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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm Sunday

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Lk 19:40

On occasion, when we find ourselves in a cynical or sad mood, we refer with some disdain to A&P Catholics, those who celebrate with us only on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday because they get something free to take home!  How awful of us to judge, especially at the beginning of the holiest week of the church year. Shouldn't we be glad that our sisters and brothers in Christ want to express their faith publicly? Shouldn't we trust that God will take their gestures of belonging and use them as seeds that have only to be watered to grow into something wonderful and transforming for them and all they know and meet?

Because Jesus' disciples were proud to be associated with him, they spoke enthusiastically of his influence and spread his message of hope to everyone they met, but like most new believers their actions sometimes seemed shallow and showy. Accordingly, the leaders of the Jewish community tell Jesus to control his followers actions more carefully, but Jesus refuses, knowing that his disciples needed to speak of their transformation and belief, even if it appeared overdone, in order to test their own commitment and publicly honor him.

Holy Week is upon us, a time of great joy and hope, and one that demands we, like Jesus' first disciples, be more publicly committed to living the mysteries of faith. If this means we risk seeming too religious for some people's taste, so be it. If we don't live our faith publicly, how will the Good News be proclaimed?

Today, wave a palm of hope for someone who seems lost.

What do you think is the best way to express your faith publicly?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Unity in Diversity

"What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." Jn 11:47

The Gospel today demands we ask ourselves a simple but important questions. What do we do when someone we don't like or trust suggests a strategy that makes sense? Too often, I'm afraid, because we been trained to be black and white thinkers, we resist the insights of others with whom we disagree. Surely, that is what happening in our nation these days. The numbers are numbing. A Pew study suggests that 40% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans belong to their party, not because they endorese their own parties polices and programs, because they don't like the other party! (1)

The same is true, I'm afraid, in the church. Those favoring the directives of Vatican II oppose more traditional believers and their preference for the Latin mass not because they love everything about the liturgy as we celebrate it in most parishes, but because they don't like or trust Catholics with more conservative views.

Oppostion to other people or systems doesn't get us very far. The Gospel demands we embrace Jesus and his message, and live a transparent Gospel life if we want to build a community of faith that is diverse and universal, and this is no easy task.

Today, listen to someone with whom you disagree without attempting to answer them or prove them wrong.

How can we build a community of faith that reflects the power of the Gospel?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Enduring Hurt

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel. Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves and reach out for those most in need.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Opening Ourselves to God's Dream

"When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him: “My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations." Gen 17:3

In the ancient world, people often had their name changed to indicate a new status or importance. Abram becomes Abraham when God announces to him that he will not only be a father (Abram) but the father of many (Abraham). Remember that Abram was 99 years old when God renamed him. The message is clear. God can do anything. Our task is not to doubt but to be open to whatever God wants of and for us. God's dramatic promise to Abraham should embolden all of us.  As long as we are willing to welcome God and God's desire for us, we have nothing to fear. The Patriarchs, prophets, kings and saints all demonstrate this.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress and mystic is a powerful example of this. When a woman entered the anchorage, a small room attached to a church or monastery, she committed herself never to leave. The idea of living our entire lives in an anchorage is daunting for most of us, but Julian, who some commentators thought had lost her entire family in the plague, not only wrote a theology that was optimistic, she insisted that illness was not a punishment for sin but something everyone had to endure and accept in life. So committed to the God who spoke to her, Julian called Jesus her father and mother and, with Abraham, proclaimed that God fills all who believe with joy and compassion if only we open ourselves to these gifts.

Today, no matter how you feel, ask God to make your life a sign of God's love for all.



What must you do to open yourself to God's dream for you?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Standing with the Suffering

"You should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”  Dn 3:18

The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego always lifts my spirit. Thrown into a raging fire because they refused to to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's God or the golden statue he made, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assure the king that their God will protect and save them even if he allows them to die in the fire. 

That they are protected from the fire, while spectacular, is almost incidental because they are living the simple truth that saints have always insisted upon. They serve God, pray and care for the needy, not to be successful, but to be faithful. It is the failure to live faith in this way that condemns the servant in today's gospel who, after being forgiven a large debt, refuses to forgive his fellow servant in a small matter.

God protects, God forgives and God sets us free over and over to begin again. Made in God's image, we are to save one another from the "fire" of shame that reduces people to objects of need, rather than subjects of our compassion. If God is compassionate, understanding and accepting, so must we have hearts of kindness and mercy

Today, offer someone who cannot repay you an ear of compassion.



Has anyone ever stood with you in suffering without judgment?

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Meaning of the Cross

“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” Nm 21:8

The cross has almost always been important symbol for Christians. Although controversial at first, because it seemed to focus so much on the violence done to Jesus, the cross soon became the most prominent way for Christians to announce themselves. Not simply a reminder of Christ's gruesome death, the cross is also a invitation to celebrate Jesus' triumph over death, and our assurance that death is not the end of Christian journey.

Displaying the cross publicly or personally should never be a condemnation of others, especially Jews, but a reminder to ourselves and others, that God came among us as human person who not only announced God's love for us in its fullness, but also handed himself over to death as a symbol of his total identification with us at every stage of our journey.

Although we might at times be too casual about it, signing ourselves with the cross is a powerful reminder of Jesus triumph of over sin and death and sign that Jesus, "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, ...made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:15)

Today, make the sign of the cross as you wake and ask for the grace to accept whatever the day brings.

What does the Cross mean to you?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Jesus our Light

"I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness."  Jn 8:12

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?