Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Carpenter's Son

"Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?'  And they took offense at him." Mk 6:3

Fury is a strong emotion that we sometimes feel in defense of our family or children, nation or culture. Fury can also be a personal defense. If someone questions our integrity, honesty or commitment, we can react and attack them, their positions or their intelligence, anything to deflect attention from our own vulnerability.

The gospel passage we are reflecting upon is set in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. When Jesus challenges his neighbors to see him for the prophet he is, they react. How could this son of a poor carpenter pretend to be a prophet? No doubt some of them were also wondering what it was that others saw in Jesus and snidely suggested to anyone who would listen that if all the people fawning after Jesus had to live with him they would not be so sanguine about his supposed powers. No wonder they were furious.

It can be very difficult to hear the truth from people we don't like or respect, but that is the challenge of the Gospel. Until and unless we are ready to hear God's word in any form God desires to communicate it, we will miss many opportunities for transformation and growth. Asking for the grace to hear God each day, no matter the messenger or the message, is a powerful Lenten practice.

Today, listen to someone you do not respect.

What areas of your life and faith are most difficult to examine?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fasting

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Mt 9:15

Everyone in the ancient world knew how important weddings were. A time for families and tribes to deepen their bonds with one another, weddings lasted at least a week and the entire time was given over to the celebration of the new couple and the promise their marriage contained for their families, tribes and faith communities. No one would suggest that a wedding feast was a time to fast!  That is why Jesus uses the idea of wedding to help his disciples understand his commitment to them. He was their bridegroom and they were his bride.

Another aspect of weddings at the time of Jesus gives us even more insight. After a man was betrothed to his intended bride, he would leave her and return to his father's house, but before departing he would say, I go to prepare a place for you, the same words Jesus uses to assure his disciples that he would return for them after his death and bring them to the bridal chamber he had prepared for them forever in heaven.

Today, rest in the realization that Christ has betrothed himself to us forever.

What image do you use to help yourself remember Christ's eternal and total love for you?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Eating with Sinners

"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." Mt 7:12

Jesus' answer to the Pharisees who are complaining about his eating with tax collectors and other sinners seems so obvious, we wonder how the Pharisees could be so blind and deaf. They must have known that the law not only allowed conversations with sinners but demanded it. Like us, the Pharisees often heard and saw what they wanted to see and hear. Secure in their knowledge of the Torah and satisfied with their modest power, they wanted only to find something to criticize in Jesus' behavior in order not to listen to him, but when Jesus responds to their resistance and dullness, he teaches all of us.

Change is always difficult, and it is easier to criticize someone than to search for their goodness and compassion. Jesus sees past the sins of the tax collectors. Inviting them to supper and building a relationship with them makes it possible for him eventually to speak with them about changing their lives and turning away from their sin. Rather than attack their profession, he sits at table with them in the hope that they will be able to see the error of their ways and change.

Today, praise someone whose behavior often irritates you.

Have you ever been changed by someone's kindness and understanding?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Mercy for the Broken

"People brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher." Mt 9:1

Mercy is a constant theme for Jesus. Always concerned that the poor and crippled, who often thought of themselves as unworthy of God's love, would to be afraid of God or fear they were being punished for their sins, Jesus reminds them that his Father's love was not a gift for the successful but for the faithful. No longer should anyone think their worth was determined by their status in the community.
Jesus reminds the leaders of the Jewish community and us that mercy towards paralytics is the path we must take if we wish to know God's desire for us. In the 11th chapter of the prophet Hosea we read:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (1-4)

If God bends down to feed us, must we not do the same to those who are hungry for mercy?

Today, offer a hand of mercy to someone who expects rejection.

How do you understand God's mercy?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hating Evil

"Hate evil and love the good." AM 5:15

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Monday, July 2, 2018

We are the Body of Christ

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone." Eph 2:19-20

Feeling like a stranger can be very beneficial, especially if we are traveling in a foreign country. Only those with too much chutzpah think they belong everywhere, and Americans are notorious for this. Some American tourists, believing they own the world, hurt and anger people of other countries and cultures. Acting as if they are entitled to anything they want because they can pay for it, the embarrass themselves and their country, often without even knowing it.

Poor people almost never feel this way, but this is not to say they have no pride or sense of themselves. Rather, because their poverty makes them dependent on others, they are slow to judge, demand or condemn. The Jews of Jesus' day were like this. Knowing their country was occupied by the Romans, they walked cautiously through life, anxious not to lose the few privileges they had, and it was their humility that make it easy for Jesus to change their lives.

Although the Lord did not come among us to free us politically, he gives us a much greater gift by inviting us to be a part of his Body as "the household of God." Reminding us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Paul assures us the as long as Jesus is our cornerstone, the ground of our faith, it does not matter how rich, important or powerful we are in the world. All that matters is our commitment to be the Christ in the world.

Today, glory in the gift of your relationship with Christ.

How has faith given you a sense of belonging?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Jesus the Pilgrim

"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." Mt 8:19

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? What a challenge?

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we have to trust. The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?