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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Searching for Unity

"That they may be one." Jn 17: 22

Especially in the United States, it is important to speak plainly. As a nation, we ask our politicians to work with and for us, to seek simple and honest solutions to common problems and to be straightforward in their approach to difficult choices they may have to make. When our politicians fail in this regard, as they often have in recent years, we wonder about their priorities and whether they are really working for us or are more committed to their party loyalties.

The Jewish community had multiple political divisions at the time of Jesus. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and the Zealots were struggling among themselves for control of the Jewish community, and too often their battles obscured the law and the prophets, making it difficult for everyday believers to know what to think, to believe, and how Finding theto worship authentically.

Jesus, on the other hand, spoke plainly and with enormous common sense. He begs his disciples to be one in God's Spirit, to reflect the unity He has with his Father. A life of faith is simple. When we are one with all people across ethnic, religious and cultural lines, we proclaim hope and naturally share our strengths and our resources with those in need.

Today, pray to let go of unnecessary divisions.

What do you need to do to speak plainly like Jesus?




Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Letting Go for the Sake of God's Kingdom

"They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again." Acts 20:38

These days of the Corona Virus Pandemic keep all of us aware that life is short, sometimes harsh and that most people die alone. This a frightening and confusing picture. In the United States we have tried to create a world in which people, even when they are hospitalized, are surrounded by family and friends as they prepare to die. This is not, however, what happens to most people in the world, and it is not the picture Acts of the Apostles paints for us as Paul leaves Rome and heads back to Jerusalem.

Paul has alerted his disciples that he will most probably never see them again and he wants his followers to be at peace even though he knows they will face terrible trials for the sake of the Gospel. Can we do the same? Can we say to friends and family that we trust God completely to help us through our struggles, and that even if we don't see them again, we know that our love for one another was authentic, real and lasting? If this is not how we have lived, then we need to begin to live this way today and trust God to do the rest.

Go beyond your feelings today and embrace someone with prayer and love who you have avoided.

What can you do today to trust God to lead you toward authentic reconciliation and hope?


Monday, May 25, 2020

Living a Public Life of Faith

"What will happen to me there (in Jerusalem) I do not know, except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me." Acts 20 22-23

Faith is costly. St Paul knew this. When in Acts of the Apostles he warns the disciples to be faithful to the living word of Jesus, he knows some of them will be threatened, punished and even lose their lives. As he prepares to return to Jerusalem, he reminds the disciples that he did everything he could for them and will continue to do so, despite the cost, and expects them to do the same for one another and for the Gospel

Sometimes, because we live in the developed world, faith is not terribly costly. We are free for the most part to practice our faith and live it in freedom without too many threats from our government or culture, but we have to be cautious. If the only reason our faith is easy to practice is because we don't challenge the authorities then we have to reflect seriously about our public lives. Do we really work to protect life from its beginnings to its natural end? Do we work for a society that treasures children in the womb, those living on the edge of our society, the developmentally disabled and the elderly. These are real questions in the midst of pandemic and we cannot shrink from them.

Today, take a look at your village or city's budget and ask yourself about its priorities?

Whose public life of faith most impresses you?


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Listening to the Spirit

 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:2

Most of us were "catechized" early in life. We learned about the Gospel and its interpretation through a Catholic Christian lens.  We were introduced to the Creed, something not available to Paul or the earliest disciples of Jesus, and we grew in understanding, and occasionally in wisdom. Mostly, as children we grew in loyalty to the Catholic tradition and its beauty, but as we age it is important to be recatechized,  reevangelized, to learn about and be transformed by the Good News as adults.

Acts of the Apostles reminds us that many of the earliest disciples of St Paul, drawn to the mystery of Jesus, needed to learn more about the faith, especially the role of the Holy Spirit, and so do we. Instruction in our faith, utilizing simple and clear methods and language, is fine for children, but as we grow in faith, we need to take more time for prayer and reflection so that we can hear the Holy Spirit and be transformed more deeply into what Pope Francis calls "missionary disciples".  Practically, this means we need to listen quietly to the promptings of the Spirit, test them in conversation with others, and hand ourselves over the Spirit as guide and strength for the journey.

Today, take extra time for quiet, read a few verses of the Scripture, and listen.

Who taught you about the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit in order to grow in faith?


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Discernement

"When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying,...(they) devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." Acts 1:13

Time is radically important, especially when it feels like we don't have any, when there is too much to do personally and communally. But not taking time to discern how best to respond in faith to the personal concerns that we face and structural needs in the world will surely lead to mistakes from which it will be difficult to recover.

After the apostles accompanied Jesus to Mt Olivet where he ascended to his Father, they gathered in the upper room not simply to try to reclaim the energy that Jesus had given to them but to take time to reflect on how the Spirit would direct them to go forward with the Good News. The experience of Jesus being raised from the dead was powerful but would only sustain them if they continued to pray, reflect, discern and chart a course that would allow all to hear how God's mercy was a gift to all.

Today, take some extra time to reflect on an issue with which you have been struggling.

How has taking time for prayer and reflection helped you with demanding decisions?

Friday, May 22, 2020

To Whom do you Belong

"A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus." Acts 18:24

Apollos, who Acts of the Apostles tells us was an eloquent speaker, also appears in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. So polished was Apollos' preaching that some claimed they belonged to him. These days there are people who say they are Benedict XVI Catholics or Francis Catholics. This kind of language can never be helpful when trying to build a community of trust because it leads to comparisons and divisions. Paul will insist that we belong to Christ and to no other person, no matter how eloquent they are in speaking about Jesus, and it is important that we follow Paul''s teaching.

Belonging means prioritizing Jesus and his teaching as the focus of our lives. Committed to the community of faith, we pray regularly, break bread in memory of the one who has been raised from the dead, continue to learn about and live the Scriptures, and serve those most in need in the name of Jesus. This is a tall order but it should not overly disturb us that we often fail to live the fulness of the Gospel. Jesus only demands that we continue to return to him and his teaching and seek to enter the mysteries of faith with passion and hope.

Today, ask Jesus for the grace to enter more deeply into him and the life to which he has called you.

