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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Stubborn Pride

 "Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others." Mt 15:30

The world often gets very small when we are struggling. A friend who ran in the NYC marathon told me she could think of nothing but the finish line for the last few miles of the race. Suffering from hypothermia, she ignored her body's signals to stop. Her goal was in reach and she could not let it go. Similar things happen to all of us. Exhausted by working too intensely, we often keep pushing to finish whatever project we are working on and find ourselves too tired to enjoy what we have accomplished.

How often when we are stressed we forget that Jesus is waiting for us to approach him, and let our pride get in the way of asking for help. Determined to work through whatever problem is in front of us, we are like people trying to push back the tide or the waves of an ocean. Our independence or our personal goals become more important than our faith, and when we fail, we complain to God and sometimes even doubt God's existence. 

Today, ask for the grace to walk with God no matter how slowly God seems to be moving.

Did anyone teach you to slow down in order to find God in every situation?

Monday, November 30, 2020

New Shoots of Hope

 "A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse." Is 11:1

When Isaiah promises that a new shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, he reminds all believers that God can make something extraordinary from nothing. At the same time, the prophet is not speaking about a miracle in a classic sense. Rather,  Isaiah wants us to remember what happens often in the natural world. There are trees with so much inner life that even when they seem dead, we can take one of their broken branches, stick it in the ground, water it often and before long  it takes root and becomes a young  tree.

The challenge to believe that God wants to do something great and new in us, even when we are tired and feeling ragged, is uplifting. God’s love is enduring and, like a broken  branch, stronger than we can imagine. We have only to plant and water it and it will take us to Christmas.

Plant a good deed in someone’s heart and let God do the rest.

Are there “miracles” in nature that remind you of God’s love?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

St Andrew the Apostle

 "For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." Rom 10:9


Salvation, Paul reminds us, is more than simple belief in God. We must tell others about God's goodness to all of human kind. We must announce the graciousness of God with power and conviction. St Andrew did this so intently that he was martyred for his faith.


Peter's brother, Andrew hears the invitation of Jesus to follow him and does not hesitate. He leaves everything to be a disciple of the Lord. Even when he was being martyred he asked to be crucified on an X shaped cross because he did not think he was worthy of being crucified in the same way Jesus was.

When we learn to speak honestly, courageously and naturally about the great gift of our faith, our discipleship is deepened and our witness becomes more powerful.

Today, Confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What are your biggest hurdles on the road to salvati

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The First Sunday of Advent

 "No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!" Is 64:3

Sometimes we watch too closely, pay attention to too many details and get ourselves in trouble.  Not only to do we miss the forest for the trees, we get increasingly anxious about things we can’t control.  Parents sending their children to school for the first time often do this, and it can happen to me when trying to o help a friend work his way through a troubling or difficult personal situation.  Both scenarios, while understandable and for some unavoidable, remind us of something wise people have said for a long time: Look but don’t stare.

The prophet Isaiah asks God not to stare at his people and punish them. Rather, the Prophet suggests that God could have been more forceful in helping the Israelites remain faithful to the covenant. “Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” I can only imagine God smiling at Isaiah's intervention.

But Isaiah doesn't give up. Rather, while acknowledging the sins of the people, and admitting that they deserve condemnation, he also reminds God that God is the potter and the people are the clay.  Surely, God must know that no potter ever discards her clay.  Rather, she reworks it and shapes it into something new.  That is what Advent is all about, asking God to reshape and mold us into heralds of the Great King.

Today, imitate God by looking at yourself and others without staring.

What situations cause you to obsess about matters you cannot control?

Friday, November 27, 2020

Beginning Again

 "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Lk 21:36

Today is the last day of the liturgical year and a good time to make a simple review of our faith life. Four actions ought to mark the life of a faith filled Catholic and we can reflect on them through a series of questions. Have we been faithful to God and the community of believers by gathering regular for prayer and worship, especially on Sundays? Have we taken time to reflect on the mysteries of faith, especially as they are articulated in Scripture? Have we celebrated God's gifts with joy and gratitude? Have we served others as if they were Christ? 

Coming together regularly, studying and praying about God's care for us and serving those most in need are visible signs that God matters in our lives and that we want to witness to God's mercy before others. For most of us the only way we preach is through our actions. We can talk about faith all day, but if we never act on it, we are, as Paul reminds us, noisy gongs and a clanging cymbals. We make a lot of noise but don't do anything for others but annoy them.

Today, be honest with yourself and God. Make no excuses for your faults. Ask to begin again.

Which dimension of our faith life most attracts and empowers you?

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Resting in Christ

 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Lk 21:33

Not infrequently, even after more than 50 years of preaching God's word, I will stumble upon a scripture passage that strikes me in a new and powerful way. Even though I have read the passage many times, a word or a phrase that I did not focus on or sit with jumps off the page and challenges me to pause, to read it again, and be grateful.

Recently, preparing for a funeral, I read the words, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord." Jesus does not promise us freedom from grief and an instant healing, he only promises us a moment of rest. We need to hear this and be grateful. Jesus does not pluck us out of life as it unfolds, but walks with us through every trial and joy. Is that enough?

Today, offer someone a moment of rest by listening to them without interruption.

Who has made a space for you that allowed you to rest and reflect?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Day

 "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Lk 17:18

The feast of Thanksgiving is a time to return to the God who has so often healed us, to pause and remember all those who God has given us as companions in faith, who have accepted our faults and lifted up our strengths.  Honestly, if any of us began to name all of these people today, the list would stretch around the world. Today let us sing alleluia for friends and enemies who showed us God's face even when we were distracted by self absorption or lost in self pity.

We also thank God today for allowing us to play a small role in the healing of others.  Broken families, shattered marriages, lonely teenagers, desperate older people and the mentally ill, to name just a few, have all been given to us as gifts. Though most of us could never have imagined the path God would set us upon, today we acknowledge that all is grace, all is gratitude, and all is rooted in the unconditional love of God because, in truth: Those we have served have given us more than we could ever give them.

Today, find a quiet place to breathe in gratitude for all God has given you and breathe out hope to those who find life an overwhelming burden.

Who or what forces you to your needs in gratitude?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Spirit will Guide Us

 "Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking." Lk 21:14

Jesus makes a pretty big promise to his disciples, assuring them, even though they lack education or in many cases the ability to read of write, that the Holy Spirit will teach them what to say. While this might be the occasion for some of us to think we don't have to prepare a homily or a presentation on faith, there is no basis for this kind of thinking. Jesus is referring to those times when we are attacked unexpectedly and without provocation, not to the ordinary diligence we need to use to present our faith clearly and with passion.

Rather, the Lord wants us to trust in the Spirit of God to guide, direct, and challenge us everyday, and to realize that this is an essential dimension of our faith and its practice. Without this trust, we can only rely on ourselves or expert opinion, and no matter how knowledgeable we or our advisors might be, our insight will be insufficient.

Today, consciously commit yourself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Have you experienced the Holy Spirit's strength and direction in your life?

Monday, November 23, 2020

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

 "We praise your glorious name, O Lord our God." Chronicles 1:29

Viet Nam has often been a difficult country and culture for Catholics, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries. Between 1820 and 1900 more than 100,000 Catholics were martyred for their faith, and the persecution continued in the 20th century when Catholics living in the northern part of Viet Nam had to abandon family and possessions and flee to the south in order to escape oppression or imprisonment.

Although we know very little about St Andrew, there are multiple testimonies about Catholics of his generation who were forced to renounce their faith and step on crucifixes to demonstrate their total lack of respect for the sacrifice of Jesus.  In the end, Andrew was beheaded for the crime of being a parish priest.

