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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Zaccheus Come Quickly

"Zaccheus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Lk 19:5

Why should Zaccheus come down quickly to join Jesus? Were others vying for the Lord's attention? Were Jesus' disciples urging him to meet with new followers in order to further instruct and form them? Whatever the reason, Zaccheus listens and responds to the Lord and becomes a model for us.

Often enough we are not exactly sure what we are do to help build God's reign, but at others times we know exactly what it is the Lord is saying and we resist. Like those invited to a wedding feast, we make up excuses for not living the Gospel. We don't like how God seems to be acting in our life. We wonder if we are making everything up about life in the Spirit, or we fight God's call because it demands that we let go unconditionally, and we are the kind of persons who want clear explanations before we act.

The Lord call us and wants to stay in our house today. What is so difficult about this? Perhaps because we have other things planned or wanted some time alone, we resist, forgetting that God is never a bother if only we let God be God and live in God's presence with peace. The things we have planned can be moved to another time. The few moments of quiet will keep. God wants to eat with us. We need to learn to drop everything and respond.

Today, ask not what you are supposed to do today, but what God wants you to do.

What are your biggest resistances to God?

Friday, November 1, 2019

All Souls

"They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace." Wis 3: 2-3

In one of the Prefaces to the Eucharistic prayer when celebrating mass for the deceased, we read: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven." These words always bring me great comfort. Realizing, even as I pray these words for others, that I have allowed myself to slip into sloppy thinking when I forget that life as we know it now, no matter how rich or satisfying, is temporary. This is not to say we should not enjoy life as it unfolds, but that it is important to remember that life on earth is fleeting. 

Regularly, when trying to console a grieving family I remind them that though we can no longer see our family and friends who have died, faith assures us that they are alive and with us in a way no longer limited by the constraints of the flesh. 

I often experience this simple truth when I think about my Dad. If I happen to be driving to Newark Airport in New Jersey, I wave as I pass Sealand, the place where he worked for many years. A mail room worker, my dad traveled by public transportation most of his working life. Always grateful to have work, my father enjoyed his job and especially the people with whom he worked and the delight he felt touches me still. I know he is alive in Christ, and I believe I will see him again when my own life ends.

Today, "speak" with someone, now dead, who was especially important to you in life.

What do you think heaven will be like? 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

All Saints

“He went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.” Mt 5:1

Every year on the feast of all Saints we read about Jesus, the new Moses, who goes up the mountain to proclaim the fullness of the commandments. Something very new and very old is happening. While not abrogating the commandments as we know them, Jesus offers his followers a new way to fulfill them. Blessed are the poor, he commands, and those who mourn, who are meek and merciful, and are peacemakers.

While it will always be important to honor the one God, to keep the Sabbath, to honor our parents, and not to covet another’s wife or goods, how we live these values becomes central to the Christian life. No longer can we honor only those from our tribe or the keepers of the covenant. Now we have to be alert to those whose lives have been heavy with sorrow and grief, but who continue to remember not to exalt themselves, and live simply for the sake of God's reign.

Simple gestures, like sitting down when someone wants to speak with us, might not have the power of Jesus who sat in order to let his followers know that what he was about to say was important, but our willingness to stop and listen will assure those with whom we are talking that they are important. Isn't this what Jesus did all the time?

Today, ask yourself how expansive your love really is.

Who has made your feel important and how did they do this?


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Authentic Humility

"For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Lk 13:30

The challenge not to seek the first place in anything is an important Gospel lesson. Jesus is clear when he warns his followers not to worry about the issues that can so easily consume them. Whether they struggle for financial security or want assurances that the path they are following is a good one, Jesus' disciples must remember that God's promise to them is not first about this world, but about the next.

At the same time, we need to be careful when interpreting this passage. Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus used their modest wealth, knowledge of the law and religious authority as weapons to frighten and intimidate the underclass, and more than anything else, Jesus condemned this behavior. The purpose of the Law was to assure believers that God was their companion and guide and they had nothing to fear from any civil power, even their oppressors, if they lived the law with joy.

