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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Trusting God

"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Mk 8:33

St Peter, because of his good will and strong temperament, is forever getting himself in trouble. Quick to speak and offer an opinion, in today's scripture he challenges Jesus not to speak about his own suffering and death, and assures the Lord that he will intervene if anyone tries to hurt him. Though Peter had good will, he did not have good sense,. He spoke before he understood God's intent for Jesus, and Jesus puts Peter in his place in very direct terms. Get behind me Satan, these are human words not God's.

Most of us are too timid to take chances like Peter. We wait, gauge our responses and hope for the best. Though we might avoid mistakes, we rarely witness to the one in whom we believe without dotting every I and crossing every T.  Do we need to ask for the courage and faith to change?

Today, ask God for Peter's big heart and passion.

Whose courage do you most admire?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Jn 19:25

Who stands by you compassionately when you are struggling or lost?

In the Office of Readings today, St Bernard of Clairvaux, writing in the 12th century, calls Mary “a martyr in spirit,” because of her compassion, never abandoning her son even on the cross. Bernard writes: “Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.”

Standing with others in their suffering, not taking it away, not offering empty words of consolation, not trying to understand it, is a kind of death, a martyrdom. Helplessness is often the price of compassion and Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother, helps us learn this vital Christian virtue.

Today, pray for those who have no one to stand with them in their suffering.

Have you ever been called to be a companion to someone who is suffering alone?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Exaltation of the Cross

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." Jn 3:13

The cross of Jesus Christ, as St Paul says, is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23) but the believer continues to hold the cross high, to exalt it, as a sign of God's unconditional love for us. Never easy to understand or to penetrate its mystery, the cross remains for those who believe a book of life, or as St Francis said, the only book we will ever need.

How we read the book of the cross is fundamental to our growth in faith. How, for instance, do we understand or interpret suffering? How should we approach death and dying? What can we expect from God when we carry our own crosses? Martin Luther King, speaking of what he labels unmerited suffering, writes, "Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains." (MLK)

We should never be turned away from a full Gospel life because it makes others uncomfortable and us suffer, but rather ask the Lord for the grace to "Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble of heart." (Mt 11:29)

Today, ask God for the grace not to be afraid of the cross.

What about living a Gospel life causes you the most suffering?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

St John Chrysostom

"To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Lk 6:27

It is clear in the Gospel that there is little more important to Jesus then the unity of his disciples, even in the face of enemies. Our unity with one another is the sign that that Jesus came from God and is God. We have only to seek unity with one another in Christ in order to preach the truth of the Gospel that Jesus has come for the salvation of all. Anything that inhibits this unity must be resisted, especially the use of power and wealth as weapons to control others.

St John Chrysostom, who desired only to live simply as a monk, was called to be bishop Constantinople, one of the most important sees in the 4th century. A dynamic preacher, John was alarmed that the lifestyle of the bishops and the wealthy was so distancing them from the poor that the unity of the church was threatened. Setting a very simple table, he challenged everyone to think first of their unity in Christ and not of their ability to eat better than others! Eventually, his pointed sermons so upset the rulers of his day that he was exiled from Constantinople and died.

Today, pray for unity with someone from whom you have been separated.

What do you think are the greatest challenges to the unity of the Body of Christ?



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Beatitudes

"Blessed are you who are poor." Lk 6:20

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which were recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize.

Without a printing press or a written form that would allow easy distribution of the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the first Christians memorized Jesus' teaching and repeated them often for their own well being and to announce the Gospel. While many contemporary believers still do this, it can be a dangerous practice.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. When we do this, we impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Called by Name

"When he came down from the mountain, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose twelve." Lk 6:13

Almost everyone has a conversion experience or three. Struggling for an identity or reflecting on the scriptures, there is a moment that stops us and reminds us who we are. Though it is not always life changing, it can be. When the Apostles heard Jesus invitation to follow him, they knew who they were and who they were called to be.

The same was true for St Paul when he was blinded by a great light and heard a voice telling him:"I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." (Acts 22:8) Unable to see because of the great light, his companions led him into Damascus where Ananias healed him of his blindness and told him to return to Jerusalem and be baptized. Not long afterwards God told Paul to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles among whom he would find his life's mission.

Jesus calls each of us by name. Are we listening? Will we ask for the faith to respond?

Today, thank someone who increased your faith?

Do you think you have an obligation to invite others to follow Jesus and the Gospel?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sabbath Rest

"I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil." Lk 6:9

Jews have always valued the Sabbath, both as a way to remember God's gracious love of them and to observe God's laws. It is important to remember that very few societies in the ancient world had time away from work. People, especially the poor, worked everyday and rarely had time for themselves. When God rested on the seventh day, God reminded all of us to stop, celebrate and rest. The Jewish people took this example very seriously, and their strict observance of the Sabbath is testimony to this.

At the same time, Jesus, without dismissing the importance of Sabbath, challenges the rigidity of Jewish observance by asking the telling question: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? The obvious answer is yes. Not only must we do good, we must also seek to live the underlying values of the Sabbath. Rest is good and important, but seeing the struggles of the sick and suffering and responding to them is just as necessary.

The law of God should never be used as an excuse not to do good. We rest in order to remember God's love and respond to others as God did and does. There is no other way to observe the whole law and the prophets.

Today, rest completely and see how your refreshed spirit will urge you to do more good.

How do you obtain a balance in your life between work and rest?