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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Accepting Suffering for God's Sake

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Jn 12:27-28

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone. Jesus had this same consolation in today's gospel. Troubled and upset, he hears a voice of consolation and confirmation from heaven which allows him to trust that the suffering he will endure will be for God's glory.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Suffering is not good, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Friday, March 16, 2018

St Patrick

"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me."  Patrick's Breastplate

It should never surprise us how much our earliest experiences in life impact our adult years. When St Patrick, only 16 years old and much like Sudanese and Afghan boys today, was forced into slavery in Ireland, everything changed. Unlike some, however, Patrick's heart, despite the suffering he endured, was touched by the Irish people and after his escape from his captors, he yearned to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Though the church in Ireland is suffering great losses these days, in part because of the sexual abuse by priests and religious in the 20th century, we should not ignore the great work of Ireland's missionaries who went all over the world in the name of the Good News. Fired by the memory of St Patrick's, missionary women and men let go of their homeland and culture to be inserted in churches in North America, Africa and Asia in dizzying numbers, and their influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

We honor Patrick today, and all those fearless missionaries like him, whose faith was such that they could not be silent about how God has transformed their lives. Listen to the Saints words:
Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Today, ask God to send you to someone without faith.

How have you been impacted the zeal of St Patrick and the Irish missionaries?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Making Sense out of the Senseless

"His hour had not yet come." Jn 7:30

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Archbishop Oscar Romero knew that if he continued to speak on behalf of the poor he would likely be murdered, but he could not and chose not to avoid this awful burden. That he gave his life for the gospel continues to uplift all, but especially those who work among and with the poor. Suffering is not good in itself, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

God and Moses

"Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Like the Forgiving Father in the Gospel (Lk 15: 11-32), God rushes out to meet us at the first sign of our guilt and sorrow. More, God cannot do enough for us when we repent. God puts cloaks around our cold shoulders, rings on our broken fingers, and sandals of our battered feet to demonstrate how gratified he is to embrace us and welcome us home.

Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Avoiding Willfulness

"I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me." Jn 5:30

Very little in life is more difficult than letting go of our own will. Even, and perhaps especially, when we are struggling with how best to go forward as a disciple of Jesus, we cling to our own opinions and desires, and often fail to ask for help. Our consolation: Jesus struggled, too.

One of the most poignant verses in the gospel of Luke has Jesus practically begging God, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." (Lk 22:42) Clearly, the specter of submitting himself to the horror of a painful death so threatens Jesus that he asks his Father for mercy.

We should never be too proud to ask for help to find our spiritual path. St. Paul uses the powerful and evocative image of body (1Cor 12) to remind us that eyes can see but can't walk and feet can walk but not see. Only when the parts of our body work together for the good of all can we be called the body of Christ. And even more compellingly, Paul says, "If one part(of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Today, ask for the strength to do whatever God asks.

What issues most challenge your need for control?






Monday, March 12, 2018

Flowing Waters

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jn 5:7

Flowing waters evoke growth, life and hope in and around us. They remind us that God wants to feed us, desires that we live along the fresh waters of a river so that we can benefit from the fruit and vegetables that will flourish there. Flowing waters also remind us of baptism and God's desire to cleanse us for service to others.

The difficulty faced by the fellow who has been ill for 38 years is clear. His disability doesn't allow him to enter the flowing waters, and he has no one to help him.  That he would still desire to know the cleansing and healing waters after suffering for 38 years is remarkable in itself, and Jesus, the one who will be known as flowing waters, rewards his patience and dream by telling him to take up his mat and walk.

Healed, the newly cleansed fellow faces his greatest challenge. Will he realize that his healing is a call to serve others, especially those who have been suffering for a long time? Unless he does, his new life will fail to bear the fruit promised by God to those living near flowing waters. The lesson should not be lost on us.

Today, be grateful for the cleansing waters of Baptism.

What kind of service has most enriched your life?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Wealth of having God's Love

"God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him...might have eternal life." Jn 3:15

A few weeks ago, while leading a parish mission, I was trying to convince a group of teenagers preparing for Confirmation that because God called me to be a friar I was very rich. While I own no property or liquid assets, my life has been full of blessings and I am very grateful. In fact, the communion of saints is very real to me. I have not just met a few saints, I have been surrounded by them, lifted up by their love and been assured that I will always be loved.

My words, however, did not seem to impress the young people who are just about to launch out into the world on their own and were not anxious to hear that having little or nothing was a great blessing. Neither, it seemed, did they want to learn that the basic stance of the Christian is to serve others with compassion and joy. Perhaps, underneath it all, they don't yet feel the need for God's mercy and forgiveness, and while this might be natural, it will have to change at some point.

Life is about letting go of our transgressions and sins and allowing God to heal us and those we have sinned against, actions which are beyond our control but which God is anxious to complete in us. Because of God's unconditional love for us, God keeps offering us mercy and new life.

Today, show God's mercy to someone who has hurt you.

How have you experienced God's mercy and forgiveness?