Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Epiphany of the Lord

"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." Is 60:1

Searching for the living God is a life long adventure, and the feast of the Kings reminds us of this. Don't be afraid the astrologers from the East proclaim. As long as you are looking for God, God will find you. Sometimes it will be a star in the sky. At other times, it will be a sunset in summer or a flower in winter that captures us with its beauty and reminds us to keep going, to keep searching. Though God is very near, we do not always sense God's presence, but as long as our spirits remain open, our journey will not be in vain.

The scriptures do not tell us how long the Magi from the East looked in the skies for a sign of God's love. Neither do they tells us how long their journey was, but they do tell us that those who left their homes and followed the star came to Jerusalem expecting to encounter the King of the Jews, and in this they offer us a model for our own lives. Despite Herod's disingenuous questions and assurance that he too wanted to worship the new King, the Magi kept listening to God and their dreams, and that is our task as a new year begins.

The church may be very weak in the United States, and our parish churches almost empty in places, but as long as we accept the call to discipleship, we cannot go wrong. Assuredly, the message about the Messiah came to God's people from beyond their shores, but for those who kept listening to the signs of the times there was no surprise. God will come to us as God wants. We have only to be ready.

Today, expect a surprise.

How has God entered your life in ways you did not expect?

Friday, January 4, 2013

St John Neumann

"If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?" 1 Jn 3:17

St John Neumann knew well the truth of John's first letter. Because he saw so many in need, he did everything he could to respond, including learning Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch. A a missionary to the United States, he became a kind of itinerant pastor, and although his ministry was rich and diverse, he needed community support so joined the Redemptorists.

Named bishop of Philadelphia at 41, the young Redemptorist, anxious to respond to the needy and unlearned, approached the teaching brothers and sisters in the area and invited them to serve with him in the schools of Philadelphia. Determined to give immigrant children especially a chance at a better life, John immediately began to build Catholic schools. In less than a decade Philadelphia, while had only two Catholic schools when he arrived,  had more than one hundred.

Success stories like John's continue to lift us up with hope. When people of faith work together for the good of all, everyone benefits. When John was named bishop, it was clear that Catholic schools could change the face and public voice of Catholics in the United States. The parochial school system that John began to build provided Catholics not only with a good education, it prepared them to make a difference in society, and taught them how a deep faith life could impact their neighborhoods and cities for the good of all.

Now it is our chance. How can we best advance the gospel in the 21st century? Are schools still the answer? Are hospitals? What will the new evangelization look like?

Today, pray to know how best to announce the Good News with your lives.

What aspect of church life has been most important in your faith life?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

"We have found the Messiah." Jn 1:41

Elizabeth Ann Seton had any number of firsts in her life. She founded the first American congregation of religious sisters in the United States, opened the first parish school and the first Catholic orphanage, but none of these is her greatest triumph. Despite being widowed at 30 with five young children, she decided to become a Catholic despite strong opposition from her staunch Episcopal family.

Elizabeth's courage at a time in her life that begged her to be careful and conservative remind us that when we depend totally on God wonderful things can happen. Not only are we able to make difficult decisions, we do so with conviction and serenity. When God is on our side, and God always is, no obstacle is too big to overcome.

In the United States women have always been the foundation stones of our parishes. They teach religious education, serve on every committee and week after week faithfully celebrate the Eucharist with devotion and passion. In all of this they have a wonderful model in Elizabeth Ann Seton. Not deterred by being ignored, dismissed or rejected, women know, like Elizabeth Ann, that God is their center and their guide. Nothing else matters.

Today, listen to a woman of faith.

What woman of faith do you most admire?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

God's Spirit is among us

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him." Jn 1:32

The Spirit of God is powerful and transforming, and when John the Baptist sees the spirit in the form of a dove descend and remain upon the Lord, he knows Jesus is the Messiah, the promised one. What is more remarkable is that this same spirit is promised to and comes upon us as well. While it is true that we can turn away from or reject the transforming power of the Spirit, it is God's desire that we accept and live in, with and through the Spirit.

It can be difficult and dangerous to speak of God's desire, but when we carefully read the scriptures and the tradition of the church, we can speak confidently. God wants to be near us. He sends prophets our way and eventually his own Son to demonstrate that he desires our salvation. God wants to be with us, to love us totally and to guide us to the fullness of life.

Paying attention to the Spirit around us, within us and among us will allow us to see God's love and know God's desire not only for us but for all creation.

Today, look for signs of the Spirit in your everyday life.

Where do you most often "see" God's Spirit?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Nazienzen

“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’" Jn 1:23

Most of the great saints of the early church, like Basil and Gregory, knew, like John the Baptist, that their primary task was to cry out the truth of the Gospel despite the personal cost to their own reputation and power. Basil did this by preaching twice a day, usually against Arianism which denied the divinity of Christ. His commitment to preaching the fullness of the truth caused others to accuse him of heresy. Despite his appeals to the Pope for help, Basil was often left dangling and vulnerable.

Gregory was first drawn to Basil, the founder of monasticism in the East, because he wanted  to live a quiet, secluded and prayerful life. Soon  however, he was ordained priest, then  bishop, and before he knew it he was sent to Constantinople to try to bring peace and orthodoxy to that troubled place. Despite his best efforts, he was also vilified and attached personally. Still, Gregory endured and preached consistently and constantly about the great mystery of the Incarnation, only to be isolated and forgotten in his last years.

Only when we are clear about our role as Christians are we able to endure trials and difficulties. Like John the Baptist we are to make the Lord's way straight and accept the consequences, no matter how difficult, of living the Gospel.

Today, don't worry about your success. Worry about living the Gospel.

What is the most difficult part of living the gospel for you?

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Day

"Behold, peace is no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God has sent down to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us. A small bag, perhaps, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead." St Bernard of Clairvaux

That God's mercy in Christ is like "a bag bulging with his mercy," reminds us that God is waiting, especially as we begin a new year, to pour out upon us new gifts and new dreams, and it is for us to discover and discern how best to share God's mercy with all people.

Each year our Holy Father invites Catholics and all people of good will to begin the New Year by praying for world peace in the hope that all people will pause and remember that their own human dignity is compromised and threatened unless everyone works together for justice upon which a lasting peace might be built. This year, building on the gospel reminder that peacemakers will be blessed, Benedict's critique is sharp:
It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism. (World Day of Peace)
As the New Year begins, let us all acknowledge that the inequality between rich and poor and our own selfishness contribute, not to a lasting peace, but to world where violence is inevitable.

Today, re-imagine how you might help those most in need.

What do you think are the primary causes of conflict in the world?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Eve

"In adoring the birth of our Savior, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body." St Leo the Great

All of us have experienced the rebirth that comes when a fraying relationship is renewed or a family member returns from overseas service. We feel renewed, uplifted and hopeful. What seemed dark and threatening is changed into a new life we thought might be lost. We experience a kind of rebirth that galvanizes and strengthens us.

Pope St Leo the Great says it beautifully. Christ's birth is our birth, too. We learn that God, no matter how far we have drifted from the path of gospel life, chooses to be with us, to be among us, to be one of us, and there is no way we can adequately articulate the wonder of this gift.

At the same time, while free, unconditional and total, God's love is not weak, but demanding. We must share God's free gift of new life with every other person, not because we will be rewarded, but because so many people yearn for the hope Christ's birth implies. God wants to gift us with new life each day. We have only to welcome God to know we are reborn day after day.

Today, let go of the past year in order to begin the new year with hope.

Who brings you new life?