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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Living our Faith in Troubled Times

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7: 59-60

The reasons we reject others are many. Sometimes we don't like or trust the person. At other times, their message annoys or upsets us, and unfortunately, there are some who reject others because of race, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation. Although most of us have been raised with the bromide, Don't judge a book by its cover, we all have our prejudices.

Stephen was rejected simply because he was preaching the salvation of Jesus Christ, a message that frightened traditional religious types who used their power to control others' lives. When Stephen's wisdom and spirit began to sway people towards Christ and away from the synagogue, his fate was sealed. Some scholars believe that Stephen had attended and worshiped at the synagogue in which he was preaching, making his sin even greater. To draw others away from the Talmud was bad enough but to do it to one's neighbors and friends was a much worse offense.

Today, be grateful for those who live and speak our faith with power no matter the cost.

Have you ever been attacked or rejected because of your religious faith?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Jesus, our Refuge

"Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." Jn 16:23

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Visitation of Mary

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zep 3:14


The Visitation of Mary is another of the gospel scenes that has fascinated and challenged Christians forever. A young woman, newly pregnant, visits her newly pregnant older relative, and spends three months with her.

What was their first meeting like? How did they spend most days? What kinds of conversations did they have? Because we have no answers to these questions, we supply the ones our reflection and prayer generate. This is good, something all of us ought to do regularly with the mysteries of faith. 

How we imagine Mary and Elizabeth together not only gives us insight into their relationship, it tells us much about where we are in life and faith. Are we joyful about being "pregnant" with the living God? Are we anxious to let others know about how being the "bearer of Good News" affects us and changes our life on a daily basis? 

Listening to and reading the reflections of newly pregnant women teaches us that everything changes in a woman's life when she knows she is pregnant. Not only do her eating habits change, she becomes very conscious of getting extra rest when possible, and is more careful driving a car. Simply put, a pregnant woman starts to live, not solely for herself but for the child she is carrying, and in this she teaches us one of the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. 

Believers in Jesus, knowing they have been saved, live for others, and while this attitude and conversion is tested everyday, there is no doubt about our call. We are disciples challenged to announce Good News by the way we live for others.

Today, visit someone struggling with life, even in your own home.

What have been the joys of being Christian in your life?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Ascension of the Lord

"Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." Acts 4:2

How to remain alert and aware to the truths of faith is always a great challenge. As Catholics we profess that the Lord is with us, even on a day when we celebrate his leaving. The same challenge lies before families when one member moves a great distance away, or for the families of soldiers when their father, mother, son or daughter is sent to a part of the world where violence and war are erupting on a daily basis. Trying to remember them when they are not at the breakfast table each day is difficult.

In many ways, this was the situation the disciples of Jesus had to face when he ascended to his Father in heaven. They knew he had promised to be with them always, but they missed the comfort of seeing him and listening to his wisdom on a daily basis. They knew they had to carry on, but they were not sure how they would do this. That he promised them the Holy Spirit as a guide and mentor was helpful, but different.

Because we are faced with these same struggles, the church encourages us to create rituals at home and in our families to keep alive the memory of Jesus. We place crucifixes, statutes and images of saints in our homes, not to demonstrate our piety, but to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We gather around our home tables, not simply to eat, but to be grateful for the food we eat and the faith we share. Doing something each day to remind ourselves that God is among us is essential to our faith growth and our hope.

Today, light a candle of hope in your room or home and pause to remember the Light of all Nations.

What practices most help you to remember God's promise to be with us always?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Searching for God

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.



How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Opening Doors for Others

"About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16: 25-26

Jailers at the time of Jesus were frequently retired army officers who would have learned how to guard prisoners and take no chances. In Acts, therefore, when the doors flew open in the jail after the earthquake, the jailer presumed all the prisoners had escaped, and was beside himself. According to Roman law, because he had failed in his duties, he would have been liable for the same punishment imposed on Paul and Silas.

But God had a different plan. Paul and Silas, perhaps knowing the jailer's fate for letting them escape, stayed in the jail, instructed the jailer and his family in faith and baptized them. What a turn of events! Though the jailer would lose his job, he gained the kind of faith that would allow him a freedom to face whatever punishment the authorities might exact of him.

While the stories of faith in Acts might not be repeated exactly in our lives, there will be many small miracles. Doors of hurt, confusion and resentment will fly open if only we allow the Lord to free us and send us in mission to all in need. We may have to change our lives in ways we never imagined, but God will be the strength we need to do whatever he requires.

Today, open a door of forgiveness to someone struggling with faith.

What closed doors imprison you?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Challenges to Easter Joy

"I have told you this so that you may not fall away." Jn 16:1

Starting over is never easy, but often unavoidable. Ask anyone from Nebraska, Iowa or South Dakota who are trying to rebuild their lives after the recent floods or an alcoholic who has had a slip. Acknowledging one's powerlessness over nature or alcohol and committing oneself again to live a day at a time, while painful and frightening, is absolutely necessary, and the only way out of chaos.

The same is true for Christians. No matter how far we fall or how often we turn away from the Lord, we can always begin again, and the Easter season is the perfect time to try. As we celebrate being born again at Easter, the church reminds us that God always welcomes his people to renew their faith by focusing on the great of gift of Christ's resurrection. More important we are challenged to live joyfully in our daily lives, and this is no small task. As the years since Christ lived on earth fade, it becomes more crucial for believers to live the Gospel and allow Christ to ground their lives through their actions and prayer. But we must be patient.

Today, pray for patience with oneself and others.

What areas of your faith life are the most difficult to begin again?