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Saturday, October 24, 2020

God and Neighbor both Need our Attention

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Mt 22:36

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire law and prophets to as few words as possible without losing the power and love of the entire Torah. Jesus’ response to the question: which commandment in the law is the greatest is unique in two ways. First, no other rabbi suggests that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important because love of God is not enough by itself, but neither is love of neighbor sufficient by itself. Prior to Jesus, the rabbis talked about certain prescriptions of the law as heavy or light. Love of neighbor, while important, was considered light, while love of God was considered heavy. Jesus tells his listeners that both love of God and love of neighbor are heavy, that is, vitally important aspects of the Good news as he interprets it.

Jesus also challenges the traditional rabbinic understanding of neighbor. The rabbis taught that while all Israelites deserved love as neighbors, those outside the covenant only merited compassion. Jesus rejects this understanding and  insists that the Torah demands that Jews love everyone as their neighbor. The good news is for all. There are no outsiders in God's love and this remains the challenge for believers today. How we live this command will determine how others understand the Gospel.

Today, ask God for the gift of knowing deep in your heart that God is always with you.

Do you believe and act in a way that convinces others that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important?

Friday, October 23, 2020

Bear Fruit

 "Consider the fig tree and all the other trees" Lk 21:29

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach, especially about death and dying.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others, and we need to spend it now. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk committed to the silence of the Cistercian life, insisted that anyone who sought entry into the monastery to escape the world did not have a vocation. Even, perhaps especially, monks dedicated to silence must bear fruit by being attentive to all believers in order to bring the concerns of God's people before God in prayer.

Today,  reach out for someone lost.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Practice Hum ility and Gentleness

"Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love." Eph 4:1

St Paul's letter to the Ephesians reminds us that the so called feminine virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are foundational to Jesus' vision. If we are going to be in what the scripture's call "right relationship" with one another, we must put on these virtues, especially in our families and parishes. Unless parents and pastors are humble in their guidance of their children and flock, their families and congregations will inadvertently learn that power is something to be used over others rather than with them. Only when everyone in a family and parish sense their own dignity, even when receiving correction, can we avoid creating an "us" against "them" mentality which can never be good for family or parish life.

Today, practice humility. Ask for guidance.

What do you think are the most important family and community values in the bible?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Fire of the Gospel

 "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." Lk 12:51

Fire in the bible, always a sign of God's presence, often purifies and cleanses. Sometimes the lesson is simple. When we get distracted by concerns that we can do little about, like the weather on a day we are flying, we need to be cleansed and purified. We need to let go, enjoy the day as it unfolds and remember the wisdom of an old saying: Things that are important are rarely urgent and things are urgent are rarely important.

But our need for cleansing and purification can cut much more deeply. When we hold grudges for months or years, expecting the other person to ask for forgiveness, when we ridicule the weak and take advantage of the poor, we need to be cleansed. In the film, The King’s Speech, the Duke of York is a terrible stutterer. Though born to nobility, the man who would eventually be known as King George VI, cannot even read a speech on the radio. Battered by his father to try harder, and to speak more slowly, his stammer only gets worse, but what is most difficult for him is the ridicule he is subjected to, even as an adult, by his own brother.

Exhausted and ashamed by his struggles, the future king submits himself to the “cleansing” and “purifying” skill and friendship of a commoner. Slowly he gains some control of his stammer and emerges humble and grateful, and able to play a key role in leading England through the Second World War. This is, of course, exactly what the Lord did for his first disciples and continues to do for us today.

Today, ask not to be afraid of the fire of God.

Has the Gospel felt like "fire" to you? Did it cleanse you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Giving from our Substance

 "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Lk 12:48

Sometimes Jesus is too clear for our liking. When we think about the benefits of living in the United States we can be embarrassed. Most of us have homes, food, electricity, television, computers, unlimited access to the internet and disposable income to buy gifts for others and simple pleasures for ourselves. 

More, education is available to almost everyone without cost and when we are disciplined about learning most of us can find work that gives us dignity and the ability to support ourselves. The challenge of the Gospel is to make sure all of what we have and earn benefits others, and this is not always the case.

Too often we feel entitled to all that we have and live as if we have a right to even more. When this happens we lose sight of the Gospel and undermine its power. Giving generously to others, especially those who have little, does more for us than those who receive our gifts. Giving changes us and reminds us that all we have is of God and from God, and while it is true that some have earned every penny they have, they too must share with others in the name of Christ and for God's glory. To share from our substance is to imitate God who gives us the Christ without strings or demands.

Today, share whatever gifts God has given you no matter how simple or few.

What impedes your willingness to give to others from your substance?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Opening our Hearts to God

 “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks." Lk 12 35-36

Getting ready for a lifestyle change can be both unnerving and exciting. Seventeen young men recently entered the Capuchin novitiate in California. Reading their names, I immediately started praying for them. While I am sure they are excited, I also know they will have some butterflies.

Praying for these young mne helped me remember that whenever I have the privilege of helping someone ready themselves for marriage, many of the same concerns emerge. Has the couple spent enough time learning about one another? Do they have good communication skills? And most important for believers, are the thinking of marriage as a faith commitment, an opportunity to grow in the love of God through marriage?

These questions, and the answers they imply, when altered slightly are good ones for the candidates to our Order. Life doesn't happen in a day, but unfolds a day at a time. Taking enough time to focus of goals rather than accomplishments makes it possible for religious life and marriage to be a wonderful time of transformation and hope.

Today, thank God for those who helped you make difficult transitions in your life.

What most helps you make transitions in your faith life?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Companions and Martyrs

 "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord." Ps 130:1

One of the most difficult situations every missionary faces is learning the nuances of another language. Knowing the idiomatic expressions, the intonations and the humor of other languages requires a life long effort, and even then most people never lose the accent from their fist language. Nevertheless, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say, that the Holy Spirit will teach you. Good advice, even today.

When John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions came to the New World they knew very little about it, and undoubtedly did things that frightened the Native Americans they encountered. Rene Goupil was killed for tracing the sign of the Cross on a child's forehead, and we will never know how the Native Americans interpreted his gesture. Could they have believed Rene was harming the child? Were the missionaries able to communicate their dreams and purpose? We trust that their intent was always good, but some of what they said and did was misinterpreted, and that is a good lesson for us.

Knowing the culture into which one is inserted, even while living in the United States, is vital for good and lasting relationships. While none of us want to make seriously egregious mistakes when speaking and living with people from different cultures, it is bound to happen, and this can lead either to a deepened appreciation for one another or create fissures between and among us that are very hard to heal. For those who desire a deeper relationship and not a lasting break, it is vital to listen deeply and ask the Lord for the words that will help us articulate the power of the Gospel in a way others can understand.

Today, listen to someone from another culture or race and say nothing.

Have you ever had to ask God for the words to speak the Gospel?