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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Letting God Surprise Us

 "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."

How many signs do we need to believe that God is among us? It is a beautiful morning in Beacon, NY Cool with a promise of clear skies and a warm afternoon, it is difficult not to rejoice in the glory of another day. I know there are some, especially the chronically ill, for whom a day like this means little. Others are struggling with family difficulties or the lack of a job that allows them to support their family, but there is no excuse for not breathing deeply, enjoying the simple wonder of clean air and asking God for the faith to live this day fully in Christ.

Jesus warned the people of his day about very similar things. Although he was among them as a clear sign of God’s love, many refused to look at him as a gift to the world and kept challenging him to prove himself according to their narrow standards. Some rejected him because he was a carpenter's son. Other's turned away because he came from the wrong town. The lesson was clear then and now. Unless we open our hearts and spirits to all people and look at them with God's eyes, we might miss meeting the Messiah in our everyday lives.

Today, expect to be surprised.

What prejudices do you have that you need to confront?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sts Martha, Mary and Lazarus

 "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Sir, come and see.' And Jesus wept." Jn 11: 33-35


The raising of Lazarus from the dead is confusing at best and impossible at worst. If Jesus is such a good friend of Lazarus and knows Lazarus is sick, why does he wait two days before going to him? It seems to most of us that Jesus' delay is unnecessary, even cruel. No wonder Lazarus' sisters complain when Jesus finally appears in Bethany. Convinced Jesus was the Messiah, Martha and Mary wonder aloud to Jesus: If you had been hear, our brother would not have died. Are they accusing Jesus of not caring about them or Lazarus?

In any case, when Jesus finally speaks with Martha, she and those grieving with her are weeping. Distraught and upset by his friends' sorrow, Jesus weeps and proceeds, even though Lazarus has been in the tomb four days to raise him from the dead. Jesus' power over death calls us to a new level of faith. We must trust the Lord no matter how sick or disabled we might be and how often he seems to be absent, because he is Lord of the living and the dead.

Today, don't be afraid to weep about your own unbelief. Submit yourself to the Lord and ask him to raise you up.

In what ways are you drawn to the humanity of Jesus?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Buried Treasure

 “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Mt 13:44

Many people never find their buried treasure, and some give up looking for it, but the Gospel is clear. A faith filled life demands that we ask ourselves about our treasures and discern whether what we cling to is really of God or our own misguided desire for security and control over life. The believer realizes, often early on, that nothing we can possess is really of ultimate value, even our families and our friendships. Only when we let go are we free to know and trust God in all things.

Having the courage to let go of what feels secure and solid, is the mark of the Christian who wants to grow more deeply into God's heart. Trusting that God always has something new for us allows us to rejoice in what is, let go of what no longer helps us or the community of faith and open up new treasures of God's bounteous gifts.

Ask God to help you discern what gifts a close friend might need.

Who showed you new faces of God's love throughout their lives?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Listening for the Truth

 “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” Mt 13:36

In recent days, while trying fruitlessly to figure out the purpose of the Corona Virus, I stumbled upon this Gospel text and wondered whether the apostles were as confused as I am these days. Viruses are like upside down parables. Our task is not to figure them out, but to learn how to live with them and let them speak to us.

This is not bad advice for most of us most of the time. Listening to others with open minds and hearts may not help us make sense of upsetting and baffling realities, but it does let others know we respect them and trust them. Perhaps that is what the Apostles were demonstrating in asking Jesus to help them understand the parable of the weeds, and perhaps that is what we need to do in the midst of this pandemic. Ask the Lord for insight, wisdom and acceptance and the explanation might take care of itself.

Today listen to someone who is confused even if you can't help them.

Whose presence in your life helped you live with confusion and upset?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sts Joachim and Anne

 "The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Mt 13:23

Although we are certain of nothing about Joachim and Anne, even their names, they were the parents of Mary and the grandparents of Jesus, the couple whose example and instruction formed Mary in faith. It was from Joachim and Anne that Mary would have first heard the Torah, and learned to pray, and it was Mary's prayer that gave her the courage to accept God's invitation to be the mother of Jesus.

Grandparents are becoming increasingly important in the 21st century, especially in the United States. Because almost half of children are born to unmarried women,(CBS) grandparents are often called upon to parent a second time but without the authority they might have enjoyed with their own children. How they negotiate these muddy waters will play a hugely important role in their grandchildren's lives. If they can somehow maintain their compassion and nurturing in ways that help their grandchildren feel secure and focused, especially in faith, they will offer them a gift beyond anything they could buy them.

Today, pray for grandparents

Who taught you most by their lives about faith?





Saturday, July 24, 2021

Humility and Patience

"I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love." Eph 4:1

St Paul's letter to the Ephesians reminds us that the so called feminine virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are foundational to Jesus' vision. If we are going to be in what the scripture's call "right relationship" with one another, we must put on these virtues, especially in our families and parishes. Unless parents and pastors are humble in their guidance of their children and flock, their families and congregations will inadvertently learn that power is something to be used over others rather than with them. Only when everyone in a family and parish sense their own dignity, even when receiving correction, can we avoid creating an "us" against "them" mentality which can never be good for family or parish life.

Today, practice humility. Ask for guidance.

What do you think are the most important family and community values in the bible?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Jesus, the Covenant of God

 “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.” Ex 24:8

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. Foreshadowed in God's covenant with Abraham,  we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

The mystery of the Eucharist is something that deserves our daily gratitude. There is no fuller way to honor God than in the breaking of the bread, and there is no more fitting way to remember Jesus than to proclaim his love in service of the hungry and poor.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

God's Everlasting Fidelity

“I, the LORD, am your God,      who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me."

Although we can and often do turn away from God and the covenant God made with us in Jesus, God cannot and will not renege on his promise to be with and guide us always. Paul is always clear about this. The Apostle to the Gentiles acknowledges that the Jews were often disobedient, abandoned the law and worshiped false Gods, but reminds all that God was and remains merciful. Paul wants his Gentile listeners to know this and be comforted. The God who has come to us in Jesus is proof of this. The new and eternal covenant, Jesus is the incarnation of God's promise, a gift we can reject but which will never be withdrawn.

The challenge of God's promise is demanding. Made in God's image, the only way we can demonstrate to others and especially to our enemies that God's love lives in us is to love everyone no matter how often our love is rejected to ridiculed. If God is forever faithful so too must we be faithful. This is not to say we should or must allow ourselves to be abused. Rather, while we ought to withdraw quietly from any situation that allows another to strip us of our good name or reduce to an object of their wrath, we must stand ready to reconcile with our oppressors for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, enjoy God's everlasting love.

What must you let go of in order to love like God? 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

St Mary Magdalene

 "Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni,' which means Teacher." Jn 20:16

Neither the disciples on the road to Emmaus, nor Mary Magdalene, recognized Jesus immediately after the resurrection. The disciples may have been too angry or hurt by Jesus' death, and Mary's grief may have blinded her. Only after the Lord calls her by name does Mary recognize him.

Most of us have experienced this in everyday life. If we are waiting for someone at an airport or bus station and they don't appear with the other arriving travelers, we find ourselves wondering whether we missed the person for whom we are waiting or whether they are on a different flight. We scan the crowds, ask others if they were on the same flight for bus, and sometimes check to see if they are at other exits. Only when the person calls our name or we see them sitting in a corner of the station do we realize that our anxiety blinded us to the obvious.

Today, remember the times the Lord called you by name.

