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Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Good Samaritan

"But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight." Lk 10:33

The story of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known and powerful stories in the Gospels, and for good reason. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Accused of being syncretists, people who mixed religious traditions for their own self centered purposes, Samaritans also built their own temple to which non observant Jews were welcomed in contradiction to Jewish law.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. Too many people label others in ways that not only challenge their belief systems, but denigrate their persons, and Jesus will have none of it. The Good Samaritan, he reminds us, not only risks his own life by responding to the fellow who has been robbed, he brings him to an inn so that he can rest and recover from the attack. We know nothing else about this particular Samaritan. Whether he worshiped in the  "false" temple on Mt Gerazim in Samaria and therefore was judged unclean by the Jews was irrelevant. That he stopped and aided someone in need is Jesus' only concern.

Today, help someone in need.

What aspect of the story of the Good Samaritan most moves you?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Believe in your own Worth

“Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." Mt 10:33

The disciples were drawn to Jesus for many reasons. He spoke to their hearts. He addressed them with dignity. He was a healer and prophet. He spoke with power. But they were also cautious and afraid. When Jesus spoke to and about the Pharisees he was dangerous. Because the Pharisees were able to intercede for them and help them with a meal or clean clothes, the poor were not going to bite the hand that fed them. That is why today’s gospel from Luke is so telling.

No doubt Jesus’ disciples were impressed and hopeful. The prophet they were following was popular and powerful. More important, he was a rabbi who cared about them, but his warning about not being swayed by the leaven of the Pharisees had to make them very anxious. No doubt some moved to the background where they might escape the wrath of the Pharisees if necessary. Jesus’ suggestion that some of them might die as a result of following him was not what they wanted to hear. But others heard him at a deeper level. Rather than retreat, they moved closer to him where there was no reason to be afraid. Since they were worth more than many sparrows, God would protect them, guide them and strengthen them when they were threatened.

Being willing to hear Jesus’ word today is no different. There will be times when we want to fade into the background, afraid that we might lose the little we have. Jesus’ assurance that we should not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul will fall on deaf ears. When we feel threatened it is natural to retreat, but we should resist. Allowing ourselves to feel the fear will help dissipate it. More important, when we ask the Lord to enter the fear with us, we will sense a kind of companionship that is empowering and helpful.

Today, ask God for the faith to believe in your own worth and not to let your fear get in the way of a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Do you believe that God cares about you and all people personally?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Accepting Sadness

"As soon as Joseph saw his father, he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arm" Gen 46:29

Most of us have done our share of sobbing. When a beloved parent or spouse dies, when a friend moves or turns away from us, when our government or church fails miserably at protecting the most vulnerable, we find ourselves weeping in sadness and fear. Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob sobs so loudly when he encounters his father that everyone hears him.

Sadness is a necessary part of all our lives. Only the loss of something or someone precious allows us to know how blessed our lives are, and how important it is to treasure what we have when we have it. Too often we take for granted our health, our wealth, our family, our faith and our friends, failing to take time each day to be grateful for the simplest but most important aspects of life and faith.

Sadness can also be deceiving. As Longfellow reminds us, we can sometimes think of people as cold when they are only carrying secret sadness, and while we might be tempted to avoid them, they are friends in need of compassion. Joseph could have punished his brothers, but his heart, so full of sadness for so long, was also filled with understanding and tenderness.

Today, don't run away from sadness. Transform it into compassion.

How does faith help us understand and accept sadness?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

St Benedict, Abbot

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

St Benedict, who is widely credited with founding the monastic movement in the Christian West, is a fascinating character. Like John the Baptist and so many others who found greed and all kinds of vice in their societies, Benedict felt like a sheep in the midst of wolves. Knowing he could not live the Gospel in a society that was so lost, he fled to a cave near Mt Subiaco to pray and to grow closer to God, but after three years, when a group of monks asked him to lead them, he left his cave only to be undermined by the monks themselves who objected to his strict rule of life and leadership style.

Soon after returning to the caves, other monks, who were more open to disciplining their lives, came to Benedict for guidance and before long there were so many that Benedict organized them into groups of twelve and wrote his now famous Rule of Life. Emphasizing work and prayer, Benedict's simple directives continue to guide men and women monks and nuns around the world, and can help everyone who is willing to allow the Spirit to direct their lives.

Today, examine your conscience in order to evaluate your lifestyle.



Have you ever been challenged to be as shrewd as a serpent but as simple as a dove?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Knowing Your Audience

“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Mt 10:6

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music they enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

A

Monday, July 8, 2019

Seeking the Lost

"At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Mt 9:36

Sheep are usually considered obedient and passive animals. They travel in flocks and rarely wander off by themselves, but when they do the shepherd seeks them out and directs them back to the flock. The notion that Christ is our Good Shepherd is powerful when viewed through the lens of someone finding us when we are lost, but dangerous if we think we are are called to be asleep or overly compliant in our discipleship.

In an interview with an Argentinian news agency, Pope Francis warned priests not to fall into patterns that reinforce passivity among God's people.
“We priests tend to clericalize the laity.We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap —it is a sinful complicity.”(Pope Francis)
Both clergy and laity need to be clear about their goals. Compliance is not a Gospel value. Passion for the Word is, and behaviors that reduce our call to live the Gospel without zeal have no place in an adult Christian's life.

Today, seek out the lost.

What keeps you from living the gospel with passion?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Embracing the Stranger

'A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:19

Reading today's Gospel about a woman bleeding for years, I cringed.  Most of Jesus contemporaries would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Immigrants seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the countries and cultures from which these people come. Because they speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different foods and practice a different religion, we wonder whether we should admit them to our shores and sometimes even suggest they are criminals out to take advantage of our generosity. But Jesus' response to people's criticism and fear is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions them. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, he assures his listeners, they can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.

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