Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Persistent Widow

"Because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her." Lk 18:5

Weariness afflicts us all from time to time. An adult child can't find a job or worse, a path of peace to walk. A marriage has become drudgery or a friend seems always to be needy, and no matter how often we try to stay positive, our energy seeps away and life becomes an unending series of tasks to complete, not an adventure. We smile thinly when friends ask how we are, but the best part of the day is getting in bed and going to sleep. Some of our struggles come to everyone, but others seem never ending and we wonder where God is in all that is happening within and around us.

How good it is to hear Jesus remind us that God never grows weary and is always ready to walk with us even when the road seems endless. Jesus knows what he is talking about. He keeps reminding us that the Jewish nation, forgetting God and God's law, regularly slipped into idolatry and turned their back on God. Dragged into exile, God went with them into Babylon because God had promised to be with them always and would not break the Covenant.

We can be sure that God will always be as faithful to us as he was to the Jews of old. While we might grow weary and seek solace in places and people that offer only temporary relief, God will not abandon us, and Jesus' coming among us is the proof.

Today, take a few moments to remember how faithful God has been to you.

What circumstances in life make you most tired and doubtful?

Friday, October 14, 2016

St Teresa of Avila

“Let nothing disturb you, 
Let nothing frighten you, 
All things are passing away: 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things. 
Whoever has God lacks nothing; 
God alone suffices.” 
St Teresa of Avila

The bookmark of St. Teresa is fascinating. We wonder if she read it everyday. Tradition suggests it was written in her own hand and was a reminder to live in peace with Christ despite the struggles she would experience throughout her life.

Committed to the reform of the Carmelites in a Catholic world threatened by the Protestant Reformation, her life was difficult. Accused by some friends that her "visions" were diabolical, she also suffered deeply when the Carmelites forced her to retire to one of their monasteries for years before finally allowing her the freedom to spread her renewal to other convents and monasteries. In all, she founded 17 monasteries of reformed or discalced Carmelites and wrote treatises on the spiritual life that remain classics in the Christian west.

Whether Teresa reflected on her prayer and plea each day matters little.  On her feast, we can read and pray it with care hoping to interiorize her desire to let nothing disturb or frighten us, but to remain patient with ourselves and God in all matters of the spirit.

Today, pray for patience.

What most impresses or moves you about St. Teresa's prayer?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fear's Power

“Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." Lk 12:7

The disciples were drawn to Jesus for many reasons. He spoke to their hearts. He addressed them with dignity. He was a healer and prophet. He spoke with power. But they were also cautious and afraid. When Jesus spoke to and about the Pharisees he was dangerous. Because the Pharisees were able to intercede for them and help them with a meal or clean clothes, the poor were not going to bite the hand that fed them. That is why today’s gospel from Luke is so telling.

Luke tells us that there are so many people trying to get close to Jesus that some are being trampled. No doubt Jesus’ disciples were impressed and hopeful. The prophet they were following was popular and powerful. More important, he was a rabbi who cared about them, but his warning about not being swayed by the leaven of the Pharisees had to make them very anxious. No doubt some moved to the background where they might escape the wrath of the Pharisees if necessary. Jesus’ suggestion that some of them might die as a result of following him was not what they wanted to hear. But others heard him at a deeper level. Rather than retreat, they moved closer to him where there was no reason to be afraid. Since they were worth more than many sparrows, God would protect them, guide them and strengthen them when they were threatened.

Today, ask God for the faith to believe in your own worth and not to let your fear get in the way of a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Do you believe that God cares about you and all people personally?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Comversion is a Lifetime Journey

"Sing to the Lord a new Song." Ps 98:1

Conversion is a process. We all know this, but continue to get fooled. Just as we think we can relax, sit back and enjoy where we are in life, change comes or is demanded of us. A parent or a friend gets sick, a child's life turns in a direction we never expected, and we have doubts about our vocations. There is no getting around it. Though we often resist it, change is necessary and inevitable.

King David is a good example of this. Strolling on his roof top, he sees Bathsheba bathing. Smitten, he has relations with her and when she announces shortly afterwards that she is pregnant, he panics. David's pride or perhaps his fear of losing his influence in the community block his conscience, and he arranges to have Bathsheba's husband, and his friend Uriah, killed.

Despite all this, God eventually relents and forgives David. As our young people might say, you can't make this stuff up. The lesson is clear. No matter how egregious our fault and sin, if we express true sorrow and are willing to change, God will forgive us and help us take the next steps in life. Conversion, like the land yielding fruit, is an ongoing process, "first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

Today, ask forgiveness of every sin, and the grace to change.

Can you forgive like God?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lawyers of the Law

“Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” Lk 11:46

First the Pharisees, now the scholars of the law. Anyone who imposes burdens on others without helping them to know and do better, has no place in the heart of God. Committed to freeing people from the burdens of the law, and the weight of poverty and illness, Jesus assures his listeners that God wants to set them free. God does not seek to punish us for our faults, even less for our illnesses, but to heal us and fill us with hope.

Sometimes, by insisting loudly on our opinion, we lay heavy burdens on peoples' backs.The force with which we present our point of view is intimidating and dismissive of others whose speaking skills are weak, and makes it impossible to recognize or acknowledge the insights they have. Worse, when we ignore the uneducated, we make them invisible, and fail to profit from the wisdom they have gained "on the streets" of life.

Today, listen to someone from whom you expect nothing.

Have you ever learned about life and faith from the poor and uneducated?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Washing Our Hearts

"The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal." Lk 11:38

Ritual washing was important in the Judaism of Jesus' day, especially before a meal. Jesus would have known this and the reader wonders if he refused to wash his hands to make a point with the Pharisees who were often trying to trip him up.

Jesus is deeply concerned that the Pharisees, while careful about the rituals of Judaism, were failing to live the law's intent, and he makes this clear when he tells his host to give alms and everything will be clean. Catholics must also be careful in this regard. It is not enough to go to Mass each Sunday, fast and abstain during Lent, and vote as if we have no obligation to the poor or to people around the world.

While it is important to practice our faith each day with prayer and reflection, it is also necessary to let our faith guide us in the bigger questions that we face as believers each day. How we budget our money both to live simply and generously, and how we mentor younger members to have reverence for all creation are everyday ways of practicing our faith that mark us as disciples eager to proclaim the good news with our lives.

Today, give alms without letting your right hand know what your left is doing.

What do you think are the most important practices of faith?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Sign of Jonah

"There is something greater than Jonah here." Lk 11:32

When Jonah walked through Nineveh calling the people to repentance, the response was almost immediate. The king instructed everyone, even the animals, to join him in responding to Jonah's prophecy. Together they put on sackcloth and sat in ashes hoping that God would accept their acts of penitence and free them from destruction.

The scriptures are forever reminding us that God always listens and responds to our heartfelt cries. Not only does God lobby Moses to approach Pharaoh and demand the enslaved Hebrews be set free, God also listens to the cries of the poor who he reminds us are always close to him. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus would be born of poor parents, and like Jonah, would go towards Jerusalem announcing God's desire for our conversion and transformation.

We need to learn to walk with Jonah and Jesus, and respond to their cry.  Unless we commit ourselves to repent of our sins, our selfishness, our failure to recognize a world bigger than the United States, our desire for a kind of security in things, and money and power that only God can give, we risk admiring Jesus' pronouncements but failing to live them.

Today, listen closely and without fear for Jesus' call to conversion.

What does it mean to you to listen and respond to Jesus in the 21st century?