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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Moving with Fear into Faith

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

The cost of discipleship for Jesus' followers was high. Almost all of his apostles would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.  Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this.

The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Accepting Hate

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Serving Others

"I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends." Jn 15:13

Service of others, even our enemies, is one of the great hallmarks of the Good News, and while some might not consider service of others good news, Jesus does, in the most emphatic of terms. Unless we learn how to serve others, even becoming like slaves in this regard, the message of the New Covenant will go unheard.

Gratefully, most of us have met and been moved by people whose entire lives are given in service to others. For most of my years as a priest I have had the great privilege of offering the Sunday Eucharist in places where volunteers prepared everything for Mass. I had only to prepare a homily. Everything else was done with love and dedication by people who never looked for special mention or attention. Anyone encountering this kind of dedication cannot help but be moved and lifted up. Whether it was distributing music books already opened to the proper page, or moving chairs so that those in wheelchairs might find a place among us, these loving men and women did everything they could to help create a sacred space for God's people to gather, worship and rejoice.

Today, thank God for the privilege of serving God's people.



When have you known the glory of God in serving others who could not repay you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Authentic Joy

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” A friar friend, gently prodding a group of clergy, once asked them to bow their heads, screw up their faces and pray. Only a few participants smiled until the end of the prayer when my friend suggested that if they were happy they ought to inform their face.

It can be difficult to smile, relax and enjoy others when we are troubled or in the middle of a debate like the early church we learn about in Acts of the Apostles. Not sure how best to fold the gentile community into the church, the Apostles struggled with one another. Paul saw things one way; James another and it is clear that everyone was trying to convince the others of their point of view. Being right often kills joy and rather than proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, we act like a group of children after losing a ballgame. 

Today, smile at someone randomly.

Who helps you express the joy you feel as a disciple of Jesus

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Resolving Disputes

"'Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.' Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question." Acts 15 1-2

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Living in Darkness

"I am going away and I will come back to you." Jn 14:27

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 book of Deuteronomy reminds 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.

Today's Gospel reminds us that Jesus told his disciples that he was going away but that they should not be overly troubled because he also promised to return.  How important it is for us to remember Jesus' promise to be with us always even when it feels like he is nowhere to be found. And it is equally important to be steady in faith especially when friends or family are struggling to believe

Today, try to say nothing to those who are angry or disappointed in God.

What about our faith helps you most when you are living through dark times?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Humility in the face of Praise

"There was an attempt in Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas." Acts 14:5

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods's name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Tenderness of God

"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away." Rev 21:4

Do we give people a reason to love God by our lives of tender service, especially to those most in need? This is a fundamentally important question for anyone wanting to follow Jesus and love Jesus. When people encounter others who are tender to everyone, it often changes them. Almost everyone understands being tender with children, the elderly and the diabled, but when we are tender towards prisoners and bullies, we witness to the power of the Gospel in challenging and compassionate ways.

The Easter season is all about deepening our convictions about the tenderness of God who allowed his son to suffer and die for our sake. When believers model their lives on the life of Jesus, especially in his willingness to live totally for others without regard for their social standing or importance in the society, we proclaim God's goodness in ways that everyone can see and understand.

Today, be tender to someone who lives a totally self centered life.

Who taught you the value of tenderness in your life? 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Trusting God to Hear Us

"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." Jn 15:13

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, they can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Facing our Fears

"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Walking in the Dark

"I came into the world as light." Jn 12:45

It is always good to stop from time to time to remember those who were lights for us on our faith journies. It may have been a teaching sister in your catholic school. It might have been a grandparent whose understanding and insight pointed you towards a path of hope. It might have been a young friend who assured you that God was a constant companion and you had nothing to fear.

We are also called to be lights for others, not so much by what we say, but how we live. When others realize that we are there for them, not as instructors in the particulars of faith, but as companions on the journey, they are much more likely to trust us and ask for help. What a great gift we can to friends and companions along the way and how grateful we need to be for those who continue to lead us by example.

Today, take a moment to thank someone who has helped you through dark times.

What is your reponsibility to those who walk in darkness?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Discerning God's Will

"I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world." Jn 12:47

Jesus must have been terribly confusing to the leaders of the Jews. Forever insisting that he wants only to live the Law and fulfill it, at the same time, he seems to break the law regularly. What were the Pharisees to do? If they did not challenge and condemn him, they would lose their own authority. If they did reject his teachings, they would lose the power they had over ordinary people. Their quandary, like ours, led them into impossible situations. More concerned with their own position in the community than with their role of instructing the people of God, they don't listen deeply to the Lord. Neither do we!

A life of faith is not something we put on or off at will. Neither can it be reduced to obeying legitimate authorities. Faith demands reflection, prayer and conversation with others seeking to know and follow God's law, all of which takes time away from other necessary duties in life. Too often, hoping for a simple and quick solution to complex questions, we avoid the hard work of following the Lord, and either put our foot in our mouth or kick ourselves in the shins.

It is important to remember the lesson of the Pharisees. While we can, and sometimes must, criticize church and state, it is only through reflection, prayer and honest conversation that God's will emerges.

Today, pray for the prophets in our world who remind us to live the Gospel fully.

How do you discern God's will in your life?

Monday, May 13, 2019

St Matthias

"And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE. Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives, though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Jesus the Gate

"I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Jn 10:9

Gates are important for shepherds, ranchers and dairy farmers. Not only do they protect live stock from predators, they also provide a safe haven for the animals themselves. Jesus calls himself a gate because he wants to protect us and give us a sense of security in his Father's love. He also wants us not to be afraid to offer others a safe place in God's house, and this becomes the task of every person committed to the Gospel.

When we realize how much God wants to protect and guide us, we are humbled. Looking past our faults and sins, God keeps giving us examples of faith to assure us that we, too, can strive to live the Gospel fully. The two Popes canonized last week illustrate this. John XXIII told us to "see everything, overlook a great deal, and correct a little." John Paul II reminded to be in solidarity with the poor despite the cost, and to help create a peaceful world rooted in justice. Both men were gates whose lives encourage us to do the same in our generation.

