Saturday, August 4, 2018

Be Passionate about the Gospel

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." Jn 6:27

The apostles and disciples were full of passion after Easter. So filled with the hope of God's reign changing everything, nothing could stop them in going from place to place despite the danger to themselves and their families. They had heard the good news and been transformed by it. Passionately, they move onward and upward, working for the food that would endure forever. Convinced the reign of God and Jesus' return was very near, they worked tirelessly for the sake of the Gospel, but soon enough the tired and faltered.

The same thing happens to us. When we are young, we can be passionate about changing the world, raising a family, building a career, and cleaning the environment. Our passion drives us and seems unstoppable, but when passion becomes rushing, a change is in order. We must learn to harness our passion, listen to our d's work and direct our lives can we hope to be free from the constant need to perform and succeed that derails so many.

Today, be passionate about being alive.

Whose passion for the good and for God most changed you?

Friday, August 3, 2018

St John Vianney

"Strive for unity, for there is nothing better. Help all, as the Lord also helps you; suffer all in love (indeed, you are doing this). Pray unceasingly. Beg for wisdom greater than you already have, be watchful and keep the spirit from slumbering. Speak to each person individually, just like God himself, and like a perfect champion bear the infirmities of all. The greater the toil, the greater the gain." St Ignatius of Antioch to Bishop Polycarp 1st century C.E.
The sentiments of Ignatius of Antioch challenge all of us called to leadership in the church, and whether we experience it actively or not, we are all called to leadership. The documents of the Second Vatican Council are clear about this. So is Jesus. We are called to be servants. We are, like Jesus, to kneel and wash the feet of others and to discern how best we can help build the reign of God on earth.  As Thomas Sweetser, S.J. and Carol Holden argue, Christian leaders need to develop skills in "information gathering, decision making, community building, conflict management, and evaluation," (Cf Sweetser and Holden) if we hope to empower everyone around us to live and function well in the 21st century church.

There is no doubt that St John Vianney did this in his life. More than anything else he listened and responded to people where they were, and while he did this in the confessional, we all need to learn this art if we want to help others take their rightful place in a church that increasingly depends of lay leadership for its survival.

Today, listen to someone without defensiveness or feeling pressured to answer?

Who or what has been most helpful to you in your understanding and call to leadership?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Letting Go of Fear

"When Jeremiah finished speaking all that the LORD commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests, the prophets, and all the people laid hold of him, crying, “You must die!" Jer 26:8

When Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of all the cities of Judah, the priest and other prophets of the Jewish community decided Jeremiah had to die. Outraged that he would tell them to radically change their lives, Jeremiah refused to back down. Even under threat of death, Jeremiah continues to invoke God's help in telling the truth to those resisting God's word.

We all love inspiring stories, and the bible and church history are full of them. Drawn to the heroic like a fly to honey, we yearn to live big, but like the priests and prophets of Jeremiah's time, we find ourselves resisting for fear we will lose everything. In the long run, however, there is no choice. Unless we listen to God's demands, no matter how they come to us, the small thoughts that trap us in fear of failure will not lift and allow us to trust God with our lives and follow God's direction.

Today, pray to be free of fear for the sake of others.

Who or what has helped you put aside your fears during difficult times?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

God's Pottery

Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel. Jer 18: 5-6

Thinking and believing that we are like clay in God’s hands ought to be comforting, but it isn’t always. Because we so want to control our lives, we often push away God’s hands shaping us into what God wants. Though we believe that being “worked” by God makes us wonderful and transparent signs of God’s life in the world, we resist becoming God’s “pots.”

Many years ago, a potter friend of mine give a wonderful workshop on the craft of pottery and its relationship to our spiritual life. First she reminded us that the clay is formed into a pliable ball and then centered on the wheel where the lightest touch begins to shape the ball into the form the potter intends. God is not harsh, she reminded us, and from the ball of all our faults and weaknesses, while allowing us enormous freedom in our spiritual journey, God slowly makes us into beautiful and useful pots. The same is true for us. Becoming the person God wants us to become is a long and slow, but ultimately a beautiful and purposeful process.

Today, give the delicate and gentle hand of God permission to shape you.

What have been the most important moments in your becoming God’s work?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

St Alphonsus Liguouri

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Mt 13:46

Often great thinkers and saints come along at a time in church history when there is division, even chaos, and rage. Alphonsus Liguouri is one of those. Reacting to the harshness of Jansenism, which taught that everything of creation is intrinsically evil, Alphonse helped the church reclaim a moral theology that today might be called “virtue ethics.” More concerned with building up the good in people than rooting out every small sin, Alphonse brought civility, understanding, compassion and kindness back to moral theology.

The task today seems very similar. Sometimes the Catholic church is known more for what it condemns than what it promotes, but even a quick view of church teaching reveals a comprehensive concern for the human family. While the press  trumpets the church’s condemnation of abortion (not the woman who aborts!), the bishops remind us that we must have an “option for the poor and vulnerable,” and promotes health care for all, just to name two, if we are going to have an authentically formed Catholic conscience. 

Today, practice virtue and justice.

What do you think it means to be a faith filled citizen in the United States today?

Monday, July 30, 2018

St Ignatius Loyola

"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Mt 13:36

Have you thought about making a retreat recently? If not, then the feast of St Ignatius may be a good time to start. The founder of the Society of Jesus and the patron saint of spiritual retreats, Ignatius designed a simple but profound method for entering the mysteries of faith more deeply. Called the Spiritual Exercises, it begins with what he calls a principle and foundation, a prayer that challenges retreatants to hand over their lives totally to God, trusting that God will lead them to a place where they might become the person God needs them to be for the sake of the world.

Demanding and freeing at the same time, beginning a retreat by writing a prayer of unconditional acceptance of God's desire for us prepares retreatants to hear the message of the scriptures more profoundly. Retreats can be as short as one day and as long as a month,  but always offer us the luxury of stopping everything we are doing, stepping back and surveying how our life is unfolding. Painful at times, they can also be a wonderful time of discovery and recovery of our deepest values and dreams.

Today, think about stopping for an hour to contemplate with gratitude how God has accompanied you each day of your life.

What is keeping you from retreating from the busyness of today to sit with God and asking for direction?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mustard Seeds

"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'" Mt 13: 31-32

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down, telling them that God's reign is like a mustard seed. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? Challenge after challenge faces the Apostles and disciples.

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we have to trust. The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?