Follow Br Jack by Email

Friday, October 18, 2019

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Companions and Martyrs

"Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord." Ps 130:1

One of the most difficult situations every missionary faces is learning the nuances of another language. Knowing the idiomatic expressions, the intonations and the humor of other languages requires a life long effort, and even then most people never lose the accent from their fist language. Nevertheless, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say, that the Holy Spirit will teach you. Good advice, even today.

When John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions came to the New World they knew very little about it, and undoubtedly did things that frightened the Native Americans they encountered. Rene Goupil was killed for tracing the sign of the Cross on a child's forehead, and we will never know how the Native Americans interpreted his gesture. Could they have believed Rene was harming the child? Were the missionaries able to communicate their dreams and purpose? We trust that their intent was always good, but some of what they said and did was misinterpreted, and that is a good lesson for us.

Knowing the culture into which one is inserted, even while living in the United States, is vital for good and lasting relationships. While none of us want to make seriously egregious mistakes when speaking and living with people from different cultures, it is bound to happen, and this can lead either to a deepened appreciation for one another or create fissures between and among us that are very hard to heal. For those who desire a deeper relationship and not a lasting break, it is vital to listen deeply and ask the Lord for the words that will help us articulate the power of the Gospel in a way others can understand.

Today, listen to someone from another culture or race and say nothing.

Have you ever had to ask God for the words to speak the Gospel?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

St Luke, Evangelist

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Lk 10:2

St Luke is credited with writing Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospel, in all  more than 25% of the New Testament. Sometimes called the Gospel of St Paul because Luke often traveled with Paul and was his disciple, Luke wrote primarily for Gentiles. Not as concerned as Matthew's gospel with demonstrating that Jesus was a Jew and the new Moses, Luke writes about the poor, women, the sick and the underclass, assuring the Gentiles that the Gospel of Jesus was intended for all people, not just the Jews.

How we proclaim Jesus to people from different cultures, nations and races is critical to inserting the Gospel into places it has never been heard. We know this not only because so many believers before us lived the Good News with passion, but also by their mistakes. If Christianity is proclaimed primarily as a religion of the West, especially the European West with all of its cultural symbols and rituals, it will never become the Good News about which Luke wrote.

We need to remember this lesson as 21st century disciples. As nations around the world find their own identity, they need to know that the Gospel will marry with their culture without destroying it, and the Christianity they embrace can celebrate the great mysteries of faith in a way that makes cultural sense to them. Knowing this will free those new to the Gospel to hear and embrace, in their own cultural context, the freedom that Jesus promises to all.

Today, ask St Luke for the grace to know how to speak the Gospel to all those struggling with faith.



What do you think missionaries in the 21st century ought to emphasize about the Gospel?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

St Ignatius of Antioch

""Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools!" Lk 11:38

One of the great qualities of saints is that they don’t bring attention to themselves. St. Ignatius of Antioch is a wonderful example of this. Famous for telling his followers, "I am Christ's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may become Christ's pure bread,” Ignatius begged his friends not to stop his martyrdom. So confident that the Lord would protect him, the saint knew the strength he received from God would be a sign to others of God’s unconditional love. At the same time, as one reads further in Ignatius' letter, there is a hesitancy, a moment of fear perhaps. He says, "If then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you now."

Most of us, while admiring Ignatius’ faith, would be more likely to tell our friends to ignore our craziness in seeking martyrdom and write it off as the dream of a madman. Because we are afraid of the unknown and more concerned with the life we have and know, even if it is full of pain and confusion, we hesitate thinking about and asking God for the grace of a peaceful death, much less a martyr’s death. Amazingly, we often cling to the little we have rather than remember God’s mercy and throw ourselves upon him. Ignatius' example challenges us to reexamine our priorities

Today, ask for the humility to let God be God and to trust that God's grace will be enough even when we face death.

Are you prepared to die?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Preaching and Practicing

"You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them." Lk 11:46


Most of us preach from time to time, even if don't intend to. Listen to someone go on about the soccer played by Barcelona or Manchester United. Convinced there is only one right way to play the game, soccer preachers will bore you for as long as you are able to take it. In the United States, there are baseball fans who either bemoan or exalt their team in conversations or monologues that seem never ending. But it is priests who can be the hardest preachers to listen to, especially if they are encouraging or demanding a kind of behavior that they rarely practice.

Jesus had a lot to say about preachers, most of it harsh and dismissive. He was especially disenchanted with the Pharisees and Sadducees who have may have been fine fellows, but seemed unable not to interpret the law in ways that led everyday Jews into guilt and shame without changing their own lives.

Although transformation is clearly the goal of every religious tradition, unless we practice our faith with conviction and joy, our preaching will do little good. Who wants to listen to anyone who is more interested in evangelizing others than in living the Gospel themselves?

Today, make a review of your faith life and ask God for the integrity to live its challenges with delight.

Whose commitment to faith has most formed you in your own religious practice?

Monday, October 14, 2019

St Teresa of Avila

“Let nothing disturb you, 
Let nothing frighten you, 
All things are passing away: 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things. 
Whoever has God lacks nothing; 
God alone suffices.” 
St Teresa of Avila


The bookmark of St. Teresa is fascinating. We wonder if she read it everyday. Tradition suggests it was written in her own hand and was a reminder to live in peace with Christ despite the struggles she would experience throughout her life.

Committed to the reform of the Carmelites in a Catholic world threatened by the Protestant Reformation, her life was difficult. Accused by some friends that her "visions" were diabolical, she also suffered deeply when the Carmelites forced her to retire to one of their monasteries for years before finally allowing her the freedom to spread her renewal to other convents and monasteries. In all, she founded 17 monasteries of reformed or discalced Carmelites and wrote treatises on the spiritual life that remain classics in the Christian west.

Whether Teresa reflected on her prayer and plea each day matters little.  On her feast, we can read and pray it with care hoping to interiorize her desire to let nothing disturb or frighten us, but to remain patient with ourselves and God in all matters of the spirit.

Today, pray for patience.

What most impresses or moves you about St. Teresa's prayer?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Listening to Jesus Today

"At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here." Mt 12:40

When Jonah walked through Nineveh calling the people to repentance, the response was almost immediate. The king instructed everyone, even the animals, to join him in responding to Jonah's prophecy. Together they put on sackcloth and sat in ashes hoping that God would accept their acts of penitence and free them from destruction.

The scriptures are forever reminding us that God always listens and responds to our heartfelt cries. Not only does God lobby Moses to approach Pharaoh and demand the enslaved Hebrews be set free, God also listens to the cries of the poor who he reminds us are always close to him. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus would be born of poor parents, and like Jonah, would go towards Jerusalem announcing God's desire for our conversion and transformation.

