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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Making Way for God

 "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals." Mk 1:7

Knowing who you are and to whom you belong is a foundational first step on the road to spiritual health.  Every adult believer has struggled mightily at times with their identity as Christians and Catholics. Sometimes it is a particular belief or practice that makes us uncomfortable or leaves us full of doubt, and this is especially true when we are struggling with other issues in our life. When a marriage collapses or a parent nears death, we can wrestle with the teaching of the church or its beliefs and practices. Why can't I remarry, some ask?  Doesn't God want me to be happy? Or why is my mother suffering so?  Doesn't God care?

It is at times like this that John the Baptist becomes a good patron saint.  John knows who he is and does not try to be someone else. There is no indication in the text that he knows exactly who Jesus will become or what the church will eventually look like after his death. Rather, he knows that his job is to prepare the way for the Messiah, and he is determined to do it with integrity and total commitment. That this role would put him at odds with the leaders of the Jewish community seems not to matter to him. God has called him to announce the good news of Jesus' coming and because he trusts totally in God, he is able to complete his task.

Today, ask God to help you live with the questions you face.

Who has helped you know and love yourself as God's beloved?


Friday, December 4, 2020

Practice Listening

"O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, no more will you weep; He will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you." Is 30:19

Isaiah's promise that God wants us to live a long life of peace, especially when we read and reflect upon it during Advent, is designed to assure us that no matter what difficulties we might be experiencing individually or as a church, God is and will be faithful. God has a plan full of promise, beauty and joy, a desire for all to know the fullness of life forever.

At the same time, it can be difficult to wait upon God. We want what we want when we want it, and when we become too anxious, we fail to be discerning and patient. Clarity can and will come to us if only we quiet ourselves, listen carefully to the scriptures, read the signs of the times, and allow God to work through us. The promise of Isaiah should sustain us. God wants us to live forever in peace and hope, and nothing that happens in the world, even Covid 19, can never change that.

Today, rest in God's promise of life forever.

What practices most help you live a peaceful life of quiet discernment?

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Freed from Blindness

 "As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him." Mt 9:27

Sometimes the gospel stories seem stark, and lack detail. This makes sense of course when one remembers that only a few people in Jesus' time were literate, and the intention of the gospels was not to write a biography of Jesus but to announce him as Messiah, son of God and savior of the world. Details were not important in a written form. The story teller could elaborate and fill the text with passion and power for those who could not read.

But the Gospels are not always stark. When the blind men today say, "have pity on us," we stumble upon an important detail and a telling moment. Not only is the request polite, they plead with Jesus to look upon people who are outcasts from their own family and community. Condemned to a life of begging and isolation, the blind men, like Moses, (Ex 33) beg Jesus for help, and become an example for all.

Jesus often reminds us that because we have eyes does not mean that we really see. Only those who see with the heart will experience the fullness of the revelation, and that is our task. If we want to see, we must first acknowledge God as creator and redeemer. Only then will we know the Messiah in our hearts.

Today, open your eyes again to the wonder of the created world.

What blindness do you need to healed of as Advent begins?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

St Francis Xavier

 "At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Mt 9:36

St Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuits along with St. Ignatius Loyola, was the among the first Jesuit missionaries. With his mind and spirit focused on going to China, Francis left Italy without language skills or money. Despite these difficulties, Francis kept his eye on the prize and at every stop along the way preached the gospel, baptizing thousands in India and Japan. That he never realized his dream of preaching the gospel to the Chinese seems insignificant now. He did God's will and that is all that matters.

Francis Xavier is a powerful reminder of what we can become when we place our total trust in God and let God do God's work wherever we are sent. None of us walks the pilgrim path of faith without obstacles. St. Augustine reminds us that we are like pieces of pottery, shaped by instruction and fired by tribulation, and should never fear the kiln. Rather, he encourages us to focus on what God is making of us while we are being tried by fire. (Augustine sermon)

Today, ask God to tell you where you ought to go to proclaim the gospel.

What are your strengths when trials come?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Stubborn Pride

 "Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others." Mt 15:30

The world often gets very small when we are struggling. A friend who ran in the NYC marathon told me she could think of nothing but the finish line for the last few miles of the race. Suffering from hypothermia, she ignored her body's signals to stop. Her goal was in reach and she could not let it go. Similar things happen to all of us. Exhausted by working too intensely, we often keep pushing to finish whatever project we are working on and find ourselves too tired to enjoy what we have accomplished.

How often when we are stressed we forget that Jesus is waiting for us to approach him, and let our pride get in the way of asking for help. Determined to work through whatever problem is in front of us, we are like people trying to push back the tide or the waves of an ocean. Our independence or our personal goals become more important than our faith, and when we fail, we complain to God and sometimes even doubt God's existence. 

Today, ask for the grace to walk with God no matter how slowly God seems to be moving.

Did anyone teach you to slow down in order to find God in every situation?

Monday, November 30, 2020

New Shoots of Hope

 "A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse." Is 11:1

When Isaiah promises that a new shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, he reminds all believers that God can make something extraordinary from nothing. At the same time, the prophet is not speaking about a miracle in a classic sense. Rather,  Isaiah wants us to remember what happens often in the natural world. There are trees with so much inner life that even when they seem dead, we can take one of their broken branches, stick it in the ground, water it often and before long  it takes root and becomes a young  tree.

The challenge to believe that God wants to do something great and new in us, even when we are tired and feeling ragged, is uplifting. God’s love is enduring and, like a broken  branch, stronger than we can imagine. We have only to plant and water it and it will take us to Christmas.

Plant a good deed in someone’s heart and let God do the rest.

Are there “miracles” in nature that remind you of God’s love?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

St Andrew the Apostle

 "For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." Rom 10:9


Salvation, Paul reminds us, is more than simple belief in God. We must tell others about God's goodness to all of human kind. We must announce the graciousness of God with power and conviction. St Andrew did this so intently that he was martyred for his faith.


Peter's brother, Andrew hears the invitation of Jesus to follow him and does not hesitate. He leaves everything to be a disciple of the Lord. Even when he was being martyred he asked to be crucified on an X shaped cross because he did not think he was worthy of being crucified in the same way Jesus was.

When we learn to speak honestly, courageously and naturally about the great gift of our faith, our discipleship is deepened and our witness becomes more powerful.

Today, Confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What are your biggest hurdles on the road to salvati