Saturday, February 23, 2019

Loving our Enemies

"Love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High," Lk 6:35

The command of Jesus to love our enemies was not a theoretical challenge to the earliest community of disciples. It was a visceral and demanding trial. When we read the Gospels it becomes very clear that Jesus' message is upsetting to the Jewish leaders who very much wanted both to pacify their Roman rulers and control the behavior of everyday Jews. Concerned that they would lose their moral authority to Jesus and his band of fisherman and shepherds, the Scribes and Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up at every turn, and while some of the disciples wanted Jesus to fight, the Lord acted like any Rabbi, debating with his protagonists but loving them all the while.

How to offer people and institutions a critique of their ideas without criticizing them personally is an important and difficult task, especially for Christians. While we have core values about which there is little debate, there is and ought to be healthy conversation about how to proclaim these values is a world obsessed with instant communication. From texting to Instagram and so much more in between, we need to learn how to say and live what we believe without angry and dismissive pronouncements. Christians on the right and the left can be fiercely judgmental when upset by another's opinion and perspective. Nonetheless, Jesus' command to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us prevails and remains the heart of the Good News.

Today,  pause before you respond to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you understand Jesus' challenge to love your enemies?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Faith Trumps Fear

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1

All of us doubt. We doubt ourselves and the adequacy of our skills. We doubt the reliability of friends and family. We doubt the ability of our civic leaders to govern, and we doubt God, or more precisely, we doubt the God we created or think we learned about in school or church. Hearing that God is all powerful, we sometimes naively think that God's power allows God to heal at will, depose unethical leaders and make the world a more just place. But saying that God is all powerful does not mean that God takes away our freedom. God's power is much more extensive then our self centered desire or limited view of the world.

Letting go of the fear that God will not act for us and for our good is the greatest challenge most of us face. Because we do not understand all of God's ways, we panic and begin to pray only for what we see and perceive, and while this is understandable, we must pray to let go totally into God's good hands and trust. Practicing this every day is the essence of prayer.

Today, pray for an increase in faith and to accept God's mercy.

What aspects of faith are most challenging to you?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Chair of St Peter

"Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock." 1 Pt 5:3

The role of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, has been debated and challenged regularly in history, especially since the middle of the 19th century when the First Vatican Council wrote about papal infallibility. That is why it is so important to listen to St. Peter when he warns Christians not to lord it over others but to be examples to others as Pope Francis reminds us often. This might also be said of parents, grandparents, and everyday adult Catholics. Our primary call is to live the Gospel transparently in such a way that others might come to know and love Christ and follow a Gospel path. Catholcism is first a religion of persuasiveness and example, not of proselytizing and the manipulation of power.

This conversation seems especially important these days as the Church works to confront the sexual abuse crisis sweeping the Catholic world. That is why is it is so important to  pray for Pope Francis as he seeks to chart a Catholic path of deep reform and service of those most in need.

Today, pray for Pope Francis as he seeks to lead Catholics with humility and wisdom.

What do you need from a Christian leader?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Thinking with God

"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Mk 8:33

St Peter, because of his good will and strong temperament, is forever getting himself in trouble. Quick to speak and offer an opinion, in today's scripture he challenges Jesus not to speak about his own suffering and death, and assures the Lord that he will intervene if anyone tries to hurt him. Though Peter had good will, he did not have good sense,. He spoke before he understood God's intent for Jesus, and Jesus puts Peter in his place in very direct terms. Get behind me Satan, these are human words not God's.

Most of us are too timid to take chances like Peter. We wait, gauge our responses and hope for the best. Though we might avoid mistakes, we rarely witness to the one in whom we believe without dotting every I and crossing every T.  Do we need to ask for the courage and faith to change?

Today, ask God for Peter's big heart and passion.

Whose courage do you most admire?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

God is our Refuge

"In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!" Gen 8:11

Who or what is your refuge? As children, most of us found protection in our parents and teachers. Realizing our vulnerability, our elders watched out for and over us, making sure that we did not place ourselves at undue risk. While these safeguards are necessary and helpful, at some point, as we enter adulthood, we are forced to find our own places of refuge.

Some find solace and safety in nature. No matter what happens to upset us, we can go outdoors, dig in a garden or take a walk on the beach and find peace. Others seek out friends for a conversation when they are troubled, but in the end, as believers in Jesus Christ, our only lasting peace is in God.

Listening to Pope Francis, I am often struck by his insistence that we "confess" Jesus Christ if we want to be authentically Christian. While we honor and celebrate all people who seek the good of others through Non governmental organizations (NGO's,) foundations and other charitable agencies, Christians must be rooted in Christ as disciples if we want to proclaim the fullness of the Good News.

Furthermore, if our refuge is the Christ, the one sent by God to fulfill the Covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, then we must spend time with Christ is prayer, study, celebration and service of those most in need. Otherwise, we build on sand!

Today, take some to rest in Christ as our ultimate refuge and hope.

What does it mean to you to confess Jesus Christ?

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Leaven of the Pharisees

"The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, 'Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees...' They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread."

The disciples were drawn to Jesus for many reasons. He spoke to their hearts. He addressed them with dignity. He was a healer and prophet and he spoke with power. But they were also cautious and afraid when he warned them not be swayed by the leaven of the Pharisees. The Pharisees could interced for them with the Roman authories when they were in trouble and they did not want to bite the hand that fed them. No doubt some moved to the background when they heard Jesus' warning. but others listened at a deeper level. Rather than retreat, they moved closer to him because they believed God would protect, guide and strengthen them when they were threatened. What is your temptation when you are challenged?

Today, ask God for the faith to believe in your own worth and not to let your fear get in the way of a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Do you believe that God cares about you and all people personally?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Seeking Signs

"Why does this generation seek a sign?" Mk 8:12

The Pharisees seem always to challenging Jesus, asking for signs that he is of and from God. Quick to speak and offer an opinion, they may have been of good will, but did not have good sense.They spoke to protect their interpretation of the Torah but were unwilling to investigate God's intent for Jesus and the result is predictable. Jesus turns his back of them and leaves for the other side of the lake hoping to find a community that yearns for Good News.

Most of us are too timid to take chances like the Pharisees. We wait, gauge our responses and hope for the best. Though we might avoid mistakes, we rarely witness to the one in whom we believe without dotting every I and crossing every T.  Do we dare ask for the courage of the Pharisees to speak up on behalf of the truth, but also beg for the humility to listen and  change for the sake of the Gospel?

Today, ask God for a big heart and passion.

Do you have or do you know someone who has the courage to speak up on behalf of others?