Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trinity Sunday

"Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint." Rom 5: 3-4

To lose hope in the world, one's family or the church is a terrible burden. The loss of hope is marked by an inner darkness and doubts about the meaning of life. Does it make sense to work for the good of all? Can any institution: country, family, church, ever get out of its own way and create an environment that fosters the common good?

Hard questions like these are natural these days in the United States. Our Congress seems unable to find a path of compromise about vital social issues, leaving the poor and needy, struggling even more for a piece of the American dream. Our families are in disarray. Almost half the children born in the United States are born to unmarried mothers. The church is also floundering. In Northeast United States, most parishes have relatively few young worshippers and can't seem to find the money to hire a youth minister. Even those that have the financial ability to support young people are not sure what they expect from the program or the young.

We are indeed, as Paul suggests, afflicted and need to work together in Christ to endure because it is only in endurance that hope flourishes and new life emerges. Trust in God during times of trial is essential for a healthy families and churches, and the feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that God is a relationship of persons in unity for the sake of all. God is love and calls us to endure, celebrate, hope and create a dream of a world and church that works together so that all people can eat and all nations live in harmony.

Today, celebrate the relationships God has given you for your growth and faith.

What spiritual practices most help you to endure in the face of affliction?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Watching Widows

"He noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins." Mk 12:42

Any society, especially any local church or parish, that becomes too concerned with maintaining its internal life will slowly die if it fails to notice and reach out to the needy. As we near the end of another liturgical year we are reminded of this simple truth over and over. All our spiritual practices, especially prayer, while at  first blush appearing to be about our inner life, are in fact about making our salvation known to others.

No matter how often we say it or reemphasize it, the Gospel is a gift that must be given away. While it is a rule of life and a guide for how to negotiate life's difficulties, it's primary purpose is to announce the saving work of Jesus by doing justice, redressing wrongs, and listening to the cry of the poor. These behaviors allow God to do God's work.

Though it can be difficult and agitational for those who demean the efforts of the poor on their own behalf, doing justice is always convincing. When Christians feed the hungry and care for the poor in the name of Jesus, their actions speak much louder than their words.

Today, decide to help someone in need without them knowing it.

Whose work on behalf of the poor do you most admire?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

God's Freedom

The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; 
The LORD loves the just. 
The LORD protects strangers. Ps 146

Freedom is the most precious gift of the sons and daughters of God, but because most of us have experienced political freedom in North America, we rarely appreciate fully the freedom God gives us.  Only when we have been trapped inside a foreign country or considered as less than human as the Jews of old were in Egypt and Babylon, can we begin to understand the precious gift of freedom that God gives us, not only in our national lives as citizens of a democracy, but spiritually.

When God sets God's people free it is not a license to do anything we like, but a privilege that we have to live and celebrate with joy.  The freedom of the sons and daughter of God  is rooted in God's promise always to be our ground, our heart, a mother who holds us in the palm of her hand and a father who, like a shepherd, watches over us at every turn. Because God claims us as God's own we are free from fear.  God's love is everlasting and can never be taken from us.

At the same time, most people are afraid of true, spiritual  freedom.  It is easier to ask what the rules are in any society or church and follow them than it is to use our imaginations to craft a life with God that announces good news with every step we take.  Authentic freedom is the gift of knowing that God is not so much worried about our mistakes as God wants us to spend our freedom as disciples to help create a world of justice for all.

Today, acccept God's freedom as a gift and treasure it.

How do you understand the freedom Jesus promises?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tobiah's Prayer

"Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, 'My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.'”

For believers prayer is always necessary and essential, because it is prayer that allows us to acknowledge our dependence on God for all that is, both the good and painful.  Only when we commit ourselves to God without reserve are we able to understand more deeply that faith is a gift that will always sustain us, even when we are not sure where we are going or what God intends for us.

When Tobiah is told that Sarah will be his wife, he is also warned that Sarah had been married seven times and each of her husbands had died of their wedding night. What a burden? Who  would want to marry a woman so ill fated, and what of Sarah?  Would she be willing to give herself in marriage to Tobiah without reserve? How would she process the grief of seven dead husbands? 

