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Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Transfiguration

"While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." Lk 9 29:30

Conversion is a slow process. We need many reminders that we are God's people and that God is always with us. Like almost anything else we learn in life, we "get faith" for a while and then lose it. Because daily life often confuses and challenges us with questions about suffering, death, poverty and hunger, we forget who we are, and seasons like Lent are necessary to help us return to the "straight and narrow" path of Jesus.

Today the transfiguration of Jesus is like a Lent for the apostles. Jesus has been slowly letting the apostles know who he is, and today he makes it absolutely clear that he is the fulfillment of the prophets. One might say that it is the "baptism" of the apostles. Because the apostles now know that Jesus is God's son, even if they cannot yet put their minds completely around the revelation, they have new responsibilities. God is readying them for their mission, and while their obligation to announce Good News will be delayed, they will soon be God's messengers and message.

Our own faith life and Lenten journey are similar. We have moments of pristine clarity and insight, and then the fog returns and we can hardly see where we are going. Not being afraid of this process is the key to completing our pilgrimage. Conversion lasts our entire life and while we might lose our way, God never loses sight of us.

Today, try to remember a moment of transfiguration, when you knew exactly who you were.

What has been your experience of conversion into Christ?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Love your Enemies

"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:44

Rooted in the Book of Leviticus, Jesus' command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us is one of the more troubling of Jesus' hard sayings. How can we pray for those who persecute us, especially if they are members of our own family or parish? Isn't it more natural to avoid them, to not think about them and live without them as companions in faith?

At the time the gospels were written, Jesus' insistence that we love our enemies was especially difficult since most his followers were considered unclean. Willing to interact with Gentiles and sinners, Jesus' disciples were sometimes excluded from their own families. Indeed, the early Christians had a very rough road to walk, and they needed to hear and remember that Jesus taught his disciples to think like God, to be like the Forgiving Father of Luke's gospel, to welcome sinners and sit at table with them like Jesus did. (Luke 5:29)

There is no doubt that learning to love our enemies is an ongoing battle, one that we will often lose, but one which we cannot avoid. Nothing speaks the Gospel more clearly or deeply than the lives of believers willing to go beyond what seems reasonable in order to proclaim Good News. When we love our enemies, no one can deny the power of Jesus' life and teaching alive in us, and while our enemies might not choose to join us, they will surely respect our faith filled lives.

Today, for the sake of the Gospel, pray for the grace to reconcile with someone who hurt you.

What are the hardest sayings of Jesus for you to understand and accept?


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Be Reconciled

"If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5:23

One of the fundamental questions asked of every school of spirituality is where it begins? Ignatian spirituality, for instance, begins with personal and world sin. Only after a person has confronted his or her complicity in making the world a harsher place and community through selfishness, pride, lust and arrogance, does the pilgrim join the journey of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. It is a natural and understandable place to begin, but it is not the only place.

Franciscan spirituality begins by reminding the pilgrim to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness and goodness of God, and only after celebrating the glory of God in all creation does it ask believers to face their sin. It is a different path with the same goal, to know, appreciate and enter the mystery of God's unconditional love. For Franciscans, only the strength and assurance they gain from seeing God's presence in all creation makes it possible for them to face the awfulness of their own ingratitude.

Jesus' reminder to his disciples seems to take this second path. God is more intent on rejoicing in our conversion and willingness to be reconciled with our sisters and brothers than in than in taking pleasure from our death through sin. God wants to celebrate who we are when we turn to him, not to turn from us in disgust. How wonderful God is!

Today, take a deep breath and ask God what you must do to be in God.



Where does your heart lead you in beginning again your spiritual journey?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Living with Darkness

"Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD...Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand." Est 12:14

Darkness of spirit can be immobilizing. Inundated with problems or memories that emerge every time we open our eyes, there is no place to go. Friends with cancer often spoke of their illness in this manner. Each day they would wake, hoping for a shift in how they felt physically and emotionally, but there was only nausea and darkness. 