Today, protect someone's reputation because it is the right thing to do.

Who has been a gate of faith for you?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Voice of a Friend

"My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

Most of us have had people in our lives who seem able to hear us on a level that both sustains and challenges us. Gifted with the ability not to speak too quickly or forcefully, our shepherds help us understand ourselves and the God who seems silent but always has a message. Although we often resist their insights, eventually we let go and trust the God who speaks through them.

Today, be grateful for the shepherds in your life who help you hear God's voice.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Trusting Jesus

"Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'” Jn 6:67

When friends are not who we thought them to be, especially if they speak poorly of us, we are disappointed and disillusioned.  We might even be tempted to end our friendship, or at the very least step away from it for a while. Shock does that to us. Unsure of someone else, we also wonder how we missed something important about them. Were we so needy that we failed to realize that our relationship was not as secure or as deep as we imagined?

John's gospel reminds us that not all of Jesus' disciples remained true to him. Discipleship, like friendship, is built not on completely understanding the other, but on trusting that the relationship is authentic and rooted in God's love and the truth of the Gospel. Because we know that God is faithful, we can trust that whatever God teaches is for our good and glory of God. Trusting God is the root of our faith and faithfulness.

Today,  ask not for understanding but acceptance.



How do you manage the loss of a friendship?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Ongoing Conversion

"Saul, Saul, why are your persecuting me?" Acts 22:7

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.

For St Paul, who thought of himself as among the most observant of Jews, it surely was. Blinded by a great light on his way to Damascus to continue his persecution of Christians, he 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.

While it appears that for St Paul the memory of his dramatic conversion was all he ever needed, we can be sure that this is not true. While all who open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit will be led more deeply into Christ and into mission, there will be moments of disabling doubt and confusion when we will wrestle with God and with life. Only after we lose the battle to be in charge of our own lives and throw ourselves again at God's feet and ask for mercy, will we find the path to the next stage of our journey. Indeed, God has a mission for all, but it is God's mission, not ours.

Today ask God to send you again on his mission, not yours.

How can each of us continue to be converted in Christ?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Studying God's Word

“'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?'” Acts 8:31

Unfortunately, in a Twitter world where all communication is limited to 280 characters, too many believers cling to or focus on one phrase from the Gospel and use it as a lens for their spiritual lives. Doing this almost always leads to misunderstanding and confusion.  The New Testament cannot be fairly read or understood when we remove it from its own cultural context and setting.

An example might help. The Ethiopian eunuch reading the scriptures alone knew he needed help and asked Philip to instruct him. There should be little doubt that Philip responded to this seeker's request using all the information and skill he had, not 280 characters, but whatever it took to help the Ethiopian seeker to know Jesus and the Good News. Blessed with so much wonderful scholarship and insight, we ought to follow Philip's example in the 21st century. Study of the Scriptures can only help us.

Today, pick up a Catholic study bible and read the introduction to one of the Gospels.

Who or what most helped you to understand the scriptures more deeply?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

God's Mercy is always Available

"I will not reject anyone who comes to me." Jn 6:38

Mercy is a constant theme for Jesus. Always concerned that the poor and crippled, who often thought of themselves as unworthy of God's love, would to be afraid of God or fear they were being punished for their sins, Jesus reminds them that his Father's love was not a gift for the successful but for the faithful. No longer should anyone think their worth was determined by their status in the community.
Jesus reminds the leaders of the Jewish community and us that mercy is the path we must take if we wish to know God's desire for us. In the 11th chapter of the prophet Hosea we read:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (1-4)

If God bends down to feed us, must we not do the same to those who are hungry for mercy?

Today, offer a hand of mercy to someone who expects rejection.

How do you understand God's mercy?

Monday, May 6, 2019

Religious Intolerance

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7: 59-60

The reasons we reject others are many. Sometimes we don't like or trust the person. At other times, their message annoys or upsets us, and unfortunately, there are some who reject others because of race, religious, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation. Although most of us have been raised with the bromide, Don't judge a book by its cover, we all have our prejudices.

Stephen was rejected simply because he was preaching the salvation of Jesus Christ, a message that frightened traditional religious types who used their power to control others' lives. When Stephen's wisdom and spirit began to sway people towards Christ and away from the synagogue, his fate was sealed. Some scholars believe that Stephen had attended and worshiped at the synagogue in which he was preaching, making his sin even greater. To draw others away from the Talmud was bad enough but to do it to one's neighbors and friends was a much worse offense.

Today, be grateful for those who live and speak our faith with power no matter the cost.

Have you ever been attacked or rejected because of your religious faith?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Feed Someone

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

While Jesus accepted the people who followed him for who they were, he also knew that some sought him out for the wrong reasons, and he regularly corrects and challenges them and us not to look to him  only for miracles and food, but to pray and work for a food that will last.

Although we know this side of Jesus, it can be difficult to accept his directives, especially when we are struggling. Anxious to be free of suffering for ourselves or others, we pray for God's intervention without bothering to think or even wonder whether our desire will help build God's reign.

When we read the scriptures about the people Jesus healed, we are reminded not to focus too narrowly on the wonder of healing, but on the life of faith which the healed person led. Mark's gospel is especially telling in this regard. "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." (Mk 10:52) Ultimately, the healing of Jesus is for others. Jesus expect those he heals to "go" and announce the Good News by the way they live and care for others.

Today, feed someone with kindness.

What most interferes with your following Jesus freely?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Fishing for God

"Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We also will come with you'." Jn 21:3

All the disciples, it seems, try to return to what they know after the death of Jesus. Whether they were discouraged, confused or upset is not clear. Today's gospel tells the story of Peter and his friends "going fishing." Though fishing for sport and relaxation were not really options in the ancient world, Peter's words remind me of times I've gone fishing to clear my mind, relax my spirit and day dream. I often tell people that I go fishing, not catching, not because I never catch a fish, but because sitting quietly on the at the edge of a stream or lake is one of the most relaxing things I can do.

