Saturday, July 28, 2018

Do we have enough?

"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted." Mt 6:11

Fear is a complex emotion. Absolutely necessary at times, especially when we are in physical danger and need to escape quickly, it is also an emotion that causes us to turn away from people, places and situations that are challenging. The mentally ill, for instance, can frighten us because we don't understand what they are saying or how they are acting, and we can be afraid of leaving a hotel in a new country even if we are assured that the area is safe. Not knowing where we are can be overwhelming.

The message is clear. We cannot let fear or shame about our own sins and faults keep us from the Lord. Jesus tells his new disciples that they have enough to feed everyone if only they listen to him, accept his directives and follow him on the road to Jerusalem. This same invitation is ours if only we put our fear in the Lord's hands and follow.

Today, acknowledge your fear and stand still.

Which of your fears is most disabling in your call to discipleship?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Being Patient with Ourselves

"No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Mt 13: 29-30

All of us have faults and most of us have determined to rid ourselves of them without success. If our words get us in trouble regularly, we decide to be quieter. For a while it works, but as soon as we lose our focus, we find ourselves talking too much about ourselves or others. These are the weeds that grow in our life.  We can try to blame someone else for planting them, but they are ours and we need to be responsible for them. Thank God Jesus recognizes us despite our faults and suggests a response.

The Lord tells us to stop worrying too much about our sins and concentrate instead on doing good. It is remarkable when we think about it that when we have lots of good to do, there is little time for faults and sins. While we might talk too much, spend too much, worry too much or try too hard, when we are focused on living well with and for others, our faults don't bother us as much and neither do they last as long.

Today, let the weeds grow together with the wheat in your life.

Which of your own faults or sins bothers you the most?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Economic Honesty

"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.

Recently, 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 ($10 US), 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 25, 2018

Sts Joachim and Anne

"Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest." Jer 14:17

Although the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, only come to us from a late first century legend, it must have been wonderful  for them to give birth to Mary, and one wonders whether they saw in their daughter the special qualities that would help Mary say yes to God in all things and endure the horror of her son’s crucifixion and death. Surely, Joachim and Anne would have been immensely proud of their daughter as she accepted the barbarity of her only son’s death.

Today, is a good day to be grateful for our own history, no matter how clouded. Our parents, often with limited resources, did the best they could by us. They fed us, made sure we had access to education and loved us as they knew how. Indeed, we can say this about all our ancestors.  They loved us in the manner than was acceptable in their families and cultures. It does us no good to berate or deny our personal and family history. Rather, we must be grateful for what is and ask God to help us, like Joachim and Anne, to pass on the best of our faith to the generation that follows us.

Today, be grateful for your family, no matter how broken.

What do you most treasure about your own family and faith?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

St James, Apostle

"Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Cor 4:7

What a gift our bodies are! Paul calls them "earthen vessels," and indeed they are. Wonderful vessels that allow us to listen, see, speak, eat, touch others with compassion, and breathe. More important, our bodies are the vessels that allow our spirits to engage others and work together to create a world that is just for all.

Unfortunately, most of us don't appreciate our bodies until they balk or break down. Only when we can't see because of a cataract or walk easily because our knees are swollen or sore, do we realize how well our bodies have served us and God.

In the United States where so many struggle with eating disorders and where there is so much public and private transportation available, we compromise our bodies by not walking or exercising enough. While people rarely call this a sin, we need to think about this. Not eating well or exercising regularly places a tremendous burden on our families and hospital systems and, more important, allows us to take our bodies for granted.

Today, take five minutes to be grateful for your body and how well it has served you.

Have you discovered ways to be grateful for your body on a daily basis.

Monday, July 23, 2018

We are Jesus' Family

"Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." Mt 12:50

We are the family of Jesus. It is that simple and that clear. It is also important. While some might be unnerved when Jesus stretches his followers to think of anyone who listens to and tries to live God's word as his family, it is not a rejection of his own family.

Jesus loved his mother and family deeply. That he wanted everyone listening to him with an open heart to see themselves as his brothers and sisters did not diminish his respect for and love of his immediate family, but was a way to break down the artificial and unnecessary barriers between and among people.

Jesus' love for all people is a lesson for us. We are called to love everyone as He did. We are not free to reject anyone for reasons of race, religion, culture or ethnicity. While it is obvious that there are some people who will be more difficult to love than others, if we want to call ourselves Christians, we must put aside every prejudice to love as Jesus did.

Today, love someone to whom you are not attracted.

What kind of people are most difficult for you to love?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Love Goodness

“Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Mi 6:8

It can seem overwhelmingly impossible at times to live simply for God and not worry about personal goals, wealth, property and even our health. God does not ask us to be successful, and the prophet Micah is at his wit’s end trying to convince the people to whom he was sent  that God does not want thousands of rams or burnt offerings from his chosen people, but only their fidelity to a life of gratitude before God for all God does.

Why won’t we believe this? What can’t we believe it? In the West, at least, competition between and among people, especially men, is still a driving force that often artificially props up our self image even if it does nothing for the life of the community, and we convince ourselves, sometimes with the help of televangelists, that God wants us to succeed. When we are really crazy with these ideas we convince ourselves that it is our success that pleases God, and unfortunately our success sometimes attracts clergy who see our wealth as a ticket to their own success as pastors.

Today, walk humbly and see how it feels.

What are your most difficult obstacles in living a life of faith in a culture of success?