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Saturday, November 7, 2020

Staying Aware

 "Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep." (Mt 25:5)

Today’s gospel has a very consoling verse for people like me and many older people.  Matthew writes that  the ten virgins "all became drowsy and fell asleep.”  Since I am an early to bed person, the thought of staying up very late waiting for “the bridegroom” to arrive and then dragging myself to a wedding banquet is not something I would look forward to.  Clearly the issue in this parable is not falling asleep; we all do that when we are tired.  Rather, the Lord wants us to be prepared with enough oil for our lamps to accompany the bridegroom  to the banquet whenever he arrives.

Being ready to serve God at all times is a constant theme of Matthew’s gospel, especially in its final chapters. Jesus, as he did in yesterday’s gospel, reminds us to stay awake, to be alert, and today he uses the parable of the ten virgins as a reminder for us to be prepared to meet the Lord every day, not just as a preparation for death, but in order to live the gospel fully.

Though the challenge of always being prepared can seem daunting, even overwhelming, we should not be afraid. Though all of us will regularly fail at living a full gospel life, if we have prepared ourselves for the inevitable breakdowns in our commitment, God will be waiting to greet us when we wake up again.  Pray and be grateful each day for the gift of faith.  Christ will do the rest.

Today, take five minutes to do nothing but pay attention to the day.

Who has helped you learn to live each day with joy and passion?


Friday, November 6, 2020

Divided Hearts

 "No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other." Lk 16:13

Luke's Gospel demands that we ask ourselves: Who is my Master?  Reminding his listeners that many religious leaders have divided hearts, Luke insists that living the Gospel is about making choices which bind us to the good despite the cost. If Jesus' followers were too concerned with the traditional signs of God's love, if they were overly worried about money, property, family and health, they could not follow Jesus with full hearts.

These days we seem tempted to have not two but many, many masters. Whether it is money, our reputation or our influence upon or over others, there are multiple concerns that distract us from living the Good News with the power Jesus offers us as gift. Unless we learn to let go of that which divides our hearts, we will be running in four directions at once, not even knowing that we are lost. Taking time each day for reflection and quiet prayer not only alerts us to the competing voices within us, it can steady us on the Gospel path and be a compass that directs us into the heart of God.

Today, examine your conscience carefully about matters which divide your heart.

What fears most distract you from a full Gospel life?


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Begging for Help

 "The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’" Lk 16:3

Occasionally, I meet someone who tells me they never pray for themselves, and I am stunned. Praying for oneself is natural and necessary. Help me, O God, to live in your presence. Keep me focused on your desire for the world, and show me the path you would have me walk are all prayers that are honest, make sense, and honor God. Of course, we can pray selfishly and we ought to try to avoid too much of this, but never praying for ourselves could suggest we don't need God at all.

The blind man's insistent cry for help is a good Gospel example of this. Though many tried to quiet him, fearing perhaps that he was disturbing Jesus or being foolish, the blind man shouted all the louder when he knew Jesus was near. So should we. Asking for help everyday to live God's dream for us not only reminds us of our dependence on God, it honors God by acknowledging his power to impact our everyday lives.

Today, respond to someone else's request for help, even if you don't have time.

Why is it sometimes difficult for you to ask for help?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Lost Sheep

 "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" Lk 15:2

At first glance, it makes no sense to leave ninety nine sheep alone to search for the lost one, but Jesus is making an important and challenging point with his followers. The lost are important. The healthy, he says in another place, don't need a physician. The sick do. (Mk 2:17) Jesus wants us to let go of the security of wherever we are to look for those who have lost their way, and this is often a hard challenge.

Often in Christian terms we must be people who are both/and. We must so deeply know who we are that we are unafraid to let go of our security to seek those who forget or reject their own heritage and faith. Because we are rooted in the memory of Jesus we know that wherever we are, we are in Christ who is the source and summit of our lives, and can risk anything in order to proclaim the message of Jesus. The apostles knew this. So did the great saints. We can learn it a day at a time.

Today, open your spirit to the lost and do it without judging them.

Are there places, people and communities that you avoid?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

St Charles Borremeo

 "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God." Rom 15:17

Named Archbishop of Milan when he was 25 years old, St Charles Borremeo was hugely influential at the Council of Trent. For many years he was a church careerist, working to assure himself and his family a comfortable life, but when his elder brother died during the Council, everything changed. Aware that life was short, Charles became an avid church reformer who lived a very simple personal life and gave most of his income to the poor. More important, he insisted that everyone named bishop in his provincial council be an example to the faithful of men committed to the gospel, and be well trained in Scripture for their ministries. In fact, the education of the clergy became so important to him that he started the seminary system which continues, even today, to train priests all over the world.

St Paul’s letter to the Romans sounds like Charles could have written it. Concerned that some of his disciples and converts were taking credit for their own good works, Paul first praises them but then reminds them that without Christ nothing of ultimate value can happen. The apostle writes, “I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” If anything or anyone distracts us from the works of God in Christ we must avoid them and return to the essentials of Gospel life. Both Paul and Charles remind us to live each day simply and gratefully.

Today, step back from your life and ask yourself whether others experience you as Good News.

Have you had occasion to reform your life?

Monday, November 2, 2020

Letting Go

 "Christ Jesus,  though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped." Phil 2:6

How hard it is to let go, especially of good experiences. We grasp and cling to situations and people who make us happy. Though we know this is foolishness, we can rarely help ourselves. Grace that tastes like candy is hard to resist. More important, we often find it difficult to let go of hurt. Somehow, the ache of not being recognized or discarded by people we love, seems to cling to us like the grime of not being able to shower after working outside in the hot sun.

That is why it is so important to listen to St Paul when he reminds us that Jesus did not even cling to his Godhead, but emptied himself for us and for the world. Because Jesus is always other centered, he witnesses for us how we ought to go about in the world. The more we think of others and try to respond to them in their need, the easier it is to forget ourselves and our problems. First responders to tragedies like hurricane Michael that just devasted the Florida panhandle remind us of this. As soon as they begin to help others, their own struggles fade quickly into the background.

Today, ask for the grace to let go of one nagging and old hurt.

Who do you most admire for letting go of difficult experienes in life?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

All Souls

 "They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace." Wis 3: 2-3

In one of the Prefaces to the Eucharistic prayer when celebrating mass for the deceased, we read: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven." These words always bring me great comfort. Realizing, even as I pray these words for others, that I have allowed myself to slip into sloppy thinking when I forget that life as we know it now, no matter how rich or satisfying, is temporary. This is not to say we should not enjoy life as it unfolds, but that it is important to remember that life on earth is fleeting. 

Regularly, when trying to console a grieving family I remind them that though we can no longer see our family and friends who have died, faith assures us that they are alive and with us in a way no longer limited by the constraints of the flesh. 

I often experience this simple truth when I think about and celebrate my Dad's life. If I happen to be driving to Newark Airport in New Jersey, I wave as I pass Sea Land, the container ship company where he worked for many years. A mail room worker, my dad traveled by public transportation most of his working life. Always grateful to have work, my father enjoyed his job and especially the people with whom he worked and the delight he felt touches me still. I know he is alive in Christ, and I believe I will see him again when my own life ends.

All Souls day invites us to celebrate all those powerful women and men who went before us in faith about whom we know little but who faith assures us are alive. While the foolish might think of them as dead, our faith promises us that they are at peace, and in this we rejoice with grateful songs of praise.

Today, "speak" with someone, now dead, who was especially important to you in life.

What do you think heaven will be like?