Saturday, June 18, 2016

Every day Crosses

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Lk 9:23

Crosses come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, none of them easy but all of them real and important. Some carry a paralyzing fear, others an impenetrable darkness. Still others suffer addictions that terrorize them and their families, but most of us have simpler, if not less heavy, crosses. We talk or eat too much, we don't listen to our friends or God and we wonder whether our lives have impacted anyone or anything. These are heavy crosses indeed.

Following Jesus means accepting who we are, what we've done and what we have failed to do, while at the same time praying to be free of our self absorption and fear. Knowing the Lord will guide and lead us to places, situations and people that will allow him to be known and loved makes this possible and desirable.

Discipleship, Lent teaches us, is not first of all about doing penance or growing in faith, but about following Jesus. The Lord is more concerned about our willingness to repent and begin again each day than about our faults. When our humility deepens we begin to realize that Jesus can even use our weaknesses for the good of others and the announcement of the Gospel.

Today, carry the first cross you encounter without grumbling.

What are your most difficult crosses?

Friday, June 17, 2016

One Master

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Mt 6:24

We know the Gospel tells us that can't serve two masters. How about three or four or ten?  When we think about our lives it often becomes obvious that we are trying to do too much for too many people and this can lead to resentment of all those we intended to serve. Time becomes our master, or security or accomplishment or power, but when we stop to reflect upon these matters we know that the Gospel challenge to have one master is spot on and powerful.

We need to commit ourselves on a daily basis to serving God alone. Only God can be our master and the task of the believer is to discern how best to serve this master each day. When we take time to pray about this we often reach a counter intuitive conclusion. Serving God alone does not mean saying yes to every needy person or important cause, but learning to ask God each day how to go forward, how to help, how to serve and how to announce the Good News.

Today, ask God how best to live the Good News.

Which of your concerns most often gets in the way of serving God.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Gift of our Bodies

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light." Mt 6:22

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others. Feeling invulnerable as young people, we take chances that, as we age, we put aside as crazy.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. Who does not love a sunset or a double rainbow? Who is not touched when we see kindness between and among people, especially when it is shown to the most vulnerable. To those willing to see, the entire world is aflame with the glory of God.

All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How important it is to develop positive attitudes towards others, especially those who are different from us.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Learning to Pray

"Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Mt 6:8

When the disciples asked Jesus to help them pray, he invited them to pray with him.  By encouraging us to call God our father, not his or my father, Jesus united us as sisters and brothers with him and in him. The Lord's prayer is powerful and as much a pattern of how to pray as a prayer itself.

When we remember to acknowledge and hallow God's name, we cannot help but begin in the beginning. God is both the source and end of our prayer, and when we submit ourselves to God's power we also pray that God's kingdom will be built. Only then are we free to ask God to help us with our daily needs. While we often get prayer backward by putting our fears, concerns and needs first, the Lord's prayer helps us to the path Jesus desires for us.

While there should be no doubt that the Our Father is a beautiful prayer that we can repeat over and over, we should not be afraid to experiment with other forms of prayer. Ritual and body prayer can be very helpful in reminding us who God is and what God asks. Dipping our fingers in holy water and blessing ourselves, lighting a candle to celebrate God as light in the darkness, bowing before the tabernacle, and breaking bread at the Eucharist are all powerful ways of folding prayer into the everyday actions of our life.

Meditation, petition and quiet prayer, in which we say nothing but ask God to draw closer to us so that we might know God more deeply and serve God and God's people more fully, are also important. While we can always return to the Lord's prayer, especially when our minds are cluttered with worry or business, any kind of prayer that helps us honor God each day is necessary and powerful.

Today, say the Our Father slowly and meditatively.

What form of prayer most helps you be aware of and responsive to God's desire for the world?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Avoiding the Spotlight

"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may seem them." Mt 6:1

Being seen is often important for celebrities. Living in the New York area, there are always reports about actors, business people and athletes at this or that event, with photographers recorAvoidingding their every move and word. Although many claim not to enjoy this part of celebrity, I am not so sure. Without all the photos, radio and TV appearances, their name and image would slip from public consciousness and their fame, which is already fleeting, might disappear completely. Celebrities need a kind of notoriety to get work and demand high salaries.

This is not the way Jesus envisions the lives of his disciples. In fact, he is clear: Do not let your right hand know what your left is doing. Don't prance about in public in order to be noticed. Do the right thing for the right reason, not to be seen but to promote God's reign.

Today, avoid the spotlight.