What most distracts you from the Gospel with passion and hope?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Trusting God to Hear Us

"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." Jn 15:13

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, they can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Ascension of the Lord

"Two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.'” Acts 1:11

Most of us have experienced being caught between conflicting feelings. Picture yourself at an airport sending a child off to college. Both proud and sad, you wave goodbye trying not to cry and leave the airport in a daze. A child with whom you have done your best is off for a new adventure, and you wonder whether she is prepared and ready to embrace the challenges. Even more poignantly, anyone who has helped parents die knows the pain of letting go and the relief that they are no longer in pain. Often, in situations like this, even when we have felt heavy burdened, we are lost for a while, not knowing what we ought next to do.

This is, I imagine, what was happening to the disciples of Jesus at the Ascension. While they knew the Spirit of God would be with them, letting go of Jesus was difficult. He had been their guide, their mentor and their security. It is no wonder they were looking up into the sky as their friend returned to his Father. Their loss was deep, even though their faith assured them they were not alone.

We should expect to experience the absence of Jesus regularly during life. A Japanese proverb reminds us: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise. Only when we have lost something precious, are we able to appreciate it fully, and more important, see what else might be available to us when we open our eyes and heart to God's plan.

Today, let go of the Jesus you know and ask to experience him more fully through God's eyes.

How do you make sense of the feast of the Ascension?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Unknown Gods

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Earthquakes

"There was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16:26

Several years ago, on my way to Honduras to visit our young friars studying Spanish, I stopped in El Salvador for a couple of days, and while there experienced a small earthquake. It was unnerving, to say the least. One of our Salvadoran postulants immediately jumped up and ran out of the building. Because he had suffered through a major earthquake, he was taking no chances. Like the guard in the prison where the apostles were jailed, I didn't know what to do. I sat there hoping it would pass and waited for instructions from the Salvadoran friars.

Acts of the Apostles helps us in this regard. No doubt, St Paul, despite having been freed from prison by a sudden earthquake, was afraid, but he does not dwell on the miracle of his escape to demonstrate the power of God. Rather, he uses the opportunity of his new found freedom to continue his missionary journey and begins to speak about the altar to the "unknown God," that he came upon in Athens.

Today, pray not to overreact to the surprises and trials life, but to wait in prayer to know God's desire.

Have you experienced "earthquakes" in your life that led you to deeper faith?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Generosity

“'If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,' and she (Lydia) prevailed on us." Acts 16:15

Every now and then we come upon a person in the scripture who stops us in our tracks, who makes us think in bigger terms and invites us to change. Lydia is such a woman. Who is this woman in a patriarchal and hierarchical society who owns her own home, and one that was large enough to invite others not only to visit but to stay? Clearly successful as a cloth merchant, she was newly baptized and wanted to offer Paul and Silas a place to rest, eat and be refreshed, and no doubt also wanted to learn more from them about Jesus. Her generosity not only gave Paul and his companions more time to preach God's word, it also have her and her family access to a wisdom and dream that had captured them.

Offering and accepting generosity is an important virtue for believers. Realizing that most of us have more than we need, we learn that giving to others freely, even from our substance, changes us. Likewise, accepting the generosity of others humbles us and keeps us grateful.

Today, be like Lydia. Offering your bounty and person to others with joy.

Whose generosity has touched and shaped you in faith?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Speaking on behalf of the Voiceless

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." Jn 14:16

Having someone to help us, especially when we are trying to discern how to tackle serious and important questions, is always a benefit, and this is true for individuals as well as groups. Pastors, for instance, are glad to have others help with the administration and financial concerns of their parishes, but  more importantly, they ought to be grateful to have a parish council work with them to sift through the many questions that emerge about the direction and life of the parish as a whole.

Jesus promises us that the help he will give us will always be available. The Spirit of God, who Jesus calls an Advocate (Latin for helper or voice) will be among us to strengthen and direct us for the sake of the Gospel. We can rely on this Spirit always and proclaim this as the basis for our faith and hope. Our Advocate will also send us as advocates to others seeking to know God more intimately.

The call to be advocates, to speak on behalf of others who are voiceless, is a clear demand of the Gospel, but we must be careful to avoid the arrogance of presuming we know what others want or need. While the Gospel makes it clear that walking with and uncovering the deep human concerns of others, especially about human rights, is an essential element of discipleship, we must learn to speak with not for those whose voice is rarely heard.

Today, thank God for the Spirit as Helper and Voice.

Have you had the privilege of speaking with and on behalf of others who were voiceless?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Lifting the Burden of the Poor

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Living the Gospel

"t is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities." Acts 15:27

How comforting it is to learn than the Holy Spirit does not want to burden us with anything beyond the necessities of the Gospel. Of course, there have been and will be thousands of discussions about what the necessities are at any given time in history. These days, for instance, it should be clear to any person committed to the Gospel that one of the necessities is making sure during the time of Covid 19 that every person in need of medical help, no matter where they live in the world, have access to it, and of course this is a problem and a burden for those of us living in the developed world.

Unless we work towards a world that values every person as a child of God, precious and important, we cannot say we are living the Gospel. The Good News is this. God sent Jesus to alert everyone to the knowledge and truth of God's unconditional love for all God's children. Those already blessed with faith have two simple obligations. They must proclaim this truth with their lives of witness and service, and they must help create a world where every person is valued as a child of living God. Without these commitments, there is no reason for people who have never heard the word to listen or respond by seeking Baptism.

Today, sit quietly and ask yourself how well the Good News is being heard through your witness.

Who helped you understand the fullness of God's message and love?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

St Matthias

"And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE. Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives, though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Resolving Disagreements

"'Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.' Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question." Acts 15 1-2

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Moving Beyond Fear

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

The cost of discipleship for Jesus' followers was high. Almost all of his apostles would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.  Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this.

The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Service even in Persecution

"There was an attempt in Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas." Acts 14:5

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods'd name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Being a Gift for Others

"They chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism." Acts 6:5

Acts of Apostles tells us why the Apostles chose Stephen to help them in the mission of Jesus. Stephen was "filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," but it simply names the others. Why did the Apostles choose Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas? Why we have we been chosen as disciples?

