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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Caring for the Poor

"The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan." Sir 35:14

The early church struggled mightily with its relationship to the Gentiles. Not sure whether Jesus wanted them to impose the entire Torah on newly converted Gentiles, the apostles and disciples were deeply divided. After 14 years of insisting that there was no need for Gentiles to observe the entire Torah, Paul was anxious to settle the matter. His letter to the Gentles (Acts 21:25) is one of his many responses. Reminding his readers that there was a matter more fundamental than circumcision or dietary laws, Paul highlights the concern every Christian should have.

Unless the first Christians attended to the needs of the poor, the message of Jesus would fall on deaf ears. With the contemporary church struggling with diminishing attendance, and the continued fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, Catholics need to remember, no matter what divides them, if they remain attentive to and responsive to the poor, the Gospel will continue to be preached and God's reign built. Nothing is more important.

Today, let go of arguments. Care for the poor.

How do you settle disagreements in your family?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Fig Trees

"Consider the fig tree and all the other trees" Lk 21:29

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach, especially about death and dying.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others, and we need to spend it now. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk committed to the silence of the Cistercian life, insisted that anyone who sought entry into the monastery to escape the world did not have a vocation. Even, perhaps especially, monks dedicated to silence must bear fruit by being attentive to all believers in order to bring the concerns of God's people before God in prayer.

Today,  reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Accepting Criticism

"If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way." Lk 12:57

Worry rarely gets us anywhere, but we often can't stop obsessing about things that we know are not important but concern us nonetheless. Whether because our pride gets in the way or our self image is threatened, we find ourselves unsettled and perturbed over matters that we can't control.

Jesus warns his disciples and us about this. The leaders of the Jewish community, like so many people with a little bit of power, cling stubbornly to their interpretation of the law for fear they will lose their influence over their people. Forgetting that the Law's purpose is to remind Jews of God's largess, they argue among themselves about how to maintain control of the community, and they refuse to seek reconciliation with those with whom they disagree. When Jesus' followers argued about who was the greatest, he challenged them to be like children and take the lowest place, and urged them to find paths of healing between and among themselves. Only in this way would they be able to demonstrate that they were his disciples.

Today, ask for the gift of true humility.

What do you think are the qualities of a Christian leader?


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Hot Faith

"I have come to set the earth on fire." 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.

The gospel does not permit easy answers, but insists that we search beyond selfishness to see the needy with God's eyes and remember that it was the poor who first listened to him because they were desperate for hope. Only when we acknowledge our own weaknesses can we look at others with compassion and understanding.

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

When have faith's demands burned you?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Authentic Wealth

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." Lk 12:48

Unfortunately, like most people in the developed world, I often take "my wealth" for granted, and even feel entitled. If the phone doesn’t work for two days, I might threaten the service provider with switching to another company. You get the idea. I have been given so much that when I read today’s gospel parable, I realize that my one task is to stay awake in gratitude and too often I am asleep, even to the gift of faith.

On occasion, I ask people at a workshop to complete the statement, I believe..... Their responses always touch and challenge me. They say: I believe there is a benevolent God who loves his children. I believe God has sent us his son as an eternal gift. I believe that the world is a good place that I can make better by my faith. I believe I should be compassionate to every creature. You can imagine the rest, and I would encourage you to pause a moment to answer yourself.

When we stop to notice of all we have and offer a word of gratitude for whatever and whomever comes to us each day, we are different. We are rich and as Jesus reminds us, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” Don’t be afraid of this warning. Be grateful for the gifts you have been given, and share them generously. God gives us all the strength to live our faith and give it away with joy and exuberance.

Today, make an inventory of all you have been given. Then take five minutes of silence to sit with your gifts in gratitude.

How best can you share "your wealth" with others?

Monday, October 21, 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. The discrepancy in income between the super rich and the everyday poor is growing and a cause for deep concern. 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.

Has your own or another's greed ever impacted your life?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Empowered by Faith

"Abraham did not doubt God's promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do." Rom 4 20-21

When Abraham heard that he would be the father of many nations, he was very much afraid. After all, he was ninety nine years old and could not imagine that God would choose him for so noble a task. I can imagine that for a time at least, he thought he was going mad and that everything God said to him was only a dream. Abraham had been unable to conceive a child with Sarah and now this! How could it be. No doubt Abraham expected that God would lay heavy burdens upon him, and he was not sure he was up to the task.

But God's demands are light. Abraham had only to keep the covenant which God make with him in a unilateral way. He didn't have to worry about penalties and punishment. He had only to be circumcised so that there would a sign "in his body" that indicated his acceptance of the living God. God wanted Abraham to know peace and he wants us to be at peace, too.

The Covenant with Abraham, as Pope John Paul II reminded us often, has never been broken by God. Jews are God's chosen people and always will be. That Jesus is the new Covenant, the fulfillment of the old Covenant, is something we need to announce with passion and hope, but we can never forget that God's Covenant with Abraham is true and forever. The proof of our acceptance of this truth of our faith lies in our treatment of Jews as our brothers and sisters.

Today, glory in God's covenants with us.

Have you ever been frightened by God's call?