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Saturday, February 6, 2021

Faith in Dark Days

 "Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade,  a hireling who waits for his wages." Jb 7:1

The world often gets very small when we are struggling. Danger also makes the world small. When the disciples found themselves struggling to row against the wind in the middle of the night, they did not recognize Jesus coming to them across the sea. Consumed by their fear, that had forgotten the miracle of the loaves and fish which they had just witnessed. Clearly hoping that Jesus show of power was a sign that he would soon lead them into Jerusalem and rid their holy city of the Romans, they failed to understand his message. In fact, the text suggests, their "hearts were hardened."

How often when we are stressed we forget that Jesus is always with us. Determined to work through whatever problem is in front of us, we are like people trying to push back the tide or the waves of an ocean. Our independence or our personal goals become more important than our faith, and when we fail, we complain to God and sometimes even doubt God's existence. Although the Gospel continually assures us that the Lord is always near, when life gets dark, we fall into old patterns of self reliance and howl against the night when all we need to do is stop, rest and let the night play itself out.

Today, ask for the grace to walk with God no matter how slowly God seems to be moving.

Did anyone teach you to slow down in order to find God in every situation?

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Companions of St Paul Miki

 "May the Lord be glad in his works." Ps 104

Sometimes, when we celebrate a saint's liturgical feast day, we forget who the companions were. This is a shame because it cheats us from celebrating everyday people. The twenty six companions of St. Paul Miki included people, young and old, from ever walk of life.
The twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church. (Catholic Culture)
The history of our church is replete with a wonderful variety of saints and blesseds, all of whom deserve our admiration. If only we knew the stories of more ordinary people, not just bishops, priests and religious, we would understand more deeply how important it is to ask God to make us saints right where we are.

Today, pray to one of the lay men and women Japanese martyrs.

What qualities do you look for in saintly people?

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Jealousy

 

St Agatha

 "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil." St Agatha

We know almost nothing of St Agatha. That she lived in Sicily and was martyred are clear. Not much else is known, but there is a fascinating legend that grew up around her. Because she refused the advances of a suitor who wanted her to marry him and forsake her Christianity, she was tortured and died professing her total commitment to Jesus and her willingness to let him possess her.

The word possession is a difficult one. Often used to speak of the action of the devil, we resist the notion of anyone possessing us. But possession can also be used by lovers to indicate their total willingness to be with one another. In fact, poets suggest that only mutual possession can free us to love without fear. Agatha, in love with her Lord, desires this kind of possession. Hopeful that Jesus would give her the strength she needed to resist anything or anyone that would undermine her faith, Agatha asked to be especially close to Jesus, as near as a sheep to her shepherd at night.

Saints like Agatha remind us to ask ourselves how close we want to be to the Lord. Do we desire a kind of intimacy that helps us when we are weakest, when everything seems to be falling apart? Are we willing to sacrifice and risk all in order to be near the one who promises never to abandon us?

Today, ask the Lord to accept you as you are.

How do you react to the word possession?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Nothing for the Journey

 "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 it gives you, but because of the Gospel.

What draws you to a deeper belief in Christ?

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Respecting Everyone

"Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?And are not his sisters here with us?'  And they took offense at him." Mk 6:3

Fury is a strong emotion that we sometimes feel in defense of our family or children, nation or culture. Fury can also be a personal defense. If someone questions our integrity, honesty or commitment, we can react and attack them, their positions or their intelligence, anything to deflect attention from our own vulnerability.

The gospel passage we are reflecting upon is set in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. When Jesus challenges his neighbors to see him for the prophet he is, they react. How could this son of a poor carpenter pretend to be a prophet? No doubt some of them were also wondering what it was that others saw in Jesus and snidely suggested to anyone who would listen that if all the people fawning after Jesus had to live with him they would not be so sanguine about his supposed powers. No wonder they were furious.

It can be very difficult to hear the truth from people we don't like or respect, but that is the challenge of the Gospel. Until and unless we are ready to hear God's word in any form God desires to communicate it, we will miss many opportunities for transformation and growth. Asking for the grace to hear God each day, no matter the messenger or the message, is a powerful Lenten practice.

Today, listen to someone you do not respect.

What areas of your life and faith are most difficult to examine?

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Presentation of the Lord

 "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him." Lk 2:32

The gospel scene of the infant Jesus being presented in the temple is remarkable, an epiphany of sorts. Entering the temple with his mother and father, he was every Jewish first born boy. Presented to God for God's purposes, he left the temple the Messiah. Recognized and lauded by Simeon as the One promised by God, and spoken about to everyone who would listen by the prophetess Anna, in many ways Jesus' mission began when, as an infant, he left the temple and grew in wisdom and grace because the favor of the Lord was upon him.

Though we know little about the childhood of Jesus, the Presentation offers us a glimpse into his humanity. Though recognized by Simeon as the one for whom he had been waiting all his life, he returns with his parents to his hometown to grow up like any child. Whether he was remarkable or insightful we do not know. What we do know is that he didn't skip over anything that makes all of us the unique persons we are. No doubt he had childhood illnesses, struggled with the Torah, worked alongside his father to learn a craft, and played with other children his age, all of which prepared him to be the Prophet he became. 

Committed like Moses to freeing his people, Jesus seems never to have wavered as an adult from doing his Father's will. Knowing his Father was always near, he teaches us the same simple lesson. God is always near. We have only to live life as fully and honestly as possible and let it unfold as God desires.

Today, be yourself and let God take you where you need to go.

What do you think your parents dreamed about for you?







Sunday, January 31, 2021

Accepting God's Compassion

“Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Mk 5:19

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone. Jesus offers this same consolation in today's gospel. Healing a possessed man who was living among the tombs, in  a cemetery, he sends him home and asks only that he speak to his family about the Lord's compassion.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Suffering is not good, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?