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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?