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Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Obligation to Rest

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

There are advantages living in a friary where most friars are over 70. No one is embarrassed to admit they need a nap, even two short ones! After the apostles report to Jesus about all their missionary journeys, he encourages them to go away to a deserted place and rest, no doubt because he senses how tired they are. After all, the transition they had to make from their lives as fishermen to apostles of a minor rabbi must have been difficult, even if they were literate. Becoming a public person is always demanding, and even more so in a society that was in a constant struggle with the Romans. 

Rest is something we all need, not just physically but spiritually. Slowing down, breathing deeply and taking time to be intentionally aware of God's presence is a good example for those who are always rushing and is essential for a healthy spiritual life. 

Today, take ten minutes to do nothing.



How much time do you take each day to rest quietly in God?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Gratitude for all that Is

"Behold my servant,...in whom I delight."

How many signs do we need to believe that God is among us? It is a beautiful morning. Cool with a promise of clear skies and a warm afternoon, it is difficult not to rejoice in the glory of another day. I know there are some, especially the chronically ill, for whom a day like this means little. Others are struggling with family difficulties or the lack of a job that allows them to support their family, but there is no excuse for not breathing deeply, enjoying the simple wonder of clean air and asking God for the faith to live this day fully in Christ.

Jesus warned the people of his day about very similar things. Although he was among them as a clear sign of God’s love, many refused to look at him as a gift to the world and kept challenging him to prove himself according to their narrow standards, but Jesus would have none of it. He reminded his listeners of God’s delight in the willingness of the people Nineveh to repent, and told them not to be vengeful like Jonah who was angry at God for being so forgiving. The message remains constant. No matter how often we turn away from God, God is waiting for our return.

Today, look and listen for the ordinary signs of God's enduring presence in the world.



Which signs of God's love to we take for granted?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Purity of Heart

"Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them." Mt. 12:1

When we feel cornered, we will do almost anything to defend ourselves. It is always easier to attack then defend a weak position. There seems little doubt that those accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath were really trying to undermine the Lord’s authority.

The Pharisees must have known that David had demanded that his troops be fed even with the bread consecrated for temple use. David knew his men were “pure”, that they had avoided sexual relations, and were therefore worthy of eating the consecrated bread. He reminds the priests that he always demanded purity of his troops when they were on an expedition for the nation. 

In like manner, Jesus is challenging the Pharisees to find some “impurity” in his disciples. After all, the disciples had left everything to follow him and were told often that they should take nothing for their journey except the truth of Jesus’ message so that no one could question their motives. If they were “pure” in their desire to announce God’s Good News even if it meant their persecution, why would the Pharisees accuse of them of breaking the Sabbath?

Today, pray for “purity” of heart in being a disciple.

What are your greatest challenges to living the Gospel simply and transparently?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Praying for Enemies

"The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level." Is 26:7

Isaiah regularly offers the people of Israel a path of return to God and God's ways. As long as they do justice and make restitution to those people and nations from whom they have stolen and against whom they have warred, God will remember them and welcome them home.

This simple lesson should not be lost on us. When we honestly assess our behavior, we realize how often we have lusted after what others have, and whether it is their property, their influence or their reputation does not matter. When we have allowed ourselves the freedom not to work for others on behalf of God, but to struggle against them for our own gain, we must confront and address this sin.

At the same time, this is never easy. When someone unjustly tries to take from us our good name, we have the right to resist, but never violently. Only when we insist with a peaceful heart that others allow us the same dignity we offer them, will we be doing God's work. Those who willingly admit their own wrongs and respond in justice to those they have ill treated are always more successful in the pursuit of God's desire for the world.

Today, pray for your enemies.

Who do you most admire for their honesty and willingness to step in the shoes of another?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How Children Teach Us

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike."  Mt 11:25

What is it about children that causes Jesus to hold them up as icons? Surely, they are charming and innocent, but there is more. Children live in awe and wonder. They see without blinders. They don't interpret what they see as much as delight in it, and in all of this, they teach us. Unlike the leaders of the Jewish community who are looking for ways to undermine Jesus, they don't care if he claims to be the Messiah. They only want to be close to him.

It should not surprise us that children are naturally contemplative, able to play or work at a project for hours without noticing the time. So fascinated are they by what is right in front of them, they are not easily distracted and teach us how to live fully each day. Jesus' praise for children is well founded and natural when we take time to reflect upon it.

Today, let your spirit be distracted by the awesome beauty of the world.

What most distracts you from living each day with joy and delight?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The All Forgiving God

"But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Mt 11:24

Most of us are familiar with Abraham's willingness to wager with God in the book of Genesis. Intimate with God, Abraham is unafraid to approach God, even push God, to forget our sins and embrace us anew. Aware that God is thinking about destroying the wicked city of Sodom, Abraham first asks God whether 50 innocent and good people would change God's mind about destroying the city. When God says yes, Abraham keep lowering the number until God is willing to forgive the entire city of Sodom if Abraham can produce 10 good people. 

The God we meet in the book of Genesis is tender, compassionate and merciful but often for reasons of guilt and shame we are unable to accept this God. Thinking we are deserving of punishment and retribution, we resist allowing the God of Genesis to come near us for fear we will have to offer others the same solicitous love God shows us, but God is bigger than our fears. While God wants us to forgive our enemies, God's love is not conditional. As long as we ask for help, God is there, trusting that the reception of this kind of mercy will help us see others as God seems them.

Today, imagine God waiting for you with open arms.

What keeps you from believing in the all forgiving God that Abraham encounters?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hot Faith

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword." Mt 10:34

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?