We need to learn to walk with Jonah and Jesus, and respond to their cry.  Unless we commit ourselves to repent of our sins, our selfishness, our failure to recognize a world bigger than the United States, our desire for a kind of security in things, and money and power that only God can give, we risk admiring Jesus' pronouncements but failing to live them.

Today, listen closely and without fear for Jesus' call to conversion.

What does it mean to you to listen and respond to Jesus in the 21st century?


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Our Leprosy

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Lk 17:18

Communicable and deadly diseases always frighten us. Before anyone knew that HIV/AIDS could not caught by a sneeze or sharing a soft drink, there was immense fear in people about something they did not know. Even after it became clear that AIDS could only be spread by the exchange of body fluids through sexual contact, needle sharing and the very rare blood transfusion, people were very much afraid. Something as toxic as AIDS scares us and the same was true in the ancient world regarding leprosy.

That Jesus listened to the desperate pleading of the leper s and allowed him to draw near is remarkable. Jesus knew that by associating with the leper he became unclean himself, but it did not matter. The lepers were suffering not just from the disease but from the isolation imposed on him and all lepers. Lepers had to tear their clothes and call out "unclean" whenever anyone approached them. What a terrible punishment; what an awful life, but the leper who calls to Jesus for help ignores the teaching of rabbis and so does Jesus.

There is a leper in all of us. We obsess about our sins, want no one to see as we really are and even try to hide from God. That the society and church sometimes shun us is not the deepest pain. Too often we isolate ourselves through useless guilt. Only when we remember that we have been cleansed once and for all through baptism and forgiven over and over by Christ's redeeming love, are we really free. When this happens we cannot remain quiet. We must find our voice and announce the Good News. God wants us to draw near and desires to set us free. We have only to ask for help and healing will come.

Today, tell someone you have been made clean by the love of God.

What is your leprosy?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Living our Faith

"Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Lk 11:28

There are some who might get upset with this passage from Luke. When a woman in the crowd seems to praise Jesus’ mother saying, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed," Jesus reacts. A person’s life is not of value, he says, because of her parents or relatives, but by her willingness to listen and live the good news.

The Jesus of the gospels would never disparage his own mother’s goodness, but he would and does use the words of an anonymous woman in the crowd to remind his listeners that being born a Jew guarantees nothing. Were he alive today, he might well say that being born a Catholic means little unless one lives one’s religious faith and tradition.

Jesus was trying to remind his Jewish brothers and sisters that they were not better than others simply because of their religious clothing, roots or heritage. Rather, he wanted them to live their faith with integrity and a deep sense of justice not by lording it over others but by always remembering their own slavery in Egypt and their times of exile from the Promised Land.

Today ask God for the grace to go beyond the essentials of religious practice.

Have you had experiences that helped you appreciate the great gift of religious faith?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Facing Addiction

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house." Lk 11:16

No family is without its struggles and demons. Some live as best they can with addiction. Others wrestle with mental illness and abuse, and are forced, like the families of people with the unclean spirit, to watch their loved ones descend into chaos. Staying calm and peaceful in situations like this can feel impossible and overwhelming.

Often, moreover, it is the people without the addiction or mental illness who most need Jesus' steadying hand. Only when we summon the faith to let go and hand ourselves over to the Lord for direction and healing, will we find the courage to accept the things we cannot change and seek the wisdom of God to know what is possible. Jesus can be our healer, but we have to allow him to help us. When we wrestle with our own demons and shame without asking for help we are like people trying to hold back the tide. Getting some emotional distance from those we seek to help is sometimes our best strategy and gives us the distance to discern how to take the next best step for healing.

Today, pray for the families of people seeking to recover from addiction.

How do you handle the demons in your heart and family?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Asking for Help

"Ask and you shall receive." Lk 11:9

Most of us are too proud to ask others for help, except in the simplest matters. Determined to hold onto our independence for as long as possible, we miss some of the great delights of life. When we allow others to help us, everything changes. We realize that it is o.k. not to know certain things, not to be in charge, to be in charge.

More important, we often empower others when we ask for their insight or help. This is especially true with our children. I remember well when my parents asked me to help them with their finances. Although I had not had much experience in financial matters, there were plenty of friends who were more than capable, and they were only too happy to help me and my parents.

The Gospel today is reminding us to ask for help, to acknowledge our weakness and dependence, asserting all the while that God is waiting for our request and anxious to come to our aid, and while we might not always receive exactly what we think we need or want, the Lord will always be present to us as guide and companion. The 13th century Persian poet, Rumi, says it this way: "The door we are knocking on opens from the inside."

Today, knock of God's door just to tell him you are near.

What makes it difficult for you to ask for help?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Learning to Pray

"Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be they name." Lk 11:2

For believers, the first task each day is to acknowledge God and God's place in our lives. The Lord's Prayer both helps us remember this fundamental stance and teaches us how to do it. More often than not, most of us are ready to tell God our story, enumerate our needs and ask for help, but the Our Father reminds us that for the believer recognizing our dependence on God must always be first desire and duty.

Muslims, though using a different name for God, take a very similar stance when they pray the Shahada, "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is the Prophet." Some Muslim scholars suggest that when Muslims pray they are seeking the same blessings that Catholics desire and experience in the Eucharist. Learning to bow our heads at the name of God is another way of accepting God's presence and power in our lives, and is something that would help believers to live more fully in the presence of God.

It is so easy in a world full of information and internet web access to think of ourselves in powerful terms. After all, we can ask Mr Google almost anything and receive 100 million possible answers within two or three seconds. Doesn't this indicate the growing control we have over the world as we know it?  While we do have access to more information than we could every process or interpret, knowledge without gratitude for the One who is all knowing does the believer little good.

Today, say the Lord's Prayer slowly and reverently.

If you, like the Apostles, could ask Jesus how to pray what would you expect him to teach you?

Monday, October 7, 2019

Jonah's Dilemna

"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Jon 3:4

Jonah's challenge is both similar and very different from the apostle's. Jonah must walk through Niniveh and remind its citizens that unless they reform, their entire city will be destroyed. In this aspect of his ministry Jonah is a forerunner of the apostles, but Jonah is reluctant to assume his new role. In fact, he hopes he fails. His dislike of the Ninivehites is deep. He does not want them to reform and hopes that God will destroy them.

The apostles, on the other hand, while no doubt having their own prejudices, are not reluctant at all to follow Jesus, even though they do not know the fullness of their mission. Jesus' personality and power draw them like fresh water in the desert. They do not hesitate leaving their boats and their families to follow the one who promises a new reign and a new world order.

