Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Masters?

"No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other." Lk 16:13

In the tenth chapter of Luke's Gospel an expert in the law asks Jesus: And who is my neighbor? Jesus answers with the story of the good Samaritan, a parable that reminds us to live our faith not debate it. Jesus is not concerned with ethnic origins or religious sensibilities, but with the believers' willingness to do what is right before God. The Good Samaritan is held up as an example of someone with the "wrong" religion, but the right attitude towards those in need.

Luke's Gospel might also have asked: and who is my Master?  Determined to remind his listeners that too many religious leaders have divided hearts, Luke insists that living the Gospel is about making choices which bind us to the good despite the cost. If Jesus' followers were too concerned with the traditional signs of God's love, if they were overly worried about money, property, family and health, they could not follow Jesus with full hearts.

These days we seem tempted to have not two but many, many masters. Whether it is money, our reputation or our influence upon or over others, there are multiple concerns that distract us from living the Good News with the power Jesus offers us as gift. Unless we learn to let go of that which divides our hearts, we will be running in four directions at once, not even knowing that we are lost. Taking time each day for reflection and quiet prayer not only alerts us to the competing voices within us, it can steady us on the Gospel path and be a compass that directs us into the heart of God.

Today, examine your conscience carefully about matters which divide your heart.

What fears most distract you from a full Gospel life?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Stigmata of St Francis

"And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.”  (Lk 8:8)

Today Franciscans celebrate the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, a day that reminds us how committed Francis was to imitating Christ.  But this was not always so.  In Francis’ early years, the seed that God was sowing so generously (Lk 8) did not fall on good ground, but rocky, dry, shallow and thorny ground.  Francis apparently lived an empty life, as Thomas of Celano his early biographer wrote, “he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.”  Francis himself said, “I lived in sin.”

One day, however, while riding in the countryside, Francis happened upon a leper who startled him. The sight and smell of lepers had always repelled Francis, but this time Francis dismounted from his horse and kissed the man, an act that sealed what had been happening to him internally.The seed of God's love was taking root and Francis knew he had to let go of the life of luxury he was leading and find another path.

The same is often true for us.  We are gifted with a moment of awareness or insight and everything changes.  While the behavioral shifts we will have to make are not immediately clear, our spirits will not rest until we discern a new direction, and then slowly new habits of quiet, reflection and prayer grow in us and what before seemed impossible now brings joy.

Today, ask the Lord for the grace of seeing what it is He wants of you.

Have you had a life changing experience of faith? 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sts Cornelius and Cyprian

“He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” Lk 7: 4-5

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian were friends, and when the church was under enormous pressure in the third century, their friendship became an important tool for reconciliation and healing. When Novatian insisted that anyone who denied faith, along with murderers and adulterers, could not be reconciled under any circumstances, Cyprian interceded with his friend Pope Cornelius, and Novatian's position was condemned. The fragile nascent church, with only 50,000 believers and 50 priests, was sustained because of the friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian.

Not infrequently, like Cyprian and Cornelius, we do things for friends who ask a favor on their own or their family's behalf. It is not difficult to be gracious, especially when the request is something we do easily or naturally. Jesus is able to hear and respond to the request of the Jewish elders to heal the centurion's sick slave because they asked him to do something as a friend of the Jewish nation.  In the long run, however, while loyalty and friendship captured Jesus' attention, it was the faith of the centurion that moved Jesus to act. 

Not wanting to trouble Jesus with a visit to his home and being very aware of the differences between them, the centurion insists that he is not worthy of Jesus' care. When the centurion further suggests that a word from Jesus will be enough to heal his slave, Jesus uses the centurion's faith to teach the Jews saying, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Faith, like the centurion's, and friendship and faith, like Cyprian and Cornelius shared, can forge a church of great power and strength.

Today, be grateful for a faith filled friend.

How can a friendship, strengthened by faith, help us live the Gospel more powerfully?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Jn 19:25

Who stands by you compassionately when you are struggling or lost?

In the Office of Readings today, St Bernard of Clairvaux, writing in the 12th century, calls Mary “a martyr in spirit,” because of her compassion, never abandoning her son even on the cross. Bernard writes: “Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.”

Standing with others in their suffering, not taking it away, not offering empty words of consolation, not trying to understand it, is a kind of death, a martyrdom. Helplessness is often the price of compassion and Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother, helps us learn this vital Christian virtue.

Today, pray for those who have no one to stand with them in their suffering.

Have you ever been called to be a companion to someone who is suffering alone?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Exaltation of the Cross

“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” Nm 21:8

The cross has almost always been important symbol for Christians. Although controversial at first, because it seemed to focus so much on the violence done to Jesus, the cross soon became the most prominent way for Christians to announce themselves. Not simply a reminder of Christ's gruesome death, the cross is also a invitation to celebrate Jesus' triumph over death, and our assurance that death is not the end of Christian journey.

Displaying the cross publicly or personally should never be a condemnation of others, especially Jews, but a reminder to ourselves and others, that God came among us as human person who not only announced God's love for us in its fullness, but also handed himself over to death as a symbol of his total identification with us at every stage of our journey.

Although we might at times be too casual about it, signing ourselves with the cross is a powerful reminder of Jesus triumph of over sin and death and sign that Jesus, "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, ...made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:15)

Today, make the sign of the cross as you wake and ask for the grace to accept whatever the day brings.

What does the Cross mean to you?

Monday, September 12, 2016

St John Chrysostom

"The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one Body, for we all partake of the one loaf." 1Cor 10: 16-17

It is clear in the Gospel that there is little more important to Jesus then the unity of his disciples. Near the end of St John's Gospel he asks his father for a final gift, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you....that the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (Jn 17:20-21, 23)

Our unity with one another is the sign that that Jesus came from God and is God. We have only to seek unity with one another in Christ in order to preach the truth of the Gospel that Jesus has come for the salvation of all. Anything that inhibits this unity must be resisted, especially the use of power and wealth as weapons to control others.

St John Chrysostom, who desired only to live simply as a monk, was called to be bishop Constantinople, one of the most important sees in the 4th century. A dynamic preacher, John was alarmed that the lifestyle of the bishops and the wealthy was so distancing them from the poor that the unity of the church was threatened. Setting a very simple table, he challenged everyone to think first of their unity in Christ and not of their ability to eat better than others! Eventually, his pointed sermons so upset the rulers of his day that he was exiled from Constantinople and died.

Today, pray for unity with someone from whom you have been separated.

What do you think are the greatest challenges to the unity of the Body of Christ?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

True Humility

"The centurion sent friends to tell him, 'Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.'" Lk 7 6-7

Most humble people have been humbled. Born into wealth or privilege, circumstances conspired against them and they lost everything. The proud complain or curse God; the humble realize that everything they had was a gift and not something they earned or deserved. The proud do almost anything to reclaim what they believe is theirs by divine right. The humble echo the Japanese proverb: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise.

Remarkably, the centurion in the today's Gospel is not asking Jesus to help him but to heal his servant, and Jesus, obviously moved, is willing to respond to the centurion's request. But the centurion becomes an icon of humility for the ages when he acknowledges Jesus' power to heal without touch or physical presence. Not wanting Jesus to risk the condemnation of the rabbis for entering his house, the centurion asks Jesus only to speak a word of healing.

Today, be grateful for all of life no matter how humbling.

What keeps you from humbly acknowledging your weaknesses?