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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Chosen by God

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.



What does it take to remain united to Christ in difficult circumstances?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Laying Heavy Burdens on Others

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thought of the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Friendship and Service

"I no longer call you slave because a slave does not know what his master is doing.I have called you friends."

Service of others, even our enemies, is one of the great hallmarks of the Good News, and while some might not consider service of others good news, Jesus does, in the most emphatic of terms. Unless we learn how to serve others, even becoming like slaves in this regard, the message of the New Covenant will go unheard.

Gratefully, most of us have met and been moved by people whose entire lives are given in service to others. For most of my years as a priest I have had the great privilege of offering the Sunday Eucharist in places where volunteers prepared everything for Mass. I had only to prepare a homily. Everything else was done with love and dedication by people who never looked for special mention or attention. Anyone encountering this kind of dedication cannot help but be moved and lifted up. Whether it was distributing music books already opened to the proper page, or moving chairs so that those in wheelchairs might find a place among us, these loving men and women did everything they could to help create a sacred space for God's people to gather, worship and rejoice.

Today, thank God for the privilege of serving God's people.

When have you known the glory of God in serving others who could not repay you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sts Philip and James

"Jesus said to Thomas, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.'" Jn 14:6

Really knowing someone is hard work. It is not something that happens in a casual visit, nor can it be easily quantified or articulated. In many ways, knowing oneself and another is something we intuit, and more important, test regularly. How often have we heard people say: I thought I knew him, but his recent behavior is opening my eyes in a new way.

Jesus was not easy to know. He opened the eyes of some and confused many while he lived among us. Some thought he was trying to undermine the law. Others were convinced he was a minor and unimportant prophet and healer, but a few realized he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and they knew this because of his works. As Matthew's Gospel makes clear, Jesus came so that, "The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Mt 11:5)

For those with eyes to see and hearts to understand, it was clear that Jesus had no other motive than to let people know he came from God to set the captives free, and to announce a time favor for all without a voice in the society.  Though Jesus was explicit about his mission, even the apostles were slow to comprehend, believe and proclaim it.  It took the power of the Spirit at Pentecost to free them from the fear that often paralyzed them. It is no different for us.

Today, be a disciple. Open your eyes, ears and heart to the Spirit living within and among us.

Does anyone really know you? Do you know and respect others?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Resolving Disputes

"But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'" Acts 15: 5

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.



How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Weakness and Faith

"Let your works give you thanks." Ps 145

St. Paul knows what it means to write to the churches he helped found in a manner that focuses on them and not on him. He thanks God for them, for their faith, their faithfulness and the good works they do on behalf of the gospel.

What a powerful lesson there is for us. When we learn to begin each day with gratitude and hold our thanks before us like a light, we provide hope for those living in darkness and are reminded that a life of faith is simple. We need always to walk in the light of Christ who will show us the path to hope and thanksgiving because, as Paul further reminds us, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

Paul learned that his weakness, which often haunted him, was a gift which God could use to teach and form new disciples. When we accept this basic truth, our own faith lives become both easier and more intelligible. God will and does use our weaknesses to help others trust and let go into his hands.

Today, thank God for the gift of faith.

Have you experienced your weakness as a gift?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Service even while being Attacked

"There was an attempt in Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas." Acts 14:5

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods'd name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)