Follow Br Jack by Email

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Praising God Always

"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth." Ps 34:2

Knowing or grasping God completely is impossible, but we must keep trying, and the scriptures offer us any number of images of God all of which can help at different times in our lives. The Psalms remind us to praise and exalt God at all times,  and to remember that God is a healer, someone who is anxious to be with us and make us whole. No matter how broken our life might feel, God's compassion and kindness will triumph over the darkness if only we let God be God.

At the same time, no matter how hard we try, there are times when God's healing seems far away. A few years ago, when a friend was diagnosed with cancer of the bone and the doctors were not sure how much the cancer had spread, he was very anxious. Living with this kind of uncertainty is trying at best, and depressing at worst. When news of our own frailty or the serious illness of friends emerges, it strikes us like a hammer, and our spirits are often numb as we try to process what is happening,

The simplest response we can make in times of struggle and confusion is usually the best. Ask for the grace to accept whatever is happening in your life and you can be sure, no matter how weak your prayer might feel, that it is what God ask of each of us.

Today, ask God to let you know how close God is.

What images of God help you most to live life honestly as life unfolds?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Blaming Others

“Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge”? Ez 18:2

It is tempting to blame our parents or a previous generation for all our woes. Recent political commentary does this in spades. Those wanting to enforce a balanced federal budget claim that not doing so now will unfairly burden our children and their children. In other words, if we don't agree with their insistence that a balanced budget is an absolute, we have no compassion towards the next generation and will put "our children's teeth on edge." What happens to the people who depend on government aid for food, shelter and clothing seems not to matter.

Ezekiel insists that God will not punish the next generation for our sins. Rather, God will set us free, lead us out of exile and restore us to our rightful place as God's holy people. At the same time, Ezekiel does not deny that how we live now has an effect on the next generation, but insists that God desires not to allow our behavior to be death dealing to our children's children. 

Ezekiel wants his generation to repent, to turn again toward God, and to live the law with joy and delight. This remains our task. Only when we accept responsibility for our own sins can we hope to witness to all, especially to our children, that reform and renewal are possible.

Today, don't blame anyone for your difficulties. Rather, ask God for help.

What situations most tempt you to blame others for your problems?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Divorce

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Mt 19:3

Divorce is always difficult and painful, but sometimes it is necessary. When there is physical or emotional abuse, the spouse being abused has little choice. The Gospel never demands that a person submit to abuse for the sake of any relationship, and while many married people struggle to stay in relationships that are empty, there are times when a spouse must leave a marriage.

That being said, the gospel is clear that divorce should be a last resort, and that all of us need to address our hard hearts. It is not only the married, but clergy and religious, too, who too often take life for granted, think too much about what is not working in their lives and become hyper critical of the people with whom they live. Jesus had it right. When our hearts get hard, we can justify anything we do and demonize others. Finding scapegoats rather than looking at ourselves is convenient but robs us of the opportunity for growth as persons and Christians committed by vow to a particular way of life.

Jesus wants the married to succeed, to be faithful, to forgive, forget and work through their difficulties. When marriage or religious life becomes something we can abandon or easily put aside when it hurts to take the next step, we deny God's power to heal and to shine a light on the dark path that we all must sometimes take. Learning from those who accept life as it unfolds because of their faith is a gift we should all treasure.

Today, recommit yourself to your baptismal vows, and pray for those struggling in marriage.

Whose commitment to marriage most enhanced your faith?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

God's Radical Patience

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full."

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Assumption of Mary

Forgive me for publishing this blog post on July 14. It should have been for today!

"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?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Maximillan Kolbe

"Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." Mt 18:29

St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, was drawn to a military life as a boy, but soon after entering the seminary he realized that the fight God wanted him to enter was a spiritual one. Although he imagined his life as a "long war", he focused not on the failures of those to whom he was preaching, but on their strengths, and it was this strategy that fostered his work of evangelizing Western Europe and Japan.

Maximilian never forget that it is impossible to pay back God, and this knowledge drove him to pour out his life in gratitude for all God had given him. The gift of life and the gift of faith are pure gifts, not something we earn or deserve. God chooses to give us life and sustain us in it because of God's goodness, not our worth. More important, we cannot earn salvation. God wants us to be with him forever. It is as simple as that. Like a parent, God desires only good for his children and wants them to live in peace forever.

Today,  be as patient with yourself as God is with you.

How would you counsel others to live patiently?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Money and Arguments

"Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Mk 12:14

Money is always a problem. Not only do some people have too much, many more have too little, and the ability to issue a currency that is recognized internationally is critically important for nations wanting to do business with other nations.

At the time of Jesus, while Jews were free to produce their own currency for use within the temple grounds, they were forced to use Roman coins to pay their poll taxes. The rabbis, however, reminded Jews that even to touch a coin with the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be divine was idolatry. Trying to trap Jesus, they trapped themselves. Jesus knew of their prohibition against the possession or use of Roman coins, but also knew they would have some to pay their taxes. Merely by carrying Roman coins for Jesus to look at they condemned themselves as idolaters.

Intriguingly, not having a coin puts everyone on notice that Jesus had no intention of offending the law, the prophets or the interpretations of the rabbis with regard to honoring anyone who claimed divinity. There is only one God, his actions proclaim, and he will not enter silly arguments about whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Rather, he will honor the one God by dying for him.

Today, resist winning an argument, and pray for your opponent.

What helps you resist arguing with others for the sake of your image?