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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Transfiguration

"Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun"Mt 17:1

Conversion is a slow process. We need many reminders that we are God's people and that God is always with us. Like almost anything else we learn in life, we "get faith" for a while and then lose it. Because daily life often confuses and challenges us with questions about suffering, death, poverty and hunger, we forget who we are, and seasons like Lent are necessary to help us return to the "straight and narrow" path of Jesus.

Today the transfiguration of Jesus is like a Lent for the apostles. Jesus has been slowly letting the apostles know who he is, and today he makes it absolutely clear that he is the fulfillment of the prophets. One might say that it is the "baptism" of the apostles. Because the apostles now know that Jesus is God's son, even if they cannot yet put their minds completely around the revelation, they have new responsibilities. God is readying them for their mission, and while their obligation to announce Good News will be delayed, they will soon be God's messengers and message.

Our own faith life and Lenten journey are similar. We have moments of pristine clarity and insight, and then the fog returns and we can hardly see where we are going. Not being afraid of this process is the key to completing our pilgrimage. Conversion lasts our entire life and while we might lose our way, God never loses sight of us.

Today, try to remember a moment of transfiguration, when you knew exactly who you were.

What has been your experience of conversion into Christ?

Friday, March 6, 2020

Our Uniqueness

"You are to be a people peculiarly his own."  Dt 26:18

When Moses tells the people they are special in God's eyes, he is not speaking to or about them in an exclusive way, but as God's messenger trying to remind them that God's love, while gratuitous, makes demands. Because God has protected them in the desert and led them through it, they must do the same for others. God's love is not a gift to be hoarded but to be given away.

Jesus echoes this same teaching. He has called the Apostles and disciples to listen to him and proclaim the fullness of the Good News that God wants to embrace all of us. God wants us to swim in the glory of our call and "baptize" all people in his name. To be a disciple and follower of Jesus is not just to enjoy the comfort of his love, but to proclaim it from the housetops. Only when others hear the power of this message will they be willing, even anxious, to reform their lives. There is no need for ceaseless competition and comparison. Rather, we are called to rejoice in God's fervent and rabid love for us.

Today, let someone know you are a believer by loving them just as they are.

Who has helped you see, understand and accept your unique value in God's sight?


Thursday, March 5, 2020

True Humility

"Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court." Mt 5:24

Worry rarely gets us anywhere, but we often can't stop obsessing about things that we know are not important but concern us nonetheless. Whether because our pride gets in the way or our self image is threatened, we find ourselves unsettled and perturbed over matters that we can't control.

Jesus warns his disciples and us about this. The leaders of the Jewish community, like so many people with a little bit of power, cling stubbornly to their interpretation of the law for fear they will lose their influence over their people. Forgetting that the Law's purpose is to remind Jews of God's largess, they argue among themselves about how to maintain control of the community, and they refuse to seek reconciliation with those with whom they disagree. When Jesus' followers argued about who was the greatest, he challenged them to be like children and take the lowest place, and urged them to find paths of healing between and among themselves. Only in this way would they be able to demonstrate that they were his disciples.

Today, ask for the gift of true humility.

What do you think are the qualities of a Christian leader?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Living with Darkness

"Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD...Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand." Est 12:14

Darkness of spirit can be immobilizing. Inundated with problems or memories that emerge every time we open our eyes, there is no place to go. Friends with cancer often spoke of their illness in this manner. Each day they would wake, hoping for a shift in how they felt physically and emotionally, but there was only nausea and darkness. 

Remarkably, the call of Lent is to allow God to take us into this kind of darkness so that we might be cleansed and able to see again, even in a darkness "one can feel." Though our faith tells us that God is in the darkness with us, and Jesus in the desert experienced this, it is awful, frightening and disturbing. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta told her spiritual director that this kind of darkness followed her for years. While those who knew her could never have suspected this terrible kind of trial, it was real and suffocating, and led her to the edge of unbelief.

When periods of darkness like this come upon us, we must stay still. As the poet, Jessica Powers wrote, "God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul...I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him." God does not make the darkness go away, but sits with us in it. Is that enough?

Today, try not to hide. Give yourself to God as you are.

How do you live with the darkness that comes to you?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Conversion

"At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here." Mt 12:40

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 2, 2020

Reconciliation

“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you." Mt 6:15

Forgiveness of those who do us harm is essential to the Gospel. Jesus asks his Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, and reminds his disciples to put aside everything, even their pilgrimage to the Temple, to reconcile with those from whom they are separated.

Do we have the courage to accept Jesus' challenge in our daily lives? In recent months, families have been so deeply divided by their different political convictions that many either are not talking with one another or have agreed not to speak about politics at all. In the long run, this cannot be good. Perhaps reading something together might help. Recently, Bishop McElroy from San Diego suggested a way for Catholics to think about voting. You can access it here. https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/bishop-mcelroy-voting-faith-and-conscience

Reconciliation is an essential element of the Gospel message and we need to find ways to live authentically with those with whom we disagree. Otherwise, the power of the Gospel to heal will be undermined.

Today, forgive someone who has not asked it of you.

Are you holding a past hurt against a family member or friend?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Hungry and Thirsty

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink." Mt 25 34-36

It is always good to revisit St Peter Chrysologus (5th century) and his wisdom. He writes:
Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.
When we pray and fast without giving alms or showing mercy, we cannot hear the overwhelming power of Jesus' message in today's Gospel. Teaching ourselves to respond naturally and spontaneously to the hungry, thirsty, sick and imprisoned is at the heart of Jesus' message.

Sometimes, however, we are too busy or cynical to live Jesus teaching instinctively. It is not for us to judge whether a hungry person is hungry because they have not tried to find work or wasted their resources on gambling or drinking. Even if this be true, the person is still hungry and the Gospels of Lent will demand we ask to see those in need with the compassion of God.

Today, do a good deed without thinking. Just do it.

How often do you reach out spontaneously for the hungry and sick?