Saturday, September 6, 2014

Being Honest with One Another

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you." Mt 18:15

Sometimes the Gospel offers us very practical advice. In Matthew's Gospel, the evangelist reminds his readers that Jesus wanted us to heal broken relationships without resorting to public accusations or allegations especially of a personal kind. When we attack one another and try to make it appear that we not assaulting the person, but the person's ideas, we sin and this offense must be addressed, but quietly.

Conversations about difficult matters should always begin in private. In this way, we can be sure that we are honestly seeking to have an authentic relationship with our conversation partners and not simply trying to be right and win an argument. If convincing someone that their opinion is unfounded is more important than hearing them with an open spirit, we are not living the Gospel.

The book of Proverbs reminds us: "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs," (10:12) and it is the loving person who remembers to seek out those with whom they struggle in order to seek a path of healing.

Today, listen to someone with whom you disagree twice as long as normally would.

Have you been successful in healing a relationship by speaking with the other in private?

Friday, September 5, 2014

All is Gift

"What do you possess that you have not received?" 1Cor 4:7

The poet Mary Oliver once wrote: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” (Thirst, 2006) St Paul admonishes us about this same truth when he reminds the Corinthians that everything we have, we have received from God.

It is easy enough to accept Paul's teaching when life is moving along smoothly, but more difficult when we face hardship or numbing life questions. Too often, when faced with painful feelings, we run. Though natural, we need to find ways to counter this tendency.

Another poet,  Francis Thompson, puts it eloquently in The Hound of Heaven :

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; 
I fled Him, down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways 
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears 
I hid from Him.

How do we stop running? Can we learn to sit still, even in the midst of turmoil, to let God's plan for us unfold in God's time? Learning some form of meditation is always good, and can be especially helpful when everything in us wants to rush past or through or around life's struggles. Next time you are tempted to deny or suppress a difficult feeling, pray to remember that all is from God and all is gift.

Today, be grateful for whatever the day brings.

Has someone given you a box of darkness that became a gift/

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Judging Others

"It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;...the one who judges me is the Lord." 1 Cor 4:2.3

Although Pope Francis was clear on his return flight from Brazil in July of 2013 that he would not judge homosexual persons, it is his ongoing pastoral example that calls believers everywhere not only not to judge others, but to look at their strengths and virtues which is exactly what he did when he decided to celebrate his birthday with the homeless.

When writing his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father further challenged us to revisit our priorities personally and communally,
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.(1)
It should be clear that when the Holy Father encourages us to "hit the streets", he is also reminding us that people who are engaged in trying to help others and proclaim the Gospel have little time to judge others. They are too busy being Good News.

Today, if you are tempted to judge someone, praise them instead.

Do you know people like Pope Francis who refuse to judge others?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Silliness of Vanity

"The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." 1 Cor 3:19

Who of us is not vain? For some, it is their bodies or the color of their hair they worry about. For others, it is their insights or the sharpness of their minds. We think our memories of past events are accurate even when others have a different version.

Vanity invades us all, and invade is a good word. Most times we don't even recognize our own vanity. We offer an opinion in a conversation, but really think of it as a fact or as an interpretation that is unassailable. We pose for pictures holding our belly in or standing on tiptoe, all with the intention of impressing others. We can check ourselves in this regard by asking ourselves how often we repeat our opinion in a conversation, even when other people have clearly heard us and disagree!

St Paul knows a lot about vanity, and it is not an offense to him to suggest that it is his own vanity that allows him to be so insightful. Paul warns others that God sees through our pretensions and loves us in spite of our silliness. Offering others the same love God gives us when their vanity shows is a good spiritual practice.

Today, check your vanity at the door of our heart.

In what areas do you catch yourself insisting on your own opinion?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

St Gregory the Great

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth." 1 Cor 3:6

In one of his sermons, St Gregory the Great acknowledges how difficult it is for him to live and proclaim the Gospel simply, honestly and fully. Trapped in his role as bishop, he is often at a loss about how not to judge others harshly while at the same time urging them to live the Gospel. Freely admitting that his commitment to the Good News was easier when he was a monk locked away in a monastery, he confesses to all his distractions and to the negligence that results because of his preoccupations with being a "good" bishop.

St Paul confesses to the same agitation in his first letter to the Corinthians. Too many people, by claiming they belong to Paul or to one of his disciples, are dividing the community and distracting one another from the Gospel path. In defending their behavior or interpretation of the Gospel by citing their allegiance to the Apostles, they miss the point of Paul's preaching, and Paul can only remind them that they belong to Christ, no one else, and that he is only a coworker of Christ in the ways of faith.

When we accept our role as coworkers with and for Christ in building God's reign, we not only acknowledge the limitations of our personal power, we welcome others to the work of Evangelization. We are only the body of Christ when we accept our own role and celebrate the role of all those committed to the proclamation of thee Gospel.

Today, be humble. Admit one fault and ask God for the grace to put it aside.

What are your biggest stumbling blocks in living the Gospel with humility?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Mind of Christ

“Who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him? But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor 2:16

It is incomprehensible to think we can counsel God, but unfortunately that is exactly what some try to do. Upset with what they don't understand about the world, faith and life, they want to tell God how God ought to act. There is a humorous saying about those who do this. Do you know the difference between you and God? God  never thinks he's you.

Living with the unknown and submitting ourselves to God with absolute trust is always difficult. It is natural to want to know what tomorrow will bring, but no matter how we plan or scheme, each day unfolds outside of our control, and our task is to live each day with faith and hope. When we are able to do this, life is simpler and more honest. Yes, we are more vulnerable than we like, but this is the price of a living faith.

We all know that we have no control over yesterday or tomorrow, and little control over today, but when we commit ourselves to be as present to God as possible, we learn to live more serenely and openly. We rush less, and obsess less, especially about the behavior of others. Most important, like the Christ, we work hard to make God available to others by the way we care for them.

Today, let the Christ guide you in every way. Listen to him.

What practices help you to let go of your compulsions?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weakness as Power

"I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." 1 Cor 2:4-5

We rarely think of St Paul as full of fear and trembling. Because we know he was a respected rabbi and spoke his mind freely, our image of Paul more often makes us think of a CEO of a large company. It is surprising to hear him insist in his first letter to the Corinthians that any power he has is from God and that is the only reason anyone should listen to him.

It is important to ask ourselves what it is in others that causes us to listen to them with respect. Does their power or wealth frighten us? Are we unduly influenced by their position in the church or world? Or do we open our hearts to their message because we sense they are not speaking on their own but on behalf of God.

St Paul's honesty and humility are the qualities that strengthen him in his evangelizing efforts. Because he knows that the knowledge he had of the Torah prior to his conversion was a source of pride that made him arrogant and dismissive of others, Paul makes sure to rely totally of God's power in all his actions. When we learn to depend on God as well as use our God given gifts, we can be sure that God will guide and help us in everything we do.

Today, ask for God's strength to live the Gospel with joy.

Have you had experiences of your own weakness that taught you to rely more completely on God?