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Saturday, May 15, 2021

God's Love is like the Rain

"As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world." Jn 17:18

St Cyril of Jerusalem, using the simplest of metaphors, helps us understand the Christ in a very accessible way:
But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water?...Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
Jesus' Spirit is like rain inviting us to sit by a window, watch the rain come down and imagine it nurturing and nourishing every plant and tree we can see. When it penetrates the roots of an oak tree, it allows the oak to be itself, strong and majestic, but when it drenches the roots of a tomato plant, it makes it possible for the plant to produce tomatoes. The miracle of grace and growth is obvious and important.

Our lives, lived in faith, should be like rain in others' lives. It is not our task to change those around us, but to help them become themselves in faith. When we give of ourselves freely to those in need, they can become the person God intends and needs them to become for the sake of God's reign. As God sends Jesus, and Jesus send us, so must we send others in Jesus' name to be signs of God's love.

Today, pray that those closest to you will become God's face in the world.

Who has been like rain in your faith life?

Friday, May 14, 2021

To whom do you belong?

 "A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus." Acts 18:24

Apollos, who Acts of the Apostles tells us was an eloquent speaker, also appears in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. So polished was Apollos' preaching that some claimed they belonged to him. These days there are people who say they are Benedict XVI Catholics or Francis Catholics. This kind of language can never be helpful when trying to build a community of trust because it leads to comparisons and divisions. Paul will insist that we belong to Christ and to no other person, no matter how eloquent they are in speaking about Jesus, and it is important that we follow Paul''s teaching.

Belonging means prioritizing Jesus and his teaching as the focus of our lives. Committed to the community of faith, we pray regularly, break bread in memory of the one who has been raised from the dead, continue to learn about and live the Scriptures, and serve those most in need in the name of Jesus. This is a tall order but it should not overly disturb us that we often fail to live the fulness of the Gospel. Jesus only demands that we continue to return to him and his teaching and seek to enter the mysteries of faith with passion and hope.

Today, ask Jesus for the grace to enter more deeply into him and the life to which he has called you.

What most distracts you from the Gospel with passion and hope?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

St Matthias

 "And the lot fell upon Matthias." Acts 1:26

St Matthias seems a good choice as patron saint for all of us. Chosen by lot to be an apostle, he disappears. We hear almost nothing more of him except that he was martyred around the year 63 CE. Most of us have similar lives in faith. Chosen and called by name to follow the Lord, our lives, though largely unremarkable, are important, not because we have become famous or well known, but because we have remained faithful.

Upon reflection, most of us would admit that the people whose example we follow and remain as pillars of faith for us are not the great saints about whom everyone knows. They are the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, mentors and soul friends who are the "underground cellars" of our lives. Though few will remember their names or deeds, they form the foundation of the church that, despite power struggles and doctrinal battles among the elite, remain our hope for the future.

Today, ask St Matthias to help you be quietly faithful to the gospel.

Who are the people that continue to shape your faith life?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Ascension of the Lord

 "Two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.'” Acts 1:11

Most of us have experienced being caught between conflicting feelings. Picture yourself at an airport sending a child off to college. Both proud and sad, you wave goodbye trying not to cry and leave the airport in a daze. A child with whom you have done your best is off for a new adventure, and you wonder whether she is prepared and ready to embrace the challenges. Even more poignantly, anyone who has helped parents die knows the pain of letting go and the relief that they are no longer in pain. Often, in situations like this, even when we have felt heavy burdened, we are lost for a while, not knowing what we ought next to do.

This is, I imagine, what was happening to the disciples of Jesus at the Ascension. While they knew the Spirit of God would be with them, letting go of Jesus was difficult. He had been their guide, their mentor and their security. It is no wonder they were looking up into the sky as their friend returned to his Father. Their loss was deep, even though their faith assured them they were not alone.

We should expect to experience the absence of Jesus regularly during life. A Japanese proverb reminds us: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise. Only when we have lost something precious, are we able to appreciate it fully, and more important, see what else might be available to us when we open our eyes and heart to God's plan.

Today, let go of the Jesus you know and ask to experience him more fully through God's eyes.

How do you make sense of the feast of the Ascension?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Unknown Gods

 "To and unknown God." Acts 17:23

Ancient peoples knew that to name God was dangerous, even sacrilege. Naming someone can imply a certain control over the one named and that can never be the case with God. God, by definition, is beyond names. Absolute mystery, God sends Jesus to us so that we can know we are loved unconditionally, not to empower us to name God.

When St Paul speaks with the Athenians about what he sees as he moves about the Areopagus, he wants to honor their religious spirit, and assure them that the unknown God they have not named has in fact been revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul's readiness to acknowledge the quest and yearning of the Greeks is important for us to remember when we proclaim the glory of God is Jesus. Because people come to God in ways we cannot fathom, only praise, we should be careful to guard against a narrow, limiting and rigid spirit in our tradition. God will be God for us and search us out even when we live in darkness.

Today, pray for all those who searching for God in every religious tradition.

How has your own faith evolved and grown as an adult?

Monday, May 10, 2021

Opening Doors of Hope

 "About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose." Acts 16: 25-26

Jailers at the time of Jesus were frequently retired army officers who would have learned how to guard prisoners and take no chances. In Acts, therefore, when the doors flew open in the jail after the earthquake, the jailer presumed all the prisoners had escaped, and was beside himself. According to Roman law, because he had failed in his duties, he would have been liable for the same punishment imposed on Paul and Silas.

But God had a different plan. Paul and Silas, perhaps knowing the jailer's fate for letting them escape, stayed in the jail, instructed the jailer and his family in faith and baptized them. What a turn of events! Though the jailer would lose his job, he gained the kind of faith that would allow him a freedom to face whatever punishment the authorities might exact of him.

While the stories of faith in Acts might not be repeated exactly in our lives, there will be many small miracles. Doors of hurt, confusion and resentment will fly open if only we allow the Lord to free us and send us in mission to all in need. We may have to change our lives in ways we never imagined, but God will be the strength we need to do whatever he requires.

Today, open a door of forgiveness to someone struggling with faith.

What closed doors imprison you?

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Listening with Hope

 "We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention." Actz 16:13

In my experience at least, women are more likely to listen than men. Why this is, is not always clear, but in Lydia's case it is remarkable. As a dealer in cloth, she was not typical. She had her own source of income, most probably owned property, was literate and had a voice to which others listened. In other words, she had no need to pay attention to the Apostles. That she did says so much about her and about our challenge.

There is always something more to learn about God and about the Good News. Those who read the scriptures regularly are often amazed at how much a scriptural text that have read multiple times comes alive in a new way especially when they are in need. Whether it is a changed circumstance in life or a different problem that faces us, the scripture speaks in ways we never expected and all we did was listen.

Lydia is a wonderful model for men in our society. Despite all the power we think we have, we cannot afford not to listen to the God who is always speaking.

Today, read the Gospel slowly and see what happens.

To whom do you listen with hope?