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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Soft Hearts

 "If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts." (Ps 95)

All of us have hard hearts from time to time, and while it is understandable, it hurts others, especially those close to us. Just as important it hurts us. When are hearts are hard we let nothing and no one in, and we pay for it. While we can hear others on the most superficial of levels, it is almost impossible to respond to friends and family with compassion and understanding. We are so wrapped up in our struggles that we ignore the needs of everyone around us.

The prophets knew this well, and it is the reason they regularly resisted God's call to announce good news and remind people to listen to God. When no one is listening, it is very difficult to keep speaking, yet that is what God demands of us. Because we never know when someone's heart will soften, we must continue to live and proclaim the Gospel. It does not matter if we are heard. It is not about our success. It is about being faithful to God as God is faithful to us.

It often surprises us, especially after a period of hard heartedness, that God never stopped listening to us and urging us to transformation. Neither do our closest friends abandon us when we fail to respond to them.  They may take a step away from us in order to protect themselves, but they do not abandon us, and it is then that we realize what true friendship is. When our hearts do soften, it is good to remember, especially when friends fail to respond to us, that their hearts might be hard for a little while, and our only task is to wait with patience as God waits for us.

Today, ask God to soften your heart.

What will it take to soften your heart for the sake of the Gospel?

Friday, January 29, 2021

Faith Overcomes Fear

 "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1

All of us doubt. We doubt ourselves and the adequacy of our skills. We doubt the reliability of friends and family. We doubt the ability of our civic leaders to govern, and we doubt God, or more precisely, we doubt the God we created or think we learned about in school or church. Hearing that God is all powerful, we sometimes naively think that God's power allows God to heal at will, depose unethical leaders and make the world a more just place. But saying that God is all powerful does not mean that God takes away our freedom. God's power is much more extensive then our self centered desire or limited view of the world.

Letting go of the fear that God will not act for us and for our good is the greatest challenge most of us face. Because we do not understand all of God's ways, we panic and begin to pray only for what we see and perceive, and while this is understandable, we must pray to let go totally into God's good hands and trust. Practicing this every day is the essence of prayer.

Today, pray for an increase in faith and to accept God's mercy.

What aspects of faith are most challenging to you?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Mustard Seeds

 "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush,and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'" Mt 13: 31-32

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, telling them that God's reign is like a mustard seed. When someone from the crowd, exultant and full of himself, proclaims that he will follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus reminds him that he has no place to lay his head. Is the fellow from the crowd willing to become a nomad and follow Jesus into the wilderness? Challenge after challenge faces the Apostles and disciples.

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?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

St Thomas Aquinas

 "Christ is mediator of a new Covenant." Heb 9:15

No theologian in the history of the Christian west has been more influential in shaping theological thought than Thomas Aquinas. A prolific writer whose works include the Summa Theologica, his thought also helped Christians probe the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, as a path to new insights about the Gospels.

There is a wonderful lesson in Thomas' life for all of us. As the 21st century unfolds we need to find new and probing ways of helping the Gospel live in this age, and while the wisdom of the past will always be an aid in this regard, it must be supplemented by tools contemporary believers recognize and use. How the Internet and other social media will open up paths to a new Evangelization is still to be seen, but surely needed.

Today, be wise. Say nothing. Just listen.

What thinker or social media has helped you enter the Gospel message more deeply?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Rocky Ground

 "A sower went out to sow his seed...Some seed fell on rocky ground " Luke 8:4, 5

There is rocky ground in all our lives, and while we have to acknowledge it and accept it, we should not obsess about it. Whether our early years were difficult and confusing, or your marriage was sour almost from the beginning, we need to find a way not to let our dark days dissuade us from living with joy and hope. Our parents or our partners may have disappointed us, but God cannot abandon us, and faith demands that we ask God to be the ground of our lives. Only then can we be sure that no matter how rocky life is or might become, God's love will sustain us.

Letting God find the good ground in our lives and asking for the grace to let go of our failures is an important step on our spiritual journey. If we worry too much about the rocky ground, we will miss the good God is already doing within and through us.

Today, be grateful for the God has done in you. Let go of failure.

How has God surprised you on your pilgrim journey?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Sts Timothy and Titus

 "I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy." 2 Tim 1:4

St Paul's affection and love for Timothy is one of the few instances in the New Testament that allow us to experience the passion present in the first disciples. Paul reminds Timothy of    his roots. Timothy's mother and grandmother were filled with faith and Paul cites their commitment in urging Timothy to live the spirit of the Gospel in a similar way.

Seeing old friends, especially those who strive to live an integrated faith, is always a joy. While many have abandoned the practice of the faith, many more have deepened their commitment by daily prayer, reading and reflection. Some have joined religious book groups; others have entered renewal programs and scripture courses. Some have even become spiritual directors for others.

Joy is an important virtue. Nothing is more able to reflect the delight and gratitude that comes to us in faith. When people encounter believers whose joy is transparent and authentic, they cannot not be impressed and attracted to the One who gives us joy and proclaims through us the  freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Today, seek out an old friend and share your faith and joy.

Who or what brings you joy and hope?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Conversion of St Paul

 "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Acts 22:7

The drama of St Paul's conversion is compelling. Travelling to Damascus, determined to capture and persecute more followers of the "way", the gospel of Jesus, Paul is startled by a great light and, unsure of what is happening, falls to the ground. His companions see the light but don't hear the voice of Jesus. Only Paul hears the Lord's question, and frightened, asks what he should do. Jesus' response is cryptic but clear. Paul is to go to Damascus but his mission has been changed. No longer will he persecute Christians, he will join them.

If only faith was this clear for us. Our conversion, which is ongoing but often happens in hidden ways, is essential to our Christian life, but most of us have to read the signs of  times in the light of the Gospel to know the path we should take. While this might sound difficult, and is surely not as dramatic as Paul's conversion, it is easier if we have a spiritual companion and pray regularly. The freedom to speak with another about our own inner journey and our place in the world guides us, through prayer, to make good, thought through and felt through decisions that foster our ongoing conversion.

Today, speak with a soul friend and pray quietly for ten minutes.

What do you need to do to be open to God's ongoing call?