Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ambassadors for Christ

"So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us." 2 Cor 5:20

I am always impressed when visiting a high school when an student ambassador greets me at the door and offers to accompany me to the chapel or the gym where we will celebrating mass. Ambassadors are usually very simply but nicely dressed, have a name tag that designates them as Ambassadors and are prepared to speak about the history and values of their school.

Today St Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ which means that we are to present ourselves to others simply and gently, offer to accompany them on their path of faith and are prepared to speak of our experience and knowledge of Christ with humility and hope. Lent reminds us of this in powerful ways. We fast, pray and give alms, not to impress God or others, but to witness to the saving power of God's grace in our lives so that others might be drawn into the mysteries of faith.

Today, take a look back at your Lenten journey and ask God for strength to continue.

Who or what has been an ambassador of God's love for you?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Gospel Basics

"The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mk 12 29-30

The scriptures are always trying to get us back to basics, to reclaim the foundational values of Jesus expressed in the New Testament. To do this well and with integrity we need to have spiritual practices that remind us each day about who we are and what we are to do in the world as Christians. It is one thing to say we love God and neighbor, but it is another thing all together to practice loving God and others through prayer and service.

Prayer is important because it is an exercise in which we acknowledge our total dependence on  God. Aware that living a faith filled life is a gift, we pause each day to honor the God who has given us faith and who sustains on our faith journey. Whether we recite a prayer we learned in childhood or ask in our own words for help to live the Gospel fully as disciples, we need to pray regularly. Just as a husband admits how important his wife is to his identity and well being, prayer helps us acknowledge that without God we are incomplete.

Today, express your love for God by quietly sitting in God's presence making yourself available for God's work.

What do you think are the most important spiritual practices in the life of a Christian?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fighting with those with whom we Disagree

"For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?" Lk 11:19

It is always strange when we hear Jesus entering into what appears to be a silly debate with his opponents, until we remember that the text we read is as much about his first followers as it is about him. Frightened by the increasing demands made on them after Jesus’ death and by their exclusion from the synagogue, the early disciples of Jesus fought with one another and their Jewish brothers and sisters, and while it was foolish, it was understandable. Because they were intent on defending the purity of  JFightesus’ teaching, Jesus' first disciples allowed themselves to squabble over an interpretation of the gospel, and thereby broke the bonds they had with one another.

The same can often be said of us. It is the rare person who has not found himself in a debate with a friend or family member that never seems to end. Even though everyone around us gets bored or loses interest, we keep insisting on our position and find ourselves saying things we really don’t mean or believe. Lent is a good time to develop “spiritual practices” that help us face our pride and avoid these situations, or at least end them quickly.

Today, avoid all arguments.

Do you have a strategy for avoiding drawn out conversations and arguments that go nowhere?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Watching and Listening for God Everywhere

"Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live." Dt 4:9

Most of us have seen both marvelous and awful sights. We have been in hospital rooms where it was apparent that the only things keeping the patient alive were the machines and tubes monitoring their vital signs and delivering medications automatically. The anxiety in those rooms was palpable and uncomfortable.

We have also been alone or with friends on vacation, at weddings, baptisms and confirmations where the mood was joyous and the hope deep. All of us were lifted up by the beauty of nature or the wonder of a choir singing powerful and beautiful hymns like "O God Beyond all Praising."

The book of Dueteronomy reminds us not to forget anything that we have experienced or seen. At the center of all that is is a loving God, keeping us alive, encouraging us to honesty, compassion and joy. Lent is a time to do this more often and more deeply. Watch and listen, God is everywhere.

Today, take some time to ask God to strengthen you for your journey no matter where it takes you.

Who or what has helped you live each moment and day with faith?

Monday, March 25, 2019

God's Patience

"Be patient with me and I will pay you back in full." Mt 18:26

God's patience is ours for the asking. Almost unbelievable to those of us with little patience, God is waiting for us to ask for help, and today's scripture is a powerful example of this. A debtor, and aren't we all debtors, asks his master to be patient with him. Moved with pity, perhaps because of his awareness that he too is a debtor, the master forgives his servant completely, asking for no payment whatsoever, but the servant does not understand the depth of his master's compassion. Rather than follow the example of his master, when the servant  who has been forgiven is asked to forgive another servant in debt to him, he refuses and puts him in prison. When the master of both servants hears of this he is outraged and punishes the unforgiving servant severely.

This entire story, we must remember, emerges from Peter's question about how deep and often he must forgive a brother who sins against him. When Peter suggests that seven times might be adequate, which after all was much more generous than the teaching of the Rabbis, the Lord pushes him beyond his own limited sense of God's mercy and tells him that forgiveness should never be withheld, even from our enemies.

This is a hard saying, especially when we have been badly hurt by a friend, a parent, a spouse or a lover. To think that we must act towards those who hurt us like God acts towards us seems impossible, but it is clearly the message of Jesus.

Today, forgive someone even if they fail to ask forgiveness.

What holds you back from forgiving others?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Annunciation of the Lord

“"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'" Lk 1 29-20

When the unexpected comes, it often unnerves us. News of a close friend's sickness or the failure of a marriage we admired leaves us speechless and wondering what happened. In our busyness did we miss something important? Were we too self absorbed to notice the struggles others were having? 

The evangelist Luke paints a picture of Mary that emphasizes both her fear and her faith, a stance that encourages us not to be afraid of the unexpected, but to acknowledge our fear and pray for faith at the same time. We should not assume that Mary understood everything that was happening to her when Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She was human, like all of us, and fear would have been a natural response to such a bold request, but Luke also wants us to celebrate Mary's faith that let's go and accepts her new role.

Responding to God at times of crisis is made more possible when we develop a spiritual life on a daily basis. Praying and reflecting about God's life among us in word and sacrament, and celebrating and serving those forgotten or ignored makes is possible to prepare ourselves for life as it comes. If we want to have Mary's honesty and humility, we must practice our faith every day.

Today, listen for the voice of God embedded in every thing you do and everyone you meet.

What about Mary's life calls you to live your faith more deeply?