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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fig Trees

"For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?" Mk 13:7

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Today,  reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Friday, November 16, 2018

St Elizabeth of Hungary

"You did not recognize the time of your visitation." Lk 19:44

St Elizabeth of Hungary was born into and married royalty. She had access to money and power, but when her husband died on his way to fight the sixth crusade, she decided to leave the palace and follow Conrad, her Franciscan spiritual director, to Marburg where she continued her life of compassion for those most in need.  Conrad wrote that Elizabeth "built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table."(1)

People of faith like Elizabeth, especially the married and families, are the ground upon which the church builds communities of compassion for the poor and justice for all. After all, it was the faith and courage of our parents and grandparents, so many of whom were immigrants, who came to this country and built, hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and shelters because they knew that faith demanded they respond to the struggles they saw all around them.

Though the structures might change, the demand of the gospel to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty will never change. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who is the patroness of Catholic Charities, remains an icon who challenges our generation not only to pray for justice in our churches, but to live the gospel in our streets.

Today, pray in gratitude for those who give their lives to care for those who cannot help themselves.

How can you live Elizabeth's values in your life?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pride

"Anyone who is so "progressive" as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God." 2 Jn 1:9

Early in the church's life there were gnostics (those in the know!), people who believed that Christ's coming in the flesh was only a first step in faith, and that there was another stage of faith that allowed some to know the "spiritual" Christ and abandon their previous beliefs.

Some people in the United States who think we have developed an economic system that is far superior to any other are dangerous, just like the gnostics of old. They reduce life to how much a person has, not how they live and behave and in doing so are not only arrogant towards others, but dismissive of them. This is hardly the Gospel message. Only when we we seek the grace to live a life of integrity and respect for ourselves and others because we are all children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus can we hope to be Good News in the world.

Today, pray to be free of the kind of pride that makes you look down on others.

Whose humble life and lifestyle has most impacted you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Looking at the Undocumented

"Perhaps this is why he (Onesimus) was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord."

Near the end of his life, St Paul writes to Philemon about Onesimus, a slave who has turned his life around in Christ, and begs Philemon to treat Onesimus as a fellow pilgrim, not as a slave. Without denying that Onesimus still belongs to Philemon by law,  Paul focuses, not on Onesimus' status as a slave but on the radical equality all people gain in Christ.

What a powerful lesson this short letter teaches. We are all one in Christ and we need to act like it. Respecting undocumented people, honoring refugees and exalting those without a voice because we are one with them in Christ proclaims that the power of faith erases all distinctions between and among Christians. Working for policies in every nation that exalt our common humanity rather than our differences because of race, gender, and ethnicity is an essential Gospel teaching.

Today, look not at another's legal status but at their rights as human persons to dignity and love.

Who has helped you see others with God's eyes?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Take Nothing for Granted

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"  Lk 17:17

A few weeks ago, following Hurricane Michael, people in the Florida panhandle were forced to think about basic needs and services. Not only were most of them without electricity for days, thousands of homes were destroyed and many other homes remain uninhabitable.

Unfortunately, for too many of us, it takes a storm like this to make us think about what we so often taken for granted. Learning about people without electricity and heat for days, and being unable to find gasoline for their cars makes all of us realize how dependent we are on the services which most of the time we can find anywhere, and forces us to pause in gratitude.

Jesus reminds us of this same reality. It was a foreigner, someone without a voice or a home, who returns after being healed to thank him. The clear call of the Gospel is to be thankful each day not only for the simple gifts of food, water and heat, but for life itself.

Today, thank someone who provides you with a basic service.

How do you avoid taking life's necessities for granted?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Rejecting Entitlement

"When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" Lk 17:10

Attitude is everything and nothing gets in the way of having an authentic Christian attitude more than a sense of entitlement. When we begin to think that we have earned everything we have, even if we have worked hard all our lives, we forget how blessed we have been.

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. People shared freely the little they had. Our parents did everything they could to send us to Catholic schools and colleges where we would have an opportunity for a better life. They did not expect much from us in return. They were happy to give us everything they had, but they did demand that we work hard, and that we be grateful, and never take for granted what came to us because of the generosity of others.

This is especially true of faith. Our attitude about faith, about what we can contribute to the building up of the body of Christ, about others who think differently than us must be one of gratitude. In fact, our faith reminds us continually that all is gift. Life is gift, creation is gift, friendship is gift, prayer is gift, and all are gifts to be given away. When Jesus sends the disciples out to proclaim good news he is clear: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."(Mt 10:8)

Today, check your attitude and be grateful for your faith.

How do you avoid a sense of entitlement?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

St Josaphat

"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Be on your guard!"  Lk 17 1-2

In the 17th chapter of St. John's gospel, Jesus prays that his disciples may be one, but even a cursory glance at the history of the church reminds us that unity is not uniformity. There are 13 rites, many of which have multiple subdivisions. In the Roman Catholic Church each of these rites, "possess their own hierarchy, differ in liturgical and ecclesiastical discipline, and possess their own spiritual heritage." l In other words, while the liturgy, language, law and spirituality may differ markedly, the Christ who is their center is the same. It is this unity that St. Josapha worked so hard to attain.

Josaphat, working to heal the Great Schism (1054) between Eastern and Western churches, spent his entire life in pursuit of the unity for which Jesus prayed. At Vatican II, the Council fathers made it clear that Christian unity remained one of it's principal concerns.2 How very important then to listen to Jesus' command to pray always without becoming weary. No matter how painful and frustrating our divisions might be, we must continue to pray and work for Christian unity.

Today, quietly examine the issues that divide your family and/or your parish and ask God for a path of unity and peace.

What do you think are the marks of unity in the Church?