Saturday, July 27, 2013

Praying with Jesus

"Lord, teach us to pray." Lk 11:2

When the disciples asked Jesus to help them pray, he invited them to pray with him.  By encouraging us to call God our father, not his or my father, Jesus united us as sisters and brothers with him and in him. The Lord's prayer is powerful and as much a pattern of how to pray as a prayer itself.

When we remember to acknowledge and hallow God's name, we cannot help but begin in the beginning. God is both the source and end of our prayer, and when we submit ourselves to God's power we also pray that God's kingdom will be built. Only then are we free to ask God to help us with our daily needs. While we often get prayer backward by putting our fears, concerns and needs first, the Lord's prayer helps us to the path Jesus desires for us.

While there should be no doubt that the Our Father is a beautiful prayer that we can repeat over and over, we should not be afraid to experiment with other forms of prayer. Ritual and body prayer can be very helpful in reminding us who God is and what God asks. Dipping our fingers in holy water and blessing ourselves, lighting a candle to celebrate God as light in the darkness, bowing before the tabernacle, and breaking bread at the Eucharist are all powerful ways of folding prayer into the everyday actions of our life.

Meditation, petition and quiet prayer, in which we say nothing but ask God to draw closer to us so that we might know God more deeply and serve God and God's people more fully, are also important. While we can always return to the Lord's prayer, especially when our minds are cluttered with worry or business, any kind of prayer that helps us honor God each day is necessary and powerful.

Today, say the Our Father slowly and meditatively.

What form of prayer most helps you be aware of and responsive to God's desire for the world?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Living with our Faults

"No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Mt 13: 29-30

All of us have faults and most of us have determined to rid ourselves of them without success. If our words get us in trouble regularly, we decide to be quieter, and for a while it works, but as soon as we lose our focus, we find ourselves talking too much about ourselves or others. These are the weeds that grow in our life.  We can try to blame someone else for planting them, but they are ours and we need to be responsible for them. Thank God Jesus recognizes us despite our faults and suggests a response.

The Lord tells us to stop worrying too much about our sins and concentrate instead on doing good. It is remarkable when we think about it that when we have lots of good to do, there is little time for faults and sins. While we might talk too much, spend too much, worry too much or try too hard, when we are focused on living well with and for others, our faults don't bother us as much and neither do they last as long.

It is also a very good practice to look with the eyes of Jesus as others who bother us for reasons we cannot always understand. When we let friends, family and enemies be themselves and emphasize the good they do, we soon learn to tolerate their faults. More important, it usually becomes apparent that their good qualities far outnumber their faults.

Today, let the weeds grow together with the wheat in your life.

Which of your own faults or sins bothers you the most?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sts Joachim and Anne

"The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Mt 13:23

Although we are certain of nothing about Joachim and Anne, even their names, they were the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus, the couple whose example and instruction formed Mary in faith. It was from Joachim and Anne that Mary would have first heard the Torah, and learned to pray, and it was Mary's prayer that gave her the courage to accept God's invitation to be the mother of Jesus.

Grandparents are becoming increasingly important in the 21st century, especially in the United States. Because almost half of children are born to unmarried women,(CBS) grandparents are often called upon to parent a second time but without the authority they might have enjoyed with their own children. How they negotiate these muddy waters will play a hugely important role in their grandchildren's lives. If they can somehow maintain their compassion and nurturing in ways that help their grandchildren feel secure and focused, especially in faith, they will offer them a gift beyond anything they could buy them.

As the notion of family continues to be redefined and grandparents live longer, faith becomes increasingly important for the children of this generation. Perhaps Joachim and Anne can become sources of wisdom and hope for grandparents as they help their grandchildren to know and live the Good News with the same willingness Mary demonstrated.

Today, pray for grandparents

Who taught you most by their lives about faith?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

St James, Apostle

"We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body." 2 Cor 4:8-10

St James, the Apostle, is mentioned often in the gospels as a close companion of Jesus. Perhaps most importantly he is present at the Transfiguration when Jesus reveals himself as a prophet and patriarch with Moses and Elijah. A close friend of Jesus, James and his brother John were nicknamed "sons of thunder" by Jesus because of their fierce commitment to the Gospel, even if some of it was misplaced, but his zeal for the Gospel gave him the strength to endure martyrdom.

The Patron of Spain, James's fame increased over time as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make their way to Compestela, where tradition suggests his relics are preserved. Believing that James had the courage to leave Jerusalem in order to announce the Good News in Spain, pilgrims today stream to his shrine hoping to let go of life patterns that steal their humanity and their faith.