Reading about the Vietnamese martyrs reminds us of other people who have been persecuted, not because of some heinous crime, but for being who they are. Jews, especially in the Holocaust, blacks in the United States, homosexuals everywhere, and women whose voice is ignored or discarded simply because they are women.

Today, pray for anyone persecuted for their faith or identity.

How would you respond to religious persecution?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Widows as Disciples

 "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Lk 21:4

There are two things in today’s gospel that move me and remind me that the gospel is about transformation, not just information. No doubt I have said this before, but I often worry that Catholics don’t think of themselves as disciples. Discipleship, they say, is too high an honor, and with a false sense of humility, suggest that they do not deserve such a title. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don't deserve or gain discipleship. It is a free gift from God who has called all of us to discipleship through baptism. We are to speak and live the good news with integrity, honesty and conviction. Jesus’ response to the widowed mother in today's gospel is a perfect example for us to follow. 

Widows were in real danger in the world of Jesus. They rarely owned property, were often illiterate and had to rely on their eldest son for sustenance and a place to live. The widow in today's Gospel ignores these dangers. More intent on giving God her whole self, she offers everything she has to the Temple and God. Her generosity never fails to impress us. I wonder if anyone at the time, besides Jesus, even noticed.

There are so many people in our world who follow the Gospel not to be noticed but to give God all they have. Their example of selflessness challenges us not to worry so much about our security, but to trust that God will never abandon us even when we have nothing.

Today, give someone of your substance and do not count the cost.

What keeps you from being more generous with your time or resources?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Christ the King

"Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent." Col 1:18

Although we can and often do turn away from God and the covenant God made with us in Jesus, God cannot and will not renege on his promise to be with and guide us always. Paul is clear about this. The Apostle to the Gentiles acknowledges that although the Jews were often disobedient, abandoned the law and worshiped false Gods, God was and remains merciful to them and us. Paul wants his Gentile listeners to know this and be comforted. The God who has come to us in Jesus is proof of this. The new and eternal covenant, Jesus is the incarnation of God's promise, a gift we can reject but which will never be withdrawn.

The challenge of God's promise is demanding. Made in God's image, the only way we can demonstrate to others and especially to our enemies that God's love lives in us is to love everyone no matter how often our love is rejected to ridiculed. If God is forever faithful so too must we be faithful. This is not to say we should or must allow ourselves to be abused. Rather, while we ought to withdraw quietly from any situation that allows another to strip us of our good name or reduce to an object of their wrath, we must stand ready to reconcile with our oppressors for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, enjoy God's everlasting love.

What must you let go of in order to love like God?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Presentation of Mary

 Although there is no historical evidence that Mary was presented by her parents for Temple service when she was only three years old, the feast of the Presentation of Mary has deep roots in the Eastern church. Desirous of helping the faithful understand that even as a child Mary was dedicated to God, the church tells us that Mary spent nine years in the Temple before she was promised to Joseph, and readied herself to become the Theotokos, the Mother of God.


Image result for presentation of mary

Although there is a powerful message in Mary's presentation, the art that emerged to help us understand this mystery is heart rending. How could a couple who had been childless let go of their daughter at such a young age? Would God this of them or anyone? When we see Anne's face in the depiction of the event we wonder what it must have been like for her see Mary walk into the temple. Did she worry, fret, wonder what might be next for her? While there are no answers to these questions, one truth emerges. God will always be near. No matter what we might have to suffer, God will be our companion. St Anne knew this. Mary knew this. We know this.

Today, pray for the courage to face whatever difficulties you encounter with faith.

How do you face unanswerable questions?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Praying God's Desire

 "For my house shall be called a house of prayer." (Lk 19:46) 

The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of hope for all peoples. Though we sometimes worry and fret about the state of the church, especially in a culture that more and more resists organized religion for a more generic spirituality, we should never let ourselves forget that the new covenant in Jesus Christ is the gift of a God who includes all people in his love. 

Again and again in the New Testament we hear this. John tells us that Jesus Christ will "draw all people" to himself, (Jn. 12:32) and Paul reminds us that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) Remarkably, Isaiah echoes what we think are inclusive terms found only in the New Testament. "For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Is 56:7) A simple way to express this conviction is to let the joy we feel shine like a soft light in our personal and family lives, and spread through acts of compassionate justice into the lives of those who are empty of hope.

Today, take some time to pray that the Good News of Jesus will seep, like water enlivening the roots of the tallest trees, into the hearts and lives of all people.

How can you live so that all know God's house is a gift and invitation for everyone?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Confronting Violence

 "As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes." Lk 19: 41-42

It is not unreasonable to think, if Jesus lived among us today, that he would be weeping at our inability to build a world where justice leads to a lasting peace. Almost everyday we hear about a car bombing in Baghdad, children being stolen in Nigeria or a school shooting someplace in the United States, and while it is reasonable enough to believe that some of the violence we encounter is random and unavoidable, too much of it is a product of an unjust world.

What are people who are hungry or violated daily by gangs or terrorists supposed to do? Unable after a while to maintain their composure and seek paths to conversation and reconciliation, they lash out defensively and viciously hoping their rage will force their enemies to retreat. Unfortunately, while their response might be effective for a while, violence inevitably leads to more violence and the endless cycle of savagery continues.

Christians, however, cannot give in or give up. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who gave his life in a Nazi concentration for the sake of the Gospel calls this costly grace. 
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Opposing violence might cost us our lives, but if it helps others to know the Christ who is our peace and who demands we always work for the good of all, we can be sure of the reward of eternal life.

Today, weep with Christ at the violence we confront in the world, and let our tears be our prayer.

Who do you most admire for confronting violence with the peace of Christ?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

All is Gift

"I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Lk 19:27

Faith, though a free gift from God, has responsibilities. We must give faith away and that means announcing the freedom that God bestows upon his people. When we fail to accept this Gospel mandate, we risk losing everything. Faith is not about making us more comfortable but about assuring us that because we have been saved, we need to spend God's gift by creating a more just world.

Unfortunately, Christians too often forget this message. Like children who take the gifts they receive at Christmas for granted, we forget that all of life is a gift, and rather than celebrate all that God does for us, we wallow in a shallow place that feels like happiness but that has no substance. We cling to things, people and places as if they belong us. Worse we sometimes use others for our own purposes rather than celebrate who they are before God.

Grateful people sometimes bubble over with thanks, but most of the time they are quiet. They listen more than they talk and encourage others to express themselves. By doing this, those to whom they listen become grateful themselves and their gratitude ripples out and washes all those around them. Grateful people cleanse the world by celebrating all that God is and does with and for his people.

Today, listen to someone who thinks poorly of  him or herself.

What keeps you from living a grateful life?

Monday, November 16, 2020

St Elizabeth of Hungary

 "You did not recognize the time of your visitation." Lk 19:44

St Elizabeth of Hungary was born into and married royalty. She had access to money and power, but when her husband died on his way to fight the sixth crusade, she decided to leave the palace and follow Conrad, her Franciscan spiritual director, to Marburg where she continued her life of compassion for those most in need.  Conrad wrote that Elizabeth "built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table."(1)

People of faith like Elizabeth, especially the married and families, are the ground upon which the church builds communities of compassion for the poor and justice for all. After all, it was the faith and courage of our parents and grandparents, so many of whom were immigrants, who came to this country and built, hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and shelters because they knew that faith demanded they respond to the struggles they saw all around them.