There is a bit of Jonah and the apostles in all of us. Because no one can escape hurt, especially broken relationships and friendships, like Jonah, we sometimes harbor and hold onto painful memories that cling to us like an ink stain on a new shirt. We scrub and launder the shirt over and over, but the stain remains. Though we know we have no choice but to find a new shirt, we cling to what seemed so clean and fresh but is now ruined. Unless we change shirts, we will be unable to begin again.

Today, listen for God calling your name.

How does the Gospel help you let go?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary

“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”  
(Lk 10:27)

Learning to pray by rote is important. Repetition allows the substance of the prayer to seep slowly into our psyches and souls, and repetitive prayer like the rosary teaches us that we do not have always to be conscious of every word we speak to God, but we do have to be faithful. 

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the most dramatic and effective preachers of the twentieth century and now a candidate for canonization, one wrote:
"The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men (and women); it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description." (History of Rosary)
It does not matter if we are blind, simple or old as long as we keep praying as best we can, and the rosary is a wonderful way to do this.

Today, say a decade of the rosary with an open spirit.

What are your best experiences of repetitive prayer?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Reject 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?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Let Children teach Us

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike."  Lk 10:21

What is it about children that causes Jesus to hold them up as icons? Surely, they are charming and innocent, but there is more. Children live in awe and wonder. They see without blinders. They don't interpret what they see as much as delight in it, and in all of this, they teach us. Unlike the leaders of the Jewish community who are looking for ways to undermine Jesus, they don't care if he claims to be the Messiah. They only want to be close to him.

It should not surprise us that children are naturally contemplative, able to play or work at a project for hours without noticing the time. So fascinated are they by what is right in front of them, they are not easily distracted and teach us how to live fully each day. Jesus' praise for children is well founded and natural when we take time to reflect upon it.

Today, let your spirit be distracted by the awesome beauty of the world.

What most distracts you from living each day with joy and delight?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Our Holy Father St Francis

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Lk 10:13

The name Francis remains in the forefront of the news these days. Pope Francis has made it so, but it is not always laudatory. Humble, honest, and unafraid to speak his mind, our Pope has challenged us to face the sexual abuse crisis head on and captivated the imagination of many around the world especially with his call to Care for all Creation. Calling the church to return to its foundations, Pope Francis is living up to his name, and although, like St Francis, he is making some Catholics nervous, he is doing what he promised when first elected.

St Francis of Assisi not only thought about the poor, he became poor and allowed God to turn his life upside down. Like the 3rd century martyr, St Maximilian, who said "I am a solder of Christ, I cannot fight," Francis fought not for dominance over his neighbors but for Gospel purity. Wanting to live so poorly that he and his brothers would have nothing to defend, he directed the friars to own nothing, eventually convincing the Roman hierarchy to approve their way of life. Francis' example continues to inspire thousands of women and men today.

Today, live simply so that others can live.

What should be our response to the poor?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

God's Harvest

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Lk 10:2

Too often this passage is reduced to a commentary on religious or priestly vocations, and that is a shame. It is clear to anyone who reads the scriptures regularly that Jesus is much more concerned with all people hearing the Good News and living it than with reforming the lives of the community's leaders. While a hierarchy will develop in Christianity over time, the role of leaders is not first to govern, but to create an environment that frees people to enter the mysteries of faith.

At the same time, Jesus is concerned that so few people seem ready to risk their lives to follow the Gospel. Most of us have an attitude that suggests we should leave well enough alone, but this stance does not advance our own lives or the lives of the community. Jesus invites us to make monumental changes in life, and while this prospect is daunting, we need to ask for the faith to pray with Jesus to make us laborers who are willing to stretch our imaginations and dreams to conform to Jesus' vision.

The Gospel really is Good News, although its demands may not always feel comfortable. Jesus challenges his followers to look again at the poor, the broken, the sick and all that is in it in order to see with God's eyes. All that God creates is good and beautiful, and its fruits belong to all as a gift from God. Our only task is to share its bounty with all people in order that all might know God's justice, have God's peace and believe that its wonders are a promise of  another Kingdom

Today, be one of God's laborers.

Whose efforts on behalf of the Gospel most moved you to belief in God?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Guardian Angels

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Mt 18:10

Most of us work diligently not to despise anyone or anything, trying always to think of all creation as a gift from God. Nevertheless, we slip, we sin, we fail. In recent days, the actions of our Congress have led many to despise the intransigence of those we have elected to serve, but whose behavior too often seems self protective and rigid. Because we so need our representatives to remember all the people of this nation, especially the poor, we expect them to have the comprehensive and inclusive view of what a stoppage in government service might mean for the neediest of our citizens.

When Jesus wants his disciples and opponents to understand fully his attitude towards them and his expectations of them, he reminds them to look at children as icons of humility. Children, he insists, can teach all what it means to understand greatness. We are not called to dominate or manipulate others, but to serve one another like children and slaves, and to be innocent, vulnerable and alert to everything and everyone around us, especially the poor.

Today, remember that there are angels around us to protect us.

How do you counter arrogance in yourself and others?

Monday, September 30, 2019

St Therese of the Child Jesus

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Lk 10:21)

Therese of Lisieux, who came to prominence at a time when the world was experiencing two world wars and violence of a kind never before seen, was one of the most popular saints of the 20th century. Therese’s “little way” made sense to the people of the United States who were overwhelmed by the loss of husbands, children, brothers and friends in wars fought far from home. Living each day with simplicity, handing one’s life over to God, and offering “every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love,” helped people who were being bombarded with painful news on a daily basis.

In recent days, the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Syria, which seem endless, call for deep discernment and prayer  .  We cannot help but wonder where the violence will end, and whether there isn't another way of responding to those whose tactics are so overwhelmingly violent. Unless we search for new responses to those with whom we disagree, we will surely become numb and unable to to respond with a Gospel heart to those with whom we differ.

Perhaps Therese’s little way can still help us. If we commit ourselves anew to a simple path of prayer, conversation and patience, without denying the horrors of war, famine, disease and hunger, we might discover a God who is only too anxious to help us.

Today, live simply so that others can simply live.

How do you respond to violence against you in your own life?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

St Jerome

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St. Jerome

St Jerome is one of the most important scripture scholars in the history of the church. His translation of the bible into Latin, completed in the 4th century, was the basis of every translation into modern languages until the middle of the 20th century. His brilliance and discipline were such that he was able to produce not only a translation of the bible that continues to be a resource for contemporary students of scripture, he also wrote dozens of commentaries on the bible, and more than a hundred letters.

This being said, Jerome was a volatile, tempestuous and driven man. Reading a few of his letters makes you glad you were not in his sights. Jerome lived at a time and in a church that badly needed reform and his answer was a rigid asceticism. In what many consider his most famous letter, he warns St. Eustochium about every possible threat to her virginity while also acknowledging that even when he went to the desert to escape the insanity of the Rome of his day, he was tormented by fantasies of Roman dancing girls.

