Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jesus Prayer for Us

"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one." Jn 17:20

Though we all desire unity in life, first for and within ourselves, we also find ourselves "bending" the truth from time to time or being disingenuous, which leaves us uncomfortable at best and passionless at worst. When we choose not to be ourselves we risk living with a dishonesty that makes everything difficult, especially prayer, and the unity for which Jesus prays seems beyond even our dreams.

The first task, therefore, for anyone seeking the unity about which Jesus prays is to live honestly with oneself and others. This does not mean we need to say everything we are thinking or feeling, but we must not run from the truth about our own weaknesses, faults and strengths. This kind of honesty fosters compassion for others, gentleness with ourselves, and a deep acceptance of life as it unfolds.

Jesus' prayer for unity is powerful, compelling and difficult. He tells us what he wants of us and for us, but his desire is not always comforting. There is so much division in families, parishes, churches and cultures that we are tempted to put aside the Lord's dream as impossible until we realize again that what might be impossible for us is possible for God.

Today, pray for unity in your own family.

What are the biggest obstacles to unity in your life?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Marriage and Faith

"A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus. He was an authority on the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, ...but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately."

Throughout the Acts of the Apostles we learn more about the life of the primitive Christian community, especially as it spread into the diaspora, and we are surprised when women play a critical and corrective role as catechists. It is Priscilla, named first in the text, and her husband Aquila, not intimidated by the learning and eloquence of Apollos, who take Apollos aside and help him understand the way of Jesus more deeply.

What a wonderful model Priscilla and Aquila are for married couples today. Working together for the good of the Gospel, they offer married couples especially a path to holiness and service in the community. Having fled from Rome when Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews, Priscilla and Aquila met Paul with whom they became missionaries. Always mentioned in the scripture as a couple, Priscilla and Aquila challenge us to make use of the gifts of women and and men as they work together for the good of all.

Today, think about your relationships in faith and how they help you know God.

What do you expect from the married as couples in the church?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dreams and Visions

"One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you." Acts 18:9

People who have visions are always suspect. Cautious around anything that is different, most of us are more comfortable around people just like us. When someone tells us of a vision they had we might be polite, but we often become unnaturally quiet. Is the person to whom we are listening losing control of his life? Is she making things up in order to set herself apart?

When St Paul lived, he would not have been immediately dismissed when he claimed a vision in which the Lord spoke to him, but he would have been put under intense scrutiny. The Jewish leaders would have questioned him to see if his vision conformed to the Torah and would have rejected him if anything seemed out of line.

In all of this, we must not miss the point of what was happening to Paul. Jesus was clear that Paul need not be afraid and should not silent. Jesus promised Paul to be with him and promises us the same comfort. We are never alone. Whether this message comes to us in a vision or a quiet prayer is not the issue. That God promises to be our companion throughout life is.

Today, pay attention to God however he speaks in your life.

Has God ever spoken to you clearly about the path you should follow?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Ascension of the Lord

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons ...But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you."

The feast of the Ascension of the Lord filled the disciples both with anxiety and anticipation. Anxiety because Jesus would no longer be with them in the flesh as guide, mentor and leader, but anticipation because he promised them the power of the Holy Spirit who would reveal to them everything they needed to do and say but without a timetable.

It is natural for us to want to know how our lives will unfold, and we convince ourselves if we know what will happen tomorrow we can be prepared to respond with faith. But this is not the way life or the Gospel comes to us. When the disciples asked Jesus to tell them when Israel would be restored, he resisted, reminding them that they must live in the power of the Spirit without knowing the exact day or hour.

Jesus' reminder to his disciples as he prepares them for his leave taking is consistent. His story of the foolish virgins who did not bring enough oil for their lamps is only one instance of this, but it was instructive to the disciples and remains so for us.

A Gospel life is built on our willingness to take time everyday not only to remember what we must do but to focus on who we ought to be. While our good works will be a powerful reminder to others that we live in and from the Spirit of God, our willingness to depend on Christ for our identity and strength will be an even more telling sign that the Spirit lives in us.

Today, receive the power of the Spirit with joy.

What are the natural strengths you bring to your faith life?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Too many words

"The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything." Acts 17:24

There is a fascinating word in Greek spermologus which is sometimes translated blabberer, and is often accusatory in tone. More literally it refers to birds picking seeds from the ground, and some commentators suggest St Paul was accused of being a spermologus, someone willing to say anything when trying to convince the elite of Athens about the truth of the Gospel.

Whether Paul was a blabberer or not, we know that we can sometimes prattle on about nothing when we feel pressured or under attack. Afraid that we might lose an argument or be embarrassed, we speak so much that others find an excuse to get away from us This is not the way of Jesus. While it is important to know and respect the cultures out of which people hear the Good News, there is no need to try to please others or soften the power of the Gospel.

The Good News is simple, direct and freeing. We have only to let it breathe, to give it space so that others can know the compassion and love of God. Trying too hard to make the Gospel palatable will, in the long run, do nothing for God or the spreading of the Good News.

Today, use fewer words and more actions to proclaim God's love.

What situations most tempt you to speak too much?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Opening Doors

"About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16: 25-26

Jailers at the time of Jesus were frequently retired army officers who would have learned how to guard prisoners and take no chances. In Acts, therefore, when the doors flew open in the jail after the earthquake, the jailer presumed all the prisoners had escaped, and was beside himself. According to Roman law, because he had failed in his duties, he would have been liable for the same punishment imposed on the Paul and Silas.

But God had a different plan. Paul and Silas, perhaps knowing the jailer's fate for letting them escape, stayed in the jail, instructed the jailer and his family in faith and baptized them. What a turn of events! Though the jailer would lose his job, he gained the kind of faith that would allow him a freedom to face whatever punishment the authorities might exact of him.

While the stories of faith in Acts might not be repeated exactly in our lives, there will be many small miracles. Doors of hurt, confusion and resentment will fly open if only we allow the Lord to free us and send us in mission to all in need. We may have to change our lives in ways we never imagined, but God will be the strength we need to do whatever he requires.

Today, open a door of forgiveness to someone struggling with faith.

What closed doors imprison you?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Women Listening

"We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention." Actz 16:13

In my experience at least, women are more likely to listen than men. Why this is, is not always clear, but in Lydia's case it is remarkable. As a dealer in cloth, she was not typical. She had her own source of income, most probably owned property, was literate and had a voice to which others listened. In other words, she had no need to pay attention to the Apostles. That she did says so much about her and about our challenge.

There is always something more to learn about God and about the Good News. Those who read the scriptures regularly are often amazed at how much a scriptural text that have read multiple times comes alive in a new way especially when they are in need. Whether it is a changed circumstance in life or a different problem that faces us, the scripture speaks in ways we never expected and all we did was listen.

Lydia is a wonderful model for men in our society. Despite all the power we think we have, we cannot afford not to listen to the God who is always speaking.

Today, read the Gospel slowly and see what happens.

To whom do you listen with hope?