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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Wisdom

"We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God redetermined before the ages for our glory." 1 Cor 2 6-7

We usually expect wisdom to emerge in people who have had a great deal of experience and are willing to use that experience to discern how to exist and prosper in difficult times. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Many of those we entrust with leadership in government and the church, to their shame and ours, protect the institutions of the nation and the church before attending to abused young people and children. Who then, if not the bishops and our elected leaders do we look to for wisdom?

St Paul suggests that God is wise and if we want to be wise at any age, we need to be close to God and God's desire for the world so clearly expressed in the Gospel. Perhaps that is why thousands of young people are committed to Care for Creation as Pope Francis asks, even begs of us all. It is not so much that God inserted wisdom into these young people, but that they were willing to open their eyes to the devastation around the world and act.

Today, ask the Lord to draw you close to God, no matter your age, so that you might act with wisdom.

Who do you most admire for their wise choices and counsel?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Authentic Wealth

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat." Mk 8:1

The people following Jesus were rarely rich or entitled. Rather, it was the poor, the sick, the struggling who followed him and not always for the right reason. It is clear in John's Gospel that some followed Jesus because he fed them when they were hungry, not because they recognized him as the Messiah.

At the same time, wealth by itself is not a detriment to following Jesus. Only when we cling to what we have, make up excuses for not sharing more generously with the needy and turn away from "beggars", that Jesus looks us in the eye and reminds us to take "nothing for journey."

When we pause to pray or simply be quiet, we often realize that everything we have is a gift. Many work hard to earn a living and share generously with their neighbors and churches because they realize how blessed they are and  always have been. These are the people who praise God everyday for their parents and grandparents and their formation in faith because it was their parents and teachers from whom they caught the wonder of God's creation and the beauty of living faith.

Today, try to silent for ten minutes and pay attention to everything and everyone around you.

What is your real wealth?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Sts Cyril and Methodius

"Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." Mk 8:15

The use of the vernacular, or the language of the people, has long been controversial in the Church. Even today there are those who think we should return to the use of Latin in the liturgy primarily because it is not a "living" language and, therefore, less subject to misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

When Sts Cyril and Methodius, whose feast we celebrate today, wanted to make Slavonic the language of the liturgy the Bavarian bishops reacted, fearful they would be stripped of their influence in the Slavic world. Clearly, the preaching of Cyril and Methodius was having  a powerful effect on the people. That the liturgy might also be celebrated in a language the bishops could neither speak nor understand made them very anxious.

Power is almost always an issue in our lives. When we lose the power to speak, to see clearly, to drive a car, own a home or influence a vote, we can react violently against authority and God.  We want our voice and our freedom. The Bavarian bishops were so afraid of losing their ability to guide the church that they forced Methodius into exile for three years, to no avail. Cyril and Methodius were trying to spread the gospel with every tool at their command. That they were impeded, even stopped for a while by those who should have celebrating their efforts, only made them stronger and more effective.

Today, ask God to remind you of the gospel injunction to love your enemies.

How do you empower the powerless?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Inclusive Vision of Jesus

"It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Mt 15:26

Not infrequently, gentiles and the poor were compared to dogs, people who did not appreciate the word of God, but Jesus turns this saying upside down, just as he does when he reminds us that the first will be last.

In Jesus preaching, the only criterion used to judge people was their openness to the fullness of God's word. In other words, the rich, the powerful, the interpreters of the law were all judging themselves if they refused to hear Jesus' call to reform their lives and return to the heart of the law.

For contemporary believers the same standard endures. Unless we are open to the transforming power of God's word, which is more inclusive than we often want to acknowledge, we are the dogs about whom the Gospel speaks. When we use the Good News as a hammer to exclude those who are racially, religiously, culturally and spiritually different from us, even when they are enemies, we judge ourselves.

Today, pray to be free of prejudice.

What practices help you not to judge others? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Breathless

"When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD, she was breathless." 1Kgs 10:4-5

Sometimes it is a sunset that takes our breath away. At other times, it is a surprise gift or the insight of a child or grandchild. Having our breath taken away is almost always a surprise. We come upon a vista while driving, or a person, a movie or a play that not only startles us, it also challenges us.

The Queen of Sheba, resistant to all she heard about Solomon's triumphs, decided to see for herself and what she discovered changed her attitude and her life, which is the point of this passage. When were we last surprised, lifted up and challenged by something or something from whom we expected little?

Often during the years of my initial formation as a Capuchin, the brothers would put on plays and musicals that amazed me and made me very happy and proud to be a friar. The talent displayed by some friars was wonderful, but the willingness of others, whose talent was limited, to be vulnerable for the sake of the common good touched me even more. Whenever we think more about the needs and desires of others, and act on their behalf, we are always better. Other centeredness is the core of Jesus' life and Gospel living.

Today, pause in gratitude for the last time you were breathless with delight.

How do you help others to be breathless with the gift of faith?

Monday, February 10, 2020

Focus on Your Strengths

"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts." Mk 7:6-7

In a world as fast paced as ours, it is difficult not to lose focus. With so many messages coming at us thousands of times a day, we find ourselves spouting platitudes rather than thoughtful responses. 
Because we all fall into the trap of saying things over and over, we have some compassion for the Pharisees in today's Gospel. Doing everything they could to trap Jesus with his own words and actions, the Pharisees find themselves looking for anything to discredit Jesus and his disciples. 

Eating without washing one's hands, while an important ritual for Jews, was hardly earth shaking. Unable, however, to find anything else about Jesus' behavior to undermine his growing power and popularity, the Pharisees fixate on the faults of Jesus' followers, not his amazing and compelling compassion for the broken.

Today, think of and pray for someone you dislike.

How do you counter your tendency to focus on another's faults and sins?

Sunday, February 9, 2020

St Scholastica

Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud; I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever.” 1 Kgs 8:13

The Second Vatican Council reminded Catholics that God dwells everywhere but is more fully or more deeply present when we gather for the Eucharist. More specifically, the Council insisted that Christ was present in the assembly of believers, in the Word proclaimed, in the breaking of the bread and in the person of the priest, all of which is rooted in God's promise to the Jewish people to be present among them as first Kings reminds us, "in a dark cloud."

God's presence among us, which is another way of speaking about God's fidelity, is central to Jews and Christians alike, and it is our task to attend to the God who lives within and among us. In some parishes, God is loud, festive, even pushy. The joy with which believers greet one another, inquire about one another's families, and sing enthusiastically is tangible and empowering. In other communities, God's presence can be caught from older parishioners sitting quietly before Mass praying the rosary, making the stations of the cross or reading the bible. It does not so much matter how God is present but that God is among us as a living presence and a challenging prophet. Our task is to be grateful for the God who is always with us, whether in a dark cloud, a candle lit church or our own homes.

Today, pause a few times to remember that God is always near.

How is God most present to you in daily life?