What concerns most often blind you to the presence of God in the world?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Give us Bread

“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” Ex 16:3

Unfortunately, like the people in today's passage from Exodus, we too often want God to "give us bread" so that we can go about our lives without worry or need and return to God only when we want something else. More sadly, if God does not give us what we want, we seek other gods and cling to anyone or anything in our path that satisfies us for the moment. Money and the ownership of property, for instance, can appear to answer all our needs, but that is not what Jesus promises. 

Rather, God wants to enter a right relationship with us that "preserves the integrity, resilience, and beauty" (1) of God and all creation. Jesus reminds us of this when he says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength...(and) You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mk 12: 30-31)

Today, examine your relationships and ask God to make them "right.".

Who do you most admire because of the integrity, resilience and beauty of their relationships?

Monday, July 19, 2021

Darkness

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land.

Darkness of spirit can be immobilizing. Inundated with problems or memories that emerge every time we open our eyes, there is no place to go. Friends with cancer often spoke of their illness in this manner. Each day they would wake, hoping for a shift in how they felt physically and emotionally, but there was only nausea and darkness. 

The people Moses led into the desert felt like they were overwhelmed by darkness. With little water and awful food, they wanted to return to Egypt where, though enslaved, they could eat and enjoy life. When periods of darkness like this come upon us, we must stay still. As the poet, Jessica Powers wrote, "God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul...I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him." God does not make the darkness go away, but sits with us in it. Is that enough?


Today, try not to hide. Give yourself to God as you are.

How do you live with the darkness that comes to you?

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Asking for Help

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” Mt 12:38

Not infrequently we hear friends say, "Be careful what you wish for." Warning us that we may not like the consequences of a wish fulfilled, they seem to be cautioning us not to pray, dream or imagine a different future, but to be stoic and satisfied with life as it unfolds. While this might be a subtle way for friends to alert us to be careful about a new relationship, it can also be awful advice. Not to ask for help means we think of ourselves as totally independent even though the Gospel urges us to live as one body and to be interdependent.

Telling the truth to ourselves and to God is always a good place to start. Acknowledging that we need help everyday to know, interpret and live the Gospel authentically is not only honest, it gives God permission to lead us, even to places we have not considered going. Making ourselves available to God for God's work is good for everyone.

Today, listen to God in silence for five minutes.

What are your most fervent prayers?

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Resting in God

 “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Mk 6:31

There are advantages living in a friary where everyone is over 70. No one is embarrassed to admit they need a nap, even two short ones! Years ago, even when the brothers sneaked away in the afternoon for some horizontal prayer, they rarely admitted it because it seemed like something only the weak did or those who lacked zeal.

After the apostles report to Jesus about all their missionary journeys, he encourages them to go away to a deserted place and rest, no doubt because he senses how tired they are. After all, the transition they had to make from their lives as fishermen to apostles of a minor rabbi must have been difficult, even if they were literate. Becoming a public person is always demanding, and even more so in a society that was in a constant struggle with the Romans. 

Rest is something we all need, not just physically but spiritually. Slowing down, breathing deeply and taking time to be intentionally aware of God's presence, support and challenge is essential for a healthy spiritual life.

Today, take ten minutes to do nothing.

How much time do you take each day to rest quietly in God?


Friday, July 16, 2021

Faith and Suffering

"Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known." Mt 12:15

Often in the Gospels Jesus warns his disciples not to speak about his mighty powers and miracles. Fearing that people will be drawn to him for the wrong reasons, Jesus wants his followers to announce God's love for them whether they are healed or not. His message is not about power but poverty. Even those with nothing will know the glory of God because God loves each and all of us without distinction. God's love is unconditional. We have only to respond.

When people hear this message, it often falls on deaf ears. If God loves us so much, why do we suffer? Why isn't life sweet and simple for all? That God promises to accompany us through every trial is little consolation for many. Is this true for you, us? Do we want a life free of stress and struggle? 

Today, acknowledge that life is a journey through light and dark and pray for the grace to accept and embrace life as it unfolds not as we dream about it.

Who helped you realize that the struggles in life mold your character and form you in compassion?

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Bruised Reeds

 "He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth." Is 42 2-3


Pope Francis startled us a few years ago with an announcement about the Sacred Triduum. Rather than celebrate the Holy Thursday mass of the Last Supper at St Peter's in Rome, he presided at mass in a Roman youth prison. Amazing. Of course, his action makes perfect sense, since the liturgy of Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, but is so different from anything we have come to expect, even from someone as charismatic and independent as Pope  St. John Paul II, that we are left with our mouths hanging open.

Isaiah reminds us that God will bring forth justice for all, not by crying out or shouting, but my offering himself as servant of those most in need. On Thursday of this week, when Pope Francis washes the feet of young men in prison, he will challenge us to do think again, like his namesake St Francis, about how we treat the lepers in our society. Are we servants of the broken, people of faith unwilling to break the bruised reed? Do we reduce people in prison to objects, men and women to be feared or pitied? Are they people in prison or prisoners? Anytime we can find the correct questions to ask on our faith journey, we are on the right path.

Today, re-imagine how you want to celebrate the Triduum.

What are your biggest Gospel challenges?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

St Bonaventure

 "Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Mt 10:37

Sometimes, the Gospel is very simple. Feed the hungry. Give a drop of water to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. At other times, the discernment we need to make about how to live the Gospel in the spirit in which it was written, it is not so easy.

St Bonaventure, who some call the second founder of the Franciscan movement, knew this struggle well. Charged with settling the differences between and among Francis' followers especially with regard to their vow of poverty, Bonaventure succeeded where others failed. A theologian, Bonaventure employed Greek philosophy together with the Gospel to intellectually ground the pursuit of God without pretending one could ever fully understand God and God's ways. This wisdom allowed him to bring his great learning to the struggles of the early Franciscans.  Always seeing  the middle way, a path that honored everyone on it, Bonaventure proved to be an inspired leader and healer. Minister General of the friars for seventeen years, he led the Franciscan community to a place of honor and humility by his willingness to stand at the center of every controversy as an agent of peace and good. In a society like the United States that is so divided, we are challenged to do the same.

Today, seek peace with someone with whom you disagree.

What most inspires you about St Francis and the Franciscans?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

St Kateri Tekewitha

 "The way of the just is smooth; the path of the just you make level." Is 26:7

Isaiah regularly offers the people of Israel a path of return to God and God's ways. As long as they do justice and make restitution to those people and nations from whom they have stolen and against whom they have warred, God will remember them and welcome them home.

This simple lesson should not be lost on us. When we honestly assess our behavior, we realize how often we have lusted after what others have, and whether it is their property, their influence or their reputation does not matter. When we have allowed ourselves the freedom not to work for others on behalf of God, but to struggle against them for our own gain, we must confront and address this sin.

At the same time, this is never easy. When someone unjustly tries to take from us our good name, we have the right to resist, but never violently. Only when we insist with a peaceful heart that others allow us the same dignity we offer them, will we be doing God's work. Those who willingly admit their own wrongs and respond in justice to those they have ill treated are always more successful in the pursuit of God's desire for the world.

Today, pray for your enemies.

Who do you most admire for their honesty and willingness to step in the shoes of another?

Monday, July 12, 2021

Dying to Self

 "Pharaoh’s daughter,...adopted him as her son and called him Moses; for she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'” Ex 2:10

In order to live, Moses' mother had to die to her desire to nurture, teach and raise her son. Putting him in a basket she placed him near the river, knowing that Pharaoh's daughter often bathed there. What an awful choice Moses' mother had. Knowing she could not hide him forever, but not wanting him to die or be killed, she trusted that someone would find and help him. 