Every person has gifts, many of which are hard to see and appreciate. When someone is a good listener, we appreciate their ability to sit quietly and pay attention to us without being distracted, but we can also be frustrated when they choose not to have an opinion about our concerns. Others have the ability to articulate matters carefully and succinctly, but can also make us wonder if life is as transparent and easy as their words seem to make it.

No doubt Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas had gifts that benefited the community, but we should not expect them or our friends to have answers to every problem. Rather, we pray to be grateful for the uniqueness of what each person brings to us, and seek to make our gifts available to others. Doing this regularly will us find and celebrate our vocation.

Today, pray to hear God's daily call to live the Gospel as a gift for others.

Have you discovered gifts in others that you never knew were there?

Friday, May 8, 2020

Peace in Persecution

"The Jewish (leaders) stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas." Acts 13:50

How can the early church be both at peace and persecuted? The author of Acts, probably Luke, 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. 

Faith is an all in kind of life. We must give ourselves over totally to a loving God and enter the mysteries of daily life with little understanding or insight, but with great hope. The witness we can offer others at times of great stress is powerful. Knowing we are on God's path despite our struggles helps others believe more deeply in a Christianity that is simultaneously tough and tender.

Today, recommit yourself to the entirely of the Gospel.

When is it most difficult for you to remain peaceful?

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Facing Our Fears

"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Humility

"When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: 'Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" Jn 13:16

When Jesus assumed the posture of a slave and washed the feet of his apostles, he startled them and us. That we ought to be kind to one another and welcoming to all, even our enemies, is clear, but that we should kneel down and wash others' feet made no sense at the time of Jesus and continues to feel alien to us. While we might offer someone access to a bathroom to refresh themselves, the idea of washing their feet would never occur to us.

In Jesus' day washing feet was common, but it was done by women and foreign slaves. Heads of household would never wash feet, and although many of the great figures of the Hebrew bible offered kind service to their friends and family, Jesus' willingness to stoop to wash his disciples feet signalled a new kind of leadership and a radical view of God.  Jesus' challenge was clear. We must see ourselves as less in order that God can be more.

Today, think about the God in others, not your own power or prestige.

Who taught you most about a life of Christian service?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Laying on of Hands

“'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off."

In many cultures, young people, especially those leaving their country for a new land and a new life, must approach their grandparents to ask for a blessing. This is no small matter. It is as if the young people who are leaving are being clothed in the culture and love of their country and ancestors.

This is what happened to Barnabas and Saul when they were being "missioned" to Cyprus. Strengthened and empowered by the elders in their community who laid hands on them, they knew they were not alone and that the entire community of Christians in Antioch where with them and would strengthen them through prayer.

It is important for us to remember that we have been commissioned at Baptism, especially during a period when our church, nation and world are being shaken by the devastation of the Corona Virus. We are not alone. No matter what happens to us, we are in Christ and our task of announcing the Good News remains. We must live as if death itself does not matter for we have been promised life forever.

Today, act fearlessly but not foolishly. Find ways to engage people with kindness and compassion.

Whose faith life and lifestyle most impressed you and helped you during dark times?


Monday, May 4, 2020

Be Grateful for the Shepherds Among Us

"My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

Most of us have had people in our lives who seem able to hear us on a level that both sustains and challenges us. Gifted with the ability not to speak too quickly or forcefully, our shepherds help us understand ourselves and the God who seems silent but always has a message. Although we often resist their insights, eventually we let go and trust the God who speaks through them.

Today, be grateful for the shepherds in your life who help you hear God's voice.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Good Shepherd

"Jesus said: 'I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.'" Jn 10:11

God as our good shepherd has always been an attractive, inviting and empowering notion for believers. In the ancient world, shepherds were the underclass. Although they had no voice in the society, they played critically important roles, especially for the poor. Because the poor could not afford their own sheep pens, shepherds were hired to look over the sheep of many families in a common pen throughout the night, and  while they were able to rest, they could not sleep since it was their task to protect the sheep from predators. In order to do this effectively, shepherds would lie down across the opening of the sheep pen in order to protect the sheep entrusted to them. That the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament remind us that God and Jesus are shepherds, willing to give their lives for their sheep, is both comforting and challenging

These days, because people are living so much longer, children often become "shepherds" to their parents, and it is these "children" caring for their parents who show us a new face of God's unconditional love. Every time I visit a hospital or nursing home and encounter people feeding and clothing their parents of a daily basis, I am moved and strengthened by their generosity and unselfishness. Theirs is a heavy burden, but like Good Shepherds, they do it graciously and compassionately.

Today, thank someone who has been a Good Shepherd to you.



What is your most helpful image of God?

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Listening for the Shepherd's Voice

"The sheep hear his voice." Jn 10:4

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

Most of us have had people in our lives who seem able to hear us on a level that both sustains and challenges us. Gifted with the ability not to speak too quickly or forcefully, our shepherds help us understand ourselves and the God who seems silent but always has a message. Although we often resist their insights, eventually we let go and trust the God who speaks through them.

Today, be grateful for the shepherds in your life who help you hear God's voice.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Friday, May 1, 2020

Trusting Jesus

"Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'” Jn 6:67

When friends are not who we thought them to be, especially if they speak poorly of us, we are disappointed and disillusioned.  We might even be tempted to end our friendship, or at the very least step away from it for a while. Shock does that to us. Unsure of someone else, we also wonder how we missed something important about them. Were we so needy that we failed to realize that our relationship was not as secure or as deep as we imagined?

John's gospel reminds us that not all of Jesus' disciples remained true to him. Discipleship, like friendship, is built not on completely understanding the other, but on trusting that the relationship is authentic and rooted in God's love and the truth of the Gospel. Because we know that God is faithful, we can trust that whatever God teaches is for our good and glory of God. Trusting God is the root of our faith and faithfulness.

Today,  ask not for understanding but acceptance.

How do you manage the loss of a friendship?

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Conversion of St Paul

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’" Acts 22:6-8

Most conversions are not as dramatic as St Paul's, but almost all of us have Epiphany moments, times when the light goes on and we see clearly how God has been active in our lives, and most of these events come when we least expect them. At the same time, it is important not to focus too much on any single event or moment in our lives. Conversion moments are intended to give us a direction, not trap us in the past clinging to consolation.

