Saturday, February 9, 2013

Being yourself before God.

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective." 1 Cor 15:10

The writings of St. Paul are often uplifting because they are so human. Acknowledging his shortsightedness and arrogant treatment of Christians, Paul is grateful to tell the Corinthians that he is what he is, not because of his own power, but because God's grace has changed him. How true this is for all of us.

Jesus clearly wants us to be ourselves. He praises Nathaniel for being a man without guile, someone who lives a transparent life. In today's jargon, Nathaniel is who he is. He does not pretend to be someone else. Neither is he a chameleon, changing his personality to fit each new life situation or person.

Learning to know and accept ourselves as we are is hard work. It demands that we take time regularly to ask the Lord for the courage not to pretend to be more insightful or clever than we are, but to celebrate the gifts God gives us and share them with others.

This last aspect is the most difficult. The gifts we have, no matter how insignificant they might seem, are not for our own benefit, but for others. The gospel demands that we share who we are as Christians for the sake of God's reign, and to do this with joy and generosity.

Today, celebrate who you are before God.

What gifts of others have most benefited you in your faith life?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Honoring God

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind." Heb 13:16 

Speaking about God being pleased can be dangerous. Living a Gospel life by worshiping regularly, studying our faith, celebrating in our homes and serving those most in need, is important and necessary, but practicing our faith is not so much about pleasing God as if we were pleasing our boss to get a reward. Rather, we live our faith because we know Jesus Christ and have responded to his call to live the Good News with passion and gratitude.  We are not looking for God's affirmation, but are trying to fall more deeply in love with God.

God is not like a judgmental father watching over us, but a loving guide who will direct and protect us as we try to discern who God would have us be. This is very different from pleasing God. Our obligation is to live the Good news naturally and fully, and to share whatever we have so that others can also know God.

Today, do what your heart knows is right.

What is your biggest hurdle in living the Gospel for its own sake?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hospitality of God

"Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels." Heb 13:2

When I was a boy, my parents insisted that we stop doing whatever we were doing when a guest arrived. The radio was shut off and the guest was made to feel welcome no matter the inconvenience to anyone in the family. It was a good, if sometimes difficult, practice. Guests knew they were important not because of anything we might say, but because of the undivided attention they received.

When the author of the book of Hebrews tells the disciples not to neglect hospitality he is referring to several passages in the Old Testament. My favorite is from the book of Genesis in the 18th chapter. After Abraham welcomes visitors, his guests assure him that his wife Sarah, who had been barren, will soon be pregnant and have a healthy child in her old age.

What if Abraham had neglected his guests? What if we do?  Not everything from the past is worth reclaiming, but hospitality is a virtue that ought to shape our faith lives. Remembering to shut off  or silence our cell phones when welcoming guests might be a good place to start.

Today, be hospitable to anyone you encounter.

How important is hospitality in a life of faith?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two by Two

"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two .... He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts." Mk 6:7-8

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

St Paul Miki and Companions

Sometimes, when we celebrate a saint's liturgical feast day, we forget who the companions were. This is a shame because it cheats us from celebrating everyday people. The twenty six companions of St. Paul Miki included people, young and old, from ever walk of life.
The twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. (Catholic Culture)
The history of our church is replete with a wonderful variety of saints and blesseds, all of whom deserve our admiration. If only we knew the stories of more ordinary people, not just bishops, priests and religious, we would understand more deeply how important it is to ask God to make us saints right where we are.

Not all of us have to become priests and religious. In fact, most people are not called to this way of life. Rather, single adults, married people, widows and widowers, are all called to a holiness proper to their vocations. Only when we encourage people to ask God for the gift of living a Gospel life in their homes, businesses, neighborhoods and cultures, will we understand more deeply the marvelous ways of God.

Today, pray to one of the lay men and women Japanese martyrs.

What qualities do you look for in saintly people?

Monday, February 4, 2013

St Agatha

"Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us." Heb 12:1

We know little of St Agatha except that she was martyred because she resisted marriage to a nobleman who wanted her to renounce her faith, and was reported to have said:  "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep." Asking God to make her as submissive as a sheep was Agatha's answer to those who wanted her to live an empty, faithless life. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews suggests that Agatha's courage can be ours if we remember that we are surrounded by the community of saints who will support us in our struggles and share our joys, but only if unload our burdens upon the Lord and turn away from sin.  

Remembering to call upon those who have struggled to live faith fully is a powerful antidote to our own fear and self absorption. Christianity is not simply about living the law but submitting ourselves in total trust to the Lawgiver. Recalling the faith lives of our parents, grandparents and mentors can give us the strength to do God's will in all circumstances.

Today, remember you are surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses."

Whose memory do you call upon in times of doubt?

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones." Mk 5:5

No family is without its struggles and demons. Some live as best they can with addiction. Others wrestle with mental illness and abuse, and are forced, like the family of the man with the unclean spirit, to watch their loved ones bruise themselves beyond recognition. Staying calm and peaceful in situations like this can feel impossible and overwhelming.

In situations like this, it is often the people without the addiction or mental illness who most need Jesus' steadying hand. Only when we summon the faith to let go and hand ourselves over to the Lord for direction and healing, will we find the courage to accept the things we cannot change and seek the wisdom of God to know what is possible.

Jesus can be our healer, but we have to allow him to help us. When we wrestle with our own demons and shame without asking for help we are like people trying to hold back the tide. Getting some emotional distance from those we seek to help is sometimes our best strategy and gives us the distance to discern how to take the next best step for healing.

Today, pray for someone seeking to recover from addiction.

How do you handle the demons in your heart and family?