Saturday, September 20, 2014

God's Largesse

"‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’....Are you envious because I am generous?’" Mt 20:16a

Upon first reading Matthew's parable about the laborers who worked only an hour and received a full days wage, we are puzzled. Trained to believe that when we work hard we will receive our reward, Jesus' story turns our expectations upside down, and that is the point. The parable is not about the workers at all. It is about God and God's generosity, and its purpose is twofold: to remind us that God is good beyond our imagination and to challenge us to live more generously than we have in the past.

No matter how hard we try to understand God's greatness, the scriptures keep reminding us that God and God's graciousness have no parallels in human life, and while it is helpful to think of metaphors and similes that open up our understanding, they will always fail to capture the fullness of God's goodness. Most of us have gazed at a sunrise, sunset, the ocean or a majestic mountain and been unable to describe what we experience. The grandeur and power of nature defies description, and  the love of God's is even more impossible to label or name. Only awe and silence seem a proper and fitting response.

What we can and must do is accept God's challenge to live lives of limitless generosity and learn how to spend the love we have been given with humility and delight. While a tall order, even this is possible with God's help.

Today, give someone something they have not deserved or earned.

Do you  have a favorite way or story to desribe God's generosity/

Friday, September 19, 2014

Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” Lk 8:5-7

It never fails to move me when I read about God's generosity. No matter how often the seed God throws so lavishly on the land falls into cracks and crevices and places unable to nurture  the seed into a full life, God doesn't give up. God keeps trying to find a place in our hearts and in our communities where the seed will grow and produce a hundredfold. If only we were so generous!

The Korean martyrs. Andrew, Paul, Columba, Peter and all who we celebrate today were brutally tortured and killed in ways that defy belief, but the recent beheading of American news reporters reminds us that this kind of violence exists and continues. Grisly and overwhelming, the awful deaths of those who were beheaded, and the brutal murders of so many martyrs, force us to face the violence that people can inflict on other humans. Nevertheless, though God knows how cruel we can be to one another, God never gives up on us. God keeps sowing seeds until they find good ground, and God's goodness fills us with hope.

Today, ask God to help you find a place where the ground is ready for God's love.

Does your faith help you explain the kind of violence we witness so often in our world?

Thursday, September 18, 2014


"Some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources." Lk 8:2-3

In the United States, at least, women have almost always carried the burden of keeping our parishes organized, welcoming an functioning smoothly. Where would our parishes be without the women who lead and teach catechetics, organize celebrations and picnics, and make sure the parish is active in reaching out to the poor and needy? This is not to say that men haven't played key roles in the church, but it is women upon whom falls the daily and weekly tasks that make a parish live and go. They are its face.

It seems St Paul benefited from the same kind of help from the women of his day. In Luke's Gospel, which scholars suggest tells Paul's story, Mary, Joanna, and Susanna were not only faithful disciples of Jesus, they were also generous in their support of Paul' missionary journeys.  Wouldn't it be good to know more about them? Unfortunately, in the ancient world, and too often in our world, women's voices are rarely heard, and their stories seldom told. We should work hard to change that.

In January of this year Pope Francis moved the church in this direction by encouraging what he called,
The indispensable contribution of women in society, in particular with their sensitivity and intuition toward the other, the weak and the unprotected." He also noted that "many women share some pastoral responsibilities with priests in looking after persons, families and groups" and he said he had hoped that "the spaces for a more diffuse and incisive presence in the church be expanded."
Today,  pray for a woman you know who has been generous but under appreciated in her service to the church.

What steps can and should the church take to highlight the contributions of women to our faith communities?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Being Who We Are for God's Glory

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and God's grace to me has not been ineffective." 1 Cor 15:9

While St Paul does not say this exactly, we can paraphrase his thought with good results. We all need to pray we can be who it is God needs us to be. In other words, we must learn to be ourselves, nothing more. We cannot all be apostles, prophets, healers or administrators. Some of us must be the condiments in a good "stew" of people who together make up the body of Christ. When we learn to be who we are without excuses or explanation, we honor God and build God's reign.