When Pharaoh's daughter discovered the boy, she knew it was a Hebrew, and when one of her servants suggested finding a Hebrew woman to nurse the boy, Pharaoh's daughter agreed immediately. That Moses' mother was chosen to nurse her own son must have given her immense pleasure, but must also have been bitter sweet. Knowing she would not be with her son throughout his life was a terrible burden, but one she readily bore so that he might live.

Baptism is all about being plunged into the waters of life in order to die to self and live for others. Moses' mother was willing to do this for her son and challenges all who read her story to ask themselves how deep their own faith is. Would any of us be willing to sacrifice everything so that another might live?

God is. God's love is so full, so complete, so lacking in self absorption that God is willing to send his son as savior of us all, even to death for our sake, so that we can live with God forever. This promise, this commitment is beyond our ability to imagine. Simply thinking about it is thrilling.

Today, die to some simple pleasure for the sake of another.

Who has died for you?

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Walking on Burning Sand

 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword." Mt 10:34

Faith is often hot, uncomfortably so. Like walking across sand at the beach in the middle of summer, we jump and hop around, trying to avoid faith's scorching demands, but there is no way around it, faith burns. Unfortunately, we too often think of the so called hot button issues in the church of North America when we speak of faith's demands: abortion, same sex marriage and divorce, but the heat of faith is much more than these controversial issues.

Faith is hot because it demands that we listen when we are ready to explode with anger at those who disagree with us. Faith burns when it requires us to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us. Faith stings when it challenges us to let go of power that dominates others economically, militarily and socially, and all of this is what Jesus is referring to in today's gospel.

When the Lord tells us that he has not come to bring peace at any price and that the gospel will divide fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, he is not suggesting that division is good, but inevitable when we fail to care for the poor, the broken, the sick and immigrants.

The gospel does not permit easy answers, but insists that we search beyond selfishness to see the needy with God's eyes and remember that it was the poor who first listened to him because they were desperate for hope. Only when we acknowledge our own weaknesses can we look at others with compassion and understanding.

Today, don't run away from the fire of faith.

When have faith's demands burned you?

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Our Relationships Evangelize

 "Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two .... He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts." Mk 6:7-8

Over the centuries much has been written about why Jesus sends his disciples two by two. Some commentators remind us that in the ancient world when anyone testified in court there had to be two corroborating witnesses in order to avoid having someone accuse another of a crime to hurt the other. Only when two people concur about a misdeed could their testimony be trusted. From this perspective the disciples were more believable when two witnessed to what happened to them when Jesus entered their lives.

Even more important according to other commentators was the quality of the relationship of the disciples had with one another. Their love for one another in Christ would be a great sign of the "truth" of Jesus message and life. That the disciples asked nothing of those to whom they were sent, nor carried anything to demonstrate their wealth or power was also important.

Knowing how difficult it can be to love one another consistently, and to live with little material wealth, the first hearers of the disciples had to be impressed. When people are willing to move beyond self absorption and share everything in common, they speak of a world beyond what we see and a promise of salvation that it is a gift to us not because of what we own or know, but because of God's gracious love.

Today, love another disciple not for what you gain, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Friday, July 9, 2021

Mobilizing Fear

 "What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Mt 10: 27-28

Fear is an incredible motivator. Threatened with losing our life or reputation, we might do anything. Some run away; others start a fight. Jesus asks us to transform our fear into action for good. Recognizing how natural it is to be afraid when faced with doing something new or agitating to others, we ask for the grace to discern how best to speak and live the gospel despite the consequences.

Trying to avoid fear or deny it will never be a successful strategy in the long run. Either we confront our fears in an effort to discover where they might be leading us in faith, or we are haunted by them our entire lives. Jesus gives us an option by promising always to be with us, but it is up to us to accept his help and trust that the result will be for the good of all.

Today, face one fear and see where it leads.

What fears most immobilize you?

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Learning to be Shrewd

 "Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Mt 10:16

Sometimes Jesus' advice to his disciples startles us. Most of us understand the call of the gospel to simplicity and transparency.  Although it might be uncomfortable, we realize there is a challenge in the good news not to worry about how we appear before others, not to try to impress others with our insight or wisdom. If we embody God's wisdom, God will do what God needs to do in and through us.

Shrewdness, on the other hand, is not something we usually associate with gospel living. Shrewd people make deals, compromise their ideals and work a crowd to get their way. It does not sound like a stance the followers of Jesus should take.

While it is clear that Jesus does not want his disciples to take advantage of others, he does want them to protect themselves from manipulation. Shrewdness means not allowing oneself to be trapped by false praise or individual honor. The shrewd person listens with the heart and discerns well what it is God wants, not to enhance his or her personal reputation or prestige, but to enliven and build up the entire community of faith.

Today, listen deeply to who it is God would have you be, and act upon it discreetly.

Have you known shrewd people of faith?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Joseph's Redemption

 "I am Joseph," he said to his brothers. "Is my father still in good health?" Gen 45:3

Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph, the youngest and most beloved son of Jacob (Israel) was a dreamer and seer. Blessed with the ability to hear God's will as it was revealed to him in his dreams, Joseph was hated by his brothers who plotted first to kill him, but later chose to sell him to a passing caravan who brought him to Egypt. Returning home, Joseph's brothers gave their father Joseph's cloak which was soaked in blood convincing the old man that his son was killed by a wild animal.

Years later when a terrible famine struck their land, the brothers of Joseph, hearing that the Egyptians, urged on by Joseph's dream, had stored great quantities of food in the event of famine, traveled to Egypt to beg for help. Not knowing it was their brother Joseph who distributed the rations, they were confounded when Joseph told them he would help them but one of them had to stay in prison in Egypt until they brought back their youngest brother. Knowing his request was impossible to fulfill, Joseph wept.

How sad we all are when we fail to live the Gospel with integrity, honesty and fearlessness, but sadness has a purpose. When we realize how much of our anguish is self inflicted, we realize that we need to reform and change in order to know the freedom Jesus promises his sons and daughters. Letting go of self absorbed thoughts and actions helps us take the first steps on the road to a life without guile.

Today, weep for your sins but don't despair.

What makes you most sad in your failure to live the Gospel fully?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Knowing your Audience

 “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Mt 10:6

The Jesus of Matthew's gospel is clear about his intentions. A Jew who has been sent to the Jews, Jesus wants his disciples to be careful to live the Torah and its Rabbinic interpretations narrowly. They should avoid Samaria altogether in order that every Jew who hears them can trust that they are observant Jews who want only to introduce their hearers to Jesus, the Messiah who God has been promised to his people.

Matthew's perspective makes perfect sense in context. It was important that Jesus' disciples remember their audience while not changing Jesus' message. Luke's gospel, because it was addressed primarily to Gentiles, was not concerned with connecting Jesus' teaching to the Torah. Quoting Jesus warning his first followers to avoid Samaria would make no sense to Gentiles who knew nothing about Palestinian geography or the quarrels among Jews.

How important it is to learn to announce the Good News to the people of the 21st century in a form they can understand. For those who have never lived without a computer or a cell phone, images and metaphors that were helpful to the people of the 20th century make little sense. In order to follow the powerful example of the early church, we need to be more sophisticated about social media, the music they enjoy and how they interact with the world.

Today, live the Gospel in a way that speaks to the those born in the 21st century.

Who or what helps you make sense of your faith?

A

Monday, July 5, 2021

Sheep without a Shepherd

 "At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Mt 9:36

Jesus seems always able to summon mercy and understanding when meeting the poor and broken. Somehow he sees those most in need with compassionate eyes and heart, and responds to them without judgement. While Jesus can be hard on those who should know better, he seems never to dismiss the struggling. In fact, the scripture tells us that he sees them as sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus' mercy can easily be taken advantage of, but only those trying to control the world worry about this. While some of us will surely risk living an unfocused life thinking they have nothing about which to worry since Jesus promises undying love to all even the biggest sinner, Jesus continually seeks out sinners, inviting them to reconciliation and new life.

