Saturday, July 12, 2014

God's Fertility

"Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth." Is 55:10,11

God's word is fertile. When mixed with the soil of our lives, it produces something extraordinary. God's word has the power to transform us, and our task is to welcome the Word and let it do its work. We are not in control of this process. God is, and we must let it happen, and unless we take time for this process everyday, nothing of substance will happen.

Quiet and reflection, especially about how God's word impacts our lives, is a practice no adult Christian can afford to ignore. Only when we become very disciplined about life in the Spirit can we expect God's word to do its work, and this process is analogous to many other aspects of life. Only the naive think that walking once a week will get them into shape for longer walks, and only the arrogant believe they can learn without regular reading and study. Conversion, at every level of human existence, is hard work.

God's life in and among us is not magic. We should not expect that God's word will transform us if we never reflect upon it. Neither can we hope to be signs of Good News when our life only witnesses to rushing about, pushing people around and ignoring our bodies for the sake of competitive advantage over others. Authentic believers are signs of God's life in the world when they are available, reliable and committed to the other for the other's sake.

Today, remember how God has made your life fertile and offer a prayer of gratitude.

How have you experienced God's fertile actions in your life?

Friday, July 11, 2014


"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." Mt 10:28

For most believers Jesus cannot tell us often enough not to be afraid. Deeply conscious of our faults and sins, we need to hear this consoling message over and over in order to have the strength to proclaim the Gospel without fear. Knowing that there those who want to silence or privatize religious conviction in the name of political freedom, we need to remember Jesus' challenge not to let anyone kill our spirits.

There are any number of extraordinary historical examples of this, perhaps none more obvious than the witness of those who gave their lives during the holocaust in service of the truth and the Gospel. Maximilian Kolbe is lauded by dozens of women and men who survived the concentration camps as someone who always exhorted them to live with dignity despite the horrors to which they were subjected and to pray for their persecutors. Insisting that God is good and merciful, St Maximilian would not let those who would eventually kill him take away his love of and trust in God. Learning this lesson in our own lives will help us live the Gospel without fear.

Today, pause a moment to remember that faith promises always to sustain us in Spirit.

Whose willingness to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the Gospel gives you strength to live your faith more fully?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

St Benedict, Abbot

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

St Benedict, who is widely credited with founding the monastic movement in the Christian West, is a fascinating character. Like John the Baptist and so many others who found greed and all kinds of vice in their societies, Benedict felt like a sheep in the midst of wolves. Knowing he could not live the Gospel in a society that was so lost, he fled to a cave near Mt Subiaco to pray and to grow closer to God, but after three years, when a group of monks asked him to lead them, he left his cave only to be undermined by the monks themselves who objected to his strict rule of life and leadership style.

Soon after returning to the caves, other monks, who were more open to disciplining their lives, came to Benedict for guidance and before long there were so many that Benedict organized them into groups of twelve and wrote his now famous Rule of Life. Emphasizing work and prayer, Benedict's simple directives continue to guide men and women monks and nuns around the world, and can help everyone who is willing to allow the Spirit to direct their lives.

Today, examine your conscience in order to evaluate your lifestyle.

Have you ever been challenged to be as shrewd as a serpent but as simple as a dove?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Living Simply for the sake of God's Reign

"Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." Mt 10:8

There are many people in the world who choose or are forced by circumstance to live simply, and their fundamental option forces other choices upon them. Like St Peter confronting a beggar, they can only say: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you," (Acts 3:6) and what they have is wonderful and valuable in more ways than we can count. When others are totally available to us and unconcerned about what they might gain, our hearts naturally open to hear and learn what it is that motivates them.

Living simply often helps us appreciate each day as it unfolds more naturally and fully. Walking in the early morning before the heat of the day invites us to celebrate cool breezes and and gift of walking itself, and eating simply challenges us to delight in the food we have, not the food we yearn for. More important, letting go of the signs of wealth and power free us to be like Peter, and proclaim the Good News, not with what we can give to others, but how we can be present to them.

Today, give of yourself without counting the cost.

Whose simple life challenges you to change?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Knowing Our Audience

“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Mt 10:6

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music they enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Great Harvent

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Mt 9:38

Too often this passage is reduced to a commentary on religious or priestly vocations, and that is a shame. It is clear to anyone who reads the scriptures regularly that Jesus is much more concerned with all people hearing the Good News and living it than with reforming the lives of the community's leaders. While a hierarchy will develop in Christianity over time, the role of leaders is not first to govern, but to create an environment that frees people to enter the mysteries of faith.

At the same time, Jesus is concerned that so few people seem ready to risk their lives to follow the Gospel. Most of us have an attitude that suggests we should leave well enough alone, but this stance does not advance our own lives or the lives of the community. Jesus invites us to make monumental changes in life, and while this prospect is daunting, we need to ask for the faith to pray with Jesus to make us laborers who are willing to stretch our imaginations and dreams to conform to Jesus' vision.

The Gospel really is Good News, although its demands may not always feel comfortable. Jesus challenges his followers to look again at the poor, the broken, the sick and all that is in it in order to see with God's eyes. All that God creates is good and beautiful, and its fruits belong to all as a gift from God. Our only task is to share its bounty with all people in order that all might know God's justice, have God's peace and believe that its wonders are a promise of  another Kingdom

Today, be one of God's laborers.

Whose efforts on behalf of the Gospel most moved you to belief in God?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

God Espouses Us

"I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD." Hos 2:22

Hosea's prophecy is stunning in its directness and imagery. God is a bridegroom, newly in love with his Bride, and anxious to commit himself to his people forever without measuring the cost. God's love for us, his holy people, is full of justice and mercy and assures us that we shall always know him in this manner.

There is, however, a danger we must avoid. Knowing that God's love is unconditional and forever can cause us to take God for granted. Knowing God will always be near, waiting like a Bridegroom for us to respond, we can fail to discipline ourselves at prayer or ignore the needs of the poor, both practices demanded by the Bridegroom. When we do this, we cheat ourselves and God's beloved of the fruits of God's love.

Today, pay extra attention to someone you have been taking for granted.

What image of God is most strengthening to your faith?