Though the structures might change, the demand of the gospel to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty will never change. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who is the patroness of Catholic Charities, remains an icon who challenges our generation not only to pray for justice in our churches, but to live the gospel in our streets.

Today, pray in gratitude for those who give their lives to care for those who cannot help themselves.

How can you live Elizabeth's values in your life?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Come Quickly

 "Lord, please let me see." Lk 18:41

Sometimes the gospel stories seem stark, and lack detail. This makes sense of course when one remembers that only a few people in Jesus' time were literate, and the intention of the gospels was not to write a biography of Jesus but to announce him as Messiah, son of God and savior of the world. Details were not important in a written form. The story teller could elaborate and fill the text with passion and power. for those who could not read

But the Gospels are not always stark. When the blind man today says "please," we stumble upon an important detail and a telling moment. Not only is the request polite, it pleads with Jesus to look upon a man who is an outcast from his own family and community. Condemned to a life of begging and isolation, the blind man, like Moses, (Ex 33) begs Jesus for help, and becomes an example for all.

Jesus often reminds us that because we have eyes does not mean that we really see. Only those who see with the heart will experience the fullness of the revelation. The blind man, even before he is healed, sees and knows the Lord as Messiah and so approaches him politely, but with hope and confidence. The Messiah's task is to open the eyes of all to the wonders of God's enduring care and love for the world, and because the blind man remembers this, he is healed.

Our task is the same. If we want to see, we must first acknowledge God as creator and redeemer. Only then will we know the Messiah in our hearts.

Today, open your eyes again to the wonder of the created world.

When are you most blind?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

33rd Sunday Cycle A

"To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability." Mt 25:15

That everyone has a talent is probably self evident to most of us, and oftentimes we are very grateful for the talents of a friend who can tweak a computer, fix a faucet or sit with us when we are lost.  While the talent might not seem very important to them, when we are in need, the talents of generous friends are precious gifts.

What is not self evident, however, is that our talents, in a gospel context, are not for ourselves.  Each of us has been gifted by God for the sake of others.  We are part of a community, we are the body of Christ, and as a community of faith we can only be ourselves and function well when all the parts are playing their proper role.  We do not need a hand to be a foot, or an ear to be a mouth.  We need each part of the body to be itself for the good of the whole.

The gospel today reminds us that there is no reason to fear.  God is with us, will protect us and only demands that we give away our talents no matter how anxious we might be about having enough for ourselves.  If we use our talents only to satisfy our own needs for power or security, we condemn ourselves.  Jesus uses the person with one talent, who buries it for fear he will lose it, to challenge us to go beyond our fears. All of us, no matter how poor or wealthy, must guard against greed. It is in this way that we witness to the power of Christ living in us and continue to build the Kingdom of God.

Today, rejoice in your talent and share it with whomever needs it.

To whom are you most grateful for sharing their time and talents with you? 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Persistence at Prayer

 "Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" Lk 18:7

Persistence in prayer is an important Christian virtue. Jesus reminds us of this more than once, and the widow who pesters the local judge to help her attain justice is only the most dramatic example of this. In St Matthew's Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to "Watch and pray always, lest you enter into temptation," and (26:41) St Paul echoes Jesus' call to pray always in first Thessalonians. "Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances."

Praying always can seem like an impossible challenge. For most, when we try to pray, distractions fill our minds and hearts almost as soon as we begin. Even when we pray the rosary or other devotional prayers, we find ourselves thinking about everything but the prayer! Just the same, our willingness to put everything and everyone in God's hands each day is a very powerful prayer although it is often difficult to manage. Trusting God completely is something most of us aspire to, but rarely accomplish. That is why the practice of prayer is so important.

Today, choose a simple prayer and repeat it throughout the day.

What is your favorite prayer?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

"Stand erect and raise your heads because you redemption is at hand." Lk 21:28

Two things marked the early life of Mother Cabrini. She was frail and sickly as a child and only four of her 10 siblings survived adolescence, but neither situation shuttered her imagination. When her father would read to his children about the great men and women who left their homelands to go around the world as missionaries, Frances dreamed of joining them. Frances' faith was bigger than her weakness.

Faithful to her parents until their death, Frances helped them on their farm and went to school, but soon after their death she began to explore a religious vocation. Rejected at first because of her poor health, Frances persevered and soon the local bishop asked her to found a new congregation of religious women. Sure that Frances' efforts would benefit the local church, the bishop was excited by Frances' new congregation, but Frances had bigger ideas. Soon after making vows, she added the name Xavier to Frances, after the famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, and went to Rome to establish a convent. Soon after, still hoping to go the Orient as a missionary, Frances was asked to help Italian immigrants in the United States. Resistant, she asked the Pope Leo XIII for help in discernment, and the Pope assured her that she should go West to the United States, and from this point her life exploded with activity and zeal.

St Frances Xavier Cabrini was a brilliant organizer and administrator. She founded 68 missions and, though she hated ocean travel, crossing the Atlantic more than thirty times. Her work took her to New York, South America, Chicago and New Orleans, and all of this with failing health. A woman of our times, Frances Xavier continues to inspire women and men of the 21st century with passion and zeal.

Today, pray for the young to accept the call to discipleship.

To whom do you listen for advice and encouragement?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

St Josaphat

 "First, he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation." Lk 17:25

How we respond under pressure is often the measure of our faith and courage. St Josaphat, a 17th century martyr, reminds us of this. Committed, as a bishop, to the cause of trying to heal the Great Schism, of reuniting Rome and Constantinople, he first reformed both the local church to which he was assigned and his own life. Though some thought he was too demanding that people live simple lives, his personal witness to frugality and honesty convinced many of his cause, but not all.

Josaphat was killed by a mob, certain that one of their number had been abused and imprisoned by those committed to reconciliation with Rome. After his martyrdom, he as thrown into a nearby river along with a dog that had tried to protect him, but it was the Jewish people who should be held up as faithful to the Torah in defense of Josaphat. When Josaphat and his servants were being beaten and killed, Jews rushed into the courtyard of the bishop and rescued many, and it was Jews who mourned his passing. Because they recognized his goodness before God, the Jews refused to be intimidated or drawn into a fight not of their making while many Catholics for whom Josaphat died hid in fear of their lives.

Today, stand up for someone whose name is being dragged through the mud.

What are your biggest challenges to live faith despite the cost?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

St Martin of Tours

 "For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires." Ti 2:11

St Martin of Tours was a "conscientious objector." Conscripted into the Roman army against his will at 15 , Martin was discharged 8 years later after refusing a bonus given to soldiers on the eve of battle. Severus quotes Martin's response to his commanding officer. "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight."(1)

Imprisoned for his refusal to take up arms, Martin offers to stand unarmed at the front of the troops as they ready themselves for battle, but when the two armies forged a peace, his gesture was never needed and Martin was discharged from the army. This story was so compelling in the early church that Martin became and remains one of our church's most popular saints.

Like Jesus in today's gospel who reminds us, "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it," Martin challenges us not to cling even to that which we have earned. How many coats, unworn for years, hang in our closets? How much food sits in our pantries or cupboards unused for months? While most of us will not be asked to lay down our lives for the sake of the gospel, we need to pray regularly to be ready for whatever the Lord does ask.

Today, let go of a worn out thought that troubles you.

What gives you the courage to live the Gospel despite the cost?

Monday, November 9, 2020

St Leo the Great

 "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me." Phil 4:13

St Leo the Great, better known to most as the Pope whose eloquence convinced Attila the Hun not to destroy Rome, must have had a big dose of the strength St. Paul talks about in today's his letter to the Philippians. An authentic relationship with Christ can do this. When we enter the mystery of the Jesus as truly God and truly human, his power becomes ours and enables us to live in ways we could never imagine.