As C.S. Lewis reminds us in An Examined Life, "God was the hunter and I was the deer. He stalked me, . . . took unerring aim and fired,"(1). Captured by God's love, we find ourselves spending more time being grateful than worrying about our past faults, and discover, to our delight and God's, that we have very little time for wrong doing and sin. Filled with gratitude for all that God is and does, our joyful and free spirits shout Good News.

Today, ask forgiveness of God and move forward.

Which of your faults and sins do you find most difficult to avoid?

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Embracing the Stranger

 'A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:19

Reading today's Gospel about a woman bleeding for years, I cringed.  Most of Jesus contemporaries would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Immigrants seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the countries and cultures from which these people come. Because they speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different foods and practice a different religion, we wonder whether we should admit them to our shores and sometimes even suggest they are criminals out to take advantage of our generosity. But Jesus' response to people's criticism and fear is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions them. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, he assures his listeners, they can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Saturday, July 3, 2021

July 4th, Independence Day

 “May God give to you of the dew of the heaven. And of the fertility of the earth abundance of grain and wine." Gen 27:28

Unfortunately, independence rarely comes to individuals or nations without violence. Because people often want to possess others as if they were slaves, people feel compelled to fight for their freedom. This was the case for the pilgrims who came to the United States from England.

Seeking religious liberty, the pilgrims left their homeland in order to live in a place that would respect and protect their desire to live and worship as they chose. First settling in the Netherlands, eventually, in order not to lose their English language skills, they came to America because, like the people about whom Amos wrote, the Pilgrims were experiencing, "Not a famine of bread...but for hearing the word of the Lord."

Regrettably, however, the Pilgrims did not extend religious liberty to others in the New World, and their rigidity was mirrored throughout the early colonies. The state of New York, for instance, banned Catholics from holding public office until 1806, and while Maryland offered Catholics full civil rights, Jews did not enjoy the same privilege. In other words, the freedom that we celebrate of the fourth of July each year had to evolve over many generations before it became the law of the land, and when we forget this, we imperil everyone's freedom.

Today, celebrate religious freedom and pray to end violence in the name of religion.

What happens when people don't respect one another's religious beliefs?











Friday, July 2, 2021

The Power of Kindness

 "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." Mt 7:12

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, July 1, 2021

Abraham's Challenge

God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a burnt offering on a height that I will point out to you.” Gen 22:2

What kind of God is this who asks a faithful servant like Abraham to sacrifice his own son? At first reading, it sounds like God is an abusive father who tests his friends with impossible tasks. Some might even say that God is cruel in playing with Abraham's spirit in this way. That we know the end of the story mollifies us only a little. Yes, Isaac will be spared but at what price? Will he be scarred forever and afraid of a God who wanted his father to sacrifice him? Will he ever trust God himself?

No matter how painful, we must try to enter the story of Abraham and Isaac as it is presented to us, not only for our own spiritual growth but as servants and disciples of a God who challenges us to announce Good News to the poor and set captives free. Because the poor and captives are more likely to face the kinds of impossible challenges presented to Abraham, we need to walk with them  and learn from them as they discover a God who will show them a path to freedom and light.

These painful questions are also necessary for every believer because it is our concept of God that most affects our everyday life. If we think of God as someone who is always watching us like a prison guard, we might behave but we certainly won't believe. Rather, we will try to skirt the edges of faith in order to avoid condemnation, but never know the joy of being in love with God who promises never to stop loving us.

Today, revisit a dark time in your life and invite God to be with you as your probe its meaning.

How do you interpret the the test of Abraham? Can you make sense of it?



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Sarah's Jealousy

 "Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing with her son Isaac; so she demanded of Abraham: 'Drive out that slave and her son!'"

Selfish ambition is a tough nut to crack, especially in a culture like the United States. Almost every day our children hear that they can strive for anything in this country, and if they work hard enough they can fulfill their dreams. While this is part of the "myth" of the United States and continues to draw people from all over the world to our country as immigrants, it is a dangerous notion when left unexamined.

All of us know people like Sarah, and, of course, there is a bit of the selfish, worried, and self -absorbed person in all of us, but we cannot allow the "sinner" in us to direct, much less, dominate our behavior. When Sarah could not bear Abraham a son, she was content to let Hagar do so, but soon after God blessed her with Isaac, she wanted Hagar and Ishmael gone from Abraham's life. We must ask for the grace to welcome all people into our lives, even those who threaten our power and prestige.

Today ask God to fill you with compassion and integrity to combat any naked ambition.

Has ambition ever undermined your life or the life of your community?

Monday, June 28, 2021

Sts Peter and Paul

 "I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me." 2 Tm 4 6-8

Discovering our role in life is always important. Some are called to be husbands and fathers, others women religious and prophets, still others leaders and community organizers. More important to remember, these roles shift, change and are sometimes turned upside down, and the measure of our  character is our ability to understand and eventually accept these role changes.

The challenge to change roles was important in the lives of both Paul and Peter. Peter was married, perhaps a father, and had a role in his society, even a prominent one, as a fisherman. Fishermen like Peter had to be savvy businessmen and multilingual if they wanted to compete with Greek speakers who would also have been fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They had also to be able to negotiate contracts about taxes with their Roman masters. Leaving all of this security to follow Jesus was difficult. Only someone who spoke with power could have convinced Peter to let go of everything he had worked for and treasured.

Paul, on the other hand, was a respected rabbi and teacher, especially among prominent Jews. When he was willing, after Jesus' death, to challenge Christians who appeared to reject the Torah and the authority of the rabbis, his reputation for fearlessness grew. Again, like Peter, only the power of Jesus to reach him in his blindness moved Paul to let go of his reputation among leading Jews and in his own words pour out his life "like a libation" for the sake of the Gospel.

Together today in the liturgical calendar, we hold these two men up as examples. Unless we are willing to listen with our hearts to the saving promise of Jesus we will be unable to accept the transformation to which Jesus calls us.

Today, examine the roots of your faith.

What kinds of experiences have helped you enter the mysteries of faith more deeply?

Sunday, June 27, 2021

St Irenaeus

 "When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." Mt 7:29

What are the great and wonderful works of God that move you most forcefully to contemplation and transformation?

For some creation itself fills us with wonder and awe. St. Francis of Assisi might be the patron saint of these believers. Francis not only praises sun, moon, fire and water, he calls them his sisters and brothers. Gratitude for creation is the ground of Francis' unique spiritual path while disregard of God's creation is the root of sin.

Others focus their awe on the human person. Both the complexity and simplicity of people stretch us to wonder. We can think, feel, respond to others, love and laugh, and the ease with which we do all these complex actions is amazing. St Irenaeus, whose feast we celebrate today, says it this way, "The human person fully alive is the glory of God."(Irenaeus)

Taking time each day to thank God for all God has done and does can help us grow in the spiritual life. Grateful people exude a joy that both lifts others' spirits and gently challenges them to conversion.

Today, praise God for God's wonderful works.

What most moves you to wonder and awe?

