Saturday, October 31, 2020

All Saints

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:2

What makes a saint? Some say the ability to get up after being knocked down. Others insist that humility and acceptance in the face of struggle is the mark of the great saints, and the church often speaks of heroic virtue as the defining characteristic of sainthood. But whatever criteria one uses, today we celebrate all those holy women and men, unknown to most but precious to God and the church, who listened to God's word, embraced it and let it change them.

The saints learned, often at a very young age, that pride, which so often insists that our way and our opinion is right, is the biggest obstacle to authentic transformation. Listening with an open and humble heart is the only way to real freedom. When we allow God to direct our lives for God's purposes. we open ourselves to experience the full sweetness of God's unconditional love and begin to know the delights of a simple Gospel life. The saints teach us a simple truth: only when we learn to live in gratitude for all that is will we know the depth of God's eternal embrace, and celebrate it everyday.

Today, ask God to make you a saint.

What do you think are the marks of sanctity?

Friday, October 30, 2020

True Humility

 "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14:11

When Jesus told the guests of the Pharisees to take the lowest place at a banquet in order not to be embarrassed if a more important guest arrives, he is not only offering them a strategy, but a challenge with a deeper spiritual meaning.

Authentic humility, rooted in God's power, demands that Christians see themselves as part of something much greater than their accomplishments. As part of Christ's body we have a dignity beyond our imagination, but only when we accept the role designated for us and do not pretend to be someone we are not, or that we are in control of life.

This message, like so many others that Jesus offers us, is counter intuitive. While most people bow to humility as a value, few wear the clothes of humility, especially in the United States. Citizens of our nation are trained from an early age to excel, and to accept both the accolades and privileges associated with "winning."

While wealth and power are by products of a successful life in the United States, this is not the goal of those who profess to live a Gospel life. Gospel success is measured, not in what it produces, but in the seeds of hope that it plants. Never far from the realization that all life is a gift, and all worldly success is temporary, Christians believe that our "success" is an integrated and other centered life, and this is no easy task.

Today, don't say something you are thinking. Listen first to others.

Have you had an experience of humility that changed your life?

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sabbath Fulfilled

 "Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, 'Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?' But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him." Lk 14 3-4

Jesus regularly broke the Sabbath, and we wonder why. He was an observant Jew. He wanted to fulfill the law, not destroy it or supplant it. Why then would he heal on the Sabbath? The answer seems almost too simple. The Pharisees were not interested in the observance of the law, but in catching Jesus in opposition to it. If they could demonstrate that Jesus had no respect for the law, they would win the battle for power and honor. Like so many of us, they wanted to win, they wanted to be right.

Jewish law about the Sabbath, although strict, was not rigid then or now. Mati Goldstein, commander of the Jewish rescue-mission to 2010 Haiti earthquake, said, “We did everything to save lives, despite Shabbat . People asked, ‘Why are you here? There are no Jews here,’ but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives…We are desecrating Shabbat with pride…” 

Clearly, Jews today and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, knew that the law commanded them to help save lives. Jesus also knew this and challenged the Pharisees with an interpretation of the law that they should have known. When people suffer, we need to respond. It is that simple.

Today, treat someone with compassion even if it is inconvenient.

How do you practice Sabbath?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Created in God's Image

 "I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!" Lk 13:34

God's faithfulness is the bedrock of our faith.  God will not, cannot, revoke his Covenant with us.  It is unilateral.  Unlike other contracts or covenants which are bilateral or mutual, God's covenant with us is gratuitous. God's covenant does not need to be confirmed by our willingness to accept it or live within it.  It is pure gift.

At the same time, when we remember the nature and power of God's covenants with us, especially the New Covenant in Jesus, we realize again that we are made in God's image and must strive to love others, even our enemies, as God loves us.  We love others in faith not because they appreciate, celebrate or return our love. We love others in faith to be like God. 

Today, go to church, read a passage from scripture, and ask God to help you love others as God loves you.

Who has gathered you, like a hen, so that you never forget who you are and how much God loves you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sts Simon and Jude

"You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God." Eph 2:20

It is always difficult to write about the apostles. In Luke's gospel, Jesus gathers his disciples and, seemingly in a random manner, chooses 12 of them as apostles. Though we know nothing of Jesus' criteria when selecting his closest associates, we can assume, since all of them died tragically and violently, that he saw something in these men that suggested they would be faithful and straightforward, which is always the bottom line in the Christian life. 

No matter what rank or office we hold in the church, life in Christ always comes back to Baptism. When the church lays hands on our heads, anoints us as priest, prophet and king, plunges us into the waters to die so as to live in Christ, and challenges us to be a light in the world, we receive the same gifts and difficult tasks the apostles received directly from Jesus, and like them our only responsibility is to share our new power and hope with those to whom we are sent.

Today, be an apostle. Announce the Good News with simple gestures.

What keeps you from accepting your important role as proclaimers of the Good News? 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Being Yeast for Others

 “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” Mt 13:33

Think about the people who irritate you, who force you to think about uncomfortable situations, who refuse to let you be comfortable and demand that you step back and look at the world as it is. Jesus did this often to the people of his time and offers us a powerful image to help us understand what he continues to do in the 21st century.

Yeast, a symbol of the Kingdom of God, is an irritant, and not just because when activated in flour it makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Today is a good time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life? 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Facing Abuse

"Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." Eph 4:32 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was killed for opposing the Nazis, in his now classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.  Absolution without confession.” While Bonhoeffer wanted to forgive the Nazis, he was not capable of it by himself. The Nazis had to repent, to be kind, to be compassionate and forgiving, and until that happened neither Bonhoeffer not God could do anything for them.

The same is true of us and it is a difficult part of gospel living that we need to face and engage. While God's love is unconditional and total, we must turn towards God to receive it. If we keep walking away from God and never turn to meet God's gaze, we are lost. St. Paul knew this and was warning the Ephesians to offer and accept forgiveness only when there was real conversion involved.

Spouses who are regularly abused in a marriage, either physically, mentally, or emotionally must be strong enough to turn away from the abuse and the marriage until their partner seeks authentic forgiveness and gives evidence not only of a desire to change, but is willing to seek the help they need  to act on what they know they must do. We should not be naive in this regard. St Paul is not a wimp. Neither should we be weak willed in this regard. Only when we are strong in facing our life as it is can authentic conversion occur.

Today, ask God for the grace of real discernment about your own sinful habits.

Have you ever admired someone who faced abuse and addressed it?