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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Looking out for Lost Sheep

"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" Lk 15:2

At first glance, it makes no sense to leave ninety nine sheep alone to search for the lost one, but Jesus is making an important and challenging point with his followers. The lost are important. The healthy, he says in another place, don't need a physician. The sick do. (Mk 2:17) Jesus wants us to let go of the security of wherever we are to look for those who have lost their way, and this is often a hard challenge.

Often in Christian terms we must be people who are both/and. We must so deeply know who we are that we are unafraid to let go of our security to seek those who forget or reject their own heritage and faith. Because we are rooted in the memory of Jesus we know that wherever we are, we are in Christ who is the source and summit of our lives, and can risk anything in order to proclaim the message of Jesus. The apostles knew this. So did the great saints. We can learn it a day at a time.

Today, open your spirit to the lost and do it without judging them.

Are there places, people and communities that you avoid?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." Jn 3:13

The cross of Jesus Christ, as St Paul says, is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23) but the believer continues to hold the cross high, to exalt it, as a sign of God's unconditional love for us. Never easy to understand or to penetrate its mystery, the cross remains for those who believe, as St Francis said, the only book we will ever need.

How we read the book of the cross is fundamental to our growth in faith. How, for instance, do we understand or interpret suffering? How should we approach death and dying? What can we expect from God when we carry our own crosses? Martin Luther King, speaking of what he labels unmerited suffering, writes, "Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains." (MLK)

We should never be turned away from a full Gospel life because it makes others uncomfortable and us suffer. Many younger friends of mine have been discouraged by their friends and families when they decided to leave the United States to minister to the poor overseas. "There are plenty of poor people here in the U.S.," they are told, and, "Why do you have to be so radical in your convictions?" Hearing this, these young people suffer, but often enough, when they read the cross of Jesus, they are comforted, especially when they hear him say: "Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble of heart." (Mt 11:29)

Today, ask God for the grace not to be afraid of the cross.

What about living a Gospel life causes you the most suffering?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

St John Chrysostom

"I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry." 1 Tim 1:12

Considered the greatest preacher in the early church, St John Chrysostom is also sharply and justly criticized for his antisemitic homilies.(1) His legacy provides us with an opportunity to pray and write about the importance, power and danger of preaching today.

Since the close of the Second Vatican Council, which mandated the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, preaching in the Roman Catholic Church has become increasingly important. Encouraged to offer a brief homily each day and to root them in the sacred texts preachers, many priests try to do this, but with mixed results. North Americans want both an insightful and brief homily even on Sunday's, and while this is understandable, it risks missing the primary teaching of the Second Vatican Council which reminds us the Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life.

When preaching, no matter how lively, profound and articulate, pushes the liturgy of the Eucharist to the background, it needs to be reexamined. Good Catholic preaching ought to break open the sacred scripture, attend to what is happening in society and the world, and lead seamlessly into the breaking of the bread. When the liturgy is planned carefully with the preacher, something wonderful and exciting can happen, but when preaching overwhelms the listener and fails to remember that we are a people of word and sacrament, it fails as Eucharistic preaching.

Today, pray for preachers.

Have you ever heard preaching that helps you enter the liturgy of Eucharist more fully?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

God's Chosen Ones

"Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Col 3:12

The letter to the Colossians reminds us that the so called feminine virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are foundational to Jesus' vision. If we are going to be in what the scripture's call "right relationship" with one another, we must put on these virtues, especially in our families and parishes. Unless parents and pastors are humble in their guidance of their children and flock, their families and congregations will inadvertently learn that power is something to be used over others rather than with them. Only when everyone in a family and parish sense their own dignity, even when receiving correction, can we avoid creating an "us" against "them" mentality which can never be good for family or parish life.

Today, practice humility. Ask for guidance.



What do you think are the most important family and community values in the bible?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Luke's Beatitudes

"Blessed are you who are poor." Lk 6:20

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which were recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize.

Without a printing press or a written form that would allow easy distribution of the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the first Christians memorized Jesus' teaching and repeated them often for their own well being and to announce the Gospel. While many contemporary believers still do this, it can be a dangerous practice.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. When we do this, we impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Called by Name

"When he came down from the mountain, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose twelve." Lk 6:13

Almost everyone has a conversion experience or three. Struggling for an identity or reflecting on the scriptures, there is a moment that stops us and reminds us who we are. Though it is not always life changing, it can be. When the Apostles heard Jesus invitation to follow him, they knew who they were and who they were called to be.

The same was true for St Paul when he was blinded by a great light and heard a voice telling him:"I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." (Acts 22:8) Unable to see because of the great light, his companions led him into Damascus where Ananias healed him of his blindness and told him to return to Jerusalem and be baptized. Not long afterwards God told Paul to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles among whom he would find his life's mission.

Jesus calls each of us by name. Are we listening? Will we ask for the faith to respond?

Today, thank someone who increased your faith?

Do you think you have an obligation to invite others to follow Jesus and the Gospel?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

St Peter Claver

"We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips." St. Peter Claver

Even as a boy, St Peter Claver attracted me because of his heroic life and the service he offered to slaves in what today is Cartegena, Columbia. Leaving his home in Spain, never to return, St Peter Claver's bold spirit captured my youthful imagination and spoke to me of possibilities that I did not want to consider.  After all, I fancied myself as an athlete, and in the words of an early basketball coach, would someday “make a difference at center court.”  Never mind that I was 5’ 9” and slow.  I understood basketball from the inside and dreamed of playing professionally.

The story of St. Peter Claver’s life made me reconsider my priorities and forced me to think beyond sports to a world of religious heroism.  Here was a man who spent almost forty years on the docks of Cartagena waiting to care for slaves who had been so badly treated on their journey from Africa that one third of them died in transit.  As soon as the slaves landed, Peter would rush to them with medicine, food and (dare I say it) tobacco.  As he himself said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."(1)

What a powerful sentiment!  That we must speak to people with our hands before we announce the gospel to them remains powerful advice.

Today, offer someone a helping hand.

Whose physical love and compassion moved you to be more response to others?