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Fear of the Other

 'A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:19

Reading today's Gospel about a woman bleeding for years, I cringed.  Most of Jesus contemporaries would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. The fear of Covid 19 is paramount, but immigrants also seem to threaten many in our society, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the countries and cultures from which these people come. Because they speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different foods and practice a different religion, we wonder whether we should admit them to our shores and sometimes even suggest they are criminals out to take advantage of our generosity. But Jesus' response to people's criticism and fear is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions them. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, he assures his listeners, they can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Friday, June 25, 2021

Humility

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." Mt 8:7

Most humble people have been humbled. Born into wealth or privilege, circumstances conspired against them and they lost everything. The proud complain or curse God; the humble realize that everything they had was a gift and not something they earned or deserved. The proud do almost anything to reclaim what they believe is theirs by divine right. The humble echo the Japanese proverb: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise.

Remarkably, the centurion in the today's Gospel is not asking Jesus to help him but to heal his servant, and Jesus, obviously moved, is willing to respond to the centurion's request. But the centurion becomes an icon of humility for the ages when he acknowledges Jesus' power to heal without touch or physical presence. Not wanting Jesus to risk the condemnation of the rabbis for entering his house, the centurion asks Jesus only to speak a word of healing.

Today, be grateful for all of life no matter how humbling.

What keeps you from humbly acknowledging your weaknesses? 






Thursday, June 24, 2021

Forever

 "I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." Gn 17:7

When Abraham heard that he would be the father of many nations, he was very much afraid. After all, he was ninety nine years old and could not imagine that God would choose him for so noble a task. I can imagine that for a time at least, he thought he was going mad and that everything God said to him was only a dream. Abraham had been unable to conceive a child with Sarah and now this! How could it be. No doubt Abraham expected that God would lay heavy burdens upon him, and he was not sure he was up to the task.

But God's demands are light. Abraham had only to keep the covenant which God make with him in a unilateral way. He didn't have to worry about penalties and punishment. He had only to be circumcised so that there would a sign "in his body" that indicated his acceptance of the living God. God wanted Abraham to know peace and he wants us to be at peace, too.

The Covenant with Abraham, as Pope John Paul II reminded us often, has never been broken by God. Jews are God's chosen people and always will be. That Jesus is the new Covenant, the fulfillment of the old Covenant, is something we need to announce with passion and hope, but we can never forget that God's Covenant with Abraham is true and forever. The proof of our acceptance of this truth of our faith lies in our treatment of Jews as our brothers and sisters.

Today, glory in God's covenants with us.

Have you ever been frightened by God's call?

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Discovering our Role in Faith

 His mother replied: "He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." Lk I:59

What's in a name?  In the ancient world, everything. Names were given to children by their fathers to honor his ancestors and elders. Mothers had no role in this ritual, but Elizabeth does. Only when Zechariah writes the name John on a tablet is his "mouth opened and his tongue freed." Clearly, Elizabeth's child John would play an important role in salvation history. John, whose name means God is gracious, would usher in a new order and a new way of being in the world.

Unlike so many, John would have no doubts about his role. He knew he was not the Messiah, despite the desire of so many who accepted his baptism. Rather, his entire life would consist in pointing to Jesus, and announcing the coming of the Messiah. Admitting that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandal strap and that he needed to decrease and Christ increase, John becomes a symbol for every Christian.

Our task as believers is not to posture or pretend that we are important, but to be grateful for the name Christian, recognize Christ in every person and prepare others to receive his Good News. Accepting that we are God's children gives every Christian an identity that is empowering forever. We need not have any fear about who we are or what we are to do. Like John, we are to point to Christ as Redeemer and hope for all humankind.

Today, help someone find Christ.

What are the biggest obstacles we face in announcing the Good News?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Counting Stars

 “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Gen 15:5

Living near a major city makes it difficult to look up in the sky and see anything. Some nights, when there is no moon, you can see a few stars, but nothing like the country sky in the summer when you can lie on your back and try to count. Even as you look, more and more stars seem to appear, and this is just the beginning. Astronomers tells us that there are more galaxies in the universe than stars in our galaxy. Whether their study and speculation prove accurate is not the point. That it is more impossible than ever to count the stars is and God promises Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars.

The goodness of God's heart and God's promises to us is beyond our ability to count or manage. We can only pause in awe, wonder and gratitude, and stopping to celebrate God's goodness is even more necessary during Lent. Lent is the time that we take time to recall the infinite love of God in the Christ. God sends his son to accompany us in life and remind us of God's promises. Even though Jesus will suffer and die because he tells the truth and is the truth about God, he does not hesitate. When his disciples suggest that he might want to slow down and walk away from Jerusalem in order to avoid the wrath of the Jewish leaders, he pushes on and reminds us to do the same. He will not abandon us, he will show us the way, and no matter what happens to us, as long as we live the truth of his love, God will be at our side.

Tonight, count a star or two and be grateful.

What gets in the way of committing ourselves totally to God's path for us?

Monday, June 21, 2021

Facing our Prejudices

 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine." Mt 7:6

Not infrequently, gentiles and the poor were compared to dogs, people who did not appreciate the word of God, but Jesus turns this saying upside down, just as he does when he reminds us that the first will be last.

In Jesus preaching, the only criterion used to judge people was their openness to the fullness of God's word. In other words, the rich, the powerful, the interpreters of the law were all judging themselves if they refused to hear Jesus' call to reform their lives and return to the heart of the law.

For contemporary believers the same standard endures. Unless we are open to the transforming power of God's word, which is more inclusive than we often want to acknowledge, we are the dogs about whom the Gospel speaks. When we use the Good News as a hammer to exclude those who are racially, religiously, culturally and spiritually different from us, even when they are enemies, we judge ourselves.

Today, pray to be free of prejudice.

What practices help you not to judge others? 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

St Aloysius Gonzaga

 "Forgive us our trespasses" Mt 6:12

The Lord's prayer reminds us to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our sins. For those especially who have been humbled in any way, the Our Father is a consolation. Sin can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and encourages us to work with others to overcome them.

But we need to be cautious. There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do to change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of our sinfulness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Aloysius Gonzaga is a good example of someone who recognized that despite his family's wealth and desire for him to seek power over others, he could only fulfill his destiny by renouncing his family's affluence and join the Jesuits in the pursuit of God. Freed by the Society of Jesus to honor God totally, Aloysius plunged into the care of plague victims only to succumb himself to the disease.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Staying in a Broken Church

 "A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' Mk 4: 37-38

Though we know that sudden squalls were common on the Sea of Galilee, this passage, like so many others, is not simply about a storm at sea. Jesus knew that all kinds of violence would visit his disciples and he wanted them to be ready for them. He and his followers would be laughed at, ridiculed and threatened. Would his disciples run away from the struggle and from him? Would they posture about being unafraid and try to convince the Lord and themselves that they would follow him everywhere?

Little has changed for Christians, especially for those who want to grow in discipleship. There are innumerable reasons to turn  away from a life of faith and especially from the Catholic church. As Pope Francis has reminded us recently, we have sometimes been so focused on a few key issues, especially about sex and sexuality, that we can lose sight of the larger Gospel picture that Jesus paints, and when this happens we open ourselves to hurtful and challenging criticism. Tempted at times like this to seek a different path, we need to pray not to forget all that people of faith and our church does and promotes.

Today, face the squalls in your life head on and work together with others for the common good.

Why do you stay in the Catholic church?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Gospel Wealth

 "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?" Mt 6:26

Jesus continually surprises his disciples. Just as they get comfortable with the direction he is taking, he turns a corner and turns their world upside down, reminding them that he has no place to lay his head. Are the disciples willing to become  nomads and follow Jesus into  the wilderness? What a challenge?

