Saturday, July 29, 2017

Solomon's Wisdom

"The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered:...Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong." 1 Kgs 3: 5,7

What are the deepest desires of your heart? This is the question God poses to Solomon, and the King's answer both pleased and startled God. Solomon asks for an understanding heart and Wisdom, qualities we most often associate with aging, but Solomon is a young man who understands how important it is to know right from wrong  and to be just and merciful.

It is intriguing and revealing to question ourselves in the same way God questioned Solomon. When we or our loved ones are sick, we usually ask for health. When we lose a job or are behind on our rent or mortgage, we ask for work or another way to pay our bills. Solomon asks for wisdom, not for power, wealth, influence or skills as a warrior, and becomes a model for all. When we have the courage to ask to be whatever it is God needs us to be, we can let go, trust God and live life to the full.

Today, ask God for an understanding heart, especially towards those who have hurt you.

What do you think are the marks of a wise person?

Friday, July 28, 2017

St Martha

Martha said to him, 'I know my brother will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this.'" Jn 11:26

Because she is sometimes sneered at for complaining that her sister Mary is not helping prepare a meal for Jesus, Martha can be easily dismissed as a second class saint, but she deserves our praise and admiration. Because she is straightforward with Jesus, Martha helps free us from treating the Lord like a plastic amulet whose only purpose is to protect us from harm. Honest and direct, Martha reminds us not to be afraid of the Lord, but to pour out our hearts to him like we would to a treasured friend.

In responding to Martha, Jesus teaches his disciples and all those who were following him that he is their hope and their life, and that through him all will be raised up on the last day. For those who accept this message and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus' promise is the foundation of our faith. As Paul reminds us, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)

Today, ask Jesus to help you better understand his message of salvation.

Are you able to question and challenge the Lord without fear?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

God's good soil

"The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." Mt 13:23

Jesus is often sharp tongued with his own people. When they do not open themselves to new hope or allow riches, power and domination over others to control their lives, he reminds them that while they might be on rich soil, they are allowing the "weeds" in the soil to strangle their spiritual life. It is not very different in our own day.

Last year while visiting Kenya, I saw the same dynamics at work, but in a much more obvious and destructive way. There are one million people in the Kibera slum, and while the rent might only $1000 KS a month, it is often paid to rich politicians who have no reason to address the unbearable conditions in Kibera since it is a source of their wealth and power. Making money on the backs of the poor and destitute is despicable, something that Jesus addresses often in the gospel.

In the light of what is so obvious and horrible in the slums of Kenya, we all need to examine our practices. Is it just to always be searching for the least expensive item in a grocery story or shopping mall without considering whether those who fashioned the item we want are making a just wage in their own countries?  Honest prayer about our own lives can only be a good thing, allowing the Lord to find the rich soil of our lives so that our good works might produce a hundred, or sixty or thirty fold.

Today, be just to the people around you. Do not speak negatively about them. Search for their good qualities.

How has God found the good soil of your life in order to make you productive for others?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Open your eyes to the glory of God

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear." Mt 13:16

Seeing is a wonderful gift, one we can easily take for granted. Only an injury to the eye, even a slight one, makes us sit up and take notice. That we can see and appreciate the beauty of all creation is remarkable, and while it seems simple it really is very complex. So many parts of our body have to work together for us to see, and Jesus uses this very basic faculty to teach us about sensing beyond what our eyes and ears and brain working together offer us.

Some of the Jewish leaders, who could have worked with Jesus to proclaim God's reign, did not want to see, hear or admit that Jesus had remarkable powers and insight, that he understood and interpreted the Torah in a way that freed people to live the Law more fully and deeply. Because they feared their power was being challenged and undermined, they chose to be blind and confronted Jesus at every turn but were never able to dissuade or distract ordinary people from acknowledging what they experienced.  We all need to learn that seeing with the mind and heart is as important as seeing with our eyes alone, otherwise we will miss the transforming power of the Gospel.

Today, open your eyes slowly and look around at the glory of God's creation.

Have you had an experience that helped you see God's action in your life more clearly?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sts Joachim and Anne

"The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Mt 13:23

Although we are certain of nothing about Joachim and Anne, even their names, they were the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus, the couple whose example and instruction formed Mary in faith. It was from Joachim and Anne that Mary would have first heard the Torah, and learned to pray, and it was Mary's prayer that gave her the courage to accept God's invitation to be the mother of Jesus.

Grandparents are becoming increasingly important in the 21st century, especially in the United States. Because almost half of children are born to unmarried women,(CBS) grandparents are often called upon to parent a second time but without the authority they might have enjoyed with their own children. How they negotiate these muddy waters will play a hugely important role in their grandchildren's lives. If they can somehow maintain their compassion and nurturing in ways that help their grandchildren feel secure and focused, especially in faith, they will offer them a gift beyond anything they could buy them.

Today, pray for grandparents

Who taught you most by their lives about faith?

Monday, July 24, 2017

St James, Apostle

"We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body." 2 Cor 4:8-10

St James, the Apostle, is mentioned often in the gospels as a close companion of Jesus. Perhaps most importantly he is present at the Transfiguration when Jesus reveals himself as a prophet and patriarch with Moses and Elijah. A close friend of Jesus, James and his brother John were nicknamed "sons of thunder" by Jesus because of their fierce commitment to the Gospel, even if some of it was misplaced, but his zeal for the Gospel gave him the strength to endure martyrdom.

The Patron of Spain, James's fame increased over time as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make their way to Compestela, where tradition suggests his relics are preserved. Believing that James had the courage to leave Jerusalem in order to announce the Good News in Spain, pilgrims today stream to his shrine hoping to let go of life patterns that steal their humanity and their faith.

The boldness of St James both in his ministry with Jesus and in bringing the Gospel to Spain is a wonderful example for contemporary Christians. In a society obsessed with stability, security and power, we would do well to listen to the example of James to let go of what seems permanent in order to discover the God who lives within and among people everywhere as guides on their journeys.

Today, be bold in living the Gospel.

What in your life calls you to live the Gospel boldly?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Noticing God Everywhere

"Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." Mt 12:40

How many signs do we need to believe that God is among us? It is a beautiful morning in Lodi, New Jersey. Cool with a promise of clear skies and a warm afternoon, it is difficult not to rejoice in the glory of another day. I know there are some, especially the chronically ill, for whom a day like this means little. Others are struggling with family difficulties or the lack of a job that allows them to support their family, but there is no excuse for not breathing deeply, enjoying the simple wonder of clean air and asking God for the faith to live this day fully in Christ.

Jesus warned the people of his day about very similar things. Although he was among them as a clear sign of God’s love, many refused to look at him as a gift to the world and kept challenging him to prove himself according to their narrow standards, but Jesus would have none of it. He reminded his listeners of God’s delight in the willingness of the people Nineveh to repent, and told them not to be vengeful like Jonah who was angry at God for being so forgiving. The message remains constant. No matter how often we turn away from God, God is waiting for our return.

Today, look and listen for the ordinary signs of God's enduring presence in the world.

Which signs of God's love to we take for granted?