For Tobiah and Sarah, the answer lies in prayer. When Sarah's parents leave the bedroom prepared for the young couple, Tobiah gets up from the marriage bed and invites his new wife to pray with him that God will deliver them from their struggles and have mercy on them. Their example continues to inspire readers even today.

Today, pray for someone who is struggling to understand loss.

What drives you to prayer?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Silly Arguments

"God is not God of the dead, but of the living," Mk 12:27

The implications of this passage are broad and important. Knowing that we will live forever ought to be freeing, unless of course we are stuck in guilt or shame. In that case, living forever feels like hell, literally, but this is not Jesus' intent. Reminding his listeners and us that we will live forever is a reminder to let go of guilt and to put aside shame for the sake of others. Our task is to announce this good news despite the difficulties we encounter. Wherever we are stuck, whether in anger, confusion, anxiety or darkness, we must pray for the faith to see all these emotions as self absorbing and destructive of community and the church. Our self concern blocks our ability to be for others.

When the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection, tried to trap Jesus in a silly argument about which of a woman's seven husbands will be her husband in the afterlife, Jesus refuses to take the bait. The Sadducees are stuck trying to be right and use logic to reinforce their argument, but Jesus insists that the after life is not about marrying or giving in marriage, but in accepting the gift of living with God forever. Failing to appreciate this free gift of God, the Sadducees walked away thinking they won the argument while the crowd who listened to Jesus drew even closer to him.

Not infrequently, we are like the Sadducees. Insisting that we are right in an argument in order to win, we jeopardize our relationship with both friends and foes, making it very difficult to find common ground in the next go round. Without a relationship, even simple conversations become problematic and awkward. and that is what happens to the Sadducees. Embarrassed and confused by Jesus they look for other opportunities to prove their point and lose any chance to hear the transforming word of God. Unless we listen to the Lord with an open spirit, the same can happen to us.

Today, ask God for the gift of listening with an open heart.

When has your pride interfered with your ability to hear the truth

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tobit's Pride

"So she retorted: 'Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!'” Tb 2:14

Stress can make us say terrible things. Tobit, newly blind and no doubt feeling trapped and confused by his inability to see, hears a goat bleating and asks his wife where it came from. Hannah tells him that the goat was a bonus from her employers for her weaving, but Tobit refuses to believe her and tells her to return it to its rightful owner. Finally, Hannah responds angrily and asks Tobit where all his charity has gone.

How often when we are upset we look for a scapegoat, a situation or a person to blame for how we are feeling. Uncomfortable with ourselves, we even attack others, deflecting attention from our disquiet and allowing ourselves not to pay attention to whatever is troubling us. When Tobit attacks Hannah, he undermines all his good works, until he recognizes his sin and begins to weep and pray, asking God not to punish him for his cruelty to Hannah.

Acceptance of whatever we are asked to carry in life is the path to reconciliation with whomever or whatever we blame, and is the ground of renewal both for individuals and communities. Tobit's prayer should be ours whenever we lose our focus and begin to blame others.

Today, ask forgiveness from someone you have offended.

What burdens are most difficult for you to carry?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

St Boniface

"A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, 'We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?'” Acts 23:9

Being a missionary has always been difficult. One must leave the comfort and security of a culture, family and religious system that one knows, and enter a totally different world asking God to show you the path to integration and transformation. The best missionaries have always been the most attentive listeners, people who sense the goodness of the people to whom they have been sent. Knowing they are called, like St Paul, to discover the God who is already present in every culture and people, women and men missionaries live in gratitude and awe because of the God they encounter in the people to whom they have been sent.

St Boniface knew these challenges in spades. Sent to the German church that had lost its way, Boniface had to minister with compassion to an uneducated clergy and a community that was more interested in its own interpretation of the Gospel than the word preached by Jesus. Preaching reform and renewal, Boniface's influence was deep because he not only called people to reexamine their values, he also established houses of prayer throughout Germany. The church only prospers when it builds its catechesis and worship on a foundation of prayer.

Today, pray for those who face a daily martyrdom in their own homes.

Have you experienced faith in another cultural context? What was it like?