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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Losing one's Life for the Gospel

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Mt 10:38

Wise people remind us regularly that fame is fleeting. We lose our looks, our athletic ability, our fortune or our political power and people who could not get enough of us, forget our name and what we thought was a friendship. Fame that is based on our skills and appearance cannot last, but fame that is rooted in our honest other centeredness is something else altogether.

The fame that Jesus garnered and about which the evangelists write is often of a passing kind. His miracles especially attract those looking for a quick fix to their problems, but it is clear to those who read the Gospels as Good News that focusing on Jesus' miracles is fool's gold. Only our willingness to listen to his transforming message and be moved by it to conversion of life will last. Intriguingly, when those following him focus too intently on his miracles, Jesus leaves them, finds on mountain on which to pray, and moves onto another place and people. His mission is not about impressing people but offering them a gift that is beyond an healing they may be seeking.

Today, pray for the gift of authentic humility.

What famous person do you most admire for living the Gospel with joy?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Authentic Humility

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." Mt 8:7

Most humble people have been humbled. Born into wealth or privilege, circumstances conspired against them and they lost everything. The proud complain or curse God; the humble realize that everything they had was a gift and not something they earned or deserved. The proud do almost anything to reclaim what they believe is theirs by divine right. The humble echo the Japanese proverb: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise.

Remarkably, the centurion in the today's Gospel is not asking Jesus to help him but to heal his servant, and Jesus, obviously moved, is willing to respond to the centurion's request. But the centurion becomes an icon of humility for the ages when he acknowledges Jesus' power to heal without touch or physical presence. Not wanting Jesus to risk the condemnation of the rabbis for entering his house, the centurion asks Jesus only to speak a word of healing.

Today, be grateful for all of life no matter how humbling.

What keeps you from humbly acknowledging your weaknesses?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Leprosy

"If you wish, you can make me clean." Mk 1:41

Communicable and deadly diseases always frighten us. Before anyone knew that HIV/AIDS could not caught by a sneeze or sharing a soft drink, there was immense fear in people about something they did not know. Even after it became clear that AIDS could only be spread by the exchange of body fluids through sexual contact, needle sharing and the very rare blood transfusion, people were still afraid. Something as toxic as AIDS scares us and the same was true in the ancient world regarding leprosy.

That Jesus listened to the desperate pleading of the leper and allowed him to draw near is remarkable. Jesus knew that by associating with the leper he became unclean himself, but it did not matter. The leper was suffering not just from the disease but from the isolation imposed on him and all lepers. Lepers had to tear their clothes and call out "unclean" whenever anyone approached them. What a terrible punishment; what an awful life, but the leper who calls to Jesus for help ignores the teaching of rabbis and so does Jesus. After Jesus cleanses the leper he warns him to tell no one. Of course, the man newly made whole and freed from the desperate loneliness that was his life could not keep quiet. Who could remain silent about such a wonderful gift?

Today, tell someone you have been made clean by the love of God.

How do you think a Christian should respond to people with deadly diseases?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Christ Our Rock

"But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock." mt 7:25

When Jesus reminds us to build our house on rock, not sand, he invites us to use our  imaginations. Picture a house with four corners each of which is built on a rock, and ask yourself what the rocks of your life are that others see in you.  To do this more simply, ask yourself what your passion is, how you spend your time, who you trust?

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, this reflective exercise almost always reveals some sandy spots.  For some it is an addiction to alcohol or other chemicals that obsess them. Others know this because our behavior, no matter how careful or hidden, gives us away. For others, their rock is success at any price, despite its effects on their family.  For too many, it is blindness to the world as it is, and for a few it is using prayer and religious devotion as an escape. None of these rocks last.  They crumble and our house begins to list and topple. Christ is the house in which we live and Advent is a time to do ordinary maintenance on the foundation.

Today, pick one pillar and work at making it a cornerstone of your life.

What and who have been the rocks upon which your have built your lives?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Birth of John the Baptist

His mother replied: "He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." Lk I:59

What's in a name?  In the ancient world, everything. Names were given to children by their fathers to honor his ancestors and elders. Mothers had no role in this ritual, but Elizabeth does. Only when Zechariah writes the name John on a tablet is his "mouth opened and his tongue freed." Clearly, Elizabeth's child John would play an important role in salvation history. John, whose name means God is gracious, would usher in a new order and a new way of being in the world.

Unlike so many, John would have no doubts about his role. He knew he was not the Messiah, despite the desire of so many who accepted his baptism. Rather, his entire life would consist in pointing to Jesus, and announcing the coming of the Messiah. Admitting that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandal strap and that he needed to decrease and Christ increase, John becomes a symbol for every Christian.

Our task as believers is not to posture or pretend that we are important, but to be grateful for the name Christian, recognize Christ in every person and prepare others to receive his Good News. Accepting that we are God's children gives every Christian an identity that is empowering forever. We need not have any fear about who we are or what we are to do. Like John, we are to point to Christ as Redeemer and hope for all humankind.

Today, help someone find Christ.

What are the biggest obstacles we face in announcing the Good News?

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Narrow Gate

"Enter through the narrow gate." Mt 7:12

St Paul  often brags about his weakness, and for those especially who have been humbled in any way, his boast is a consolation. Weakness can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and weaknesses and encourages us to work with others whose strengths make up for our failings.

There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do or anyway we can change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of weakness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community, seek out others who have faced and even overcome serious faults and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Judgment is Mine, says the Lord

"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned." Lk 6:37

Judging the motives of others is natural, but dangerous. Someone acts in a way that makes no sense to us and we immediately interpret it. Jesus was always being judged. Those threatened by his message tried to convince others that he only wanted to wrest power from the Pharisees and Sadducees, and exalt himself as a prophet and healer. It was very difficult for his enemies, and for us, to encounter a totally other centered person. 

Jesus came to announce the Good News of his Father. He wanted to remind us that we are saved and have only to turn to God in faith to receive this great gift. The gratuitousness of his goodness was too much to accept, even though it was only a fulfillment of what God had promised the Jews long before. We need always to examine ourselves closely, especially when we are tempted to judge others quickly if we want to avoid the same mistakes as the Pharisees.

Today, judge others with God's compassion.

When are you most tempted to sit in judgement of others?