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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Refugees

"You were once aliens yourselves." Ex 22:20

Widows, orphans and aliens have always been important in the scriptures. God demands that his chosen people care for the most vulnerable so that the poor can take their proper place in the society. God is not asking us to create what some contemporary writers call a welfare society, but a church and world in which all people, especially those who can easily be forgotten, have a voice in determining their own future. The American Bishops say it this way:
The primary purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good. The "option for the poor," therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. (Economic Justice)
Not much has changed in today's world or in our country. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, responding to the Trump administration's threat to repeal DACA, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) wrote, “It would be a tragedy to cancel DACA and declare these 800,000 young people ‘illegal’ and begin deporting them...They did not make the decision to enter this country in violation of our laws, and in fairness, we cannot hold them accountable. America is the only country they know, and the vast majority are working hard to make their own contribution to the American dream.” We can never ignore the voice of the poor.

Today, pray for migrants everywhere.

What do you think our church should do to aid refugees around the world?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sts Simon and Jude

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God." Eph 2:19

It is always difficult to write about the apostles. In Luke's gospel, Jesus gathers his disciples and, seemingly in a random manner, chooses 12 of them as apostles. Though we know nothing of Jesus' criteria when selecting his closest associates, we can assume, since all of them died tragically and violently, that he saw something in these men that suggested they would be faithful and straightforward, which is always the bottom line in the Christian life. 

No matter what rank or office we hold in the church, life in Christ always comes back to Baptism. When the church lays hands on our heads, anoints us as priest, prophet and king, plunges us into the waters to die so as to live in Christ, and challenges us to be a light in the world, we receive the same gifts and difficult tasks the apostles received directly from Jesus, and like them our only responsibility is to share our new power and hope with those to whom we are sent.

Very few of us will have our names inscribed on churches or memorials around the world, but all of us do have a role in the church every bit as significant as the one to which the apostles were called. We must live simply and honestly in Christ as a sign of the Spirit's presence in the world and serve, like Jesus, those most in need. When we accept this challenge, our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister change because of the power of Christ working in and through us.

Today, be an apostle. Announce the Good News with simple gestures.

What keeps you from accepting your important role as proclaimers of the Good News?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Accepting Criticism

"If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way." Lk 12:57

Worry rarely gets us anywhere, but we often can't stop obsessing about things that we know are not important but concern us nonetheless. Whether because our pride gets in the way or our self image is threatened, we find ourselves unsettled and perturbed over matters that we can't control.

Jesus warns his disciples and us about this. The leaders of the Jewish community, like so many people with a little bit of power, cling stubbornly to their interpretation of the law for fear they will lose their influence over their people. Forgetting that the Law's purpose is to remind Jews of God's largess, they argue among themselves about how to maintain control of the community, and they refuse to seek reconciliation with those with whom they disagree. When Jesus' followers argued about who was the greatest, he challenged them to be like children and take the lowest place, and urged them to find paths of healing between and among themselves. Only in this way would they be able to demonstrate that they were his disciples.

Today, ask for the gift of true humility.

What do you think are the qualities of a Christian leader?


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Gospel Leadership

"I have come to set fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing." Lk 12:51

Leadership in an individualistic society like the United States is very different from leadership in a communal society like Japan or Korea. It is important to reflect on this in light of today's scriptures. The society into which Jesus was born was communal like Japan. The word Wa in Japanese means peace, harmony and balance and one must never disturb the Wa of a family, town or country. Each person in a communal society works naturally for the common good, and more easily lets go of his or her individual wants and needs for the sake of the community.

Leadership in this context is intuitive.  A leader protects, reminds and calls the family, village or nation to Wa, to harmony and balance.  On the other hand, in individualistic societies leadership emphasizes the hero, the person(s) whose personality strengths are such that they can push, pull, coax and manipulate those they lead in a particular direction.  Leadership is not simply about reminding others of the values a country or company espouses as much as convincing others that a particular course of action is best for all, and is dependent on the political capital that a leader has earned, begged, borrowed or stolen.

