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Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Body and Blood of the Lord

"This is my body....this is my blood." Mk 14:22

When friends or family die, we often grieve and mourn them in powerful ways. Some will visit the cemetery, even if it is at a distance, every day for weeks or months. Others, leave a chair empty at the dinner table in order to remember their dead. Early in the mourning process, these rituals often lead to tears and groaning, but after a while they help us gently remember all the good the dead brought to our lives. Our rituals bring us comfort and hope, and that is Jesus' intent at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. In it and through it we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, especially on Sunday's, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?

Friday, June 12, 2020

St Anthony of Padua

"Keep me safe O God, you are my hope." Ps 16

For most of our best known saints there is a moment that defines their lives. St Anthony had two. The first happened when he witnessed the funeral procession of the first Franciscan martyrs. Because he had served them as guest master for the Augustinians as they prepared to leave Portugal for Africa, he was convinced their death was a sign from God to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans in order to take up their mission in converting the Moors. When his health would not allow him this privilege, he accepted his limitations and moved to Italy where he committed himself to a life of prayer, study, and simple living, a lifestyle that led him to his second defining moment.

Called to be a substitute preacher at an ordination when no one else was prepared to speak, he was expected by everyone to stumble and stammer, but his eloquence and learning stunned his hearers. His life as a renowned preacher had begun and it would lead him to be the first theology teacher in the Franciscan reform, a remarkable turnabout for a community that so deeply distrusted theology. It was Anthony's great sanctity that convinced  St Francis that Anthony could both teach theology and holiness at the same time.

Today, let God lead you in a path of God's choosing.

What moments in your faith life have been life defining?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Slow Down, Listen

“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” 1 Kgs 19:11

Finding God is everywhere is possible, even easy at times, as long as we are willing to let God lead us, but most North Americans are so busy that they often fail to hear, much less, accept God's invitation. Worried, like Martha in the Gospel of of Luke (10:38-42) about too many details, we miss the forest for the trees.

We need to learn to slow down everyday and notice God's finger everywhere. When we fail to breathe the morning air deeply, stretch and look around at what nature is presenting each day, we miss the God hidden in all of creation. When we keep walking when a family member, colleague or friend has a question for us, we tell them without words that we are not prepared to listen deeply to them. When people become objects that we manipulate for our own pleasure or power, we fail to notice God within them and in our relationships.

The prophet Elijah teaches us this lesson powerfully. When God told Elijah to go outside and wait for God who would be passing by, the prophet obeyed and discovered God, not in a fierce wind, an earthquake or a fire, but in the tiny whispering sound. Unless we are willing to let God speak to us in God's voice, we will rush past the God who is everywhere beckoning us, often in a whisper, to come closer.

Today, slow down for ten minutes and see what God says.

Where are the most ordinary places you hear God's voice?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

St Barnabas

"When Barnabas arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Acts 11:22

It is often obvious when someone is "filled with the Holy Spirit." They are calm and internally quiet. They listen and respond with few words. They are joyful about their faith and they are unafraid to announce the Gospel in season and out.

That the early church chose to tell us that Barnabas was filled with the Spirit and faith tells us much about him from the perspective of spirituality but little about his personality. A companion of St Paul, we know he returned to Jerusalem with Paul to try to settle the dispute about which rites of the Jewish faith Gentiles would have to accept and celebrate. This could not have been an easy task, but Barnabas had living experience of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus and his testimony, even without words, would have been powerful.  Barnabas could tell the Jerusalem community there was no doubt that the Gentiles were coming to Jesus and the Gospel with a deep faith and hope. More, they were trying to live in love with one another as a sign of their new consecration.

There are moments in all our lives when we have to stand up for others, even when our friends and family oppose them. Because our experience tells us that no one should be reduced to his or her faults, like Barnabas, we can remind anyone who will listen that we have seen and been impressed with the willingness of those being challenged to live with as much integrity as possible, and this can make an enormous difference in the lives of those for whom we speak.

Today, ask the Spirit to fill you with faith.

What makes you think someone is full of the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Respect for Jews and Judaism

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."

We need to be careful reading this text. Sometimes we are tempted to disregard Judaism, asserting that if Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, we no longer have to study or obed it.  Jesus is not rejecting the Old Law and his Jewish heritage. After all, he insists that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Mt 5:18) Rather, Jesus is announcing that he is the hesed of God, the fullness of God’s conditional love for all; God’s loving kindness and mercy. And more to the point of this reflection, Jesus does not want us to be trapped in our understanding of him either.

The old is good, we say, sometimes about our understanding of the Lord, our church, our catholic teaching.  While all of this might be true, we have also to ready ourselves for new insights, new interpretations and a new richness that comes like a gift to those who open themselves to the unconditional love of God. Every interpretation, every insight has one purpose, to put God at the center of our consciousness. As Jesus continually reminds us, his purpose on earth is to reveal his Father’s love for all. If that means he must die, so be it.  Death is a small price to pay for the salvation of the world.  While we don’t want to glorify suffering for suffering’s sake, sometimes suffering is the direct result of telling the truth.

If you have the opportunity, have a conversation with a Jew.

How do you understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments?

Monday, June 8, 2020

Being a Light

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house." Mt 5:14

Today we have an opportunity to reflect on one of the most accessible images in the entire gospel. The word Light appears almost 100 times in the New Testament. Not only are we encouraged to light a lamp and put it someplace so that others can see, the gospel also calls Jesus the light of the world and reminds us that John the Baptist was the light who prepared the world for Jesus' coming.

Electricity has become so natural and so accessible to life as we know it that we often take it for granted. Recently, I was preaching at a convent that was without electricity for several days. Living without light, especially for the older sisters, was not only difficult, it was dangerous. Not able to see where they were going or get out of their rooms easily, they felt frightened and trapped. When Jesus tells his contemporaries to light a light and put in on a lampstand so that people can see, anyone who has lived without light for a few days knows exactly what he meant.

Today, take a moment to thank God for all those who have been light for you, especially when the dark threatened to overwhelm you.

How can you be a light for others today?

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Commandments Fulfilled

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mt 5:2

Something very new and very old is happening in the fifth chapter of Matthew's Gospel. While not abrogating the commandments as we know them, Jesus offers his followers a new way to fulfill them. Blessed are the poor, he commands, and those who mourn, who are meek and merciful, and are peacemakers.

While it will always be important to honor the one God, to keep the Sabbath, to honor our parents, and not to covet another’s wife or goods, how we live these values becomes central to the Christian life. No longer can we honor only those from our tribe or the keepers of the covenant. Now we have to be alert to those whose lives have been heavy with sorrow and grief, but who continue to remember not to exalt themselves, and live simply for the sake of God's reign.

Simple gestures, like sitting down when someone wants to speak with us, might not have the power of Jesus who sat in order to let his followers know that what he was about to say was important, but our willingness to stop and listen will assure those with whom we are talking that they are important. Isn't this what Jesus did all the time?

Today, ask yourself how expansive your love really is.

Who has made your feel important and how did they do this?