Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Assumption of Mary

"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth." Rev 12: 1-2

In recent years it is clear to me that the worst thing we can do to Sts Francis and Clare is to rob them of their humanity. The same is true of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Anxious to tame a strong, courageous woman, we make her in our image rather than God's, and when we do this, we strip her of her greatness and power. Listening to the Magnificat can help us avoid this travesty.

When Mary cries: "The Lord has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty," she reminds us to be humble and remember that there is only one God. Our task is not to control the world but to serve those most in need, and Mary demonstrates this early in John's gospel when she demands that Jesus help a young newly married couple who are running out of wine. Not only does Jesus respond, he makes enough wine to quench the thirst of an entire village.

The feast of the Assumption is the culmination of Mary's journey. Faithful her entire life to the Lord to whom she gave birth, she is exalted for living her life with absolute integrity, for suffering, for enduring, for celebrating all that God is. Mary is a model for us, not because she lacks passion or humanity, but because she listened to God despite the cost to her reputation and standing in the community. Mary feared nothing because she knew she was living a life of faith and love for all. More important, if we listen, she continues to teach us these lessons today.

Today, ask God to help you live the Gospel despite the cost.

What about Mary most moves you to live the Gospel without fear?

Our Relationships Evangelize

"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two .... He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts." Mk 6:7-8

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what you gain, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mobilizing Fear

"What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Mt 10: 27-28

Fear is an incredible motivator. Threatened with losing our life or reputation, we might do anything. Some run away; others start a fight. Jesus asks us to transform our fear into action for good. Recognizing how natural it is to be afraid when faced with doing something new or agitating to others, we ask for the grace to discern how best to speak and live the gospel despite the consequences.

Trying to avoid fear or deny it will never be a successful strategy in the long run. Either we confront our fears in an effort to discover where they might be leading us in faith, or we are haunted by them our entire lives. Jesus gives us an option by promising always to be with us, but it is up to us to accept his help and trust that the result will be for the good of all.

Today, face one fear and see where it leads.

What fears most immobilize you?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Be Shrewd

"Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

Sometimes Jesus' advice to his disciples startles us. Most of us understand the call of the gospel to simplicity and transparency.  Although it might be uncomfortable, we realize there is a challenge in the good news not to worry about how we appear before others, not to try to impress others with our insight or wisdom. If we embody God's wisdom, God will do what God needs to do in and through us.

Shrewdness, on the other hand, is not something we usually associate with gospel living. Shrewd people make deals, compromise their ideals and work a crowd to get their way. It does not sound like a stance the followers of Jesus should take.

While it is clear that Jesus does not want his disciples to take advantage of others, he does want them to protect themselves from manipulation. Shrewdness means not allowing oneself to be trapped by false praise or individual honor. The shrewd person listens with the heart and discerns well what it is God wants, not to enhance his or her personal reputation or prestige, but to enliven and build up the entire community of faith.

Today, listen deeply to who it is God would have you be, and act upon it discreetly.

Have you known shrewd people of faith?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

No one is Entitled

"Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." Mt 10:9

Attitude is everything and nothing gets in the way of having an authentic Christian attitude more than a sense of entitlement. When we begin to think that we have earned everything we have, even if we have worked hard all our lives, we forget how blessed we have been.

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. People shared freely the little they had. Our parents did everything they could to send us to Catholic schools and colleges where we would have an opportunity for a better life. They did not expect much from us in return. They were happy to give us everything they had, but they did demand that we work hard, be grateful, and never take for granted what came to us because of the generosity of others.

This is especially true of faith. Our attitude about faith, about what we can contribute to the building up of the body of Christ, about others who think differently than us must be one of gratitude. In fact, our faith reminds us continually that all is gift. Life is gift, creation is gift, friendship is gift, prayer is gift, and all are gifts to be given away. When Jesus sends the disciples out to proclaim good news he is clear: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."(Mt 10:8)

Today, check your attitude and be grateful for your faith.

How do you avoid a sense of entitlement?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

St Benedict, Abbot

"Break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the LORD." Hos 10:12

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire Law and Prophets to as few words as possible while still retaining the fullness of truth they embody. This same lens is used by the founders of the great religious movements of the Christian West.

In order, as Hosea says, to break up a new field, St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, first fled the insanity of his times to live for three years in the desert. Renewed by the quiet and starkness of the wild, he gathered like minded men to lead a communal life rooted in  ora et labora, prayer and work. Whatever other iterations might develop to foster gospel living, these two pillars must endure, and when they do, monastic life flourishes.

Today, pray to take hold again of the building blocks of Christianity: Love God and neighbor.

What are the most important signs of the times to which we must respond in our day for the Gospel to be heard?

Monday, July 9, 2018

An Abundant Harvest

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Mt 9:38

What owner of a farm would not want to gather up a rich harvest?  Having spent hundreds of hours, preparing, sowing, weeding and watering, the harvest is a time for farmers to collect the "wages" of their work.  Moreover, because in most cases there are only a few days to accomplish this, farmers rush to gather up what they have sown as soon as the crop is ready.

Nevertheless, some of us are so busy with other matters that we lose sight of our priorities, and fail to respond to fields overflowing with produce. When we do this, our delay can cost us everything. Paying attention to all that God is doing among us is essential for believers. We cannot afford to dwell too long on our diminishment and losses. Though we may have failed to respond fully in the past to Jesus' call to discipleship, the call is repeated today for everyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

Today, invite someone to help you spread the Good News.

Who is the most convincing "harvester" you know?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Embracing the Stranger

'A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:19

Reading today's Gospel about a woman bleeding for years, I cringed.  Most of Jesus contemporaries would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Immigrants seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the countries and cultures from which these people come. Because they speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different foods and practice a different religion, we wonder whether we should admit them to our shores and sometimes even suggest they are criminals out to take advantage of our generosity. But Jesus' response to people's criticism and fear is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions them. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, he assures his listeners, they can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?