Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sunday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter: the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Easter is a time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Saturday

"In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters." Gn 1:1

Wind in the scriptures often indicates a theophany, a sign that God is present and active. Genesis tells us that though the earth was formless and everything was dark, a mighty wind indicated that God was about to do something wonderful and powerful, and we should pay attention.

The Easter Vigil not only reminds us of these theophanies, it revisits many of the life changing events in the Scriptures and offers believers a smorgasbord of God's gifts to reflect upon and taste. From the great moment of creation, to the Covenant with Abraham, through the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, to the Resurrection of Jesus, we are invited to celebrate God's enduring presence in our lives in word and symbol. We light a new fire, celebrate its light, bathe in the waters of baptism and sing Alleluia over and over.

At the same time, like visiting other smorgasbord's, we should not force ourselves to eat everything at once. Rather, Easter tells us to take our time, to eat modestly, to taste everything and come back to these texts, symbols and rituals and over during the fifty days of Easter. The multiple ways God visits us and beckons us to enter the mysteries of faith are endless, but more than anything else, Easter promises us a place the eternal banquet if only we allow God to shape our lives and show us the way.

Today, read one scripture text and savor it.

Which of Easter's images most attracts you to know God more deeply/

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Friday, The Passion of the Lord

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." Is 53:7

Silence is an essential spiritual practice for anyone wanting to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love for us in Jesus. Taking fifteen minutes once or twice a day to sit in the middle of life as it unfolds without saying anything or trying to understand, we give ourselves to God without explanation or expectation and we do this in memory of the Christ who lived and hung upon the the cross for us. When we choose to be quiet like this, inside and out, we usually see more clearly, but not necessarily understand more of God's plan. Rather, in silence we make ourselves available to God for whatever God intends. This kind of abandonment is difficult but necessary, especially during the Sacred Triduum.

Good Friday is a good time to look quietly upon the cross, or in the words of St Clare of Assisi, to gaze upon the God who gave his life for us. There are no words to adequately articulate this mystery, and although we try, there is no making sense of God's incredible sacrifice. God wants to be near us for eternity and so does the unthinkable. God dwells among us, suffers and dies so that we might know more completely the depth of his love. We could never imagine this, nor would we want God to die. Death is Jesus' choice, not to exalt suffering for itself, but to submit himself to his Father's will for our salvation. 

Defying the authorities, Jesus speaks of freedom from the law as the only way to observe the law, and for this the Jewish authorities condemn him. Only when we let go of the law as a path to salvation are we able to meet the Christ who embodies the law. Union with Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the goal, not only of Good Friday, but of the Christian life itself.

Today, find fifteen or twenty minutes to be quiet with God. There is no need to say anything.

How difficult is it for you to sit quietly in the presence of God?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mass of the Lord's Supper

“This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD." Ex 12:11

When God promised the Israelites he would free them from Egyptian slavery, he told them they must be ready to leave at a moments notice. They should have their sandals on, their loins bound up and a staff in hand. When God calls, we must be ready, and no matter what God asks, we must say yes.

Most of the time, unfortunately, we fail in this regard. Our minds are cluttered with things to do, people to see, and mountains to climb. So concerned with our own agenda, we fail to hear God's call to be ready to let go of our own affairs if we want to reach the promised land. More important, when we are self absorbed, we miss the importance of Jesus kneeling and washing the feet of his apostles.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the exemplar of service and letting go, not only of her own dreams, but of her will. Called by God to be the mother of the Messiah, she questions, wonders aloud about her role, admits her fear and says yes. Mary's willingness to hear God's invitation reminds us to be alert to God's voice and to pray for the faith to respond no matter how difficult God's call might feel.

Today, serve someone who doesn't deserve it. See what happens.

Why do you need to make yourself ready to respond to the Lord when he calls?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Power of Words

"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." Is 50:4

It is always difficult to know what to say to people who are suffering. Sometimes words get in the way, are empty or miss the point entirely. All of us have cringed at wakes and funerals hearing people try to offer comforting words but failing miserably. While we feel for them and are glad they tried, we sometimes wish they said nothing.

On the other hand, the speeches and sermons of people like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King continue to echo the power and importance of carefully crafted words even in a digital age. Who can listen to Dr King's I have a Dream speech and not be moved?

Although we have no recordings of the Prophet Isaiah's words, that he understands how to rouse the weary is clear. Committed to the God he knows from personal experience, Isaiah assures the Israelites that God pleads their cause, looks past their faults and wants to be close to them, even when they turn away from God. Every time we read Isaiah our spirits are lifted with hope and new dreams, a perfect beginning to Holy Week.

Today, speak a simple word of comfort to someone suffering.

Whose words most move you to help others?

Monday, April 14, 2014

A troubled Jesus

"Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'” Jn 13:21

There are moments throughout the Gospel of John especially that remind us of Jesus' full humanity. Learning of Lazarus' death, he weeps, and more than once John tells us that Jesus was troubled. That he was at table with friends and disciples when his feelings bubble up, makes his situation even more difficult. Meals are supposed to be times of relaxation and rest, especially when we are eating at the end of a day, not a time to wonder about betrayal.

The Protestant reformer John Calvin sums it up this way, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” and in doing so the Lord assures us that we are never alone. At the same time, there are situations when we don't want hear about Jesus' feelings. Troubled ourselves, we want Jesus to rescue, not accompany, us. Disappointed, we breathe deeply and wonder where the Gospel is taking us.

Holy Week is leading all of us to Jerusalem and it will not be easy. We must confront our own demons and fears, and admit to the times we have turned away from the Lord, betrayed him and ourselves, by letting our selfishness rule our decision making. In the end, however, Jesus will look past all our shortcomings if we have the courage to ask forgiveness and begin again.

Today, ask to begin the journey again.

What most troubles you about your faith life?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Messiah's Role

"I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness." Is 42: 6-7

It is important to remember that although Christians read this text in the light of the Gospel, Isaiah was consoling the Jewish people after they had been dragged into exile. Wanting to assure his people that God had not and would not abandon them, Isaiah asks them to imagine God taking them by the hand and guiding them home.

Along with the people of the Israel, Christians know that God's guidance has a price, and though it is simple, it is also difficult to commit oneself to helping people see, rescuing prisoners and bringing light to those who live in darkness. The key to living this way is never to forget our dependence on God's mercy for everything we do.

The great saints, never denying or ignoring their faults and sins, knew how important it was to respond to those most in need with God's compassion and determination. Julian of Norwich wrote: "My own sin will not hinder the working of God's goodness."(Julian) Not concerned about whether those they helped responded gratefully, the saints were committed to serving God in the poor despite the cost.

Today, ask God to know  and live your Gospel role.

What have been your best experiences of discipleship?