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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Letting God Pray In Us

"The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." Rom 8:26

It is the rare adult believer who does not yearn to pray more deeply. As we age and review our life as it has unfolded, we realize that though God has always been present, we have too often taken God for granted. Sadly, changing this pattern is difficult. As St Paul reminds us, we don't know how. Frustrated, we sometimes return to prayers we learned as children, but soon realize these devotions no longer offer us the consolation we once experienced.  Our hearts want more.

The first and perhaps the most important task in learning to pray more naturally as adults is to practice silence. Learning to sit quietly and to let go of the busyness of our everyday lives, while fundamental to the spiritual life, can be unbearably difficult and confusing. For most, as soon as we begin our minds start to clamor and drift. Easily distracted by almost anything, we wonder if we will ever learn the simple skill of being quiet in the presence of God and all creation.

When, however, we endure our frustrations in learning how to stop thinking and analyzing, we should have little doubt or fear that God will hear us and draw near to us. Nevertheless, we may not feel God's closeness or experience the changes for which we yearn, but this should not overly concern us. Praying is about giving time to God without conditions and remembering that the Spirit is praying in and for us even when we feel nothing. Our fidelity is our prayer.

Today, sit quietly for 10 minutes. Try not to worry about what happens.

What are your favorite ways of praying?

Friday, July 17, 2020

Bruised Reeds

"He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth." Is 42 2-3

Pope Francis startled us a few years ago with an announcement about the Sacred Triduum. Rather than celebrate the Holy Thursday mass of the Last Supper at St Peter's in Rome, he presided at mass in a Roman youth prison. Amazing. Of course, his action makes perfect sense, since the liturgy of Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, but is so different from anything we have come to expect, even from someone as charismatic and independent as Pope  St. John Paul II, that we are left with our mouths hanging open.

Isaiah reminds us that God will bring forth justice for all, not by crying out or shouting, but my offering himself as servant of those most in need. On Thursday of this week, when Pope Francis washes the feet of young men in prison, he will challenge us to do think again, like his namesake St Francis, about how we treat the lepers in our society. Are we servants of the broken, people of faith unwilling to break the bruised reed? Do we reduce people in prison to objects, men and women to be feared or pitied? Are they people in prison or prisoners? Anytime we can find the correct questions to ask on our faith journey, we are on the right path.

Today, re-imagine how you want to celebrate the Triduum.

What are your biggest Gospel challenges?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Mercy not Sacrifice

"I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men." Mt 12:7

Mercy is a constant theme for Jesus. Always concerned that the poor, who often thought of themselves as unworthy of God's love, would to be afraid of God or fear they were being punished for their sins, Jesus reminds them that his Father's love was not a gift for the successful but for the faithful. No longer should anyone think their worth was determined by their status in the community. God wants to be close to all people and when the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up by condemning his disciples for working on the Sabbath, he pushes back hard.

Jesus reminds the leaders of the Jewish community and us that mercy towards the lowly is the path we must take if we wish to know God's desire for us. In the 11th chapter of the prophet Hosea we read:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (1-4)

If God bends down to feed us, must we not do the same to those who are hungry for mercy?

Today, offer a hand of mercy to someone who expects rejection.

How do you understand God's mercy?



Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Praying for our Enemies

"The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level." Is 26:7

Isaiah regularly offers the people of Israel a path of return to God and God's ways. As long as they do justice and make restitution to those people and nations from whom they have stolen and against whom they have warred, God will remember them and welcome them home.

This simple lesson should not be lost on us. When we honestly assess our behavior, we realize how often we have lusted after what others have, and whether it is their property, their influence or their reputation does not matter. When we have allowed ourselves the freedom not to work for others on behalf of God, but to struggle against them for our own gain, we must confront and address this sin.

At the same time, this is never easy. When someone unjustly tries to take from us our good name, we have the right to resist, but never violently. Only when we insist with a peaceful heart that others allow us the same dignity we offer them, will we be doing God's work. Those who willingly admit their own wrongs and respond in justice to those they have ill treated are always more successful in the pursuit of God's desire for the world.

Today, pray for your enemies.

Who do you most admire for their honesty and willingness to step in the shoes of another?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

St Bonaventure

"Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." Mt 11:25

Sometimes, the Gospel is very simple. Praise God and listen to the childlike.

St Bonaventure, who some call the second founder of the Franciscan movement, knew this struggle well. Charged with settling the differences between and among Francis' followers especially with regard to their vow of poverty, Bonaventure succeeded where others failed. A theologian, Bonaventure employed Greek philosophy together with the Gospel to intellectually ground the pursuit of God without pretending one could ever fully understand God and God's ways. This wisdom allowed him to bring his great learning to the struggles of the early Franciscans.  Always seeing  the middle way, a path that honored everyone on it, Bonaventure proved to be an inspired leader and healer. Minister General of the friars for seventeen years, he led the Franciscan community to a place of honor and humility by his willingness to stand at the center of every controversy as an agent of peace and good. In a society like the United States that is so divided, we are challenged to do the same.

Today, seek peace with someone with whom you disagree.

What most inspires you about St Francis and the Franciscans?

Monday, July 13, 2020

St Kateri Tekawitha

"'Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!'" Is 6:8

The few writings we have from Kateri Tekawitha are remarkable. How a woman with so little formal catechesis developed such a sophisticated understanding of what it meant to live an heroic life in Christ is astounding.

Struck down by smallpox as a young girl that left her skin pockmarked, she was also partially blind, not a great candidate for marriage in the Native American world into which she was born. Kateri seemed not to care about this, especially after she discovered Christ and began to learn about his life and promises. Having lost her parents in the same  smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured, she ran away from her uncle's home and attached herself to a village near Montreal where a group of Jesuits had established a church and small community of believers. There she grew in faith in more traditional ways. She committed herself to prayer, fasting and service of others.

Kateri's life reminds us that having everything we desire or think we need is not as important as knowing Christ intimately. Whether like Kateri we bear with physical limitations or carry the emotional scars of a difficult childhood matters little if we accept who we are in Christ and see ourselves in God's eyes. Life is not first of all about health, wealth and security in this world. It is about commitment, acceptance and joy in the knowledge of God's love and care for us.

Today, ask to accept yourself as you are and see where God takes you.

What do you think it takes to live an heroic life in Christ in our day?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Hot Faith

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword." Mt 10:34

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

The gospel does not permit easy answers, but insists that we search beyond selfishness to see the needy with God's eyes and remember that it was the poor who first listened to him because they were desperate for hope. Only when we acknowledge our own weaknesses can we look at others with compassion and understanding.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?