Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Gift of our Bodies

 "Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Lk 24:38

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. 
All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How we will see and touch others after death is not clear, but that we will be raised body and soul is.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body and the promise of bodily resurrection.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?

Friday, April 16, 2021

Seeking the Gifts of Others

 "They chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism." Acts 6:5

Acts of Apostles tells us why the Apostles chose Stephen to help them in the mission of Jesus. Stephen was "filled with faith and the Holy Spirit," but it simply names the others. Why did the Apostles choose Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas? Why we have we been chosen as disciples?

Every person has gifts, many of which are hard to see and appreciate. When someone is a good listener, we appreciate their ability to sit quietly and pay attention to us without being distracted, but we can also be frustrated when they choose not to have an opinion about our concerns. Others have the ability to articulate matters carefully and succinctly, but can also make us wonder if life is as transparent and easy as their words seem to make it.

No doubt Philip, Prochorus, Nicamor, Timn, Parmenas and Nicholas had gifts that benefited the community, but we should not expect them or our friends to have answers to every problem. Rather, we pray to be grateful for the uniqueness of what each person brings to us, and seek to make our gifts available to others. Doing this regularly will us find and celebrate our vocation.

Today, pray to hear God's daily call to live the Gospel as a gift for others.

Have you discovered gifts in others that you never knew were there?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Gamaliel's Integrity

 "If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5: 38-39

Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, warned his compatriots not to disparage the disciples of Jesus unless they were willing to risk their own commitment to the Torah. Gamaliel had a wisdom from which we could all profit. Like Jesus, he insisted that we know others by their fruits, not by their level of insight or the sophistication of their education.

The lesson continues, especially for those ministering in the developing world. Too often those of us from the so called developed world make impossible demands on people wanting to preach the gospel as ministers. Forcing folks from Senegal, for instance, to study western philosophy for two years before entering theological studies in preparation for priestly ordination, seems an exercise in overkill and might prevent future priests (to say nothing of lay ministers!) from studying the philosophies implicit in their own cultures.

Gamaliel and Jesus are clear. Judge people by the quality of their faith life. Do not risk laying heavy burdens upon them without doing a thing to help.

Today, listen to someone whose life you admire for its integrity.

What fruits of Gospel living most move you to transformation?

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

God's Generosity

 "For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit." Jn 3:34

Today's scripture reminded me of my mother's gesture when our entire family of six lived in a four room apartment. Not infrequently, one of our parent's siblings would show up for dinner unannounced. When we sat down to eat, mom would look at each of her children and nod. Her message was clear: "One meatball" or one of whatever we were eating. Guests ate first. It was a simple but clear rule. Hospitality trumped hunger!

God is like my mother. Unable to deny his listeners a full share of whatever food is available, Jesus does not ration the bread because, he wants to remind us, when we are generous, there will always be enough for everyone. Think for a moment about the twelve baskets full of bread left over after Jesus fed 5000 people, or how much wine Jesus made from water after his mother told him there was no more wine for the wedding guests. Six stone water jars each containing 20 or 30 gallons seems enough for a very big party.

Neither does Jesus ration the gift of the Spirit. Whatever we need will be available and it does not matter how much we give away. The gifts of the Spirit are limitless. There will always be enough wisdom, understanding, piety and all the rest as long as we remember that God is not stingy. There is no need to cling to the gifts of the Spirit because, in God, there is always more.

Today, be more generous than you think is reasonable.

When are you most generous to others?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Locked Doors


"During the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, and led them out." Acts 5:19

Doors are very important symbols in the New Testament, especially locked doors. Jesus appears to his apostles after his resurrection even though they are hiding "behind closed doors," and the apostles are freed by an angel after they had been put in jail by the high priest. Clearly, locked doors mean nothing to the risen Lord, and they ought to remind us that nothing can keep God away from us for long.

All of us have areas of our inner life that we ignore, deny or hide, but none of these strategies help us know and serve God more deeply. Unless we learn to open our hearts to God and for some at least, to seek spiritual direction, we will find ourselves lost more often than not. Trying to keep God at a distance might work for a while, but a spiritual director can help us recognize and attend to those areas of our life that embarrass or shame us, and even more important, a good spiritual director can help us take the risk to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's presence within and among us.

Today, let God do what God wants to do with your life.

What doors are you most likely to close to God and others?

Monday, April 12, 2021

One Heart and Mind

 "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." Acts 4:32

The ideal suggested in today's reading from Acts stretches our imagination. To be of one heart and one mind is almost impossible for most of us, even in small matters. That the early Christian community was expecting Jesus to return to take them to the place he had prepared for them was surely an incentive to live simply and to work for unity in their mission, but the passage still challenges us.

In many ways, being of one mind is not even a Christian value. Because the Catholic church so values culture and cultural difference, we expect and celebrate the way people from around the world express and articulate our faith. This is not to say that we differ substantially about our most basic values, but cultures that are communal will naturally emphasize family and community more easily and deeply than cultures like the United States that so values individuality.

Being of one heart, however, is something we must strive for every day, especially across cultures. To be one in heart means we recognize that the love of God unites us in Jesus and calls us to listen together to the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to proclaim God's undivided love for all people.

Today, ask God to free you from any unhealed disunity in your family or parish.

What helps you to be one in heart with other believers?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Born of the Spirit

 "The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jn 3:8

Life in the Spirit can be, at the same time, empowering and confusing. More than once, people have told me that the Spirit told them to speak to me about a dream or insight they had, and while I listen carefully and respectfully, I am also cautious. The Spirit does not often speak in ways that can easily be articulated or quantified, and we must discern carefully what it is the Spirit is saying to us individually and as a church.

At the same time, there is little doubt that the Spirit is alive and works in our lives, and always has. The gospel of John assures us that we must be "born from above," or "born again," and that this new birth is necessary for all. The lives of the prophets and saints are testimony this rebirth. Elijah, frightened by the demands of his ministry, runs away only to have God find him, feed him and send him again to speak God's word. (1 Kgs 19)

In his Confessions, St Patrick writes about his own rebirth, but it was only after his life work proved so powerful that we treasured his words.
And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship. (Confessions)
Easter is a time to listen and test the demands the Spirit makes upon each of us.

Today, listen quietly to whatever God's Spirit might be saying to you.

What signs do you look for when testing the Spirit's word?

Born Again

 “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jn 3:4

Sometimes we speak of being born again casually, yet being born again, as Nicodemus testifies, is not easy to understand. To be born again in faith means that we are prepared to let go of our understanding and interpretation of life and faith, and ask God to show us the way to a new life. The great saints demonstrate this over and over.

St Francis of Assisi, born to wealth and prosperity, lived his faith before his conversion, but it was only when God helped him look at a leper by the side of the road with compassion, something he tried so hard not to do, that he was born again and found the grace to become a troubadour of the Great King. Empowered by God to review his life and reassess how he was living, Francis began to care for lepers everyday so that he would see them, not as weak and broken, but as children of God from whom he could learn much about acceptance and hope.

Today, especially during the Corona Virus pandemic, ask for the grace to review and renew your life.

Have you had an experience of renewal of faith that you might call being born again?