Whatever the case for Peter and his friends, when Jesus appears to them after they had spent the night catching nothing, he enters their lives again in the most ordinary of ways. He has a charcoal fire going on the shore and asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. Then he gives them bread and fish and they cannot help but recognize him as the same Lord who took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed everyone who was hungry. Even though he has been raised up, he reminds his disciples that his mission is the same and so is theirs. They are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned. They need not fear or be confused. Though their ordinary lives will be difficult, they will endure because he is with them. Is it any different for us?

Today, do the ordinary tasks of your life with purpose and hope.

When have you experienced God's presence in the everyday events of your life?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Do not be Afraid

"It is I. Do not be afraid." Jn 6:18

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation. Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was stoned so badly in Iconium that his persecutors thought he was dead, but in fact he lived, left that town and continued to announce the Good News despite its cost.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sts Philip and James

"Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me, Philip? Jn 14:9

Sometimes it is amazing to acknowledge how little we know about ourselves and others with whom we live even after many years together. In part, this is a result of the culture of individualism and privacy that so pervades U.S. culture, but it is more than that. Too often, busy about so many things, we fail to spend time, even waste time, with ourselves, our families and God.

Being with others is rarely revealing all at once. Only time spent listening to others with our hearts over the course of many years affords us real knowledge of the other. Learning to waste time with God  and others each day, despite its frustrations, will allow us to know and love God and the people with whom we live more deeply. More important, it affords God the opportunity to tell us more about God.

It is a small, but significant, comfort to know that even the apostles suffered from spiritual “blindness" and "deafness.” Philip does not know the Lord after years spent with him, but perhaps after the Lord’s correction, Philip will listen more to Jesus’ teaching about who is and from whom he comes.

Today, take five minutes to be quiet. Do not worry about distractions.

Who most impresses you with their ability to be quiet and listen?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

St Athanasius

"He gave them bread from heaven to east." Jn 6:31

It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like for Christians at the beginning of the fourth century. For three centuries they had been persecuted. Welcome neither in Jerusalem's synagogues nor Rome's temples, they hid in the catacombs or died in the Coliseum, but within fifty years of the conversion of Constantine, Christianity became the state religion and anyone who sought office in the Roman empire had first to be baptized.

St Athanasius was about 20 yrs old when Constantine first professed faith in Jesus and led a tumultuous life. Exiled five times from his see in Alexandria, he continued to defend the divinity of Jesus in a world that wanted compromise at any price, and held up St. Anthony of Egypt and his simple life as a model for all Christians. That he remained faithful to the most basic teachings of Christianity despite great personal suffering makes his life a challenge for believers everywhere.

The struggle to live a faith based life at the beginning of the 21st century is great. With the explosion of  the newly emerging social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, there is enormous competition for our attention. How the practice and life of faith fits into all of this is unclear, but with Athanasius we can recommit ourselves to live simply and transparently as witnesses to God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

Today, be grateful for anything and anyone who reminds you of God's love for us in Jesus

Who most impresses you with their simple life of faith?


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

St Joseph the Worker

"Where did this man get this wisdom and mighty deeds?"

Shepherds in the ancient world had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

St Joseph was like that for Jesus. It should not be difficult for us to imagine Jesus, even as an infant, turning and smiling when he heard Joseph's voice, and it would have been Joseph's voice in his early years that would have instructed Jesus in the ways of the world and at work. Today as we celebrate St. Joseph the Worker, let us pray that workers around the world will find their voice and hear the voice of the church in their quest for safe and productive work places, and just wages.

Today, pray for a friend whose greeting you cherish.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Justice and Private Property

"The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common." Acts 4:32

One of the most vexing questions that bedevils Christians is the right to private property. Especially in a world where the distribution of wealth is so uneven, the question of private property becomes vitally important. This is not to challenge the radical right of people to possess and protect things as their own, but rather to pray about how to discern what level of private property protects both the rights of individuals and the common good.

The question of discernment is most important here. Discernment, in a classical sense, is the sifting through of two goods. Granting that famous athletes and movie stars need to protect themselves and their families more than the rest of us, their homes are among the most egregious examples of excess in this regard. Why any family with one or two children would build a 22,000 square foot mansion with an elevator is incomprehensible to most, but it does get us thinking and praying about what is adequate and necessary. When the rights of a few are protected to the detriment of the many, the question of how best to distribute food and goods must be engaged by thoughtful and prayerful believers.

Today, think about justice in the distribution of goods.

How do you think we ought to apply the

Sunday, April 28, 2019

St Catherine of Siena

"They saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, 'It is I. Do not be afraid.'" Jn 6:20

Catherine of Siena, unlikely doctor of the church, is one of those saints who challenges all our unexamined assumptions about wisdom, education and sanctity. The 25th child of parents who lost most of their children to early death, Catherine, though uneducated, became one of the most important writers of the 14th century. Her letters and mystical writings remind us to keep Christ close despite the cost.

In a letter to her spiritual spiritual director she writes: "You should not wish to turn your head because of the thorns of so many persecutions, for he is indeed mad who would abandon the rose for fear of its thorns." (Letters) Though unsaid here, it is clear that Catherine was able to ignore those who persecuted her because she knew that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was her guide and protector and having the rose was more important than the thorns that tore at her life.

The Easter scriptures are forever reminding us that the Gospel, though liberating and empowering, is too difficult to live without the strength of an Advocate, someone who stands behind us, encourages us and assures us that God is with us no matter how heavy the burdens we might have to carry.

Today, be an advocate for someone who seems lost.



Have you ever experienced the strength and support of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Divine Mercy Sunday

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” Jn 20: 27-29

We wonder about Thomas. Is he "all of us," full of doubts that inhibit our relationship with God and most of the people in our lives? Is he our stubborn younger brother or sister who was spoiled as a baby and still resists change not to his or her liking? Was Jesus annoyed with Thomas for not listening to the other disciples who assured him the Lord had risen?

