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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Asking for Help

"If you wish, you can make me clean." Mk 1:40

From time to time, all of us have to ask for help, even from those we don't like or admire. The man with leprosy asks Jesus to be made clean and as soon as he does, his life changes. Though Jesus does not want the leper to tell anyone who healed him, his excitement and gratitude spill out of him and soon everyone knows.

There is a simple lesson in this text for us. Though we may be reluctant to ask God for help, thinking our faith is not strong enough, we should not hesitate. We should always ask to be healed, and trust that healing comes in many forms. Sometimes God's healing allows us to accept the burden of a dark period in our lives, and while that might not be what we were praying for, it does allow us to move forward in faith .

When we trust God in this way everything changes. We obsess less about wanting to live on our own terms, and seek companions who will walk with us no matter what we are carrying. More important, allowing others to help us may lead to their healing. Sometimes when we ask people for help, they finally see themselves as worthwhile and their spirit opens to God in ways they thought could never again happen.

Today, ask God for healing and wait.



Have their been instances in your life when asking for help changed how you viewed the burdens you carry?

Friday, February 9, 2018

St Scholastica

Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud; I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever.” 1 Kgs 8:13

The Second Vatican Council reminded Catholics that God dwells everywhere but is more fully or more deeply present when we gather for the Eucharist. More specifically, the Council insisted that Christ was present in the assembly of believers, in the Word proclaimed, in the breaking of the bread and in the person of the priest, all of which is rooted in God's promise to the Jewish people to be present among them as first Kings reminds us, "in a dark cloud."

God's presence among us, which is another way of speaking about God's fidelity, is central to Jews and Christians alike, and it is our task to attend to the God who lives within and among us. In some parishes, God is loud, festive, even pushy. The joy with which believers greet one another, inquire about one another's families, and sing enthusiastically is tangible and empowering. In other communities, God's presence can be caught from older parishioners sitting quietly before Mass praying the rosary, making the stations of the cross or reading the bible. It does not so much matter how God is present but that God is among us as a living presence and a challenging prophet. Our task is to be grateful for the God who is always with us, whether in a dark cloud, a candle lit church or our own homes.

Today, pause a few times to remember that God is always near.

How is God most present to you in daily life?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Listening with the Heart

"Immediately the man’s ears were opened." Mk 7:35

A older friend, struggling with his hearing and beginning to feel very isolated, told me he would have preferred to lose the use of his eyes than his ears. Embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves, he found himself not participating in conversations and shying away from communal gatherings. Though he has hearing aids, he still often feels alone in a group and ignored by people with whom he often had enjoyable conversations.

Sometimes, although we hear perfectly well, we fail to respond to others who are struggling. Too busy, too self absorbed or too compulsed by the need to succeed, we fail to spend time with those struggling with physical infirmities and become "deaf" ourselves. As Lent nears, let us open our ears to anyone, especially members of our family, who are struggling.

Today, listen to someone you normally avoid.

What have you been privileged to hear that opened your heart to the Gospel?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Who belongs?

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Mk 7:28

Not infrequently, gentiles and the poor were compared to dogs, people who did not appreciate the word of God, but Jesus turns this saying upside down, just as he does when he reminds us that the first will be last.

In Jesus preaching, the only criterion used to judge people was their openness to the fullness of God's word. In other words, the rich, the powerful, the interpreters of the law were all judging themselves if they refused to hear Jesus' call to reform their lives and return to the heart of the law.

For contemporary believers the same standard endures. Unless we are open to the transforming power of God's word, which is more inclusive than we often want to acknowledge, we are the dogs about whom the Gospel speaks. When we use the Good News as a hammer to exclude those who are racially, religiously, culturally and spiritually different from us, even when they are enemies, we judge ourselves.

Today, pray to be free of prejudice.

What practices help you not to judge others? 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Breathless

"When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD, she was breathless." 1Kgs 10:4-5

Sometimes it is a sunset that takes our breath away. At other times, it is a surprise gift or the insight of a child or grandchild. Having our breath taken away is almost always a surprise. We come upon a vista while driving, or a person, a movie or a play that not only startles us, it also challenges us.

The Queen of Sheba, resistant to all she heard about Solomon's triumphs, decided to see for herself and what she discovered changed her attitude and her life, which is the point of this passage. When were we last surprised, lifted up and challenged by something or something from whom we expected little?

Often during the years of my initial formation as a Capuchin, the brothers would put on plays and musicals that amazed me and made me very happy and proud to be a friar. The talent displayed by some friars was wonderful, but the willingness of others, whose talent was limited, to be vulnerable for the sake of the common good touched me even more. Whenever we think more about the needs and desires of others, and act on their behalf, we are always better. Other centeredness is the core of Jesus' life and Gospel living.

Today, pause in gratitude for the last time you were breathless with delight.

How do you help others to be breathless with the gift of faith?

Monday, February 5, 2018

St Paul Miki and Companions

"This people honors me with their lips, but not with their hearts are from me." Mk 7:6

Sometimes, when we celebrate a saint's liturgical feast day, we forget who the companions were. This is a shame because it cheats us from celebrating everyday people. The twenty six companions of St. Paul Miki included people, young and old, from ever walk of life.
The twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. (Catholic Culture)
The history of our church is replete with a wonderful variety of saints and blesseds, all of whom deserve our admiration. If only we knew the stories of more ordinary people, not just bishops, priests and religious, we would understand more deeply how important it is to ask God to make us saints right where we are.

Not all of us have to become priests and religious. In fact, most people are not called to this way of life. Rather, single adults, married people, widows and widowers, are all called to a holiness proper to their vocations. Only when we encourage people to ask God for the gift of living a Gospel life in their homes, businesses, neighborhoods and cultures, will we understand more deeply the marvelous ways of God.

Today, pray to one of the lay men and women Japanese martyrs.

What qualities do you look for in saintly people?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

St Agatha

"They...begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak." Mk 6:56

We know little of St Agatha except that she was martyred because she resisted marriage to a nobleman who wanted her to renounce her faith, and was reported to have said:  "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep." Asking God to make her as submissive as a sheep was Agatha's answer to those who wanted her to live an empty, faithless life. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews suggests that Agatha's courage can be ours if we remember that we are surrounded by the community of saints who will support us in our struggles and share our joys, but only if unload our burdens upon the Lord and turn away from sin.  

Remembering to call upon those who have struggled to live faith fully is a powerful antidote to our own fear and self absorption. Christianity is not simply about living the law but submitting ourselves in total trust to the Lawgiver. Recalling the faith lives of our parents, grandparents and mentors can give us the strength to do God's will in all circumstances.

Today, remember you are surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses."

Whose memory do you call upon in times of doubt?