Jerome because is a powerful example of how God works with us as we are and uses even our faults for the good of others. Jerome’s life reminds us that when we submit ourselves to God, great things happen, and that God and history remember all the good Jerome did and underplay his shortcomings. What a wonderful lesson for us.

Today, ask for forgiveness of your sins, but don’t forget to be grateful for the gifts God has given you.

Have you experienced God dismissing your faults but using your strengths?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lazarus

"And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores." (Lk 16:20-21)

It is so difficult to read the passage about Lazarus and the rich man. How is it possible to have someone lying at your feet and not see him? Couldn't the rich man at least have swept the crumbs off his table so that Lazarus could have something to eat? How could he let his dogs lick Lazarus' wounds? These seem natural but unanswerable questions, but they demand reflection from us.

Who is it that we don't see? Are there people so unimportant that we ignore them? Too often the answer is yes. Sometimes it is people of color or those who are culturally different than us. At other times, it is people who are generational recipients of welfare. More often we turn away, almost unconsciously, from the homeless and mentally ill because they frighten us, but we can and ought to try to change this.

The act of seeing whatever and whoever is directly in front of us is a discipline and practice we can learn, but it takes prayer and silence. Those who take time each day to sit quietly, to breathe deeply and pay attention to all creation, after a while, find it impossible not to see those in need, and while we might not be able to do anything immediately, at least we have honored those who need to be seen and recognized as people just like us.

Today, spend five minutes in quiet and reflection in preparation for seeing that which is directly in front of you.

What situations and people are most difficult for you to face?





Friday, September 27, 2019

Trusting God's Promise

"The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it." Lk 9 44-45

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand much less accept what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time.  More important, although we might not know where we are going, as long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

St Vincent de Paul

"It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them." St Vincent de Paul (1)

St Vincent de Paul has always been one of my favorite saints. His words are clear, direct and uncompromising. Two of his more noteworthy sayings are: “Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?” And, "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."

But no saying of Vincent has impacted me more than his demand that we love the poor, not just feed them. In truth, one can only know the power of this directive by experiencing it. Of all the ministries to which I have been called, it is my encounters with the poor that have been most life changing.

In Tanzania this past summer I visited with one of the first young women the African Women's Education Fund helped educate. Honorata joined the friars for a 6:30 am mass after traveling 150 miles to say thank you. After mass, she did not eat until she was sure the older and infirm friars were fed. As we talked at breakfast I said that I had never her sing like she did at mass that morning and her response was beautiful. I don't have much I can give to God but I can sing and dance for him. These are gifts God gave me and I am happy to return them.

Today, ask God for the grace of merciful eyes and a forgiving heart.

How do you think you can love and serve the poor?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Fear and Doubt

"Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, 'John has been raised from the dead.' " Lk 9:7

Fear and doubt are ordinary and necessary experiences in life, especially for people of faith. Only those who refuse to think about the mysteries of faith, or live in denial about the struggles with which faith presents us believe they will never be afraid or have doubts.  From St Thomas, the Apostle, to Blessed Mother Teresa, the great figures in our faith tradition had doubts with which they had to struggle continually.

In the Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day, in describing the struggles of her baptism in the Catholic church, says it this way:
One part of my mind stood at one side and kept saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure of yourself? What kind of an affectation is this? What act is this you are going through? Are you trying to induce emotion, bring about faith, partake of the opiate of the people?’ I felt like a hypocrite if I got down on my knees, and shuddered at the thought of anyone seeing me…
Today, ask not to be afraid of your doubts. God can lead you through them into new hope.

What are your biggest faith struggles?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Loving Consistently

"Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic." Lk 9:3

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Monday, September 23, 2019

We are God's Family

"My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." Lk 8:21

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

St Padre Pio

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light." Lk 8:16

What must we do when our inner demons urge us not to display the light God has given us? This is no idle question, but a deep struggle of conscience that many saints have had to face in their lives. St struggled mightily with the gifts God gave him. Blessed with the Stigmata, Pio was frightened when first presented with the gift of Jesus' wounds appearing in his own body. Writing to his friend, Padre Benedetto, Pio told the priest that when he first received the Stigmata he thought he was dying, and would have died had not God intervened. Worried about the reaction of others, Pio asked God to take the outward sign of the Stigmata from him. Willing to endure the pain of the wounds, he did not want to face the questions and doubts of his confreres and superiors about their authenticity.

But God did not give Pio a choice. God wanted to speak and be a light in the world through him. St Pio was not permitted to extinguish his light or avoid public scrutiny. More important, neither are any of us free to let the light of God shining in and through us be extinguished. Rather, our lives of faith are designed to be a guide for others seeking to know God's Good News.

Today, let your light, no matter how weak, shine for God's glory.

What most troubles or unnerves you about being God's light in the world?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Serving God Alone

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Lk 16:13

We know the Gospel tells us that can't serve two masters. How about three or four or ten?  When we think about our lives it often becomes obvious that we are trying to do too much for too many people and this can lead to resentment of all those we intended to serve. Time becomes our master, or security or accomplishment or power, but when we stop to reflect upon these matters we know that the Gospel challenge to have one master is spot on and powerful.

We need to commit ourselves on a daily basis to serving God alone. Only God can be our master and the task of the believer is to discern how best to serve this master each day. When we take time to pray about this we often reach a counter intuitive conclusion. Serving God alone does not mean saying yes to every needy person or important cause, but learning to ask God each day how to go forward, how to help, how to serve and how to announce the Good News.

Today, ask God how best to live the Good News.

Which of your concerns most often gets in the way of serving God?

Friday, September 20, 2019

St Matthew, Apostle

"Follow me." Mt 9:10

Matthew must have been amazed and delighted when Jesus called him to follow. Amazed because he was a tax collector, a man despised for what he did and who he was. Tax collectors were most often Jews who worked for the Romans. Upfront, they would pay the Romans the taxes of those from who they collected taxes and then charge Jews whatever they could, and this would often be exorbitant and excruciating.

Matthew also would have been delighted. Here was Jesus, a prominent Jew and rabbi, calling him, accepting him, sitting down at table with him when everyone else in the community was shunning him. Matthew knew that he was being given a second chance and he was anxious to take it.

The message of the gospel is clear. All of us will get a second chance and it is up to us to take it, to follow the Lord and let go of behaviors and practices that oppose God's law and God's desire for us. As long as we are willing to admit that we are in need of a physician, the Lord will come to us like a doctor who sees only that we are in need. The Lord wants to heal us. How wonderful.

