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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Authentic Mercy

"Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful of the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but theirs is not a Gospel response. Jesus demands that we look at our own sin every time we are tempted to condemn others.

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Being Open to God's Voice

"So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, 'Why did you not bring him?
The guards answered, 'Never before has anyone spoken like this man.'" Jn 7 45-46

There should be little doubt that the Jewish authorities were not worried about Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. False prophets and healers were a dime a dozen and it was rarely difficult to undermine the authority and power of popular healers by challenging them regarding their knowledge of and commitment to the Torah.

Jesus was different. Not only did he know the Law, he lived its spirit in challenging ways, and a reading of the New Testament demonstrates this convincingly. Jesus was not trying to undermine the authority of the Jewish leaders, but wanted them to reform their lives, put aside their fear of the Roman authorities, and see in him God's presence and power. Only when the Jewish leaders refused to acknowledge their own sins and dismiss the voice of everyday people did Jesus condemn them and call them "whitened sepulchers." (Mt 23:27)

Today, let yourself be amazed at the healing power of the Lord.

Does the Gospel continue you challenge you to transformation?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Suffering for the Truth

"His hour had not yet come." Jn 7:30

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Archbishop Oscar Romero knew that if he continued to speak on behalf of the poor he would likely be murdered, but he could not and chose not to avoid this awful burden. That he gave his life for the gospel continues to uplift all, but especially those who work among and with the poor. Suffering is not good in itself, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Intimacy with God

"Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Wilfulness

"I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me." Jn 5:30

Very little in life is more difficult than letting go of our own will. Even, and perhaps especially, when we are struggling with how best to go forward as a disciple of Jesus, we cling to our own opinions and desires, and often fail to ask for help. Our consolation: Jesus struggled, too.

One of the most poignant verses in the gospel of Luke has Jesus practically begging God, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." (Lk 22:42) Clearly, the specter of submitting himself to the horror of a painful death so threatens Jesus that he asks his Father for mercy.

We should never be too proud to ask for help to find our spiritual path. St. Paul uses the powerful and evocative image of body (1Cor 12) to remind us that eyes can see but can't walk and feet can walk but not see. Only when the parts of our body work together for the good of all can we be called the body of Christ. And even more compellingly, Paul says, "If one part(of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Today, ask for the strength to do whatever God asks.

What issues most challenge your need for control?







Monday, April 1, 2019

Do you Want to be Well

"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Jn 5: 7-8

Today's scripture texts are all about water. Ezekiel has a vision about water flowing from the temple until it becomes a river that supports and nourishes every living creature. God wants us to live, the scripture reminds us, and to have clean water that sustains us. The gospel is about the waters to which the man sick for 38 years was unable to reach. Remarkably, Jesus asks him, "Do you want to be well?"

This is a question we all need to ask. If God makes us well it is not simply for our own healing. God heals us to go out in an other centered way to announce the Good News of our ultimate healing. The sick man who Jesus heals must now walk towards others, and reconcile with those who failed to help him reach the water for 38 years. This is no easy task. Letting go of our hurt so that the waters of Baptism can cleanse us anew is a great challenge.

Today, ask God to heal you for his work.

Have you ever been healed by the compassion and understanding of others?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Wisdom of our Elders

"Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death." Jn 4:46

For the last few years I have been talking with and listening to older people, most of whom are open, honest and enjoyable conversation partners. When leading parish missions, I have encountered mostly retirees who have the time to make a parish mission and are anxious to review their lives by making serious attempts at growing in prayer and faith. Rarely defensive nor overly anxious, they are funny and fun to be with, and that is the point. We have many committed seniors in our church but I wonder whether we are taking adequate advantage of their learning, wisdom and passion.

Calling seniors passionate might surprise some readers, but it is exactly this that I experience. Anxious to pass on their faith, the older people I meet wonder just how they might do this most effectively. They pray, they listen, they serve as Eucharistic ministers in nursing homes and hospitals, they drive friends and neighbors to doctors appointments, they visit the sick and the imprisoned, and they do all of this because it is the right thing to do. Occasionally guilty because they failed to find time earlier in life to live their faith more dynamically, they know now they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are anxious to do more. Why do we fail to hear them or see them? Are older believers invisible in the church in North America much like immigrants and uneducated? How can we change this?

Today, ask someone who is older what their faith means to them.

Have you ever gained new insights and hope from listening to older people?