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Saturday, July 6, 2019

An Abundant Harvest

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Mt 9:38

What owner of a farm would not want to gather up a rich harvest?  Having spent hundreds of hours, preparing, sowing, weeding and watering, the harvest is a time for farmers to collect the "wages" of their work.  Moreover, because in most cases there are only a few days to accomplish this, farmers rush to gather up what they have sown as soon as the crop is ready.

Nevertheless, some of us are so busy with other matters that we lose sight of our priorities, and fail to respond to fields overflowing with produce. When we do this, our delay can cost us everything. Paying attention to all that God is doing among us is essential for believers. We cannot afford to dwell too long on our diminishment and losses. Though we may have failed to respond fully in the past to Jesus' call to discipleship, the call is repeated today for everyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

Today, invite someone to help you spread the Good News.

Who is the most convincing "harvester" you know?

Friday, July 5, 2019

Christ the Bridegroom

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" Mt 9:15

Everyone in the ancient world knew how important weddings were. A time for families and tribes to deepen their bonds with one another, weddings lasted at least a week and the entire time was given over to the celebration of the new couple and the promise their marriage contained for their families, tribes and faith communities. No one would suggest that a wedding feast was a time to fast!  That is why Jesus uses the idea of wedding to help his disciples understand his commitment to them. He was their bridegroom and they were his bride.

Another aspect of weddings at the time of Jesus gives us even more insight. After a man was betrothed to his intended bride, he would leave her and return to his father's house, but before departing he would say, I go to prepare a place for you, the same words Jesus uses to assure his disciples that he would return for them after his death and bring them to the bridal chamber he had prepared for them forever in heaven.

Today, rest in the realization that Christ has betrothed himself to us forever.

What image do you use to help yourself remember Christ's eternal and total love for you?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Authentic Spiritual Health

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." Mt 9:11

Jesus' answer to the Pharisees who are complaining about his eating with tax collectors and other sinners seems so obvious, we wonder how the Pharisees could be so blind and deaf. They must have known that the law not only allowed conversations with sinners but demanded it. Like us, the Pharisees often heard and saw they wanted to see and hear. Secure in their knowledge of the Torah and satisfied with their modest power, they wanted only to find something to criticize in Jesus' behavior in order not to listen to him.

However, when Jesus responds to their resistance and dullness, he teaches all of us. Change is always difficult, and it is easier to criticize someone than to search for their goodness and compassion. Jesus sees past the sins of the tax collectors. Inviting them to supper and building a relationship with them makes it possible for him eventually to speak with them about changing their lives and turning away from their sin. Rather than attack their profession, he sits at table with them in the hope that they will be able to see the error of their ways and change.

Today, praise someone whose behavior often irritates you.

Have you ever been changed by someone's kindness and understanding?



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Fourth of July

"Rise, pick up your stretcher and go home." Mt 9:7

Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I was ministering at a hospital in Boston that cared for many people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.

When today's gospel speaks of paralytic, I cringed. Many at the time of Jesus would have avoided this person all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the paralytic's struggles to live a faith filled life. In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, on the 4th of July, stretch beyond the platitudes of national pride and meet someone from a different culture or country.



Have your cultural fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

St Thomas, Apostle

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone." Eph 2:19-20

Feeling like a stranger can be very beneficial, especially if we are traveling in a foreign country. Only those with too much chutzpah think they belong everywhere, and Americans are notorious for this. Some American tourists, believing they own the world, hurt and anger people of other countries and cultures. Acting as if they are entitled to anything they want because they can pay for it, the embarrass themselves and their country, often without even knowing it.

Poor people almost never feel this way, but this is not to say they have no pride or sense of themselves. Rather, because their poverty makes them dependent on others, they are slow to judge, demand or condemn. The Jews of Jesus' day were like this. Knowing their country was occupied by the Romans, they walked cautiously through life, anxious not to lose the few privileges they had, and it was their humility that make it easy for Jesus to change their lives.

Although the Lord did not come among us to free us politically, he gives us a much greater gift by inviting us to be a part of his Body as "the household of God." Reminding us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Paul assures us the as long as Jesus is our cornerstone, the ground of our faith, it does not matter how rich, important or powerful we are in the world. All that matters is our commitment to be the Christ in the world.

Today, glory in the gift of your relationship with Christ.

How has faith given you a sense of belonging?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Terror and Faith

"They came and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!' He said to them, 'Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?'”

Terror comes to all of us. Sometimes we forget that the Apostles were ordinary men hoping the Lord would rescue them from burdensome lives and free their nation from Roman occupation. When Jesus tried to help them see him for who he was, they either turned away or hoped their interpretation of what he was saying was flawed. No one wants to let in the ultimate terror, but that is exactly what Jesus demanded. When the Lord told them that he had to suffer and die, they assured him they would not allow anyone to harm him, not realizing that unless Jesus died they could not be saved. When, moreover, They realized they might have to face the same fate, their fear reached new heights.

Terror endured for the sake of God's reign saves us, and while it is natural to look for another path, we have only to ask God for the strength and integrity to endure and accept whatever will proclaim the coming of God's reign with power and transformation. Our only consolation in all that we must suffer is that the Lord will be at our side and give us resilience to persist through every trial with him as our guide.

Today, ask for the courage to face any terror that comes your way.

What strengths do you have to face the struggles of life as they unfold?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

God Wants to Forgive

"If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Gen 18

Most of us are familiar with Abraham's willingness to wager with God in the book of Genesis. Intimate with God, Abraham is unafraid to approach God, even push God, to forget our sins and embrace us anew. Aware that God is thinking about destroying the wicked city of Sodom, Abraham first asks God whether 50 innocent and good people would change God's mind about destroying the city. When God says yes, Abraham keeps lowering the number until God is willing to forgive the entire city of Sodom if Abraham can produce 10 good people. 

The God we meet in the book of Genesis is tender, compassionate and merciful but often for reasons of guilt and shame we are unable to accept this God. Thinking we are deserving of punishment and retribution, we resist allowing the God of Genesis to come near us for fear we will have to offer others the same solicitous love God shows us, but God is bigger than our fears. While God wants us to forgive our enemies, God's love is not conditional. As long as we ask for help, God is there, trusting that the reception of this kind of mercy will help us see others as God seems them.

Today, imagine God waiting for you with open arms.

What keeps you from believing in the all forgiving God that Abraham encounters