In claiming his identity as a pilgrim and an itinerant preacher, Jesus promises us that like the God of the Hebrew scriptures he will follow his flock anywhere and everywhere. Though he makes few demands, he is always imploring us to live like him, without family or wealth, but full of hope and compassion. God will guide us and care for us, he insists, but we have to trust. The emptiness of having nothing in Christ is a fullness beyond compare. Clinging to nothing, we have everything. The faith to believe this is the test we all face.

Today, empty yourself of everything that gets in the way of loving God and neighbor.

Have you known the glory of feeling rich even when you have nothing?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Gift of our Bodies

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light." Mt 6:22

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others. Feeling invulnerable as young people, we take chances that, as we age, we put aside as crazy.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. Who does not love a sunset or a double rainbow? Who is not touched when we see kindness between and among people, especially when it is shown to the most vulnerable. To those willing to see, the entire world is aflame with the glory of God.

All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How important it is to develop positive attitudes towards others, especially those who are different from us.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?





Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Purity of Heart

 "Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them." Mt. 12:1

When we feel cornered, we will do almost anything to defend ourselves. It is always easier to attack then defend a weak position. There seems little doubt that those accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath were really trying to undermine the Lord’s authority.

The Pharisees must have known that David had demanded that his troops be fed even with the bread consecrated for temple use. David knew his men were “pure”, that they had avoided sexual relations, and were therefore worthy of eating the consecrated bread. He reminds the priests that he always demanded purity of his troops when they were on an expedition for the nation. 

In like manner, Jesus is challenging the Pharisees to find some “impurity” in his disciples. After all, the disciples had left everything to follow him and were told often that they should take nothing for their journey except the truth of Jesus’ message so that no one could question their motives. If they were “pure” in their desire to announce God’s Good News even if it meant their persecution, why would the Pharisees accuse of them of breaking the Sabbath?

Today, pray for “purity” of heart in being a disciple.

What are your greatest challenges to living the Gospel simply and transparently?

Learning to Pray

 "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name." Mt 6:8

Praying always can seem like an impossible challenge. For most, when we try to pray, distractions fill our minds and hearts almost as soon as we begin. Even when we pray the rosary or other devotional prayers, we find ourselves thinking about everything but the prayer! Just the same, our willingness to put everything and everyone in God's hands each day is a very powerful prayer although it is often difficult to manage. Trusting God completely is something most of us aspire to, but rarely accomplish. That is why the practice of prayer is so important.

Get in the habit of asking Jesus to help you pray. When Jesus taught his apostles how to pray there were two parts. Think of God as your dad, he suggested, honor him and ask for what you need. Prayer is very simple. Make yourself available to God for God's desire for the world and see what happens.

Today, set your watch to say the Our Father in the morning, around noon and in the evening. See what happens.

Who taught you to pray? Be grateful!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Sowing Generously

 "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Cor 9:6

There is an old saying: You can't win it unless you're in it, and this is especially true when trying to live the Gospel.  Unless we are committed to live the Gospel with integrity everyday, we can never hope to know its joys. Summer in the Northeast United States teaches this lesson especially well.

Gardeners who are willing to put only one tomato plant in the ground can hope all they want for a treasure trove of tomatoes but one plant can only produce so much fruit. Only those who are willing to risk many plants and have the energy to water them everyday can hope for a large crop.

The same is true for our good deeds. While one generous act a day is good, we must be willing to sow many seeds of God's love every day to announce the reign of God, especially to those without faith. When we do this, the reward is more than we can imgaine. Trust God. Try Giving.

Today, speak with someone who looks lost.

Who has reached out for you when you were struggling? Thank them!

Monday, June 14, 2021

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 13, 2021

All is Gift

 "We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain." 2 Cor 5:1

All that is, is for us. Our first task is to stand in awe and gratitude before the God who loves us so. Too often we take for granted the wonders of creation. Trapped in teeming cities or lost in the wilderness, we scratch and claw competitively for our little piece of creation. What a shame. Clearly, the earth can produce enough food for all to eat, but too often we lack a commitment to share it.

St Francis of Assisi offers us a wonderful example of this in his treatment of lepers. Fearful of contracting leprosy which in the 13th century was thought to be contagious, Francis and his contemporaries avoided lepers and isolated them socially. Relegated to the margins of every town and village, lepers were instructed to ring a bell or call out "unclean" if anyone came too close to them.

After God graced Francis with the courage to confront his fears and kiss a leper, everything changed. Francis so identified with lepers that he lived among them on the outskirts of Assisi, and went about proclaiming God's special love for the voiceless and forgotten. His message of peace and the dignity of every creature not only moved the people of his day, it continues to challenge us to see all creation as God's gift.

Today, pray for and speak with a "leper" in your world.

How do you understand and appreciate all creation as a gift of God?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Process of Conversion

 "Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." Mt 4:28

Conversion is a process. We all know this, but continue to get fooled. Just as we think we can relax, sit back and enjoy where we are in life, change comes or is demanded of us. A parent or a friend gets sick, a child's life turns in a direction we never expected, and we have doubts about our vocations. There is no getting around it. Though we often resist it, change is necessary and inevitable.

In today's first reading, David's lust gets him in trouble. Almost like a peeping Tom, David, walking on his roof top, sees Bathsheba bathing. Smitten, he summons her, has relations with her and when she announces shortly afterwards that she is pregnant, he panics. David's pride or perhaps his fear of losing his influence in the community block his conscience, and he arranges to have Bathsheba's husband Uriah killed.

As our young people might say, you can't make this stuff up. Though David will be despised by God for sleeping with another man's wife and having her husband killed, his real punishment will be the death of the child he conceived with Bathsheba. Most of us would expect this to be the end of the story, but it is not. God relents, forgives David and Bathsheba gives birth to Solomon.

The lesson is clear. No matter how egregious our fault and sin, if we express true sorrow and are willing to change, God will forgive us and help us take the next steps in life. Conversion, like the land yielding fruit, is an ongoing process, "first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

Today, ask forgiveness of every sin, and the grace to change. There is much more life for all of us to live.

Who has helped you understand that conversion is a lifetime process?















































































































































































































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Friday, June 11, 2021

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

 "You are a people sacred to the LORD, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own." Dt 7:6

The feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us that we are embodied, that our faith celebrates not just the salvation of our souls, but our entire person. Like the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the feast of the Sacred Heart counters any tendency in the Christian community to forget that God sent his son among us as a fully human person and through him reminded us that God wants to be us with us body and soul forever. How our resurrected bodies might look is not the issue. That we will be with God in our bodies is.

The scriptures are forever reminding us of this, but in a world where so many live in large cities, we can forget the importance of creation, all of which manifests the glory and face of God in marvelous ways. The Canticle of Daniel even reminds creation itself to praise and bless the Lord. Listen:
Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Dew and rain, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
Today's feast calls us to come closer to the heart of Jesus where we will find mercy, consolation and hope. What else could we desire.

Whose loving heart has most formed you in faith?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Reconciliation

 "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5:23

One of the fundamental questions asked of every school of spirituality is where it begins? Ignatian spirituality, for instance, begins with personal and world sin. Only after a person has confronted his or her complicity in making the world a harsher place and community through selfishness, pride, lust and arrogance, does the pilgrim join the journey of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. It is a natural and understandable place to begin, but it is not the only place.

Franciscan spirituality begins by reminding the pilgrim to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness and goodness of God, and only after celebrating the glory of God in all creation does it ask believers to face their sin. It is a different path with the same goal, to know, appreciate and enter the mystery of God's unconditional love. For Franciscans, only the strength and assurance they gain from seeing God's presence in all creation makes it possible for them to face the awfulness of their own ingratitude.