For Christians, the call is direct. Jesus, as the fulfillment of the law, is the one who must be at the center of our lives. Nothing we can gain in the world can substitute for this relationship. As long as we are willing to enter into the mystery of God's love in Christ and submit ourselves to him, we have nothing to fear.

Today, remember who you are before God and be grateful for your faith.

Which spiritual practices help you counter your pride?







Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Letting God Pray in Us

"The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." Rom 8:26

It is the rare adult believer who does not yearn to pray more deeply. As we age and review our life as it has unfolded, we realize that though God has always been present, we have too often taken God for granted. Sadly, changing this pattern is difficult. As St Paul reminds us, we don't know how. Frustrated, we sometimes return to prayers we learned as children, but soon realize these devotions no longer offer us the consolation we once experienced.  Our hearts want more.

The first and perhaps the most important task in learning to pray more naturally as adults is to practice silence. Learning to sit quietly and to let go of the busyness of our everyday lives, while fundamental to the spiritual life, can be unbearably difficult and confusing. For most, as soon as we begin our minds start to clamor and drift. Easily distracted by almost anything, we wonder if we will ever learn the simple skill of being quiet in the presence of God and all creation.

When, however, we endure our frustrations in learning how to stop thinking and analyzing, we should have little doubt or fear that God will hear us and draw near to us. Nevertheless, we may not feel God's closeness or experience the changes for which we yearn, but this should not overly concern us. Praying is about giving time to God without conditions and remembering that the Spirit is praying in and for us even when we feel nothing. Our fidelity is our prayer.

Today, sit quietly for 10 minutes. Try not to worry about what happens.

What are your favorite ways of praying?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Mustard Seeds

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches." Mt 13 31-32

Faith is a strange and wonderful gift. While many of us spend our lives teaching about it, faith's mystery always remains. Faith can never be quantified or measured, only treasured. In his classic work, The Mind’s Journey to God, the Seraphic Doctor, St Bonaventure insists that while it is possible to uncover the “traces” of God’s work in creation using observation, logic, and reflection, eventually we must submit ourselves to the mercy of God who leads us beyond logic into the heart of the mystery itself.

How important it is to remember that only when we let go of our own powers of reason can God open us to the wonders of the gift that God gives freely, completely and gratuitously. Like a mustard seed, which takes root and grows in God's time, faith challenges us to trust that even when we do not feel its power, it is will blossom and bear fruit in ways that honor the God who gives it freely and generously.

Today, let faith grow in you like a mustard seed.

Have you ever been surprised by the power of your faith?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sts Simon and Jude

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God." Eph 2:19

It is always difficult to write about the apostles. In Luke's gospel, Jesus gathers his disciples and, seemingly in a random manner, chooses 12 of them as apostles. Though we know nothing of Jesus' criteria when selecting his closest associates, we can assume, since all of them died tragically and violently, that he saw something in these men that suggested they would be faithful and straightforward, which is always the bottom line in the Christian life. 

No matter what rank or office we hold in the church, life in Christ always comes back to Baptism. When the church lays hands on our heads, anoints us as priest, prophet and king, plunges us into the waters to die so as to live in Christ, and challenges us to be a light in the world, we receive the same gifts and difficult tasks the apostles received directly from Jesus, and like them our only responsibility is to share our new power and hope with those to whom we are sent.

Very few of us will have our names inscribed on churches or memorials around the world, but all of us do have a role in the church every bit as significant as the one to which the apostles were called. We must live simply and honestly in Christ as a sign of the Spirit's presence in the world and serve, like Jesus, those most in need. When we accept this challenge, our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister change because of the power of Christ working in and through us.

Today, be an apostle. Announce the Good News with simple gestures.

What keeps you from accepting your important role as proclaimers of the Good News?