None of these questions is answered definitively in today's Gospel. What we can be sure of is that Jesus addresses Thomas' doubts and reminds him that others, who will not have the joy of seeing Jesus in the flesh, but who believe anyway, are blessed. That's us, at least most of the time. Born into faith filled families, most of us treasure the gift of faith, practice it and accept both its limitations and its delights. We know that faith is not intended to free us from every trial, hurt and confusion, but we also believe that faith will sustain us even at those times when life makes no sense, or we must endure suffering and loss.

The mercy of God, we learn, is always available to us no matter how often we take faith for granted or turn away from its teachings. With Thomas, we open our eyes to the work of the Lord all around us and realize how blind we have been. Even as we look, God's mercy is at work.

Today, offer mercy like God, freely and without exception.

How have you experienced God's mercy when you were struggling?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Easter Saturday

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19

When "ordinary" (Act 4:13) people begin to act in ways we don't expect, we look for easy explanations. Perhaps they have been prompted to speak by others, or maybe they have had an experience that will sustain them for a while, but will soon dissipate. That they may have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit is often the last possibility we consider. When we do this we risk ignoring God's work in those from whom we expect nothing, and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish leaders in the Acts of the Apostles.

Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus, despite being warned by the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus or claim to speak in his name, cannot be quiet, and because of this expose themselves to danger. In every way the disciples' actions are remarkable. Filled with fear just a few days before the death of Jesus, they are now able to speak and act in ways that demand attention. The Jewish leaders are alarmed and try to silence them, but nothing works.

Easter's promises often do this to us. Convinced finally that God will always be with us, our fear subsides and we find the courage to speak clearly about what God has done in us despite the consequences. The early martyrs, including all the apostles, Thomas Becket, Oscar Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and thousands of others bear witness to this reality. When the good news of God's justice and freedom is threatened, especially for "ordinary" people and the poor, we must speak out and accept the consequences.

Today, ask God to free you from the fear that inhibits your ability to speak Good News.

Have you known someone who risked everything to live the gospel?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Easter Friday

"Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We also will come with you'." Jn 21:3

All the disciples, it seems, try to return to what they know after the death of Jesus. Whether they were discouraged, confused or upset is not clear. Today's gospel tells the story of Peter and his friends "going fishing." Though fishing for sport and relaxation were not really options in the ancient world, Peter's words remind me of times I've gone fishing to clear my mind, relax my spirit and day dream. I often tell people that I go fishing, not catching, not because I never catch a fish, but because sitting quietly on the at the edge of a stream or lake is one of the most relaxing things I can do.

Whatever the case for Peter and his friends, when Jesus appears to them after they had spent the night catching nothing, he enters their lives again in the most ordinary of ways. He has a charcoal fire going on the shore and asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. Then he gives them bread and fish and they cannot help but recognize him as the same Lord who took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed everyone who was hungry. Even though he has been raised up, he reminds his disciples that his mission is the same and so is theirs. They are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned. They need not fear or be confused. Though their ordinary lives will be difficult, they will endure because he is with them. Is it any different for us?

Today, do the ordinary tasks of your life with purpose and hope.

When have you experienced God's presence in the everyday events of your life?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Thursday

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you." Acts 3:6

Easter is not just about receiving with joy the promise of eternal life. It is about giving it away. Peter's response to the man crippled from birth is a perfect example of this. Not worried about what he doesn't have, Peter gives what he does have, and this ought to be the model for every believer. Some have the financial ability to help others. Some have time to give. Others can pray, but all of us have to give something.

Several years before my mother died she wanted to talk about her living situation. Because many people has lost their jobs and homes and she was living in a home with two extra small bedrooms she was guilty about having so much while others were suffering. Mom asked whether I thought she should offer the extra bedrooms to some homeless people. Stunned by her generosity, I also reacted strongly against the proposal. A woman of 85 living alone should not open her home to strangers, but what should she do? More important, what should we do, not just with our surplus, but with our substance.

Today, think of your gifts and share them.

Has anyone ever stunned you with their kindness when you expected nothing?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easter Wednesday

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you." Acts 3:6

Easter is not just about receiving with joy the promise of eternal life. It is about giving it away. Peter's response to the man crippled from birth is a perfect example of this. Not worried about what he doesn't have, Peter gives what he does have, and this ought to be the model for every believer. Some have the financial ability to help others. Some have time to give. Others can pray, but all of us have to give something.

Several years before my mother died she wanted to talk about her living situation. Because many people has lost their jobs and homes and she was living in a home with two extra small bedrooms she was guilty about having so much while others were suffering. Mom asked whether I thought she should offer the extra bedrooms to some homeless people. Stunned by her generosity, I also reacted strongly against the proposal. A woman of 85 living alone should not open her home to strangers, but what should she do? More important, what should we do, not just with our surplus, but with our substance.

Today, think of your gifts and share them.

Has anyone ever stunned you with their kindness when you expected nothing?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter Tuesday

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed." Mt 28:8

An older translation of Matthew 28:8 told us that the two Mary's were "half overjoyed, half fearful,"  as they hurried away from the tomb. Like young people newly admitted to a prestigious college, the two women are full of hope and foreboding at the same time. Their dreams have been fulfilled and now they have to live them.

In fact, this is the challenge every Christian faces when the reality of the Resurrection dawns upon us. Even though there is no reason to be afraid, we tremble. Working harder at being a Christian is not the answer, because we cannot earn salvation. It is a pure gift. Asking to be more grateful each day for God's eternal love is the only appropriate response to the Resurrection, and for most of us it is easier to give than receive.

The purity and unconditional nature of God's gift to us in Jesus' resurrection is too much to absorb. We stand naked before God in our failure and sin, and God loves us more than ever. It is only when we turn away from God in shame that we lose sight of God's love. While God stands before us with open arms and heart inviting us to an eternal embrace, we lower our eyes in the self absorbed fear that our sin is bigger than God's love, and in the process, deny God's healing power.

Today, ask God to remove your fear so you can linger in gratitude.

