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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Our Leprosy

 "A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, 'If you wish, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, 'I do will it. Be made clean.'” Mk 1:40


That Jesus listened to the desperate pleading of the leper and allowed him to draw near was remarkable. Jesus knew that by associating with the leper he became unclean himself, but it did not matter. The leper was suffering not just from the disease but from the isolation imposed on him and all lepers.

Lepers had to tear their clothes and call out "unclean" whenever anyone approached them. What a terrible punishment; what an awful life, but the leper who calls to Jesus for help ignores the teaching of rabbis and so does Jesus. After Jesus cleanses the leper he warns him to tell no one. Of course, the man newly made whole and freed from the desperate loneliness that was his life could not keep quiet. Who could remain silent about such a wonderful gift?

There is a leper in all of us. We obsess about our sins, want no one to see as we really are and even try to hide from God. That the society and church sometimes shun us is not the deepest pain. Too often we isolate ourselves through useless guilt. Only when we remember that we have been cleansed once and for all through baptism and forgiven over and over by Christ's redeeming love, are we really free. When this happens we cannot remain quiet. We must find our voice and announce the Good News. God wants us to draw near and desires to set us free. We have only to ask for help and healing will come.

Today, tell someone you have been made clean by the love of God.

How do you respond to people who others think of as unclean?

Friday, February 12, 2021

God wants to Feed us

 "The all ate and were satisfied." Mk 6:43


Knowing who you are and to whom you belong is a foundational first step on the road to spiritual health.  Every adult believer has struggled mightily at times with their identity as Christians and Catholics. Sometimes it is a particular belief or practice that makes us uncomfortable or leaves us full of doubt, and this is especially true when we are struggling with other issues in our life. When a marriage collapses or a parent nears death, we can wrestle with the teaching of the church or its beliefs and practices. Why can't I remarry, some ask?  Doesn't God want me to be happy? Or why is my mother suffering so?  Doesn't God care?

It is at times like this that that we need to remember that God wants to feed us,  but we must present ourselves to him as hungry.  When we are able to remember that God is in love with us, and is our companion through every dark forest or imposing mountain climb, we are able to put aside the particular stumbling blocks along the way and eat the food he offers us.

If we remember that to ask God for help everyday, not just when we are need, God will give us the faith to live with the questions and burdens which have no easy answer. That God is with us in the middle of the doubt, fear and anger is the promise upon which we rely.  God is here. God lives within us and among us. God is enough.

Today, ask God to help you live with the questions you face.

What does it take for you to be satisfied?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Transitions with God

 “Ephphatha!' (that is, 'Be opened!') And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly." Mk 7:34-35

So many aspects of life need to be opened over and over in our lives. We need to have open spirits, open hearts and open minds. Without a life open to God and God's direction, we risk missing the voice of the Spirit who Christ promised us would always be present within and among us. Remaining open to God's Spirit can be especially troubling when we are in pain.

An older friend has remained engaged in life by reading. She reads the newspaper everyday and a novel at least once a week. She also reads history and theology, but recently she has been grappling with vision problems. Almost immobile, my friend is struggling to understand and accept this new burden. The openness she has had her entire life, and which she so prized, is difficult to maintain. Though she knows that she can use her other senses to engage the world around her, her eyes have always been her primary path to enjoyment and conversation.

How we manage the transitions that life presents us is the measure of our faith. Walking with others in pain, reaching out to the hungry, and accepting the limitations that come to everyone, while seeming to close us off to what we have always known, in fact allows God to do God's work in and through us.

Today, open your heart to whatever God asks.

What are the most difficult transitions you have faced?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Resisting Despair

 “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Mt 15:27

The Canaanite woman in today's gospel who asks Jesus to free her daughter of a demon is a remarkable example of someone who, despite overwhelming odds. refuses to be put off by Jesus' insistence that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Far from allowing herself to be distracted by the rejection of Jesus and his disciples, she continues to advocate for her daughter. That she compares herself to a dog eating scraps from its master's table finally gets Jesus to look at her and acknowledge her faith. 

Giving into discouragement or despair is not an option for Christians when they advocate for the poor. No matter the cost, believers must continue to follow the example of the Canaanite woman and work together with other people of faith for a just life for all in our society and around the world. (Charity in Truth)While we might not be successful all the time, the justice of our cause will surely move the hearts and minds of other believers to work for a society that refuses to allow some to live in destitution while others hoard resources.

Today, ask he Lord to teach you how to help the poor.

What aspects of life make you feel most powerless?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

St Scholastica

 “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it.” St. Gregory the Great

Every year the office of readings brings a smile to my face. St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict, knowing her death was near, asked Benedict to stay the night at her convent and allow their conversation about spiritual concerns to continue. Benedict, unwilling to break the monastic rule forbidding monks to sleep outside the monastery, refused. Scholastica prays, asking God to intervene. Suddenly, a fierce thunder storm breaks out. Benedict, (I think with a hint of smile) asks his sister what she has done and she responds, “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it.” Three days later Scholastica died.

Prayer is not intended to change the course of human events, but sometimes it helps.  How important it is each day to stop, ask God to make us aware of his loving guidance and enter more deeply into his presence. Think about what happens to us each time we pause to remember the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the home bound, and those trapped inside countries at war. Prayer allows us, even forces us, to get outside out own worlds and concerns to allow the Spirit to lift us up, center us and strengthen us not to be afraid to let go of our own will and desires. Prayer may not cause a thunderstorm each day, but it lets God do God's work in and around us.

Today, don't be afraid to ask God to free you from rigid obligation and lead you into love.

How do you understand prayer/


Monday, February 8, 2021

Tradition

 "You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on." Mk 7:13

Ours is a traditional faith. We value all that has gone before us, and treasure the memory of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The word traditional is telling. It means to hand over to the next generation that which has been given to us by our ancestors.

Catholics are traditional in this sense, not only in our parish faith communities, but also in our homes. Rituals are passed from one generation to the next as gifts that carry our deepest values. Almost every culture has its own rituals that complement the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Babka, for instance, is a rich rising bread that people in the Ukraine bake for Easter. Families break pieces off and share it among themselves in order to remember that Christ's rising from the dead is a rich and sweet memory, but like every tradition, it can undermine our  most basic values. When we worry more about celebrating the ritual correctly than the values it represents, we fall into the same sin as the Pharisees. Tradition becomes a trap that trips people up rather than an evocative celebration that sets us free.

Today, bless yourself with holy water and remember your baptism.

What are your favorite family rituals?


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Let there be Light

 “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Gen 1:2-3

The first book of the bible is thrilling. Dramatic and moving, Genesis introduces us to a loving God who creates all that is as a gift for us and our joy. Light, sky, earth, sea, moon and sun are all legacies that we are to enjoy and share in the name of a living God.

Hidden within these gifts is also a subtle warning. Creation belongs to all, not to a particular race or religion. God spreads God's goodness to everyone like a blanket on a sleeping child. God's love is not something to hoard or possess, but to enjoy and celebrate. So glad are we for God's protection and largesse that we are compelled to tell the world of God's love and work diligently for justice.

The bible is full of stories about God's insistence that we distribute God's gifts freely among all. Today's gospel reminds us that people had only to touch the tassel of Jesus' cloak to be healed. Jesus did not push anyone in need away, but allowed all, even the unclean who believed, to experience his restorative power.

Today, be grateful for the light of creation and friends.

What of creation speaks most loudly to you of God's goodness?