Leadership in a gospel context is relational. A leader's primary task is to call people to a union with one another that builds up the society and allows each one to contribute to the common good.
Unity with one another is the primary sign that we are of God and from God. As Christian leaders, we must work for unity among all peoples and find ways to put aside the divisions that unnecessarily separate us and often cause scandal for those who expect more from believers in Jesus.

Today, ask God to make you a sign of unity in the world and the church.

What kind of leader do you want in your faith life?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Real Wealth

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." Lk 12:48

Unfortunately, like most people in the developed world, I often take "my wealth" for granted, and even feel entitled. If the phone doesn’t work for two days, I might threaten the service provider with switching to another company. You get the idea. I have been given so much that when I read today’s gospel parable, I realize that my one task is to stay awake in gratitude and too often I am asleep, even to the gift of faith.

On occasion, I ask people at a workshop to complete the statement, I believe..... Their responses always touch and challenge me. They say: I believe there is a benevolent God who loves his children. I believe God has sent us his son as an eternal gift. I believe that the world is a good place that I can make better by my faith. I believe I should be compassionate to every creature. You can imagine the rest, and I would encourage you to pause a moment to answer yourself.

When we stop to notice of all we have and offer a word of gratitude for whatever and whomever comes to us each day, we are different. We are rich and as Jesus reminds us, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” Don’t be afraid of this warning. Be grateful for the gifts you have been given, and share them generously. God gives us all the strength to live our faith and give it away with joy and exuberance.

Today, make an inventory of all you have been given. Then take five minutes of silence to sit with your gifts in gratitude.

How best can you share "your wealth" with others?

Monday, October 23, 2017

God's Righteousness in Jesus

 "Through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all." Rom 5:18

Righteousness is a difficult word to get hold of in American English. Often confused with self righteousness, Americans think of righteous people as arrogant and dismissive of others, especially those they judge to be uneducated or of a lower class. Righteous people smile slyly when others make factual errors or grammatical mistakes in speech. Righteous people don't make great friends.

Righteousness in the bible is a virtue we need to build into our lives. Righteousness can be translated as doing justice, especially in our social relationships. When Jesus tells his disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the Jewish leaders, he makes clear that no matter how needy they might be, they must not be greedy, but still treat others with compassion, understanding and justice. Cheating anyone, but especially foreigners or the very poor, will result in God's harsh judgement.

Though it would have been understandable for the first disciples to want vengeance against the Scribes and Pharisees because of how poorly they were treated, Jesus wants them to change the social paradigm which led to a society of winners and losers. In Christ all are winners because Christians will always share n justice whatever they have with the needy.

Today, ask God to heal you and heal those oppressed by injustice.

How might we better explain righteousness as a Gospel imperative?





Sunday, October 22, 2017

What constitutes Greed?

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Lk 12:15

Greed has been a constant theme in the United States in recent years. CEO's making $29,000,000 a year is a commonplace, and, frankly, a scandal. The discrepancy in income between the super rich and the everyday poor is growing and a cause for deep concern. In the past, this kind of disparity in salaries has also been the seed of revolution. The simplistic principle that those who produce a billion dollars of profit for a company ought to be rewarded accordingly doesn't help those on the low end of the economic pyramid or the economy!

Jesus had more than a little to say about this, and it is still valuable advice. Money, property and power accumulation are not in themselves the problem. Greed is. The desperate clinging to what we have suggests there is no other world but the one in which we live, and faith challenges this view over and over.

Jesus did not come to straighten out the world but to set its people free, and while some will deny or ignore this gift, it is ours for the taking. When we live generously and with deep regard for those most in need, relationships blossom and the Good News becomes powerful and transforming. It is virtually impossible to turn away from someone we know who is in real need. It is only when the poor remain faceless that our greed overwhelms our beliefs. Opening our eyes to everyone in front of us not only changes us, it can change the world.

Today, ask yourself how much you need to live.