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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?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Letting Angels Speak to Us

"Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you." Lk 1:28

The annunciation has been painted and and sculpted almost as often as the Pieta and with good reason. The annunciation thrills us. Mary's shyness, questions and reluctance to welcome the angel help us believe in her and in ourselves, especially when we are anxious, fearful and resistive.


Andrea Del Sarto (1526) paints Gabriel as a pleading angel, not someone especially sure of his role, but determined to complete his mission. One wonders if the artist, aware of the reformation exploding in Germany, was challenging the church to its own reformation. Mary, looking anxious and confused, but ready to say Yes, challenges the church then and now to change for the sake of God's dream for the world.

Today, say yes with Mary to anything God asks. Don't ask questions.

What has been the most difficult request God has made of you?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Flowing Waters

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jn 5:7

Flowing waters evoke growth, life and hope in and around us. They remind us that God wants to feed us, desires that we live along the fresh waters of a river so that we can benefit from the fruit and vegetables that will flourish there. Flowing waters also remind us of baptism and God's desire to cleanse us for service to others.

The difficulty faced by the fellow who has been ill for 38 years is clear. His disability doesn't allow him to enter the flowing waters, and he has no one to help him.  That he would still desire to know the cleansing and healing waters after suffering for 38 years is remarkable in itself, and Jesus, the one who will be known as flowing waters, rewards his patience and dream by telling him to take up his mat and walk.

Healed, the newly cleansed fellow faces his greatest challenge. Will he realize that his healing is a call to serve others, especially those who have been suffering for a long time? Unless he does, his new life will fail to bear the fruit promised by God to those living near flowing waters. The lesson should not be lost on us.

Today, be grateful for the cleansing waters of Baptism.

What kind of service has most enriched your life?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Wisdom of our Elders

"Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death." Jn 4:46

For the last few years I have been talking with and listening to older people, most of whom are open, honest and enjoyable conversation partners. When leading parish missions, I have encountered mostly retirees who have the time to make a parish mission and are anxious to review their lives by making serious attempts at growing in prayer and faith. Rarely defensive nor overly anxious, they are funny and fun to be with, and that is the point. We have many committed seniors in our church but I wonder whether we are taking adequate advantage of their learning, wisdom and passion.

Calling seniors passionate might surprise some readers, but it is exactly this that I experience. Anxious to pass on their faith, the older people I meet wonder just how they might do this most effectively. They pray, they listen, they serve as Eucharistic ministers in nursing homes and hospitals, they drive friends and neighbors to doctors appointments, they visit the sick and the imprisoned, and they do all of this because it is the right thing to do. Occasionally guilty because they failed to find time earlier in life to live their faith more dynamically, they know now they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are anxious to do more. Why do we fail to hear them or see them? Are older believers invisible in the church in North America much like immigrants and uneducated? How can we change this?

Today, ask someone who is older what their faith means to them.



Have you ever gained new insights and hope from listening to older people?