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Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Diversity of Christ's Light

"You are the light of earth." Mt 5:14

Almost every year I have an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin postulants of North America, who are always a remarkably diverse group of young men. Some are Hispanic, others Asian, still others are Middle Eastern or Caucasian. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

The gospel today reminds us that like Christ, we must be lights in the world, bringing healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men is always a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Seeking the Lost

"At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Mt 9:36

Sheep are usually considered obedient and passive animals. They travel in flocks and rarely wander off by themselves, but when they do the shepherd seeks them out and directs them back to the flock. The notion that Christ is our Good Shepherd is powerful when viewed through the lens of someone finding us when we are lost, but dangerous if we think we are are called to be asleep or overly compliant in our discipleship.

In an interview with an Argentinian news agency, Pope Francis warned priests not to fall into patterns that reinforce passivity among God's people.
“We priests tend to clericalize the laity.We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap —it is a sinful complicity.” (Pope Francis)
Both clergy and laity need to be clear about their goals. Compliance is not a Gospel value. Passion for the Word is, and behaviors that reduce our call to live the Gospel without zeal have no place in an adult Christian's life.

Today, seek out the lost.

What keeps you from living the gospel with passion?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Sacrifice of John the Baptist

"He went off and beheaded John in the prison." Mk 6:27

Readers of John's gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?The 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

St Paul Miki and Companions

"This people honors me with their lips, but not with their hearts are from me." Mk 7:6

Sometimes, when we celebrate a saint's liturgical feast day, we forget who the companions were. This is a shame because it cheats us from celebrating everyday people. The twenty six companions of St. Paul Miki included people, young and old, from ever walk of life.
The twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. (Catholic Culture)
The history of our church is replete with a wonderful variety of saints and blesseds, all of whom deserve our admiration. If only we knew the stories of more ordinary people, not just bishops, priests and religious, we would understand more deeply how important it is to ask God to make us saints right where we are.

Not all of us have to become priests and religious. In fact, most people are not called to this way of life. Rather, single adults, married people, widows and widowers, are all called to a holiness proper to their vocations. Only when we encourage people to ask God for the gift of living a Gospel life in their homes, businesses, neighborhoods and cultures, will we understand more deeply the marvelous ways of God.

Today, pray to one of the lay men and women Japanese martyrs.

What qualities do you look for in saintly people?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

St Agatha

"They...begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak." Mk 6:56

We know little of St Agatha except that she was martyred because she resisted marriage to a nobleman who wanted her to renounce her faith, and was reported to have said:  "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep." Asking God to make her as submissive as a sheep was Agatha's answer to those who wanted her to live an empty, faithless life. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews suggests that Agatha's courage can be ours if we remember that we are surrounded by the community of saints who will support us in our struggles and share our joys, but only if unload our burdens upon the Lord and turn away from sin.  

Remembering to call upon those who have struggled to live faith fully is a powerful antidote to our own fear and self absorption. Christianity is not simply about living the law but submitting ourselves in total trust to the Lawgiver. Recalling the faith lives of our parents, grandparents and mentors can give us the strength to do God's will in all circumstances.

Today, remember you are surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses."

Whose memory do you call upon in times of doubt?



Monday, February 3, 2020

Suffering

"A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:20

Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I ministered among people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.

When today's gospel speaks of a woman bleeding for years, I cringed. Many at the time of Jesus would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life. In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.



Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Prisons of our own Making

"When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain." Mk 5: 2-3

There are all kinds of prisons. Some are physical in nature with bars and alarm bells and bobbed wire to make sure prisoners cannot escape. Others are internal and in many ways they are more restrictive than the prisons that house law breakers. Trapped in our expectations or by our fears and anxieties, we worry excessively about everything from the weather to our health and our financial security, and too often forget Jesus' reminder that we should not worry but remember that God takes care of everyone and everything. Prisons like this are painful, disempowering and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, like the man dwelling in the tombs, it is difficult for our friends and family to restrain us. Too concerned with our own opinion or reputation, we stop listening, reject the insights of others and isolate ourselves. Only when we ask for help, and find time to pray more often and simply do we begin to turn the corner and discover there is a way out of our prison. Letting go of our need to have everything and everyone in place, we discover that the Lord can be our strength,

Today, ask for the grace to walk out of the prison of your own pride.

What are the chains that bind you and our society?