St Leo's faith was such that, while on a mission to Gaul, he was elected by the people to be bishop of Rome and Pope. It was everyday people who recognized in Leo the kind of faith they knew was necessary to direct the church at a very turbulent time. Leo not only effectively moved the church to recognize the importance of Rome as the seat of church authority, he did it peacefully, an effort that effectively won for him the title Great.

Today, ask God for the strength to live your baptismal vocation with peace and power.

What believers do you think of as Great?

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

 "Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh." Ex 47:8

One of the wonderful images in the Book of Revelation is the flowing river about which Ezekiel also speaks. Watering and washing every bit of land through which it flows, the river helps every thing along its banks to grow strong. Fruit trees will produce large amounts of nourishment for all every month, and every kind of fish will grow strong and multiply in its waters.

The river, of course, is the water of life that flows to all from the restored temple and it will bring new life and hope to all who enter it, which is the point. We must enter the waters of baptism, drown and be raised up again in Christ if we hope to live the Gospel. This is not an easy journey or notion. To die to self so that Christ might live is the heart of the Gospel but is not something we do intuitively. We must learn to die from those who have gone before us in faith, especially the martyrs, and that is where the Lateran Basilica leads us.

St John Lateran is the basilica of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. First among all Rome's church's, it is dedicated to St John the Baptist who lost his head for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, and reminds us that the most fundamental work of the church is to witness to Christ crucified and raised up for the sake of all. John the Baptist never forgot that his mission was to make straight the way of the Lord. Willing to die for this privilege, John the Baptist continues to remind us of our role. When we make the way of the Lord straight people can find their way into the mystery of God's love.

Today, pray for the grace never to forget God's enduring love for all.

What do you most value about the church, the people of God?



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Staying Aware

 "Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep." (Mt 25:5)

Today’s gospel has a very consoling verse for people like me and many older people.  Matthew writes that  the ten virgins "all became drowsy and fell asleep.”  Since I am an early to bed person, the thought of staying up very late waiting for “the bridegroom” to arrive and then dragging myself to a wedding banquet is not something I would look forward to.  Clearly the issue in this parable is not falling asleep; we all do that when we are tired.  Rather, the Lord wants us to be prepared with enough oil for our lamps to accompany the bridegroom  to the banquet whenever he arrives.

Being ready to serve God at all times is a constant theme of Matthew’s gospel, especially in its final chapters. Jesus, as he did in yesterday’s gospel, reminds us to stay awake, to be alert, and today he uses the parable of the ten virgins as a reminder for us to be prepared to meet the Lord every day, not just as a preparation for death, but in order to live the gospel fully.

Though the challenge of always being prepared can seem daunting, even overwhelming, we should not be afraid. Though all of us will regularly fail at living a full gospel life, if we have prepared ourselves for the inevitable breakdowns in our commitment, God will be waiting to greet us when we wake up again.  Pray and be grateful each day for the gift of faith.  Christ will do the rest.

Today, take five minutes to do nothing but pay attention to the day.

Who has helped you learn to live each day with joy and passion?


Friday, November 6, 2020

Divided Hearts

 "No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other." Lk 16:13

Luke's Gospel demands that we ask ourselves: Who is my Master?  Reminding his listeners that many religious leaders have divided hearts, Luke insists that living the Gospel is about making choices which bind us to the good despite the cost. If Jesus' followers were too concerned with the traditional signs of God's love, if they were overly worried about money, property, family and health, they could not follow Jesus with full hearts.

These days we seem tempted to have not two but many, many masters. Whether it is money, our reputation or our influence upon or over others, there are multiple concerns that distract us from living the Good News with the power Jesus offers us as gift. Unless we learn to let go of that which divides our hearts, we will be running in four directions at once, not even knowing that we are lost. Taking time each day for reflection and quiet prayer not only alerts us to the competing voices within us, it can steady us on the Gospel path and be a compass that directs us into the heart of God.

Today, examine your conscience carefully about matters which divide your heart.

What fears most distract you from a full Gospel life?


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Begging for Help

 "The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’" Lk 16:3

Occasionally, I meet someone who tells me they never pray for themselves, and I am stunned. Praying for oneself is natural and necessary. Help me, O God, to live in your presence. Keep me focused on your desire for the world, and show me the path you would have me walk are all prayers that are honest, make sense, and honor God. Of course, we can pray selfishly and we ought to try to avoid too much of this, but never praying for ourselves could suggest we don't need God at all.

The blind man's insistent cry for help is a good Gospel example of this. Though many tried to quiet him, fearing perhaps that he was disturbing Jesus or being foolish, the blind man shouted all the louder when he knew Jesus was near. So should we. Asking for help everyday to live God's dream for us not only reminds us of our dependence on God, it honors God by acknowledging his power to impact our everyday lives.

Today, respond to someone else's request for help, even if you don't have time.

Why is it sometimes difficult for you to ask for help?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The 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?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

St Charles Borremeo

 "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God." Rom 15:17

Named Archbishop of Milan when he was 25 years old, St Charles Borremeo was hugely influential at the Council of Trent. For many years he was a church careerist, working to assure himself and his family a comfortable life, but when his elder brother died during the Council, everything changed. Aware that life was short, Charles became an avid church reformer who lived a very simple personal life and gave most of his income to the poor. More important, he insisted that everyone named bishop in his provincial council be an example to the faithful of men committed to the gospel, and be well trained in Scripture for their ministries. In fact, the education of the clergy became so important to him that he started the seminary system which continues, even today, to train priests all over the world.

St Paul’s letter to the Romans sounds like Charles could have written it. Concerned that some of his disciples and converts were taking credit for their own good works, Paul first praises them but then reminds them that without Christ nothing of ultimate value can happen. The apostle writes, “I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” If anything or anyone distracts us from the works of God in Christ we must avoid them and return to the essentials of Gospel life. Both Paul and Charles remind us to live each day simply and gratefully.

Today, step back from your life and ask yourself whether others experience you as Good News.

Have you had occasion to reform your life?

Monday, November 2, 2020

Letting Go

 "Christ Jesus,  though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped." Phil 2:6

How hard it is to let go, especially of good experiences. We grasp and cling to situations and people who make us happy. Though we know this is foolishness, we can rarely help ourselves. Grace that tastes like candy is hard to resist. More important, we often find it difficult to let go of hurt. Somehow, the ache of not being recognized or discarded by people we love, seems to cling to us like the grime of not being able to shower after working outside in the hot sun.

That is why it is so important to listen to St Paul when he reminds us that Jesus did not even cling to his Godhead, but emptied himself for us and for the world. Because Jesus is always other centered, he witnesses for us how we ought to go about in the world. The more we think of others and try to respond to them in their need, the easier it is to forget ourselves and our problems. First responders to tragedies like hurricane Michael that just devasted the Florida panhandle remind us of this. As soon as they begin to help others, their own struggles fade quickly into the background.

Today, ask for the grace to let go of one nagging and old hurt.

Who do you most admire for letting go of difficult experienes in life?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

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 and celebrate my Dad's life. If I happen to be driving to Newark Airport in New Jersey, I wave as I pass Sea Land, the container ship company 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.

All Souls day invites us to celebrate all those powerful women and men who went before us in faith about whom we know little but who faith assures us are alive. While the foolish might think of them as dead, our faith promises us that they are at peace, and in this we rejoice with grateful songs of praise.

