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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Living by and in Faith

"We walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Cor 5:7

How did the early church manage to be both at peace and persecuted? St Paul wants his readers to realize that when we walk by faith, the presence of the Holy Spirit becomes tangible, something we can almost taste, and although we must endure difficult and dangerous trials, we are not overwhelmed.

Of course, the further any of us move away from our early days of conversion, the more fear returns. Wavering back and forth between strength and weakness, like the Jews in the desert, we find ourselves drifting from the ideals of our faith commitments. We build "sacred cows"  by accumulating money and power, hoping they will protect us from the foolishness and failures of faith, but soon a life propped up by wealth is drained of its sweetness and we know that hedging our bets offers no ultimate consolation. 

Faith is an all in kind of life. We must give ourselves over totally to a loving God and enter the mysteries of daily life with little understanding or insight, but with great hope. The witness we can offer others at times of great stress is powerful. Knowing we are on God's path despite our struggles helps others believe more deeply in a Christianity that is simultaneously tough and tender.

Today, recommit yourself to the entirely of the Gospel.

When is it most difficult for you to remain peaceful?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yes, Yes! No, No!

"Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” Mt 5:37

Although it is important to speak carefully and clearly about important matters, we have to avoid becoming disingenuous. Too often, trying to be politically correct, we verbally dance around troubling social issues. More concerned with not making a mistake of offending others, we say nothing, which often results in the needs of the poor being ignored or neglected. People who come to the United States from countries and continents where English is not the first language are especially vulnerable to our failure not to speak clearly about the rights of people to eat, have decent schools, and get adequate medical care.

A few years ago, a woman approached me and asked whether I knew her. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, and then said no, I didn't think so. When she told me that she lived across the street, I was deeply embarrassed. I didn't know her, even though she was at mass every Sunday, because she spoke very little English. A doctor and a woman who wanted to help other parishioners, she was invisible to me.

Jesus asks us to be honest. In my case, it would have been better had I simply said, no, I don't know you, and accepted the consequences. Only when we acknowledge our weaknesses do we have the freedom to correct them and say yes to doing Christ's work in every circumstance.

Today, let your yes be yes and your no, no.



How do you avoid being disingenuous? 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Slow Down. Listen

“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” 1 Kgs 19:11

Finding God is everywhere is possible, even easy at times, as long as we are willing to let God lead us, but most North Americans are so busy that they often fail to hear, much less, accept God's invitation. Worried, like Martha in the Gospel of of Luke (10:38-42) about too many details, we miss the forest for the trees.

We need to learn to slow down everyday and notice God's finger everywhere. When we fail to breathe the morning air deeply, stretch and look around at what nature is presenting each day, we miss the God hidden in all of creation. When we keep walking when a family member, colleague or friend has a question for us, we tell them without words that we are not prepared to listen deeply to them. When people become objects that we manipulate for our own pleasure or power, we fail to notice God within them and in our relationships.

The prophet Elijah teaches us this lesson powerfully. When God told Elijah to go outside and wait for God who would be passing by, the prophet obeyed and discovered God, not in a fierce wind, an earthquake or a fire, but in the tiny whispering sound. Unless we are willing to let God speak to us in God's voice, we will rush past the God who is everywhere beckoning us, often in a whisper, to come closer.

Today, slow down for ten minutes and see what God says.

Where are the most ordinary places you hear God's voice?


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Be reconciled

"If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5:23

One of the fundamental questions asked of every school of spirituality is where it begins? Ignatian spirituality, for instance, begins with personal and world sin. Only after a person has confronted his or her complicity in making the world a harsher place and community through selfishness, pride, lust and arrogance, does the pilgrim join the journey of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. It is a natural and understandable place to begin, but it is not the only place.

Franciscan spirituality begins by reminding the pilgrim to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness and goodness of God, and only after celebrating the glory of God in all creation does it ask believers to face their sin. It is a different path with the same goal, to know, appreciate and enter the mystery of God's unconditional love. For Franciscans, only the strength and assurance they gain from seeing God's presence in all creation makes it possible for them to face the awfulness of their own ingratitude.

Jesus' reminder to his disciples seems to take this second path. God is more intent on rejoicing in our conversion and willingness to be reconciled with our sisters and brothers than in than in taking pleasure from our death through sin. God wants to celebrate who we are when we turn to him, not to turn from us in disgust. How wonderful God is!

Today, take a deep breath and ask God what you must do to be in God.



Where does your heart lead you in beginning again your spiritual journey?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

St Anthony of Padua

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:20

So many aspects of St Anthony's life are remarkable and intriguing. Born to wealth in Portugal, he joined the Canons Regular, a group dedicated to theological scholarship and learning. Happy enough as a Canon, he was the guest master for his community when five young Francisca friars on their way to Morocco as missionaries stopped to rest. Less than a year later word came that the friars had been martyred. Anthony was so moved that he asked to join the Franciscans and take up the mission of the martyred friars.Though his request was granted, his health made it impossible to leave for Morocco.

Deciding to go to Italy, the home of the Franciscans, his ship was forced into port at Sicily. Still not well, Anthony made his way to Tuscany and was assigned to a rural hermitage and asked to help in the kitchen. Well educated, even scholarly, Anthony found himself in the most humble of circumstances but there is no evidence that he complained or worried about his choice to join the Friars Minor.  As often happens, however, Anthony was asked to preach on a day no one else was prepared and his homily both surprised and delighted his listeners. His career as one of the most famous of Franciscan preachers had begun.

Today, be alert to whatever grace comes and embrace it.

What most impresses you about the lives of the Saints?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Light of the World

"You are the light of earth." Mt 5:14

Almost every year I have an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin postulants of North America, who are always a remarkably diverse group of young men. Some are Hispanic, others Asian, still others are Middle Eastern or Caucasian. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

The gospel today reminds us that like Christ, we must be lights in the world, bringing healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men is always a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

St Barnabas

"When Barnabas arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Acts 11:22

It is often obvious when someone is "filled with the Holy Spirit." They are calm and internally quiet. They listen and respond with few words. They are joyful about their faith and they are unafraid to announce the Gospel in season and out.

That the early church chose to tell us that Barnabas was filled with the Spirit and faith tells us much about him from the perspective of spirituality but little about his personality. A companion of St Paul, we know he returned to Jerusalem with Paul to try to settle the dispute about which rites of the Jewish faith Gentiles would have to accept and celebrate. This could not have been an easy task, but Barnabas had living experience of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus and his testimony, even without words, would have been powerful.  Barnabas could tell the Jerusalem community there was no doubt that the Gentiles were coming to Jesus and the Gospel with a deep faith and hope. More, they were trying to live in love with one another as a sign of their new consecration.

There are moments in all our lives when we have to stand up for others, even when our friends and family oppose them. Because our experience tells us that no one should be reduced to his or her faults, like Barnabas, we can remind anyone who will listen that we have seen and been impressed with the willingness of those being challenged to live with as much integrity as possible, and this can make an enormous difference in the lives of those for whom we speak.

Today, ask the Spirit to fill you with faith.

What makes you think someone is full of the Holy Spirit?