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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sharing 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 a 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.

The gospel today reminds us that there is no reason to fear.  God is with us, will protect us and demands that we give away our talents no matter anxious we might be about having enough for ourselves.  Some reading the gospel today are people with multiple talents.  If, however, they use those talents only to satisfy their own needs for power or security, they condemn themselves.  While Jesus uses the person with one talent, who buries it for fear he will lose it, to challenge us to go beyond our fears, all of us, no matter how poor or wealthy, must guard against greed. Not only our property and our money, but our ideas, our creativity, our lives only make sense in a gospel setting when they are handed over for the good of all people and all nations.

Today, rejoice in your talent. Then give it away to whomever needs it.

Who has shared her or his talents with you when you were most in need?


Friday, November 17, 2017

Persistence

"Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" Lk 18:7

Persistence in prayer is an important Christian virtue. Jesus reminds us of this more than once, and the widow who pesters the local judge to help her attain justice is only the most dramatic example of this. In St Matthew's Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to "Watch and pray always, lest you enter into temptation," and (26:41) St Paul echoes Jesus' call to pray always in first Thessalonians. "Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances."

Praying always can seem like an impossible challenge. For most, when we try to pray, distractions fill our minds and hearts almost as soon as we begin. Even when we pray the rosary or other devotional prayers, we find ourselves thinking about everything but the prayer! Just the same, our willingness to put everything and everyone in God's hands each day is a very powerful prayer although it is often difficult to manage. Trusting God completely is something most of us aspire to, but rarely accomplish. That is why the practice of prayer is so important.

Getting in the habit of saying the Jesus prayer, Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner helps many. Others, especially those helped by 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous use the serenity prayer often. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Repeating both or either of these prayers regularly will help any well-intentioned believer create a space in their lives for God to be God which is, after all is said, the purpose of all prayer.

Today, choose a simple prayer and repeat it throughout the day.

What is your favorite prayer?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

St Elizabeth of Hungary

"While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me." Lk 18 4-5

While it is difficult to imagine St. Elizabeth of Hungary, like the demanding widow in Luke's gospel, threatening to hit someone, it is not hard to see her pushing God on behalf of the poor and the needy. Married at fourteen, she led a simple life and had three children before her husband, Louis, died in battle. Making sure her children were well cared for, she committed herself to a life of total service and fed hundreds of people everyday until her own death at twenty four.

Renowned for her care of the needy, Elizabeth so unnerved her husband's family that they evicted her from the palace, an act that only emboldened her. She joined the secular Franciscan order, lived a prayerful and austere life, and was so popular during her lifetime that she was canonized four years after her death. Like the widow of the gospel Elizabeth's life keeps bothering us as we hear Christ's call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

Today, speak up on behalf of someone in real need.

How do you react to people who agitate for change?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Suffering

"First, he must suffer greatly." Lk 17:25

Rejection is always painful whether it comes from a superior, a coworker or a family member. Usually we become defensive and angry even if we saw the rejection coming for a long time. We also struggle to understand it and put it in a category that protects us from further harm. But rejection comes to everyone in life and unless we learn to accept it for what it is, we will struggle with it more than necessary.

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand, much less accept, what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time. As long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Being Grateful

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Lk 17:18

Communicable and deadly diseases always frighten us. Before anyone knew that HIV/AIDS could not caught by a sneeze or sharing a soft drink, there was immense fear in people about something they did not know. Even after it became clear that AIDS could only be spread by the exchange of body fluids through sexual contact, needle sharing and the very rare blood transfusion, people were very much afraid. Something as toxic as AIDS scares us and the same was true in the ancient world regarding leprosy.

That Jesus listened to the desperate pleading of the leper s and allowed him to draw near is remarkable. Jesus knew that by associating with the leper he became unclean himself, but it did not matter. The lepers were suffering not just from the disease but from the isolation imposed on him and all lepers. Lepers had to tear their clothes and call out "unclean" whenever anyone approached them. What a terrible punishment; what an awful life, but the leper who calls to Jesus for help ignores the teaching of rabbis and so does Jesus.

There is a leper in all of us. We obsess about our sins, want no one to see as we really are and even try to hide from God. That the society and church sometimes shun us is not the deepest pain. Too often we isolate ourselves through useless guilt. Only when we remember that we have been cleansed once and for all through baptism and forgiven over and over by Christ's redeeming love, are we really free. When this happens we cannot remain quiet. We must find our voice and announce the Good News. God wants us to draw near and desires to set us free. We have only to ask for help and healing will come.

Today, tell someone you have been made clean by the love of God.

What is your leprosy?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dark and Difficult Times

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them." (Wis 3:1)

Remembering the dead is a sweet sorrow. Because we have made and been blessed with good friends, we are grateful, but miss them all the more when they die. We can't talk with, see or depend upon them in the same way we have in the past. In a very real sense, we are like children lost in a mall, turning this way and that hoping to spot our parents. More unnerving still, a certain level of depression is natural and necessary in order to grieve fully. Unless we allow ourselves to feel the hurt and loss of death, we will not be able to find the light for the next part of our journey.

There are no easy answers, but there is a simple response. Danish mystic and former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, writing in his now famous journal, Markings, says it simply and compassionately, "Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible - not to have run away."

Not running away when life becomes difficult, painful and confusing, though difficult, is an essential task for every Christian. To stay in the moment and learn to welcome what comes our way is possible when we remember that Christ is always near and did not run away from his own misery and suffering. The memory of his suffering and death becomes the ground upon which we build our hope.

Today take time to be grateful for all those, now dead, with whom you have walked in life.

Have you learned how not to run away from the dark and difficult times in life?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Lk 17:18

Two things marked the early life of Mother Cabrini. She was frail and sickly as a child and only four of her 10 siblings survived adolescence, but neither situation shuttered her imagination. When her father would read to his children about the great men and women who left their homelands to go around the world as missionaries, Frances dreamed of joining them. Frances' faith was bigger than her weakness.

Faithful to her parents until their death, Frances helped them on their farm and went to school, but soon after their death she began to explore a religious vocation. Rejected at first because of her poor health, Frances persevered and soon the local bishop asked her to found a new congregation of religious women. Sure that Frances' efforts would benefit the local church, the bishop was excited by Frances' new congregation, but Frances had bigger ideas. Soon after making vows, she added the name Xavier to Frances, after the famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, and went to Rome to establish a convent. Soon after, still hoping to go the Orient as a missionary, Frances was asked to help Italian immigrants in the United States. Resistant, she asked the Pope Leo XIII for help in discernment, and the Pope assured her that she should go West to the United States, and from this point her life exploded with activity and zeal.

St Frances Xavier Cabrini was a brilliant organizer and administrator. She founded 68 missions and, though she hated ocean travel, crossing the Atlantic more than thirty times. Her work took her to New York, South America, Chicago and New Orleans, and all of this with failing health. A woman of our times, Frances Xavier continues to inspire women and men of the 21st century with passion and zeal.

Today, pray for the young to accept the call to discipleship.

What do you think are the most important tasks of the 21st century church?