behalf of God to people God wanted to address directly. Gabriel comes to Mary asking her to be the mother of God's son and Michael reminds the church that God will always guard us, and Raphael assures us that God will be our guide.

All of us are called to be angels to one another. Not only are we challenged to speak the Good News to others, we must be the Good News, and this happens every time we let the word of God live in and through us. While this is always simple, it is never easy, but everything is possible when we trust in God.

Today, be an angel to someone starving for a word of comfort.

Who has been an angel of God to you?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fear and Doubt

"Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, 'John has been raised from the dead.' " Lk 9:7

Fear and doubt are ordinary and necessary experiences in life, especially for people of faith. Only those who refuse to think about the mysteries of faith, or live in denial about the struggles with which faith presents us believe they will never be afraid or have doubts.  From St Thomas, the Apostle, to Blessed Mother Teresa, the great figures in our faith tradition had doubts with which they had to struggle continually.

In the Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day, in describing the struggles of her baptism in the Catholic church, says it this way:
One part of my mind stood at one side and kept saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure of yourself? What kind of an affectation is this? What act is this you are going through? Are you trying to induce emotion, bring about faith, partake of the opiate of the people?’ I felt like a hypocrite if I got down on my knees, and shuddered at the thought of anyone seeing me…
Today, ask not to be afraid of your doubts. God can lead you through them into new hope.

What are your biggest faith struggles?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

St Vincent de Paul

"It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them." St Vincent de Paul (1)

St Vincent de Paul has always been one of my favorite saints. His words are clear, direct and uncompromising. Two of his more noteworthy sayings are: “Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?” And, "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."

But no saying of Vincent has impacted me more than his demand that we love the poor, not just feed them. In truth, one can only know the power of this directive by experiencing it. Of all the ministries to which I have been called, it is my encounters with the poor that have been most life changing.

“Charlie”, a fellow I came to know at the Shattuck Hospital in Boston,  loved the men and women with whom he spent his final days and his last effort was to agitate the administration of the hospital to put a handicapped ramp to the smoking gazebo outside the hospital, the only place where patients were allowed to smoke. Although not a smoker himself, Charlie realized that most of the disabled at the Shattuck had very few pleasures of any kind, and because he loved them he wanted them to have access to the place where others socialized and enjoyed themselves. Though St Vincent de Paul may have preferred that "Charlie" advocate for something other than smoking privileges, I am sure he would have been proud of him.

Today, ask God for the grace of merciful eyes and a forgiving heart.

How do you think you can love and serve the poor?

Monday, September 25, 2017

We are the family of Jesus

"My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." Lk 8:21

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Being a Light for Others

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” (Lk 8:16)

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?