Have you ever known anyone who took time to be grateful every day?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Monday

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed." Mt 28:8

An older translation of Matthew 28:8 told us that the two Mary's were "half overjoyed, half fearful,"  as they hurried away from the tomb. Like young people newly admitted to a prestigious college, the two women are full of hope and foreboding at the same time. Their dreams have been fulfilled and now they have to live them.

In fact, this is the challenge every Christian faces when the reality of the Resurrection dawns upon us. Even though there is no reason to be afraid, we tremble. Working harder at being a Christian is not the answer, because we cannot earn salvation. It is a pure gift. Asking to be more grateful each day for God's eternal love is the only appropriate response to the Resurrection, and for most of us it is easier to give than receive.

The purity and unconditional nature of God's gift to us in Jesus' resurrection is too much to absorb. We stand naked before God in our failure and sin, and God loves us more than ever. It is only when we turn away from God in shame that we lose sight of God's love. While God stands before us with open arms and heart inviting us to an eternal embrace, we lower our eyes in the self absorbed fear that our sin is bigger than God's love, and in the process, deny God's healing power.

Today, ask God to remove your fear so you can linger in gratitude.

Have you ever known anyone who took time to be grateful every day?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter Sunday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter, the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Easter is a time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter Vigil

"Let there be light." Gen 1:3

Living without light for long periods of time impacts us in powerful and negative ways. We feel isolated and paranoid. We see and hear things that are not there, and we find it almost impossible to know what time of day or night it is. Forced to go within, we are faced with a terrible emptiness, especially if we have lived our entire lives in the external world.

Recent studies about people living in solitary confinement for long periods of time reinforce these notions. Many people who isolated, even from other prisoners, suffer from severe mental illness and take their own lives. The thought of living without the light of conversation, simple friendship and external stimulus is simply too much to take.

The Easter Vigil reminds us of this in the most basic of ways. God, Genesis teaches us, made light for us and for our delight. God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others. More, God sent the Christ as a light to all nations so that we might proclaim God's love in this most fundamental of ways. The light has come, Easter proclaims, and nothing and no one will ever be able to drag us into eternal darkness. God's light is forever. Nothing says this more clearly than Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Today, be an Easter light for someone living in darkness.

Who has been Easter light for you?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sts Philip and James

"Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me, Philip? Jn 14:9

Sometimes it is amazing to acknowledge how little we know about ourselves and others with whom we live even after many years together. In part, this is a result of the culture of individualism and privacy that so pervades U.S. culture, but it is more than that. Too often, busy about so many things, we fail to spend time, even waste time, with ourselves, our families and God.

Being with others is rarely revealing all at once. Only time spent listening to others with our hearts over the course of many years affords us real knowledge of the other. Learning to waste time with God  and others each day, despite its frustrations, will allow us to know and love God and the people with whom we live more deeply. More important, it affords God the opportunity to tell us more about God.

It is a small, but significant, comfort to know that even the apostles suffered from spiritual “blindness" and "deafness.” Philip does not know the Lord after years spent with him, but perhaps after the Lord’s correction, Philip will listen more to Jesus’ teaching about who is and from whom he comes.

Today, take five minutes to be quiet. Do not worry about distractions.

Who most impresses you with their ability to be quiet and listen?

Good Friday

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." Is 53:7

Silence is an essential spiritual practice for anyone wanting to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love for us in Jesus. Taking fifteen minutes once or twice a day to sit in the middle of life as it unfolds without saying anything or trying to understand, we give ourselves to God without explanation or expectation and we do this in memory of the Christ who lived and hung upon the the cross for us. When we choose to be quiet like this, inside and out, we usually see more clearly, but not necessarily understand more of God's plan. Rather, in silence we make ourselves available to God for whatever God intends. This kind of abandonment is difficult but necessary, especially during the Sacred Triduum.

Good Friday is a good time to look quietly upon the cross, or in the words of St Clare of Assisi, to gaze upon the God who gave his life for us. There are no words to adequately articulate this mystery, and although we try, there is no making sense of God's incredible sacrifice. God wants to be near us for eternity and so does the unthinkable. God dwells among us, suffers and dies so that we might know more completely the depth of his love. We could never imagine this, nor would we want God to die. Death is Jesus' choice, not to exalt suffering for itself, but to submit himself to his Father's will for our salvation. 

Today, find fifteen or twenty minutes to be quiet with God. There is no need to say anything.



How difficult is it for you to sit quietly in the presence of God?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Holy Thursday

"When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: 'Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" Jn 13:16

When Jesus assumed the posture of a slave and washed the feet of his apostles, he startled them and us. That we ought to be kind to one another and welcoming to all, even our enemies, is clear, but that we should kneel down and wash others' feet made no sense at the time of Jesus and continues to feel alien to us. While we might offer someone access to a bathroom to refresh themselves, the idea of washing their feet would never occur to us.

In Jesus' day washing feet was common, but it was done by women and foreign slaves. Heads of household would never wash feet, and although many of the great figures of the Hebrew bible offered kind service to their friends and family, Jesus' willingness to stoop to wash his disciples feet signalled a new kind of leadership and a radical view of God.  Jesus' challenge was clear. We must see ourselves as less in order that God can be more.

Today, think about the God in others, not your own power or prestige.

Who taught you most about a life of Christian service?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Power of Words

"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." Is 50:4

It is always difficult to know what to say to people who are suffering. Sometimes words get in the way, are empty or miss the point entirely. All of us have cringed at wakes and funerals hearing people try to offer comforting words but failing miserably. While we feel for them and are glad they tried, we sometimes wish they said nothing.

On the other hand, the speeches and sermons of people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King continue to echo the power and importance of carefully crafted words even in a digital age. Who can listen to Dr King's I have a Dream speech and not be moved?

Although we have no recordings of the Prophet Isaiah's words, that he understands how to rouse the weary is clear. Committed to the God he knows from personal experience, Isaiah assures the Israelites that God pleads their cause, looks past their faults and wants to be close to them, even when they turn away from God. Every time we read Isaiah our spirits are lifted with hope and new dreams, a perfect beginning to Holy Week.

Today, speak a simple word of comfort to someone suffering.

