Saturday, April 20, 2013

Passivity or Passion

"My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Sheep are usually considered obedient and passive animals. They travel in flocks and rarely wander off by themselves, but when they do the shepherd seeks them out and directs them back to the flock. The notion that Christ is our Good Shepherd is powerful when viewed through the lens of someone finding us when we are lost, but dangerous if we think we are are called to be asleep or overly compliant in our discipleship.

In an interview with an Argentinian news agency in 2011, Pope Francis warned priests not to fall into patterns that reinforce passivity among God's people.
“We priests tend to clericalize the laity.We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap —it is a sinful complicity.”(Pope Francis)
Both clergy and laity need to be clear about their goals. Compliance is not a Gospel value. Passion for the Word is, and behaviors that reduce our call to live the Gospel without zeal have no place in an adult Christian's life.

Today, seek out the lost.

What keeps you from living the gospel with passion?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peace and Persecution

"The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers." Acts 9: 31

How can the early church be both at peace and persecuted? The author of Acts, probably Luke, wants us to realize that when we are in the Spirit, living the Gospel and announcing it with power, fear dissipates. The presence of the Holy Spirit becomes tangible, something we can almost taste, and although we must endure difficult and dangerous trials, we are not overwhelmed.

Of course, the further any of us move away from our early days of conversion, the more fear returns. Wavering back and forth between strength and weakness, like the Jews in the desert, we find ourselves drifting from the ideals of our faith commitments. We build "sacred cows"  by accumulating money and power, hoping they will protect us from the foolishness and failures of faith, but soon a life propped up by wealth is drained of its sweetness and we know that hedging our bets offers no ultimate consolation. 

Faith is an all in kind of life. We must give ourselves over totally to a loving God and enter the mysteries of daily life with little understanding or insight, but with great hope. The witness we can offer others at times of great stress is powerful. Knowing we are on God's path despite our struggles helps others believe more deeply in a Christianity that is simultaneously tough and tender.

Today, recommit yourself to the entirely of the Gospel.

When is it most difficult for you to remain peaceful?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Opening our Eyes

"Scales fell from Paul's eyes and he regained his sight." Acts 9:18

All of us, like St. Paul, have had epiphanies, times when the scales fell from our eyes and we could see and experience life in ways that before were hidden. These are important moments which often shape our lives for years to come. At the same time, they are only epiphanies. Critical and revealing, but nothing and even a hindrance if not acted upon. 

Jesus is clear about this when he reminds us that to those who have been given much, much will be expected. Gifts of faith, insight, wisdom, understanding and integrity are not for us alone. Rather, they are given to us for the good of the community of faith. We must spend them, much as we would a gift certificate, and we must give them away freely as Paul did after his conversion.

Most of the time, our eyes are clouded but this should not distract or discourage us because we probably could not bear seeing everything as it is, but when our eyes are opened, we must look for and respond to those most in need.

Today, ask the Lord for a simple Epiphany for the good of the church.

What have been your most important Epiphanies?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


"I will not reject anyone who comes to me." Jn 6:37

Most of us have been rejected more than once. Sometimes it is as simple as not being chosen for a school play. At other times, a good friend walks away from us. Remarkably, depending on the things that matter to us most at any given time, rejection can linger, even cling to us after we have done everything we can to let go.

Perhaps that is why God's fidelity is so important to us, particularly as we try to enter more deeply into God's desire for us. The gospel of John especially focuses on God's inability to reject "anyone who comes to" him. Asking Peter whether the apostle loves him totally, Peter hesitates, saying only that he loves Jesus as a friend, but Jesus never wavers. Even though Peter is reluctant to love Jesus the way God loves him, Jesus says: Follow me. And he says the same to us.

No matter how often we turn away from God, God will continue to love us every time we lift our eyes and turn to him. This foundational truth about God never fails to lift our spirits and assure us that God not only loves us, but seeks us out especially when we are lost.

Today, let go of someone who has rejected you.

How have you experienced God waiting for you?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Keep Preaching

"Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." Acts 8:4

Finding the courage to continue announcing Good News when one is rejected or persecuted is one of the great challenges of discipleship.We should have no doubt that the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders was difficult for the apostles and disciples. Uneducated and illiterate for the most part, the disciples would find it difficult to defend the Good News formally or intellectually. Nevertheless, they continued to go around Palestine preaching God's word.

Most people who hear the Gospel these days benefit from a basic education, and a majority of the clergy have a sophisticated knowledge of the scriptures and church teaching. At the same time, defending the message of Jesus is as difficult as ever. While it is important for us as a church to articulate our faith carefully and comprehensively, we should not be naive. A few may challenge our theology or spirituality, but most people choose not to accept the Good News and no amount of argument or reason will satisfy them.

Jesus told us not to be afraid and to go from place to place preaching the Gospel, but he also warned us to think of God's love as a seed which we plant. Don't worry, Matthew warns us, about how the Gospel is heard or interpreted. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." (Mt 10:14) In other words, plant the word and leave the growth to God

Today, ask for the strength to preach the Gospel simply and powerfully.

When is it most difficult for you to live or preach the Gospel?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Useless Guilt

"Saul was consenting to his (Stephen's) execution." Acts 8: 1a

Many people carry guilt from their past lives, and often are unable to let it go. This burden helps no one, especially the person who is guilty. Unless we learn to put aside our past lives with all its mistakes  and trust God's mercy, we hamper the advancement of the Gospel.

St Paul could have drowned in the guilt of his early life. Systematically persecuting Christians, Paul was righteous in defense of his interpretation of the Torah, but once he encountered the Lord, his life changed radically. Not only did he not wallow in guilt, he let the Spirit of God transform him in such a way that all the energy he spent in chasing down Christians was turned into zeal for the Gospel.

Paul knew, as all of us must if we have been truly converted, that the Gospel had to preached and he could not let anything get in the way of his new mission. Even though Paul quietly consented to the martyrdom of Stephen, and afterwards no doubt regretted his failure to act, he let the grace of God impel him to proclaim Jesus' identity as Son of God with power and passion.

Today, encourage someone who is struggling with guilt.

How do you respond to lingering guilt?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Bread of Life

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

While Jesus accepted the people who followed him for who they were, he also knew that some sought him out for the wrong reasons, and he regularly corrects and challenges them and us not to look to him  only for miracles and food, but to pray and work for a food that will last.

Although we know this side of Jesus, it can be difficult to accept his directives, especially when we are struggling. Anxious to be free of suffering for ourselves or others, we pray for God's intervention without bothering to think or even wonder whether our desire will help build God's reign.

When we read the scriptures about the people Jesus healed, we are reminded not to focus too narrowly on the wonder of healing, but on the life of faith which the healed person led. Mark's gospel is especially telling in this regard. "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." (Mk 10:52) Ultimately, the healing of Jesus is for others. Jesus expect those he heals to "go" and announce the Good News by the way they live and care for others.

Today, feed someone with kindness.

What most interferes with your following Jesus freely?