Saturday, April 6, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me, (Thomas)? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jn 20:29

Doubting Thomas is a helpful Gospel figure to most of us. When we lose our way, or get hurt by someone from whom we were not expecting a blow, Thomas draws us to himself. It is natural to doubt, even necessary. No one can expect to skate through life without a crack in the ice. We trip, we fall, but most of all we rise again to begin our journey day after day.

At the same time, we should not take faith for granted. Thomas did not wander away from Christ because he was pursuing something or someone else. There is no scriptural evidence that he consciously chose to turn away from the One he thought was the Messiah. Rather, Jesus' awful, shaming crucifixion and death turned his world upside down and left him hanging over a cliff without a strong rope. Finding himself overwhelmed and lost, Thomas resisted listening to the testimony of others for fear he would be hurt again, until he encountered the Lord face to face. Only then did the mercy of Jesus reclaim him and set him free.

No matter how badly we fail, no matter how often we turn away from God, God will show us mercy if only we let go of our pride and shame and accept God's direction.

Today, show mercy to someone who is lost.

Who has shown you mercy when you least expected it?

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Authority of the Apostles

"Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed." Acts 4:13

While very few would suggest that education is unimportant, it can be overrated. My own parents were bright and wise people who had little formal education, yet they were respected in my neighborhood. They worked hard, had a deep faith and understood life from the inside. Though they were rarely asked their opinion, they knew what they knew and were not afraid to ask for help.

Jesus did not seem to worry much about the education of the the men he called to be his apostles, but the leaders of the Jewish people seemed to think this was a soft spot in the life of the new community. Anxious to stop Jesus' disciples from speaking about their Lord, they called them in and threatened them, only to have Peter and John insist that they had no choice but to speak of Jesus. Clearly, Peter and John were not worried about their lack of education and were not intimidated by threats from the Jewish leaders.

It is always good to take a few moments and ask ourselves to whom we are most likely to listen. Do the highly educated intimidate us into silence about important matters? Are we unwilling to speak of our faith to people of power and prestige in the community?

Today, take time to listen to someone you might otherwise ignore.

What most impresses you about the faith you witness everyday?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Letting go of a favorite fishing spot

"Jesus said to them, 'Children, have you caught anything to eat?' They answered him, 'No.' So he said to them, 'Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.'” Jn 21: 5-6

Easter seems never to stop challenging us. As soon as we think we understand our faith, Jesus changes everything. Why would he ask his disciples, experienced fisherman, to throw their nets to the right side of the boat?  Aren't we supposed to find God and God's desire for us in the same actions and spiritual practices each day? Easter's answer is clear but upsetting. We must learn to find God everywhere, not just in the Torah or the Bible, in Judaism or Christianity.

Though familiar, Jesus' answer is demanding. We are not to throw away anything of the Law and Prophets, but find a way to fold in all that is, all people and all creation, into building God's reign. We are God's chosen people, not to isolate ourselves and delight in our call, but to proclaim God's goodness to all people, and to challenge them to see themselves as God sees them. All are God's children. Everyone has a right to the unconditional love of God, and unless we throw our nets to the other side of the boat, we will never discover this.

Today, let God guide your life. Take a different path or street on your way to or from work.

What most surprises you about the Easter mysteries?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Transformed by Love

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Lk 24:38-39

Most of us are troubled by the unfamiliar, by what we don't recognize or understand. Sometimes it is something that can be easily corrected. We make a wrong turn, retrace our steps and find the road we intended to travel. But sometimes the new reality we are forced to accept demands a deeper change. Easter is like this.

While Easter signals a life we could only have imagined and promises us life forever with God, it also insists we make substantial changes in our life and lifestyle. If God is at the center of all that is and reminds us, like Jesus, not to be afraid, we must open our eyes to new possibilities.

Life is not about success, triumphs and wealth building in order to secure our future, but about deepening our relationship with God and one another as a sign of God's enduring love in Jesus. If success and wealth can help us do this, so much the better, but too often they cloud our judgment and blind us to the needs of others. Easter means living simply and using our blessings to provide a good life not only for our families, but for all who are hungry, homeless or in need in any way.

Today, be grateful for the day itself. Enjoy what is.

What are the biggest obstacles in your life to living the Gospel fully?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On the road to Emmaus

"It happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him."

The story of the two disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus seems always to lift our spirits. Listening to Jesus disciples, who are dispirited and upset but clinging to a shred of hope because some of their women friends reported that Jesus' tomb was empty, we find it easy to identify with them. Though the women insist that Jesus is alive, the disciples Jesus encounters seem reluctant to believe again, perhaps not wanting to risk further disillusionment.
Most of us have wandered away from or become confused on our own faith journeys. Sometimes we get lazy, take the Lord's goodness for granted, and forget that faith is hard work. At other times, like the Emmaus disciples, we doubt, especially in the face of serious problems, and that is when we must return to the basics of our faith.

We must practice faith daily through prayer, especially the breaking of the bread through which we recognizer Jesus, and good works. Otherwise, the questions we face will overwhelm us, and like the Emmaus disciples, we will be unable to recognize Jesus when he is right in front of us.

Today, break bread with someone who is hungry and discover Jesus again.

What are your most difficult hurdles on your faith journey?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Tuesday

"Woman, why are you weeping?" Jn 20:13

Encountering Mary Magdalene weeping outside of Jesus' tomb does not surprise us. Grieving is a natural and necessary part of every life, especially as we grow older. As family members and friends die, we feel the deep loss of not having the people upon whom we relied and with whom we journeyed by our side, and Mary Magdalene is no exception.

Twice Mary is asked why she is weeping, and we wonder if she is annoyed or surprised by the question. Doesn't everyone know that her Lord has died?  She answers the angels politely enough by telling them that someone has taken Jesus' body, but only when Jesus calls her by name does Mary lift her head in recognition. Hearing the voice of the one who had turned her life around and taught her the Good News is enough to break through her grief and fill her with hope

Easter is God's promise that the death we fear and wrestle with is not the end. Our life will go on in a form we know not, but which faith assures us will be full of joy and delight. Sensing  God's presence in the midst of our grieving or remembering the faces and lives of those who have gone before us is God's way of reminding us that we will never be alone and that someday we will know this promise in its fullness.

Today, weep for a loss but listen for God's love in the midst of your grief.

How do you imagine heaven?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Monday

“You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’" Mt 28:13 

Stubbornness hardly seems like a virtue, yet the Chief Priests, still trying to deny the experience of everyday people, do everything they can to undermine the power and influence of Jesus. Resistant to anyone who speaks powerfully about the Torah, and afraid of losing their stranglehold over the peasants following Jesus, they pay the Roman soldiers "a large sum of money," to lie about Jesus'reported resurrection. No surprise that the bible calls money the root of all evil. (1 Tim 6:10)

The lessons of the scripture are difficult to learn, however. Too many people in our society, simply because they are wealthy, seek to exert their influence over others, not for the common good, but to protect their own fragile power. At the same time, because we recognize the same yearning for security and power in our own shallow dreams, we can learn from the Chief Priests and all who cling to the empty promises of wealth and power over others.

Easter's primary message is basic and pure. We have been saved. We have nothing to fear. We have only to give ourselves over to the mysteries of faith without limitation to experience the fullness of God's love, but because this a very uncomfortable promise, Easter lasts fifty days, giving us the opportunity to learn its lessons a day at a time.

Today, let yourself have an Easter dream, one that frees you to live as God would have you live.

What does being free from fear mean to you?