Saturday, July 21, 2012

St. Lawrence of Brinidisi

"Do not forget the poor, O Lord." Ps 10

A genius with languages, he spoke five, Lawrence used his gifts to study the scriptures in their original languages, and became one of the most well known preachers of his day. His brother Capuchins were so taken by his knowledge and holiness that they elected him one their major superiors when he was barely thirty, and General Minister when he was forty three.

Men like Lawrence don't come along very often. Too often the very bright among us value their knowledge for its own sake, and even when they share it, their listeners are not led to conversion but admiration for the speaker or writer. Lawrence, named a doctor of the church in 1959, continues to be a model for scholars. Humble and committed to service of his brothers, he reminds us that all our gifts come from God and are meant to help others.

Today, ask God to help you share whatever gift you have with humility and hope for others.

What you say to someone who asked you to help them live a humble life?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Sabbath is made for Us; we are not made for the Sabbath

“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful  to do on the Sabbath.” Mt 12:2

When we feel cornered, we will do almost anything to defend ourselves. It is always easier to attack then defend a weak position. There seems little doubt that those accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath were really trying to undermine the Lord’s authority.

The Pharisees must have known that David had demanded that his troops be fed even with the bread consecrated for temple use. David knew his men were “pure”, that they had avoided sexual relations, and were therefore worthy of eating the consecrated bread. He reminds the priests that he always demanded purity of his troops when they were on an expedition for the nation. 

In like manner, Jesus is challenging the Pharisees to find some “impurity” in his disciples. After all, the disciples had left everything to follow him and were told often that they should take nothing for their journey except the truth of Jesus’ message so that no one could question their motives. If they were “pure” in their desire to announce God’s Good News even if it meant their persecution, why would the Pharisees accuse of them of breaking the Sabbath?

Today, pray for “purity” of heart in being a disciple.

What are your greatest challenges to living the Gospel simply and transparently?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Putting Wind in our Sails

“As a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so were we in your presence, O LORD. We conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind.” Is 26:18

Talk, talk, talk. All you do is talk. Most of us remember hearing words like this from friends and foe.  The Letter of James says it directly, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Ja 2:17) Faith in God must express itself in action, not just in conversation or debate.  It does little good to those in need if our conversation about the need to help the poor goes no place. In Isaiah’s language, we are windy and full of hot air!

At the same time, we should not put aside conversation altogether. Acting precipitately, while helping to respond quickly to another’s need, does little to promote long term healing. Triage is necessary when someone is in real danger, but cannot be our only response. Informed conversation about how people can work together for a society in which all eat and have adequate housing and decent jobs is more important, in the long run, than responding to crises as they develop.

Today, do something with others to build a just society.

Have you ever been engaged in advocacy or organizing for others? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Being Spiritually Fit

“Therefore the Lord, the LORD of hosts, will send among his fat ones leanness.” Is 10:16

It is easy to become comfortable, to take life and faith for granted, but it only takes a simple problem or crisis to remind us that life and faith are great gifts for which we should always be grateful.  Striving to be lean, and to be conscious not only of our own situation and needs but the reality of life all over the world, helps us to live simply so that all can simply live.

For those of us who have had the privilege of visiting or living in the developing world, it is difficult not to notice the “leanness” of entire populations. Eating too much is almost impossible for most people in the world, especially when they have learned to eat enough to live, but to be conscious of all those who have nothing.

Learning to eat what we need for health and pleasure is a hugely difficult task in a society that presents us with five different kinds of peanut butter and thirty different jams and jellies, but in faith there are no excuses. We ought to delight in each day, while remembering  at the same time that when we take abundance for granted, we risk God’s wrath.

Today,  think thin spiritually.

What helps you discipline yourself in food and drink as a spiritual practice?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Firming up our Faith

“Unless your faith is firm, you will not be firm.” Is 7:9

Faith is something we need to work on. It is not a given. While it is true that faith is a free gift from God, we need to practice it or it becomes soft and empty, and of little value to ourselves or others.

Although there are many ways to live faith, we need to avoid the mistake of treating faith like one more thing to do in our busy days. Unless we put aside time to gather regularly at home and in our parishes, reflect deeply and study both the scriptures and our tradition, and serve those most in need we risk becoming “good” Catholics who forget that Jesus’ call is to discipleship not simply to Sunday Eucharist.

Faith is something that must transform our lives, not make us feel good. Think about those people of faith who you most admire. They live differently that those around them, and usually with little fanfare. They pay more attention to others than themselves and almost always are good listeners. Their faith is firm.

Today, ask yourself whether your lifestyle reflects your faith.

What practices most “firm up” your faith?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

Tonight I leave for Africa with 8 other pilgrims, most of whom are from the African Women's Education Fund. (AWEF) We will be visiting Kenya and Tanzania in order to meet many of the young girls whose education we support. Please pray for a safe and transforming trip. I will try to post a reflection each day, but if I miss here or there, forgive me. We return August 2.

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth." Mt 10:34

Peace at any price is not usually peace at all, and peace without justice is empty.  Jesus and the church are pretty clear about these two notions. When we seek or think we have peace and have not addressed the terrible inequalities that people suffer, we are hardly living the gospel.

Jesus is clear about this when the rich young man wants to know what he must to do to be perfect.
"One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"  Lk 18: 22-24
Clearly, it is not wealth itself that gets in the way of living the gospel life, but the clinging to it for the sake of security that blinds us to those most in need.The peace that Jesus promises his disciples and us comes when we are interiorly free, when we trust God as the ultimate good. It is shortsighted to live as if happiness is something we can earn or deserve. We have only to suffer one deep heartache to know how shallow material wealth and possessions can be.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, becomes our model in all of this. As she said "yes" to God when the angel asked her to be the mother of Jesus, and "yes" over and over again throughout her life, she reminds us to say "yes" today to all that is, and to trust that God has a plan for each and all of us.

Today, enjoy time with a friend, and do not count the cost.

What do you think Jesus means when he says that he did not come bring peace upon the earth?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Bonaventure

"Take nothing for the journey." Mt 6:7

How to proclaim the gospel in a way others can hear it and be transformed is always a question for Christians. It is clear that the mere announcing of the gospel is hardly enough to convince others of its truth or power. While hearing the word of God can introduce others to the wonder of the good news, by itself it does little to convince others to live it. Only witness of and to the word has a lasting effect in others lives.

When Jesus instructs his disciples to take nothing for the journey, he is not exalting simplicity of life and lifestyle in itself. Rather, he is reminding them that the only way they will stand out in life is to live the gospel for its own sake. Carrying nothing assures those to whom they are sent that they have no ulterior motive. They are not announcing Good News to gain privilege or voice or power. They are living the Good News so that others might know its freeing and empowering effects.

St Bonaventure had regularly to remind the early Franciscans of this truth. Voluntary poverty, in the radical form it took in the 13th century, was an attempt to say that wealth and power were not goods in themselves. Unfortunately, the friars sometimes exalted poverty for itself. The more dire and abject the friars appeared, the more they would be admired. Only when the choice of poverty challenges others to listen to God's word and to build a more just world does it make sense as a gospel practice.

Today, ask God to show you how to live more simply for the sake of the Good News.

Does voluntary poverty and simplicity of life make any sense to you?