Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Live the Scriptures; Don't simply Proclaim them

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mk 3:35

There are some who might get upset with this passage from Mark. When the crowd tells Jesus that his mother, brothers and sisters are looking for him,  Jesus reacts. A person’s life is not of value, he says, because of her parents or relatives, but by her willingness to listen and live the good news. The Jesus of the gospels would never disparage his own mother’s goodness, but he does remind his listeners that being born a Jew guarantees nothing. Were he alive today, he might well say that being born a Catholic means little unless one lives one’s religious faith and tradition.

Jesus was trying to remind his Jewish brothers and sisters that they were not better than others simply because of their religious clothing, roots or heritage. Rather, he wanted them to live their faith with integrity and a deep sense of justice not by lording it over others but by always remembering their own slavery in Egypt and their times of exile from the Promised Land.

Today ask God for the grace to go beyond the essentials of religious practice and the courage to make your faith the foundation of your life.

What could Jesus' challenge to the rich young man to go sell everything and follow him mean in your life?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Immaculate Heart of Mary

"Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Lk. 2:48

The honesty of Mary's response to Jesus' staying behind in Jerusalem to converse with the teachers in the temple tells us much about prayer. Sometimes only worried and troubled thoughts come to us when we look at the world, our church and families.

The horror of Isis slaughtering Christians, the ongoing effects of the sexual abuse scandal, and the failure of many to raise their families with faith and religious practice leave us speechless, and like Mary we are filled with great anxiety. Unable to escape these realities, we often seek outlets that free us from our obsessions, but do little to acknowledge the helplessness we feel. Mary's response can guide us.

When  we learn to make our anxiety our prayer, everything changes. Though the anxiety does not leave us, it throws us speechless into the heart of God, and this very act becomes our prayer. Confused and hurt, we join Mary in asking Jesus, "Why have you done this to us?" Even in posing the question, we realize that while God has done nothing to us directly, acknowledging our helplessness frees us to accept the sovereignty of God in all matters, and teaches us to live with unanswered questions.

Today, with Mary, make your anxiety your prayer.

What does your prayer sound like when you feel lost, anxious and helpless?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

"Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord; and learn from me, for I am meek and gentle of heart." Mt 11:29

More than anything else the feast of the Sacred Heart is an antidote, a response to the theology and spirituality of 16th and 17th century Calvinism and Jansenism that denigrated all creation and condemned most of the human family to eternal punishment. How movements like this emerge is never easy to understand, but they clearly need a strong response from the church rooted in scripture and the best of the Catholic tradition. The Feast of the Sacred Heart is the church's rejoinder.

Insisting that the heart of Jesus has no limits and wants all people to be saved, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the powerful image of God as a shepherd who yearns to find us when we are lost, help us when are hurt and heal us when we are sick. What more could we ask of God?

Although the feast of the Sacred Heart was slow to find full church approval, it was everyday people who drove it. So many believers, overwhelmed by a world that was fast becoming unbearably complex and oppressive, believers embraced the feast of the Sacred Heart which offered them hope no matter how difficult their lives might be. It can continue to offer this same consolation in the 21st century. Everyone wants to believe in a God that seeks them out and embraces them with his heart.

Today, open your heart to someone lost.

How do you understand God's love for you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Saints We have Known

"You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Mk 12:34

When one of the scribes is able to appreciate Jesus' wisdom and agree with the Lord that to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves is the essence of the law, Jesus tells him that he is not far from the reign of God. It seems like a strange compliment, until we realize that while the scribes were likely to know the law and prophets well, they were often more interested in getting the law "right" than living the law well. 

A while ago, I was speaking with a priest friend about the saints we have known, almost all of whom were lay people. Not incidentally, the people we both knew were not scholars, but parents, husbands and wives, grandparents and even some children. What they shared in common was their fidelity in the face of very long odds. They had faced sickness, death, and poverty with courage and honesty. They did not whine about how God had dealt them a poor hand, but were grateful for the God who had accompanied them in their struggles. 

Today, ask God to help you know and live the law of Christ more deeply.

Who is the holiest person you know? Why?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Silly Arguments

"Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her." Mk 12:23

When the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection, tried to trap Jesus in a silly argument about which of a woman's seven husbands would be her husband in the afterlife, Jesus refuses to take the bait. The Sadducees are stuck trying to be right and use logic to reinforce their argument, but Jesus insists that the after life is not about marrying or giving in marriage, but in accepting the gift of living with God forever. Failing to appreciate this free gift of God, the Sadducees walked away thinking they won the argument while the crowd who listened to Jesus drew even closer to him.

Not infrequently, we are like the Sadducees. Insisting that we are right in an argument in order to win, we jeopardize our relationship with both friends and foes, making it very difficult to find common ground in the next go round. Without a relationship, even simple conversations become problematic and awkward. and that is what happens to the Sadducees. Embarrassed and confused by Jesus they look for other opportunities to prove their point and lose any chance to hear the transforming word of God. Unless we listen to the Lord with an open spirit, the same can happen to us.

Today, ask God for the gift of listening with an open heart.

When has your pride interfered with your ability to hear the truth?

Monday, June 4, 2018

St Boniface

"Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation." 2 Pt 3:17

Being a missionary has always been difficult. One must leave the comfort and security of a culture, family and religious system that one knows, and enter a totally different world asking God to show you the path to integration and transformation. The best missionaries have always been the most attentive listeners, people who sense the goodness of the people to whom they have been sent. Knowing they are called, like St Paul, to discover the God who is already present in every culture and people, women and men missionaries live in gratitude and awe because of the God they encounter in the people to whom they have been sent.

St Boniface knew these challenges in spades. Sent to the German church that had lost its way, Boniface had to minister with compassion to an uneducated clergy and a community that was more interested in its own interpretation of the Gospel than the word preached by Jesus. Preaching reform and renewal, Boniface's influence was deep because he not only called people to reexamine their values, he also established houses of prayer throughout Germany. The church only prospers when it builds its catechesis and worship on a foundation of prayer.

Today, pray for those who face a daily martyrdom in their own homes.

Have you experienced faith in another cultural context? What was it like?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Embracing Difference

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Mk 12:11

Whenever we fail to look at stones and people with the eyes of God, we fall into the trap of rejecting them because they don't fit our notion of perfection or beauty. What a shame and what a loss. Not only do we demean and objectify things and people who are "different," we expose ourselves as prejudiced and small minded.

We have no real idea what Jesus looked like, but we do know that he has been portrayed as a member of every race, ethnic group and culture, and while some may want to insist that he should always be a middle eastern Jew, the vast majority of  believers realize that Jesus is beyond any one culture or background.  In other words, we need to find the Christ everywhere and in every person, especially the poor.

This is not to say that difference doesn't matter. When we move outside our comfort zone culturally and socially there is always a level of disorientation, and while this is disconcerting we need to work our way through it in order to see and meet people where they are. Simply put, while inculturation is painful, when it is embraced it becomes a gift that opens us to a God who is beyond every culture.

Today, acknowledge your discomfort with difference.

Have you had a cross cultural experience that benefited you and helped shape your faith?