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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Being a Gift for Others

"They chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism." Acts 6:5

Acts of Apostles tells us why the Apostles chose Stephen to help them in the mission of Jesus. Stephen was "filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," but it simply names the others. Why did the Apostles choose Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas? Why we have we been chosen as disciples?

Every person has gifts, many of which are hard to see and appreciate. When someone is a good listener, we appreciate their ability to sit quietly and pay attention to us without being distracted, but we can also be frustrated when they choose not to have an opinion about our concerns. Others have the ability to articulate matters carefully and succinctly, but can also make us wonder if life is as transparent and easy as their words seem to make it.

No doubt Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas had gifts that benefited the community, but we should not expect them or our friends to have answers to every problem. Rather, we pray to be grateful for the uniqueness of what each person brings to us, and seek to make our gifts available to others. Doing this regularly will us find and celebrate our vocation.

Today, pray to hear God's daily call to live the Gospel as a gift for others.

Have you discovered gifts in others that you never knew were there?

Friday, May 8, 2020

Peace in Persecution

"The Jewish (leaders) stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas." Acts 13:50

How can the early church be both at peace and persecuted? The author of Acts, probably Luke, wants us to realize that when we are in the Spirit, living the Gospel and announcing it with power, fear dissipates. The presence of the Holy Spirit becomes tangible, something we can almost taste, and although we must endure difficult and dangerous trials, we are not overwhelmed.

Of course, the further any of us move away from our early days of conversion, the more fear returns. Wavering back and forth between strength and weakness, like the Jews in the desert, we find ourselves drifting from the ideals of our faith commitments. We build "sacred cows"  by accumulating money and power, hoping they will protect us from the foolishness and failures of faith, but soon a life propped up by wealth is drained of its sweetness and we know that hedging our bets offers no ultimate consolation. 

Faith is an all in kind of life. We must give ourselves over totally to a loving God and enter the mysteries of daily life with little understanding or insight, but with great hope. The witness we can offer others at times of great stress is powerful. Knowing we are on God's path despite our struggles helps others believe more deeply in a Christianity that is simultaneously tough and tender.

Today, recommit yourself to the entirely of the Gospel.

When is it most difficult for you to remain peaceful?

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Facing Our Fears

"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Humility

"When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: 'Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" Jn 13:16

When Jesus assumed the posture of a slave and washed the feet of his apostles, he startled them and us. That we ought to be kind to one another and welcoming to all, even our enemies, is clear, but that we should kneel down and wash others' feet made no sense at the time of Jesus and continues to feel alien to us. While we might offer someone access to a bathroom to refresh themselves, the idea of washing their feet would never occur to us.

In Jesus' day washing feet was common, but it was done by women and foreign slaves. Heads of household would never wash feet, and although many of the great figures of the Hebrew bible offered kind service to their friends and family, Jesus' willingness to stoop to wash his disciples feet signalled a new kind of leadership and a radical view of God.  Jesus' challenge was clear. We must see ourselves as less in order that God can be more.

Today, think about the God in others, not your own power or prestige.

Who taught you most about a life of Christian service?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Laying on of Hands

“'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off."

In many cultures, young people, especially those leaving their country for a new land and a new life, must approach their grandparents to ask for a blessing. This is no small matter. It is as if the young people who are leaving are being clothed in the culture and love of their country and ancestors.

This is what happened to Barnabas and Saul when they were being "missioned" to Cyprus. Strengthened and empowered by the elders in their community who laid hands on them, they knew they were not alone and that the entire community of Christians in Antioch where with them and would strengthen them through prayer.

It is important for us to remember that we have been commissioned at Baptism, especially during a period when our church, nation and world are being shaken by the devastation of the Corona Virus. We are not alone. No matter what happens to us, we are in Christ and our task of announcing the Good News remains. We must live as if death itself does not matter for we have been promised life forever.

Today, act fearlessly but not foolishly. Find ways to engage people with kindness and compassion.

Whose faith life and lifestyle most impressed you and helped you during dark times?


Monday, May 4, 2020

Be Grateful for the Shepherds Among Us

"My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

Most of us have had people in our lives who seem able to hear us on a level that both sustains and challenges us. Gifted with the ability not to speak too quickly or forcefully, our shepherds help us understand ourselves and the God who seems silent but always has a message. Although we often resist their insights, eventually we let go and trust the God who speaks through them.

Today, be grateful for the shepherds in your life who help you hear God's voice.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Good Shepherd

"Jesus said: 'I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.'" Jn 10:11

God as our good shepherd has always been an attractive, inviting and empowering notion for believers. In the ancient world, shepherds were the underclass. Although they had no voice in the society, they played critically important roles, especially for the poor. Because the poor could not afford their own sheep pens, shepherds were hired to look over the sheep of many families in a common pen throughout the night, and  while they were able to rest, they could not sleep since it was their task to protect the sheep from predators. In order to do this effectively, shepherds would lie down across the opening of the sheep pen in order to protect the sheep entrusted to them. That the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament remind us that God and Jesus are shepherds, willing to give their lives for their sheep, is both comforting and challenging

These days, because people are living so much longer, children often become "shepherds" to their parents, and it is these "children" caring for their parents who show us a new face of God's unconditional love. Every time I visit a hospital or nursing home and encounter people feeding and clothing their parents of a daily basis, I am moved and strengthened by their generosity and unselfishness. Theirs is a heavy burden, but like Good Shepherds, they do it graciously and compassionately.

Today, thank someone who has been a Good Shepherd to you.



What is your most helpful image of God?