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Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Epiphany of the Lord

"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" Mt 2:2

Stability is something we all seek.  We want a permanent job, a house or apartment of our own that we can afford.  We want our children to do well in school and enter strong solid marriages.  It goes on and on.  Stability is like a prize that we cannot live without, but today's readings ask us to make a very deep examination of conscience.

What kind of stability are really seeking? Jesus does not promise us that we will have a land to call our own, but assures us that God will always be with us in the flesh, and will send his Spirit to dwell within us and among us forever. Rather than building temples, we are God's holy tabernacle. We are a pilgrim people who build places of worship and call them churches, but the real church is us! United in faith with the assurance that God will be our anchor, we are set free from the compulsive need to live in one place, have the same job forever, and measure our success by what we have rather than who we are.

Our challenge on the feast of the Epiphany is straightforward: How open spirited are we?  How ready are we to welcome the message of salvation and hope no matter where it comes from? The story of the Magi is still told today because it reminds us to let go of our limited understanding of the gospel and listen with open spirits to the epiphanies happening all around us every day.

Today, ask God to give you a stable relationship in faith to continue your journey.

Have you had an Epiphany lately?

Friday, January 3, 2020

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

"We have found the Messiah." Jn 1:41

Elizabeth Ann Seton had any number of firsts in her life. She founded the first American congregation of religious sisters in the United States, opened the first parish school and the first Catholic orphanage, but none of these is her greatest triumph. Despite being widowed at 30 with five young children, she decided to become a Catholic despite strong opposition from her staunch Episcopal family.

Elizabeth's courage at a time in her life that begged her to be careful and conservative remind us that when we depend totally on God wonderful things can happen. Not only are we able to make difficult decisions, we do so with conviction and serenity. When God is on our side, and God always is, no obstacle is too big to overcome.

In the United States women have always been the foundation stones of our parishes. They teach religious education, serve on every committee and week after week faithfully celebrate the Eucharist with devotion and passion. In all of this they have a wonderful model in Elizabeth Ann Seton. Not deterred by being ignored, dismissed or rejected, women know, like Elizabeth Ann, that God is their center and their guide. Nothing else matters.

Today, listen to a woman of faith.

What woman of faith do you most admire?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Letting the Lord Gaze Upon You

"John testified further, saying,...‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’" Jn 1: 28, 29

What was it that John saw? What did the Spirit look like? Most of us have been in the presence of people with political or religious power. We know what that feels like, but Jesus was an itinerant preacher and minor prophet. Surely, John was talking about something more than the power we invest in hierarchies when he said of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God...He must increase, I must decrease." Whether it was a simple matter that Jesus had no sin to confess when he came to John for baptism, or the confidence with which Jesus carried himself, we do not know but we do know John saw something and so must we.

In order to see, we must look long and hard at ourselves, others and the world. This takes practice and discernment. We cannot expect to see what it is that God is doing within and among us unless we take time to gaze upon God and God's works everyday. Some call this prayer or contemplation but naming is not as important as doing it. Finding time in our busy schedules to stop, listen, and allow the Spirit of God to guide us is essential to anyone who wants to live the Gospel, not just know about it.

Jesus often left his disciples, even for entire nights, to commune with his Father in prayer, and in this he offers an example. Because we can easily get so close to someone or something that we see them as if through a microscope, we need to step away and let God guide our eyes and hearts. In this way, perhaps we can see the Spirit like Jesus did.

Today, slow down and let the Lord look at you as you are.

What most keeps you from developing a daily prayer life?


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Sts Basil and Gregory the Great

"When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper....our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians." (1) St. Gregory of Nazienzen

The saints whose lives we honor today were, in contemporary language, "soul friends."  Basil, who is recognized as the father of monasticism in the East, could be fierce and unbending. Much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our day, he was a reformer and  made decisions quickly, often without much conversation with others. Gregory, on the other hand, was shy and retiring.  When appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, he lived with friends rather than take up residence at the city's center. Both men were accused of heresy and were slandered by those who resented their power and fortitude. Despite their differences, they remained friends.

All of us need people with whom we walk closely in faith, especially when life is difficult and confusing. Having one other person to accompany us through the dark and light times is a gift beyond words. Gregory and Basil had this in one another, and although their relationship was often under great stress, Gregory reminds us that their "great pursuit...to be called Christians" kept them together in love and hope.

Today, treasure the gift of a  soul friend.

With whom do you walk most closely in faith?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Mary, the Mother of God

"The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child." Lk 2:16-17

Every year the church begins the New Year by holding up Mary, the Mother of God, as a model for believers everywhere. Mary, as mother, is first of all present to Jesus, something that is more difficult than it seems. Being present to another does mean we try to fix or help them, but serve them. Like a good waitperson in a restaurant who does not hover or keep asking how your food is, she makes you feel comfortable. His or her only purpose is to help you enjoy your dining experience Mary is like this for Jesus and us.

Servants also know their place. This is not to say they should be willing to be treated poorly or abused, but because they understand their role, they realize and accept that their purpose is to make space for the other, to encourage, empower, "The and highlight anything about the person or country they are serving that is good, admirable and trustworthy.

Christians do well to remember Mary's lessons. When we realize that our primary task is to witness to the truth and transforming power of the Christ, we never have to be center of attention, we listen more than we speak, and we live faith as a verb: an action, and a lifestyle, that invites others to live for others. We do this more naturally and simply when we are grateful for the great gift our our faith and our salvation.

Today, serve someone with joy.

Do you have a special devotion to Mary? Why?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Testifying to the True Light

"He came to testify to the Light." Jn 1:7

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Facing our Resistances

"Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Jn 2:15

Spiritual directors often speak of "resistances" to God's action in our lives.  Sometimes it is unresolved conflicts from the past that seem to block our submitting ourselves to God.  At other times, it is too much work , too much television or too much time in front of the computer. Part of my work, for instance, demands that I spend time reflecting on the daily scriptures, researching areas with which I am not familiar and actually writing this blog or a homily, but the computer cannot be my life.

Unless we take sufficient quiet time to remember God's enduring presence all around us, what we read, study and write will be like dry straw. Lacking a certain spirit, it will be unable to sustain us or help lift people to God and urge them to live for God and do God's work. Knowing who we are and what our priorities need to be is the foundation of an honest spiritual journey.

Today, ask God to help you recognize your addictions.

How do you manage your resistances and anxieties?