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Saturday, May 12, 2018

God's Strengthening Love

"As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world." Jn 17:18

St Cyril of Jerusalem, using the simplest of metaphors, helps us understand the Christ in a very accessible way:
But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water?...Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
Jesus' Spirit is like rain inviting us to sit by a window, watch the rain come down and imagine it nurturing and nourishing every plant and tree we can see. When it penetrates the roots of an oak tree, it allows the oak to be itself, strong and majestic, but when it drenches the roots of a tomato plant, it makes it possible for the plant to produce tomatoes. The miracle of grace and growth is obvious and important.

Our lives, lived in faith, should be like rain in others' lives. It is not our task to change those around us, but to help them become themselves in faith. When we give of ourselves freely to those in need, they can become the person God intends and needs them to become for the sake of God's reign. As God sends Jesus, and Jesus send us, so must we send others in Jesus' name to be signs of God's love.

Today, pray that those closest to you will become God's face in the world.

Who has been like rain in your faith life?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Asking for Help

"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." Jn 15:13

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.


What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Singing God's Praise

"Sing Praise to God, sing praise." Ps 47:5

Jesus wants us to be a people of joy, and he wants this for us no matter how heavy our burdens might be. Though the Lord is clear, it is also difficult to embrace and proclaim his message. Jesus promises us that his father will be the source of our joy by living in us despite our faults, but most of the time we want more. We want to be free of worries and struggles, and not to obsess about issues and situations that feel overwhelming, but this is the crux of our difficulty.

Joy in Christ is not about feeling better or more secure. To be a people of joy is a decision we must make on a daily basis, but we can only do this with faith. Our society often presents happiness and joy in unreal terms and fills us with expectations that are not of God. Eating whatever we want when we want, dressing well, having our own homes and cars might appear to make us happy, but this kind of joy never lasts. It is a mirage.

Authentic joy in Jesus is relational. The only real happiness is a consequence of opening ourselves to love and offering love to others, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus commands it. When we do this, everything changes. Our lives are not reduced to our accomplishments, our wealth, our importance in the society or church, but are measured solely by our willingness to be vulnerable to the love and transformation Jesus ask us to embrace.

Today, offer someone a joyful smile for the sake of the Gospel.

What kind of joy do you desire?

Singing God

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Ascension of the Lord

"Two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.'” Acts 1:11

Most of us have experienced being caught between conflicting feelings. Picture yourself at an airport sending a child off to college. Both proud and sad, you wave goodbye trying not to cry and leave the airport in a daze. A child with whom you have done your best is off for a new adventure, and you wonder whether she is prepared and ready to embrace the challenges. Even more poignantly, anyone who has helped parents die knows the pain of letting go and the relief that they are no longer in pain. Often, in situations like this, even when we have felt heavy burdened, we are lost for a while, not knowing what we ought next to do.

This is, I imagine, what was happening to the disciples of Jesus at the Ascension. While they knew the Spirit of God would be with them, letting go of Jesus was difficult. He had been their guide, their mentor and their security. It is no wonder they were looking up into the sky as their friend returned to his Father. Their loss was deep, even though their faith assured them they were not alone.

We should expect to experience the absence of Jesus regularly during life. A Japanese proverb reminds us: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise. Only when we have lost something precious, are we able to appreciate it fully, and more important, see what else might be available to us when we open our eyes and heart to God's plan.

Today, let go of the Jesus you know and ask to experience him more fully through God's eyes.

How do you make sense of the feast of the Ascension?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Unknown Gods

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Earthquakes

"There was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16:26

Several years ago, on my way to Honduras to visit our young friars studying Spanish, I stopped in El Salvador for a couple of days, and while there experienced a small earthquake. It was unnerving, to say the least. One of our Salvadoran postulants immediately jumped up and ran out of the building. Because he had suffered through a major earthquake, he was taking no chances. Like the guard in the prison where the apostles were jailed, I didn't know what to do. I sat there hoping it would pass and waited for instructions from the Salvadoran friars.

Acts of the Apostles helps us in this regard. No doubt, St Paul, despite having been freed from prison by a sudden earthquake, was afraid, but he does not dwell on the miracle of his escape to demonstrate the power of God. Rather, he uses the opportunity of his new found freedom to continue his missionary journey and begins to speak about the altar to the "unknown God," that he came upon in Athens.

Today, pray not to overreact to the surprises and trials life, but to wait in prayer to know God's desire.

Have you experienced "earthquakes" in your life that led you to deeper faith?

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Speaking on behalf of the Voiceless

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning." Jn 15:26

Having someone to help us, especially when we are trying to discern how to tackle serious and important questions, is always a benefit, and this is true for individuals as well as groups. Pastors, for instance, are glad to have others help with the administration and financial concerns of their parishes, and more importantly, they are grateful to have a parish council work with them to sift through the many questions that emerge about the direction and life of the parish as a whole.

Jesus promises us that the help he will give us will always be available. The Spirit of God, who Jesus calls an Advocate (Latin for helper or voice) will be among us to strengthen and direct us for the sake of the Gospel. We can rely on this Spirit always and proclaim this as the basis for our faith and hope. Our Advocate will also send us as advocates to others seeking to know God more intimately.

The call to be advocates, to speak on behalf of others who are voiceless, is a clear demand of the Gospel, but we must be careful to avoid the arrogance of presuming we know what others want or need. While the Gospel makes it clear that walking with and uncovering the deep human concerns of others, especially about human rights, is an essential element of discipleship, we must learn to speak with not for those whose voice is rarely heard.

Today, thank God for the Spirit as Helper and Voice.



Have you had the privilege of speaking with and on behalf of others who were voiceless?