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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Bearing Fruit for the Lost

"For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' Lk 13:7

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk committed to the silence of the Cistercian life, insisted that anyone who sought entry into the monastery to escape the world did not have a vocation. Even, perhaps especially, monks dedicated to silence must bear fruit by being attentive to all believers in order to bring the concerns of God's people before God in prayer.

Today, reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Forgiveness

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”  Lk 15:17-18

The story of the prodigal son or the forgiving father is one of the most remarkable in all of scripture. In order to demonstrate God's desire to forgive us, Luke's Jesus suggests that even if someone returns to God for less than pure motives, God will welcome her. More, God embraces and empowers anyone who seeks reconciliation.

When faced with this same kind of situation, most of us would try to discern the motives of the person seeking reconciliation, but God, the Forgiving Father, does not. Satisfied that his son or daughter is home, God reaches out and celebrates, apparently believing the power of his graciousness will convince his son or daughter that he must change his or her life.

We often spend too much time trying to figure life out when we would be better off entering its mystery and discerning more carefully what few issues deserve our response. Otherwise, we will waste our lives in fruitless obsession when we ought to be doing good. The Forgiving Father teaches us always to be looking for the good in the world, not bemoaning our losses.

Today, forgive someone unconditionally.

Is there anything that troubles you about the Forgiving Father?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Making Sense of Suffering

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Mt 21:45

Engineers and architects have been fascinated for centuries by the simple but elegant style and form of Roman arches. Strong today even after 2000 years, the arches are built with stones almost exactly the same in size, except for the capstone which allows the arch to stand freely and strongly. The capstone is chipped at and broken so that it fits perfectly between the others. Rejected as a a regular building stone because of its odd shape, it becomes the capstone only after it is hacked at and formed in a way that allows the rest to stand together.  Our capstone, of course, is the Christ, who suffers so that the "arch" of God's kingdom can endure.

What a great lesson. While suffering is one of the most difficult of human experiences to explain, understand and accept, it comes to us all. The owner's son reminds us to reflect deeply about our own envies and jealousies. How often we "kill" others with words and rumors thinking we can advance our owns standing in the community, only to have the one attacked become a symbol of hope by her willingness to endure suffering for a greater good. Women and men like the vineyard owner's son are capstones and Christ figures who challenge us to transformation through suffering.

Today, welcome the uncomfortable and confusing.

When has suffering in your own life helped you enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Who Don't We See

"And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores." (Lk 16:20-21)

It is so difficult to read the passage about Lazarus and the rich man. How is it possible to have someone lying at your feet and not see him? Couldn't the rich man at least have swept the crumbs off his table so that Lazarus could have something to eat? How could he let his dogs lick Lazarus' wounds? These natural but unanswerable questions demand reflection from us.

Who is it that we don't see? Are there people so unimportant that we ignore them? Too often the answer is yes. Sometimes it is people of color or those who are culturally different than us. At other times, it is people who are generational recipients of welfare. More often we turn away, almost unconsciously, from the homeless and mentally ill because they frighten us, but we can and ought to try to change this.

Today, spend five minutes in quiet and reflection in preparation for seeing that which is directly in front of you.

What situations and people are most difficult for you to face?




Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Service

"Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mt 20:28

When the mother of James and John asked Jesus to put her two sons as authority figures on his right and left, she is only doing what seemed natural. Wanting her sons to succeed, to move up in the world and to be a part of Jesus' entourage, she reminds us of the father of St. Francis who so wanted his son to succeed that he outfitted him in the finest clothes in order to give him every opportunity to impress others and grow wealthy and powerful.

That the mother of James and John and the father of St. Francis get it all wrong should not surprise us since we have all misunderstood the Gospel from time to time. Their only concern and ours ought to be to listen more deeply to the Lord and change our ways.

Service of others is the hallmark of the Gospel, not wealth nor power over others, and authentic Gospel service means trying to make ourselves prayerfully and unconditionally available to God in order to build God's reign not our comfort or influence.

Today, ask God to know how to serve others with dignity and charity.

What are your biggest blocks to serving others freely?

Monday, March 18, 2019

St Joseph, Husband of Mary

"When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home." Mt 1:24a

There are many ways to wake up. Sometimes, it is simple. Our bodies tell us to pay attention. We have a headache that will not go away or we discover a skin growth that looks strange. Our bodies are telling us to pay attention and take action. At other times, especially when we take time to relax and reflect, an idea that has been percolating in our minds and hearts, takes shape. We read about AIDS in Africa or the plight of refugee children in Syria, and we start searching the Internet for places and organizations that are addressing these vital concerns. Waking up to the challenge of acting on the Gospel is important for our own salvation and the good of others.

Joseph, the husband of Mary, troubled by his young wife's pregnancy, wakes up. Not wanting her to be stoned, he decides to divorce her quietly. In this way, Mary will have other chances to marry and build a family. But then Joseph has a dream and when he wakes up, he knows that God wants him to marry Mary despite his misgivings. That he listens and acts upon the message he receives is critical for Joseph's salvation and ours.

Waking up to the immensity of God's love for us, while sometimes very challenging, is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only does it empower us  personally to live more freely and gratefully, it urges us to tell others the Good News of God's desire to love them more deeply an totally.

Today when you wake up, pause and let God speak a liberating word to you.

Have there been moments in your life that changed the course of your faith?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Stop Judging

"Stop judging and you will not be judged." Lk 6:37

Although Pope Francis shocked many a couple of years ago when he insisted that he would not judge homosexual persons, it is his ongoing pastoral example that calls believers everywhere not only not to judge others, but to look rather at their strengths and virtues. When writing his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father further challenged us to revisit our priorities personally and communally,
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.(1)
It should be clear that when the Holy Father encourages us to "hit the streets", he is also reminding us that people who are engaged in trying to help others and proclaim the Gospel have little time to judge others. They are too busy being Good News.

Today, if you are tempted to judge someone, praise them instead.

Do you know people like Pope Francis who refuse to judge others?