Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Most Holy Trinity

"Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint." Rom 5: 3-4

To lose hope in the world, one's family or the church is a terrible burden. The loss of hope is marked by an inner darkness and doubts about the meaning of life. Does it make sense to work for the good of all? Can any institution: country, family, church, ever get out of its own way and create an environment that fosters the common good?

Hard questions like these are natural these days in the United States. Our Congress seems unable to find a path of compromise about vital social issues, leaving the poor and needy, struggling even more for a piece of the American dream. Our families are in disarray. Almost half the children born in the United States are born to unmarried mothers, and while this statistic needs more nuance since many of these women are living with their partners, it is alarming, nevertheless, even threatening to the emotional health of children. The church is also floundering. In Northeast United States, most parishes have relatively few young worshippers and can't seem to find the money to hire a youth minister. Even those that have the financial ability to support young people are not sure what they expect from the program or the young.

We are indeed, as Paul suggests, afflicted and need to work together in Christ to endure because it is only in endurance that hope flourishes and new life emerges. Trust in God during times of trial is essential for a healthy families and churches, and the feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that God is a relationship of persons in unity for the sake of all. God is love and calls us to endure, celebrate, hope and create a dream of a world and church that works together so that all people can eat and all nations live in harmony.

Today, celebrate the relationships God has given you for your growth and faith.

What spiritual practices most help you to endure in the face of affliction?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Like Children

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mk 10: 14-15

Unfortunately, for priests and religious these days, this passage has an edge of fear to it. Most of us who minister full time are anxious around children and are very cautious in our relationships with them. How awful!  Jesus wants us to see in children an example who we must become, not a group of people we should avoid. With that said, the passage remains very powerful.

Jesus holds up a child's innocence as an example of what his disciples need to become. Open spirited, engaged, naturally contemplative and without guile, children, who had no voice or rights at the time of Jesus, teach us how God wants us to go about in the world. The Good News is a new way of living, not a set of rules we have to obey.

Jesus asks us to hold onto the freshness and vitality of children as a way to proclaim the depth of God's love. Believing in a God who is always with us must change everything about us if it is to have an effect in the world. Unless people can find in us a zest for life and a commitment to all people, especially those without a voice, our witness will be empty. Like children, we continue to live with joy because of what God has done for and among us.

Today, let your imagination, like a child playing a game, roam with delight.

What about children most speaks to you of the Gospel?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Confidants and Soul Friends

"Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant." Sir. 6:6

Especially when we are deeply worried about a decision we need to make, we can seek out so many opinions that we can't keep them straight. While this is understandable, it is not a good practice. As the Book of Wisdom assures us, we might have or make dozens of acquaintances,  but we can have only a few confidants, people who we trust know us, always have our good in mind, and are willing to tell us not to do something!

Having a few friends who walk faithfully by our side is a great gift, not only when we are in need of a good listener, but for the everyday decisions we all make. Good friends listen, advise, caution, celebrate our triumphs and weep when we fail.  They do not manipulate or nag, neither do they speak to or with others about our the intimate issues that emerge in our lives.

Sometimes we call these people "soul friends," confidants who share our faith and questions about faith. Soul friends help us discern and live a Gospel life. They trust God and root their love for us in God's love. Indeed, if we have one authentic soul friend in our life we are very blessed.

Today, be the friend someone else needs you to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

What do you value most in a friend?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

God's Power

"Rely not on your wealth; say not: 'I have the power.' Rely not on your strength in following the desires of your heart." Sir 5:1

Power is illusory. We may indeed have the power to purchase goods when we have money or an active credit card, even when we can't pay the credit card in full, but this is not the kind of power about which the Book of Wisdom speaks. Wisdom teaches us that the only real power we have is the power to let go and depend of God for everything. This is a hard wisdom which most of us learn slowly and painfully.