It is important to take time regularly to reflect on our own conversion story. Asking ourselves how God has entered and redirected our lives, though distressing at times, helps us remember that God is always near, inviting us to move more deeply into the mystery of his love. When we do this with others, moreover, we build a community of faith that strengthens all who are willing to share and grow together towards the heart of God.

Today, take a moment to pray in gratitude for your own conversion moments.


What about your own conversion continues to guide your faith journey?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Bible's Value

“'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?'” Acts 8:30

Unfortunately, in a Twitter world where all communication is limited to 280 characters, too many believers cling to or focus on one phrase from the Gospel and use it as a lens for their spiritual lives. Doing this almost always leads to misunderstanding and confusion.  The New Testament cannot be fairly read or understood when we remove it from its own cultural context and setting.

The Ethiopian eunuch reading the scriptures alone knew he needed help and asked Philip to instruct him There should be little doubt that Philip responded to this seeker's request using all the information and skill he had. Blessed with so much wonderful scholarship and insight, we ought to follow Philip's example in the 21st century. Don't just read the scripture regularly or return to your favorite passages, taste the Word of God, chew on it and savor it.

Today, pick up a Catholic study bible and read the introduction to one of the Gospels.

Who or what most helped you to understand the scriptures more deeply?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Accepting Ridicule

"Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." Acts 8: 3-4

It is startling to hear about Saul's (St Paul's) violent assault on those professing faith in Jesus. It is one thing to attack men physically, but dragging women out of their homes and throwing them into prison tells us not only about Saul's vitriol, but about the level of upset the Jewish community had with those who would soon be called Christians. Violence against women, and others without social standing, is always a sign of a person or culture that is out of control.

At the same time, it is important for us to hear about and accept how difficult life was for the first Christians. Not only did the followers of Jesus venture forth into a hostile Gentile world, they felt enormous pressure from within the community out of which they came. In order to follow Jesus, they risked everything, and eventually lost everything, even their lives. But it was the promise that when they lost their lives they would gain eternal life that gave them the courage to let go, to continue to preach the Good News, and not worry about the results. Their task was to be faithful, not to be successful.

While too many people in the 21st century continue to be persecuted for their religious convictions, Christians know that suffering for the reign of God is worth it when done for the right reasons. Jesus' promise to give life to those who die for the sake of the Good News remains the ground upon which we build our lives.

Today, accept whatever ridicule comes your way for professing the Gospel.

Have you ever suffered for your Gospel convictions?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Religious Intolerance

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7: 59-60

The reasons we reject others are many. Sometimes we don't like or trust the person. At other times, their message annoys or upsets us, and unfortunately, there are some who reject others because of race, religious, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation. Although most of us have been raised with the bromide, Don't judge a book by its cover, we all have our prejudices.

Stephen was rejected simply because he was preaching the salvation of Jesus Christ, a message that frightened traditional religious types who used their power to control others' lives. When Stephen's wisdom and spirit began to sway people towards Christ and away from the synagogue, his fate was sealed. Some scholars believe that Stephen had attended and worshiped at the synagogue in which he was preaching, making his sin even greater. To draw others away from the Talmud was bad enough but to do it to one's neighbors and friends was a much worse offense.

Today, be grateful for those who live and speak our faith with power no matter the cost.

Have you ever been attacked or rejected because of your religious faith?

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Feed the Hungry

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

While Jesus accepted the people who followed him for who they were, he also knew that some sought him out for the wrong reasons, and he regularly corrects and challenges them and us not to look to him  only for miracles and food, but to pray and work for a food that will last.

Although we know this side of Jesus, it can be difficult to accept his directives, especially when we are struggling. Anxious to be free of suffering for ourselves or others, we pray for God's intervention without bothering to think or even wonder whether our desire will help build God's reign.

When we read the scriptures about the people Jesus healed, we are reminded not to focus too narrowly on the wonder of healing, but on the life of faith which the healed person led. Mark's gospel is especially telling in this regard. "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." (Mk 10:52) Ultimately, the healing of Jesus is for others. Jesus expect those he heals to "go" and announce the Good News by the way they live and care for others.

Today, feed someone with kindness.

What most interferes with your following Jesus freely?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Road to Emmaus

Two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." Lk 24: 13-14

The story of the disciples who meet Jesus "on the road to Emmaus" is one of the most popular narratives in the New Testament. Because all of us have been disappointed, blinded as it were, in the way life unfolds and often disappoints, we can identify with the disciples going to Emmaus. Wanting to make sense out of their hurt, grief and confusion, they become so concerned with their own upset, they do no recognize Jesus walking with them.

Knowing what blinds us to the obvious is important, but only the first step. The Gospel is about transformation, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus are a good example. Did they keep their eyes open after they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread? Were they anxious to return to Jerusalem and let everyone know about Jesus being among them?

These are especially important questions during difficult times. We all have periods of blindness. Grieving can do this. So can the loss of a job, or a physical move to a new city and home, but unless we attend to the loss and ask for new eyes and a new heart, we will miss the grace buried in our grief that makes resurrection possible.

Today, open your eyes wherever you are and be quiet. See what is right in front of you.

What kinds of events blind you to the ordinary?

Friday, April 24, 2020

St Mark

"Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another." 1 Peter 5:5

Commentaries on the scriptures are full of midrash, a homiletic method of biblical explanation that fills in the gaps that the text does not reveal directly. There are midrashim about Mary, for instance, at Cana which suggest what she was thinking when she told Jesus, "They have no wine."

Another Mirash about the miracle at Cana concerns Mark, whose feast we celebrate today. Legend has it that he was one of the servants who filled the six stone water jars with water. When Jesus changed the water to wine, Mark was especially moved by Jesus' power and compassion, and it was at Cana that he decided to follow Jesus as a disciple.

Though we cannot "prove" any of these stories through the lens of history as we record it today, we can be sure that something stirred the hearts of those who encountered Jesus to follow him and risk their lives to proclaim the good news he was preaching.  The same is true for us. Very few conversions that last are built on intellect alone. Only when our hearts are moved does the truth of the Gospel change us forever.

