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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Service

 "I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends." Jn 15:13

Service of others, even our enemies, is one of the great hallmarks of the Good News, and while some might not consider service of others good news, Jesus does, in the most emphatic of terms. Unless we learn how to serve others, even becoming like slaves in this regard, the message of the New Covenant will go unheard.

Gratefully, most of us have met and been moved by people whose entire lives are given in service to others. For most of my years as a priest I have had the great privilege of offering the Sunday Eucharist in places where volunteers prepared everything for Mass. I had only to prepare a homily. Everything else was done with love and dedication by people who never looked for special mention or attention. Anyone encountering this kind of dedication cannot help but be moved and lifted up. Whether it was distributing music books already opened to the proper page, or moving chairs so that those in wheelchairs might find a place among us, these loving men and women did everything they could to help create a sacred space for God's people to gather, worship and rejoice.

Today, thank God for the privilege of serving God's people.

When have you known the glory of God in serving others who could not repay you?

Friday, May 7, 2021

Lifting the Burden of the Poor

 "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Jn 15:18

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Chosen by God

 "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for an important task is both exhilarating and frightening. As a young boy I was chosen to be the catcher on our baseball team, and while I was proud and excited, I was also very anxious. If I didn't catch the balls thrown to me, the other teams' runners would be able to advance a base, and the pressure to do my task only increased as I got older. Sometimes we feel this same pressure in our ministerial lives, and while understandable, it is not of Jesus.

Jesus is not speaking about tasks or ministries, but relationships. He wants us to be responsible in our love for one another. When he reminds his disciples that he chose them, he wants them to be assured of his care and his strength in this most fundamental of Christian duties. He will be our strong arm. He will give us the divine energy to live the gospel in our love for one another. Unless we remember to rely on him in all things, we lose focus, and believe that everything is up to us. This unhealthy attitude leads only to anxiety and fear.

Today, rely on the Lord for life and love.

What does it take to remain united to Christ in difficult circumstances?

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Authentic Joy

 “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” A friar friend, gently prodding a group of clergy, once asked them to bow their heads, screw up their faces and pray. Only a few participants smiled until the end of the prayer when my friend suggested that if they were happy they ought to inform their face.

It can be difficult to smile, relax and enjoy others when we are troubled or in the middle of a debate like the early church we learn about in Acts of the Apostles. Not sure how best to fold the gentile community into the church, the Apostles struggled with one another. Paul saw things one way; James another and it is clear that everyone was trying to convince the others of their point of view. Being right often kills joy and rather than proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, we act like a group of children after losing a ballgame. 

Today, smile at someone randomly.

Who helps you express the joy you feel as a disciple of Jesus

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Resolving Disputes

 "'Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.' Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question." Acts 15 1-2

Disputes in families and church communities are natural and necessary, but often painful. The early church struggled with how new converts might be faithful to the first Covenant and also be baptized into the new Covenant in Jesus Christ. Converts from Pharisaic Judaism were especially troubled with how gentile converts would fulfill the Torah with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws, leading Paul and Barnabas to bring this struggle to the elders in the hope that some compromise that would satisfy everyone might be reached.

Healthy compromise is hard to come by, but always worth the struggle. One has only to look at the diversity in the Catholic church in the United States to understand this. Folks at the extreme margins of left and right have a difficult time being heard even though they have important things to say. We are, after all, a church of tradition. We respect and honor what has gone before us, but we are also a church that must find ways to announce the Good News to a new generation of believers. Unless we can find ways to incorporate the essentials of our catholic tradition into contemporary life, we will lose our identity and dreams. Reliance on the Holy Spirit alive in the church helped the first Christians. It can do the same for us.

Today, listen quietly and from your heart to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you resolve disputes in your family and parish?

Monday, May 3, 2021

Beyond Fear

 "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

The cost of discipleship for Jesus' followers was high. Almost all of his apostles would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.  Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this.

The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sts Peter and Paul

"Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Jn 14:6

Relationships are the key to a gospel life. Without relationships rooted in faith there is no Good News. Though Thomas claims not to know the way, it is only because he has misunderstood Jesus, thinking the Lord is talking about a place to which he is going when he reminds his friends that they know the way. In fact, Jesus is the way. It is only in and through our relationship with him and one another in faith that we witness to God's saving love alive in us.

Most of us, thank God, know this truth intimately. From our earliest years we have been blessed with guides, mentors and soul friends, people who not only instructed us in the formal aspects of faith by teaching us our daily prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, but also witnessed to faith by how they cared for others and reached out to the needy. Today, when we think of them, we are more grateful for the way they lived faith and loved us despite our weaknesses than the catechism lessons they taught us.

Today, pause to remember those who blessed you with unconditional love.

From whom did you learn how to honor God and serve others?