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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Marriage in Christ

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church... husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. :...'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church." Eph 5: 25-26

Marriage is a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church, and like all sacraments, an enduring sign of God's love for us. The love of wife and husband for one another in faith is a witness to God's unquenchable and total love for us, and the fundamental reason for the church's prohibition against divorce. Since Christ cannot stop loving us, married couples are challenged to love one another through every trial. St. Paul says it most simply.

The challenge of Paul's sentiments can seem overwhelming to married couples, especially when they are struggling with their commitment to one another. Nevertheless, the vision and hope of Paul remain. There is no clearer sign of Christ's love for the church than a married couple trying to heal one another, push past infidelities great and small, and build their relationship into a transparent witness to Christ's love for the church.

Today, pray for those struggling in marriage.

How important do you think marriage is in and for the church?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Biblical Leadership

"Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,but do not follow their example." Mt 23:3

Leadership in an individualistic society like the United States is very different from leadership in a communal society like Japan or Korea. It is important to reflect on this in light of today's scriptures.
When one reads the scripture, written primarily from and for a communal society, leadership is about reminding people of the values of the society. The Pharisees, who are too often denigrated and despised, try to impose their will on the community, but Jesus is adamant that this is not the role of leaders. Today his words about the Pharisees are overwhelming.
Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.
Whose example do you follow?

Today, do something for another without being seen.

What do you think are the most important qualities for a leader to have?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

St Bartholonew

"Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Jn 1:47

Some people are naturally open, transparent and accepting. Most of us, however, are not. We fear and resist the judgment of others. What can they know about us, we ask, they have only just met us, and while this is true, it can reflect an unhealthy desire for independence. Only when we realize that the wisdom  and insight of others can be a gift for our own journey do we embrace it and grow from it.

St. Bartholomew is the poster boy for innocence and openness in the gospel, and if we can be open to the lessons he teaches, our lives can be much simpler. People are given to us in life as guides and mentors, and while some remind us what not to be, most can help us take the next step if only we will listen. Bartholomew blurts out, "How do you know me?", but as soon as the Lord answers, his resistance crumbles and he acknowledges Jesus as Son of God and King of Israel.

Today, ask for the gift of openness before God and others.

What helps you put aside duplicity and seek transparency?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wedding Garments

"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son." (Mt 22:2)

It is always amazing to note how often the Bible uses the setting of a meal to help us understand God’s care for us. Both  Isaiah and Matthew tell of a grand banquet that God has prepared, but it is important to note that there were two distinct kinds of feasts in the ancient world. The first, known as a ceremonial feast, would have been something a local political leader might host by inviting people to the anniversary of his ascension to power, or the wedding of one of his children. Everything would be provided for his guests, even a wedding garment if they had none. Guests had only to enjoy themselves and be grateful.

The second was known as a ritual feast. A king or local tetrarch might host a festive gathering when his son came of age or entered the military. This kind of feast signaled a transformation in someone’s life, a time when new expectations were thrust upon the one being celebrated, a time to rejoice but also to change, which is the point of the text.

Do we accept God’s mantle of love, God's wedding garment, that calls us to let go of sin and self centeredness  in order to live a life of gratitude and service? If we fail to be grateful, we align ourselves with the man who chooses to come to the wedding banquet, but is not willing to change. In fact, we condemn ourselves. It is not God’s generosity that is lacking, it is our unwillingness to accept ourselves as God sees us and live in gratitude.

Pray today to see yourself as God sees you, a person of great dignity and value. Pray too to see others as God seems them.

Does gratitude for God's gifts mark your life?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Queenship of Mary

"We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith." 2 Thess 1:11

St Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, invites his readers to think of Mary as a Queen in a very different way. Because Mary has no secular power or even an honorary position in her society, the crown she wears is made up of the virtues she embodies: compassion, understanding, kindness and moral strength. Without the trappings of the secular world, Mary proclaims her queenship by the way she lives.

Afraid at first of the call from God to be the mother of his son, Mary puts her fear aside and becomes Jesus' first disciple. She follows him and urges others to do so, not so much in word, but in deed. If Jesus must endure suffering, so will she. The call of Jesus to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves becomes her mantra, her simple path to life and hope. Mary is Queen of heaven and earth because her example empowers all to love God as Jesus did.

Today, be an example of compassion by caring for someone to whom you have no responsibility.

Who has shown you the virtue of compassion without words?

Monday, August 20, 2018

St Pius X

"Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mt 19:30

The ministry of the Pope, St. Pius X, is a good example of why the church is always in need of reform. Realizing that 19th century spirituality had disenfranchised many, especially children, from a full sacramental life, Pius X, in 1902, wrote: "The chief aim of our efforts must be that the frequent reception of the Eucharist may be everywhere revived among Catholic peoples....For the soul, like the body, needs frequent nourishment; and the holy Eucharist provides that food which is best adapted to the support of its life." (Mirae Caritatis)  The Eucharist, Pius reminded us, is real food and real drink. Our senses are the pathway to our souls. It is through them that we know the glory of God and God's love for us in a bodily way.

Today's gospel passage insists that those who are often last in our societies will be first because they recognize these truths more naturally. Never far from the earth and its riches, the poor and lowly never take food or simple shelter for granted. Rather, they treasure the gifts of the earth each day and eat and sleep with gratitude.

Today, be grateful for all you eat, especially the Eucharist.

What or who helps you to remember the nourishing and nurturing gifts of creation?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor

 "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mt 19:21

St Bernard of Clairvaux, in a remarkably moving and demanding sermon, begs Mary to help her sons and daughters:
Let humility be bold, Mary, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
Reading Bernard's words always lifts my spirits. It is clear that the Saint thought of Mary as his sister, mother, and friend, someone to whom he could speak plainly and with abandon. Mary was not an historical figure, but a living, breathing companion with whom Bernard could plead and beg. His example should embolden us. Both Mary and Jesus are meant to be accessible players in our personal and communal lives. We should never be afraid to approach them and ask for help and guidance.

Today, imagine you are Mary's sister. Stop her and ask for direction and help.

What spiritual practice has most helped you strenghten your faith?