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

What do you think heaven will be like? 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

All Saints

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:2

What makes a saint? Some say the ability to get up after being knocked down. Others insist that humility and acceptance in the face of struggle is the mark of the great saints, and the church often speaks of heroic virtue as the defining characteristic of sainthood. But whatever criteria one uses, today we celebrate all those holy women and men, unknown to most but precious to God and the church, who listened to God's word, embraced it and let it change them.

The saints learned, often at a very young age, that pride, which so often insists that our way and our opinion is right, is the biggest obstacle to authentic transformation. Listening with an open and humble heart is the only way to real freedom. When we allow God to direct our lives for God's purposes. we open ourselves to experience the full sweetness of God's unconditional love and begin to know the delights of a simple Gospel life. The saints teach us a simple truth: only when we learn to live in gratitude for all that is will we know the depth of God's eternal embrace, and celebrate it everyday.

Today, ask God to make you a saint.

What do you think are the marks of sanctity?

Friday, October 30, 2020

True Humility

 "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14:11

When Jesus told the guests of the Pharisees to take the lowest place at a banquet in order not to be embarrassed if a more important guest arrives, he is not only offering them a strategy, but a challenge with a deeper spiritual meaning.

Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

This message, like so many others that Jesus offers us, is counter intuitive. While most people bow to humility as a value, few wear the clothes of humility, especially in the United States. Citizens of our nation are trained from an early age to excel, and to accept both the accolades and privileges associated with "winning."

While wealth and power are by products of a successful life in the United States, this is not the goal of those who profess to live a Gospel life. Gospel success is measured, not in what it produces, but in the seeds of hope that it plants. Never far from the realization that all life is a gift, and all worldly success is temporary, Christians believe that our "success" is an integrated and other centered life, and this is no easy task.

Today, don't say something you are thinking. Listen first to others.

Have you had an experience of humility that changed your life?

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sabbath Fulfilled

 "Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, 'Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?' But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him." Lk 14 3-4

Jesus regularly broke the Sabbath, and we wonder why. He was an observant Jew. He wanted to fulfill the law, not destroy it or supplant it. Why then would he heal on the Sabbath? The answer seems almost too simple. The Pharisees were not interested in the observance of the law, but in catching Jesus in opposition to it. If they could demonstrate that Jesus had no respect for the law, they would win the battle for power and honor. Like so many of us, they wanted to win, they wanted to be right.

Jewish law about the Sabbath, although strict, was not rigid then or now. Mati Goldstein, commander of the Jewish rescue-mission to 2010 Haiti earthquake, said, “We did everything to save lives, despite Shabbat . People asked, ‘Why are you here? There are no Jews here,’ but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives…We are desecrating Shabbat with pride…” 

Clearly, Jews today and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, knew that the law commanded them to help save lives. Jesus also knew this and challenged the Pharisees with an interpretation of the law that they should have known. When people suffer, we need to respond. It is that simple.

Today, treat someone with compassion even if it is inconvenient.

How do you practice Sabbath?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Created in God's Image

 "I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!" Lk 13:34

God's faithfulness is the bedrock of our faith.  God will not, cannot, revoke his Covenant with us.  It is unilateral.  Unlike other contracts or covenants which are bilateral or mutual, God's covenant with us is gratuitous. God's covenant does not need to be confirmed by our willingness to accept it or live within it.  It is pure gift.

At the same time, when we remember the nature and power of God's covenants with us, especially the New Covenant in Jesus, we realize again that we are made in God's image and must strive to love others, even our enemies, as God loves us.  We love others in faith not because they appreciate, celebrate or return our love. We love others in faith to be like God. 

Today, go to church, read a passage from scripture, and ask God to help you love others as God loves you.

Who has gathered you, like a hen, so that you never forget who you are and how much God loves you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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 2:20

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.

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? 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Being Yeast for Others

 “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” Mt 13:33

Think about the people who irritate you, who force you to think about uncomfortable situations, who refuse to let you be comfortable and demand that you step back and look at the world as it is. Jesus did this often to the people of his time and offers us a powerful image to help us understand what he continues to do in the 21st century.

Yeast, a symbol of the Kingdom of God, is an irritant, and not just because when activated in flour it makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Today is a good time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life? 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Facing Abuse

"Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." Eph 4:32 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was killed for opposing the Nazis, in his now classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.  Absolution without confession.” While Bonhoeffer wanted to forgive the Nazis, he was not capable of it by himself. The Nazis had to repent, to be kind, to be compassionate and forgiving, and until that happened neither Bonhoeffer not God could do anything for them.

The same is true of us and it is a difficult part of gospel living that we need to face and engage. While God's love is unconditional and total, we must turn towards God to receive it. If we keep walking away from God and never turn to meet God's gaze, we are lost. St. Paul knew this and was warning the Ephesians to offer and accept forgiveness only when there was real conversion involved.

Spouses who are regularly abused in a marriage, either physically, mentally, or emotionally must be strong enough to turn away from the abuse and the marriage until their partner seeks authentic forgiveness and gives evidence not only of a desire to change, but is willing to seek the help they need  to act on what they know they must do. We should not be naive in this regard. St Paul is not a wimp. Neither should we be weak willed in this regard. Only when we are strong in facing our life as it is can authentic conversion occur.

Today, ask God for the grace of real discernment about your own sinful habits.

Have you ever admired someone who faced abuse and addressed it?



Saturday, October 24, 2020

God and Neighbor both Need our Attention

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Mt 22:36

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire law and prophets to as few words as possible without losing the power and love of the entire Torah. Jesus’ response to the question: which commandment in the law is the greatest is unique in two ways. First, no other rabbi suggests that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important because love of God is not enough by itself, but neither is love of neighbor sufficient by itself. Prior to Jesus, the rabbis talked about certain prescriptions of the law as heavy or light. Love of neighbor, while important, was considered light, while love of God was considered heavy. Jesus tells his listeners that both love of God and love of neighbor are heavy, that is, vitally important aspects of the Good news as he interprets it.

Jesus also challenges the traditional rabbinic understanding of neighbor. The rabbis taught that while all Israelites deserved love as neighbors, those outside the covenant only merited compassion. Jesus rejects this understanding and  insists that the Torah demands that Jews love everyone as their neighbor. The good news is for all. There are no outsiders in God's love and this remains the challenge for believers today. How we live this command will determine how others understand the Gospel.

Today, ask God for the gift of knowing deep in your heart that God is always with you.

Do you believe and act in a way that convinces others that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important?

Friday, October 23, 2020

Bear Fruit

 "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.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Practice Hum ility and Gentleness

"Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love." Eph 4:1

St Paul's letter to the Ephesians 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?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Fire of the Gospel

 "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." Lk 12:51

Fire in the bible, always a sign of God's presence, often purifies and cleanses. Sometimes the lesson is simple. When we get distracted by concerns that we can do little about, like the weather on a day we are flying, we need to be cleansed and purified. We need to let go, enjoy the day as it unfolds and remember the wisdom of an old saying: Things that are important are rarely urgent and things are urgent are rarely important.

But our need for cleansing and purification can cut much more deeply. When we hold grudges for months or years, expecting the other person to ask for forgiveness, when we ridicule the weak and take advantage of the poor, we need to be cleansed. In the film, The King’s Speech, the Duke of York is a terrible stutterer. Though born to nobility, the man who would eventually be known as King George VI, cannot even read a speech on the radio. Battered by his father to try harder, and to speak more slowly, his stammer only gets worse, but what is most difficult for him is the ridicule he is subjected to, even as an adult, by his own brother.

