Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday

"Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked." Mk 14: 50-52

Palm Sunday introduces us to an intriguing young fellow, someone who it is easy to smile about or ignore, but we should do neither. The young man wearing nothing but a linen cloth who runs off naked when the leaders of the Jews try to seize him, at first seems to be an embarrassment, but as we read further in Mark's gospel, he appears again at the tomb of Jesus. The same young man who appears to be captured and killed, leaves his burial cloth behind so that Jesus' disciples will know that nothing can contain the Lord, neither death nor life.

No matter how hard we try, it is difficult to let go of our desire to figure out life and death. If we are able to understand something or someone, we tell ourselves, we will be able to control it. Nothing can be further from the truth of the gospel. The majesty of God, this week experienced in his suffering and death, cannot be reduced to words, gestures or rituals. Jesus, the Son of God, is beyond language and easy classification, but he is always with us even when he seems to run away naked. Without the eyes of faith we are blind to the mystery of how much God loves us. Faith alone allows us to "see" that God chooses never to live without us.

Today, ask not to avoid death, but to live with the belief that there is no death in Christ.

Have you ever been tempted to run away from life in order to escape death?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Learning from Our Students and Children

"Teaching is food, even for the teacher." St. Gregory of Nazienzen

Anyone who has had the privilege of teaching, especially about our faith, knows the truth of what St. Gregory says. Not only is teaching food for the teacher, it is formative. A good principle in this regard, especially after many years of teaching, is to ask yourself whether you are still being formed by those you teach. All authentic teaching ought to be mutually enriching. Students, no matter how young, have a wisdom. No one is a blank slate, and everyone open to the grace of God, can and ought to learn her entire life.

Jesus is clearly food for the entire community of faith, but he also must have been moved and shaped by the steadfastness of his disciples, especially in view of his persecution by the leadership of the Jewish community. It must have been very difficult for his apostles to remain faithful to him and his mission in the face of so much opposition. Even though they knew their lives were threatened, they continued to follow him.

The challenge for contemporary believers is similar. It is no secret that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church has lost is political capital, making it even more important for everyday Catholics to proclaim the Good News on behalf of the poor. The number of people without jobs and whose homes are threatened by foreclosure is huge. Almost 13 million Americans can't find work that will pay them a living wage. When we stand firmly behind those who are struggling, we will also be fed by the truth. "Teaching is food, even for the teacher."

Today, tell the truth and proclaim the gospel with your life.

Have you learned something important from your students/children?

Thursday, March 26, 2015


"If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works." Jn 10:38

Discernment is a critical tool and virtue for Christians. Our role as disciples of Jesus Christ is to proclaim the freedom of the sons and daughters of God and build God's reign. Deciding how to do this is called discernment. Jesus himself told us not to cast pearls before swine, a rather harsh but clear example of discernment. Discernment is what allows to know how to proclaim God's word with power and hope. Some may be called to organize other Christians to build hospitals and schools. Others, like Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers, hear God's call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked directly. Both kinds of works are necessary, but each of us is called to some of the works of mercy, not all of them at once. Discernment allows us to know which of God's works to do today.

Jesus, after prayer and quiet, does his best to work on God's behalf and announce Good News, but his message is resisted, especially by the leaders of the Jewish community. He has no choice but to try other paths and to plead that even if the leaders resist his claims to be a Son of God, they judge him by his works and good deeds.

We must do the same. At different stages in our life, we must discern how to change for the sake of God's mission. None of this should matter to the believer. We can and will change our strategies in order that God's word might be heard more clearly, but we must also announce God's love by our concern for those most in need. People may not agree with us, but they will not be able to deny that the works we do help others to live fuller human lives.

Today, try not to worry about how effective you are. Let God work in and through you.

Have your motives ever been challenged?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remembering Who We Are

"If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me." Jn 8:41

Each day as we near Holy Week, the confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees become sharper and harsher. An onlooker from the 21st century wants to step between both parties and remind them that their arguments are producing more heat than light, but Jesus cannot stop. The Pharisees have become interested only in defending themselves and their world view. No matter how Jesus approaches them, they resist his message. In fact, Jesus is simply saying that we know who we are and what we believe by how we live. If an olive tree does not produce olives for a number of years, it might look like an olive tree, but must be cut down to make way for a new tree.

While most of us would agree that healthy compromise between feuding parties is the best path to peace, compromise that ignores or demeans the poor among us can never be a gospel path. Too often when powerful people compromise, we hear almost nothing about the poor who are struggling to keep their heads above water. When spectacular stories about the rich and famous distract us from the cry of the poor, we risk Jesus' wrath.

Today, ask the Lord to clear your mind and strengthen your soul to stand with the poor.

How do you react to injustice?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Annunciation

"How can this be?" Lk 1:34

Mary's question to the angel is haunting. How can this be? Indeed! We often ask the same question ourselves in any number of situations.  How can it be that almost 2 billion people die each year from water born intestinal diseases? How can it be that in a world which produces more than enough food for everyone to eat adequately, almost 1 billion people are hungry? How can it be that a mother of three small children is dying while another woman, desperate for a child, cannot get pregnant?

The questions are endless, and Mary helps us ask them. Though the only answer she received to her question about how she would be pregnant was an assurance that God's love would overshadow her, she seemed satisfied. It is not always so with us.

Today's feast is an answer of sorts to all our questions, but too often the answer is not to our liking or understanding. The basic promise of the new covenant is that God will be with us always, in times of light and darkness, in confusing as well as magnificently clear situations. Nothing more. The more is up to us. God makes us just, but we do not always act in a just manner towards others. God provides us with a world that produces sufficient food for all. It is up to us to distribute it, but even when we fail to live justly and to create just systems that do not demean the poor for being poor, God will not abandon us. While life will not always make sense, God is with us. Is that enough?  It was for Mary.

Today, let us say yes to all that is.

What do you do when life seems overwhelming?

Monday, March 23, 2015

We are never alone

Jesus said, "The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Jn 8:29

Being alone, especially in a place or situation where you know no one, can be intimidating. More than once, I have traveled to the developing world expecting friars to meet me and no one showed up. Not sure how to use the public phone or whether it would work if I did, I waited, and waited, all the while feeling very alone.

Jesus reminds us that even though he was very alone in a physical sense when he went into the desert or to a mountain for prayer, his Father was always with him. A consolation and a challenge, Jesus knew his Father was with him but had always to be alert to his Father's love. Tempted by the devil to forget or choose another path in facing and overcoming loneliness, he chose his Father and so must we.

Keeping alert to God's enduring presence in our life is simple but often difficult. Troubled by family issues, money or the violence in the world that seems always to be creeping closer, we forget God's loving presence by self medicating with substances, TV or the internet. Uncomfortable with feeling so helpless, we allow ourselves to be distracted by almost anything or anyone. These responses will never fully satisfy or calm us. Only practices that call us back to the presence of God can do that.

Today, be quiet and allow the God who is always near to guide you.

How do you manage stress spiritually?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Authentic Justice

"Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful on the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but their is not a Gospel response.

The servant who cannot pay his debts begs for time from his master, but turns around and refuses to forgive or give more time to another servant who owes him money helps us understand Gospel justice. God will show us mercy, but we must offer that same gift to others. 

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?