Today, acknowledge your weakness.

Who looked at you with love when you could not accept or love yourself?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

"Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources." Lk 8:2-3

Of the 98 Korean martyrs who St John Paul II canonized in 1984, more than half were lay women, among them Anna Park Agi. Abandoned in prison by her husband and son who could not endure the torture imposed on them, Anna was steadfast. Even when her husband and son visited her, imploring her to remember her children and family, Anna refused to renounce her faith and begged her son and husband to return to the faith even if it meant a new imprisonment.

Women like Anna, even if they are not as well known or celebrated as Andrew Kim and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, who wrote and preached publicly in defense of the faith, continue to offer us a great challenge. How many people, especially women without the freedom to peach, continue to offer us an example of fidelity and courage despite the limitations imposed on them by the society and the church!

Today, thank of and pray in gratitude for a woman who has encouraged you in faith.

Who are the people without loud voices to whom you need to listen more?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

God's Merciful Eyes

"Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears." Lk 7:37

Jesus is forever pushing us to look beyond people's past to see how they are behaving in the present. The woman who wipes his feet with her hair becomes an icon of what it means to be a Christian, But because most of us see sin in others first, especially in the powerful, it is difficult to see her with God's eyes. If an athlete or a politician is caught in an adulterous relationship or using public monies for his or her private gain, we pounce. See, we say, why do we trust people like this? When we do this, we ignore the mercy of God.

No doubt the leaders of the Jewish community were doing the same with the woman who is "wasting" money anointing Jesus' feet with costly perfume. That Jesus does not pull away or correct her annoys the Phasisees. They impose their judgmental eyes on Jesus and try to undermine him and his authority by suggesting that his inability to recognize that she is a sinner ought to condemn him. But Jesus turns the tables. He asks: Do you see this woman? The answer of course is "no". They have reduced her to her sin and do not value her humility or recognize her tears.  We need to avoid this error in our own lives.

Today, look at all people with God's eyes and don't get lost in their past.

Have you know people who turned their lives around and helped you?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Living the Truths of Our Faith

"Beloved: I am writing you, although I hope to visit you soon." 1 Tim 3:14

Sometimes it is better to speak about very important matters face to face. When we sit down with friends or enemies, look them in the eye, get to know them a little bit and share about our lives, new growth becomes possible. St Paul wants to visit Timothy but because he cannot do so immediately, Paul wants to assure his companion and disciple that everything said about Jesus is true.

Jesus came to the world in the flesh, was confirmed by the Holy Spirit throughout the Gospels, was accepted by the Gentiles and people everywhere believed in Him. As long as Timothy upholds these truths, Paul assures him, the faith will grow. The same remains true for us, but people have to see and experience us living these truth in our daily lives. As is often said, we can talk the good talk but if we don't walk the walk, our testimony will fall flat.

Today, ask yourself what more you can do to witness to the truth of the Gospel as you have learned it and experienced it.

Whose life of faith most influenced you?

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Compassion of Jesus

"As Jesus drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow." Lk 17:11

Jesus is forever startling us. Walking along, he comes upon a funeral cortege and learns that they young man being carried to his burial place is "the only son of his mother." Moved with compassion because he realizes that the boy's mother will be unbearably vulnerable because her only son has died, Jesus raises the young man from the dead. Knowing that a woman without a husband or son would have no rights, no property, no one to care for her, Jesus steps in and steps up, perhaps  anticipating his one mother's vulnerability after his death. All of this because he watches, he notices and let's his heart speak.

Today, pay attention. Don't close your eyes to those most in need. Do something simple. Even if you can't help directly, pray for them and work together with others for justice.

What makes you feel most vulnerable in life?


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sts Cornelius and Cyprian

“He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” Lk 7: 4-5

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian were friends, and when the church was under enormous pressure in the third century, their friendship became an important tool for reconciliation and healing. When Novatian insisted that anyone who denied faith, along with murderers and adulterers, could not be reconciled under any circumstances, Cyprian interceded with his friend Pope Cornelius, and Novatian's position was condemned. The fragile nascent church, with only 50,000 believers and 50 priests, was sustained because of the friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian.

Not infrequently, like Cyprian and Cornelius, we do things for friends who ask a favor on their own or their family's behalf. It is not difficult to be gracious, especially when the request is something we do easily or naturally. Jesus is able to hear and respond to the request of the Jewish elders to heal the centurion's sick slave because they asked him to do something as a friend of the Jewish nation.  In the long run, however, while loyalty and friendship captured Jesus' attention, it was the faith of the centurion that moved Jesus to act. 

Not wanting to trouble Jesus with a visit to his home and being very aware of the differences between them, the centurion insists that he is not worthy of Jesus' care. When the centurion further suggests that a word from Jesus will be enough to heal his slave, Jesus uses the centurion's faith to teach the Jews saying, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Faith, like the centurion's, and friendship and faith, like Cyprian and Cornelius shared, can forge a church of great power and strength.

Today, be grateful for a faith filled friend.

How can a friendship, strengthened by faith, help us live the Gospel more powerfully?





Saturday, September 14, 2019

Looking out for Lost Sheep

"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" Lk 15:2

At first glance, it makes no sense to leave ninety nine sheep alone to search for the lost one, but Jesus is making an important and challenging point with his followers. The lost are important. The healthy, he says in another place, don't need a physician. The sick do. (Mk 2:17) Jesus wants us to let go of the security of wherever we are to look for those who have lost their way, and this is often a hard challenge.

Often in Christian terms we must be people who are both/and. We must so deeply know who we are that we are unafraid to let go of our security to seek those who forget or reject their own heritage and faith. Because we are rooted in the memory of Jesus we know that wherever we are, we are in Christ who is the source and summit of our lives, and can risk anything in order to proclaim the message of Jesus. The apostles knew this. So did the great saints. We can learn it a day at a time.

Today, open your spirit to the lost and do it without judging them.

Are there places, people and communities that you avoid?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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

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

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

We should never be turned away from a full Gospel life because it makes others uncomfortable and us suffer. Many younger friends of mine have been discouraged by their friends and families when they decided to leave the United States to minister to the poor overseas. "There are plenty of poor people here in the U.S.," they are told, and, "Why do you have to be so radical in your convictions?" Hearing this, these young people suffer, but often enough, when they read the cross of Jesus, they are comforted, especially when they hear him say: "Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble of heart." (Mt 11:29)

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

St John Chrysostom

"I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry." 1 Tim 1:12

Considered the greatest preacher in the early church, St John Chrysostom is also sharply and justly criticized for his antisemitic homilies.(1) His legacy provides us with an opportunity to pray and write about the importance, power and danger of preaching today.

