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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Facing our Fears

"Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: 'This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.'" 1 Kings 19:4

Faith, though a free gift from God, has responsibilities, and Elijah, caught up in his own fear, forgets this. We must give faith away and that means announcing the freedom that God bestows upon his people. When we fail to accept this Gospel mandate, we risk losing everything. Faith is not about making us more comfortable but about assuring us that because we have been saved, we need to spend God's gift by creating a more just world.

Unfortunately, Elijah and Christians like us too often forget this message. Like children who take the gifts they receive for granted, we forget that all of life is a gift, and rather than celebrate all that God does for us, we wallow in a shallow place and feel pity for ourselves.We cling to things, people and places as if they belong us. Worse we sometimes use others for our own purposes rather than celebrate who they are before God.

Grateful people sometimes bubble over with thanks, but most of the time they are quiet. They listen more than they talk and encourage others to express themselves. By doing this, those to whom they listen become grateful themselves and their gratitude ripples out and washes all those around them. Grateful people cleanse the world by celebrating all that God is and does with and for his people.

Today, listen to someone who thinks poorly of  him or herself.

What keeps you from living a grateful life?

Friday, August 10, 2018

St Clare of Assisi

"(Ezekiel said) I did as I was told. During the day I brought out my baggage as though it were that of an exile, and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness, shouldering my burden." Ez 12:7

Like St Francis, her friend and mentor, St Clare was born into wealth, and although her mother was generous towards the poor and had a deep spirituality, Clare knew that the power which her family's wealth gave her was an obstacle to a full Gospel life.

Because she wanted. like Jesus and Ezekiel, to sell everything she had and give the proceeds to the poor, Clare petitioned Rome to live what she called the "privilege of poverty." Anxious to demonstrate her total dependence on God and the church, Clare wanted both to live within the enclosure and without a dowry, something unheard of in the middle ages. Because women within the enclosure had no means of supporting themselves, the church insisted that nuns have the security of a dowry to protect them from destitution.

Although it took almost to the end of her life, St Clare's desire to live with nothing of her own was finally accepted by Rome when her Rule was approved in 1253 just a day before her death, and this profound breakthrough continues to inspire women of the 21st century to live the Gospel simply and without guile.

Today, ask yourself whether you need everything you have.

What spiritual practice might help you live the Gospel more simply and fully?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

St Lawrence, Deacon

"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

There is an old saying: You can't win it unless your in it, and this is especially true when trying to live the Gospel.  Unless we are committed to live the Gospel with integrity everyday, we can never hope to know its joys. Summer in the Northeast United States teaches this lesson especially well.

Gardeners who are willing to put only one tomato plant in the ground can hope all they want for a treasure trove of tomatoes but one plant can only produce so much fruit. Only those who are willing to risk many plants and have the energy to water them everyday can hope for a large crop. The same is true for our good deeds. While one generous act a day is good, we must be willing to sow many seeds of God's love every day to announce the reign of God, especially to those without faith.

St Lawrence is most famous for a good deed that though we cannot authenticate it, continues to impress us with its power. Commanded by the Roman prefect to gather up the riches of the church in order to strengthen the Emperor's war efforts, Lawrence asks for a few days to inventory the churches treasures. During this time he gathered up the broken: the lepers, the blind, the lame and the orphaned and brought them to the Roman prefect declaring: These are the treasures of the church! Shortly after his daring declaration, he was martyred.

Today, sow good deeds without worrying about their success.

Who sowed the Good News in your life?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Peter's Impetuousness

"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Peter is one of my favorite gospel figures.  Anxious to help, sure of himself and committed to following the Lord, his impulsiveness often gets the best of him. On one occasion, he quickly answers Jesus' inquiry: Who do you say that  am?  The Christ, Peter says, the Messiah.  Unfortunately, while Peter's answer is correct, his understanding is lacking.  He wants Jesus to be a kind of military leader who drives the Romans out of Jerusalem and reclaims the Holy City for the chosen people.  More, if Jesus is an earthly king, Peter probably thinks that his own position as a disciple will afford him enhanced status among his peers.  