Whose words most move you to help others?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Betrayal

"Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'” Jn 13:21

There are moments throughout the Gospel of John especially that remind us of Jesus' full humanity. Learning of Lazarus' death, he weeps, and more than once John tells us that Jesus was troubled. That he was at table with friends and disciples when his feelings bubble up makes his situation even more difficult. Meals are supposed to be times of relaxation and rest, especially when we are eating at the end of a day, not a time to wonder about betrayal.

The Protestant reformer John Calvin sums it up this way, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” and in doing so the Lord assures us that we are never alone. At the same time, there are situations when we don't want hear about Jesus' feelings. Troubled ourselves, we want Jesus to rescue, not accompany, us. Disappointed, we breathe deeply and wonder where the Gospel is taking us.

Holy Week is leading all of us to Jerusalem and it will not be easy. We must confront our own demons and fears, and admit to the times we have turned away from the Lord, betrayed him and ourselves, by letting our selfishness rule our decision making. In the end, however, Jesus will look past all our shortcomings if we have the courage to ask forgiveness and begin again.

Today, ask to begin the journey again.

What most troubles you about your faith life?



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Saving Bruised reeds

"He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth." Is 42 2-3

Pope Francis startled us a few years ago with an announcement about the Sacred Triduum. Rather than celebrate the Holy Thursday mass of the Last Supper at St Peter's in Rome, he would preside at mass in a Roman youth prison. Amazing. Of course, his action makes perfect sense, since the liturgy of Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, but it was so different from anything we have come to expect, even from someone as charismatic and independent as Pope St. John Paul II, that we were left with our mouths hanging open.

Isaiah reminds us that God will bring forth justice for all, not by crying out or shouting, but my offering himself as servant of those most in need. On Thursday of this week, Pope Francis will go another prison and will challenge us to think again, like his namesake St Francis, about how we treat the lepers in our society. Are we servants of the broken, people of faith unwilling to break the bruised reed? Do we reduce people in prison to objects, men and women to be feared or pitied? Are they people in prison or prisoners? Anytime we can find the correct questions to ask on our faith journey, we are on the right path.

Today, re-imagine how you want to celebrate the Triduum.

What are your biggest Gospel challenges?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm Sunday

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Lk 19:40

On occasion, when we find ourselves in a cynical or sad mood, we refer with some disdain to A&P Catholics, those who celebrate with us only on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday because they get something free to take home!  How awful of us to judge, especially at the beginning of the holiest week of the church year. Shouldn't we be glad that our sisters and brothers in Christ want to express their faith publicly? Shouldn't we trust that God will take their gestures of belonging and use them as seeds that have only to be watered to grow into something wonderful and transforming for them and all they know and meet?

Because Jesus' disciples were proud to be associated with him, they spoke enthusiastically of his influence and spread his message of hope to everyone they met, but like most new believers their actions sometimes seemed shallow and showy. Accordingly, the leaders of the Jewish community tell Jesus to control his followers actions more carefully, but Jesus refuses, knowing that his disciples needed to speak of their transformation and belief, even if it appeared overdone, in order to test their own commitment and publicly honor him.

Holy Week is upon us, a time of great joy and hope, and one that demands we, like Jesus' first disciples, be more publicly committed to living the mysteries of faith. If this means we risk seeming too religious for some people's taste, so be it. If we don't live our faith publicly, how will the Good News be proclaimed?

Today, wave a palm of hope for someone who seems lost.

What do you think is the best way to express your faith publicly?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Unity in Diversity

"What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." Jn 11:47

The Gospel today demands we ask ourselves a simple but important questions. What do we do when someone we don't like or trust suggests a strategy that makes sense? Too often, I'm afraid, because we been trained to be black and white thinkers, we resist the insights of others with whom we disagree. Surely, that is what happening in our nation these days. The numbers are numbing. A Pew study suggests that 40% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans belong to their party, not because they endorese their own parties polices and programs, because they don't like the other party! (1)

The same is true, I'm afraid, in the church. Those favoring the directives of Vatican II oppose more traditional believers and their preference for the Latin mass not because they love everything about the liturgy as we celebrate it in most parishes, but because they don't like or trust Catholics with more conservative views.

Oppostion to other people or systems doesn't get us very far. The Gospel demands we embrace Jesus and his message, and live a transparent Gospel life if we want to build a community of faith that is diverse and universal, and this is no easy task.

Today, listen to someone with whom you disagree without attempting to answer them or prove them wrong.

How can we build a community of faith that reflects the power of the Gospel?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Enduring Hurt

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel. Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves and reach out for those most in need.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Opening Ourselves to God's Dream

"When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him: “My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations." Gen 17:3

In the ancient world, people often had their name changed to indicate a new status or importance. Abram becomes Abraham when God announces to him that he will not only be a father (Abram) but the father of many (Abraham). Remember that Abram was 99 years old when God renamed him. The message is clear. God can do anything. Our task is not to doubt but to be open to whatever God wants of and for us. God's dramatic promise to Abraham should embolden all of us.  As long as we are willing to welcome God and God's desire for us, we have nothing to fear. The Patriarchs, prophets, kings and saints all demonstrate this.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress and mystic is a powerful example of this. When a woman entered the anchorage, a small room attached to a church or monastery, she committed herself never to leave. The idea of living our entire lives in an anchorage is daunting for most of us, but Julian, who some commentators thought had lost her entire family in the plague, not only wrote a theology that was optimistic, she insisted that illness was not a punishment for sin but something everyone had to endure and accept in life. So committed to the God who spoke to her, Julian called Jesus her father and mother and, with Abraham, proclaimed that God fills all who believe with joy and compassion if only we open ourselves to these gifts.

Today, no matter how you feel, ask God to make your life a sign of God's love for all.



What must you do to open yourself to God's dream for you?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Standing with the Suffering

"You should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”  Dn 3:18

The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego always lifts my spirit. Thrown into a raging fire because they refused to to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's God or the golden statue he made, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assure the king that their God will protect and save them even if he allows them to die in the fire. 

