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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lazarus

"And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores." (Lk 16:20-21)

It is so difficult to read the passage about Lazarus and the rich man. How is it possible to have someone lying at your feet and not see him? Couldn't the rich man at least have swept the crumbs off his table so that Lazarus could have something to eat? How could he let his dogs lick Lazarus' wounds? These seem natural but unanswerable questions, but they demand reflection from us.

Who is it that we don't see? Are there people so unimportant that we ignore them? Too often the answer is yes. Sometimes it is people of color or those who are culturally different than us. At other times, it is people who are generational recipients of welfare. More often we turn away, almost unconsciously, from the homeless and mentally ill because they frighten us, but we can and ought to try to change this.

The act of seeing whatever and whoever is directly in front of us is a discipline and practice we can learn, but it takes prayer and silence. Those who take time each day to sit quietly, to breathe deeply and pay attention to all creation, after a while, find it impossible not to see those in need, and while we might not be able to do anything immediately, at least we have honored those who need to be seen and recognized as people just like us.

Today, spend five minutes in quiet and reflection in preparation for seeing that which is directly in front of you.

What situations and people are most difficult for you to face?





Friday, September 27, 2019

Trusting God's Promise

"The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it." Lk 9 44-45

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand much less accept what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time.  More important, although we might not know where we are going, as long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

St Vincent de Paul

"It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them." St Vincent de Paul (1)

St Vincent de Paul has always been one of my favorite saints. His words are clear, direct and uncompromising. Two of his more noteworthy sayings are: “Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?” And, "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."

But no saying of Vincent has impacted me more than his demand that we love the poor, not just feed them. In truth, one can only know the power of this directive by experiencing it. Of all the ministries to which I have been called, it is my encounters with the poor that have been most life changing.

In Tanzania this past summer I visited with one of the first young women the African Women's Education Fund helped educate. Honorata joined the friars for a 6:30 am mass after traveling 150 miles to say thank you. After mass, she did not eat until she was sure the older and infirm friars were fed. As we talked at breakfast I said that I had never her sing like she did at mass that morning and her response was beautiful. I don't have much I can give to God but I can sing and dance for him. These are gifts God gave me and I am happy to return them.

Today, ask God for the grace of merciful eyes and a forgiving heart.

How do you think you can love and serve the poor?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Fear and Doubt

"Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, 'John has been raised from the dead.' " Lk 9:7

Fear and doubt are ordinary and necessary experiences in life, especially for people of faith. Only those who refuse to think about the mysteries of faith, or live in denial about the struggles with which faith presents us believe they will never be afraid or have doubts.  From St Thomas, the Apostle, to Blessed Mother Teresa, the great figures in our faith tradition had doubts with which they had to struggle continually.

In the Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day, in describing the struggles of her baptism in the Catholic church, says it this way:
One part of my mind stood at one side and kept saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure of yourself? What kind of an affectation is this? What act is this you are going through? Are you trying to induce emotion, bring about faith, partake of the opiate of the people?’ I felt like a hypocrite if I got down on my knees, and shuddered at the thought of anyone seeing me…
Today, ask not to be afraid of your doubts. God can lead you through them into new hope.

What are your biggest faith struggles?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Loving Consistently

"Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic." Lk 9:3

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Monday, September 23, 2019

We are God's Family

"My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." Lk 8:21

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

St Padre Pio

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light." Lk 8:16

What must we do when our inner demons urge us not to display the light God has given us? This is no idle question, but a deep struggle of conscience that many saints have had to face in their lives. St struggled mightily with the gifts God gave him. Blessed with the Stigmata, Pio was frightened when first presented with the gift of Jesus' wounds appearing in his own body. Writing to his friend, Padre Benedetto, Pio told the priest that when he first received the Stigmata he thought he was dying, and would have died had not God intervened. Worried about the reaction of others, Pio asked God to take the outward sign of the Stigmata from him. Willing to endure the pain of the wounds, he did not want to face the questions and doubts of his confreres and superiors about their authenticity.

But God did not give Pio a choice. God wanted to speak and be a light in the world through him. St Pio was not permitted to extinguish his light or avoid public scrutiny. More important, neither are any of us free to let the light of God shining in and through us be extinguished. Rather, our lives of faith are designed to be a guide for others seeking to know God's Good News.

Today, let your light, no matter how weak, shine for God's glory.

What most troubles or unnerves you about being God's light in the world?