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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hot Faith

"I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already burning." Lk 12:49

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Let Children Teach Us

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them." Mt 19:13

Unfortunately, for priests and religious these days, this passage has an edge of fear to it. Most of us who minister full time are anxious around children and are very cautious in our relationships with them. How awful!  Jesus wants us to see in children an example who we must become, not a group of people we should avoid. With that said, the passage remains very powerful.

Jesus holds up a child's innocence as an example of what his disciples need to become. Open spirited, engaged, naturally contemplative and without guile, children, who had no voice or rights at the time of Jesus, teach us how God wants us to go about in the world. The Good News is a new way of living, not a set of rules we have to obey.

Jesus asks us to hold onto the freshness and vitality of children as a way to proclaim the depth of God's love. Believing in a God who is always with us must change everything about us if it is to have an effect in the world. Unless people can find in us a zest for life and a commitment to all people, especially those without a voice, our witness will be empty. Like children, we continue to live with joy because of what God has done for and among us.

Today, let your imagination, like a child playing a game, roam with delight.

What about children most speaks to you of the Gospel?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Divorce

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Mt 19:3

Divorce is always difficult and painful, but sometimes it is necessary. When there is physical or emotional abuse, the spouse being abused has little choice. The Gospel never demands that a person submit to abuse for the sake of any relationship, and while many married people struggle to stay in relationships that are empty, there are times when a spouse must leave a marriage.

That being said, the gospel is clear that divorce should be a last resort, and that all of us need to address our hard hearts. It is not only the married, but clergy and religious, too, who too often take life for granted, think too much about what is not working in their lives and become hyper critical of the people with whom they live. Jesus had it right. When our hearts get hard, we can justify anything we do and demonize others. Finding scapegoats rather than looking at ourselves is convenient but robs us of the opportunity for growth as persons and Christians committed by vow to a particular way of life.

Jesus wants the married to succeed, to be faithful, to forgive, forget and work through their difficulties. When marriage or religious life becomes something we can abandon or easily put aside when it hurts to take the next step, we deny God's power to heal and to shine a light on the dark path that we all must sometimes take. Learning from those who accept life as it unfolds because of their faith is a gift we should all treasure.

Today, recommit yourself to your baptismal vows, and pray for those struggling in marriage.

Whose commitment to marriage most enhanced your faith?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Assumption of Mary

"Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." Mt 1:39

Although Mary is pictured in art and literature in a wide variety of roles, not the least of which would be the Annunciation and Calvary, I prefer to think of her as "on the road," a pilgrim and a disciple, reaching out for those most in need. If I could paint, I would show her, newly pregnant, starting off to visit Elizabeth. It is Mary's willingness to step out of what she knew and was comfortable with that makes her the saint we must imitate.

We celebrate the feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven, not simply because Mary is the mother of Jesus, but because she was his disciple as well. Mary followed Jesus' example by witnessing to the change that she experienced when she said yes to be the Mother of the Messiah. The 13th century Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart says it beautifully.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” Meister Eckhart 1260-1328
 Today, be a mother to someone who seems lost.

What faith experiences have you had that called you to change your life?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

St Maximillian Kolbe

"Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." Mt 18:29

St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, was drawn to a military life as a boy, but soon after entering the seminary he realized that the fight God wanted him to enter was a spiritual one. Although he imagined his life as a "long war", he focused not on the failures of those to whom he was preaching, but on their strengths, and it was this strategy that fostered his work of evangelizing Western Europe and Japan.

Maximilian never forget that it is impossible to pay back God, and this knowledge drove him to pour out his life in gratitude for all God had given him. The gift of life and the gift of faith are pure gifts, not something we earn or deserve. God chooses to give us life and sustain us in it because of God's goodness, not our worth. More important, we cannot earn salvation. God wants us to be with him forever. It is as simple as that. Like a parent, God desires only good for his children and wants them to live in peace forever.

Today,  be as patient with yourself as God is with you.

How would you counsel others to live patiently?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Countering Arrogance

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Mt 18:10

Most of us work diligently not to despise anyone or anything, trying always to think of all creation as a gift from God. Nevertheless, we slip, we sin, we fail. In recent days, the actions of our Congress have led many to despise the intransigence of those we have elected to serve, but whose behavior too often seems self protective and rigid. Because we so need our representatives to remember all the people of this nation, especially the poor, we expect them to have the comprehensive and inclusive view of what a stoppage in government service might mean for the neediest of our citizens.

When Jesus wants his disciples and opponents to understand fully his attitude towards them and his expectations of them, he reminds them to look at children as icons of humility. Children, he insists, can teach all what it means to understand greatness. We are not called to dominate or manipulate others, but to serve one another like children and slaves, and to be innocent, vulnerable and alert to everything and everyone around us, especially the poor.

Today, remember to be humble.

How do you counter arrogance in yourself and others?

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Taxes

"The collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, 'Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?'”

Money is always a problem. Not only do some people have too much, many more have too little, and the ability to issue a currency that is recognized internationally is critically important for nations wanting to do business with other nations.

At the time of Jesus, while Jews were free to produce their own currency for use within the temple grounds, they were forced to use Roman coins to pay their poll taxes. The rabbis, however, reminded Jews that even to touch a coin with the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be divine was idolatry. Trying to trap Jesus, they trapped themselves. Jesus knew of their prohibition against the possession or use of Roman coins, but also knew they would have some to pay their taxes. Merely by carrying Roman coins for Jesus to look at they condemned themselves as idolaters.

Intriguingly, not having a coin puts everyone on notice that Jesus had no intention of offending the law, the prophets or the interpretations of the rabbis with regard to honoring anyone who claimed divinity. There is only one God, his actions proclaim, and he will not enter silly arguments about whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Rather, he will honor the one God by dying for him.

Today, resist winning an argument, and pray for your opponent.

What helps you resist arguing with others for the sake of your image?