When a child falls seriously ill, even when you can pay for the finest medical treatment, there is no guarantee that the remedies suggested or applied will be effective. Unfortunately, too many of us know this from painful experience. More times than I can remember friends or parishioners have approached me asking prayers for a special intention, and while I am happy to pray with them, my prayers are not magic.

Neither is the grace of God magic. Rather, God promises always to be with us and upon this we can always rely. God will not abandon us even at those times when we are lost, desperate, angry or overwhelmed with fear. God's strength  is always ours for the asking.

Today, listen to someone with the ears of God.

What do you expect God to do for you when you pray?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wisdom Breathes Life into Us

"Wisdom breathes life into her children and admonishes those who seek her. He who loves her loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord." Sir 4:11

The Wisdom of Ben Sira, also know as the book of Sirach, is rich with insight and challenge. Though not accepted by all Christians as part of the canon of scripture, our wisdom tradition would be much the less without it. Just as Jesus breathes on the Apostles to empower them to forgive sins, wisdom breathes life into her children and admonishes them to love life.

Sirach is clear in admonishing us that wisdom is not attained by escaping from the world or life as it unfolds for us. Rather, we must enter life fully with God’s Spirit as our guide and companion. Only those who embrace life as it comes to them will know the gift of God’s wisdom and will be able to witness to others about what God can do in us and for us when we open ourselves to God’s love. More simply put, we must submit ourselves to God in all things if we hope to live the wisdom that is our patrimony.

The challenge of Wisdom to submit ourselves to God is a never ending struggle. It is not something we accomplish in a day or a week. It is an ongoing challenge that we face and are called to embrace every day. Sometimes the challenge is to accept the darkness of not knowing how to go forward or even to find God in the midst of chaos. At other times, wisdom demands that we rest in gratitude for all God’s gifts and celebrate them fully. Christians must commit themselves to joy both in darkness and light.

Today, be still and let Lady wisdom visit you.

What do you think are the marks of wisdom?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Preparing for whatever God sends

"My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials." Sir 2:1
Although it is not always easy for us to hear, it is good to know that we must prepare ourselves for trials. Forewarned is forearmed. But what does it mean to prepare ourselves for spiritual trials? The answer parallels getting ready for any confrontation. If we are preparing for an important exam, we put aside time for extra reading, review and study. We might even want to partner with another student in order to run through questions that might emerge on the exam. In order words, we do everything possible to take the exam with confidence.

It is no different when the Lord tells us to prepare ourselves for spiritual trials. We put aside time for extra prayer, reflection and good works, especially the works of justice. Knowing that God asks only that we give to those most in need with the same generosity with which God treats us makes us ready for whatever comes our way. We are prepared. We are "in shape." We have done our part and then we must rely totally on God.

Wise people know this. Because they have been consistent in their prayer and reflection, they grow in insight that can come to them in other way. They make time for God and God's good works because God has made time for them.

Today, review your regular spiritual practices

What most frightens you on your spiritual journey?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Ongoing Gift of Faith

"Everything is possible to one who has faith." Mk 9:23

Faith is a simple but profound gift that gives us the assurance not only that God exists but is active in our lives. Faith promises us that we are never alone and that God wants us both to be happy and full of hope, and it is the gift of faith that demands we do justice. Having received so much through faith, we are compelled to help create a world in which others know the gracious goodness and love of God in Christ directly as well as through the good works and compassion of believers.

The gift of faith is one that we too often take for granted, especially when we go about in the world without giving God any time at all except when we are struggling to understand or accept a difficult part of our journey. Faith is something about which we need to be grateful each day, a gift that is always there for us to take, live and delight in. God, like a mother loving her children unconditionally, keeps offering us growth, hope and a path to eternal life, and all of this freely and totally.

Taking some time each day to reflect upon this gift not only prepares us for the trying moments that come to us all, it roots us more deeply in the great mystery of God's love. 

Today, sit quietly for five minutes and pray in gratitude for a time in your life when faith saved you.

Who most impresses you with how they live their faith?