Saturday, August 2, 2014

God and us in our Lowliness

“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” Ps 64:69

Sometimes the psalms startle and stop us. Because they are prayer songs which we often recite by rote like a litany or the rosary, we can forget that they contain countless images that help us understand God, our faith and ourselves better. When Psalm 64 reminds us that God sees us in our lowliness and hears our confusion and upset, the scripture helps us remember that God draws closer to us when we are suffering. It is not that God will take away our pain. Rather, God will walk, stand or sit with us as we endure and eventually embrace the trials that come to all in life.

A friar friend, Tom Murphy, who died a couple of weeks ago, was a shining example of this. Tom spent the majority of ministerial life as a hospital chaplain. Not one to wait to be called to the bed of a sick person, Tom walked the halls of the hospitals and nursing home where he served. Seeking out those who were struggling the most, he would sit, listen, offer a word of consolation and pray with them. Because Tom was bilingual, he was able to attend to the large Latino population with a special tenderness. 

Tom did all this while enduring his own demons which not only did not deter him from walking with the sick, they made him more compassionate. Tom, and so many others like him, remind us that God will not only not abandon us in our confusion, God will will seek us out and assure us we are not alone.

Today, seek out someone who is sick and listen.

Who or what most helps you when you are wrestling with life?

Friday, August 1, 2014

St Alphonsus Liguori

“'Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?' And they took offense at him." Mt 13: 54-55

When we don't like or are holding a resentment against someone, we can find any number of spurious reasons to undermine their reputation or good name, and although we might be subtle in our criticism, anyone listening can sense our dislike and hostility. As Jesus began to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, his listeners, especially those who had something to lose if Jesus became too powerful, attacked him where they though he was most vulnerable, his simple and poor background and family.

St Alphonsus Liguori, born into wealth and power, having earned a doctorate in law by the age of sixteen, was well on his way to fame and fortune when God broke into his life. In a vision, Alphonsus knew God wanted him to dedicate himself to a simple life and seek ordination as a priest. Opposed by his family, Alphonsus agreed to live at home and travel throughout Naples to preach missions, but after a while God's call demanded more of him.

Despite the ongoing resistance of his family, Alphonsus formed a new congregation which stumbled along for a while but the saint was not to be denied. Knowing God wanted him to move forward, he founded communities of men and women, and the congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) continues to offer us a powerful example of what can happen when we abandon ourselves to God's will.

Today, ask God to speak clearly to you about your own vocation.

Do you experience opposition from family and friends to your vocation?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

St Ignatius of Loyola

"This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message." Jer 18:1

In a brief biography about Ignatius Loyola we read, "As a member of the Velazquez household, he was frequently at court and developed a taste for all it presented, especially the ladies. He was much addicted to gambling, very contentious, and not above engaging in swordplay on occasion." (Ignatius life) In other words, Ignatius was a typical young man of the privileged class. 

More concerned with his own pleasure and ephemeral power than the welfare of others, Ignatius was arrogant, entitled and aggressive, not someone his contemporaries would have imagined becoming one of the great and most revered saints of the Western Church. But God had plans for Ignatius, and God's desire for him won out. 

Badly wounded in battle, Ignatius had nothing to do but fantasize about a woman he hoped to marry. Unsatisfied and dispirited, when he began to read a life of Christ and the lives of the saints, his spirit quieted and he felt peaceful. Discernment of Spirits, for which he would become famous, was born. Ignatius knew that his heart was driving him away from his former life more deeply into the Gospel, and when he responded God drew him closer and led him towards other young men who were eager to life a Gospel life. Not long afterwards the Society of Jesus was born.

Today, let your heart speak its truth and ask for the grace to follow it.

Have you had religious experiences that changed your life?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Devouring God's Word

"When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart." Jer 15:16

Reading Jeremiah we can imagine thee prophet searching a path or in a mountain crevice for God's word. How will God's word look? Perhaps it will be a living word and he will hear it. When Jeremiah first began to look for God's word, he did not know how God would find him, but his commitment to God and to his vocation as a prophet assured him that God would be God and show him what he needed to be and do.

God does provide for us. Sometimes we have to look in strange or different places for what God wants to say to us, but we can always be sure that God is near, nearer in fact than our own breath. We must, however, respond to God and eat what God places before us, and like Jeremiah let God's word become our joy and happiness.

Eating God's word can sound strange to modern ears. We usually listen for God's word in our lives, but Jeremiah and his fellow prophets want always to remind us that listening is not enough. We must let God's word into our lives in order that it might do his transforming work. Eating God's word, chewing it and letting its nourishment be our strength only happens when we use all our entire body, mind, heart and spirit to make God's word the base of our lives.

Today, read God's word and savor it. Don't rush through your reading but allow the Word to penetrate your heart.

Was or is there a word of God that has changed your life for God?

Monday, July 28, 2014

St Martha

Martha said to him, 'I know my brother will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this.'" Jn 11:26

Because she is sometimes sneered at for complaining that her sister Mary is not helping prepare a meal for Jesus, Martha can be easily dismissed as a second class saint, but she deserves our praise and admiration. Because she is straightforward with Jesus, Martha helps free us from treating the Lord like a plastic amulet whose only purpose is to protect us from harm. Honest and direct, Martha reminds us not to be afraid of the Lord, but to pour out our hearts to him like we would to a treasured friend.

In responding to Martha, Jesus teaches his disciples and all those who were following him that he is their hope and their life, and that through him all will be raised up on the last day. For those who accept this message and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus' promise is the foundation of our faith. As Paul reminds us, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)

Today, ask Jesus to help you better understand his message of salvation.

Are you able to question and challenge the Lord without fear?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Changing our Image of God

"For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen." Jer 13: 10-11

Jeremiah's message from God is desperately sad. God wants us to cling to him as closely as a loincloth clings to our body, and just as any clothing can enhance our appearance, God wants both to shield us and make us more attractive. But we throw God's protective love off and try to live without God. Foolish though it is, we all do this from time to time, and usually it is an indicator that it is time to reexamine our image of God.

Often we make God in our image. We want God to be our companion, friend and protector, but on our terms. We also want God to fix us, heal our friends and family, and be more like a magician than a God. God is clear. He will not invade us or take away our freedom. We must choose to let God be near because God wants only to be with us, not control us.

Made in God's image and wanting to be like Jesus in the world, we must offer those around us the same freedom God gives us. We are not called to control others, fix them or even direct their lives. Rather, like God, we must accompany others and help them respond to God's desire for them.

Today, let God be your protector and guide.

What has been your experience of letting God be God?