Exhausted and ashamed by his struggles, the future king submits himself to the “cleansing” and “purifying” skill and friendship of a commoner. Slowly he gains some control of his stammer and emerges humble and grateful, and able to play a key role in leading England through the Second World War. This is, of course, exactly what the Lord did for his first disciples and continues to do for us today.

Today, ask not to be afraid of the fire of God.

Has the Gospel felt like "fire" to you? Did it cleanse you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Giving from our Substance

 "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

Sometimes Jesus is too clear for our liking. When we think about the benefits of living in the United States we can be embarrassed. Most of us have homes, food, electricity, television, computers, unlimited access to the internet and disposable income to buy gifts for others and simple pleasures for ourselves. 

More, education is available to almost everyone without cost and when we are disciplined about learning most of us can find work that gives us dignity and the ability to support ourselves. The challenge of the Gospel is to make sure all of what we have and earn benefits others, and this is not always the case.

Too often we feel entitled to all that we have and live as if we have a right to even more. When this happens we lose sight of the Gospel and undermine its power. Giving generously to others, especially those who have little, does more for us than those who receive our gifts. Giving changes us and reminds us that all we have is of God and from God, and while it is true that some have earned every penny they have, they too must share with others in the name of Christ and for God's glory. To share from our substance is to imitate God who gives us the Christ without strings or demands.

Today, share whatever gifts God has given you no matter how simple or few.

What impedes your willingness to give to others from your substance?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Letting Prayer do God's Work

 "For my house shall be called a house of prayer." (Lk 19:46) 

The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of hope for all peoples. Though we sometimes worry and fret about the state of the church, especially in a culture that more and more resists organized religion for a more generic spirituality, we should never let ourselves forget that the new covenant in Jesus Christ is the gift of a God who includes all people in his love. 

Again and again in the New Testament we hear this. John tells us that Jesus Christ will "draw all people" to himself, (Jn. 12:32) and Paul reminds us that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) Remarkably, Isaiah echoes what we think are inclusive terms found only in the New Testament. "For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Is 56:7) A simple way to express this conviction is to let the joy we feel shine like a soft light in our personal and family lives, and spread through acts of compassionate justice into the lives of those who are empty of hope.

Today, take some time to pray that the Good News of Jesus will seep, like water enlivening the roots of the tallest trees, into the hearts and lives of all people.

How can you live so that all know God's house is a gift and invitation for everyone?

Opening our Hearts to God

 “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks." Lk 12 35-36

Getting ready for a lifestyle change can be both unnerving and exciting. Seventeen young men recently entered the Capuchin novitiate in California. Reading their names, I immediately started praying for them. While I am sure they are excited, I also know they will have some butterflies.

Praying for these young mne helped me remember that whenever I have the privilege of helping someone ready themselves for marriage, many of the same concerns emerge. Has the couple spent enough time learning about one another? Do they have good communication skills? And most important for believers, are the thinking of marriage as a faith commitment, an opportunity to grow in the love of God through marriage?

These questions, and the answers they imply, when altered slightly are good ones for the candidates to our Order. Life doesn't happen in a day, but unfolds a day at a time. Taking enough time to focus of goals rather than accomplishments makes it possible for religious life and marriage to be a wonderful time of transformation and hope.

Today, thank God for those who helped you make difficult transitions in your life.

What most helps you make transitions in your faith life?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Companions and Martyrs

 "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord." Ps 130:1

One of the most difficult situations every missionary faces is learning the nuances of another language. Knowing the idiomatic expressions, the intonations and the humor of other languages requires a life long effort, and even then most people never lose the accent from their fist language. Nevertheless, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say, that the Holy Spirit will teach you. Good advice, even today.

When John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions came to the New World they knew very little about it, and undoubtedly did things that frightened the Native Americans they encountered. Rene Goupil was killed for tracing the sign of the Cross on a child's forehead, and we will never know how the Native Americans interpreted his gesture. Could they have believed Rene was harming the child? Were the missionaries able to communicate their dreams and purpose? We trust that their intent was always good, but some of what they said and did was misinterpreted, and that is a good lesson for us.

Knowing the culture into which one is inserted, even while living in the United States, is vital for good and lasting relationships. While none of us want to make seriously egregious mistakes when speaking and living with people from different cultures, it is bound to happen, and this can lead either to a deepened appreciation for one another or create fissures between and among us that are very hard to heal. For those who desire a deeper relationship and not a lasting break, it is vital to listen deeply and ask the Lord for the words that will help us articulate the power of the Gospel in a way others can understand.

Today, listen to someone from another culture or race and say nothing.

Have you ever had to ask God for the words to speak the Gospel?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Arguing to Win

 "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Mk 12:14


Money is always a problem. Not only do some people have too much, many more have too little, and the ability to issue a currency that is recognized internationally is critically important for nations wanting to do business with other nations.

At the time of Jesus, while Jews were free to produce their own currency for use within the temple grounds, they were forced to use Roman coins to pay their poll taxes. The rabbis, however, reminded Jews that even to touch a coin with the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be divine was idolatry. Trying to trap Jesus, they trapped themselves. Jesus knew of their prohibition against the possession or use of Roman coins, but also knew they would have some to pay their taxes. Merely by carrying Roman coins for Jesus to look at they condemned themselves as idolaters.

Intriguingly, not having a coin puts everyone on notice that Jesus had no intention of offending the law, the prophets or the interpretations of the rabbis with regard to honoring anyone who claimed divinity. There is only one God, his actions proclaim, and he will not enter silly arguments about whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Rather, he will honor the one God by dying for him.

Today, resist winning an argument, and pray for your opponent.

What helps you resist arguing with others for the sake of your image?

Friday, October 16, 2020

St Ignatius of Antioch

 "Whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops." Lk 12:3


One of the great qualities of saints is that they don’t bring attention to themselves. St. Ignatius of Antioch is a wonderful example of this. Famous for telling his followers, "I am Christ's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may become Christ's pure bread,” Ignatius begged his friends not to stop his martyrdom. So confident that the Lord would protect him, the saint knew the strength he received from God would be a sign to others of God’s unconditional love. At the same time, as one reads further in Ignatius' letter, there is a hesitancy, a moment of fear perhaps. He says, "If then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you now."

Most of us, while admiring Ignatius’ faith, would be more likely to tell our friends to ignore our craziness in seeking martyrdom and write it off as the dream of a madman. Because we are afraid of the unknown and more concerned with the life we have and know, even if it is full of pain and confusion, we hesitate thinking about and asking God for the grace of a peaceful death, much less a martyr’s death.

Today, ask for the humility to let God be God and to trust that God's grace will be enough even when we face death.

Are you prepared to die?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Do Not be Afraid

 "Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid." Mt 10 30-31

We all love inspiring stories, and the bible and church history are full of them. The Hebrews dramatic escape from slavery in Egypt and their search for the promised land, the faithful endurance of Job even when abandoned by his closest friends, and the willingness of the poor widow to put all she had in the offering box, thrill us. Drawn to the heroic like a fly to honey, we yearn to live big, and when we are moved to live completely for God everything changes. The small thoughts that trap us in fear of failure lift and everything becomes possible if only we trust God with our lives and follow God's direction.

Many years ago, one of our friars, Earl Gallagher, now dead, witnessed helicopter gunships firing on a group of Salvadoran refugees trying to cross a river into Honduras. Without thinking he jumped into the river and began to drag people to safety, especially children. Risking his own life without a second thought, he escaped death but became a target on the authorities in Honduras because he wrote to the NY Times about the slaughter in order to expose the awfulness of the crime against helpless people. 