Since the close of the Second Vatican Council, which mandated the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, preaching in the Roman Catholic Church has become increasingly important. Encouraged to offer a brief homily each day and to root them in the sacred texts preachers, many priests try to do this, but with mixed results. North Americans want both an insightful and brief homily even on Sunday's, and while this is understandable, it risks missing the primary teaching of the Second Vatican Council which reminds us the Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life.

When preaching, no matter how lively, profound and articulate, pushes the liturgy of the Eucharist to the background, it needs to be reexamined. Good Catholic preaching ought to break open the sacred scripture, attend to what is happening in society and the world, and lead seamlessly into the breaking of the bread. When the liturgy is planned carefully with the preacher, something wonderful and exciting can happen, but when preaching overwhelms the listener and fails to remember that we are a people of word and sacrament, it fails as Eucharistic preaching.

Today, pray for preachers.

Have you ever heard preaching that helps you enter the liturgy of Eucharist more fully?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

God's Chosen Ones

"Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Col 3:12

The letter to the Colossians reminds us that the so called feminine virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are foundational to Jesus' vision. If we are going to be in what the scripture's call "right relationship" with one another, we must put on these virtues, especially in our families and parishes. Unless parents and pastors are humble in their guidance of their children and flock, their families and congregations will inadvertently learn that power is something to be used over others rather than with them. Only when everyone in a family and parish sense their own dignity, even when receiving correction, can we avoid creating an "us" against "them" mentality which can never be good for family or parish life.

Today, practice humility. Ask for guidance.



What do you think are the most important family and community values in the bible?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Luke's Beatitudes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

Called by Name

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

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

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

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

Today, thank someone who increased your faith?

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

Sunday, September 8, 2019

St Peter Claver

"We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips." St. Peter Claver

Even as a boy, St Peter Claver attracted me because of his heroic life and the service he offered to slaves in what today is Cartegena, Columbia. Leaving his home in Spain, never to return, St Peter Claver's bold spirit captured my youthful imagination and spoke to me of possibilities that I did not want to consider.  After all, I fancied myself as an athlete, and in the words of an early basketball coach, would someday “make a difference at center court.”  Never mind that I was 5’ 9” and slow.  I understood basketball from the inside and dreamed of playing professionally.

The story of St. Peter Claver’s life made me reconsider my priorities and forced me to think beyond sports to a world of religious heroism.  Here was a man who spent almost forty years on the docks of Cartagena waiting to care for slaves who had been so badly treated on their journey from Africa that one third of them died in transit.  As soon as the slaves landed, Peter would rush to them with medicine, food and (dare I say it) tobacco.  As he himself said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."(1)

What a powerful sentiment!  That we must speak to people with our hands before we announce the gospel to them remains powerful advice.

Today, offer someone a helping hand.

Whose physical love and compassion moved you to be more response to others?


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Doing the Right Thing Despite the Cost

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

The use of the word hate in this translation is always troubling. How can anyone, especially those raised in communal cultures that so value relationships over personal accomplishment, hate family members? And is it possible to hate one's own life? Clearly, Jesus is demanding that we let nothing get in the way of doing the right thing, all the time. If for instance, as it might have been for the earliest Christians, your parents refuse to speak with you, shun you or consider you unclean if you will not reject the person and message of Jesus, you must be willing to let go of your parents despite the terrible cost.

This teaching might be easier to understand if we use a different example. Suppose someone promises you a million dollars if you are willing to lie about a candidate for office in order to get their family member elected as mayor or congressperson. While at times we might be slow to answer, especially if we are in deep financial need, we would not lie despite the "rewards." Jesus demands the same from his disciples. Unless his followers are willing to acknowledge how much faith in Jesus matters, despite the consequences, they cannot be his disciples, and faith continues to make these kinds of demands on us in the 21st century.

Racist, sexist and other bullying language and behavior, used repeatedly, must be addressed by Christians in the public sphere. Dismissive and vulgar remarks about entire cultures and religions must also confronted. Otherwise, our silence will be taken for agreement and Jesus' inclusive attitude towards all who are willing to hear, accept and live the Good News will be implicitly denied.

Today, do the right thing despite the cost.

Has your faith ever been the occasion for confronting evil?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Living the Sabbath

"The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Lk 6:5

Sabbath and Sabbath law is complex, confusing, impossible and important. Unfortunately, in Jesus' day those who interpreted Sabbath observance lost sight of the purpose of Sabbath and attached so many proscriptions to it that the average person could never hope to know or observe them all.

The poor knew they could glean corn and other produce after the owners or tenant farmers had picked the field clean, and could do this on the Sabbath because gleaning was not considered work by most rabbis. The Pharisees, however, said that rubbing the grains of corn off the cob was a form of harvesting and preparing a meal, and this was forbidden on the Sabbath.

In truth, there were many rabbis who would have suggested that the poor be encouraged to glean on the Sabbath since doing deeds of mercy was not only permitted but required. Because Jesus knew this, he reminded his listeners that David took the bread of offering and gave it to his companions as an act of mercy.

Sabbath observances and rest have a very distinct purpose. Because we so often forget who we are and how much God loves us, we need to stop every seven days and remember the mercy of God. If God's mercy does not encourage us to act like God, especially on behalf of the poor, then the purpose of the Sabbath is lost, and we would be better off not observing it at all.

Today, look at the people around you, not with the eyes of the law, but with eyes of mercy.



Do you take Sabbath rest seriously?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Christ has betrothed us to Himself

"Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?" Lk 5:35

Everyone in the ancient world knew how important weddings were. A time for families and tribes to deepen their bonds with one another, weddings lasted at least a week and the entire time was given over to the celebration of the new couple and the promise their marriage contained for their families, tribes and faith communities. No one would suggest that a wedding feast was a time to fast!  That is why Jesus uses the idea of wedding to help his disciples understand his commitment to them. He was their bridegroom and they were his bride.

Another aspect of weddings at the time of Jesus gives us even more insight. After a man was betrothed to his intended bride, he would leave her and return to his father's house, but before departing he would say, I go to prepare a place for you, the same words Jesus uses to assure his disciples that he would return for them after his death and bring them to the bridal chamber he had prepared for them forever in heaven.

Today, rest in the realization that Christ has betrothed himself to us forever.

What image do you use to help yourself remember Christ's eternal and total love for you?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Deepening our Influence

"Jesus said: 'Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.'"

Often, when I was involved in community organizing, we would say that we had a broad influence in the community and had developed leaders in many churches and congregations, but we did not have sufficient depth. In other words, we could have influence in a particular issue but probably did not have the kind of power that would last. Those with power were not likely to ask our opinion or be concerned with our position. They would not have to worry about us unless we put down deeper roots and became a more integral part of the community’s consciousness.

