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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Transitions for the Aging

“Ephphatha!' (that is, 'Be opened!') And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly." Mk 7:34-35

So many aspects of life need to be opened over and over in our lives. We need to have open spirits, open hearts and open minds. Without a life open to God and God's direction, we risk missing the voice of the Spirit who Christ promised us would always be present within and among us. Remaining open to God's Spirit can be especially troubling when we are in pain.

An older friend has remained engaged in life by reading. She reads the newspaper everyday and a novel at least once a week. She also reads history and theology, but recently she has been grappling with vision problems. Almost immobile, my friend is struggling to understand and accept this new burden. The openness she has had her entire life, and which she so prized, is difficult to maintain. Though she knows that she can use her other senses to engage the world around her, her eyes have always been her primary path to enjoyment and conversation.

How we manage the transitions that life presents us is the measure of our faith. Walking with others in pain, reaching out to the hungry, and accepting the limitations that come to everyone, while seeming to close us off to what we have always known, in fact allows God to do God's work in and through us.

Today, open your heart to whatever God asks.

What are the most difficult transitions you have faced?

Friday, September 7, 2018

Mary's Birthday

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Mt 1:23

Birthday's are festive times, and although Mary probably didn't celebrate hers like 21st century Americans, we ought to celebrate it with real joy. Mary is the one who’s "yes" to the angel and God made possible the entrance of Jesus into history and her birthday might be a time for us to light a few candles to remember her life and her sorrows.

There are few saints who teach us more about accepting and celebrating life as it unfolds than Mary. Apparently content with her life, especially after she was promised in marriage to Joseph, her life turned upside down when she was still a young girl. A visit from an angel invited her to know God in a more intimate way than anyone before her, but this knowledge came at a great price. She would be talked about and ridiculed, forced to flee her country and family, and when she was free to return to Palestine after Herod's death, she would be faced with the awful burden of watching her son suffer and die as a common criminal.

No wonder we want to celebrate her birthday. Mary's nativity invites us to trust that even that which appears and feels like an overwhelming sorrow, will be transformed by God into hope for all peoples and all nations. Happy birthday, Mary. Thank you for showing us the path to hope in darkness.

Today, ask God for the grace to embrace whatever comes your way.

What it is about Mary that most moves you to say yes to God's path for you?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Remembering God and God's People

"It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself." 1 Cor 4:3

St. Paul knows what it means to write to the churches he helped found in a manner that focuses on them and not on him. He thanks God for them, for their faith, their faithfulness and the good works they do on behalf of the gospel, and he assures them he is not concerned about any accustions against him.

What a powerful lesson there is for us in his greetings to the church in Corinth!  When we learn to begin each day with gratitude and hold our thanks before us like a light, we provide hope for those living in darkness and are reminded that a life of faith is simple. We need always to walk in the light of Christ who will show us the path to hope and thanksgiving because, as Paul further reminds us, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." What a powerful reminder this is to the church in the United States during these days of scandal and shame!

Today, embrace your weakness and thank God for the gift of faith.

Have you experienced your weakness as a gift?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fishing God's Way

"Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." Lk 5:5

It is natural to wonder what it was that moved Peter to obey Jesus and lower his nets for a catch. Peter is the fisherman, not Jesus, and has been fishing all night with no success. Despite being tired, Peter listens to the Lord's command, and hauls in a large number fish, but this is not the point of the story. That the Apostle's will "catch" men and women is, and it is still the story.

Our task as Christians is to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ with passion and conviction, all the while knowing that it is not our eloquence or insight that will move our hearers but the power of God alive in us and in the Word. When we have the faith to listen, discern and obey God's command, even if it is counter intuitive or contradicts our experience, our success as evangelizers, like Peter's, will be assured.

Today, let go of your prejudices about how to be effective disciples and let God guide you.

Who or what has been most effective in your understanding and living of the Gospel?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Belonging

"For we are God's co-workers; you are God's field, God's building." 1 Cor 3:9

Feeling like a stranger can be very beneficial, especially if we are traveling in a foreign country. Only those with too much chutzpah think they belong everywhere.Poor people almost never feel this way, but this is not to say they have no pride or sense of themselves. Rather, because their poverty makes them dependent on others, they are slow to judge, demand or condemn. Living in a country occupied by Romans, they walked cautiously through life, anxious not to lose the few privileges they had, and it was their humility that make it easy for Jesus to change their lives.

Although the Lord did not come among us to free us politically, he gives us a much greater gift by inviting us to be a part of his Body, God's field, God's building. Reminding us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Paul assures us the as long as Jesus is our cornerstone, the ground of our faith, it does not matter how rich, important or powerful we are in the world. All that matters is our commitment to be the Christ in the world.

Today, glory in the gift of your relationship with Christ.

How has faith given you a sense of belonging?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Praying the Psalms

"The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness." Ps 145:8

For centuries the church has charged its leaders and people with praying the psalms on a daily basis and with good reason. The psalms are songs and hymns that console and challenge us everyday to transformation. They lift us up and send us forth; they knock us down and set us straight, and in all of this the psalms assure us that if we wait, listen and ask for help, God will stoop toward us and listen to our cry.

Carlo Caretto, a well known Italian activist and writer, found himself exhausted, confused and lost in the Roman church. Not sure how he could survive in a church which he loved and despised at the same time, Caretto left Italy for North Africa to join Charles de Foucauld and the Little Brothers of Jesus where he found a group of men who were willing to pray and reflect for long hours before they acted.

The little brothers changed his life. They taught him about patient prayer and silence, and introduced him to a faith path that helped him find God in places he had never before visited. When finally Caretto returned to Italy he was a different man. Quiet and reflective but still full of zeal. Caretto became a spokesperson for the power of prayer and the role of lay people in the church. Indeed, he discovered the God who stooped toward him in his need and listened to his cries.

Today, stoop towards someone in need with compassion and a listening heart.

Has anyone bent down to help you when you are in need of understanding and acceptance?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

St Gregory the Great

" I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living." (Ps 27)

St Gregory, like so many others saints, lived fully in the world in his early days, but after five years as prefect of Rome, lost confidence in the society to direct or discipline itself. Hoping the monastic life would give him some clarity about how to live the Gospel, he joined the Benedictines, but shortly thereafter the Pope sent him to Constantinople as his representative.

Straightforward and scrupulously honest, when he became Pope,  Gregory disciplined wayward priests, used monies from the papal treasury to care for Jews and the sick, and reformed the liturgy. but it was his instructions to bishops on how to conduct their office, read for a thousand years, that sealed his place among the Greats of the Christian community.
It is with profound sorrow we have to admit that though the harvest is great, the labourers are few, because, though the people are ready to hear the Word of God, there are few to preach it. Lo, the world is full of priests, yet in the harvest of the Lord a labourer is very rare, for we undertake, it is true, the office of the priest hood, but its duties we do not fulfill. Yet weigh well, dearly beloved, weigh well the words of the text: "Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He send labourers into His harvest." Pray then for us that we may have strength to labour for you as we ought, that our tongue may not be slack to exhort, and that, having undertaken the office of preaching, our silence may not prove our condemnation at the tribunal of the just Judge. (Homily of St Gregory)
Today,  dare to be great in Christ.

What most keeps you from the living the Gospel with abandon?