At the same time, Earl assured everyone who would listen that he had no desire to become a martyr. Rather, he insisted that anyone would have done the same thing. Hearing him tell the story, I knew he believed what he said but also knew why he was a great man of faith. Earl was not looking for attention, nor did he want to be hero. He only did what the Gospel demanded.

Today, remember that God counts the hairs on your head.

What qualities do you think mark the lives of our faith heroes?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

“Let nothing disturb you, 
Let nothing frighten you, 
All things are passing away: 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things. 
Whoever has God lacks nothing; 
God alone suffices.” 
St Teresa of Avila

The bookmark of St. Teresa is fascinating. We wonder if she read it everyday. Tradition suggests it was written in her own hand and was a reminder to live in peace with Christ despite the struggles she would experience throughout her life.

Committed to the reform of the Carmelites in a Catholic world threatened by the Protestant Reformation, her life was difficult. Accused by some friends that her "visions" were diabolical, she also suffered deeply when the Carmelites forced her to retire to one of their monasteries for years before finally allowing her the freedom to spread her renewal to other convents and monasteries. In all, she founded 17 monasteries of reformed or discalced Carmelites and wrote treatises on the spiritual life that remain classics in the Christian west.

Whether Teresa reflected on her prayer and plea each day matters little.  On her feast, we can read and pray it with care hoping to interiorize her desire to let nothing disturb or frighten us, but to remain patient with ourselves and God in all matters of the spirit.

Today, pray for patience.

What most impresses or moves you about St. Teresa's prayer?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Celebrate the Fruits of Gospel Living

 "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace and patience." Gal 5:23

Every person has faults, makes mistakes and loses focus. To do anything else would not be human, but we must never measure our life only by our failures; we must also celebrate its fruits, which Paul reminds us are love, joy, peace and patience. Jesus is clear about this, and though we sometimes are tempted to dismiss the good we have done, we need to listen to his guidance.

It is very clear in the scriptures that God is always willing to look past our sins and focus on our gifts, and this is true throughout the Bible. Very few people would forgive David his lust for Bathsheba and his willingness to put her husband Uriah in a position where he would surely be killed. But God forgives. Even more remarkable is the story of the forgiving father who embraces his younger son who has squandered his inheritance. God wants us to succeed and be reborn.

Today, accept the good God has done through you.

When was the last time you took the opportunity to praise someone for their good qualities?

Monday, October 12, 2020

Self Examination

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence."

It must have been shocking and upsetting for the Pharisees and scribes to hear Jesus assert that only that which comes from within defiles a person. In fact, it is difficult for most of us to hear the great challenge of Jesus to put aside our desire to control ourselves and others with a rigid interpretation of the law. Jesus insists that salvation is not about discipline alone, but about asking God to cleanse our hearts of jealousy, resentment and suspicion of others.

More important still is whether we are willing to help others worry less about how they appear and more about the integrity of their faith lives. St Jerome says it well, "I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord."(St Jerome on Joel)

Most believers know the truth of the gospel from the "inside." They realize that what appears to be a faith filled life is empty unless it reflects an interior commitment to live without guile. When each of us admits that a life of ritual rigidity and lawful integrity is hardly good news, we will begin to announce the gospel as Jesus did.

Today, don't be afraid of an honest self examination.

How do you resist an unhealthy dependence on the law as a substitute for gospel living?

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Sign of Jonah

 "There is something greater than Jonah here." Lk 11:32

When Jonah walked through Nineveh calling the people to repentance, the response was almost immediate. The king instructed everyone, even the animals, to join him in responding to Jonah's prophecy. Together they put on sackcloth and sat in ashes hoping that God would accept their acts of penitence and free them from destruction.

The scriptures are forever reminding us that God always listens and responds to our heartfelt cries. Not only does God lobby Moses to approach Pharaoh and demand the enslaved Hebrews be set free, God also listens to the cries of the poor who he reminds us are always close to him. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus would be born of poor parents, and like Jonah, would go towards Jerusalem announcing God's desire for our conversion and transformation.

We need to learn to walk with Jonah and Jesus, and respond to their cry.  Unless we commit ourselves to repent of our sins, our selfishness, our failure to recognize a world bigger than the United States, our desire for a kind of security in things, and money and power that only God can give, we risk admiring Jesus' pronouncements but failing to live them.

Today, listen closely and without fear for Jesus' call to conversion.

What does it mean to you to listen and respond to Jesus in the 21st century?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Rich Food and Choice Wines

 "The LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines."Is 25:6

The generosity of God is a constant Gospel theme, but we can only appreciate it if we stay attuned to our bodies. Because we too often reduce the spiritual life to peaceful "feelings" and what happens within us, we miss the power of God's goodness. Isaiah stretches us to think of God providing us not just with food and wine, but with rich food and choice wine because he has conquered sin and death.

In the ancient world people expected their kings and leaders to provide a great feast after a victory over their enemies or when a new covenant of peace was sealed, and Isaiah uses this image to help his listeners understand the fullness of God's love and God's inclusiveness. The feast which God provides is not only for those who participated in the battle, but for everyone.

We should have no doubt that Christ asks us to accept the same challenge. We must not be stingy, but give of our substance to those most in need, and we need to do this without regard to class, race, culture and background. God demands we give all who are hungry rich food and choice wine.

Today, share something you really treasure with a stranger.

What rich foods and choice wines have you received from God?

Friday, October 9, 2020

Living our Faith

 "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Lk 11:28

There are some who might get upset with this passage from Luke. When a woman in the crowd seems to praise Jesus’ mother saying, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed," Jesus reacts. A person’s life is not of value, he says, because of her parents or relatives, but by her willingness to listen and live the good news.

The Jesus of the gospels would never disparage his own mother’s goodness, but he would and does use the words of an anonymous woman in the crowd to remind his listeners that being born a Jew guarantees nothing. Were he alive today, he might well say that being born a Catholic means little unless one lives one’s religious faith and tradition.

Jesus was trying to remind his Jewish brothers and sisters that they were not better than others simply because of their religious clothing, roots or heritage. Rather, he wanted them to live their faith with integrity and a deep sense of justice not by lording it over others but by always remembering their own slavery in Egypt and their times of exile from the Promised Land.

Today ask God for the grace to go beyond the essentials of religious practice.

Have you had experiences that helped you appreciate the great gift of religious faith?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Mission Drift

"Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:26

In recent years, churches, not for profit movements and companies have been begun to reflect on what is called "mission drift," a concept that helps them focus first on their foundational goals and only secondarily on the monies needed to accomplish that purpose. When organizations recognize mission drift and address it, they manage their expenses more carefully and keep moving forward towards their goals.

Though it is always dangerous to disagree with Jesus, experience teaches us that there are people and organizations who forget to put their lights on lampstands so that everyone can benefit. Worse, some of them hoard their resources. Not only do they light lamps that only benefit them, they cling to money and resources far beyond their need because they convince themselves that they have earned whatever they have and it belongs to them. This attitude impoverishes everyone, including those rich churches and people who Jesus reminds us will have a very hard time entering the Kingdom of God.

Thank God, however, most people do put lamps on lampstands so that everyone in the house or world can see. Because they take time to honestly ask themselves whether they are drifting from their mission, they are able to remember that everything they have is a gift to be shared with those who have little, and that gratitude is the mark of every believer.

Today, ask yourself if your faith is "drifting."

What are the best tools you know for avoiding "mission drift?"