Today, think about the experiences of faith you have had and be grateful?

What stories of conversion most impacted your faith life?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trying not to Waste

"Gather the fragments left over." Jn 6:13

Waste is a terrible sin. Most of us learned this simple truth when we were young. Food especially was too important to waste and yet today researchers tell us that 30% to 40% of food is wasted in the United States. Every time we friars make too much food and it isn't consumed as leftovers, I feel guilt. All of us, I imagine, can do better with preparing and consuming only the food we will eat.

How awful our own practices in the United States seem over against today's Gospel. Jesus commanded his disciples to “"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.' So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat." I wonder what Jesus then did with the leftovers? Did he give some to those seemed most in need? Did he encourage the disciples to take some for themselves? What would you do? How do you think we could better in the United States and in our own families and religious communities?

Today, try to prepare only enough food you can reasonably eat.

Who most influenced you in enjoying the precious food we have and not to waste?

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Listening to Cultural Difference

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5 29-30

How easy it sometimes is to ignore the wisdom of those who are different from us. Unless someone's language and cultural lenses are familiar to us, we too often dismiss what they say and who they are. Because Jesus' disciples were poor and probably unlettered, the leaders of the Jewish and Roman communities did not want to listen to them. I know this failure in my own life.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to bring day old bread by the boxful to the poor of a parish where the Capuchins served. We were happy to give our struggling friends a little security for the days and weeks ahead. How amazed I was that evening passing through the parish to see the same people to whom we had brought more bread than they could eat walking the streets distributing bread to other need people. At first, I was troubled, but then I was touched by their wisdom. Most of them had only small freezers on top of their refrigerators. If they stuffed the freezer with bread they would have to throw out other items. How much more sense it to help others rather than to horde the gift they had received.

Today, don't jump to conclusions about something you don't immediately understand.

What has surprised you about the wisdom and insights of people from other cultures and nations?


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Wealth of God's Love

"God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him...might have eternal life." Jn 3:15

A few weeks ago, while leading a parish mission, I was trying to convince a group of older people that because God called me to be a friar I was very rich. While I own no property or liquid assets, my life has been full of blessings and I am very grateful. In fact, the communion of saints is very real to me. I have not just met a few saints, I have been surrounded by them, lifted up by their love and been assured that I will always be loved.

My words, however, did not seem to impress my listeners who were not anxious to hear, especially with the Stock Market plunging during Covid 19, that having little or nothing was a great blessing. Neither, it seemed, did they want to hear that especially during a pandemic Christians are called to serve others around the world with compassion and joy. Its not that those attending the mission didn't believe in God's mercy. Rather, their anxiety and fear were getting in the way of their deepest values

Life is about letting go of our transgressions and sins and allowing God to heal us and those we have sinned against, actions which are beyond our control but which God is anxious to complete in us. Because of God's unconditional love for us, God keeps offering us mercy and new life.

Today, show God's mercy to someone who has hurt you.

How have you experienced God's mercy and forgiveness?w

Monday, April 20, 2020

Private Property

"The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common." Acts 4:32

One of the most vexing questions that bedevils Christians is the right to private property. Especially in a world where the distribution of wealth is so uneven, the question of private property becomes vitally important. This is not to challenge the radical right of people to possess and protect things as their own, but rather to pray about how to discern what level of private property, especially during a pandemic, protects both the rights of individuals and the common good.

The question of discernment is most important here. Discernment, in a classical sense, is the sifting through of two goods. Granting that famous athletes and movie stars need to protect themselves and their families more than the rest of us, their homes are among the most egregious examples of excess in this regard. Why any family with one or two children would build a 22,000 square foot mansion with an elevator is incomprehensible to most, but it does get us thinking and praying about what is adequate and necessary. When the rights of a few are protected to the detriment of the many, the question of how best to distribute food and goods must be engaged by thoughtful and prayerful believers.

Today, think about justice in the distribution of goods.

How do you think we ought to apply the

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Born Again

“How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jn 3:4

Sometimes we speak of being born again casually, yet being born again, as Nicodemus testifies, is not easy to understand. To be born again in faith means that we are prepared to let go of our understanding and interpretation of life and faith, and ask God to show us the way to a new life. The great saints demonstrate this over and over.

St Francis of Assisi, born to wealth and prosperity, lived his faith before his conversion, but it was only when God helped him look at a leper by the side of the road with compassion, something he tried so hard not to do, that he was born again and found the grace to become a troubadour of the Great King. Empowered by God to review his life and reassess how he was living, Francis began to care for lepers everyday so that he would see them, not as weak and broken, but as children of God from whom he could learn much about acceptance and hope.

Today, especially during the Corona Virus pandemic, ask for the grace to review and renew your life.

Have you had an experience of renewal of faith that you might call being born again?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Divine Mercy Sunday

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” Jn 20: 27-29

We wonder about Thomas. Is he "all of us," full of doubts that inhibit our relationship with God and most of the people in our lives? Is he our stubborn younger brother or sister who was spoiled as a baby and still resists change not to his or her liking? Was Jesus annoyed with Thomas for not listening to the other disciples who assured him the Lord had risen?

None of these questions is answered definitively in today's Gospel. What we can be sure of is that Jesus addresses Thomas' doubts and reminds him that others, who will not have the joy of seeing Jesus in the flesh, but who believe anyway, are blessed. That's us, at least most of the time. Born into faith filled families, most of us treasure the gift of faith, practice it and accept both its limitations and its delights. We know that faith is not intended to free us from every trial, hurt and confusion, but we also believe that faith will sustain us even at those times when life makes no sense, or we must endure suffering and loss.

The mercy of God, we learn, is always available to us no matter how often we take faith for granted or turn away from its teachings. With Thomas, we open our eyes to the work of the Lord all around us and realize how blind we have been. Even as we look, God's mercy is at work.

Today, offer mercy like God, freely and without exception.

How have you experienced God's mercy when you were struggling?



