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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Our Divided Church and Nation

"For Zion's sake I will not be silent." Is 62:1

Though  I rarely comment on politics in this blog, the text today certainly seems to apply to our nation and church. Like most Americans, I am befuddled and increasingly annoyed by the sniping that seems in full swing among President Trump, the media and the newly elected Congress, and I am angry. The attacks on Pope Francis, moreover, actually scandalize me. Rooted in rigid theological maxims, they seem to ignore the Holy Father's consistent challenges to us to change and be transformed by God's word and goodness. What happens to us as a people and a church when we fail to look at issues and concerns from the other side of wherever we stand, and more important, what happens when we only think about protecting our own assets?

Isaiah faced this in his life and warned his sisters and brothers in the Jewish community against being so divided that they collapse. Surely, he would say the same to us in our country and church. How is it possible not to work for a deeper unity when so many people are in need? Unless we find a way to speak with one another about critical issues like hunger, housing, health care and immigration reform, and he environment, we will be clanging symbols that the rest of the world rightly ignores.

Today, be silent. Say nothing for a while and see what happens when you listen.

What do you think most divides us as a country and a church?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Changed by Goodness

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mk 2:17

Jesus' answer to the Pharisees who are complaining about his eating with tax collectors and other sinners seems so obvious, we wonder how the Pharisees could be so blind and deaf. They must have known that the law not only allowed conversations with sinners but demanded it. Like us, the Pharisees often heard and saw they wanted to see and hear. Secure in their knowledge of the Torah and satisfied with their modest power, they wanted only to find something to criticize in Jesus' behavior in order not to listen to him.

However, when Jesus responds to their resistance and dullness, he teaches all of us. Change is always difficult, and it is easier to criticize someone than to search for their goodness and compassion. Jesus sees past the sins of the tax collectors. Inviting them to supper and building a relationship with them makes it possible for him eventually to speak with them about changing their lives and turning away from their sin. Rather than attack their profession, he sits at table with them in the hope that they will be able to see the error of their ways and change.

Today, praise someone whose behavior often irritates you.

Have you ever been changed by someone's kindness and understanding?


Thursday, January 17, 2019

True Friendship

"They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying." Mk 2:3-4

Where would we be without friends? A paralyzed man who hears about Jesus has no way to see or visit the Lord unless friends help him. Though Jesus is  surrounded by needy people, the paralytic's friends are not deterred. They go up on the roof, dig through it and lower their friend in front of Jesus. It is really an amazing scene which the scribes cannot spoil with the mumbling about Jesus not having the power to forgive sins. So anxious not to lose their teaching role in the society, the scribes think nothing about the paralytic while the man's friends think of nothing else. Who doesn't yearn for friends like this?

The twelfth century monk and writer, Aelred of Rievaulx, says it this way:
No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy. ― Aelred of Rievaulx Spiritual Friendship
Today, be gracious and accept the help of your friends.

To which friends are you most grateful?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

St Anthony, Abbott

"Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord." Ps 89

No matter how far Anthony went into the desert, people followed and found him. Though unlettered, he was gifted with so much wisdom, that many were drawn to him, hoping to absorb some of what he had learned in silence and solitude. Reputed to have lived for twenty years in a single walled room, Anthony grew in faith and devotion. While some thought that the isolation he sought would drive him crazy, Anthony grew more quiet and serene because he had found God and himself in the silence.

Obviously, not everyone is drawn to the life and lifestyle of St Anthony, but Anthony does teach everyone a basic truth of life. When we learn how it is that God wants to work in us, we have only to follow God's promptings to be at peace. Some will be drawn to God by a life of total involvement with the world. Others will find themselves and God in a life among the poor or as missionaries. A few will be drawn to the hermetical life like St Anthony. Where we arrive in life is not the issue. How we get there is.

Today, pray for the grace to be totally open to whatever God wants for you.

Have you met someone whose lifestyle at first confused you but whose peace taught you to follow God no matter the cost?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cured to be a Servant

"Simon's mother in law lay ill with a fever, ..then the fever left her and she waited on them." Mk 1:30, 32

Many years ago on a trip to Honduras I had the privilege of visiting the Mesa Grande refugee camp where more than 30,000 Salvadorans were encamped. Despite being in a virtual prison the people were filled with joy as they built a community of faith and solidarity which sustained them as the waited to go "home."

One refugee story, told to me by a priest friend who was ministering there, 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, 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 25 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, January 14, 2019

To Whom Do You Listen

"The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." Mk 1:22

While very few would suggest that education is unimportant, it can be overrated. Most of the adults I knew as a child had little formal education, yet they were respected in my neighborhood.  Anyone who worked hard, had a deep faith and understood life from the inside was trusted and revered.  Like Jesus, many of my neighbors spoke with authority.

Jesus did not seem to worry much about the education of the the men he called to be his apostles, but the leaders of the Jewish people seemed to think this was a soft spot in the life of the new community. Anxious to stop Jesus' disciples from speaking about their Lord, they called them in and threatened them, only to have Peter and John insist that they had no choice but to speak of Jesus. Clearly, Peter and John were not worried about their lack of education and were not intimidated by threats from the Jewish leaders.

It is always good to take a few moments and ask ourselves to whom we are most likely to listen. Do the highly educated intimidate us into silence about important matters? Are we unwilling to speak of our faith to people of power and prestige in the community?

Today, take time to listen to someone you might otherwise ignore.



What most impresses you about the faith you witness everyday?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Follow Me

“'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Then they left their nets and followed him." Mk 1:17

Reading about the call of the disciples, it is natural to wonder if Jesus knew any of the men before inviting them to follow him. Did he notice something in them that would help announce the great salvific message of his Father? Did he know their families? Did he call them because he noticed them listening intently to him when he preached.

We have any number of reasons to hesitate when hearing the call of the Gospel. Discipleship, especially in the so called developed world, does not pay very well, nor does it promise fame or power, but resisting it can be difficult if not impossible for those who are honestly looking for a way of life that respects, even honors, all people.

The simplicity of the Gospel has not changed. Neither has its difficulty. Our task is to live its message of hope, transformation and submission to God with integrity and honesty. Admitting our dependence on God and being willing to serve others in his name remains a powerful invitation to anyone looking for a God who will never stop loving and challenging them.

Today, listen for the voice of the Lord in your life and follow it unreservedly.



Have you ever followed someone immediately without really knowing much about them?