Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” Lk 19:40

On occasion, when we find ourselves in a cynical or sad mood, we refer with some disdain to A&P Catholics, those who celebrate with us only on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday because they get something free to take home!  How awful of us to judge, especially at the beginning of the holiest week of the church year. Shouldn't we be glad that our sisters and brothers in Christ want to express their faith publicly? Shouldn't we trust that God will take their gestures of belonging and use them as seeds that have only to be watered to grow into something wonderful and transforming for them and all they know and meet?

Because Jesus' disciples were proud to be associated with him, they spoke enthusiastically of his influence and spread his message of hope to everyone they met, but like most new believers their actions sometimes seemed shallow and showy. Accordingly, the leaders of the Jewish community tell Jesus to control his followers actions more carefully, but Jesus refuses, knowing that his disciples needed to speak of their transformation and belief, even if it appeared overdone, in order to test their own commitment and publicly honor him.

Holy Week is upon us, a time of great joy and hope, and one that demands we, like Jesus' first disciples, be more publicly committed to living the mysteries of faith. If this means we risk seeming too religious for some people's taste, so be it. If we don't live our faith publicly, how will the Good News be proclaimed?

Today, wave a palm of hope for someone who seems lost.

What do you think is the best way to express your faith publicly?

Friday, March 22, 2013


"If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” Jn 11:48

The threat of losing their temple sanctuary, and the power and prestige associated with it, paralyzed the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. Overwhelmed by the Roman presence in their "promised land," they did everything they could to preserve the few freedoms they had, and no small town healer or prophet, like Jesus of Nazareth, would be allowed to interfere.

When we are under pressure to perform or produce, we often refuse to listen to people on the edge of our societies for fear their viewpoints will further unravel a shaky foundation. A protective attitude and policy is natural, but, ultimately, unhelpful. Only a brutal and transparent honesty will allow us to go forward.

Jesus is clear in pointing out to the Jewish leaders that they had sold their birthright for the sake of a fragile security, and most of us can remember situations in which we took the same path. Peace at any price in our families, religious communities and parishes is a lurking temptation, but one we must resist.

Today, listen to the witness of Jesus without defensiveness.

What are your biggest temptations when trying to live the gospel?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stoning our Enemies

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel.

Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves. A young friar who has worked a twelve step program for a many years had a series of three questions to help him discern when he must say something in a trying situation. He would ask himself whether something needed to be said, whether he was the person to speak and, finally, whether something needed to be said at that very moment. If the answer was no to any of these questions, he would hold his tongue, and his reluctance to hurl a verbal stone provided him with many moments of peace and reconciliation.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Knowing God

"If I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar." Jn 8:55

There is a concept in law called willful blindness which suggests that we can be found guilty for refusing to see wrongdoing or for ignoring matters that are obvious to any reasonable person. In other words, if there is knowledge that you could have or should have but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

Jesus suggests that the Pharisees are being willfully blind in choosing not to recognize who he is or what he is doing for and with people. More, he warns them that they do this at their own peril.

The same is true for us. When we refuse to open our minds or hearts to the overwhelming desire of God to draw close to us, we deny who God is. Jesus is the new and eternal covenant, the one who "cuts" a deal with us, the one who promises never to abandon us, to always forgive us and to search us out when we re lost. His life, suffering, death and resurrection say all this and more. We can only be grateful.

Today, tell the truth. God is near.

Why do we sometimes deny the unconditional love of God?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Living without Fear

"If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.” Dn 3: 17-18

The three young men in the book of Daniel, threatened with death in a white hot furnace, refuse to bargain with the King or test God. Their faith is such that even if they die, they promise God their fidelity, not for interceding on their behalf but because God is one and true. The faith of the three young men lifts our spirits and our hope. When we find deep faith in ordinary people it is always heartening.

Last week while visiting a friend at the Shattuck hospital in Boston, whose primary residents are people without health care, I met a youngish Catholic doctor whose view of medicine did my heart good. Although she had worked at Massachusetts General and New England Baptist, she moved to the Shattuck because she wanted to work with people who our society often forgets. Upbeat and friendly, she spoke with real compassion about the people for whom she was caring, making my visit a surprising delight.

The three young men and the young doctor are very much alike. They live and act for the right reasons. Not content to live without passion, they seek challenges in order to live their faith more authentically.

Today, ask God for the grace to live your faith fully and deeply.

Who are the people who most impress you by their commitment to faith?

Monday, March 18, 2013

St Joseph, Husband of Mary

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her."

Today as the church formally welcomes a new Pope, it is not difficult to imagine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aries, hearing the scripture say to him: Do not be afraid, Francis, to take the church as your bride and lead her as Pontiff, a word that means bridge builder.

Pope Francis has already impressed many with his lack of fear, his humility and humor. Responding to a toast by one of the cardinals after his election, he quipped: May God forgive you for what you have done. How difficult it must be to maintain a sense of humor when asked to assume such a heavy responsibility, but Pope Francis seems up to the task, perhaps because he does not take himself too seriously.

It also seems apparent that St. Joseph didn't take himself too seriously. Once he was assured in a dream that God had intervened in his life, Joseph's humility wins the day. Not compelled to be anything more than God wanted him to be, Joseph remains an iconic figure in the church because of his acceptance of the quiet role God planned for him.

Let's pray that Pope Francis will continue to be like of St Joseph in his willingness to do whatever God asks .

Today, be yourself before God.

What dreams do you have for our new Pope?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Judging to save face

"You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone." Jn 8:15

It is so difficult not to judge by appearances. An athlete with more tattoos than anyone can count or decipher invites criticism, even if most of his tattoos have a religious theme. Somehow the grandiosity of a hundred tattoos bothers many "adults."

It can also be unnerving to see actors and actresses dressed so outrageously that we dismiss them as exhibitionists even when they are engaged in good works around the world. Somehow it is easier to criticize the rich and famous than to look at our own behavior.

Regularly under attack by the leaders of the Jewish community who fear the loss of their own power and influence, Jesus warns the Pharisees neither to judge by appearances nor to lay heavy burdens on people without doing anything to help them.

In response to Jesus sharp rebukes, the Pharisees try to make Jesus the proverbial scapegoat. Ashamed of their of their small minded and dismissive behavior, they want to lay all their problems on Jesus' back and send him out into the desert, but this easy solution becomes their undoing and ours.

Today, take a second look at anyone you are tempted to judge.

What most bothers you about the appearance of others?