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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Christ our Rock

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mt 16:16

St Peter is often faulted for speaking too quickly and rashly, but in today's Gospel he answers for all of us, and his response sets a tone for Lent. If we are successful at nothing else during this penitential season, we need to reaffirm out commitment to the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

In a poignant moment, when Benedict XVI met with the Roman clergy a few days after announcing his resignation, the Sistine choir sang Palestrina's interpretation of this same passage from Matthew 16 as Benedict left the assembly, assuring him and us that the Gospel would always be a "rock" of safety for those who freely professed their faith, and that his role as Peter was shared with us all.

Is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, for us? Can others see and experience our belief by the quality of our faith life? The teaching that comes from the Chair of Peter, no matter how strongly any Pope tries to exercise his authority, will be empty unless believers everywhere live the Gospel everyday and open themselves to every form of formation and growth.

Today, sit down and ask God to help you live and reflect upon the gospel with integrity and power.

How do you understand the authority Jesus gives Peter?

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Queenship of Mary

"The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Mt 23:12

Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

Conversely, Mary is an icon of grateful humility, a woman wrapped in grace whose every word and action in the scripture is other centered. Not only does she say yes to the angel's invitation to be the mother of Jesus despite having very few answers to her questions, she stands up for the young couple at Cana who have no wine and accompanies her son to his horrific death. Mary never forgets who she is and how much God loves her in the middle of her personal struggles. No wonder she is call Queen.

Today, shepherd those in your care. Don't worry about how much or little they produce.

Who has shepherded you without concern for themselves?

Thursday, August 20, 2020

St Pius X

"I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts." Ex 36:27

Sometimes Popes do things that surprise us. Pius X, who was born in poverty, filled the apostolic palace with survivors after the 1908 earthquake in Messina well before the Italian government acted. Imagine what the 21st century media would do if Pope Francis opened the Vatican to Syrian refugees!

Pius knew, like Ezekiel, what it meant to have a new heart and new spirit. Determined to stand behind those most in need with open arms, Pius also worked to make the Eucharist available to a larger and larger group of people, especially children, and it was his leadership that encouraged all people, not just the clergy, to seek holiness through a devout life.

Like Pius, we must ask for a new hearts and spirits and yearn for a new way of living so the church can become the poor church for the poor that Pope Francis envisions. It is so easy to get comfortable in life and in faith, but when we do, we fail to hear the ongoing call to conversion that is at the heart of the Gospel.

Today, remember what it is like to have your heart and spirit renewed..

How can we help others know the God who continually renews our hearts and spirits.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

St Bernard of Clairvaux

 "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mt 19:21

St Bernard of Clairvaux, in a remarkably moving and demanding sermon, begs Mary to help her sons and daughters:
Let humility be bold, Mary, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
Reading Bernard's words always lifts my spirits. It is clear that the Saint thought of Mary as his sister, mother, and friend, someone to whom he could speak plainly and with abandon. Mary was not an historical figure, but a living, breathing companion with whom Bernard could plead and beg. His example should embolden us. Both Mary and Jesus are meant to be accessible players in our personal and communal lives. We should never be afraid to approach them and ask for help and guidance.

Today, imagine you are Mary's sister. Stop her and ask for direction and help.

What spiritual practice has most helped you strenghten your faith?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

God's Generosity

"‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’....Are you envious because I am generous?’" Mt 20:16a

Upon first reading Matthew's parable about the laborers who worked only an hour and received a full days wage, we are puzzled. Trained to believe that when we work hard we will receive our reward, Jesus' story turns our expectations upside down, and that is the point. The parable is not about the workers at all. It is about God and God's generosity, and its purpose is twofold: to remind us that God is good beyond our imagination and to challenge us to live more generously than we have in the past.

No matter how hard we try to understand God's greatness, the scriptures keep reminding us that God and God's graciousness have no parallels in human life, and while it is helpful to think of metaphors and similes that open up our understanding, they will always fail to capture the fullness of God's goodness. Most of us have gazed at a sunrise, sunset, the ocean or a majestic mountain and been unable to describe what we experience. The grandeur and power of nature defies description, and  the love of God's is even more impossible to label or name. Only awe and silence seem a proper and fitting response.

What we can and must do is accept God's challenge to live lives of limitless generosity and learn how to spend the love we have been given with humility and delight. While a tall order, even this is possible with God's help.

Today, give someone something they have not deserved or earned.

Do you  have a favorite way or story to desribe God's generosity/

Monday, August 17, 2020

Being Rich

"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Mt 19:24

When social standing, wealth and power lead to blindness of spirit, they become impediments to knowing and loving God, and must be avoided or rejected. Only those, rich and poor alike, who see with the eyes of God and respond in justice to the poor deserve to be remembered, named and imitated. Every person, no matter how poor, has a dignity and importance in the reign of God. This is a great obstacle to many.

People of every generation, social class, race and culture need to remember that it is not our accomplishments or wealth that lead us to God, but our humility and love of all creation which save us. Jesus expresses this bluntly in today's Gospel. "It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mk 10;24) When wealth blinds us to God's will and others' need, we are from the reign of God. Only a change of heart can help us.

Today, pray for anyone you may have dismissed because of their weakness, race or poverty.

How do you understand Jesus when he says that it is terribly hard for rich people to get into heaven?

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sell Everything

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor." Mt 19:21

The severity of Jesus' demand that we renounce all our possessions can be overwhelming, especially when we read it out of context. The best scholars of the bible always remind us that when we ask God for the strength to let go, to renounce everything for God, God gives us back what we need to live well and serve others. While God's challenge is daunting, it is also necessary. Belief demands that we learn to trust God with our entire lives despite the cost.

When trying to listen to the God who demands everything from us, it is also important to remember that most of us have more than we could ever use or need, and it is our fear and pride that causes us to worry about whether we have enough or how others see us. Rather than let go to simplify our lives, we acquire more and more ideas, stuff and baggage. Jesus might sound harsh, but his message is clear. Don't be afraid to give God everything. The reward is a Gospel freedom beyond anything we could imagine.

Today, recommit yourself to a Gospel life no matter the cost.

Which of your possessions or ideas are most difficult to renounce?