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ask for what you Need

"Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find." Lk 11:9

Most of us are too proud to ask others for help, except in the simplest matters. Determined to hold onto our independence for as long as possible, we miss some of the great delights of life. When we allow others to help us, everything changes. We realize that it is o.k. not to know certain things, not to be in charge, to be in charge.

More important, we often empower others when we ask for their insight or help. This is especially true with our children. I remember well when my parents asked me to help them with their finances. Although I had not had much experience in financial matters, there were plenty of friends who were more than capable, and they were only too happy to help me and my parents.

The Gospel today is reminding us to ask for help, to acknowledge our weakness and dependence, asserting all the while that God is waiting for our request and anxious to come to our aid, and while we might not always receive exactly what we think we need or want, the Lord will always be present to us as guide and companion. The 13th century Persian poet, Rumi, says it this way: "The door we are knocking on opens from the inside."

Today, knock of God's door just to tell him you are near.

What makes it difficult for you to ask for help?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Our Lady of the Rosary

 "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."1 Thess 5

Before his death, the Cistercian Thomas Keating became one of the best known teachers of Centering prayer, helping found the Contemplative Outreach program.  Keating suggests we find a quiet place, sit still and straight, breathe slowly and deeply, and then repeat a word or mantra, like Jesus or peace or help me Lord. The classic mantra, known as the Jesus prayer, which has its roots in Eastern Christian spirituality, is: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. When our attention wanders, we begin again by repeating our mantra, word or the Jesus prayer.

Isn’t that what the rosary helps us do? As we repeat Hail Mary after Hail Mary we focus on a mystery of Jesus' life to help us stay centered and rooted in Christ. There is no need to concentrate on every word of the Hail Mary. Rather, we breathe, enter into one of the mysteries of the Lord's life and ask the him to keep us “centered” in his presence. The rosary is very simple and, especially for those who might find the idea of centering prayer intimidating, it is a wonderful invitation to contemplation, a prayer form to which all of us are called.

Today, ask the Lord to keep you quiet enough interiorly so that you might be startled by the God who is always with us.

Do you have a special devotion that helps you pray everyday?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Facing our Fears

"You heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it." Gal 1:13

How can the early church be both at peace and persecuted? St Paul wants us to realize that when we are in the Spirit, living the Gospel and announcing it with power, fear dissipates. The presence of the Holy Spirit becomes tangible, something we can almost taste, and although we must endure difficult and dangerous trials, we are not overwhelmed.

Of course, the further any of us move away from our early days of conversion, the more fear returns. Wavering back and forth between strength and weakness, like the Jews in the desert, we find ourselves drifting from the ideals of our faith commitments. We build "sacred cows"  by accumulating money and power, hoping they will protect us from the foolishness and failures of faith, but soon a life propped up by wealth is drained of its sweetness and we know that hedging our bets offers no ultimate consolation. 

Today, recommit yourself to the entirely of the Gospel.

When is it most difficult for you to remain peaceful?

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Good Samaritan

 "But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight." Lk 10:33

The story of the good Samaritan is one of the most well known and powerful stories in the Gospels, and for good reason. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Accused of being syncretists, people who mixed religious traditions for their own self centered purposes, Samaritans also built their own temple to which non observant Jews were welcomed in contradiction to Jewish law.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. Too many people label others in ways that not only challenge their belief systems, but denigrate their persons, and Jesus will have none of it. The Good Samaritan, he reminds us, not only risks his own life by responding to the fellow who has been robbed, he brings him to an inn so that he can rest and recover from the attack. We know nothing else about this particular Samaritan. Whether he worshiped in the  "false" temple on Mt Gerazim in Samaria and therefore was judged unclean by the Jews was irrelevant. That he stopped and aided someone in need is Jesus' only concern.

Today, help someone in need.

What aspect of the story of the Good Samaritan most moves you?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

St Francis of Assisi

  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Lk 10:13

The name Francis remains in the forefront of the news these days. Pope Francis has made it so, but it is not always laudatory. Humble, honest, and unafraid to speak his mind, our Pope has challenged us to face the sexual abuse crisis head on and captivated the imagination of many around the world especially with his call to Care for all Creation. Calling the church to return to its foundations, Pope Francis is living up to his name, and although, like St Francis, he is making some Catholics nervous, he is doing what he promised when first elected.

St Francis of Assisi not only thought about the poor, he became poor and allowed God to turn his life upside down. Like the 3rd century martyr, St Maximilian, who said "I am a solder of Christ, I cannot fight," Francis fought not for dominance over his neighbors but for Gospel purity. Wanting to live so poorly that he and his brothers would have nothing to defend, he directed the friars to own nothing, eventually convincing the Roman hierarchy to approve their way of life. Francis' example continues to inspire thousands of women and men today.

Today, live simply so that others can live.

What should be our response to the poor?

Friday, October 2, 2020

Let the Children Teach Us

 “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike."  Lk 10:21

What is it about children that causes Jesus to hold them up as icons? Surely, they are charming and innocent, but there is more. Children live in awe and wonder. They see without blinders. They don't interpret what they see as much as delight in it, and in all of this, they teach us. Unlike the leaders of the Jewish community who are looking for ways to undermine Jesus, they don't care if he claims to be the Messiah. They only want to be close to him.

It should not surprise us that children are naturally contemplative, able to play or work at a project for hours without noticing the time. So fascinated are they by what is right in front of them, they are not easily distracted and teach us how to live fully each day. Jesus' praise for children is well founded and natural when we take time to reflect upon it.

Today, let your spirit be distracted by the awesome beauty of the world.

What most distracts you from living each day with joy and delight?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Guardian Angels

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Mt 18:10

Most of us work diligently not to despise anyone or anything, trying always to think of all creation as a gift from God. Nevertheless, we slip, we sin, we fail. In recent days, the actions of our Congress have led many to despise the intransigence of those we have elected to serve, but whose behavior too often seems self protective and rigid. Because we so need our representatives to remember all the people of this nation, especially the poor, we expect them to have the comprehensive and inclusive view of what a stoppage in government service might mean for the neediest of our citizens.

When Jesus wants his disciples and opponents to understand fully his attitude towards them and his expectations of them, he reminds them to look at children as icons of humility. Children, he insists, can teach all what it means to understand greatness. We are not called to dominate or manipulate others, but to serve one another like children and slaves, and to be innocent, vulnerable and alert to everything and everyone around us, especially the poor.

Today, remember that there are angels around us to protect us.

How do you counter arrogance in yourself and others?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

St Therese of the Child Jesus

 “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Lk 10:21)


Therese of Lisieux, who came to prominence at a time when the world was experiencing two world wars and violence of a kind never seen before, was one of the most popular saints of the 20th century. Therese’s “little way” made sense to the people of the United States who were overwhelmed by the loss of husbands, children, brothers and friends in wars fought far from home. Living each day with simplicity, handing one’s life over to God, and offering “every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love,” helped people who were being bombarded with painful news on a daily basis.

In recent days, Russia and United States have tried to broker a cease fire in Syria but it quickly fell apart.  We cannot help but wonder where the violence will end, and whether there isn't another way of responding to ISIS whose tactics are so overwhelmingly violent. Unless we search for new responses to those with whom we disagree, we will surely become numb and unable to to respond with a Gospel heart to those with whom we differ.

Perhaps Therese’s little way can still help us. If we commit ourselves anew to a simple path of prayer, conversation and patience, without denying the horrors of war, famine, disease and hunger, we might discover a God who is only too anxious to help us.

Today, live simply so that others can simply live.

How do you respond to violence against you in your own life?