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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Giving our Lives for Others

 "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Jn 12:27-28

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 had this same consolation in today's gospel. Troubled and upset, he hears a voice of consolation and confirmation from heaven which allows him to trust that the suffering he will endure will be for God's glory.

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?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Defending Jesus

 "Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, 'Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?'”

It is always heartening to read about heroes whether they be Christian saints or national icons. From St Paul who, after his conversion, went all over the known world as a disciple of Jesus without counting the cost, to Dorothy Day who was unafraid to confront Cardinal Spellman about his support for the Second World War, there are people whose interpretation of the Gospel compels them to speak and act, especially on behalf of the poor.

Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, also demonstrates great courage in trying to get the leaders of the Jewish people to put aside their fears that Jesus was attracting too much attention and distracting everyday Jews from living the Torah. That his challenge was not heard matters little. Nicodemus had the courage to risk his own position and power for the sake of living the law as he learned it. Like St Paul and Dorothy Day, everyday heroes always do the right thing.

Lent is a good time to ask ourselves how much we are willing to risk on behalf of the Gospel. Are we involved in any organization that works for an end to violence or poverty? Are we willing to support financially groups that work on behalf of the unemployed or under employed? Are we open to working with people who help refugees and other struggling minorities?

Today, ask yourself how much living the Gospel costs you?

Who are the heroes you most admire?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

St Joseph, Husband of Mary

 "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home." Mt 1:24a

There are many ways to wake up. Sometimes, it is simple. Our bodies tell us to pay attention. We have a headache that will not go away or we discover a skin growth that looks strange. Our bodies are telling us to pay attention and take action. At other times, especially when we take time to relax and reflect, an idea that has been percolating in our minds and hearts, takes shape. We read about Covid 19 in Africa or the plight of refugee children in Syria, and we start searching the Internet for places and organizations that are addressing these vital concerns. Waking up to the challenge of acting on the Gospel is important for our own salvation and the good of others.

Joseph, the husband of Mary, troubled by his young wife's pregnancy, wakes up. Not wanting her to be stoned, he decides to divorce her quietly. In this way, Mary will have other chances to marry and build a family. But then Joseph has a dream and when he wakes up, he knows that God wants him to marry Mary despite his misgivings. That he listens and acts upon the message he receives is critical for Joseph's salvation and ours.

Waking up to the immensity of God's love for us, while sometimes very challenging, is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only does it empower us  personally to live more freely and gratefully, it urges us to tell others the Good News of God's desire to love them more deeply an totally.

Today when you wake up, pause and let God speak a liberating word to you.

Have there been moments in your life that changed the course of your faith?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Resisting God

"I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him." Jn 5:43

Very little in life is more difficult than letting go of our own will. Even, and perhaps especially, when we are struggling with how best to go forward as a disciple of Jesus, we cling to our own opinions and desires, and often fail to ask for help. Our consolation: Jesus struggled, too.

One of the most poignant verses in the gospel of Luke has Jesus practically begging God, "Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." (Lk 22:42) Clearly, the specter of submitting himself to the horror of a painful death so threatens Jesus that he asks his Father for mercy.

We should never be too proud to ask for help to find our spiritual path. St. Paul uses the powerful and evocative image of body (1Cor 12) to remind us that eyes can see but can't walk and feet can walk but not see. Only when the parts of our body work together for the good of all can we be called the body of Christ. And even more compellingly, Paul says, "If one part(of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Today, ask for the strength to do whatever God asks.

What issues most challenge your need for control?

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

St Patrick

 (In the Archdiocese of New York where I live, the feast of St Patrick, patron of the local church, is celebrated.)

“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Jn 5:30

It should never surprise us how much our earliest experiences in life impact our adult years. When St Patrick, only 16 years old and much like Sudanese and Afghan boys today, was forced into slavery in Ireland, everything changed. Unlike some, however, Patrick's heart, despite the suffering he endured, was touched by the Irish people and after his escape from his captors, he yearned to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Though the church in Ireland is suffering great losses these days, in part because of the sexual abuse by priests and religious in the 20th century, we should not ignore the great work of Ireland's missionaries who went all over the world in the name of the Good News. Fired by the memory of St Patrick's, missionary women and men let go of their homeland and culture to be inserted in churches in North America, Africa and Asia in dizzying numbers, and their influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

We honor Patrick today, and all those fearless missionaries like him, whose faith was such that they could not be silent about how God has transformed their lives. Listen to the Saints words:
Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. The Breastplate of St. Patrick
Today, ask God to send you to someone without faith.

How have you been impacted the zeal of St Patrick and the Irish missionaries?

Monday, March 15, 2021

Dying to Self for God's Sake

 "Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh." Ez 47:9

One of the wonderful images in the Book of Revelation is the flowing river about which Ezekiel also speaks. Watering and washing every bit of land through which it flows, the river helps every thing along its banks to grow strong. Fruit trees will produce large amounts of nourishment for all every month, and every kind of fish will grow strong and multiply in its waters.

The river, of course, is the water of life that flows to all from the restored temple and it will bring new life and hope to all who enter it, which is the point. We must enter the waters of baptism, drown and be raised up again in Christ if we hope to live the Gospel. This is not an easy journey or notion. To die to self so that Christ might live is the heart of the Gospel but is not something we do intuitively. 

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

Has fasting ever brought you to a new place in the spiritual life?


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Aging and Faith

 "Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death." Jn 4:46

For the last few years I have been talking with and listening to older people, most of whom are open, honest and enjoyable conversation partners. When leading parish missions, I have encountered mostly retirees who have the time to make a parish mission and are anxious to review their lives by making serious attempts at growing in prayer and faith. Rarely defensive nor overly anxious, they are funny and fun to be with, and that is the point. We have many committed seniors in our church but I wonder whether we are taking adequate advantage of their learning, wisdom and passion.

Calling seniors passionate might surprise some readers, but it is exactly this that I experience. Anxious to pass on their faith, the older people I meet wonder just how they might do this most effectively. They pray, they listen, they serve as Eucharistic ministers in nursing homes and hospitals, they drive friends and neighbors to doctors appointments, they visit the sick and the imprisoned, and they do all of this because it is the right thing to do. Occasionally guilty because they failed to find time earlier in life to live their faith more dynamically, they know now they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are anxious to do more. Why do we fail to hear them or see them? Are older believers invisible in the church in North America much like immigrants and uneducated? How can we change this?

Today, ask someone who is older what their faith means to them.

Have you ever gained new insights and hope from listening to older people?