Friday, April 17, 2020

Free of Fear

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19

When "ordinary" (Act 4:13) people begin to act in ways we don't expect, we look for easy explanations. Perhaps they have been prompted to speak by others, or maybe they have had an experience that will sustain them for a while, but will soon dissipate. That they may have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit is often the last possibility we consider. When we do this we risk ignoring God's work in those from whom we expect nothing, and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish leaders in the Acts of the Apostles.

Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus, despite being warned by the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus or claim to speak in his name, cannot be quiet, and because of this expose themselves to danger. In every way the disciples' actions are remarkable. Filled with fear just a few days before the death of Jesus, they are now able to speak and act in ways that demand attention. The Jewish leaders are alarmed and try to silence them, but nothing works.

Easter's promises often do this to us. Convinced finally that God will always be with us, our fear subsides and we find the courage to speak clearly about what God has done in us despite the consequences. The early martyrs, including all the apostles, Thomas Becket, Oscar Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and thousands of others bear witness to this reality. When the good news of God's justice and freedom is threatened, especially for "ordinary" people and the poor, we must speak out and accept the consequences.

Today, ask God to free you from the fear that inhibits your ability to speak Good News.



Have you known someone who risked everything to live the gospel?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I'm going Fishing

Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." Jn 21:3

All the disciples, it seems, try to return to what they know after the death of Jesus. Whether they were discouraged, confused or upset is not clear. Today's gospel tells the story of Peter and his friends "going fishing." Though fishing for sport and relaxation were not really options in the ancient world, Peter's words remind me of times I've gone fishing to clear my mind, relax my spirit and day dream. I often tell people that I go fishing, not catching, not because I never catch a fish, but because sitting quietly on the at the edge of a stream or lake is one of the most relaxing things I can do. There is no evidence that Peter is doing this, but many people return to what they know soon after a difficult or dark time in their lives. We do anything to make life seem normal again, to let go of confusion and ground ourselves.

Whatever the case for Peter and his friends, when Jesus appears to them after they had spent the night catching nothing, he enters their lives again in the most ordinary of ways. He asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. Even though he has been raised up, he reminds his disciples that his mission is the same and so is theirs. They are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned, but now they will be full of a new power, the realization that he has broken the bonds of death. They need not fear or be confused. Though their ordinary lives will be difficult, they will endure because he is with them. Is it any different for us?

Today, do the ordinary tasks of your life with purpose and hope.

When have you experienced God's presence in the everyday events of your life?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Resurrection of our Bodies

"Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Lk 24:38

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. 
All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How we will see and touch others after death is not clear, but that we will be raised body and soul is.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body and the promise of bodily resurrection.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Share Your Gifts

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you." Acts 3:6

Easter is not just about receiving with joy the promise of eternal life. It is about giving it away. Peter's response to the man crippled from birth is a perfect example of this. Not worried about what he doesn't have, Peter gives what he does have, and this ought to be the model for every believer. Some have the financial ability to help others. Some have time to give. Others can pray, but all of us have to give something.

Several years before my mother died she wanted to talk about her living situation. It was a time similar to today. Many people has lost their jobs and homes and she was living in a home with two extra small bedrooms. Guilty about having so much while others were suffering, she wanted to know whether I thought she should offer the extra bedrooms to some homeless people. Stunned by her generosity, I also reacted strongly against the proposal. A woman of 85 living alone should not open her home to strangers, but what should she do? More important, what should we do, not just with our surplus, but with our substance.

Become Easter for others. Focus, like Peter, on what you do have, and give it away. Kindness costs nothing but means everything. Listening takes time, but lasts a lifetime. Compassion towards those who seem ungrateful is difficult, but is demanded by the gospel.

Today, think of your gifts and share them.

Has anyone ever stunned you with their kindness when you expected nothing?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Easter Tuesday

Jesus said to Mary, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." Jn 20:17

It is natural for us to cling to what we know, especially when we are comfortable and secure. Parents know this in a particular way when they send a child to school for the first time. Not only is it difficult for them to let go, often their children also struggle to learn how to care for themselves in a new environment. Change, though necessary, involves risk, and without change, we will not meet new people or engage new situations.

Our bodies teach us this in dramatic ways. The cells lining our intestine replace themselves once a week, and even the long lasting cells of our pancreas replace themselves every year. If these cells do not replace themselves properly and adequately, we get sick. The same is true for our spirits.

Mary Magdalene was grieving, crying outside the tomb of Jesus. When the man she thought was a gardener called her by name, she knew it was the Lord, and naturally believed that everything would soon return to normal. Jesus was alive and with them and would continue to instruct them about God's love and their responsibilities, especially to the poor. But Jesus is clear with Mary, and with us. Don't cling to me. Don't cling to what you know well just because you are comfortable. Trust me and even more powerful things will be done in you and among us.

This is another of Easter's challenges. The more we understand how God wants to work in us, the more we will be anxious to follow him and change. Will Rogers said it succinctly, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

Today, ask for the strength to let go of anything to which you are clinging unhealthily.



What helps you trust that there is still much growing in faith in front of you?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Monday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter, the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is 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. Easter is a 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?

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Sunday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter, the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is 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. Easter is a 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?

Friday, April 10, 2020

Easter Vigil

"Let there be light." Gen 1:3

Living without light for long periods of time impacts us in powerful and negative ways. We feel isolated and paranoid. We see and hear things that are not there, and we find it almost impossible to know what time of day or night it is. Forced to go within, we are faced with a terrible emptiness, especially if we have lived our entire lives in the external world.

Recent studies about people living in solitary confinement for long periods of time reinforce these notions. Many people who isolated, even from other prisoners, suffer from severe mental illness and take their own lives. The thought of living without the light of conversation, simple friendship and external stimulus is simply too much to take.

The Easter Vigil, especially this year,  reminds us of this in the most basic of ways. God, Genesis teaches us, made light for us and for our delight. God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others. More, God sent the Christ as a light to all nations so that we might proclaim God's love in this most fundamental of ways. Even if we have to do this at home, celebrating the new light of Easter is an essential Christian practice.

Today, be an Easter light for someone living in darkness.