The boldness of St James both in his ministry with Jesus and in bringing the Gospel to Spain is a wonderful example for contemporary Christians. In a society obsessed with stability, security and power, we would do well to listen to the example of James to let go of what seems permanent in order to discover the God who lives within and among people everywhere as guides on their journeys.

Today, be bold in living the Gospel.

What about the Gospel intimidates you?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No roots

“A sower went out to sow...Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots." Mt 13: 3-4

There is rocky ground in all our lives, and while we have to acknowledge it and accept it, we should not obsess about it. Whether our early years were difficult and confusing, or your marriage was sour almost from the beginning, we need to find a way not to let our dark days dissuade us from living with joy and hope. Our parents or our partners may have disappointed us, but God cannot abandon us, and faith demands that we ask God to be the ground of our lives. Only then can we be sure that no matter how rocky life is or might become, God's love will sustain us.

Whether St Francis of Assisi ever reconciled with his father is not known. That we don't know about this suggests that Francis' choice to live simply and reject the values and wealth of his family was a death blow to the support he hoped for and which most of us yearn for from our families. While Francis was remarkably successful helping warring towns reconcile, it must have hurt him deeply that he failed to convince his father that his choice of radical poverty was of God. 

Letting God find the good ground in our lives and asking for the grace to let go of our failures is an important step on our spiritual journeys. If we worry too much about the rocky ground, we will miss the good God is already doing within and through us.

Today, be grateful for the God has done in you. Let go of failure.

How has God surprised you on your pilgrim journey?

Monday, July 22, 2013

God's Will

"While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him...Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mt 12:50

It can be uncomfortable reading about Jesus ignoring his mother when she wants to speak with him. We wonder what he intends and stretch our minds to understand until we realize that he is not so much turning away from his mother and family as he is turning towards us. The inclusiveness of his vision stuns us. Anyone who does God's will is brother and sister and even mother to him. While not rejecting or renouncing the law or the prophets, Jesus insists that the entire law must be understood in the light of our submission to God's will. We do not attain salvation. It is a gift for which we must be so grateful that we gladly live as God would have us live as members of the one family of God.

In a world so acutely conscious of difference between and among cultures, genders, races and classes, Jesus cuts through it all with his invitation to belong to one another in God by living in harmony not only with one another, but with all creation. His challenge to the Jewish community greatly disturbed their leaders who felt responsible for directing their congregation along a particular path of Judaism. Afraid not only of losing their power and influence, the rabbis were also legitimately concerned that their people would lose sight of the Law itself. Because Jesus was like someone yelling fire in a crowded movie theater, they felt compelled to challenge him.

There are people in our own time who disturb our peace, and we are often tempted to react harshly or dismissively towards them. Always pushing for greater equality, we ignore contemporary prophets at our own peril. When the poor call, Jesus listens and responds, even ignoring his own family. Our challenge is to follow the prophet Jesus.

Today, ask God what God wants of you and listen to God's response.

Where do you most often hear the voice of God?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

St Mary Magdalen

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni,' which means Teacher." Jn 20:16

Neither the disciples on the road to Emmaus, nor Mary Magdalene, recognized Jesus immediately after the resurrection. Why this was is not clear. The disciples may have been too angry or hurt by Jesus' death, and Mary's grief may have blinded her, but that they did not recognize Jesus is clear. Only after the Lord breaks the bread and calls Mary by name do the disciples and Mary recognize him.

Most of us have experienced this in everyday life. If we are waiting for someone at an airport or bus station and they don't appear with the other arriving travelers, we find ourselves wondering whether we missed the person for whom we are waiting or whether they are on a different flight. We scan the crowds, ask others if they were on the same flight for bus, and sometimes check to see if they are at other exits. Only when the person calls our name or we see them sitting in a corner of the station do we realize that our anxiety blinded us to the obvious.

It is clear that the gospels want to teach us about the resurrected Jesus through signs and sounds. We have only to quiet ourselves and pay attention to see the risen Jesus among us. Every time we gather for the Eucharist the Lord is among us in the breaking of the bread. Every time we pause to listen to him in prayer, he lives within us. When we open our hearts to hear the word as a call to change, we encounter the Christ who is always active, but when are hearts are troubled or distracted by large or small concerns, we miss the presence of the One who is always looking for us.

Today, remember the times the Lord called you by name.

What concerns most often blind you to the presence of God in the world?