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Saturday, March 27, 2021

Palm Sunday

 "They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Mt 21:8-9

Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem is festive, big and frightening all at once. For a local healer and rabbi like Jesus to accept the adulation of the crowd was dangerous. There is little doubt that Jesus knew he was in trouble with the leaders of the Jewish community who now had evidence that Jesus was not correcting those who were hailing him as Messiah. It would not be long before they hauled him before Pilate demanding that Jesus be put to death for the sin of idolatry. All of this makes Palm Sunday a schizoid kind of feast.

One moment we are shouting with the crowds welcoming Jesus into the holy city, and just a short while later, we are witnessing his trial and condemnation. The church offers us these confusing scenes on Palm Sunday for an important reason. Things rarely are as they seem. It was difficult for Jesus' disciples to understand that Jesus would suffer and die in his role as Messiah, and it is difficult for us. Though we all know we have grown through suffering, and sometimes even found our true identity, when we are suffering, growth in faith seems far away. That is why we have Holy Week each year. We need to remember how far God is willing to go for us. That God would send his son makes sense. That the Lord would have to suffer does not until we realize that God will do anything to convince us of his love.

Today, pray to hear the power of God's love for us throughout Holy Week.

What about Holy Week most speaks to your spiritual heart?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Facing Fear

"The Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” Jn 11:46

Fear is a terrible burden. In today's Gospel the leaders of the Jews are fearful that if they don't do something about Jesus, his influence will increase and their ability to control and direct everyday Jews will diminish. Sure that this development will lead to their loss of face and the destruction of the temple, they begin to plan for Jesus' death.

While we might not plan to kill others, our fear can push us to terrible thoughts and actions. How often have we spoken about others negatively, not because they are dangerous, but because we don't agree with them. How often do we fail to speak on behalf of those who are most in need because we are afraid of being labelled as weak and lacking in character.

As Lent continues to unfold during the second year of Covid, we need to ask ourselves how best we can live and announce the Gospel despite its demands. When many people lack the basic necessities because they lost their jobs,  Christians must speak on their behalf without worrying how we might be judged or dismissed.

Today, pray to know how to help those who lack food, shelter and work.

Can you think of people who helped you when you were in real need?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Enduring Hurt

 “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” Jn 10:32

The drama in John's gospel as we approach Holy Week is building. Everyday people are drawn to Jesus, but the Jewish leaders "pick up rocks to stone Jesus," and as we all know there are many kinds of rocks with which we can hurt others.

Sometimes it as simple as a friend or family member ignoring or turning away from us when we are in need that feels like a rock to the heart. At other times, we undermine or call into question the good will of another by our silence or our unwillingness to defend them. But whenever we pick up rocks and throw them at others, we are not living the Gospel. Thank God, there are also a thousand different ways to put down the rocks we have picked up to defend ourselves and reach out for those most in need.

Today, ask God to let you see someone with whom you are struggling as God sees them.

What kind of rocks are the most difficult for you to endure?

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Annunciation

“"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'" Lk 1 29-20



When the unexpected comes, it often unnerves us. News of a close friend's sickness or the failure of a marriage we admired leaves us speechless and wondering what happened. In our busyness did we miss something important? Were we too self absorbed to notice the struggles others were having? 

The evangelist Luke paints a picture of Mary that emphasizes both her fear and her faith, a stance that encourages us not to be afraid of the unexpected, but to acknowledge our fear and pray for faith at the same time. We should not assume that Mary understood everything that was happening to her when Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She was human, like all of us, and fear would have been a natural response to such a bold request, but Luke also wants us to celebrate Mary's faith that let's go and accepts her new role.

Responding to God at times of crisis is made more possible when we develop a spiritual life on a daily basis. Praying and reflecting about God's life among us in word and sacrament, and celebrating and serving those forgotten or ignored makes is possible to prepare ourselves for life as it comes. If we want to have Mary's honesty and humility, we must practice our faith every day.

Today, listen for the voice of God embedded in every thing you do and everyone you meet.

What about Mary's life calls you to live your faith more deeply?

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Standing Together in Suffering

 "You should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”  Dn 3:18

The remarkable story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego always lifts my spirit. Thrown into a raging fire because they refused to to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's God or the golden statue he made, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego assure the king that their God will protect and save them even if he allows them to die in the fire. 

That they are protected from the fire, while spectacular, is almost incidental because they are living the simple truth that saints have always insisted upon. They serve God, pray and care for the needy, not to be successful, but to be faithful. It is the failure to live faith in this way that condemns the servant in today's gospel who, after being forgiven a large debt, refuses to forgive his fellow servant in a small matter.

God protects, God forgives and God sets us free over and over to begin again. Made in God's image, we are to save one another from the "fire" of shame that reduces people to objects of need, rather than subjects of our compassion. If God is compassionate, understanding and accepting, so must we have hearts of kindness and mercy

Today, offer someone who cannot repay you an ear of compassion.

Has anyone ever stood with you in suffering without judgment?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Not belonging to the World

"You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world." Jn 8:23

Feeling like a stranger can be very beneficial, especially if we are traveling in a foreign country. Only those with too much chutzpah think they belong everywhere. Poor people almost never feel this way, but this is not to say they have no pride or sense of themselves. Rather, because their poverty makes them dependent on others, they are slow to judge, demand or condemn. Living in a country occupied by Romans, the Jewish community walked cautiously through life, anxious not to lose the few privileges they had, and it was their humility that make it easy for Jesus to change their lives by assuring them that he did not belong to the world either.

Although the Lord did not come among us to free us politically, he gives us a much greater gift by inviting us to be a part of his Body, God's field, God's building. Reminding us that we are built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Paul assures us the as long as Jesus is our cornerstone, the ground of our faith, it does not matter how rich, important or powerful we are in the world. All that matters is our commitment to be the Christ in the world.

Today, glory in the gift of your relationship with Christ.

How has faith given you a sense of belonging?

Sunday, March 21, 2021

God's Unfathomable Mercy

 "Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful of the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but theirs is not a Gospel response. Jesus demands that we look at our own sin every time we are tempted to condemn others.

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?