Saturday, March 21, 2020

Denying the Obvious

"His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes." Jn 9:2-21

Sometimes, even with the truth staring us in the face, we fail to speak out. That is what the parents of the man born blind are doing in today's Gospel. In a similar way, Pope Francis has asked us to look at what is happening to our Mother Earth and to act together for the good of all. Hurricanes and typhoons are stronger because of warming ocean temperatures and there is no doubt that the last six years have been the warmest on record. Still, some resist the evidence of global warming. Not unlike the parents of the man born blind, too many of us are afraid to speak the truth because we fear those in power or because the challenge to face our greed is too demanding.

A one year old child in the United States has a larger carbon footprint than an adult in Tanzania. How difficult it is to accept our guilt in this regard. Those of us who live in the U.S. sometimes act like the world and its goods belong to us because we have the most money and property, but Deuteronomy 10:12 teaches “To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” While the human family is often called to steward God's lands, they do not belong to us and must be shared justly with all, especially those in need. When we abuse the gifts of creation we cheat the poor especially of the most basic necessities.

Today, don't be blind to the harm we are doing to the earth.

Who helped you appreciate creation and all its gifts?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Honest Prayer

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity...But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’" Lk 18: 10-12

Lent is a time when many people commit themselves to develop a richer prayer life. Some say the rosary more often and more devotionally. Others try to get to mass a couple of times a week. A few ask for the grace to sit quietly in the presence of God without words, and still others try something new: centering prayer, lectio divina or mindfulness prayer. While all of these are praiseworthy, they might lead to a silly pride if we are faithful to them and think it is our doing. In fact, all prayer is a gift from God which we need to ask for often. More important, we need to be ready for distractions and not worry about our success. Prayer is about being faithful, not successful.

The tax collector in today's Gospel helps us understand this clearly. So does Pope Francis in the revealing interview he gave to Jesuit publications around the world. When asked who is Jorge Bergoglio, the Pope answered simply and truthfully. "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner." Echoing the tax collector in Luke's gospel, who asked for God's mercy because he was a sinner, the Holy Father reminded all his readers that before all else he was a stumbling child of God who needed God's kindness on a daily basis.

We don't expect these kinds of sentiments from our leaders, and when we hear them, we often question their sincerity, but not in the case of Pope Francis. This man presents himself to the world with such sincerity, honesty and humility that we are drawn to him and to the Christ who he claims as Lord and Savior. More, he is setting an example for all believers. Acknowledging first that we are sinners situates us in every circumstance as a church of compassion. Accepting our own faults, we walk with other sinners on the road to eternal life.

Today, be honest at prayer. Tell God how much help you need.

What does authentic humility mean to you as a person of faith?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Saints I have Known

"You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Mk 12:34

When one of the scribes is able to appreciate Jesus' wisdom and agree with the Lord that to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves is the essence of the law, Jesus tells him that he is not far from the reign of God. It seems like a strange compliment, until we realize that while the scribes were likely to know the law and prophets well, they were often more interested in getting the law "right" than living the law well.

Almost all of the saints I have known were lay people.  Not incidentally, the people we both knew were not scholars, but parents, husbands and wives and grandparents. What they shared in common was their fidelity in the face of very long odds. They had faced sickness, death, and poverty with courage and honesty. They did not whine about how God had dealt them a poor hand, but were grateful for God who had accompanied them in their struggles.

Jesus was tough on the Scribe, not because he lacked insight, but because he seemed only to know the law but said nothing about living it. He will be hard on us for the same reasons. In Lent we try to recommit ourselves to prayer, alms giving and fasting because they are practices that out the law into action in our lives.

Today, ask yourself if are more interested in being theologically correct than transparently faith filled.

Who is the holiest person you know? Why

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

St Joseph, Husband of Mary

"When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home." Mt 1:24a

There are many ways to wake up. Sometimes, it is simple. Our bodies tell us to pay attention. We have a headache that will not go away or we discover a skin growth that looks strange. Our bodies are telling us to pay attention and take action. At other times, especially when we take time to relax and reflect, an idea that has been percolating in our minds and hearts, takes shape. We read about AIDS in Africa or the plight of refugee children in Syria, and we start searching the Internet for places and organizations that are addressing these vital concerns. Waking up to the challenge of acting on the Gospel is important for our own salvation and the good of others.

Joseph, the husband of Mary, troubled by his young wife's pregnancy, wakes up. Not wanting her to be stoned, he decides to divorce her quietly. In this way, Mary will have other chances to marry and build a family. But then Joseph has a dream and when he wakes up, he knows that God wants him to marry Mary despite his misgivings. That he listens and acts upon the message he receives is critical for Joseph's salvation and ours.

Waking up to the immensity of God's love for us, while sometimes very challenging, is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only does it empower us  personally to live more freely and gratefully, it urges us to tell others the Good News of God's desire to love them more deeply an totally.

Today when you wake up, pause and let God speak a liberating word to you.

Have there been moments in your life that changed the course of your faith?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Living the Great and Not so Great Moments

"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 Deuteronomy 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 16, 2020

St Patrick

"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me."  Patrick's Breastplate

It should never surprise us how much our earliest experiences in life impact our adult years. When St Patrick, only 16 years old and much like Sudanese and Afghan boys today, was forced into slavery in Ireland, everything changed. Unlike some, however, Patrick's heart, despite the suffering he endured, was touched by the Irish people and after his escape from his captors, he yearned to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Though the church in Ireland is suffering great losses these days, in part because of the sexual abuse by priests and religious in the 20th century, we should not ignore the great work of Ireland's missionaries who went all over the world in the name of the Good News. Fired by the memory of St Patrick's, missionary women and men let go of their homeland and culture to be inserted in churches in North America, Africa and Asia in dizzying numbers, and their influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

We honor Patrick today, and all those fearless missionaries like him, whose faith was such that they could not be silent about how God has transformed their lives. Listen to the Saints words:
Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Today, ask God to send you to someone without faith.

How have you been impacted the zeal of St Patrick and the Irish missionaries?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Listening to God's Word

"So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." 2 Kgs:14

God's word is fertile. When mixed with the soil of our lives, it produces something extraordinary. God's word has the power to transform us, as it did when Naaman listened to God and plunged into the Jordan, and our task is similar. We are not in control of this process. God is, and we must let it happen, and unless we take time for this everyday, nothing of substance will happen.

Quiet and reflection, especially about how God's word impacts our lives, is a practice no adult Christian can afford to ignore. Only when we become very disciplined about life in the Spirit can we expect God's word to do its work, and this process is analogous to many other aspects of life. Only the naive think that walking once a week will get them into shape for longer walks, and only the arrogant believe they can learn without regular reading and study. Conversion, at every level of human existence, is hard work.

Today, remember how God has made your life fertile and offer a prayer of gratitude.

How have you experienced God's fertile actions in your life?