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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Discernement

"When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying,...(they) devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." Acts 1:13

Time is radically important, especially when it feels like we don't have any, when there is too much to do personally and communally. But not taking time to discern how best to respond in faith to the personal concerns that we face and structural needs in the world will surely lead to mistakes from which it will be difficult to recover.

After the apostles accompanied Jesus to Mt Olivet where he ascended to his Father, they gathered in the upper room not simply to try to reclaim the energy that Jesus had given to them but to take time to reflect on how the Spirit would direct them to go forward with the Good News. The experience of Jesus being raised from the dead was powerful but would only sustain them if they continued to pray, reflect, discern and chart a course that would allow all to hear how God's mercy was a gift to all.

Today, take some extra time to reflect on an issue with which you have been struggling.

How has taking time for prayer and reflection helped you with demanding decisions?

Friday, May 22, 2020

To Whom do you Belong

"A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus." Acts 18:24

Apollos, who Acts of the Apostles tells us was an eloquent speaker, also appears in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. So polished was Apollos' preaching that some claimed they belonged to him. These days there are people who say they are Benedict XVI Catholics or Francis Catholics. This kind of language can never be helpful when trying to build a community of trust because it leads to comparisons and divisions. Paul will insist that we belong to Christ and to no other person, no matter how eloquent they are in speaking about Jesus, and it is important that we follow Paul''s teaching.

Belonging means prioritizing Jesus and his teaching as the focus of our lives. Committed to the community of faith, we pray regularly, break bread in memory of the one who has been raised from the dead, continue to learn about and live the Scriptures, and serve those most in need in the name of Jesus. This is a tall order but it should not overly disturb us that we often fail to live the fulness of the Gospel. Jesus only demands that we continue to return to him and his teaching and seek to enter the mysteries of faith with passion and hope.

Today, ask Jesus for the grace to enter more deeply into him and the life to which he has called you.

What most distracts you from the Gospel with passion and hope?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Trusting God to Hear Us

"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." Jn 15:13

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us sought protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, they can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God who assures us that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us.

Listening to Pope Francis over the last few years, I am struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Ascension of the Lord

"Two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.'” Acts 1:11

Most of us have experienced being caught between conflicting feelings. Picture yourself at an airport sending a child off to college. Both proud and sad, you wave goodbye trying not to cry and leave the airport in a daze. A child with whom you have done your best is off for a new adventure, and you wonder whether she is prepared and ready to embrace the challenges. Even more poignantly, anyone who has helped parents die knows the pain of letting go and the relief that they are no longer in pain. Often, in situations like this, even when we have felt heavy burdened, we are lost for a while, not knowing what we ought next to do.

This is, I imagine, what was happening to the disciples of Jesus at the Ascension. While they knew the Spirit of God would be with them, letting go of Jesus was difficult. He had been their guide, their mentor and their security. It is no wonder they were looking up into the sky as their friend returned to his Father. Their loss was deep, even though their faith assured them they were not alone.

We should expect to experience the absence of Jesus regularly during life. A Japanese proverb reminds us: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise. Only when we have lost something precious, are we able to appreciate it fully, and more important, see what else might be available to us when we open our eyes and heart to God's plan.

Today, let go of the Jesus you know and ask to experience him more fully through God's eyes.

How do you make sense of the feast of the Ascension?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Unknown Gods

"To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Earthquakes

"There was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16:26

Several years ago, on my way to Honduras to visit our young friars studying Spanish, I stopped in El Salvador for a couple of days, and while there experienced a small earthquake. It was unnerving, to say the least. One of our Salvadoran postulants immediately jumped up and ran out of the building. Because he had suffered through a major earthquake, he was taking no chances. Like the guard in the prison where the apostles were jailed, I didn't know what to do. I sat there hoping it would pass and waited for instructions from the Salvadoran friars.

Acts of the Apostles helps us in this regard. No doubt, St Paul, despite having been freed from prison by a sudden earthquake, was afraid, but he does not dwell on the miracle of his escape to demonstrate the power of God. Rather, he uses the opportunity of his new found freedom to continue his missionary journey and begins to speak about the altar to the "unknown God," that he came upon in Athens.

Today, pray not to overreact to the surprises and trials life, but to wait in prayer to know God's desire.

Have you experienced "earthquakes" in your life that led you to deeper faith?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Generosity

“'If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,' and she (Lydia) prevailed on us." Acts 16:15

Every now and then we come upon a person in the scripture who stops us in our tracks, who makes us think in bigger terms and invites us to change. Lydia is such a woman. Who is this woman in a patriarchal and hierarchical society who owns her own home, and one that was large enough to invite others not only to visit but to stay? Clearly successful as a cloth merchant, she was newly baptized and wanted to offer Paul and Silas a place to rest, eat and be refreshed, and no doubt also wanted to learn more from them about Jesus. Her generosity not only gave Paul and his companions more time to preach God's word, it also have her and her family access to a wisdom and dream that had captured them.

Offering and accepting generosity is an important virtue for believers. Realizing that most of us have more than we need, we learn that giving to others freely, even from our substance, changes us. Likewise, accepting the generosity of others humbles us and keeps us grateful.

Today, be like Lydia. Offering your bounty and person to others with joy.

Whose generosity has touched and shaped you in faith?