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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Emmaus

Two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." Lk 24: 13-14

The story of the disciples who meet Jesus "on the road to Emmaus" is one of the most popular narratives in the New Testament. Because all of us have been disappointed, blinded as it were, in the way life unfolds and often disappoints, we can identify with the disciples going to Emmaus. Wanting to make sense out of their hurt, grief and confusion, they become so concerned with their own upset, they do no recognize Jesus walking with them.

Knowing what blinds us to the obvious is important, but only the first step. The Gospel is about transformation, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus are a good example. Did they keep their eyes open after they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread? Were they anxious to return to Jerusalem and let everyone know about Jesus being among them?

These are especially important questions during difficult times. We all have periods of blindness. Grieving can do this. So can the loss of a job, or a physical move to a new city and home, but unless we attend to the loss and ask for new eyes and a new heart, we will miss the grace buried in our grief that makes resurrection possible.

Today, open your eyes wherever you are and be quiet. See what is right in front of you.

What kinds of events blind you to the ordinary?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Seeking the Gifts of Others

"They chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism." Acts 6:5

Acts of Apostles tells us why the Apostles chose Stephen to help them in the mission of Jesus. Stephen was "filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," but it simply names the others. Why did the Apostles choose Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas? Why we have we been chosen as disciples?

Every person has gifts, many of which are hard to see and appreciate. When someone is a good listener, we appreciate their ability to sit quietly and pay attention to us without being distracted, but we can also be frustrated when they choose not to have an opinion about our concerns. Others have the ability to articulate matters carefully and succinctly, but can also make us wonder if life is as transparent and easy as their words seem to make it.

No doubt Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas had gifts that benefited the community, but we should not expect them or our friends to have answers to every problem. Rather, we pray to be grateful for the uniqueness of what each person brings to us, and seek to make our gifts available to others. Doing this regularly will us find and celebrate our vocation.

Today, pray to hear God's daily call to live the Gospel as a gift for others.

Have you discovered gifts in others that you never knew were there?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gamaliel's Integrity

"If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5: 38-39

Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, warned his compatriots not to disparage the disciples of Jesus unless they were willing to risk their own commitment to the Torah. Gamaliel had a wisdom from which we could all profit. Like Jesus, he insisted that we know others by their fruits, not by their level of insight or the sophistication of their education.

The lesson continues, especially for those ministering in the developing world. Too often those of us from the so called developed world make impossible demands on people wanting to preach the gospel as ministers. Forcing folks from Senegal, for instance, to study western philosophy for two years before entering theological studies in preparation for priestly ordination, seems an exercise in overkill and might prevent future priests (to say nothing of lay ministers!) from studying the philosophies implicit in their own cultures.

Gamaliel and Jesus are clear. Judge people by the quality of their faith life. Do not risk laying heavy burdens upon them without doing a thing to help.

Today, listen to someone whose life you admire for its integrity.

What fruits of Gospel living most move you to transformation?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Obey God, not Men and Women

"We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29

All of us have experienced times and people about whom we feel compelled to speak. When Moses saw a burning bush, approached it and learned that God wanted to speak to him, he had to tell other about his experience. Elijah hears God, not in a strong wind or an earthquake, but in a tiny whisper, and realizes in the middle of his fear, that God is calling him. He cannot resist. Again, when Isaiah, hearing God wonder who to send, responds: Here I am, send me!

The great figures of the Hebrew bible announce God's presence and love whenever they encounter it, and so does Jesus. Not only does the Lord speak of God, he is God's Word enfleshed, the one about whom we cannot be silent, and this is the essence of the 5th chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John become models for all the apostles and disciples. No longer does it matter that they abandoned Jesus in his greatest need. Forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they become, despite great personal danger, proclaimers of the Word.

The Easter season must animate us in the same way. Acknowledging and celebrating God's glory within, around and among us, we announce God's love to whomever will listen. Ignoring those who resist, we go everywhere in His name proclaiming the Good News of our salvation.

Today, let your joy speak to others of God's presence within you and among us.

What experiences of God have you had about which you cannot be silent?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

St Stanislaus

"Blessed are they who follow the way of the Lord." Ps 119

Having the courage to speak out in the face of injustice is rare. To speak directly against a king or president seems inconceivable to most of us, but that is exactly what St. Stanislaus did at the beginning on the second millenium. Unable not to confront his king for egregious offenses against the poor and God, Stanislaus was martyred for demanding that the king repent and change his life.

Stanislaus is a good Easter saint. Challenged by the resurrection not to be afraid, to stand up, stand out and speak up, the apostles rose to the occasion and became a living Gospel. So did Stanislaus. Empowered by the word, and unafraid to speak with the authority of the Gospel, Stanislaus became the apostle of Poland, a figure revered as much by the Polish people as Thomas Becket is by the English.

Heroes can sometimes thrill us, but unless we are moved to change by their witness to the faith, their memories are a distraction to our own conversion. Stanislaus continues to be a mentor for the Polish people, not just because of his confrontation with his king, but because he acted, not to advance his own power but God's.

Today, live the Gospel simply and faithfully.

What keeps you from speaking out for the poor more consistently?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Individual rights and the Common Good

"The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common." Acts 4:32

One of the most vexing questions that bedevils Christians is the right to private property. Especially in a world where the distribution of wealth is so uneven, the question of private property becomes vitally important. This is not to challenge the radical right of people to possess and protect things as their own, but rather to pray about how to discern what level of private property protects both the rights of individuals and the common good.

The question of discernment is most important here. Discernment, in a classical sense, is the sifting through of two goods. Granting that famous athletes and movie stars need to protect themselves and their families more than the rest of us, their homes are among the most egregious examples of excess in this regard. Why any family with one or two children would build a 22,000 square foot mansion with an elevator is incomprehensible to most, but it does get us thinking and praying about what is adequate and necessary. When the rights of a few are protected to the detriment of the many, the question of how best to distribute food and goods must be engaged by thoughtful and prayerful believers.

Today, think about justice in the distribution of goods.

How do you think we ought to apply the

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Annunciation of the Lord

"How can this be?" Lk 1:34

Mary's question to the angel is haunting. How can this be? Indeed! We often ask the same question ourselves in any number of situations.  How can it be that almost 2 billion people die each year from water born intestinal diseases? How can it be that in a world which produces more than enough food for everyone to eat adequately, almost 1 billion people are hungry? How can it be that a mother of three small children is dying while another woman, desperate for a child, cannot get pregnant?

The questions are endless, and Mary helps us ask them. Though the only answer she received to her question about how she would be pregnant was an assurance that God's love would overshadow her, she seemed satisfied. It is not always so with us.

Today's feast is an answer of sorts to all our questions, but too often the answer is not to our liking or understanding. The basic promise of the new covenant is that God will be with us always, in times of light and darkness, in confusing as well as magnificently clear situations. Nothing more. The more is up to us. God makes us just, but we do not always act in a just manner towards others. God provides us with a world that produces sufficient food for all. It is up to us to distribute it, but even when we fail to live justly and to create just systems that do not demean the poor for being poor, God will not abandon us. While life will not always make sense, God is with us. Is that enough?  It was for Mary.

Today, let us say yes to all that is.

What do you do when life seems overwhelming?