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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Greed

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Lk 12:15

Greed has been a constant theme in the United States in recent years. CEO's making $29,000,000 a year is a commonplace, and, frankly, a scandal. The discrepancy in income between the super rich and the everyday poor is growing and a cause for deep concern. In the past, this kind of disparity in salaries has also been the seed of revolution. The simplistic principle that those who produce a billion dollars of profit for a company ought to be rewarded accordingly doesn't help those on the low end of the economic pyramid or the economy!

Jesus had more than a little to say about this, and it is still valuable advice. Money, property and power accumulation are not in themselves the problem. Greed is. The desperate clinging to what we have suggests there is no other world but the one in which we live, and faith challenges this view over and over.

Jesus did not come to straighten out the world but to set its people free, and while some will deny or ignore this gift, it is ours for the taking. When we live generously and with deep regard for those most in need, relationships blossom and the Good News becomes powerful and transforming. It is virtually impossible to turn away from someone we know who is in real need. It is only when the poor remain faceless that our greed overwhelms our beliefs. Opening our eyes to everyone in front of us not only changes us, it can change the world.

Today, ask yourself how much you need to live.

Does greed sometimes capture your imagination?

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Beheading of John the Baptist

“'I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'... So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl." Mt 14:8

The beheading of John the Baptist has always been one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament to read. Horrific and barbaric, we cringe and withdraw from the image of someone bringing the head of another human being to a banquet to satisfy the rage of a woman whose marriage has been condemned.

Unfortunately, to the horror of most people in the world, this scene has been repeated too often in recent years with the deaths of Christians for no other reason than their faith is Jesus. Pope Francis, in responding to these atrocities, reminds believers that despite the awfulness of what we are witnessing, we must continue to live the Gospel: "Wars are always madness: All is lost in war, all is to be gained in peace, In deploring all of these, I wish to assure my prayers and my solidarity for those who are being held in captivity and for their families, and I appeal to the humanity of the kidnappers to free their victims,"  Solidarity with all people trapped by war and the willingness to seek new roads to peace is the only Gospel response.

Today, pray for anyone, especially children, caught in wars they cannot possibly understand.

What do you think is the Gospel response to overwhelming violence?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Little Portion (Portiuncula) of St Francis

“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” Ps 64:69

Sometimes the psalms startle and stop us. Because they are prayer songs which we often recite by rote like a litany or the rosary, we can forget that they contain countless images that help us understand God, our faith and ourselves better. When Psalm 64 reminds us that God sees us in our lowliness and hears our confusion and upset, the scripture helps us remember that God draws closer to us when we are suffering. It is not that God will take away our pain. Rather, God will walk, stand or sit with us as we endure and eventually embrace the trials that come to all in life.

A friar friend, Tom Murphy, who died several years ago, was a shining example of this. Tom spent the majority of his ministerial life as a hospital chaplain. Not one to wait to be called to the bed of a sick person, Tom walked the halls of the hospital and nursing home where he served. Like St Francis of Assisi, Tom sought out those who were struggling the most. He always had time to sit down, listen and pray with those who felt desperately alone. And because Tom was bilingual, he was also able to attend to the large Latino population of the hospital and nursing home with a special tenderness. 

Tom did all this while enduring his own demons. His mental illness not only did not deter him from walking with the sick, it made him more compassionate. Tom, and so many others like him, remind us that God will not only not abandon us in our confusion, God will will seek us out and assure us we are not alone.

Today, seek out someone who is sick and listen.

Who or what most helps you when you are wrestling with life?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Face to Face

"Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling." Ex 40:34

Although the book of Exodus speaks of God as a cloud descending on the tent, believers wonder what God looked like. If God spoke with Moses face to face, how did God's face appear? Was God's face young, old, man, woman, fierce, kindly? These are questions without answers and in some ways irrelevant. That God spoke with Moses as one man or one woman speaks to another is the point of the text.

God is intimate with Moses. God draws near and speaks clearly because, the text implies, God wants to be close to us, and involved in our lives. Most important, God wants us to know that we have a purpose and a destiny, and will only reach our end if we live in peace, work for justice and find a way to care for all creation. 

God is clear. Life is a gift which we ought to enjoy and share. Giving Moses the commandments is a way of helping us understand what we must do and how we must live. Not simply a list of prohibitions, as they are sometimes presented and interpreted, the commandments remind us that every community needs order and boundaries in order to live well together. If we honor God and respect and love all that God gives us, life among us is rich and reverent.

Today, speak with the Lord face to face. Don't be afraid.

What experiences or activities bring you closest to God?


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

St Ignatius Loyola

"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Mt 13:36

Have you thought about making a retreat recently? If not, then the feast of St Ignatius may be a good time to start. The founder of the Society of Jesus and the patron saint of spiritual retreats, Ignatius designed a simple but profound method for entering the mysteries of faith more deeply. Called the Spiritual Exercises, it begins with what he calls a principle and foundation, a prayer that challenges retreatants to hand over their lives totally to God, trusting that God will lead them to a place where they might become the person God needs them to be for the sake of the world.

Demanding and freeing at the same time, beginning a retreat by writing a prayer of unconditional acceptance of God's desire for us prepares retreatants to hear the message of the scriptures more profoundly. Retreats can be as short as one day and as long as a month,  but always offer us the luxury of stopping everything we are doing, stepping back and surveying how our life is unfolding. Painful at times, they can also be a wonderful time of discovery and recovery of our deepest values and dreams.

Today, think about stopping for an hour to contemplate with gratitude how God has accompanied you each day of your life.

What is keeping you from retreating from the busyness of today to sit with God and asking for direction?


Monday, July 29, 2019

Praying the Psalms

"The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness." Ps 145:8

For centuries the church has charged its leaders and people with praying the psalms on a daily basis and with good reason. The psalms are songs and hymns that console and challenge us everyday to transformation. They lift us up and send us forth; they knock us down and set us straight, and in all of this the psalms assure us that if we wait, listen and ask for help, God will stoop toward us and listen to our cry.

Carlo Caretto, a well known Italian activist and writer, found himself exhausted, confused and lost in the Roman church. Not sure how he could survive in a church which he loved and despised at the same time, Caretto left Italy for North Africa to join Charles de Foucauld and the Little Brothers of Jesus where he found a group of men who were willing to pray and reflect for long hours before they acted.

The little brothers changed his life. They taught him about patient prayer and silence, and introduced him to a faith path that helped him find God in places he had never before visited. When finally Caretto returned to Italy he was a different man. Quiet and reflective but still full of zeal. Caretto became a spokesperson for the power of prayer and the role of lay people in the church. Indeed, he discovered the God who stooped toward him in his need and listened to his cries.

Today, stoop towards someone in need with compassion and a listening heart.



Has anyone bent down to help you when you are in need of understanding and acceptance?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

St Martha

"Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak." Lk 10:38

When Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha, Martha, busy about all the preparations for his visit, complained that Mary was not helping and wanted Jesus to correct her. Instead, Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part. What could Jesus possibly mean? Shouldn't we all help one another with the everyday tasks cooking and cleaning?

Over the years, many commentators suggest that Luke was writing about the so called active and contemplative life, but contemporary cultural insight helps us realize that sitting at a rabbi's feet was the role of men called to the rabbinate. Martha is angry because Mary is assuming a role to which she could not aspire. A woman's place was in the background helping with the ordinary chores, but Jesus challenges this stereotype, not just among men and women, but what it meant to be a rabbi. Teachers and leaders had to be servants, not privileged operatives with power over others.

Today, pray to learn how to be a servant of those most in need.

Whose life of humility and service most challenges you to be good news in everyday life?