Remarkably, the call of Lent is to allow God to take us into this kind of darkness so that we might be cleansed and able to see again, even in a darkness "one can feel." Though our faith tells us that God is in the darkness with us, and Jesus in the desert experienced this, it is awful, frightening and disturbing. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta told her spiritual director that this kind of darkness followed her for years. While those who knew her could never have suspected this terrible kind of trial, it was real and suffocating, and led her to the edge of unbelief.

When periods of darkness like this come upon us, we must stay still. As the poet, Jessica Powers wrote, "God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul...I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him." God does not make the darkness go away, but sits with us in it. Is that enough?

Today, try not to hide. Give yourself to God as you are.


How do you live with the darkness that comes to you?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Presence of God

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."

How we miss the everyday Epiphanies in our life is always a mystery. The wonders of creation, the gift of faithful and faith filled friends, and the power of common worship all offer us opportunities each day to celebrate God's presence within and among us, but we fail. Admitting these faults allows us to begin again, but Jesus is angered with those who fail to see God all around them and have the gall to ask for new signs. Until we learn to slow down enough to celebrate the presence of God is so many people and places, we cheat ourselves and God of being grateful.

The saints are those who recognize their faults, ask for help to overcome them and are humble enough to begin their pilgrimage over again each day. St Augustine resisted God's call for years because he preferred to live comfortably and without responsibility, thinking he was better than others. His mother, like most mothers, knew better. She prayed that he might open his eyes, see God and be captured by God's love. Eventually, her prayers were answered and Augustine became one of the most prolific and effective preachers of the early church.

Today, open your eyes and let them slowly move around wherever you are to discover God's presence and promise.

What distracts you most from the presence of God within and around you?

Monday, March 11, 2019

God's fertility

"Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth,...so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth." Is 55:10,11

God's word is fertile. When mixed with the soil of our lives, it produces something extraordinary. God's word has the power to transform us, and our task is to welcome the Word and let it do its work. We are not in control of this process. God is, and we must let it happen, and unless we take time for this process everyday, nothing of substance will happen.

Quiet and reflection, especially about how God's word impacts our lives, is a practice no adult Christian can afford to ignore. Only when we become very disciplined about life in the Spirit can we expect God's word to do its work, and this process is analogous to many other aspects of life. Only the naive think that walking once a week will get them into shape for longer walks, and only the arrogant believe they can learn without regular reading and study. Conversion, at every level of human existence, is hard work.

God's life in and among us is not magic. We should not expect that God's word will transform us if we never reflect upon it. Neither can we hope to be signs of Good News when our life only witnesses to rushing about, pushing people around and ignoring our bodies for the sake of competitive advantage over others. Authentic believers are signs of God's life in the world when they are available, reliable and committed to the other for the other's sake.

Today, remember how God has made your life fertile and offer a prayer of gratitude.

How have you experienced God's fertile actions in your life?


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hunger

"I was hungry and you gave me food." Mt 25:35

Hunger is a powerful teacher. When people are really hungry, even starving, it is very hard to listen to others, much less learn. Hunger, like anger or a chronic illness, gets in the way of everything else. Trying to teach hungry people is like trying to put one more ounce of water in a glass that is already full. No matter how skilled the teacher, when people are hungry new insights and knowledge are wasted. There is no room in the hungry person for anything new or transformative.

Jesus knew his Jewish antagonists were more concerned with undermining his authority than with the integrity of the Torah. Hungry to maintain their influence and power over the people, they wanted only to find fault with Jesus and his followers. They were not interested in the hunger the disciples had, but only wanted to undermine their teacher.

In many ways, we already know this. When we are physically hungry or we are hungry for companionship, friendship and love, we can settle for almost anything, even though our minds know that our need is getting in the way of our good sense. Because we are so hungry, we can't listen to anything or anyone. The misplaced hunger of the Jewish leaders condemned them, and it will do the same to us if we want only to be right.

Today, don't be afraid to ask for the "bread of life" to feed you with good sense and hope.

What kinds of hungers block you from living the Gospel?