That they are protected from the fire, while spectacular, is almost incidental because they are living the simple truth that saints have always insisted upon. They serve God, pray and care for the needy, not to be successful, but to be faithful. It is the failure to live faith in this way that condemns the servant in today's gospel who, after being forgiven a large debt, refuses to forgive his fellow servant in a small matter.

God protects, God forgives and God sets us free over and over to begin again. Made in God's image, we are to save one another from the "fire" of shame that reduces people to objects of need, rather than subjects of our compassion. If God is compassionate, understanding and accepting, so must we have hearts of kindness and mercy

Today, offer someone who cannot repay you an ear of compassion.



Has anyone ever stood with you in suffering without judgment?

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Meaning of the Cross

“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” Nm 21:8

The cross has almost always been important symbol for Christians. Although controversial at first, because it seemed to focus so much on the violence done to Jesus, the cross soon became the most prominent way for Christians to announce themselves. Not simply a reminder of Christ's gruesome death, the cross is also a invitation to celebrate Jesus' triumph over death, and our assurance that death is not the end of Christian journey.

Displaying the cross publicly or personally should never be a condemnation of others, especially Jews, but a reminder to ourselves and others, that God came among us as human person who not only announced God's love for us in its fullness, but also handed himself over to death as a symbol of his total identification with us at every stage of our journey.

Although we might at times be too casual about it, signing ourselves with the cross is a powerful reminder of Jesus triumph of over sin and death and sign that Jesus, "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, ...made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:15)

Today, make the sign of the cross as you wake and ask for the grace to accept whatever the day brings.

What does the Cross mean to you?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Jesus our Light

"I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness."  Jn 8:12

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Authentic Mercy

"Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful of the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but theirs is not a Gospel response. Jesus demands that we look at our own sin every time we are tempted to condemn others.

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Being Open to God's Voice

"So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, 'Why did you not bring him?
The guards answered, 'Never before has anyone spoken like this man.'" Jn 7 45-46

There should be little doubt that the Jewish authorities were not worried about Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. False prophets and healers were a dime a dozen and it was rarely difficult to undermine the authority and power of popular healers by challenging them regarding their knowledge of and commitment to the Torah.

Jesus was different. Not only did he know the Law, he lived its spirit in challenging ways, and a reading of the New Testament demonstrates this convincingly. Jesus was not trying to undermine the authority of the Jewish leaders, but wanted them to reform their lives, put aside their fear of the Roman authorities, and see in him God's presence and power. Only when the Jewish leaders refused to acknowledge their own sins and dismiss the voice of everyday people did Jesus condemn them and call them "whitened sepulchers." (Mt 23:27)

Today, let yourself be amazed at the healing power of the Lord.

Does the Gospel continue you challenge you to transformation?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Suffering for the Truth

"His hour had not yet come." Jn 7:30

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Archbishop Oscar Romero knew that if he continued to speak on behalf of the poor he would likely be murdered, but he could not and chose not to avoid this awful burden. That he gave his life for the gospel continues to uplift all, but especially those who work among and with the poor. Suffering is not good in itself, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Intimacy with God

"Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Wilfulness

"I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me." Jn 5:30

Very little in life is more difficult than letting go of our own will. Even, and perhaps especially, when we are struggling with how best to go forward as a disciple of Jesus, we cling to our own opinions and desires, and often fail to ask for help. Our consolation: Jesus struggled, too.

One of the most poignant verses in the gospel of Luke has Jesus practically begging God, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." (Lk 22:42) Clearly, the specter of submitting himself to the horror of a painful death so threatens Jesus that he asks his Father for mercy.

We should never be too proud to ask for help to find our spiritual path. St. Paul uses the powerful and evocative image of body (1Cor 12) to remind us that eyes can see but can't walk and feet can walk but not see. Only when the parts of our body work together for the good of all can we be called the body of Christ. And even more compellingly, Paul says, "If one part(of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Today, ask for the strength to do whatever God asks.

What issues most challenge your need for control?







Monday, April 1, 2019

Do you Want to be Well

"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Jn 5: 7-8

Today's scripture texts are all about water. Ezekiel has a vision about water flowing from the temple until it becomes a river that supports and nourishes every living creature. God wants us to live, the scripture reminds us, and to have clean water that sustains us. The gospel is about the waters to which the man sick for 38 years was unable to reach. Remarkably, Jesus asks him, "Do you want to be well?"

This is a question we all need to ask. If God makes us well it is not simply for our own healing. God heals us to go out in an other centered way to announce the Good News of our ultimate healing. The sick man who Jesus heals must now walk towards others, and reconcile with those who failed to help him reach the water for 38 years. This is no easy task. Letting go of our hurt so that the waters of Baptism can cleanse us anew is a great challenge.

Today, ask God to heal you for his work.

Have you ever been healed by the compassion and understanding of others?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Wisdom of our Elders

"Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death." Jn 4:46

For the last few years I have been talking with and listening to older people, most of whom are open, honest and enjoyable conversation partners. When leading parish missions, I have encountered mostly retirees who have the time to make a parish mission and are anxious to review their lives by making serious attempts at growing in prayer and faith. Rarely defensive nor overly anxious, they are funny and fun to be with, and that is the point. We have many committed seniors in our church but I wonder whether we are taking adequate advantage of their learning, wisdom and passion.

Calling seniors passionate might surprise some readers, but it is exactly this that I experience. Anxious to pass on their faith, the older people I meet wonder just how they might do this most effectively. They pray, they listen, they serve as Eucharistic ministers in nursing homes and hospitals, they drive friends and neighbors to doctors appointments, they visit the sick and the imprisoned, and they do all of this because it is the right thing to do. Occasionally guilty because they failed to find time earlier in life to live their faith more dynamically, they know now they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are anxious to do more. Why do we fail to hear them or see them? Are older believers invisible in the church in North America much like immigrants and uneducated? How can we change this?

Today, ask someone who is older what their faith means to them.

