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Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Body and Blood of the Lord

"This is my body....this is my blood." Mk 14:22

When friends or family die, we often grieve and mourn them in powerful ways. Some will visit the cemetery, even if it is at a distance, every day for weeks or months. Others, leave a chair empty at the dinner table in order to remember their dead. Early in the mourning process, these rituals often lead to tears and groaning, but after a while they help us gently remember all the good the dead brought to our lives. Our rituals bring us comfort and hope, and that is Jesus' intent at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. In it and through it we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, especially on Sunday's, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Justice of Jesus

"By what authority are you doing these things?" Mk 11:28

From time to time, all of us try to ignore or bypass uncomfortable situations.  A friend regularly offers you suggestions on how to avoid paying taxes that you know are legitimate and you say nothing. Their tactics might be legal, but are they ethical? While silence is sometimes the prudent response to situations like this, it can also be uncharitable and sinful not to speak up.

Jesus could very well have ignored the chief priests and their questions about the legitimacy of John the Baptist's ministry, but he chose to use their inquiries both to make them uncomfortable and to take a stand. The elders knew that if they said John's baptism was of God, they would have validated his ministry, and if they said John was an impostor, the crowd would have attacked them. When they choose to say nothing, the chief priests demonstrate their weakness. It is clear that they are not really concerned about John's ministry, but only trying to trap Jesus in order to undermine his work. When Jesus turns the question on them, their nastiness and dishonesty are exposed.

If we are followers of Jesus, we need to think hard and long about how to respond to evil. When immigrants are being cheated or people are avoiding legitimate taxes, everyone is effected. More important, by too often remaining silent, we fail to live the Gospel we pretend to embrace.

Today, pray for the courage to speak up and work for those whose lives are being ruined because of greed.

Have you been in a situation where you knew you had to speak up?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

St Justin, Martry

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord." 2 Tim 1: 7-8

No one would suggest that St Justin's love wasn't intense. A philosopher who loved the work of Plato, he was determined to use philosophy as a path to know Christ, and teach the faith with expansive hope. Unafraid to challenge the Roman Senate and Emperor, he begged (some might say demanded) that the Christian life and mission be taken seriously, insisting that even if the Emperor decided to kill him, he could not hurt him since he was protected by the truth. Eventually, his commitment to his faith led to his death by martyrdom.

It is clear in the gospels that Jesus wants little to do with those who are lukewarm. Rather, his message and his life demand extraordinary faith in God and a commitment to a transparent life of service to those most in need. Rooted in the belief that God never abandons his people, even when they worship other gods, the Gospel paints God as a Father waiting for his errant children to return to him, and insists that we find a way to accompany one another despite the cost.

Today, let your love be intense.

What keeps you from loving God and neighbor intensely?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Visitation of Mary and Elizabether

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zep 3:14


The Visitation of Mary is another of the gospel scenes that has fascinated and challenged Christians forever. A young woman, newly pregnant, visits her newly pregnant older relative, and spends three months with her.

What was their first meeting like? How did they spend most days? What kinds of conversations did they have? Because we have no answers to these questions, we supply the ones our reflection and prayer generate. This is good, something all of us ought to do regularly with the mysteries of faith. 

How we imagine Mary and Elizabeth together not only gives us insight into their relationship, it tells us much about where we are in life and faith. Are we joyful about being "pregnant" with the living God? Are we anxious to let others know about how being the "bearer of Good News" affects us and changes our life on a daily basis? 

Listening to and reading the reflections of newly pregnant women teaches us that everything changes in a woman's life when she knows she is pregnant. Not only do her eating habits change, she becomes very conscious of getting extra rest when possible, and is more careful driving a car. Simply put, a pregnant woman starts to live, not solely for herself but for the child she is carrying, and in this she teaches us one of the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. 

Believers in Jesus, knowing they have been saved, live for others, and while this attitude and conversion is tested everyday, there is no doubt about our call. We are disciples challenged to announce Good News by the way we live for others.

Today, visit someone struggling with life, even in your own home.

What have been the joys of being Christian in your life?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

There is no Cheap Grace

"The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death." Mk 10:33

Rejection is always painful whether it comes from a superior, a coworker or a family member. Usually we become defensive and angry even if we saw the rejection coming for a long time. We also struggle to understand it and put it in a category that protects us from further harm. But rejection comes to everyone in life and unless we learn to accept it for what it is, we will struggle with it more than necessary.

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand much less accept what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time. As long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering?

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Last will be First.

"But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mk 10:31

 The challenge not to seek the first place in anything is an important Gospel lesson. Jesus is clear when he warns his followers not to worry about the issues that can so easily consume them. Whether they struggle for financial security or want assurances that the path they are following is a good one, Jesus' disciples must remember that God's promise to them is not first about this world, but about the next.

At the same time, we need to be careful when interpreting this passage. Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus used their modest wealth, knowledge of the law and religious authority as weapons to frighten and intimidate the underclass, and more than anything else, Jesus condemned this behavior. The purpose of the Law was to assure believers that God was their companion and guide and they had nothing to fear from any civil power, even their oppressors, if they lived the law with joy.

For Christians, the call is direct. Jesus, as the fulfillment of the law, is the one who must be at the center of our lives. Nothing we can gain in the world can substitute for this relationship. As long as we are willing to enter into the mystery of God's love in Christ and submit ourselves to him, we have nothing to fear.

Today, remember who you are before God and be grateful for your faith.

Which spiritual practices help you counter your pride?






Sunday, May 27, 2018

Suffering

"In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith." 1Pt 1: 6-7

The testing of our spirits is always a struggle. We see, or prefer to see ourselves, in a certain light, but not until our self image is tested do we know whether the self we want to be and have others know is authentic. All sorts of questions emerge about our spirituality when we lose our temper, speak poorly about others, or hold a grudge. At the same time, it is not healthy to reduce ourselves or anyone else to their faults.

The first letter of Peter alerts us to the fact that all of us will be tested, but especially the Christ, and it is Jesus who gives us an example of authenticity under the most threatening of circumstances. Ironically, it is Jesus obedience and submission to God's will that most convinces us of his claims to divinity. While others might be able to accept their own death as an ordinary dimension of life, Jesus embraces death for us so that he might demonstrate God's unconditional love for us and free us for a life with him at the eternal banquet.

Of course, none of us seeks suffering and diminishment, but few us escape the daily tests to our spiritual values. Fears, anxieties, darkness come to everyone who lives even a few years. How we respond to these trials will be the ultimate mark of our commitment to the Gospel.

Today, die to one memory that traps you in self pity.

Has suffering ever been a blessing for you?