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Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Nativity of John the Baptist

His mother replied: "He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." Lk I:59

What's in a name?  In the ancient world, everything. Names were given to children by their fathers to honor his ancestors and elders. Mothers had no role in this ritual, but Elizabeth does. Only when Zechariah writes the name John on a tablet is his "mouth opened and his tongue freed." Clearly, Elizabeth's child John would play an important role in salvation history. John, whose name means God is gracious, would usher in a new order and a new way of being in the world.

Unlike so many, John would have no doubts about his role. He knew he was not the Messiah, despite the desire of so many who accepted his baptism. Rather, his entire life would consist in pointing to Jesus, and announcing the coming of the Messiah. Admitting that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandal strap and that he needed to decrease and Christ increase, John becomes a symbol for every Christian.

Our task as believers is not to posture or pretend that we are important, but to be grateful for the name Christian, recognize Christ in every person and prepare others to receive his Good News. Accepting that we are God's children gives every Christian an identity that is empowering forever. We need not have any fear about who we are or what we are to do. Like John, we are to point to Christ as Redeemer and hope for all humankind.

Today, help someone find Christ.

What are the biggest obstacles we face in announcing the Good News?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Two Masters?

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Mt 6:24

We know the Gospel tells us that can't serve two masters. How about three or four or ten?  When we think about our lives it often becomes obvious that we are trying to do too much for too many people and this can lead to resentment of all those we intended to serve. Time becomes our master, or security or accomplishment or power, but when we stop to reflect upon these matters we know that the Gospel challenge to have one master is spot on and powerful.

We need to commit ourselves on a daily basis to serving God alone. Only God can be our master and the task of the believer is to discern how best to serve this master each day. When we take time to pray about this we often reach a counter intuitive conclusion. Serving God alone does not mean saying yes to every needy person or important cause, but learning to ask God each day how to go forward, how to help, how to serve and how to announce the Good News.

Today, ask God how best to live the Good News.

Which of your concerns most often gets in the way of serving God?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Gift of our Bodies

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light." Mt 6:22

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others. Feeling invulnerable as young people, we take chances that, as we age, we put aside as crazy.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. Who does not love a sunset or a double rainbow? Who is not touched when we see kindness between and among people, especially when it is shown to the most vulnerable. To those willing to see, the entire world is aflame with the glory of God.

All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How important it is to develop positive attitudes towards others, especially those who are different from us.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?






Wednesday, June 20, 2018

St Aloysius Gonzaga

"Forgive us our trespasses" Mt 6:12

The Lord's prayer reminds us to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our sins. For those especially who have been humbled in any way, the Our Father is a consolation. Sin can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and encourages us to work with others to overcome them.

But we need to be cautious. There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do to change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of our sinfulness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Aloysius Gonzaga is a good example of someone who recognized that despite his family's wealth and desire for him to seek power over others, he could only fulfill his destiny by renouncing his family's affluence and join the Jesuits in the pursuit of God. Freed by the Society of Jesus to honor God totally, Aloysius plunged into the care of plague victims only to succumb himself to the disease.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Purpose of Penance

"When you fast, do not gloomy like the hypocrites." Mt 6:16

It did not take the church long to place before us a telling and important reminder about penance. Fasting for instance, is not a subtle way to lose weight. Neither it is a practice to give us personal satisfaction or assure us that we are close to God. Fasting, and every other penitential practice, has only one purpose, to draw us into the heart of God for God's purposes, and its value will be known by its fruits.

Are we more just, are we more open to the stories of those who struggle with life and life's most basic demands? Are we slower to judge others? Are we content being God's servants? God's yoke, as Jesus reminds us, is easy. When an ox goes in a straight path, it does not even know it is saddled with a yoke. It simply goes where it is directed. Though a harsh image, imagining God putting the yoke of the gospel around us at Baptism can help us not to struggle against any correction or instruction we receive.

Today, yoke yourself to God and let God lead you.

What is your most difficult "yoke?"

Monday, June 18, 2018

Loving our Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:43

Very little in the Gospel can shock and startle us like the phrase "love your enemies." Unfortunately, because we have heard it so often, it sometimes washes over us like another bit of information, and fails to stop us in our tracks or make us think.

Loving our enemies is hard work. It means turning our world upside down, letting go of hurt and beginning again. It does not mean we should be soft or weak. In fact, loving our enemies can make us very strong if only we have the courage to ask God to show us a path towards authentic reconciliation, especially if our enemies are in our own family.

Jesus made many enemies because he continually challenged the power of the Jewish leaders of his day. More upsetting to some, he also demanded that everyone study and reinterpret the Torah. The Law, as Jesus lived it, was intended to lead people closer to God and the service of God's people, not into vengeance against their enemies. The Gospel does the same thing.

Today, ask for the strength to love one enemy.

What stops you from loving your enemies?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Wisdom of Letting Go

"Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow." Mt 5:42

Years ago I remember a young mother exhorting her second youngest child to let his younger brother play with his toys. The little boy protested, but his mother only smiled and picked him up. If you let Jimmy play with whatever he wants, he will forget about it in a few minutes and you can have it back. Try to be patient and see what happens. The little boy took his mother's advice and learned a great lesson. If he did not cling to his own small possessions, he would be free, and soon enough he would learn that there were enough toys for him and his brother. Indeed, there is enough for all when we learn to let go.

When we allow our possessions, our power or our fear to possess us, it becomes impossible to hear Jesus or anyone else. We build walls and fences to protect what little we have and vow to defend it with our lives. It is clear that the leaders of the Jews saw Jesus as a threat who was stripping them of what little power they had and so plotted to trip him up, not because he was dishonoring God, but because he was threatening their security, and all this in the name of God!

Today, give something away to someone freely, and do not expect it to be returned.

Who is the most generous person you know?