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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Speaking on behalf of the Voiceless

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." Jn 14:16

Having someone to help us, especially when we are trying to discern how to tackle serious and important questions, is always a benefit, and this is true for individuals as well as groups. Pastors, for instance, are glad to have others help with the administration and financial concerns of their parishes, but  more importantly, they ought to be grateful to have a parish council work with them to sift through the many questions that emerge about the direction and life of the parish as a whole.

Jesus promises us that the help he will give us will always be available. The Spirit of God, who Jesus calls an Advocate (Latin for helper or voice) will be among us to strengthen and direct us for the sake of the Gospel. We can rely on this Spirit always and proclaim this as the basis for our faith and hope. Our Advocate will also send us as advocates to others seeking to know God more intimately.

The call to be advocates, to speak on behalf of others who are voiceless, is a clear demand of the Gospel, but we must be careful to avoid the arrogance of presuming we know what others want or need. While the Gospel makes it clear that walking with and uncovering the deep human concerns of others, especially about human rights, is an essential element of discipleship, we must learn to speak with not for those whose voice is rarely heard.

Today, thank God for the Spirit as Helper and Voice.

Have you had the privilege of speaking with and on behalf of others who were voiceless?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Lifting the Burden of the Poor

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Living the Gospel

"t is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities." Acts 15:27

How comforting it is to learn than the Holy Spirit does not want to burden us with anything beyond the necessities of the Gospel. Of course, there have been and will be thousands of discussions about what the necessities are at any given time in history. These days, for instance, it should be clear to any person committed to the Gospel that one of the necessities is making sure during the time of Covid 19 that every person in need of medical help, no matter where they live in the world, have access to it, and of course this is a problem and a burden for those of us living in the developed world.

Unless we work towards a world that values every person as a child of God, precious and important, we cannot say we are living the Gospel. The Good News is this. God sent Jesus to alert everyone to the knowledge and truth of God's unconditional love for all God's children. Those already blessed with faith have two simple obligations. They must proclaim this truth with their lives of witness and service, and they must help create a world where every person is valued as a child of living God. Without these commitments, there is no reason for people who have never heard the word to listen or respond by seeking Baptism.

Today, sit quietly and ask yourself how well the Good News is being heard through your witness.

Who helped you understand the fullness of God's message and love?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

St Matthias

"And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE. Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives, though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Resolving Disagreements

"'Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.' Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question." Acts 15 1-2

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Moving Beyond Fear

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

The cost of discipleship for Jesus' followers was high. Almost all of his apostles would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.  Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this.

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?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Service even in Persecution

"There was an attempt in Iconium by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas." Acts 14:5

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods'd name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)