Jesus seems to be suggesting the same to his disciples. Because God’s love is deep, not just broad, we need to go into "deeper waters." God does not just love us as his children, but as Bernard Lonergan, the great Canadian theologian reminds us, God is in love with us. God’s love is active, powerful and transforming. God’s love is total, complete, everlasting and gratuitous. We cannot earn God’s love. God is in love with us as we are and calls us to love others as he loves us. Being in love with someone means that you have not settled for a good companion in life but are seeking to make the love you experience the foundation of everything you are and do.

Today, love someone more deeply than you loved them yesterday.

Who changed your life by loving you more deeply?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Solidarity

"Simon's mother in law got up immediately and began waiting on them." Lk 4:39

Many years ago on a trip to Honduras a priest friend who was ministering there told me a story that remains in my heart. Even though they were in grave danger, one community that he accompanied back to Salvador had taken the time to bury their church bell before fleeing their homelan, promising to ring it again when they returned from exile. Imagine their joy, he said, as they watched men from their village exit the buses, dig up the bell, hoist it to the tower and ring it in order to call everyone to a homecoming Eucharist.

How like Simon's mother in law! Cured, home again, she gets up and waits on others.

Today, pray in solidarity with the 40 million refugees in the world, more than 10 million of whom are hungry, sick and exposed to the elements.

What does "home" mean to you? How do you pass on your values to your children?

Monday, September 2, 2019

St Gregory the Great

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Perfectionism

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." Lk 4:18

Like most Catholics born in the middle of the last century, I was schooled to believe that the best way to live a devout life was to get to mass as frequently as possible, and to confession every week. These religious practices, good in themselves, often led people of my generation to worry about trivial matters in a way that was out of proportion to the faults themselves. Worse, we often struggled every day to be better, not so much to honor God, but to "earn" our salvation. Unfortunately, while we became good practicing Catholics, our call to discipleship often got lost in the shadows of our compulsions. When the focus of the spiritual life becomes our personal holiness, union with God often takes a back seat.

Today's gospel reminds us that Jesus had a different perspective. God is not someone hovering over us, counting our sins, but a healer who wants to lay hands of hope on the blind and draw ever closer to the oppressed. When we accept the help of the divine physician everything changes. Facing our weakness and acknowledging our poverty allows us not to obsess about our faults like we once did, but to celebrate God's tender mercy. More important, admitting our sins each day reminds us to be humble and non judgmental, and to look at every person with God's compassionate eyes.

Today, accept your need for God and glory in God's desire to be with you in your poverty.

Do you obsess about being perfect? What has this to do with the Gospel?

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Authentic Humility

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14:11

When Jesus told the guests of the Pharisees to take the lowest place at a banquet in order not to be embarrassed if a more important guest arrives, he is not only offering them a strategy, but a challenge with a deeper spiritual meaning.

Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

This message, like so many others that Jesus offers us, is counter intuitive. While most people bow to humility as a value, few wear the clothes of humility, especially in the United States. Citizens of our nation are trained from an early age to excel, and to accept both the accolades and privileges associated with "winning."

While wealth and power are by products of a successful life in the United States, this is not the goal of those who profess to live a Gospel life. Gospel success is measured, not in what it produces, but in the seeds of hope that it plants. Never far from the realization that all life is a gift, and all worldly success is temporary, Christians believe that our "success" is an integrated and other centered life, and this is no easy task.

Today, don't say something you are thinking. Listen first to others.



Have you had an experience of humility that changed your life?


Friday, August 30, 2019

Sharing our Talents

"To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability." Mt 25:15

That everyone has a talent is probably self evident to most of us, and oftentimes we are very grateful for the talents of a friend who can tweak a computer, fix a faucet or sit with us when we are lost.  While the talent might not seem very important to them, when we are in need, the talents of generous friends are precious gifts.

What is not self evident, however, is that our talents, in a gospel context, are not for ourselves.  Each of us has been gifted by God for the sake of others.  We are part of a community, we are the body of Christ, and as a community of faith we can only be ourselves and function well when all the parts are playing their proper role.  We do not need a hand to be a foot, or an ear to be a mouth.  We need each part of the body to be itself for the good of the whole.

Today, rejoice in your talent and share it with whomever needs it.

To whom are you most grateful for sharing their time and talents with you?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Fools for Christ

"Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." Mt 25:8

The unprepared virgins whose oil has run out are labelled foolish, a word that can be confusing in the New Testament. Paul wants to be seen as a fool for Christ and encourages his companions to be the same. Anxious to be dismissed for the sake of the Gospel, Paul stands out among his contemporaries as a man willing to be ridiculed for the right reason.

The virgins in the Gospel, however, are not seeking attention but only hoping to avoid embarrassment and shame. They knew that bridegrooms, feted and praised in the week before their weddings, would linger long into the night at parties in their honor. Their foolishness was not a sign of their fidelity to a cause or person, but a sign of laziness or sloth. They could have prepared themselves for a long night, but did not, and now risk the harsh judgement of their peers.

Each day we are faced with the challenge of discerning how best to announce the Good News. Some days our silence and willingness to listen to others' complaints or problems is a Gospel stance. At other times, we need to search for a way to express our upset, confusion and anger at the lack of justice too many face when they have little money or power in the society. Speaking up on behalf of the poor can be a prophetic action on our part, especially when others are disparaging the poor as lazy or indolent. Authentic Christians know that to be a fool for the sake of the Gospel is a gift.

Today, be foolish in your love for God.

What most frightens you about being considered a fool for Christ?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Passion of John the Baptist

"He went off and beheaded John in the prison." Mk 6:27

Readers of John's gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

St Augustine

"You have searched me and you know me, Lord." (Ps 139)

Augustine of Hippo wrestled with God for years. Resistant to anything or anyone who couldn't help him understand life as he experienced it, his life turned around when he met St Ambrose in Milan. A seminal thinker and writer, Ambrose got Augustine's attention through kindness and helped open his mind and heart to the Gospel by his brilliant preaching, but it was the voice of a child telling him to "take and read" that moved Augustine to read the thirteenth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Hearing Paul tell his readers that the night was over and it was time to live decently moved Augustine towards baptism.

Best known for his Confessions, a work which the saint thought should be read aloud, Augustine remains one of the most controversial figures in the Christian West as well as one of its most accessible writers. St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, John Calvin and almost every theologian of note, relied heavily on Augustine in their theological and pastoral writings, but some of Augustine's writings, especially about the Jews and original sin, continue to trouble contemporary readers. Nonetheless, Augustine remains a figure of immense importance whose writing continues to inspire believers everywhere.

