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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Working Together for Unity

"Do nothing out of selfishness. of out of vainglory." Phil 2:3

St Paul is forever encouraging the churches that he helped found to be generous, loving and unified in God's Spirit. What a great challenge for us these days in the Catholic church during these days of scandal and shame over sexual abuse. Pope Francis asked Catholics around the world to pray the rosary everyday to combat the devil, the evil spirit who, the Holy Father reminds, wants only to divide us a people.

St Paul knew the same threat in his day. Committed to helping new churches outside of Jerusalem not to be bound by every narrow rabbinic interpretation of the Law, Paul wanted them to be free to develop their own spirituality that would reflect the best of their own culture and experience of Jesus. More important, he wanted to avoid the sins of the past and work diligently towards unity by regarding "others as more important than" ourselves.

Today, pray that the church in the United States will avoid the political and theological divisions that cause people not even to speak with one another.

Who or what helps you to work for unity in our families, church and nation?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Listening Intentionally

 “Pay attention to what I am telling you.” (Lk 9:44)

Paying attention to others, especially when they speak, is a simple act of courtesy that every person deserves, especially children and the elderly. Nevertheless, for any number of reasons, we often fail in this regard. We are busy, distracted, and anxious or have a cluttered mind or schedule. Unfortunately, because children and the aging have less to distract them, they notice when we are not listening, and while they may not say anything, they are often hurt and confused by our failure to be fully present to them.

I wonder if it was like this for Jesus when his apostles failed to listen to him. No doubt they were sometimes afraid or confused about what he was saying, especially when he told them he would suffer, but the Lord was not asking them to understand everything he said, he was simply asking them to listen. Like us, they could walk away, and many did, especially when he spoke about his flesh as real food, but that was not the point. (Cf Jn 6) Listening to him was.

Today, try listening to someone intentionally. Ask God for the grace to be still and to be attentive to the other with reverence and patience. Don’t ask for the right answers. If that kind of response is necessary it will come. Rather, ask for the ability not to run away from another’s struggle and the courage to walk with them in silence.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Responding to Suffering

 "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Lk 9:22


Rejection is always painful whether it comes from a superior, a coworker or a family member. Usually we become defensive and angry even if we saw the rejection coming for a long time. We also struggle to understand it and put it in a category that protects us from further harm. But rejection comes to everyone in life and unless we learn to accept it for what it is, we will struggle with it more than necessary.

The Apostles and disciples find it almost impossible to understand much less accept what Jesus is saying. The Lord has been a successful preacher. People follow him from place to place and his promise to set them free reminds them of God's promise through Moses to the Jews in Egypt. While they might not have thought of Jesus as the new Moses, neither did they expect him to suffer greatly and be rejected. No doubt they resisted his message for fear that they too would undergo the same trials.

Although the call to discipleship involves suffering, we do not have to be afraid. The Lord promises to accompany his disciples until the end of time. As long as we stay close to the Lord through prayer, service and worship, there is nothing to fear.

Today, listen without fear even to difficult messages.

What has been your best response to suffering



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Violence in the Gospel

"But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Lk 9:9

Readers of the gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

St Padre Pio

 “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light." Lk 8:16

What must we do when our inner demons urge us not to display the light God has given us? This is no idle question, but a deep struggle of conscience that many saints have had to face in their lives. St struggled mightily with the gifts God gave him. Blessed with the Stigmata, Pio was frightened when first presented with the gift of Jesus' wounds appearing in his own body. Writing to his friend, Padre Benedetto, Pio told the priest that when he first received the Stigmata he thought he was dying, and would have died had not God intervened. Worried about the reaction of others, Pio asked God to take the outward sign of the Stigmata from him. Willing to endure the pain of the wounds, he did not want to face the questions and doubts of his confreres and superiors about their authenticity.

But God did not give Pio a choice. God wanted to speak and be a light in the world through him. St Pio was not permitted to extinguish his light or avoid public scrutiny. More important, neither are any of us free to let the light of God shining in and through us be extinguished. Rather, our lives of faith are designed to be a guide for others seeking to know God's Good News.

Today, let your light, no matter how weak, shine for God's glory.

What most troubles or unnerves you about being God's light in the world?

Monday, September 21, 2020

We are God's Family

 "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." Mt 12:50

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?

Sunday, September 20, 2020

St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

 "Follow me." Mt 9:10

Matthew must have been amazed and delighted when Jesus called him to follow. Amazed because he was a tax collector, a man despised for what he did and who he was. Tax collectors were most often Jews who worked for the Romans. Upfront, they would pay the Romans the taxes of those from who they collected taxes and then charge Jews whatever they could, and this would often be exorbitant and excruciating.

Matthew also would have been delighted. Here was Jesus, a prominent Jew and rabbi, calling him, accepting him, sitting down at table with him when everyone else in the community was shunning him. Matthew knew that he was being given a second chance and he was anxious to take it.

The message of the gospel is clear. All of us will get a second chance and it is up to us to take it, to follow the Lord and let go of behaviors and practices that oppose God's law and God's desire for us. As long as we are willing to admit that we are in need of a physician, the Lord will come to us like a doctor who sees only that we are in need. The Lord wants to heal us. How wonderful.

Today, acknowledge your weakness.

Who looked at you with love when you could not accept or love yourself?