Saturday, January 18, 2020

Singing a new Song

"He put a new song into my mouth." Ps 40:2

Sometimes we are so dense that can't seem to learn new and important aspects of life. We cling to what we know and the ways we have always done things, and this gets us in trouble. Our children, students, and younger relatives listen to us politely, but ignore our insights and suggestions. To them we always seem to singing the same old song.

Today the psalmist reminds us that God will put a new song into our moths if only we listen with openness and a desire to sing God's song and not ours. Most of us remember moments like this. Reading a book, listening to something on the radio, television or computer or engaged in a conversation, a light goes on. Someone has expressed something in a way that challenged us to change, to let go and to live God's truth, not ours.  Resistive for a moment or three, eventually  we move towards gratitude and begin to sing a new song and the melody not only helps us, it challenges others.

Today, think about friends, now dead, who changed you with an insight, an image, a metaphor or an interpretation of scripture or events that opened you to new way of living.

Who are the people in your life that you find very difficult to listen to?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Eating with Our Enemies

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mk 2:17

Jesus' answer to the Pharisees who are complaining about his eating with tax collectors and other sinners seems so obvious, we wonder how the Pharisees could be so blind and deaf. They must have known that the law not only allowed conversations with sinners but demanded it. Like us, the Pharisees often heard and saw what they wanted to see and hear. Secure in their knowledge of the Torah and satisfied with their modest power, they wanted only to find something to criticize in Jesus' behavior in order not to listen to him, but when Jesus responds to their resistance and dullness, he teaches all of us.

Change is always difficult, and it is easier to criticize someone than to search for their goodness and compassion. Jesus sees past the sins of the tax collectors. Inviting them to supper and building a relationship with them makes it possible for him eventually to speak with them about changing their lives and turning away from their sin. Rather than attack their profession, he sits at table with them in the hope that they will be able to see the error of their ways and change.

Today, praise someone whose behavior often irritates you.

Have you ever been changed by someone's kindness and understanding?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

St Anthony, Abbot

"Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart." Mk 3:5

St Anthony was reputed to be so attentive when listening to the Scriptures that he never needed spiritual books or a bible because he remembered everything he heard. (Office of Readings)

In the 21st century, it seems, we are less and less attentive since we have so many resources to help us remember. The almighty Google knows all. Type in or speak a question or even a few key words and there are usually more than one million places indicated where one might discover more information about the question asked. Is Google making us lazy?

When we examine our spiritual practices, it would be good to ask ourselves whether, even when we read the Scriptures, we rush to get through it rather than savor its delights. Although we have the freedom to pick up a bible anytime for reflection and nourishment, it is important not take God's word for granted. A slow reading of the scriptures can be enormously enriching.

Today, read one paragraph of the daily scripture slowly.

What is the best way for you to learn about and be transformed by God's word?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Hiding with Christ

"The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, Jesus dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, 'See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.'” Mk 1:43

Not wanting to be the focus of people's adulation, Jesus hides from the people after curing the leper because he knew that flattery rarely led to imitation and discipleship.  Jesus wanted the Jewish leaders and the people who first listened to him to fall in love with his Father and commit themselves to God's will.

This was and is a hard lesson for us. It is natural to want security and answers to life's problems and concerns. We go to doctors to avoid and address health issues and financial advisers to help us invest our money wisely and safely, but Jesus did not come to promise us protection from life's every day trials but to accompany us on every journey. He is the new Covenant, the fullness of God's love, the one who will always be with us as a guide. We should not expect him to shield us from difficulty but to be a light in the darkness.

Today, pray to be aware of God's unconditional love and presence.

Who has been with you through every dark night?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Patient Listening

"When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, 'Samuel, Samuel!' Samuel answered, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'” 1 Sam 3:10

Anxious to care for Eli, the high priest, as he neared death, Samuel, though just a boy, was like a mother with a small child, and woke easily from sleep when he thought Eli was calling him in the middle of the night. Each time Samuel heard his name called, he thought it was Eli asking for help but Eli assured him it was not him calling. Finally, Eli realized it was God calling Samuel and told him that when he heard his name called at night, to say: Speak, Lord your servant is listening. When Samuel next heard his name called, he obeyed Eli and listened to God but the message was painful. God tells Samuel that Eli's unwillingness to control his sons would never be forgiven. More painful still, Eli demanded that Samuel tell him exactly what God had said. Samuel obeyed and Eli heard God's awful punishment from the boy he had helped raise.

Sometimes we don't get the answer we want from God about our lives and our dreams. Samuel could not have expected that God would tell him that because of  the wickedness of Eli's sons, Eli's reign would soon end forever. How difficult it must have been for Samuel to tell Eli what God had said, but as a prophet, he had no choice. His only task was to speak God's word faithfully despite the cost to him personally, and his fidelity would be rewarded by God.

Telling the truth despite the cost is an important challenge for every believer. Unless we are willing to acknowledge our own failures, and the mistakes of our families, nation and church, we cannot expect God to make up for our faults. God wants to free us from fear and strengthen our resolve but we have to do our part.

Today, ask God to help you live without fear.

How difficult is it for you to speak the Gospel when no one seems to be listening?

Monday, January 13, 2020

To Who do you Listen

"The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." Mk 1:22

While very few would suggest that education is unimportant, it can be overrated. Most of the adults I knew as a child had little formal education, yet they were respected in my neighborhood.  Anyone who worked hard, had a deep faith and understood life from the inside was trusted and revered.  Like Jesus, many of my neighbors spoke with authority.

Jesus did not seem to worry much about the education of the the men he called to be his apostles, but the leaders of the Jewish people seemed to think this was a soft spot in the life of the new community. Anxious to stop Jesus' disciples from speaking about their Lord, they called them in and threatened them, only to have Peter and John insist that they had no choice but to speak of Jesus. Clearly, Peter and John were not worried about their lack of education and were not intimidated by threats from the Jewish leaders.

It is always good to take a few moments and ask ourselves to whom we are most likely to listen. Do the highly educated intimidate us into silence about important matters? Are we unwilling to speak of our faith to people of power and prestige in the community?

Today, take time to listen to someone you might otherwise ignore.

What most impresses you about the faith you witness everyday?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Follow Me

"Come after me."  Mk 1:17

The call to discipleship comes early in Mark's gospel.  Jesus sees Simon and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen, working their trade.  He calls them and they follow.  Mark is clear, sharp and uncomplicated. The text suggests that Simon Peter and Andrew needed to follow the Lord immediately or they would be left behind.

What was it that attracted the first apostles to follow Jesus? Were they simply in the right place at the right time? Sometimes being in the right place means standing still, not rushing about anxiously simply because we are uncomfortable. Stilling ourselves, breathing deeply, becoming aware of everything and everyone around us is the foundation for good decisions. Only when we are quiet internally and externally are we able to hear others and God deeply.

Today, take five minutes of quiet to sit still, listen and ask for guidance.

What is the best advice you ever received about living your faith?