Have you ever gained new insights and hope from listening to older people?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ambassadors for Christ

"So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us." 2 Cor 5:20

I am always impressed when visiting a high school when an student ambassador greets me at the door and offers to accompany me to the chapel or the gym where we will celebrating mass. Ambassadors are usually very simply but nicely dressed, have a name tag that designates them as Ambassadors and are prepared to speak about the history and values of their school.

Today St Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ which means that we are to present ourselves to others simply and gently, offer to accompany them on their path of faith and are prepared to speak of our experience and knowledge of Christ with humility and hope. Lent reminds us of this in powerful ways. We fast, pray and give alms, not to impress God or others, but to witness to the saving power of God's grace in our lives so that others might be drawn into the mysteries of faith.

Today, take a look back at your Lenten journey and ask God for strength to continue.

Who or what has been an ambassador of God's love for you?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Gospel Basics

"The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mk 12 29-30

The scriptures are always trying to get us back to basics, to reclaim the foundational values of Jesus expressed in the New Testament. To do this well and with integrity we need to have spiritual practices that remind us each day about who we are and what we are to do in the world as Christians. It is one thing to say we love God and neighbor, but it is another thing all together to practice loving God and others through prayer and service.

Prayer is important because it is an exercise in which we acknowledge our total dependence on  God. Aware that living a faith filled life is a gift, we pause each day to honor the God who has given us faith and who sustains on our faith journey. Whether we recite a prayer we learned in childhood or ask in our own words for help to live the Gospel fully as disciples, we need to pray regularly. Just as a husband admits how important his wife is to his identity and well being, prayer helps us acknowledge that without God we are incomplete.

Today, express your love for God by quietly sitting in God's presence making yourself available for God's work.

What do you think are the most important spiritual practices in the life of a Christian?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fighting with those with whom we Disagree

"For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?" Lk 11:19

It is always strange when we hear Jesus entering into what appears to be a silly debate with his opponents, until we remember that the text we read is as much about his first followers as it is about him. Frightened by the increasing demands made on them after Jesus’ death and by their exclusion from the synagogue, the early disciples of Jesus fought with one another and their Jewish brothers and sisters, and while it was foolish, it was understandable. Because they were intent on defending the purity of  JFightesus’ teaching, Jesus' first disciples allowed themselves to squabble over an interpretation of the gospel, and thereby broke the bonds they had with one another.

The same can often be said of us. It is the rare person who has not found himself in a debate with a friend or family member that never seems to end. Even though everyone around us gets bored or loses interest, we keep insisting on our position and find ourselves saying things we really don’t mean or believe. Lent is a good time to develop “spiritual practices” that help us face our pride and avoid these situations, or at least end them quickly.

Today, avoid all arguments.



Do you have a strategy for avoiding drawn out conversations and arguments that go nowhere?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Watching and Listening for God Everywhere

"Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live." Dt 4:9

Most of us have seen both marvelous and awful sights. We have been in hospital rooms where it was apparent that the only things keeping the patient alive were the machines and tubes monitoring their vital signs and delivering medications automatically. The anxiety in those rooms was palpable and uncomfortable.

We have also been alone or with friends on vacation, at weddings, baptisms and confirmations where the mood was joyous and the hope deep. All of us were lifted up by the beauty of nature or the wonder of a choir singing powerful and beautiful hymns like "O God Beyond all Praising." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A_dOYrz5So

The book of Dueteronomy reminds us not to forget anything that we have experienced or seen. At the center of all that is is a loving God, keeping us alive, encouraging us to honesty, compassion and joy. Lent is a time to do this more often and more deeply. Watch and listen, God is everywhere.

Today, take some time to ask God to strengthen you for your journey no matter where it takes you.

Who or what has helped you live each moment and day with faith?

Monday, March 25, 2019

God's Patience

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full." Mt 18:26

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?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Annunciation of the Lord

“"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'" Lk 1 29-20


When the unexpected comes, it often unnerves us. News of a close friend's sickness or the failure of a marriage we admired leaves us speechless and wondering what happened. In our busyness did we miss something important? Were we too self absorbed to notice the struggles others were having? 

The evangelist Luke paints a picture of Mary that emphasizes both her fear and her faith, a stance that encourages us not to be afraid of the unexpected, but to acknowledge our fear and pray for faith at the same time. We should not assume that Mary understood everything that was happening to her when Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She was human, like all of us, and fear would have been a natural response to such a bold request, but Luke also wants us to celebrate Mary's faith that let's go and accepts her new role.

Responding to God at times of crisis is made more possible when we develop a spiritual life on a daily basis. Praying and reflecting about God's life among us in word and sacrament, and celebrating and serving those forgotten or ignored makes is possible to prepare ourselves for life as it comes. If we want to have Mary's honesty and humility, we must practice our faith every day.

Today, listen for the voice of God embedded in every thing you do and everyone you meet.

What about Mary's life calls you to live your faith more deeply?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Bearing Fruit for the Lost

"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?' Lk 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.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk committed to the silence of the Cistercian life, insisted that anyone who sought entry into the monastery to escape the world did not have a vocation. Even, perhaps especially, monks dedicated to silence must bear fruit by being attentive to all believers in order to bring the concerns of God's people before God in prayer.

Today, reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Forgiveness

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”  Lk 15:17-18

The story of the prodigal son or the forgiving father is one of the most remarkable in all of scripture. In order to demonstrate God's desire to forgive us, Luke's Jesus suggests that even if someone returns to God for less than pure motives, God will welcome her. More, God embraces and empowers anyone who seeks reconciliation.

When faced with this same kind of situation, most of us would try to discern the motives of the person seeking reconciliation, but God, the Forgiving Father, does not. Satisfied that his son or daughter is home, God reaches out and celebrates, apparently believing the power of his graciousness will convince his son or daughter that he must change his or her life.

We often spend too much time trying to figure life out when we would be better off entering its mystery and discerning more carefully what few issues deserve our response. Otherwise, we will waste our lives in fruitless obsession when we ought to be doing good. The Forgiving Father teaches us always to be looking for the good in the world, not bemoaning our losses.

Today, forgive someone unconditionally.

Is there anything that troubles you about the Forgiving Father?