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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Jesus, The Flowing Waters of Salvation

 "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Jon 3:4

Jonah's challenge is both similar and very different from the apostle's. Jonah must walk through Nineveh and remind its citizens that unless they reform, their entire city will be destroyed. In this aspect of his ministry Jonah is a forerunner of the apostles, but Jonah is reluctant to assume his new role. In fact, he hopes he fails. His dislike of the Ninevites is deep. He does not want them to reform and hopes that God will destroy them.

The apostles, on the other hand, while no doubt having their own prejudices, are not reluctant at all to follow Jesus. Jesus' personality and power draw them like fresh water in the desert. They do not hesitate leaving their boats and their families to follow the one who promises a new reign and a new world order.

There is a bit of Jonah and the apostles in all of us. Because no one can escape hurt, like Jonah we sometimes harbor and hold onto painful memories that cling to us like an ink stain on a new shirt. We scrub and launder the shirt over and over, but the stain remains. Though we know we have no choice but to find a new shirt, we cling to what seemed so clean and fresh but is now ruined. Unless we change shirts, we will be unable to begin again, and that is exactly what the apostles do. Because the law as they heard it interpreted left them cold and lifeless, they follow Jesus, the living water and are born again.

Today, let go of anything that is keeping you from the enjoying the living water of faith.

Who has been like water in the desert for you?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Not Blaming Others

 "When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'” 

We are often tempted to blame behaviors that upset us on mental illness. Mental illness is an easy target, and while we need to be sensitive to anyone who suffers psychologically, we also need to recognize that some people choose to behave in ways that upset others despite the cost to themselves.

Jesus regularly chooses to behave in ways that upset the authorities and his family. He allows  bleeding women to touch him, he reaches out for lepers and the blind, and he ignores some Sabbath laws for a greater good. Though his relatives want to protect themselves from the shame that comes to them because a relative breaks the law, Jesus continues to interpret the law in ways that protect the broken, the poor and the voiceless. We have the same mission.

Today, pray for those you don't understand or agree with.

Whose unconventional life impacted you for good?

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Protection of Unborn Children

 “The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price,  he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Mt 13:46

Often great thinkers and saints come along at a time in church history when there is division, even chaos, and rage. St Francis of Assisi changed his society not by being upwardly mobile, but by choosing to live as a poor person among the poorest of the poor in Assisi. Thomas Becket famously said: "I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people whether clerk or lay." And Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw a million people dying on the streets of Calcutta and decided to respond to them with love when no one else wanted to see them. All of them were pearls of great price.

Our task today seems very similar. Sometimes the Catholic church is known more for what it condemns than what it promotes, a comprehensive concern for the human family. While some in the press challenge the church’s condemnation of abortion as limiting a woman's legitimate freedom, the bishops remind us that we must have an “option for the poor and vulnerable," especially unborn children as well as promote workers rights, provide health care for all and welcome refugees fleeing violence and political oppression if we are going to have an authentically formed Catholic conscience. 

Today, practice virtue and justice.

What do you think it means to be a faith filled citizen in the United States today?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

St Agnes

 "He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd." Mk 3:9

Being ready for whatever comes each day is everyone's goal, but often difficult to do. When we are busy with a matter that demands our full attention, it can be irritating to be interrupted, especially when we determine that our time is precious.  This is not the way of Jesus!

Today's scripture suggests that the apostles and disciples should expect to be interrupted. More, they should be ready to respond. The posture of servant demands that Jesus' followers think more about the poor and lowly who are looking to Jesus for nourishment than their own needs or plans.

A stance so simple should not be confusing or awkward for the disciples, but it is. Too often the disciples forget who they are and why Jesus came. Sound familiar? The lesson today is straightforward. Get ready to welcome anyone who comes seeking faith. Nothing is more important than the discipleship to which we have been called. Stay alert to the seekers all around you. They need the fullness of the Gospel.

Today, make the way of the Lord less cluttered for others.

Who helped you when you were lost and in need?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Courage of Jesus

 "'Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?' But they remained silent...The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death." Mk 3: 3, 6

The essence of Jesus' message is other centeredness, a virtue that is both difficult and dangerous. It is difficult because it demands that we think of others first, even when they haven't earned our attention or concern, but Jesus is clear when he tells us that it is the sick who need a physician, not the healthy. The gospel demands patience, consistency and compassion, but when the other person ignores our outstretched hand or pushes us away, we can be easily discouraged.

Other centeredness is also dangerous. Too often wanting to please others or being afraid of disappointing them, we worry more about our goodness than the other's need. Anxious to "fix" the sick as a way of proving our fidelity to God, we ignore others in need, even members of our own family. Having a good "soul friend" can help us avoid this danger. All of us need someone to show us how to let go of our pride and will in order to let God do God's work.

Today, pray for the gift of discernment to do God's will not your own.

When is it most difficult for you to be other centered?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sabbath

 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mk 2:28

When Jesus reminds the Pharisees that his disciples are hungry and need not worry about a particular Sabbath prohibition about picking grain on the Sabbath, they are scandalized. How could this young rabbi presume to to interpret the law so loosely? Jesus is clear. While the Sabbath is important and necessary, it should no be an unnecessary burden on people's hearts, especially those who struggle to make a living.

The same is true for the obligation to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday. While the law of the church regarding Sunday Eucharist is important because it helps us honor God, and remember we are a community of faith who travel together in Christ, it should never get in the way of common sense. If we are sick or age makes it difficult and dangerous to get to mass safely, we need to find other ways to honor God and support the community.  If we are more afraid of breaking the law than praising God, we can tie ourselves in knots and become totally self absorbed rather than celebrating the God who is always near.

Today, ask God to help you see the big picture about faith.

What does it mean to you to be an adult Catholic?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

New Wineskins

 "No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse." Mk 2:21

In the Hebrew bible a garment signified covering a person's sinful condition. Jesus was challenging his fellow Jews to put aside their old garments which were fraying and welcome the new. Jesus was the new garment of salvation, the new hope, the Messiah. Unfortunately, some see this passage as suggesting that the Old Law no longer had any value, while in fact Jesus always presented himself as an observant Jew who valued the Torah but came to announce a totally new interpretation of the Law.

It is always difficult to recognize and accept the need for change, especially if the status quo has been good to you. A labor union member never wants to give back hard won advances. A politician resists compromising on key issues and grocery stores do not want to lower their prices except to encourage people to buy what they don't need. However, sometimes substantive change is necessary for the good of the entire community. Jesus came to correct Jewish leaders especially and challenge them to step back from their policies and interpretation in order to take a new look at God's dream for the world. When they could not do this, Jesus condemned them.

Letting children grow up and discern how best they can live the values so important to their family is essential if we hope the next generation will internalize what they have learned. If we only do what we have been taught because questioning might lead to rancor and hurt feelings, we will never be able to take the next step in life and faith. We need to encourage one another to live adult Gospel lives. Asking hard questions, being open to necessary change and risking new ways of making the Good News known will serve God and the faith community well in the long run.

Today, take a step back from your faith practices in order not to miss the forest for the trees.

What do you think of Pope Francis as he asks Catholics to reimagine their faith?