Who has been Easter light for you?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Good Friday

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." Is 53:7

Silence is an essential spiritual practice for anyone wanting to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love for us in Jesus. Taking fifteen minutes once or twice a day to sit in the middle of life as it unfolds without saying anything or trying to understand, we give ourselves to God without explanation or expectation and we do this in memory of the Christ who lived and hung upon the the cross for us. When we choose to be quiet like this, inside and out, we usually see more clearly, but not necessarily understand more of God's plan. Rather, in silence we make ourselves available to God for whatever God intends. This kind of abandonment is difficult but necessary, especially during the Sacred Triduum.

Good Friday is a good time to look quietly upon the cross, or in the words of St Clare of Assisi, to gaze upon the God who gave his life for us. There are no words to adequately articulate this mystery, and although we try, there is no making sense of God's incredible sacrifice. God wants to be near us for eternity and so does the unthinkable. God dwells among us, suffers and dies so that we might know more completely the depth of his love. We could never imagine this, nor would we want God to die. Death is Jesus' choice, not to exalt suffering for itself, but to submit himself to his Father's will for our salvation. 

Today, find fifteen or twenty minutes to be quiet with God. There is no need to say anything.



How difficult is it for you to sit quietly in the presence of God?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Holy Thursday

"On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household...This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight." Ex 12 3-4

Most of us, like the Israelites of old, are not really sure we want to be set free. Although the Lord leads his chosen people out of Egypt and promises to accompany them to the Promised Land, they, like all of us, must  first go through the desert.

Being in flight or on the road is never easy. We don't have a place or a bed to call our own. The smells and sights of waking up are different every day, and the people we meet along the way are not our friends. Lacking the familiar, we get testy and easily annoyed, and sometimes yearn for the past with all its problems.

Traveling light, not by choice but necessity, our faults and the idiosyncrasies of our family and fellow pilgrims are much more obvious and annoying. Still, we must go forward. The Promised Land beckons us, and as long as we keep it in mind, it is much richer than what we left behind.

Today, let go of  one thing to which you are clinging.

Do your memories of God's intervention in your life hold you down or set you free?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Power of Words

"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." Is 50:4

It is always difficult to know what to say to people who are suffering. Sometimes words get in the way, are empty or miss the point entirely. All of us have cringed at wakes and funerals hearing people try to offer comforting words but failing miserably. While we feel for them and are glad they tried, we sometimes wish they said nothing.

On the other hand, the speeches and sermons of people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King continue to echo the power and importance of carefully crafted words even in a digital age. Who can listen to Dr King's I have a Dream speech and not be moved?

Although we have no recordings of the Prophet Isaiah's words, that he understands how to rouse the weary is clear. Committed to the God he knows from personal experience, Isaiah assures the Israelites that God pleads their cause, looks past their faults and wants to be close to them, even when they turn away from God. Every time we read Isaiah our spirits are lifted with hope and new dreams, a perfect beginning to Holy Week.

Today, speak a simple word of comfort to someone suffering.

Whose words most move you to help others?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Betrayal

"Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'” Jn 13:21

There are moments throughout the Gospel of John especially that remind us of Jesus' full humanity. Learning of Lazarus' death, he weeps, and more than once John tells us that Jesus was troubled. That he was at table with friends and disciples when his feelings bubble up makes his situation even more difficult. Meals are supposed to be times of relaxation and rest, especially when we are eating at the end of a day, not a time to wonder about betrayal.

The Protestant reformer John Calvin sums it up this way, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” and in doing so the Lord assures us that we are never alone. At the same time, there are situations when we don't want hear about Jesus' feelings. Troubled ourselves, we want Jesus to rescue, not accompany, us. Disappointed, we breathe deeply and wonder where the Gospel is taking us.

Holy Week is leading all of us to Jerusalem and it will not be easy. We must confront our own demons and fears, and admit to the times we have turned away from the Lord, betrayed him and ourselves, by letting our selfishness rule our decision making. In the end, however, Jesus will look past all our shortcomings if we have the courage to ask forgiveness and begin again.

Today, ask to begin the journey again.

What most troubles you about your faith life?



Sunday, April 5, 2020

Being a Light for Others

"I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind." Is 42:6

Living without light for long periods of time impacts us in powerful and negative ways. We feel isolated and paranoid. We see and hear things that are not there, and we find it almost impossible to know what time of day or night it is. Forced to go within, we are faced with a terrible emptiness, especially if we have lived our entire lives in the external world.

Recent studies about people living in solitary confinement for long periods of time reinforce these notions. Many people who isolated, even from other prisoners, suffer from severe mental illness and take their own lives. The thought of living without the light of conversation, simple friendship and external stimulus is simply too much to take. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God made everything for our joy and peace. God wants us to live in light and be light for others.

Today, be a light for someone living in darkness.



Who has been Easter light for you?

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Palm Sunday

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Lk 19:40

On occasion, when we find ourselves in a cynical or sad mood, we refer with some disdain to A&P Catholics, those who celebrate with us only on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday because they get something free to take home!  How awful of us to judge, especially at the beginning of the holiest week of the church year. Shouldn't we be glad that our sisters and brothers in Christ want to express their faith publicly? Shouldn't we trust that God will take their gestures of belonging and use them as seeds that have only to be watered to grow into something wonderful and transforming for them and all they know and meet?

Because Jesus' disciples were proud to be associated with him, they spoke enthusiastically of his influence and spread his message of hope to everyone they met, but like most new believers their actions sometimes seemed shallow and showy. Accordingly, the leaders of the Jewish community tell Jesus to control his followers actions more carefully, but Jesus refuses, knowing that his disciples needed to speak of their transformation and belief, even if it appeared overdone, in order to test their own commitment and publicly honor him.

Holy Week is upon us, a time of great joy and hope, and one that demands we, like Jesus' first disciples, be more publicly committed to living the mysteries of faith. If this means we risk seeming too religious for some people's taste, so be it. If we don't live our faith publicly, how will the Good News be proclaimed?

Today, wave a palm of hope for someone who seems lost.