In today's gospel, Peter stands up again for the Lord as a defender and protector, but this time the Lord’s response is harsh.  “Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle to me.”  Although I have often prayed not to be an obstacle for others, especially to their faith life and journey,  I know that my quick tongue and harsh judgments have often hurt others.

That is why I think it is so very important to develop simple practices to accept our faults and address our  anxieties. A 12 step friend told me: Things that are are urgent are rarely important, and things that are important are rarely urgent. Had I listened more closely to my parents and friend, I might have saved myself and others unnecessary hurt.

Today, try reading the scriptures not for insight but for transformation.  

What practices most root you in faith?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

St Dominic

"A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them, or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil." St Dominic

While preaching at the Eucharistic liturgy, with few exceptions, is confined to ordained men, much preaching in retreat centers and para liturgical settings is done lay women and men, and for those of us who have heard it, it is uniformly informed, powerful and challenging. The Dominicans especially have fostered this practice. Known as the Order of Preachers, they conduct workshops and seminars on preaching around the country in order to emphasize the importance of hearing a wide variety of preaching styles and voices so that everyday people might be attracted to the Gospel.

St. Dominic would have appreciated his followers efforts, and it should surprise few people that Pope Francis keeps encouraging the church, especially its leaders, to live and preach more simply so that more and more people might be attracted to the power of the Gospel lived with transparent joy and integrity. That women and men lay preachers, in the spirit of St Dominic, might lead this reform would be a wonderful gift to the church.

Today, pray for the ongoing reform of the church.

What kind of preaching most moves you to live the Gospel/




Monday, August 6, 2018

Take Courage

"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid." Mt 14:27

One of the dangers in being called to ministry is that we very often encounter people when they are in acute distress. Their children are addicted and acting out, their parents are in jail, a sister is seriously mentally ill or a brother is unable to tell the truth, and they look to us for insight and wisdom. The list of woes goes on and on, and often skews our worldview. Life feels like a very dark place and unless we are careful we begin to believe that the entire world is a mess.

Because Jesus understood that life would be difficult for his disciples, especially if they continued to proclaim the Good News, he offered them a way to understand and interpret their ministerial efforts through the experience of a woman giving birth. While the pain of child birth is intense, the result is pure joy. A child is born, a new life begins and hope replaces despair. Such would be the life of those who remained faithful to the gospel. Darkness can become light, and sadness can be transformed into hope, but we must pause each day to remember that we are not alone, that we are accompanied by a body of believers who, while they suffer, also know great joy.

Today, remember that your life has already produced great gifts for God.

How do you manage to remain centered in God in a world full of heartache?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Transfiguration of the Lord

"While he was praying Jesus' face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." Lk 9:29

Change is necessary in all our lives, but always implies a struggle. Because we are comfortable in a particular circumstance despite its difficulties, we often choose to make excuses for not changing. Friends of mine, older now and needing to think about moving to a smaller home or condo, express a thousand reasons for staying exactly where they are. Despite the fact that their home presents some physical dangers for older people, they prefer to adjust and be careful not to hurt themselves rather than move, and while all of their friends understand their reluctance, it does make us wonder.

Jesus experienced resistance in his apostles as he headed for Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish life and power, but determined to move towards Jerusalem, and his death, he reveals himself to his disciples on the mountain of the Transfiguration. Showing himself as the successor to Moses and Elijah, Jesus lets his friends know that he is more than they think and more than they bargained for. He is the Messiah of God, and his message and purpose go far beyond the liberation of the Jewish nation from Roman domination. Though it will be frightening and confusing, if Jesus' disciples want to continue to follow him, they must accompany him to Jerusalem and all that it implies. So must we.

Today, let the Lord show himself to you as he is.

What are your most challenging resistances to change?