Nature teaches us this lesson beautifully. A tree is simply a tree, a flower a flower and both invite us to celebrate the glory of God. Trees don't try to be flowers and flowers don't try to be carrots or celery or anything else. From nature we learn that when we are who God creates us to be, and allow God to direct our lives, we can add immeasurably to the strength of God's body, the church.

Learning to let God blend our lives together with other faith filled people is humbling and empowering at the same time. By not trying to control or fix everyone else, and by our willingness to take the beam out of our own eye, we let God be God and ask only for the grace to be ourselves for God's glory.

Today, take a deep breath and be yourself with all your warts.

What happens to you when you try to do too much or control others behavior?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Stigmata of St Francis

"Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way." 1Cor 12:31

More has been written about love than almost any other subject and still its description remains elusive. The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once say, "those who say don't know, and those who know don't say," and though he was writing about beauty, or the attempt to describe the beautiful, it could just as easily apply to love. Describing authentic love can trivialize it, even demean it. Being loved unconditionally, especially by God, is one of the foundation stones of our faith. Because we believe that God loves us unconditionally, we are free to live without constraint or fear. Living in God is not something we earn, but a gift we accept with gratitude and delight.

St Paul reminds us to strive for the great spiritual gifts: to desire peace of mind and spirit, to want an open and still heart, and to reach for humility and wisdom. At the same time, the Apostle to the Gentiles reminds us that the gift which surpasses all the others is love, and cannot be merited, only celebrated.

When St Francis of Assisi prayed for the gift of the Stigmata, he knew it would involve pain, but desired to imitate Christ perfectly. If Chris's love for us meant that he would have to suffer for the sake of doing God's work, Francis wanted the same privilege. If Jesus was willing to hang upon a cross, Francis wanted the same grace. For Francis, the gift of the Stigmata, though painful, was another way to express his gratitude for the love God had bestowed on him so lavishly.

Today, ask for the gift of loving others for the sake of the Gospel.

What gift do you desire from God to live the Gospel more fully?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sts Cornelius and Cyprian, Bishops and Martyrs

"For he is good, the LORD, whose kindness endures forever, and his faithfulness, to all generations." Ps 10:5
We often forget that in the middle of the 3rd century the See of Peter was vacant for 14 months because of the persecution of Christians. It must have been a chaotic time. Governed by a group of priests, the church was careful both to affirm its belief in Jesus and to avoid undue agitation with the Roman authorities.

St Cornelius was elected Pope at a time of great turmoil inside and outside of the church. The persecution of Christians was bad enough, but the refusal of some bishops to consider reconciling Christians, who because of fear, denied their faith during the persecution was a more vexing problem for Cornelius.

Challenged by an important bishop, Novatian, who wanted nothing to do with those who rejected their faith, Cornelius sided with his friend from North Africa, Cyprian, who insisted the Jesus was always willing to forgive and that the church had no choice. The welcoming back of sinners to full communion was something that Jesus insisted upon. Though Cornelius only served as Pope for 2 years and was exiled at the end of his life, his witness to a forgiving Christ and Church remains an essential dimension of the contemporary church.

Today, forgive someone from whom you have been too long separated.

How do you think you would react during a time of church persecution?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows

Think about it this way. How would you respond if someone told your parents shortly after your birth that you would suffer greatly? More, how would you feel about fleeing your home town and country because your child's life was in danger? What would it be like to stand by as your son is executed by being nailed to a cross? All of this and more was Mary's fate after being assured by the angel that God had chosen her for an incredible role! One might be tempted to wonder about listening to God ever again, or as St Teresa of Avila famously said: "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few."

Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, has always been the subject of popular devotion because so many people, especially women, can identify with her pain and loss. One of the patrons of abused women, Mary''s life invites everyone who has suffered to approach her for consolation and companionship. Highlighted in the scriptures as a compassionate mother, especially towards the young couple at the wedding feast of Cana who were running out of wine, Mary reminds us that even in our afflictions, God is near, walking with us.

Today, ask Mary to help you not run away from loss, but walk through it with you.

What do you most need when you are in pain or suffering?