Saturday, June 20, 2020

Racism and Faith

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body...You are worth more than many sparrows." Lk 12 4,7

It is easy enough for Jesus to tell us not to be afraid of those trying to kill us and that we are precious in God's sight, but when our life is actually threatened, it is another matter. Fear is natural and necessary. It can help us flee life threatening situations and warn us to be careful, but it is also dangerous, especially when our faith demands that we not run away.

Today might offer us a powerful opportunity to think and pray about racism in the United States. What must it be like for African American to find him/herself at dusk lost in a neighborhood that is clearly white and upper middle class? In these days of turmoil and pandemic, would they even risk stopping their car to ask for directions? That African Americans even have to ask this question ought to tell us more than we want to know about racism in our country.

Today, put yourself in the place of a minorityperson  in this country and pray for insight and action.

Who helped you understand the issues of race and class from a faith perspective?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Immaculate Heart of Mary

"Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Lk. 2:48

The honesty of Mary's response to Jesus' staying behind in Jerusalem to converse with the teachers in the temple tells us much about prayer. Sometimes only worried and troubled thoughts come to us when we look at the world, our church and families.

The horror of George Floyd's death, the ongoing effects of the Covid 19 Pandemic, and the increasing number of younger people who when asked about their religious affiliation, put "none" leave us speechless, and like Mary we are filled with great anxiety. Unable to escape these realities, we often seek outlets that free us from our obsessions, but do little to acknowledge the helplessness we feel. Mary's response can guide us.

When  we learn to make our anxiety our prayer, everything changes. Though the anxiety does not leave us, it throws us speechless into the heart of God, and this very act becomes our prayer. Confused and hurt, we join Mary in asking Jesus, "Why have you done this to us?" Even in posing the question, we realize that while God has done nothing to us directly, acknowledging our helplessness frees us to accept the sovereignty of God in all matters, and teaches us to live with unanswered questions.

Today, with Mary, make your anxiety your prayer.

What does your prayer sound like when you feel lost, anxious and helpless?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Each Friday, on Zoom, Gaynell Cronin and I offer a Contemplative glimpse at the approaching Sunday Scriptures. You can join us here.

"It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the LORD loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn your fathers." Dt 7:7

Although the feast of the Sacred Heart is less than two centuries old, the love we receive from the heart of God has existed from the beginning. We hear of it so loudly and plainly in the book of Deuteronomy when Adonai tells the Jews that he did not choose them as his own because of their size or military power, but because he could never renege on his promise to be faithful to them forever.

In Jesus, we celebrate the new Covenant that God makes with us. Wanting to complete and fulfill the promise he made to the Jews, he sent us his son Jesus as an incarnate word to dwell among us and save us because God's heart and God's love are limitless. The heart of Jesus, furthermore, completely united to his Father's, is big enough and generous enough to carry us all home.

The feast of the Sacred Heart is an intensely human and fleshy celebration. Because the heart is the symbol of love and the source of our ongoing life, we kneel before the Lord and ask him to make our hearts as generous and giving as his.

Today, open you heart to someone who has hurt you.

Have you ever experienced someone giving their heart to you without limit?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Do Not Babble

"In praying, do not babble." Mt 6:7

Especially when we are anxious, there is a temptation to use too many words in prayer as if the more we speak the easier it will be for God to hear us and conform to our will. This happens to all of us from time to time and we should not let it bother us inordinately, but it is important to practice silence.

Traditionally, Babel, as described in the book of Genesis, is God's punishment of those who are trying to shape a world that could reach into the skies and and make them like God. When God disperses the people and they develop their own languages, the unity that God desires as a way to offer him praise is lost.

The apostles often babbled. Peter is especially guilty of this. Often he pretends that he understands Jesus' needs more than the other apostles, and regularly puts his foot in his mouth. (Mt 16:22) Only at Pentecost, when Peter and the apostles submit themselves to God totally, are all the people of the world able to understand them when they speak in the power of the Spirit. The same can be true for us.

Today, be quiet at prayer. Sit in the silence of God's presence.

Why is it so difficult to be quiet at prayer?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Asking for Help

"Elisha asked, 'May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” 2 Kgs 2:9

Being seen is often important for celebrities. Living in the New York area, there are always reports about actors, business people and athletes at this or that event, with photographers recording their every move and word. Although many claim not to enjoy this part of celebrity, I am not so sure. Without all the photos, radio and TV appearances, their name and image would slip from public consciousness and their fame, which is already fleeting, might disappear completely. Celebrities need a kind of notoriety to get work and demand high salaries.

This is not the way Jesus envisions the lives of his disciples. In fact, he is clear: Do not let your right hand know what your left is doing. Don't prance about in public in order to be noticed. Do the right thing for the right reason, not to be seen but to promote God's reign.

Elisha remembered to wear the mantle of Elijah because it was Elijah's spirit that empowered him. When we remember that we are to wear the mantle of Jesus Christ, we will not worry about how we appear. Rather, we will live the gospel transparently, not for personal gain or even our salvation, but so that all might see in us the power of Jesus Christ. 

Today, avoid the spotlight.

Whose life of simple, transparent faith most moves you to live the Gospel without concern for personal gain?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Loving our Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:43

Loving our enemies is hard work. It means turning our world upside down, letting go of hurt and beginning again. It does not mean we should be soft or weak. In fact, loving our enemies can make us very strong if only we have the courage to ask God to show us a path towards authentic reconciliation, especially if our enemies are in our own family.

Jesus made many enemies because he continually challenged the power of the Jewish leaders of his day. More upsetting to some, he also demanded that everyone study and reinterpret the Torah. The Law, as Jesus lived it, was intended to lead people closer to God and the service of God's people, not into vengeance against their enemies. The Gospel does the same thing.

Today, ask for the strength to love one enemy.

What stops you from loving your enemies?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

An Eye for an Eye

"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil." Mt 5:38

Today's scripture is what scholars call a "hard saying of Jesus." It would be unnatural not to resist it. There must be some way to understand, we reason, that will help us make sense of it, or ignore it, or dismiss entirely it as rabbinical hyperbole.

None of this will work, of course. We must face the implications of discipleship with and of Jesus. The gospels are demanding for very good reasons. The only way Jesus' first followers would be able to demonstrate their total dependence on God would be to respond to evil with kindness, to go beyond even what the law demanded. In Jesus' view, our refusal to be vengeful is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Because we believe in the saving redemption of Jesus, we are strong enough to work for reconciliation despite the cost.

Today, pray to let go of unfettered competition and winning at all costs.

Do you think the gospel demands non-violence?