Whose life of simple, transparent faith most moves you to live the Gospel without concern for personal gain?

The Massacre in Orlando


Below find a copy of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's response to the awful tragedy unfolding in the United States. The Cardinal's response seems both measured and compassionate to me, a stance which I think is especially important these days. Presently, I am traveling in Africa on behalf of the African Women's Education Fund ( and often have little access to U.S. newspapers or news feeds. Just the same, I grieve again with all of you and am praying as I write.

Cardinal Se├ín P. O’Malley Statement on Orlando Tragedy

"As our society faces the massive and violent assault on human life in Orlando on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Boston offers and encourages prayers on behalf of those who were killed in the attack, those who were injured, and all their families and friends.  At this time our prayers are also with Bishop Noonan and the Diocese of Orlando, with the wider community of Orlando, and for our country, once again confronted by the face of hatred expressed through gun violence. 

Yet another lament about the prevalence of guns throughout our society seems a pale response to the horror of the crimes in Orlando.  With each repeated occurrence of mass shootings in schools, theaters, churches and social settings it appears increasingly clear that any hope for thwarting these tragedies must begin with more effective legislation and enforcement of who has access to guns and under what conditions.  However, legislation alone will not be sufficient as there are wider and deeper forces at work in these attacks.

The United States proudly upholds its long-standing tradition of being open and welcoming to those in need of a safe haven.  Our country greatly benefits from human creativity and achievement cultivated without distinction of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or any other differentiating characteristic.  From a multitude of differences we have sought unity.  We must meet the challenges of combining freedom, pluralism and unity in our increasingly diverse society if the United States is to continue to be a beacon of hope to the world. 

Achieving the unity which promotes peaceful coexistence means addressing those deeper forces which threaten our well-being.  In all aspects of our lives, including our government, the private sector, our faith communities and our schools, we must be aware of and reflect on how we think and speak about those who are different from us.  And we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by the worst instincts in human nature, by efforts to divide us based on our differences or by an immobilizing fear. 

Defeat in the face of the tragedies that we have seen in Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Arizona is not conceivable.  Resistance is necessary; resolution is imperative.  The resources to resist and the courage of resolve are on display each day in our society.  Those who risked their lives in the midst of the assault on Sunday, the first responders and the friends at each other’s side in the midst of the terror, symbolize the kind of generosity of spirit which makes our country great.  Together let us go forward with the commitment to work for the meaningful change that will help our country and all her people to live in safety and peace."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Love your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:43

Very little in the Gospel can shock and startle us like the phrase "love your enemies." Unfortunately, because we have heard it so often, it sometimes washes over us like another bit of information, and fails to stop us in our tracks or make us think.

Loving our enemies is hard work. It means turning our world upside down, letting go of hurt and beginning again. It does not mean we should be soft or weak. In fact, loving our enemies can make us very strong if only we have the courage to ask God to show us a path towards authentic reconciliation, especially if our enemies are in our own family.

Jesus made many enemies because he continually challenged the power of the Jewish leaders of his day. More upsetting to some, he also demanded that everyone study and reinterpret the Torah. The Law, as Jesus lived it, was intended to lead people closer to God and the service of God's people. Though it might bind and irritate its followers at times, it only did this because it demanded great sacrifice and the acceptance of God's leadership and plan in the lives of the faithful. The Gospel does the same thing.

Today, ask for the strength to love one enemy.

What stops you from loving your enemies?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

St Anthony of Padua

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:20

So many aspects of St Anthony's life are remarkable and intriguing. Born to wealth in Portugal, he joined the Canons Regular, a group dedicated to theological scholarship and learning. Happy enough as a Canon, he was the guest master for his community when five young Francisca friars on their way to Morocco as missionaries stopped to rest. Less than a year later word came that the friars had been martyred. Anthony was so moved that he asked to join the Franciscans and take up the mission of the martyred friars.Though his request was granted, his health made it impossible to leave for Morocco.

Deciding to go to Italy, the home of the Franciscans, his ship was forced into port at Sicily. Still not well, Anthony made his way to Tuscany and was assigned to a rural hermitage and asked to help in the kitchen. Well educated, even scholarly, Anthony found himself in the most humble of circumstances but there is no evidence that he complained or worried about his choice to join the Friars Minor.  As often happens, however, Anthony was asked to preach on a day no one else was prepared and his homily both surprised and delighted his listeners. His career as one of the most famous of Franciscan preachers had begun.

Today, be alert to whatever grace comes and embrace it.

What most impresses you about the lives of the Saints?