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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Authentic Humility

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14:11

When Jesus told the guests of the Pharisees to take the lowest place at a banquet in order not to be embarrassed if a more important guest arrives, he is not only offering them a strategy, but a challenge with a deeper spiritual meaning.

Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

This message, like so many others that Jesus offers us, is counter intuitive. While most people bow to humility as a value, few wear the clothes of humility, especially in the United States. Citizens of our nation are trained from an early age to excel, and to accept both the accolades and privileges associated with "winning."

While wealth and power are by products of a successful life in the United States, this is not the goal of those who profess to live a Gospel life. Gospel success is measured, not in what it produces, but in the seeds of hope that it plants. Never far from the realization that all life is a gift, and all worldly success is temporary, Christians believe that our "success" is an integrated and other centered life, and this is no easy task.

Today, don't say something you are thinking. Listen first to others.



Have you had an experience of humility that changed your life?


Friday, August 30, 2019

Sharing our Talents

"To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability." Mt 25:15

That everyone has a talent is probably self evident to most of us, and oftentimes we are very grateful for the talents of a friend who can tweak a computer, fix a faucet or sit with us when we are lost.  While the talent might not seem very important to them, when we are in need, the talents of generous friends are precious gifts.

What is not self evident, however, is that our talents, in a gospel context, are not for ourselves.  Each of us has been gifted by God for the sake of others.  We are part of a community, we are the body of Christ, and as a community of faith we can only be ourselves and function well when all the parts are playing their proper role.  We do not need a hand to be a foot, or an ear to be a mouth.  We need each part of the body to be itself for the good of the whole.

Today, rejoice in your talent and share it with whomever needs it.

To whom are you most grateful for sharing their time and talents with you?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Fools for Christ

"Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." Mt 25:8

The unprepared virgins whose oil has run out are labelled foolish, a word that can be confusing in the New Testament. Paul wants to be seen as a fool for Christ and encourages his companions to be the same. Anxious to be dismissed for the sake of the Gospel, Paul stands out among his contemporaries as a man willing to be ridiculed for the right reason.

The virgins in the Gospel, however, are not seeking attention but only hoping to avoid embarrassment and shame. They knew that bridegrooms, feted and praised in the week before their weddings, would linger long into the night at parties in their honor. Their foolishness was not a sign of their fidelity to a cause or person, but a sign of laziness or sloth. They could have prepared themselves for a long night, but did not, and now risk the harsh judgement of their peers.

Each day we are faced with the challenge of discerning how best to announce the Good News. Some days our silence and willingness to listen to others' complaints or problems is a Gospel stance. At other times, we need to search for a way to express our upset, confusion and anger at the lack of justice too many face when they have little money or power in the society. Speaking up on behalf of the poor can be a prophetic action on our part, especially when others are disparaging the poor as lazy or indolent. Authentic Christians know that to be a fool for the sake of the Gospel is a gift.

Today, be foolish in your love for God.

What most frightens you about being considered a fool for Christ?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Passion of John the Baptist

"He went off and beheaded John in the prison." Mk 6:27

Readers of John's gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

St Augustine

"You have searched me and you know me, Lord." (Ps 139)

Augustine of Hippo wrestled with God for years. Resistant to anything or anyone who couldn't help him understand life as he experienced it, his life turned around when he met St Ambrose in Milan. A seminal thinker and writer, Ambrose got Augustine's attention through kindness and helped open his mind and heart to the Gospel by his brilliant preaching, but it was the voice of a child telling him to "take and read" that moved Augustine to read the thirteenth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Hearing Paul tell his readers that the night was over and it was time to live decently moved Augustine towards baptism.

Best known for his Confessions, a work which the saint thought should be read aloud, Augustine remains one of the most controversial figures in the Christian West as well as one of its most accessible writers. St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, John Calvin and almost every theologian of note, relied heavily on Augustine in their theological and pastoral writings, but some of Augustine's writings, especially about the Jews and original sin, continue to trouble contemporary readers. Nonetheless, Augustine remains a figure of immense importance whose writing continues to inspire believers everywhere.

Writing about love, Augustine asks: "What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."(Augustine) For Augustine, love is a verb not a noun. It is something that we must act upon and share. More important, it is not always something we feel but something we decide to live and involves all the senses. We must love what we see and hear and walk towards those most in need.

Today, live your faith by keeping your eyes and ears open to all.

What keeps you from acting upon the Gospel everyday?





Monday, August 26, 2019

St Monica

"There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly." (St Monica in the Confessions IX, 10)

St Monica taught her son, St Augustine, many lessons. Steadfastness and fidelity to the Gospel, expressed by her willingness to accept him even when he was wandering from his faith, tolerance of her mother in law who regularly rejected her because of her piety, but nothing was more important than her reliance on prayer especially when praying for her son's conversion.

Following Augustine everywhere he went, even when he tried to avoid her, Monica finds herself in Milan where the Milanese did not fast on Saturday. Confused, Monica asks St Ambrose for advice. When Ambrose tells her to follow local custom wherever she was, Monica took his advice believing that her willingness to listen and change would prove to Augustine that his mother's prayer for his conversion was pure. If she wanted Augustine to change, so must she.

When Monica was nearing death, she insisted that no one worry about her or attempt to bring her body back to Africa for burial. “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be.” (Confessions IX, 11) Because St Monica's prayers had been answered with Augustine's full embrace of his Catholic faith, she lived the rest of her life in gratitude, a lesson all of us would do well to learn.

Today, pray for someone's conversion.

Whose prayer and desire for you has most moved you to listen and change?

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Self Examination

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites." Mt 23:15

It must have been shocking and upsetting for the Pharisees and scribes to hear Jesus assert that they were hypocrites and that it is difficult for most of usto put aside our desire to control ourselves and others with a rigid interpretation of the law. Jesus insists that salvation is not about discipline alone, but about asking God to cleanse our hearts of jealousy, resentment and suspicion of others.

More important still is whether we are willing to help others worry less about how they appear and more about the integrity of their faith lives. St Jerome says it well, "I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord."(St Jerome on Joel)

Most believers know the truth of the gospel from the "inside." They realize that what appears to be a faith filled life is empty unless it reflects an interior commitment to live without guile. When each of us admits that a life of ritual rigidity and lawful integrity is hardly good news, we will begin to announce the gospel as Jesus did.

Today, don't be afraid of an honest self examination.

How do you resist an unhealthy dependence on the law as a substitute for gospel living?