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Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

"A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench." Is 42:3

The images of John the Baptist that emerge in the gospels can sometimes be off putting. Like many prophets before him, John is direct and uncompromising, making him difficult to listen to, but this is not the case when John speaks of Jesus. John's humility about his own role and his assurance that Jesus is the Messiah lifts us up and sends us forth in hope.

Jesus, Isaiah and John remind us, has not come into the world to destroy it, but to assure all those listening, especially the poor, that his task is to heal the bruised reed and keep alive the flame of faith, but only if we accept his word and allow his power to transform us.

As Jesus begins his public ministry by having John baptize him, it is clear that he will risk anything so that his message from his Father will be clear and transparent. Jesus is among us to announce Good News, but his message will be difficult for those who want to cling to power, wealth and worldly prestige. Jesus wants to set us free from the domination of all systems that fail to create a just world. This message will be his downfall and our salvation.

Today, put aside your fears of being broken and weak. Our God heals.

Is it time to begin again your own ministry of service and freedom?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jesus is the One

"The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." Jn 3 29-30

What was it that John saw? What did the Spirit look like? Most of us have been in the presence of people with political or religious power. We know what that feels like, but Jesus was an itinerant preacher and minor prophet. Surely, John was talking about something more than the power we invest in hierarchies when he said of Jesus, "He must increase, I must decrease."

In order to see, we must look long and hard at ourselves, others and the world. This takes practice and discernment. We cannot expect to see what it is that God is doing within and among us unless we take time to gaze upon God and God's works everyday. Some call this prayer or contemplation but naming it is not as important as doing it. Finding time in our busy schedules to stop, listen, and allow the Spirit of God to guide us is essential to anyone who wants to live the Gospel.

Today, slow down and let the Lord look at you as you are.

What most keeps you from developing a daily prayer life?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Asking to be Healed

"If you wish, you can make me clean." Mk 1:40

From time to time, all of us have to ask for help, even from those we don't like or admire. The man with leprosy asks Jesus to be made clean and as soon as he does, his life changes. Though Jesus does not want the leper to tell anyone who healed him, his excitement and gratitude spill out of him and soon everyone knows.

There is a simple lesson in this text for us. Though we may be reluctant to ask God for help, thinking our faith is not strong enough, we should not hesitate. We should always ask to be healed, and trust that healing comes in many forms. Sometimes God's healing allows us to accept the burden of a dark period in our lives, and while that might not be what we were praying for, it does allow us to move forward in faith .

When we trust God in this way everything changes. We obsess less about wanting to live on our own terms, and seek companions who will walk with us no matter what we are carrying. More important, allowing others to help us may lead to their healing. Sometimes when we ask people for help, they finally see themselves as worthwhile and their spirit opens to God in ways they thought could never again happen.

Today, ask God for healing and wait.

Have their been instances in your life when asking for help changed how you viewed the burdens you carry?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Authentic Discipleship

"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?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Courage in the Face of Fear

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!' He got into the boat with them and the wind died down." Mt 14:26

God is always calling us. The scriptures are clear about this, but we are not always listening, and even when we are listening, we sometimes misinterpret what God wants from us.  The New York Times  featured an article about soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were seeking all kinds of outlets to wash themselves of the scars of war and renew their lives. It reminded me of an earlier article in the Times that featured soldiers who, even after many years, cannot drive, and when they do drive often speed up at intersections and go through stop signs for fear there are people ready to fire upon them.

Rereading the article I realized I was breathing very shallowly. I don't want to know about these soldiers problems, because I do not want to face the horrors of war, especially as it impacts the lives of children. But unless we face these issues, we will never come to terms with the long term disabilities these men and women face, and the terrible effects upon our society. Dwight Eisenhower wrote, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." Today's scriptures remind us not to act on our fears when we are threatened. Otherwise, we will rush into war again and never find ways to establish peace on the earth.

Today, ask God to help you be a peacemaker.

In what area of life do you most need the courage of Jesus?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Give them some Food

"Give them some food yourslves." Mk 6:37

Fear is a powerful and dangerous motivator, so strong at times it can overwhelm our good judgment and cause us to harm ourselves and others. When a mother can't afford to feed a child, she might do almost anything to find food. Anyone who has lived among the very poor knows this. Women everywhere have sold themselves to support their children, and fathers have stolen money and goods for the same purpose.

We don't know how fearful the disciples were when Jesus told them to feed the hungry themselves, but they immediately resist his command to feed those who are following him. Afraid, perhaps, that they would not have enough for themselves, they try to reason with Jesus, but the Lord will have none of it. Jesus insists that there is always enough if we take not what we want to feel comfortable, but what we need to stay alive and healthy. Sharing the goods of the earth is a foundational Gospel principle.

Today, enjoy the Eucharist and feed someone who is hungry.

How do you understand Jesus' command to be the Body of Christ?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Commiting ourselves to Jesus and His Gospel

"Those who keep Jesus' commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit whom he gave us." 1 Jn 3:24

To whom do you  belong? This is a critical question in the life of every believer. We may be faithful Catholics and celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday, but unless we belong to Jesus Christ and the lifestyle he set our for us, we find ourselves drifting from one action to another without ever committing ourselves to the Lord .

Belonging means prioritizing Jesus and his teaching as the focus of our lives. Committed to the community of faith, we pray reguarly, break bread in memory of the one who has been raised from the dead, continue to learn about and live the Scriptures, and serve those most in need in the name of Jesus. This is a tall order but it should not overly disturb us that we often fail to live the fulness of the Gospel. Jesus only demands that we continue to return to him and his teaching and seek to enter the mysteris of faith with passion and hope.

Today, ask Jesus for the grace to enter more deeply into him and the life to which he has called you.

What most distracts you from the Gospel with passion and hope?