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Saturday, March 9, 2019

First Sunday of Lent

"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil." Lk 4:1

The temptations of Jesus in Luke's Gospel remind us that Jesus was led into the desert, he did not choose to go there.  Because the desert was terribly cold at night and unbearably hot during the day, it was a place everyone avoided and although it became a place of affirmation for Jesus, we should not forget that it was dark and forbidding.

The challenge of the Gospel is clear. When we can allow God to be God and look for God in the dusty and suffocating corners of life, we are acknowledging that we are made in God's image. God is not made in ours. While we know that suffering is not something we seek in itself, we also know we cannot avoid suffering altogether. Every life is full of light and dark. Knowing that God is always with us, even when we cannot understand God's ways, is the key to our faith. The road to Easter joy must go through Calvary.

Today, return to an unhealed place within your heart and let God be with you.

Recount a time when you discovered God in the "desert."

Friday, March 8, 2019

Do not Judge

"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do." Lk 5:31

When the leaders of the Jewish community challenged Jesus about eating with tax collectors, his answer was clear and straightforward. While acknowledging that tax collectors were sick, he reminded his listeners that sick people need help. If the Pharisees did not want to admit their own faults and sickness, they would have no need of God's help. Our first spiritual task is always to acknowledge our own faults, ask for God's mercy and accept it with joy when it comes.

In biblical times, tax collectors were hated. Not only were most of them Jews who worked for the Roman occupiers, they often charged more than necessary if they thought they could get away with it. More often than not, therefore, they would prey on the poor and the illiterate who were unable to calculate their own taxes. Men who took advantage of the poor were despised by Jesus, but if they showed a willingness to let go of their evil ways, Jesus, the merciful physician, would heal them.

Today, imagine yourself sitting quietly at your own "tax collectors table," and ask for help.

When are you most likely to judge others?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

We are Jesus' Bride

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Mt 9:15

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, March 6, 2019

Carrying our Crosses

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Lk 9:23

Crosses come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, none of them easy but all of them real and important. Some carry a paralyzing fear, others an impenetrable darkness. Still others suffer addictions that terrorize them and their families, but most of us have simpler, if not less heavy, crosses. We talk or eat too much, we don't listen to our friends or God and we wonder whether our lives have impacted anyone or anything. These are heavy crosses indeed.

Following Jesus means accepting who we are, what we've done and what we have failed to do, while at the same time praying to be free of our self absorption and fear. Knowing the Lord will guide and lead us to places, situations and people that will allow him to be known and loved makes this possible and desirable.

Today, carry the first cross you encounter without grumbling.

What are your most difficult crosses?








Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Ash Wednesday

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God." Jl 2:13

Repentance or conversion, to which the church calls us as Lent begins, is really quite simple. We are to stop worrying about our troubles, our self image, our wealth, our health and everything else that distracts us from God.

Lent is a time to turn to God again. We are to think about what God wants of us and from us. We are to ask for insight to know God's will and the faith to do it. It is as if we have been sitting looking out a window, which might be very lovely and relaxing, but is not what God is asking of us. God is asking us to look at God and return to our belief in the Good News. Conversion is an English translation of the Greek word, metanoia which simple means to turn back or to turn around. Admitting we are lost in our own fantasies or struggles is the first step. Turning away from them to God is the beginning of our ongoing conversion.

Today ask God to call your name so that you might turn to God again.

Share a moment of conversion that you experienced.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Last will be First

"Many that are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mk 10:31

Coming as it does in response to Peter's question about the reward the disciples can expect for giving up everything to follow Jesus,  the challenge not to seek the first place in anything is an important Gospel lesson.

Jesus is clear when he warns his followers not to worry about the issues that can so easily consume them, and that they should not imitate Jewish leaders who used their modest wealth, knowledge of the law and religious authority as weapons to frighten and intimidate the underclass. Rather, they need to remember that the purpose of the Law is to assure believers that God was their companion and guide and they had nothing to fear from any civil power, even their oppressors, if they lived the law with joy.

For Christians, the call is direct. Jesus, as the fulfillment of the law, is the one who must be at the center of our lives. Nothing we can gain in the world can substitute for this relationship. As long as we are willing to enter into the mystery of God's love in Christ and submit ourselves to him, we have nothing to fear.

Today, remember who you are before God and be grateful for your faith.

Which spiritual practices help you counter your pride?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Resistance in the Spiritual Life

"You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Mk 10:21

Spiritual directors often speak of "resistances" to God's action in our lives.  Sometimes it is unresolved conflicts from the past that seem to block our submitting ourselves to God.  At other times, it is too much work , too much television or too much time in front of the computer. Part of my work, for instance, demands that I spend time reflecting on the daily scriptures, researching areas with which I am not familiar and actually writing this blog or a homily, but the computer cannot be my life.

Unless we take sufficient quiet time to remember God's enduring presence all around us, what we read, study and write will be like dry straw. Lacking a certain spirit, it will be unable to sustain us or help lift people to God and urge them to live for God and do God's work. Knowing who we are and what our priorities need to be is the foundation of an honest spiritual journey.

Today, ask God to help you recognize your addictions.



How do you manage your resistances and anxieties?