What do you think is the best way to express your faith publicly?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Dealing with Threats

"If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” Jn 11:48

The threat of losing their temple sanctuary, and the power and prestige associated with it, paralyzed the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. Overwhelmed by the Roman presence in their "promised land," they did everything they could to preserve the few freedoms they had, and no small town healer or prophet, like Jesus of Nazareth, would be allowed to interfere.

When we are under pressure to perform or produce, we often refuse to listen to people on the edge of our societies for fear their viewpoints will further unravel a shaky foundation. A protective attitude and policy is natural, but, ultimately, unhelpful. Only a brutal and transparent honesty will allow us to go forward.

Jesus is clear in pointing out to the Jewish leaders that they had sold their birthright for the sake of a fragile security, and most of us can remember situations in which we took the same path. Peace at any price in our families, religious communities and parishes is a lurking temptation, but one we must resist.

Today, listen to the witness of Jesus without defensiveness.

What are your biggest temptations when trying to live the gospel?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Rocks we Endure

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel.

Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves. A young friar who has worked a twelve step program for a many years had a series of three questions to help him discern when he must say something in a trying situation. He would ask himself whether something needed to be said, whether he was the person to speak and, finally, whether something needed to be said at that very moment. If the answer was no to any of these questions, he would hold his tongue, and his reluctance to hurl a verbal stone provided him with many moments of peace and reconciliation.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

God's Dream for Us

"When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him: “My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations." Gen 17:3

In the ancient world, people often had their name changed to indicate a new status or importance. Abram becomes Abraham when God announces to him that he will not only be a father (Abram) but the father of many (Abraham). Remember that Abram was 99 years old when God renamed him. The message is clear. God can do anything. Our task is not to doubt but to be open to whatever God wants of and for us. God's dramatic promise to Abraham should embolden all of us.  As long as we are willing to welcome God and God's desire for us, we have nothing to fear. The Patriarchs, prophets, kings and saints all demonstrate this.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th century anchoress and mystic is a powerful example of this. When a woman entered the anchorage, a small room attached to a church or monastery, she committed herself never to leave. The idea of living our entire lives in an anchorage is daunting for most of us, but Julian, who some commentators thought had lost her entire family in the plague, not only wrote a theology that was optimistic, she insisted that illness was not a punishment for sin but something everyone had to endure and accept in life. So committed to the God who spoke to her, Julian called Jesus her father and mother and, with Abraham, proclaimed that God fills all who believe with joy and compassion if only we open ourselves to these gifts.

Today, no matter how you feel, ask God to make your life a sign of God's love for all.



What must you do to open yourself to God's dream for you?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Suffering Together

"You should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”  Dn 3:18

The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego always lifts my spirit. Thrown into a raging fire because they refused to to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's God or the golden statue he made, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assure the king that their God will protect and save them even if he allows them to die in the fire. That they are protected from the fire, while spectacular, is almost incidental because they are living the simple truth that saints have always insisted upon. They serve God, pray and care for the needy, not to be successful, but to be faithful, and it is the failure to live faith in this way that condemns the servant in today's gospel who, after being forgiven a large debt, refuses to forgive his fellow servant in a small matter.

God protects, God forgives and God sets us free over and over to begin again. Made in God's image, we are to save one another from the "fire" of shame that reduces people to objects of need, rather than subjects of our compassion. If God is compassionate, understanding and accepting, so must we have hearts of kindness and mercy

Today, offer someone who cannot repay you an ear of compassion.

Has anyone ever stood with you in suffering without judgment?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Trusting God to always be with Us

"The one who sent me is with me." Jn 8:29

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us found protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God.

Listening to Pope Francis, I am often struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.



What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Understanding God's Mercy

"Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful of the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but theirs is not a Gospel response. Jesus demands that we look at our own sin every time we are tempted to condemn others.

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Asking Jesus for Help

"Martha said to him, 'I know my brother will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this.'" Jn 11:26

Because she is sometimes sneered at for complaining that her sister Mary is not helping prepare a meal for Jesus, Martha can be easily dismissed as a second class saint, but she deserves our praise and admiration. Because she is straightforward with Jesus, Martha helps free us from treating the Lord like a plastic amulet whose only purpose is to protect us from harm. Honest and direct, Martha reminds us not to be afraid of the Lord, but to pour out our hearts to him like we would to a treasured friend.

In responding to Martha, Jesus teaches his disciples and all those who were following him that he is their hope and their life, and that through him all will be raised up on the last day. For those who accept this message and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus' promise is the foundation of our faith. As Paul reminds us, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)

Today, ask Jesus to help you better understand his message of salvation.



Are you able to question and challenge the Lord without fear?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Being Open to God's Voice

"So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, 'Why did you not bring him?
The guards answered, 'Never before has anyone spoken like this man.'" Jn 7 45-46

There should be little doubt that the Jewish authorities were not worried about Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. False prophets and healers were a dime a dozen and it was rarely difficult to undermine the authority and power of popular healers by challenging them regarding their knowledge of and commitment to the Torah.

Jesus was different. Not only did he know the Law, he lived its spirit in challenging ways, and a reading of the New Testament demonstrates this convincingly. Jesus was not trying to undermine the authority of the Jewish leaders, but wanted them to reform their lives, put aside their fear of the Roman authorities, and see in him God's presence and power. Only when the Jewish leaders refused to acknowledge their own sins and dismiss the voice of everyday people did Jesus condemn them and call them "whitened sepulchers." (Mt 23:27)

Today, let yourself be amazed at the healing power of the Lord.



Does the Gospel continue you challenge you to transformation?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Suffering for the Truth

"His hour had not yet come." Jn 7:30

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Archbishop Oscar Romero knew that if he continued to speak on behalf of the poor he would likely be murdered, but he could not and chose not to avoid this awful burden. That he gave his life for the gospel continues to uplift all, but especially those who work among and with the poor. Suffering is not good in itself, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

God and Moses

"Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Like the Forgiving Father in the Gospel (Lk 15: 11-32), God rushes out to meet us at the first sign of our guilt and sorrow. More, God cannot do enough for us when we repent. God puts cloaks around our cold shoulders, rings on our broken fingers, and sandals of our battered feet to demonstrate how gratified he is to embrace us and welcome us home.

Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?