Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Forever Love

"For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy." Rom 11:29-30

Although we can and often do turn away from God and the covenant God made with us in Jesus, God cannot and will not renege on his promise to be with and guide us always. Paul is clear about this in his letter to the Romans. The Apostle to the Gentiles acknowledges that the Jews were often disobedient, abandoned the law and worshiped false Gods, but reminds all that God was and remains merciful. Paul wants his Gentile listeners to know this and be comforted. The God who has come to us in Jesus is proof of this. The new and eternal covenant, Jesus is the incarnation of God's promise, a gift we can reject but which will never be withdrawn.

The challenge of God's promise is demanding. Made in God's image, the only way we can demonstrate to others and especially to our enemies that God's love lives in us is to love everyone no matter how often our love is rejected to ridiculed. If God is forever faithful so too must we be faithful. This is not to say we should or must allow ourselves to be abused. Rather, while we ought to withdraw quietly from any situation that allows another to strip us of our good name or reduce to an object of their wrath, we must stand ready to reconcile with our oppressors for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, enjoy God's everlasting love.

What must you let go of in order to love like God?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Accepting Responsibility

“Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge”? Ez 18:2

It is tempting to blame our parents or a previous generation for all our woes. Recent political commentary does this in spades. Those wanting to enforce a balanced federal budget claim that not doing so now will unfairly burden our children and their children. In other words, if we don't agree with their insistence that a balanced budget is an absolute, we have no compassion towards the next generation and will put "our children's teeth on edge." What happens to the people who depend on government aid for food, shelter and clothing seems not to matter.

Ezekiel insists that God will not punish the next generation for our sins. Rather, God will set us free, lead us out of exile and restore us to our rightful place as God's holy people. At the same time, Ezekiel does not deny that how we live now has an effect on the next generation, but insists that God desires not to allow our behavior to be death dealing to our children's children. 

Ezekiel wants his generation to repent, to turn again toward God, and to live the law with joy and delight. This remains our task. Only when we accept responsibility for our own sins can we hope to witness to all, especially to our children, that reform and renewal are possible.

Today, don't blame anyone for your difficulties. Rather, ask God for help.

What situations most tempt you to blame others for your problems?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Assumption of Mary

"Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." Mt 1:39

Although Mary is pictured in art and literature in a wide variety of roles, not the least of which would be the Annunciation and Calvary, I prefer to think of her as "on the road," a pilgrim and a disciple, reaching out for those most in need. If I could paint, I would show her, newly pregnant, starting off to visit Elizabeth. It is Mary's willingness to step out of what she knew and was comfortable with that makes her the saint we must imitate.

Letting go of the security of her family and village and traveling (by herself it seems) to visit Elizabeth, challenges all to do the same. Though it is natural to seek safe places and communities, Mary reminds us there is another dimension to the Gospel call. Unless we are willing to announce what has happened to us in faith, we are not the disciples Jesus needs us to be. If we only witness to those in our inner circle, the Good News will be trapped in a particular culture and country, and this is not what Jesus intended.

We celebrate the feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven, not simply because Mary is the mother of Jesus, but because she was his disciple as well. Mary followed Jesus' example by witnessing to the change that she experienced when she said yes to be the Mother of the Messiah. The 13th century Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart says it beautifully.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” Meister Eckhart 1260-1328
 Today, be a mother to someone who seems lost.

What faith experiences have you had that called you to change your life?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

St Maximilian Kolbe

"Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." Mt 18:29

St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, was drawn to a military life as a boy, but soon after entering the seminary he realized that the fight God wanted him to enter was a spiritual one. Although he imagined his life as a "long war", he focused not on the failures of those to whom he was preaching, but on their strengths, and it was this strategy that fostered his work of evangelizing Western Europe and Japan.