Jesus' reminder to his disciples seems to take this second path. God is more intent on rejoicing in our conversion and willingness to be reconciled with our sisters and brothers than in than in taking pleasure from our death through sin. God wants to celebrate who we are when we turn to him, not to turn from us in disgust. How wonderful God is!

Today, take a deep breath and ask God what you must do to be in God.

Where does your heart lead you in beginning again your spiritual journey?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Righteousness

 “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:50

Righteousness is a difficult word to get hold of in American English. Often confused with self righteousness, Americans think of righteous people as arrogant and dismissive of others, especially those they judge to be uneducated or of a lower class. Righteous people smile slyly when others make factual errors or grammatical mistakes in speech. Righteous people don't make great friends.

Righteousness in the bible is a virtue we need to build into our lives. Righteousness can be translated as doing justice, especially in our social relationships. When Jesus tells his disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the Jewish leaders, he makes clear that no matter how needy they might be, they must not be greedy, but still treat others with compassion, understanding and justice. Cheating anyone, but especially foreigners or the very poor, will result in God's harsh judgement.

Though it would have been understandable for the first disciples to want vengeance against the Scribes and Pharisees because of how poorly they were treated, Jesus wants them to change the social paradigm which led to a society of winners and losers. In Christ all are winners because Christians will always share n justice whatever they have with the needy.

Today, ask God to heal you and heal those oppressed by injustice.

How might we better explain righteousness as a Gospel imperative?





Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Discerning God's Will

 "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.'" Mt 5:17

Jesus must have been terribly confusing to the leaders of the Jews. Forever insisting that he wants only to live the Law and fulfill it, at the same time, he seems to break the law regularly. What were the Pharisees to do? If they did not challenge and condemn him, they would lose their own authority. If they did reject his teachings, they would lose the power they had over ordinary people. Their quandary, like ours, led them into impossible situations. More concerned with their own position in the community than with their role of instructing the people of God, they don't listen deeply to the Lord. Neither do we!

A life of faith is not something we put on or off at will. Neither can it be reduced to obeying legitimate authorities. Faith demands reflection, prayer and conversation with others seeking to know and follow God's law, all of which takes time away from other necessary duties in life. Too often, hoping for a simple and quick solution to complex questions, we avoid the hard work of following the Lord, and either put our foot in our mouth or kick ourselves in the shins.

It is important to remember the lesson of the Pharisees. While we can, and sometimes must, criticize church and state, it is only through reflection, prayer and honest conversation that God's will emerges.

Today, pray for the prophets in our world who remind us to live the Gospel fully.

How do you discern God's will in your life?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Be a light

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket." Mt 5:14

Every year I have an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin novices of North America a remarkably diverse group of young. One year there was a novice from Syria who had been living in Canada. Another year there was  a Jewish convert who was born in Israel. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under bushel baskets.

The gospel today reminds us that we are salt and light, people who are supposed to bring flavor, perseverance, healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men was a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life? 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Living the Beatitudes

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

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which was recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize.

Without a printing press or a written form that would allow easy distribution of the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the first Christians memorized Jesus' teaching and repeated them often for their own well being and to announce the Gospel. While many contemporary believers still do this, it can be a dangerous practice.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. When we do this, we impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The body and Blood of the Lord

 "This is my body....this is my blood." Mk 14:22


When friends or family die, we often grieve and mourn them in powerful ways. Some will visit the cemetery, even if it is at a distance, every day for weeks or months. Others, leave a chair empty at the table at the dinner table in order to remember their dead. Early in the mourning process, these rituals often lead to tears and groaning, but after a while they help us gently remember all the good the dead brought to our lives. Our rituals bring us comfort and hope, and that is Jesus' intent at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist is the central mystery of our faith. In it and through it we remember the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord. By celebrating the great gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord, especially on Sunday's, we keep alive all that God has done for us, from the creation of the world, to the making of the Covenants, the sending of the prophets and the gift of Jesus in a form that allows us to grieve our own sins and celebrate the unwavering love of God. In eating the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are nourished both as individuals and communities, and we are challenged to feed others as God continues to feed us.

The mystery of the Eucharist is something that deserves our daily gratitude. There is no fuller way to honor God than in the breaking of the bread, and there is no more fitting way to remember Jesus than to proclaim his love in service of the hungry and poor.

Today, be grateful for all the gifts of God, especially the gift of his Son.

What helps you remember to live your faith each day?

Friday, June 4, 2021

St Boniface

 "Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation." 2 Pt 3:17

Being a missionary has always been difficult. One must leave the comfort and security of a culture, family and religious system that one knows, and enter a totally different world asking God to show you the path to integration and transformation. The best missionaries have always been the most attentive listeners, people who sense the goodness of the people to whom they have been sent. Knowing they are called, like St Paul, to discover the God who is already present in every culture and people, women and men missionaries live in gratitude and awe because of the God they encounter in the people to whom they have been sent.

St Boniface knew these challenges in spades. Sent to the German church that had lost its way, Boniface had to minister with compassion to an uneducated clergy and a community that was more interested in its own interpretation of the Gospel than the word preached by Jesus. Preaching reform and renewal, Boniface's influence was deep because he not only called people to reexamine their values, he also established houses of prayer throughout Germany. The church only prospers when it builds its catechesis and worship on a foundation of prayer.

Today, pray for those who face a daily martyrdom in their own homes.

Have you experienced faith in another cultural context? What was it like?

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Really seeing

"When Tobit saw his son, he threw his arms around him and wept. He exclaimed, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!”

How wonderful it is to see a friend, a parent or a child who has been away for a long time, especially when we were not sure we would ever see them again. When Tobiah was struck blind, he never thought he would see his son Tobit again but Tobit returns, smears fish gall on his father's eyes enabling him to see, and Tobiah is overwhelmed with joy. 

In some ways, all of us are blind. Sometimes it is blindness to the suffering of others. At other times, we are blind to their goodness. When Jesus encounters a blind fellow by the side of the road, he asks him what he wants, a strange question at first blush. But Jesus does not want simply to return sight to the blind man, he wants to know if he really wants to see the world as it is and whether he is ready to respond, especially to those most in need. He asks us the same question.

Do we really want to see the world as it is?

Who has helped you see the world and others with open and compassionate eyes?

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

St Charles Lwanga and Companions

"Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her." Mk 12:23

When the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection, tried to trap Jesus in a silly argument about which of a woman's seven husbands would be her husband in the afterlife, Jesus refuses to take the bait. The Sadducees are stuck trying to be right and use logic to reinforce their argument, but Jesus insists that the after life is not about marrying or giving in marriage, but in accepting the gift of living with God forever. Failing to appreciate this free gift of God, the Sadducees walked away thinking they won the argument while the crowd who listened to Jesus drew even closer to him.

Not infrequently, we are like the Sadducees. Insisting that we are right in an argument in order to win, we jeopardize our relationship with both friends and foes, making it very difficult to find common ground in the next go round. Without a relationship, even simple conversations become problematic and awkward. and that is what happens to the Sadducees. Embarrassed and confused by Jesus they look for other opportunities to prove their point and lose any chance to hear the transforming word of God. Unless we listen to the Lord with an open spirit, the same can happen to us.

Today, ask God for the gift of listening with an open heart.

When has your pride interfered with your ability to hear the truth?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Silly Arguments

 "Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her." Mk 12:23

When the Sadducees, who denied the Resurrection, tried to trap Jesus in a silly argument about which of a woman's seven husbands would be her husband in the afterlife, Jesus refuses to take the bait. The Sadducees are stuck trying to be right and use logic to reinforce their argument, but Jesus insists that the after life is not about marrying or giving in marriage, but in accepting the gift of living with God forever. Failing to appreciate this free gift of God, the Sadducees walked away thinking they won the argument while the crowd who listened to Jesus drew even closer to him.

