Saturday, May 7, 2016

Accepting Rejection

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7: 59-60

The reasons we reject others are many. Sometimes we don't like or trust the person. At other times, their message annoys or upsets us, and unfortunately, there are some who reject others because of race, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation. Although most of us have been raised with the bromide, Don't judge a book by its cover, we all have our prejudices.

Stephen was rejected simply because he was preaching the salvation of Jesus Christ, a message that frightened traditional religious types who used their power to control others' lives. When Stephen's wisdom and spirit began to sway people towards Christ and away from the synagogue, his fate was sealed. Some scholars believe that Stephen had attended and worshiped at the synagogue in which he was preaching, making his sin even greater. To draw others away from the Talmud was bad enough but to do it to one's neighbors and friends was a much worse offense.

Today, be grateful for those who live and speak our faith with power no matter the cost.

Have you ever been attacked or rejected because of your religious faith?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Constant Prayer is not Obession

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." Jn 16:23b

All of us obsess from time to time.  We know the drill. We start to think about something and one detail or another is not clear so we keep going back over what we have been thinking about. When this happens in the middle of the night, it often keeps us awake for hours. Sometimes we even pray this way.

A few years ago, a friend told me about his silly obsession. His three teenage daughters were driving him crazy by using two towels every time they showered and then would throw the towels in the laundry to be washed. He spoke to them. They listened but didn't change. He reminded them how expensive it was to run the dryer. They listened but didn't change. Finally, he went to one of their basketball games and when he heard so many other parents praising his daughters for their kindness and concern for others, he knew he had to stop obsessing about all the towels they used. They heard about their father's joy and changed.

Today, ask God to free you from obsessions.

What does it mean to you to ask God for help?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Do Not be Silent

"One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you." Acts 18:9

People who have visions are always suspect. Cautious around anything that is different, most of us are more comfortable around people just like us. When someone tells us of a vision they had we might be polite, but we often become unnaturally quiet. Is the person to whom we are listening losing control of his life? Is she making things up in order to set herself apart?

When St Paul lived, he would not have been immediately dismissed when he claimed a vision in which the Lord spoke to him, but he would have been put under intense scrutiny. The Jewish leaders would have questioned him to see if his vision conformed to the Torah and would have rejected him if anything seemed out of line.

In all of this, we must not miss the point of what was happening to Paul. Jesus was clear that Paul need not be afraid and should not silent. Jesus promised Paul to be with him and promises us the same comfort. We are never alone. Whether this message comes to us in a vision or a quiet prayer is not the issue. That God promises to be our companion throughout life is.

Today, pay attention to God however he speaks in your life.

Has God ever spoken to you clearly about the path you should follow?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Ascension of the Lord

"Two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.'” Acts 1:11

Most of us have experienced being caught between conflicting feelings. Picture yourself at an airport sending a child off to college. Both proud and sad, you wave goodbye trying not to cry and leave the airport in a daze. A child with whom you have done your best is off for a new adventure, and you wonder whether she is prepared and ready to embrace the challenges. Even more poignantly, anyone who has helped parents die knows the pain of letting go and the relief that they are no longer in pain. Often, in situations like this, even when we have felt heavy burdened, we are lost for a while, not knowing what we ought next to do.

This is, I imagine, what was happening to the disciples of Jesus at the Ascension. While they knew the Spirit of God would be with them, letting go of Jesus was difficult. He had been their guide, their mentor and their security. It is no wonder they were looking up into the sky as their friend returned to his Father. Their loss was deep, even though their faith assured them they were not alone.

We should expect to experience the absence of Jesus regularly during life. A Japanese proverb reminds us: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise. Only when we have lost something precious, are we able to appreciate it fully, and more important, see what else might be available to us when we open our eyes and heart to God's plan.

Today, let go of the Jesus you know and ask to experience him more fully through God's eyes.

How do you make sense of the feast of the Ascension?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


"There was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16:26

Several years ago, on my way to Honduras to visit our young friars studying Spanish, I stopped in El Salvador for a couple of days, and while there experienced a small earthquake. It was unnerving, to say the least. One of our Salvadoran postulants immediately jumped up and ran out of the building. Because he had suffered through a major earthquake, he was taking no chances. Like the guard in the prison where the apostles were jailed, I didn't know what to do. I sat there hoping it would pass and waited for instructions from the Salvadoran friars.

Acts of the Apostles helps us in this regard. No doubt, St Paul, despite having been freed from prison by a sudden earthquake, was afraid, but he does not dwell on the miracle of his escape to demonstrate the power of God. Rather, he uses the opportunity of his new found freedom to continue his missionary journey and begins to speak about the altar to the "unknown God," that he came upon in Athens.

Today, pray not to overreact to the surprises and trials life, but to wait in prayer to know God's desire.

Have you experienced "earthquakes" in your life that led you to deeper faith?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sts Philip and James

"Jesus said to Thomas, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.'" Jn 14:6

Really knowing someone is hard work. It is not something that happens in a casual visit, nor can it be easily quantified or articulated. In many ways, knowing oneself and another is something we intuit, and more important, test regularly. How often have we heard people say: I thought I knew him, but his recent behavior is opening my eyes in a new way.

Jesus was not easy to know. He opened the eyes of some and confused many while he lived among us. Some thought he was trying to undermine the law. Others were convinced he was a minor and unimportant prophet and healer, but a few realized he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and they knew this because of his works. As Matthew's Gospel makes clear, Jesus came so that, "The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Mt 11:5)

For those with eyes to see and hearts to understand, it was clear that Jesus had no other motive than to let people know he came from God to set the captives free, and to announce a time favor for all without a voice in the society.  Though Jesus was explicit about his mission, even the apostles were slow to comprehend, believe and proclaim it.  It took the power of the Spirit at Pentecost to free them from the fear that often paralyzed them. It is no different for us.

Today, be a disciple. Open your eyes, ears and heart to the Spirit living within and among us.

Does anyone really know you? Do you know and respect others?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

St Athanasius

"Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard." 1 Pt 4:12

St Athanasius knew well the trials about which St Peter wrote. Five times Athanasius was exiled from his episcopal see in Alexandria, and each time, after returning, he continued to preach the divinity of Jesus without compromise and with power. Undeterred by those who wanted him to soften his stance against Arianism, the heresy which taught that Jesus was created by and therefore subordinate to God the Father, Athanasius would not retreat from the simple but important teaching that Jesus was one with his Father and the Spirit.

Faith sometimes demands great sacrifices. St Paul had to renounce his life as a Pharisee and his persecution of Christians in order to announce Good News, and his new commitment to the resurrected Christ not only cost him his standing among Jewish leaders, it ostracized him from his own family. Considered unclean, even by some fellow Christians because he refused to demand that Gentiles first become Jews before baptism, Paul remained firm in his conviction that those new to faith had only to profess the name of Jesus to be saved.

All of us will experience faith's unreasonable demands, and how we accept and even celebrate these struggles will be the measure of our commitment. Asking the Lord to free us from paralyzing fear makes the journey rich and empowering to others.

Today, ask to see clearly what it is that faith demands.

Whose faith do you most admire?