Maximilian never forget that it is impossible to pay back God, and this knowledge drove him to pour out his life in gratitude for all God had given him. The gift of life and the gift of faith are pure gifts, not something we earn or deserve. God chooses to give us life and sustain us in it because of God's goodness, not our worth. More important, we cannot earn salvation. God wants us to be with him forever. It is as simple as that. Like a parent, God desires only good for his children and wants them to live in peace forever.

The Gospel of Matthew can be confusing in this regard. When Jesus, hoping to teach his disciples about the mercy of God, tells a story about a kind King he wants them to believe that God is patient. Even more, he wants them, like Maximilian Kolbe, to be patient with one another. God's patience, though beyond our reach, will always be our goal because God will always be patient with us. No matter how far we stray from the Gospel, God will forever be ready for us to turn back to a full Gospel life.

Today,  be as patient with yourself as God is with you.

How would you counsel others to live patiently?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." Mt 18:15

Reconciliation, especially between and among family members, is critical not only for the people involved but for everyone.  When we realize that one in every four women in the United States suffers domestic violence in her lifetime, and boys who witness violence in their homes are twice as likely to abuse their own partners, (NCADV) we know how important reconciliation is.

Moreover, the cost of domestic violence is enormous. More than four billion dollars is spent in medical and mental health visits as a result of domestic violence and we can only guess at its ongoing effects since most cases go unreported to civil or medical personnel. When Jesus tells his disciples to find a peaceful path to healing even when they are sinned against, he is speaking to us as well.

Too often we hold onto hurts, blame others for how we feel and fail to see the good in those with whom we struggle. The gospel is clear in this regard. Unless we work to look past the obvious, as Jesus does, when he refuses to condemn the woman caught in adultery and tells Zaccheus the tax collector that he wants to eat with him, we will find ourselves further and further from the ideals Jesus sets for us.

Today, offer a hand of healing to someone who has hurt you.

Who has helped you to let go of hurts for the sake of community and the Gospel?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Eating God's Word

"So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat... I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them." Ez 3:3-4

The call of Ezekiel, the first prophet commissioned outside of Israel, is clear and direct. God gives Ezekiel a scroll and commands him to eat it. The Prophet obeys; the words are sweet and the message God gives him will challenge the Israelites in exile to reform their lives. They have only to listen and respond to the God who can never stop loving them.

We all need God to act directly from time to time, to be clear with us, to show us a path to take and a role to assume. Although these kinds of messages come rarely, we would be naive to believe that each time the saints sat or knelt to pray that God spoke to them directly. In fact, the saints are continually reminding us that their distractions and confusion fill their time with God more often than not.

It is not for us to say how God will speak with and to us. Our task is to be faithful to periods of quiet listening, to be content with God's regular silence, but to to continue to give God our time and attention no matter how distracted we become. Though we lose focus with God, God remains faithful to us and this is the power of God's relationship with Ezekiel. When the time is right, God will give us the words we must say.

Today, find a place and time for quiet listening and ask God for nothing.

Has God ever been as direct with you as God is with Ezekiel?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

St Clare of Assisi

"Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Lk 12:33

Like St Francis, her friend and mentor, St Clare was born into wealth, and although her mother was generous towards the poor and had a deep spirituality, Clare knew that the power which her family's wealth gave her was an obstacle to a full Gospel life.

Because she wanted to sell everything she had and give the proceeds to the poor, Clare petitioned Rome to live what she called the "privilege of poverty." Anxious to demonstrate her total dependence on God and the church, Clare wanted both to live within the enclosure and without a dowry, something unheard of in the middle ages. Because women within the enclosure had no means of supporting themselves, the church insisted that nuns have the security of a dowry to protect them from destitution.

Although it took almost to the end of her life, St Clare's desire to live with nothing of her own was finally accepted by Rome when her Rule was approved in 1253 just a day before her death, and this profound breakthrough continues to inspire women of the 21st century to live the Gospel simply and without guile.

Today, ask yourself whether you need everything you have.

What spiritual practice might help you live the Gospel more simply and fully?