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Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel

"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Mt 15:24

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music they enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

"Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed." Lk 11:27

Today's feast doesn't need a lot of explanation. Mary is the promise, in the flesh, of our own resurrection. Because it is so obvious that Jesus loved the one who carried him in her womb and fed him the milk of her breasts, he wants her to be with him forever in the flesh, and her reward is the promise of our own resurrection.

Not infrequently, people wonder what heaven might be like. The promise of this feast is that we will be with the Lord and all those who have gone before us in the flesh, not necessarily a flesh like we know now, but in our resurrected bodies. Just as Jesus was not limited after his resurrection by the body the apostles saw in the Upper Room, there was no doubt that it was Jesus. Neither, some day, will we have any doubt about who it is that has prepared a place for us.

To understand more deeply the substance of this feast, take a moment to think about how important it is to be with those who have loved us and whom we have loved. Not to be with and see them ever again would be a terrible burden. Today's feast promises us that God knows our yearning and will respond with the gift of a place at the eternal banquet.

Today, let those close to you know of your love.

How do you imagine heaven? What do you hope for?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

St Maximillian Kolbe

"No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it." Maximillian Kolbe

St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, was drawn to a military life as a boy, but soon after entering the seminary he realized that the fight God wanted him to enter was a spiritual one. Although he imagined his life as a "long war", he focused not on the failures of those to whom he was preaching, but on their strengths, and it was this strategy that fostered his work of evangelizing Western Europe and Japan.

Maximilian never forget that it is impossible to pay back God, and this knowledge drove him to pour out his life in gratitude for all God had given him. The gift of life and the gift of faith are pure gifts, not something we earn or deserve. God chooses to give us life and sustain us in it because of God's goodness, not our worth. More important, we cannot earn salvation. God wants us to be with him forever. It is as simple as that. Like a parent, God desires only good for his children and wants them to live in peace forever.

Today,  be as patient with yourself as God is with you.

How would you counsel others to live patiently?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

God's Patience

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full." Mt 18:26

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Reconciliation

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." Mt 18:15

Reconciliation, especially between and among family members, is critical not only for the people involved but for everyone.  When we realize that one in every four women in the United States suffers domestic violence in her lifetime, and boys who witness violence in their homes are twice as likely to abuse their own partners, (NCADV) we know how important reconciliation is.

Moreover, the cost of domestic violence is enormous. More than four billion dollars is spent in medical and mental health visits as a result of domestic violence and we can only guess at its ongoing effects since most cases go unreported to civil or medical personnel. When Jesus tells his disciples to find a peaceful path to healing even when they are sinned against, he is speaking to us as well.

Too often we hold onto hurts, blame others for how we feel and fail to see the good in those with whom we struggle. The gospel is clear in this regard. Unless we work to look past the obvious, as Jesus does, when he refuses to condemn the woman caught in adultery and tells Zaccheus the tax collector that he wants to eat with him, we will find ourselves further and further from the ideals Jesus sets for us.

Today, offer a hand of healing to someone who has hurt you.

Who has helped you to let go of hurts for the sake of community and the Gospel?

Monday, August 10, 2020

St Clare of Assisi

"(Ezekiel said) I did as I was told. During the day I brought out my baggage as though it were that of an exile, and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness, shouldering my burden." Ez 12:7

Like St Francis, her friend and mentor, St Clare was born into wealth, and although her mother was generous towards the poor and had a deep spirituality, Clare knew that the power which her family's wealth gave her was an obstacle to a full Gospel life.

Because she wanted. like Jesus and Ezekiel, to sell everything she had and give the proceeds to the poor, Clare petitioned Rome to live what she called the "privilege of poverty." Anxious to demonstrate her total dependence on God and the church, Clare wanted both to live within the enclosure and without a dowry, something unheard of in the middle ages. Because women within the enclosure had no means of supporting themselves, the church insisted that nuns have the security of a dowry to protect them from destitution.

Although it took almost to the end of her life, St Clare's desire to live with nothing of her own was finally accepted by Rome when her Rule was approved in 1253 just a day before her death, and this profound breakthrough continues to inspire women of the 21st century to live the Gospel simply and without guile.

Today, ask yourself whether you need everything you have.

What spiritual practice might help you live the Gospel more simply and fully?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

St Lawrence, Deacon

"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Jn 12:24

St Lawrence reputedly said while being grilled on an open fire as punishment for his failure to obey the the Roman Prefect : Turn me over. Like so many other stories, it misses the point.

St. Lawrence should be known for something very different. When the Roman Prefect demanded Lawrence bring him the treasures of the church, Lawrence went throughout the city and gathered all the poor and sick declaring: These are the riches of the church. The Roman Prefect, embarrassed and enraged, demanded that Lawrence be burned like an animal and Lawrence accepted his punishment for telling the truth. Indeed, the poor and sick are our greatest treasure.

We must all, like Lawrence, fall to the earth and die if we want to witness to the the gospel in an authentic way. Unless we have the faith and courage to let go of our narrow and limited world views, we cannot bear the fruit of God, the fruit that will last forever.

Today, ask not to be afraid of the daily dying demanded by the Gospel.

Who has died so that you might live?