Writing about love, Augustine asks: "What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."(Augustine) For Augustine, love is a verb not a noun. It is something that we must act upon and share. More important, it is not always something we feel but something we decide to live and involves all the senses. We must love what we see and hear and walk towards those most in need.

Today, live your faith by keeping your eyes and ears open to all.

What keeps you from acting upon the Gospel everyday?





Monday, August 26, 2019

St Monica

"There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly." (St Monica in the Confessions IX, 10)

St Monica taught her son, St Augustine, many lessons. Steadfastness and fidelity to the Gospel, expressed by her willingness to accept him even when he was wandering from his faith, tolerance of her mother in law who regularly rejected her because of her piety, but nothing was more important than her reliance on prayer especially when praying for her son's conversion.

Following Augustine everywhere he went, even when he tried to avoid her, Monica finds herself in Milan where the Milanese did not fast on Saturday. Confused, Monica asks St Ambrose for advice. When Ambrose tells her to follow local custom wherever she was, Monica took his advice believing that her willingness to listen and change would prove to Augustine that his mother's prayer for his conversion was pure. If she wanted Augustine to change, so must she.

When Monica was nearing death, she insisted that no one worry about her or attempt to bring her body back to Africa for burial. “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be.” (Confessions IX, 11) Because St Monica's prayers had been answered with Augustine's full embrace of his Catholic faith, she lived the rest of her life in gratitude, a lesson all of us would do well to learn.

Today, pray for someone's conversion.

Whose prayer and desire for you has most moved you to listen and change?

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Self Examination

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites." Mt 23:15

It must have been shocking and upsetting for the Pharisees and scribes to hear Jesus assert that they were hypocrites and that it is difficult for most of usto put aside our desire to control ourselves and others with a rigid interpretation of the law. Jesus insists that salvation is not about discipline alone, but about asking God to cleanse our hearts of jealousy, resentment and suspicion of others.

More important still is whether we are willing to help others worry less about how they appear and more about the integrity of their faith lives. St Jerome says it well, "I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord."(St Jerome on Joel)

Most believers know the truth of the gospel from the "inside." They realize that what appears to be a faith filled life is empty unless it reflects an interior commitment to live without guile. When each of us admits that a life of ritual rigidity and lawful integrity is hardly good news, we will begin to announce the gospel as Jesus did.

Today, don't be afraid of an honest self examination.

How do you resist an unhealthy dependence on the law as a substitute for gospel living?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Accepting God's Generosity

"For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Lk 13:30

No matter how hard we try to understand God's greatness, the scriptures keep reminding us that God and God's graciousness have no parallels in human life, and while it is helpful to think of metaphors and similes that open up our understanding, they will always fail to capture the fullness of God's goodness. Most of us have gazed at a sunrise, sunset, the ocean or a majestic mountain and been unable to describe what we experience. The grandeur and power of nature defies description, and  the love of God's is even more impossible to label or name. Only awe and silence seem a proper and fitting response.

What we can and must do is accept God's challenge to live lives of limitless generosity and learn how to spend the love we have been given with humility and delight. While a tall order, even this is possible with God's help.

Today, give someone something they have not deserved or earned.

Do you  have a favorite way or story to desribe God's generosity?

Friday, August 23, 2019

St Bartholomew

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

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

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

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

What helps you put aside duplicity and seek transparency?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Greatest Commandment

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Mt 22:36

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire law and prophets to as few words as possible without losing the power and love of the entire Torah. Today’s gospel is Jesus’ response. In just a few words he sums up the entire law and prophets. Although other rabbis suggested answers similar to Jesus, Jesus is unique in two ways. First, no other rabbi suggests that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important. Love of God is not enough by itself. Neither is love of neighbor sufficient without love of God. Prior to Jesus, the rabbis talked about certain prescriptions of the law as heavy or light. Love of neighbor, while important, was considered light, while love of God was considered heavy. Jesus tells his listeners that both love of God and love of neighbor are heavy, that is, vitally important aspects of the good news.

Jesus also challenges the traditional rabbinic understanding of neighbor. The rabbis taught that other Israelites deserved our love as neighbors. Those outside the covenant deserved compassion but not love. Jesus rejects this understanding and makes his interpretation of the Torah overwhelmingly open.  The good news is for all. There are no outsiders In God's love, which remains the challenge for us today. Everyone has a right to our love as a neighbor, not just our compassion. How we live this command is the heart of the gospel.

Today, ask God for the gift of knowing deep in your heart that God is always with you. 

How would you share with others the Greatest Commandment?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Queenship of Mary

"Behold, I have prepared my banquet....Come to the feast." Mt 22:4

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

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

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

Who has shown you the virtue of compassion without words?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

St Pius X

"What if I want to give this last one the same as you?" Mt 20:15

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bold Humility

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

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

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

What spiritual practice has most helped you strenghten your faith?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sell Everything

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor." Mt 19:21

The severity of Jesus' demand that we renounce all our possessions can be overwhelming, especially when we read it out of context. The best scholars of the bible always remind us that when we ask God for the strength to let go, to renounce everything for God, God gives us back what we need to live well and serve others. While God's challenge is daunting, it is also necessary. Belief demands that we learn to trust God with our entire lives despite the cost.

When trying to listen to the God who demands everything from us, it is also important to remember that most of us have more than we could ever use or need, and it is our fear and pride that causes us to worry about whether we have enough or how others see us. Rather than let go to simplify our lives, we acquire more and more ideas, stuff and baggage. Jesus might sound harsh, but his message is clear. Don't be afraid to give God everything. The reward is a Gospel freedom beyond anything we could imagine.

Today, recommit yourself to a Gospel life no matter the cost.

Which of your possessions or ideas are most difficult to renounce?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hot Faith

"I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already burning." Lk 12:49

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Let Children Teach Us

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them." Mt 19:13

Unfortunately, for priests and religious these days, this passage has an edge of fear to it. Most of us who minister full time are anxious around children and are very cautious in our relationships with them. How awful!  Jesus wants us to see in children an example who we must become, not a group of people we should avoid. With that said, the passage remains very powerful.

Jesus holds up a child's innocence as an example of what his disciples need to become. Open spirited, engaged, naturally contemplative and without guile, children, who had no voice or rights at the time of Jesus, teach us how God wants us to go about in the world. The Good News is a new way of living, not a set of rules we have to obey.

Jesus asks us to hold onto the freshness and vitality of children as a way to proclaim the depth of God's love. Believing in a God who is always with us must change everything about us if it is to have an effect in the world. Unless people can find in us a zest for life and a commitment to all people, especially those without a voice, our witness will be empty. Like children, we continue to live with joy because of what God has done for and among us.

Today, let your imagination, like a child playing a game, roam with delight.

What about children most speaks to you of the Gospel?