Saturday, April 23, 2016

Love is like Water

"As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

St Cyril of Jerusalem, using the simplest of metaphors, helps us understand the Christ in a very accessible way:
But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water?...Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
That Jesus' Spirit is like rain invites us to sit by a window, watch the rain come down and imagine it nurturing and nourishing every plant and tree we can see. When it penetrates the roots of an oak tree, it allows the oak to be itself, strong and majestic, but when it drenches the roots of a tomato plant, it makes it possible for the plant to produce tomatoes. The miracle of grace and growth is obvious and important.

Our lives, lived in faith, should be like rain in others' lives. It is not our task to change those around us, but to help them become themselves in faith. When we give of ourselves freely to those in need, they can become the person God intends and needs them to become for the sake of God's reign. As God sends Jesus, and Jesus send us, so must we send others in Jesus' name to be signs of God's love.

Today, pray that those closest to you will become God's face in the world.

Who has been like rain in your faith life?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Joy in the Spirit

"The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52

There is a piece of me that would prefer the text above to read: The disciples were filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit who is the source of Christian joy. When we are alive in God's spirit, there is always joy, a delight if you like in the realization that God dwells within us, strengthens us and empowers us to live the Gospel plainly and fully.

Joy is very different from happiness. While happiness is almost always fleeting since it is attached to something very particular like a lovely Spring day or one's birthday, joy lasts because it is a gift for the soul, one that cannot be taken away or spent. Joy, like salt in meat,  penetrates and becomes part of who we are and how we must live.

The joy of Jesus' disciples astounded their listeners. How could Jesus' friends be so joyful about a hero rabbi who had been beaten and crucified on a garbage heap? How could they sustain a life of joy in the face of so much opposition from the Jewish leaders?  The disciples had been transformed by the Spirit and it was the Spirit alone that sustained them in all things, but especially in joy. Their joy was also, no doubt, the cause of their success in proclaiming the Good News.

Today, remember a joyful moment in your life and be grateful.

What keeps you from being joyful in faith?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Solace in Christ

"Do not let your hearts be troubled...I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Jn 14: 1,6

When I was a boy, I remember my mother talking about a friend of mine saying: Trouble always finds that boy. I wasn't sure exactly what she meant, but I did know that "Billy" seemed always to be under suspicion. Either because he started a fight or stole some penny candies from the corner store, our parents warned us not to befriend him. It must have been a lonely time for Billy. Although he was a good ball player, he was rarely chosen first when we picked teams for a game, and seemed always to be walking home from school alone.

Jesus is forever trying to appeal to people like Billy. He tells those who labor and are heavy burdened to come to him and find rest, and reaches out for women and men who the authorities label as unclean. In many cases, Jesus was successful in these invitations. Tax collectors ate with him, and sinners sought to touch him. Hopeful of a new life or a new lease on life, the broken found in him an understanding friend and companion.

How to appeal to those rejected by our society and invite others who have chosen a dark and destructive path to know the Lord is always the task of believers. Because Jesus challenges us to see with his eyes, we need always to try to look past what isolates sinners from society in order to find that core part of them that is anxious for redemption and life in a community. While we might often fail in our endeavors, we can never stop trying.

Today, have a conversation with someone who seems lost.

Who has brought you comfort when you were troubled?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Knowing Who You Are

"I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.” Acts 13:25

Knowing who we are and what our roles are as disciples is an essential element of our Gospel vocation. Like John the Baptist, we know we are not the Messiah and that our role is not to control others or the flow of the Good News. Rather, we are followers of the Risen Christ who take every opportunity to live in a such a way that allows others to know the God who has entered and transformed our lives. 

St Paul, like John the Baptist, is always simple and clear, and in this he becomes one of our models. Paul's first role was to preach his own repentance for killing Christians. Paul knew the Jewish community had lost its way. Somehow they had forgotten the purpose of the law and the message of the prophets. Because the leaders wanted only to preserve their power, they ignored Paul and his radical call to repentance so that when Paul converted to the way of Jesus, they ridiculed him.

The lesson for us is clear. No matter who speaks the truth or how different they might seem from our perspective, we need to listen and if necessary change for the sake of the Gospel. 

Today, pray to know your unique role as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Who do you most admire for their humility in accepting their role in proclaiming the Gospel?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Different Kinds of Lights

"I came into the world as light." Jn 12:45

Last week I had an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin postulants of North America, who are always a remarkably diverse group of young men. Some are Hispanic, others Asian, still others are Middle Eastern or Caucasian from the United States and Canada. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

The gospel today reminds us that like Christ, we must be lights in the world, bringing healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men is always a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Building Relationships

"For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians." Acts 11:26

Relationships take time, and are rarely easy. Paul and the first Christian missionaries knew this and took their time not only teaching the Antiochenes but getting to know them. Every message, even the Gospel, has to be spoken with one's audience in mind, and nothing is more important in this regard than culture.

Historians tell us that Antioch was among the most sophisticated of ancient cities with a large library, a magnificent theater and a half million people. Paul, who was learned, and his companions were beginning to articulate a theology of Christianity that demanded the attention of Building Relationshipshis listeners, but his willingness to remain in Antioch, to listen and learn were as important as the message he proclaimed.

Listening to others, especially those who expect little from us because we might be more educated or we connected than them, is not only a good strategy, it is a telling act of humility.

Today, listen twice as much as you speak.

What has been the most important thing you have learned by listening?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jesus Our Safety

"I am the gate, Whoever enters through me will be saved." Jn 10:9

Are your home and parish spiritually safe places? Are your family members and fellow parishioners free to speak, question and challenge the unexamined assumptions that underlie so much of who we are and what we do?

No doubt for some these are threatening questions, but spiritual safety at home and in our parishes is critically important to our faith growth. Unless people can explore freely the foundations of their faith and question those in authority, not with intent to dissemble, but with the hope of learning more about God and entering more naturally into the life of the faith community, they will stagnate or wander away from the practice of faith.

In today's gospel Jesus reminds us that he is the source of safety for the sheep, and that whoever enters through him will be saved. Too many others, he insists, especially the leaders of the Jewish community, were not good shepherds to their flock. They did not look after them. They did not protect them against predators. Rather, they taught the law to reinforce their own power, not to advance the reign of God. How we avoid the misuse of power will be the test of our Gospel commitment in the 21st century.

Today, be a place of safety for someone who is struggling with belief.

Who helped you to trust God's shepherd like care when you were confused or hurt?