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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Unconditional Forgiveness

"Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan." Mt 18:28

Offering forgiveness to others is one of the hallmarks of Judeo Christian spirituality. Knowing that God wants to forgive us and goes out of his way to do so ought to impel us to do the same.

There are so many examples of this in our faith traditions that it can overwhelm us, but we need to be aware of this history. One of the most dramatic was a letter found at the Ravensbruck death camp where 92,000 women and children died. It was scrawled on wrapping paper near a dead child.

Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering--our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness. Amen

Today, ask God to help you let go of an unresolved anger or hurt.

How have you experienced God's forgiveness in your life?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Good Trees, Good Fruit

 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” Mt 7: 19-20

Every person has faults, makes mistakes and loses focus. To do anything else would not be human, but we must never measure our life only by our failures; we must also celebrate its fruits. Jesus is clear about this, and though we sometimes are tempted to dismiss the good we have done, we need to listen to his guidance.

In 12 step spirituality, like Alcoholics Anonymous, program people are encouraged to work through the twelve steps and make a searching and fearless inventory of themselves (4th step). For those who do this with a sponsor, it is also important not just to acknowledge one's faults but to record one's successes. For most addicts it is easier to list their faults than to name their strengths, and I often think this is true for all of us.of us it is easier to list our faults than count our successes. 

It is very clear in the scriptures that God is always willing to look past our sins and focus on our gifts, and this is true throughout the Bible. Very few people would forgive David his lust for Bathesheba and his willingness to put her husband Uriah in a position where he would surely be killed. But God does. Even more remarkable is the story of the forgiving father who embraces his younger son who has squandered his inheritance. God wants us to succeed and be reborn.

Today, accept the good God has done through you.

When was the last time you took the opportunity to praise someone for their good qualities?

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Overcoming Blindness

"Can a blind person guide a blink person?" Lk 6:39

It can be very sad to acknowledge how blind we have been in life. Not only do we fail to see the sick and needy around us, we often are blind to the needs of our closest friends. When we are too concerned with our own image, power or needs, we lose focus, forget our ideals, and everyone and everything around us suffers.

Unfortunately, none of this is new or particular to people of the present age. Jesus tried to help his disciples see the errors of the Pharisees, but his task was difficult. The men he chose as apostles, though insightful, did not come to Jesus from a place of power and influence. As fishermen, they had to be decent business men but would have been wary of crossing the Jewish authorities for fear they would be condemned  and even shunned by their contemporaries. 

Finding a place within and a community of disciples with whom to walk the way of the Gospel is important. Being strengthened by others who seek to know and live the Good News is an essential element of the faith about which Jesus preached. Because Jesus knew the path of righteousness which he proclaimed would be a struggle for all, he was forever reminding his followers to go "two by two" and to work together to be faithful to God. The same is true for our generation.

Today, open your eyes and look around. Judge nothing. Simply look and reflect about what you see.

What spiritual practices help you see the world the way God sees it?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Learning for Service

 "Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up." 1 Cor 8 1b

St Bernard of Clairvaux one wrote that people seek knowledge for three reasons. Some seek knowledge for knowledge sake. They are curious. Other seek knowledge to impress other. They are vain. And some seek knowledge for service. Theirs is an act of love. 

St Paul warns us about seeking knowledge for any other reason but love because it can feel like power over others and leads to pride. Love on the other hand leads to service especially of those most in need. Because most of us struggle with pride, we look to Sts Paul and Bernard to help us root ourselves as people of the good news whose entire lives are dedicated to service and love. More important, when we allow God to direct us in this way, we grow in faith.

Today offer some a hand in service and let them direct you about how to help.

Who has helped you learn the value of service of others?

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

St Peter Claver

"I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church." Col 1:24-25 

People of a certain age were introduced to the saints as children, and St Peter Claver captured my imagination when he wrote, "I must dedicate myself to the service of God until death, on the understanding that I am like a slave." That our religion teacher was Fr Peter Claver Eich also helped. A smiling and athletic friar priest, Fr Peter Claver encouraged everyone he met with a boundless energy and kind spirit. I wanted to be like him and St Peter Claver.

It's good and important to remember how our spirits were shaped. Although we were carefully and deeply catechized with the aid of the Baltimore catechism, it was the people we met along the way who brought the catechism and the scriptures to life and most shaped our early spiritual lives. People living the Good News with passion and hope do more to spread the Gospel than any sermon.

Another Jesuit, Alonso de Sandoval, cared for the slaves of Columbia for forty years before St Peter Claver arrived, and it was Alonso's example that shaped and formed Peter. That Peter learned from Alonso is clear, but he took service to the slaves another step. While Alonso visited and cared for the slaves where they worked, Peter met them at the docks with medicine, water, and food. Though opposed by some of his fellow Jesuits who believed slavery was justified, Peter continued to care for and love the slaves and worked for their civil rights by preaching to slave traders and businessmen in the city square while staying in the slave quarters at night.

Today, pray for those enslaved by their fears and rage.

Whose passion for faith most helps you to live the Gospel?





Monday, September 7, 2020

The Nativity of Mary

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Mt 1:23

Birthdays are festive times, and although Mary probably didn't celebrate hers like 21st century Americans, we ought to celebrate it with real joy. Mary is the one who’s "yes" to the angel and God made possible the entrance of Jesus into history and her birthday might be a time for us to light a few candles to remember her life and her sorrows.

There are few saints who teach us more about accepting and celebrating life as it unfolds than Mary. Apparently content with her life, especially after she was promised in marriage to Joseph, her life turned upside down when she was still a young girl. A visit from an angel invited her to know God in a more intimate way than anyone before her, but this knowledge came at a great price. She would be talked about and ridiculed, forced to flee her country and family, and when she was free to return to Palestine after Herod's death, she would be faced with the awful burden of watching her son suffer and die as a common criminal.

No wonder we want to celebrate her birthday. Mary's nativity invites us to trust that even that which appears and feels like an overwhelming sorrow, will be transformed by God into hope for all peoples and all nations. Happy birthday, Mary. Thank you for showing us the path to hope in darkness.

Today, ask God for the grace to embrace whatever comes your way.

What it is about Mary that most moves you to say yes to God's path for you?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Yeast

 "Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

Yeast, which is an irritant, plays a prominent role in the Gospel. When activated in flour is makes bread rise, but also reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Yeast reminds us that it is always a good time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life?