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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Transparent Faith

"Everyone is looking for you." Mk 1:37

It is clear in Mark's gospel that Jesus was becoming so popular that he was bound to be challenged by the leaders of Rome and Palestine. Gathering large numbers of disciples was a threat both to civil and religious authorities that could not be ignored. The Roman leaders and Jewish hierarchy had found a way to coexist, and they resisted any attempt to upset the balance of power they had crafted. Though it was clear that the Jews had little real freedom, at least they controlled the temple and were free to celebrate their traditions.

When Jesus started to attract large numbers of followers he could have negotiated his own terms with the Romans and Jews, but he wanted none of it. Because he knew that his message was not political in a narrow sense, he sought deserted places to pray, regroup and commune with God, but the crowds would not leave him alone. Though he was not trying to gather people to himself, his power to heal and the strength of his presence were so influential that the civil and religious leaders had to stop him.

Is our faith and its practice ever agitating for others? Does the way we live challenge people to reorient their lives and lifestyles? When we remember that the gift of faith is not simply a personal treasure given to us for our own salvation but for the world to know the saving love of God, we can be sure that it will upset some. Nonetheless, God demands that we live a transparent and simple faith despite its consequences. Jesus modeled this and we have always to learn it.

Today, pray to be bold about your faith.

Whose practice of faith most agitated you? Did it help in the long run?


Friday, February 2, 2018

The Wisdom of Solomon

"I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you." 1 Kings 12

Humility will get you everyplace and everything with God. Though Solomon is very young and anxious about how to serve God as King, he does know that despite his father David's faults, David was faithful to God and God was faithful to David. With that as his foundation, Solomon is secure and hopeful about how to be king, and remarkably, because God sees and acknowledges Solomon's humility, God tells Solomon to ask for anything he needs. Solomon does not hesitate in asking, not for increased wealth and power, but wisdom to lead God's people well.

Because Solomon remembers that the people do not belong to him as King, but to God, God grants Solomon's request for wisdom and gives him increased wealth besides.  The key to Solomon's wisdom is never to forget, even as King, that he is a servant to God and the people, and because he acts on this conviction, his reign is long and powerful.

Though Solomon will also struggle to listen to God at the end of his life, today we focus on his humility as a path we also must take. When we remember who are and live in dependence upon God for direction and wisdom, our lives are rich and rewarding. Only when we take ourselves too seriously and refuse to listen to the insights of others, do we lose our way.

Today, listen to someone else's faith journey.

Would you ask for the gift of wisdom before all else?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Presentation of the Lord

"The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him."

The gospel scene of the infant Jesus being presented in the temple is a remarkable one, an epiphany of sorts. Entering the temple with his mother and father, he was every Jewish first born boy. Presented to God for God's purposes, he left the temple the Messiah. Recognized and lauded by Simeon as the One promised by God, and spoken about to everyone who would listen by the prophetess Anna, in many ways Jesus' mission began when, as an infant, he left the temple and grew in wisdom and grace because the favor of the Lord was upon him.

Though we know little about the childhood of Jesus, the Presentation offers us a glimpse into his humanity. Though recognized by Simeon as the one for whom he had been waiting all his life, he returns with his parents to his hometown to grow up like any child. Whether he was remarkable or insightful we do not know. What we do know is that he didn't skip over anything that makes all of us the unique persons we are. No doubt he had childhood illnesses, struggled with the Torah, worked alongside his father to learn a craft, and played with other children his age, all of which prepared him to be the Prophet he became. 

Committed like Moses to freeing his people, Jesus seems never to have wavered as an adult from doing his Father's will. Knowing his Father was always near, he teaches us the same simple lesson. God is always near. We have only to live life as fully and honestly as possible and let it unfold as God desires.

Today, be yourself and let God take you where you need to go.

What do you think your parents dreamed about for you?








Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Water for Our Gardens

"God will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails." Is 58:11

It is endlessly fascinating to watch gardeners water their plants and vegetables. Often, only moments after watering, the plants which were droopy and lifeless, come back to life, stand tall and invite admiration. How important water is to life and to us, and God promises to be our gardener if only we will stand still long enough for the water of Christ's life to take effect, to pick us up and send us forth.

One of the important tasks of Lent is to accompany candidates and Catechumens as they walk the last days of preparation for their Baptism at Easter. Usually nurtured by a few parishioners though the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), we meet those seeking entrance to our church at Mass, and wonder what or who it is that is calling them to faith. Are some of them preparing to marry Catholics? Are others seeking a new way of life? Whatever it is that they hear, we are happy to be among them.

Those preparing for Baptism and entry into our church are the water for our Gardens. Though we may be dry and tired, our catechumens and candidates drench us in their goodness and desire and renew us in faith and hope. Our only obligation is to receive and treasure those who come to us as new life.

Today, pray for all those preparing for Baptism or to make a profession of faith in our church.

Why do you think people still seek Christ through baptism in the Catholic church?



Take Nothing for the Journey

"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two .... He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts." Mk 6:7-8

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

St John Bosco

"A prophet is not without honor, except in his native place." Mk 6:5

When when St. John Bosco was only nine years old, he had a dream in which he rushed into a group of children who were cursing and tried to stop their misbehavior by fighting with them. Failing to help them he look up and saw a man clothed in white who told him that the only way to change the children was through kindness and gentleness. John resisted the message for a long as he could, but the dreams kept coming.

Though many told him to ignore his dreams and others tried to have him committed to an institution for the mentally ill, John listened and began to develop skills like juggling and and magic in order to draw young troubled young boys to God. Kindness and gentleness, he learned, were much more effective than harsh words. Eventually, his dreams, confirmed by Pope Pius IX, led him to found the Salesians who continue to minister to wayward boys all over the world.

Today, listen to your dreams.

Have you had dreams that shaped your life?


Monday, January 29, 2018

Suffering

"A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:20

Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I ministered among people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.

When today's gospel speaks of a woman bleeding for years, I cringed. Many at the time of Jesus would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life. In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.



Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Prisons of our own Making

"When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain." Mk 5: 2-3

There are all kinds of prisons. Some are physical in nature with bars and alarm bells and bobbed wire to make sure prisoners cannot escape. Others are internal and in many ways they are more restrictive than the prisons that house law breakers. Trapped in our expectations or by our fears and anxieties, we worry excessively about everything from the weather to our health and our financial security, and too often forget Jesus' reminder that we should not worry but remember that God takes care of everyone and everything. Prisons like this are painful, disempowering and unnessary.

Unfortunately, like the man dwelling in the tombs, it is difficult for our friends and family to restrain us. Too concerned with our own opinion or reputation, we stop listening, reject the insights of others and isolate ourselves. Only when we ask for help, and find time to pray more often and simply do we begin to turn the corner and discover there is a way out of our prison. Letting go of our need to have everything and everyone in place, we discover that the Lord can be our strength,

Today, ask for the grace to walk out of the prison of your own pride.

What are the chains that bind you and our society?