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Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter

"Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?" 1 Cor 5: 6b

Easter is such a big and glorious feast that it can be difficult to get our minds and spirits around it, but St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians helps. When Paul reminds us that a "little dough" can leaven the entire loaf, he helps us break Easter into bite size pieces of bread that we can appreciate and enjoy a little at a time.

Easter is first of all about God's fidelity to his people. Fidelity is the most basic of virtues in all our lives. Only when someone has been devastatingly unfaithful to us or God do we realize how destructive relationships can be and some people, unfortunately, have been hurt so badly in  painful and abusive marriages, they choose never to trust others again.

When we read and reflect upon the history of our salvation, we realize that God never abandons his people, never seems to hold a grudge. Though the patriarchs, kings and prophets of Israel regularly fail to live the Torah with integrity and joy, God keeps loving the Jewish people.

More important, our theology asserts that God cannot do otherwise. Hence, the gift of Jesus as ultimate expression of God's love. Jesus is God incarnate who lives among us, suffers, dies and is raised up so that we might know of God's unconditional and total love for us. Alleluia! He is risen and the promise of our own resurrection lies before us.

Today, rejoice that with the little yeast of our good works, God blesses all people.

Who has helped you the most to live in joy and expectation?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Good Friday

"Whom are you looking for?" Jn 18:4

Jesus' question to the soldiers, temple guards and Judas is telling. Those who came out at night to capture him were not looking for a Messiah. Neither were they looking for goodness or compassion. They are like police along the side of a major highway clocking the speed of cars whizzing by. Anyone breaking the speed limit is stopped and handed a ticket. No one is exempt, even government officials.

Like speeding drivers, Jesus had broken the law and had to be punished. That he had walked peacefully among the people, reaching out to the broken and abandoned, did not matter. He had claimed an identity for himself that others painted as blasphemy and he had to be stopped. The soldiers and temple guards were just doing their job. Judas, however, knew better, but his greed was such that he denied what he saw and experienced of the living God for the sake of personal gain.

Today's liturgy forces us to ask painful questions. What are we looking for in our faith? Do we want, like the soldiers, an ordered, simple way to fulfill our obligations, or do we want to be transformed into women and men of conviction and action on behalf of all people seeking to know and enter more deeply into God's love. The questions are stark and unforgiving. There is very little gray today. Let our yes be yes or our no be no. Anything else is from the evil one.(Mt 5:37)

Today, say yes to living the Good News despite your hesitations.

Whose life has most moved you to live the Gospel with integrity?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Thursday

"On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household...This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight." Ex 12 3-4

Most of us, like the Israelites of old, are not really sure we want to be set free. Although the Lord leads his chosen people out of Egypt and promises to accompany them to the Promised Land, they, like all of us, must  first go through the desert.

Being in flight or on the road is never easy. We don't have a place or a bed to call our own. The smells and sights of waking up are different every day, and the people we meet along the way are not our friends. Lacking the familiar, we get testy and easily annoyed, and sometimes yearn for the past with all its problems.

Traveling light, not by choice but necessity, our faults and the idiosyncrasies of our family and fellow pilgrims are much more obvious and annoying. Still, we must go forward. The Promised Land beckons us, and as long as we keep it in mind, it is much richer than what we left behind.

Today, let go of  one thing to which you are clinging.

Do your memories of God's intervention in your life hold you down or set you free?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Judas

"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" Mt 26:24

The high priests offer Judas thirty pieces of silver, the price of buying a slave in the ancient world, if he will hand Jesus over to them. How awful! Judas sells the Lord as if he were selling a slave, and indeed that is how Jesus presents himself to us. Kneeling down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus becomes a non person in his society. Slaves had no political rights. They were the property of those who owned them, and while some of them, no doubt, were well treated, they had no security.

All of this, of course, fits the theology and spirituality of the gospels well. Jesus is a slave for us. He chooses this role not only to position himself as the champion of the poor, but to help his disciples realize that the power they will be given after his resurrection is not the power of money, property and a large family, traditional signs of God's blessing. Rather, they will be servants of all, announcing a freedom beyond political categories not only to Jews, but to all the world. Once again, Jesus turns the world upside down.

Whenever we encounter this paradox in our own lives we are startled, even dismayed. We do everything we think necessary to achieve success, but the result is bittersweet at best. The emptiness of success without the deepening of our relationship with God and others envelopes us. Only when we serve others freely and graciously in order to announce the power of God within and among us is there lasting joy.

Today, pray for nothing except to do God's will.

Have you ever experienced deep joy in serving others without any hope of reward?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Betraying God and Ourselves

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Mt 26:21

Truth be told, it is almost impossible not to betray the Lord. Almost every day we face challenges as people committed to the Gospel. Are we willing to speak up and act on behalf of the poor, or do we always wonder about the political consequences of our actions? Do we stand with the voiceless or remain silent when obvious prejudice is expressed? Are we open to new ways of hearing the Gospel and responding accordingly?

These are just a few of the questions that people committed to a Gospel life must answer. Living the Gospel is much more difficult than reading about it or preaching it. A few days ago I was speaking with a clergy friend and both of us agreed that while we are intent on preaching the Gospel carefully and powerfully, at times it is not easy to listen to ourselves or live out what we challenge others to do.

Most important, it is necessary to humbly accept our own weaknesses but not be paralyzed by them. As long as we regularly commit ourselves to handing over our lives to God for God's work we have nothing to fear. God knows our weaknesses, but is more interested in our efforts to live simply and honestly than our ability to do the Gospel perfectly. Perfectionism, with which most of us are afflicted, is much more an ego driven fault than a way to honor God.

Today, ask forgiveness from someone you have betrayed.

What are the ways you most often betray God and the Gospel?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Protecting Bruised Reeds

"He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth." Is 42 2-3

Pope Francis startled us a few years ago with an announcement about the Sacred Triduum. Rather than celebrate the Holy Thursday mass of the Last Supper at St Peter's in Rome, he will preside at mass in a Roman youth prison. Amazing. Of course, his action makes perfect sense, since the liturgy of Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, but it so different from anything we have come to expect, even from someone as charismatic and independent as Pope  St. John Paul II, that we are left with our mouths hanging open.

Isaiah reminds us that God will bring forth justice for all, not by crying out or shouting, but my offering himself as servant of those most in need. On Thursday of this week, when Pope Francis washes the feet of young men in prison, he will challenge us to do think again, like his namesake St Francis, about how we treat the lepers in our society. Are we servants of the broken, people of faith unwilling to break the bruised reed? Do we reduce people in prison to objects, men and women to be feared or pitied? Are they people in prison or prisoners? Anytime we can find the correct questions to ask on our faith journey, we are on the right path.

Today, re-imagine how you want to celebrate the Triduum.

What are your biggest Gospel challenges?