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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Embracing the Poor

"Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours." 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 was recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize but dangerous.

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. We need to be careful not to 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 six in Luke's Gospel.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

Asking God to Satisfy You

"The all ate and were satisfied." Mk 6:43

Knowing who you are and to whom you belong is a foundational first step on the road to spiritual health.  Every adult believer has struggled mightily at times with their identity as Christians and Catholics. Sometimes it is a particular belief or practice that makes us uncomfortable or leaves us full of doubt, and this is especially true when we are struggling with other issues in our life. When a marriage collapses or a parent nears death, we can wrestle with the teaching of the church or its beliefs and practices. Why can't I remarry, some ask?  Doesn't God want me to be happy? Or why is my mother suffering so?  Doesn't God care?

It is at times like this that that we need to remember that God wants to feed us,  but we must present ourselves to him as hungry.  When we are able to remember that God is in love with us, and is our companion through every dark forest or imposing mountain climb, we are able to put aside the particular stumbling blocks along the way and eat the food he offers us.

If we remember that to ask God for help everyday, not just when we are need, God will give us the faith to live with the questions and burdens which have no easy answer. That God is with us in the middle of the doubt, fear and anger is the promise upon which we rely.  God is here. God lives within us and among us. God is enough.

Today, ask God to help you live with the questions you face.

What does it take for you to be satisfied?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Transitions with God

“Ephphatha!' (that is, 'Be opened!') And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly." Mk 7:34-35

So many aspects of life need to be opened over and over in our lives. We need to have open spirits, open hearts and open minds. Without a life open to God and God's direction, we risk missing the voice of the Spirit who Christ promised us would always be present within and among us. Remaining open to God's Spirit can be especially troubling when we are in pain.

An older friend has remained engaged in life by reading. She reads the newspaper everyday and a novel at least once a week. She also reads history and theology, but recently she has been grappling with vision problems. Almost immobile, my friend is struggling to understand and accept this new burden. The openness she has had her entire life, and which she so prized, is difficult to maintain. Though she knows that she can use her other senses to engage the world around her, her eyes have always been her primary path to enjoyment and conversation.

How we manage the transitions that life presents us is the measure of our faith. Walking with others in pain, reaching out to the hungry, and accepting the limitations that come to everyone, while seeming to close us off to what we have always known, in fact allows God to do God's work in and through us.

Today, open your heart to whatever God asks.

What are the most difficult transitions you have faced?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sts Cyril and Methodius

"Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." Mk 8:15

The use of the vernacular, or the language of the people, has long been controversial in the Church. Even today there are those who think we should return to the use of Latin in the liturgy primarily because it is not a "living" language and, therefore, less subject to misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

When Sts Cyril and Methodius, whose feast we celebrate today, wanted to make Slavonic the language of the liturgy the Bavarian bishops reacted, fearful they would be stripped of their influence in the Slavic world. Clearly, the preaching of Cyril and Methodius was having  a powerful effect on the people. That the liturgy might also be celebrated in a language the bishops could neither speak nor understand made them very anxious.

Power is almost always an issue in our lives. When we lose the power to speak, to see clearly, to drive a car, own a home or influence a vote, we can react violently against authority and God.  We want our voice and our freedom. The Bavarian bishops were so afraid of losing their ability to guide the church that they forced Methodius into exile for three years, to no avail. Cyril and Methodius were trying to spread the gospel with every tool at their command. That they were impeded, even stopped for a while by those who should have celebrating their efforts, only made them stronger and more effective.

Today, ask God to remind you of the gospel injunction to love your enemies.

How do you empower the powerless?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Understanding

"Are even you likewise without understanding?" Mk 7:18

To really understand someone else is hard work. It is not something that happens naturally for most of us because it demands we listen more than we speak. In fact, I often wonder whether people listening to us across cultures and languages, who must pay attention to every word and gesture we use, understand us better than those with whom we speak every day.

This seems be the case for those who opposed Jesus and struggled against his growing power, but it is also true for his closest followers. No matter how often Jesus spoke, acted, and responded to those most in need, it was difficult for those around him to fully appreciate what he was saying or who he was. Like the prophets before him, Jesus was forever demanding that his disciples review their lives and religious practices to determine if indeed the mystery of God's unconditional love was becoming the foundation of their lives. If it was, the law would take care of itself.  He demands no less of us.

Today, try to remember the last time you reviewed a religious practice or devotion in order to focus more clearly on union with God.

What or Who helps you understand the fullness of Jesus' Gospel message?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Focus on Strength

"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts." Mk 7:6-7

In a world as fast faced as ours, it is difficult not to lose focus. With so many messages coming at us thousands of times a day, we find ourselves spouting platitudes rather than thoughtful responses. 
Because we all fall into the trap of saying things over and over, we have some compassion for the Pharisees in today's Gospel. Doing everything they could to trap Jesus with his own words and actions, the Pharisees find themselves looking for anything to discredit Jesus and his disciples. 

Eating without washing one's hands, while an important ritual for Jews, was hardly earth shaking. Unable, however, to find anything else about Jesus' behavior to undermine his growing power and popularity, the Pharisees fixate on the faults of Jesus' followers, not his amazing and compelling compassion for the broken.

Today, think of and pray for someone you dislike.

How do you counter your tendency to focus on another's faults and sins?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Be a Light

Let there be light." Gen 1:3

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

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

Genesis teaches us that God made light for us and for our delight. God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others. More, God sent the Christ as a light to all nations so that we might proclaim God's love in this most fundamental of ways.
Today, be a light for someone living in darkness.

Who has been Easter light for you?