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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Facing Aflliction

"Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint." Rom 5: 3-4

To lose hope in the world, one's family or the church is a terrible burden. The loss of hope is marked by an inner darkness and doubts about the meaning of life. Does it make sense to work for the good of all? Can any institution: country, family, church, ever get out of its own way and create an environment that fosters the common good?

Hard questions like these are natural these days in the United States. Our Congress seems unable to find a path of compromise about vital social issues, leaving the poor and needy, struggling even more for a piece of the American dream. Our families are in disarray. Almost half the children born in the United States are born to unmarried mothers. The church is also floundering. In Northeast United States, most parishes have relatively few young worshippers and can't seem to find the money to hire a youth minister. Even those that have the financial ability to support young people are not sure what they expect from the program or the young.

We are indeed, as Paul suggests, afflicted and need to work together in Christ to endure because it is only in endurance that hope flourishes and new life emerges. Trust in God during times of trial is essential for a healthy families and churches, and the feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that God is a relationship of persons in unity for the sake of all. God is love and calls us to endure, celebrate, hope and create a dream of a world and church that works together so that all people can eat and all nations live in harmony.

Today, celebrate the relationships God has given you for your growth and faith.

What spiritual practices most help you to endure in the face of affliction?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Being Straighforward

"Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” Mt 5:37

Although it is important to speak carefully and clearly about important matters, we have to avoid becoming disingenuous. Too often, trying to be politically correct, we verbally dance around troubling social issues. More concerned with not making a mistake of offending others, we say nothing, which often results in the needs of the poor being ignored or neglected. People who come to the United States from countries and continents where English is not the first language are especially vulnerable to our failure not to speak clearly about the rights of people to eat, have decent schools, and get adequate medical care.

A few years ago, a woman approached me and asked whether I knew her. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, and then said no, I didn't think so. When she told me that she lived across the street, I was deeply embarrassed. I didn't know her, even though she was at mass every Sunday, because she spoke very little English. A doctor and a woman who wanted to help other parishioners, she was invisible to me.

Jesus asks us to be honest. In my case, it would have been better had I simply said, no, I don't know you, and accepted the consequences. Only when we acknowledge our weaknesses do we have the freedom to correct them and say yes to doing Christ's work in every circumstance.

Today, let your yes be yes and your no, no.

How do you avoid being disingenuous? 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Earthen Vessels

"Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Cor 4:7

What a gift our bodies are! Paul calls them "earthen vessels," and indeed they are. Wonderful vessels that allow us to listen, see, speak, eat, touch others with compassion, and breathe. More important, our bodies are the vessels that allow our spirits to engage others and work together to create a world that is just for all.

Unfortunately, most of us don't appreciate our bodies until they balk or break down. Only when we can't see because of a cataract or walk easily because our knees are swollen or sore, do we realize how well our bodies have served us and God.

In the United States where so many struggle with eating disorders and where there is so much public and private transportation available, we compromise our bodies by not walking or exercising enough. While people rarely call this a sin, we need to think about this. Not eating well or exercising regularly places a tremendous burden on our families and hospital systems and, more important, allows us to take our bodies for granted.

Today, take five minutes to be grateful for your body and how well it has served you.

Have you discovered ways to be grateful for your body on a daily basis.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

St Anthony of Padua

"Keep me safe O God, you are my hope." Ps 16

For most of our best known saints there is a moment that defines their lives. St Anthony had two. The first happened when he witnessed the funeral procession of the first Franciscan martyrs. Because he had served them as guest master for the Augustinians as they prepared to leave Portugal for Africa, he was convinced their death was a sign from God to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans in order to take up their mission in converting the Moors. When his health would not allow him this privilege, he accepted his limitations and moved to Italy where he committed himself to a life of prayer, study, and simple living, a lifestyle that led him to his second defining moment.

Called to be a substitute preacher at an ordination when no one else was prepared to speak, he was expected by everyone to stumble and stammer, but his eloquence and learning stunned his hearers. His life as a renowned preacher had begun and it would lead him to be the first theology teacher in the Franciscan reform, a remarkable turnabout for a community that so deeply distrusted theology. It was Anthony's great sanctity that convinced  St Francis that Anthony could both teach theology and holiness at the same time.

Today, let God lead you in a path of God's choosing.



What moments in your faith life have been life defining?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Spirit Gives Life

"Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor 3:5-5

Sometimes St Paul gets it just right. Although it is difficult for us to remember that all we have is a gift, the Gospel clearly calls us to this attitude and stance, and Paul insists that although he has spent years studying the Torah, his knowledge pales in comparison to the gift he received from God to know and believe in Jesus. Only after admitting that he not only ignored the message of the Gospel, but actively worked against it, does Paul realize the gift of the new Covenant in Jesus is beyond anything he could have imagined.

It is often easier for some Christians to obey the church's teaching authority blindly than to probe and discern carefully what it is the Bishops are saying when they teach. Every adult knows that it his or her responsibility to weigh and sift through many options in life in order to live well. How much more important this is as we search for a way to live the Gospel authentically and completely. Careful attention to and prayerful reflection upon what is happening in the world is an essential element of knowing how to follow Christ in all the circumstances of our lives.

Today, ask God to show you the Spirit of the Law in your discernment.

What is most difficult for you in interpreting the Gospel in our times?

Monday, June 10, 2019

St Barnabas

"When Barnabas arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Acts 11:22

It is often obvious when someone is "filled with the Holy Spirit." They are calm and internally quiet. They listen and respond with few words. They are joyful about their faith and they are unafraid to announce the Gospel in season and out.

That the early church chose to tell us that Barnabas was filled with the Spirit and faith tells us much about him from the perspective of spirituality but little about his personality. A companion of St Paul, we know he returned to Jerusalem with Paul to try to settle the dispute about which rites of the Jewish faith Gentiles would have to accept and celebrate. This could not have been an easy task, but Barnabas had living experience of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus and his testimony, even without words, would have been powerful.  Barnabas could tell the Jerusalem community there was no doubt that the Gentiles were coming to Jesus and the Gospel with a deep faith and hope. More, they were trying to live in love with one another as a sign of their new consecration.

There are moments in all our lives when we have to stand up for others, even when our friends and family oppose them. Because our experience tells us that no one should be reduced to his or her faults, like Barnabas, we can remind anyone who will listen that we have seen and been impressed with the willingness of those being challenged to live with as much integrity as possible, and this can make an enormous difference in the lives of those for whom we speak.

Today, ask the Spirit to fill you with faith.

What makes you think someone is full of the Holy Spirit?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mary, Mother of the Church

"Standing by the cross was his mother." Jn 19:25

The fidelity of Mary to Jesus, especially during his suffering and death, has been a consolation to believers since the beginning of Christianity. While his closest friends abandon him at the moment of his most acute need, Mary does not, and her refusal to leave her son in his suffering challenges us to live our faith in a much more complete way.

At the same time, a less than careful understanding and appreciation of Mary's role in the story of our salvation, can be dangerous. Suffering in itself is not a good, and Mary's fidelity should not encourage any of us, but especially women, to accept abuse or unnecessary suffering. Jesus challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees at every turn when the lay heavy burdens of others and do nothing to help the confused and lost. Mary's courage is similar. Though she can do nothing to ease her son's suffering, she is not passive. She accepts her fate, but does not seek it.

Today, accept what you must, but work to change a society and church that sometimes idealizes the suffering of women.

Which women in your life most impress you with their endurance and fidelity?"St