Not infrequently, we are like the Sadducees. Insisting that we are right in an argument in order to win, we jeopardize our relationship with both friends and foes, making it very difficult to find common ground in the next go round. Without a relationship, even simple conversations become problematic and awkward. and that is what happens to the Sadducees. Embarrassed and confused by Jesus they look for other opportunities to prove their point and lose any chance to hear the transforming word of God. Unless we listen to the Lord with an open spirit, the same can happen to us.

Today, ask God for the gift of listening with an open heart.

When has your pride interfered with your ability to hear the truth?

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 Isis slaughtering Christians, the ongoing effects of the sexual abuse scandal, and the failure of many to raise their families with faith and religious practice 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?

Monday, May 31, 2021

St Justin, Martyr

 "I thank the Lord and I praise him. I bless the name of the Lord." Sir 51:12

Justin, Martyr must have been a great help to his contemporaries. A philosopher who found the Gospel to be compelling and true, he was an apologist, someone whose intelligence and insight allowed him both to explain and defend the teachings of Jesus, even in the face of persecution.

People like Justin are prized in every age, especially by those committed to a Gospel life but who feel inadequate to defend their choices themselves. Apologists free us from trying to comprehend something that in the end is a mystery by assuring us that our commitments are rooted in something more real than our own needs.

Of course, Justin is not honored today solely because he was a good or insightful teacher and mentor to the early Christian community. We prize Justin's memory because his commitment to the Lord was so deep and lasting, he was willing to die for it, and while all of us hope for this kind of faith, few of us have it. Justin's faith was more than careful reasoning and deep inquiry. It was his way of being in the world and being saved. So it is for all of us when we submit to the gift of faith.

Today, thank God for the inestimable gift of faith.

What aspect or teaching of the Gospel is most difficult for you to understand or accept?

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Visitation of Mary

 "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zep 3:14



The Visitation of Mary is another of the gospel scenes that has fascinated and challenged Christians forever. A young woman, newly pregnant, visits her newly pregnant older relative, and spends three months with her.

What was their first meeting like? How did they spend most days? What kinds of conversations did they have? Because we have no answers to these questions, we supply the ones our reflection and prayer generate. This is good, something all of us ought to do regularly with the mysteries of faith. 

How we imagine Mary and Elizabeth together not only gives us insight into their relationship, it tells us much about where we are in life and faith. Are we joyful about being "pregnant" with the living God? Are we anxious to let others know about how being the "bearer of Good News" affects us and changes our life on a daily basis? 

Listening to and reading the reflections of newly pregnant women teaches us that everything changes in a woman's life when she knows she is pregnant. Not only do her eating habits change, she becomes very conscious of getting extra rest when possible, and is more careful driving a car. Simply put, a pregnant woman starts to live, not solely for herself but for the child she is carrying, and in this she teaches us one of the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. 

Believers in Jesus, knowing they have been saved, live for others, and while this attitude and conversion is tested everyday, there is no doubt about our call. We are disciples challenged to announce Good News by the way we live for others.

Today, visit someone struggling with life, even in your own home.

What have been the joys of being Christian in your life?

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Most Holy Trinity

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." 2 Cor 13:13

God is a relationship.  We need to chew on this notion for a while. We might also say that God as Trinity is perfect love. Whatever we say, however, will be inadequate. When we are searching for ways to understand who God is, we can only speak analogously. We can say God is like something we know, a marriage for instance. When a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man unconditionally they create something new, and I don't necessarily mean a child. Whenever anyone loves another unconditionally and receives love unconditionally, something new emerges. In God, that someone is the Holy Spirit.

Too heady? Perhaps, but we are trying to get our heads around a mystery, and while words will always be inadequate, we must try. Simply put, we reflect the Trinity when we look at one another with awe and wonder, and allow this communion to proclaim the Good News. It is not so much what we say, but how we treat one another that witnesses to the glory of God as a communion of persons.

Today, pray that all your relationships will speak of God's presence and peace.

Whose love for you has been so unconditional that it led you to believe more deeply in God's unconditional love?

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Cleverness of Jesus

 “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”... So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Mt 21:24, 26Rgw 

From time to time, all of us try to ignore or bypass uncomfortable situations. That there are more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City alone, many of whom are working for much less than a living wage, is a scandal that begs for a solution. A friend regularly offers you suggestions on how to avoid paying taxes that you know are legitimate and you say nothing. While silence is sometimes the prudent response to situations like this, it can also be uncharitable and sinful not to speak up.

Jesus could very well have ignored the chief priests and their questions about the legitimacy of John the Baptist's ministry, but he chose to use their inquiries both to make them uncomfortable and to take a stand. The elders knew that if they said John's baptism was of God, they would have validated his ministry, and if they said John was an impostor, the crowd would have attacked them. When they choose to say nothing, the chief priests demonstrate their weakness. It is clear that they are not really concerned about John's ministry, but only trying to trap Jesus in order to undermine his work. When Jesus turns the question on them, their nastiness and dishonesty are exposed.

If we are followers of Jesus, we need to think hard and long about how to respond to evil. When immigrants are being cheated or people are avoiding legitimate taxes, everyone is effected. More important, by too often remaining silent, we fail to live the Gospel we pretend to embrace.

Today, pray for the courage to speak up and work for those whose lives are being ruined because of greed.

Have you been in a situation where you knew you had to speak up?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Asking in Prayer

 

"Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours."
Mk 11:25

Jesus is clear with his disciples. Do not be afraid of God. Don't think you can bother God, or pester him. God is waiting for us to draw close and to seek from him everything we need. While it is important to speak with God as a trusted friend, we must also realize that even our closest friends sometimes hesitate to help us, unsure of whether their response is really in our self interest.

In recent years, spiritual writers have tweaked our understanding of intercessory or petitionary prayer, urging us not simply to ask God for what we need or to help others, but to ask God to make us available to God for God's will for ourselves or others. This minor shift in how we pray can be very helpful in teaching us how to be for God and God's desire in all things.

We do this well in other areas of our lives. Think for instance of those times you asked a spouse or friend how you might help them in the kitchen or in preparing for a gathering. Anxious to do only that which will really help, we avoid imposing our suggestions upon others. Rather, we offer them our time and talent in a way they can use.

Today, ask God to make you available to God for God's work in the world.

What is it like for you when a friend offers to do anything you want?

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Isolation

 "As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging." Mk 10:46 

A older friend, struggling with his hearing and beginning to feel very isolated, told me he would have preferred to lose the use of his eyes than his ears. Embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves, he found himself not participating in conversations and shying away from communal gatherings. Though he has hearing aids, he still often feels alone in a group and ignored by people with whom he often had enjoyable conversations.

Whether one is struggling with blindness or deafness is not the point of today's Gospel. The isolation and loneliness that accompanies the loss of any our faculties is painful, unnerving and confusing, especially in a society that often looked at physical infirmities as punishment for sin, and it is this to which Jesus addresses himself. The Lord wants us to feel and be an integral part of his body, the church. Anything that inhibits or limits this participation is his concern, and should be ours.

Sometimes, although we see and hear perfectly well, we fail to respond to others who are struggling. Too busy, too self absorbed or too compulsed by the need to succeed, we are blind and deaf to the needy. Advent is a good time to open our eyes and ears to anyone, especially members of our family, who is struggling.

Today, listen to someone you normally avoid.

What have you been privileged to see or hear that opened your heart to the Gospel?