Saturday, February 9, 2019

Fishing God's Way

"Lower your nets for a catch." Lk 5:4

It is natural to wonder what it was that moved Peter to obey Jesus and lower his nets for a catch. Peter is the fisherman, not Jesus, and has been fishing all night with no success. Despite being tired, Peter listens to the Lord's command, and hauls in a large number fish, but this is not the point of the story. That the Apostle's will "catch" men and women is, and it is still the story.

Our task as Christians is to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ with passion and conviction, all the while knowing that it is not our eloquence or insight that will move our hearers but the power of God alive in us and in the Word. When we have the faith to listen, discern and obey God's command, even if it is counter intuitive or contradicts our experience, our success as evangelizers, like Peter's, will be assured.

Today, let go of your prejudices about how to be effective disciples and let God guide you.

Who or what has been most effective in your understanding and living of the Gospel?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Rest and Renewal

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Mk 6:31

There are advantages living in a friary where everyone is over 70. No one is embarrassed to admit they need a nap, even two short ones! Years ago, even when the brothers sneaked away in the afternoon for some horizontal prayer, they rarely admitted it because it seemed like something only the weak did or those who lacked zeal.

After the apostles report to Jesus about all their missionary journeys, he encourages them to go away to a deserted place and rest, no doubt because he senses how tired they are. After all, the transition they had to make from their lives as fishermen to apostles of a minor rabbi must have been difficult, even if they were literate. Becoming a public person is always demanding, and even more so in a society that was in a constant struggle with the Romans. 

Rest is something we all need, not just physically but spiritually. Slowing down, breathing deeply and taking time to be intentionally aware of God's presence, support and challenge is essential for a healthy spiritual life.

Today, take ten minutes to do nothing.

How much time do you take each day to rest quietly in God?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

John the Baptist's Sacrifice

"He went off and beheaded John in the prison." Mk 6:27

Readers of John's gospel cannot help but wonder whether John the Baptist understood fully the import of his words about decreasing so the Christ could increase. Did he know he would die for the sake of the gospel? Surely he had enough time in prison to know that his prospects for a full life with Christ were small, and the evangelists remind us that it was John the Baptist's death that pushed Jesus to begin his public ministry.

When we are young and distant from the reality of our own death, it can be easy to make promises the depth of which we cannot really appreciate, but when we grow older, we know. If we are going to live the gospel with integrity there will be a price. The Good News might be good but it is not easy.
So many of us, sounding other centered, tell everyone that we are willing to endure whatever a gospel life brings, but we do not want to be a burden to others. How shallow these words can be upon reflection.  Allowing others to care for us as we would for them is essential to a fully human and gospel life. Not taking that care for granted is also important. Life must be accepted no matter what it brings.

Today, ask for the grace of accepting whatever God asks.

How do you explain the violence that emerges in the Gospel?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Nothing for the Journey

"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two .... He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts." Mk 6:7-8

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

St Paul Miki and Companions

"This people honors me with their lips, but not with their hearts are from me." Mk 7:6

Sometimes, when we celebrate a saint's liturgical feast day, we forget who the companions were. This is a shame because it cheats us from celebrating everyday people. The twenty six companions of St. Paul Miki included people, young and old, from ever walk of life.
The twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. (Catholic Culture)
The history of our church is replete with a wonderful variety of saints and blesseds, all of whom deserve our admiration. If only we knew the stories of more ordinary people, not just bishops, priests and religious, we would understand more deeply how important it is to ask God to make us saints right where we are.

Not all of us have to become priests and religious. In fact, most people are not called to this way of life. Rather, single adults, married people, widows and widowers, are all called to a holiness proper to their vocations. Only when we encourage people to ask God for the gift of living a Gospel life in their homes, businesses, neighborhoods and cultures, will we understand more deeply the marvelous ways of God.

Today, pray to one of the lay men and women Japanese martyrs.

What qualities do you look for in saintly people?

Monday, February 4, 2019

St Agatha

"They...begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak." Mk 6:56

We know little of St Agatha except that she was martyred because she resisted marriage to a nobleman who wanted her to renounce her faith, and was reported to have said:  "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep." Asking God to make her as submissive as a sheep was Agatha's answer to those who wanted her to live an empty, faithless life. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews suggests that Agatha's courage can be ours if we remember that we are surrounded by the community of saints who will support us in our struggles and share our joys, but only if unload our burdens upon the Lord and turn away from sin.  

Remembering to call upon those who have struggled to live faith fully is a powerful antidote to our own fear and self absorption. Christianity is not simply about living the law but submitting ourselves in total trust to the Lawgiver. Recalling the faith lives of our parents, grandparents and mentors can give us the strength to do God's will in all circumstances.

Today, remember you are surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses."

Whose memory do you call upon in times of doubt?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Responding to the Impossible

"Unclean spirit, come out of this man." Mk 5:8

It's natural to want to stay where we are comfortable and safe. When we are warm, well fed and able to rest comfortably, we don't want to be bothered looking around at the world as it is. Some of those following Jesus wanted the Lord to avoid going to places and encountering people who were so troubled no one knew how to respond to them.

Such is the case with the terribly troubled man who, when asked his name, responds that they are legion. Perhaps a person afflicted with mulitple personality disorder, he frightens those who get too close to him, but Jesus refuses to ignore him.  Neither can we turn away from situations and people who seem hopeless.

Today for instance, Christians cannot allow themselves to ignore the plight of the people of Yemen. Locked in a civil war that threatens 75% of its people with starvation, Yemenis need to know that Christians will help lead the world's response to their plight and work together across ethnic, religious and cultural lines to help find a way to peace for a people who are already desperately poor.

Today, ask for the strength of faith that will allow you to open your eyes to all those in need.

What happens to our hearts when we ignore or turn a blind eye to those most in need?