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Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Most Holy Trinity

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." 2 Cor 13:13

God is a relationship.  We need to chew on this notion for a while. We might also say that God as Trinity is perfect love. Whatever we say, however, will be inadequate. When we are searching for ways to understand who God is, we can only speak analogously. We can say God is like something we know, a marriage for instance. When a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man unconditionally they create something new, and I don't necessarily mean a child. Whenever anyone loves another unconditionally and receives love unconditionally, something new emerges. In God, that someone is the Holy Spirit.

Too heady? Perhaps, but we are trying to get our heads around a mystery, and while words will always be inadequate, we must try. Simply put, we reflect the Trinity when we look at one another with awe and wonder, and allow this communion to proclaim the Good News. It is not so much what we say, but how we treat one another that witnesses to the glory of God as a communion of persons.

Today, pray that all your relationships will speak of God's presence and peace.

Whose love for you has been so unconditional that it led you to believe more deeply in God's unconditional love?

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Cleverness of Jesus

 “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”... So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Mt 21:24, 26Rgw 

From time to time, all of us try to ignore or bypass uncomfortable situations. That there are more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City alone, many of whom are working for much less than a living wage, is a scandal that begs for a solution. A friend regularly offers you suggestions on how to avoid paying taxes that you know are legitimate and you say nothing. While silence is sometimes the prudent response to situations like this, it can also be uncharitable and sinful not to speak up.

Jesus could very well have ignored the chief priests and their questions about the legitimacy of John the Baptist's ministry, but he chose to use their inquiries both to make them uncomfortable and to take a stand. The elders knew that if they said John's baptism was of God, they would have validated his ministry, and if they said John was an impostor, the crowd would have attacked them. When they choose to say nothing, the chief priests demonstrate their weakness. It is clear that they are not really concerned about John's ministry, but only trying to trap Jesus in order to undermine his work. When Jesus turns the question on them, their nastiness and dishonesty are exposed.

If we are followers of Jesus, we need to think hard and long about how to respond to evil. When immigrants are being cheated or people are avoiding legitimate taxes, everyone is effected. More important, by too often remaining silent, we fail to live the Gospel we pretend to embrace.

Today, pray for the courage to speak up and work for those whose lives are being ruined because of greed.

Have you been in a situation where you knew you had to speak up?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Asking in Prayer

 

"Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours."
Mk 11:25

Jesus is clear with his disciples. Do not be afraid of God. Don't think you can bother God, or pester him. God is waiting for us to draw close and to seek from him everything we need. While it is important to speak with God as a trusted friend, we must also realize that even our closest friends sometimes hesitate to help us, unsure of whether their response is really in our self interest.

In recent years, spiritual writers have tweaked our understanding of intercessory or petitionary prayer, urging us not simply to ask God for what we need or to help others, but to ask God to make us available to God for God's will for ourselves or others. This minor shift in how we pray can be very helpful in teaching us how to be for God and God's desire in all things.

We do this well in other areas of our lives. Think for instance of those times you asked a spouse or friend how you might help them in the kitchen or in preparing for a gathering. Anxious to do only that which will really help, we avoid imposing our suggestions upon others. Rather, we offer them our time and talent in a way they can use.

Today, ask God to make you available to God for God's work in the world.

What is it like for you when a friend offers to do anything you want?

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Isolation

 "As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging." Mk 10:46 

A older friend, struggling with his hearing and beginning to feel very isolated, told me he would have preferred to lose the use of his eyes than his ears. Embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves, he found himself not participating in conversations and shying away from communal gatherings. Though he has hearing aids, he still often feels alone in a group and ignored by people with whom he often had enjoyable conversations.

Whether one is struggling with blindness or deafness is not the point of today's Gospel. The isolation and loneliness that accompanies the loss of any our faculties is painful, unnerving and confusing, especially in a society that often looked at physical infirmities as punishment for sin, and it is this to which Jesus addresses himself. The Lord wants us to feel and be an integral part of his body, the church. Anything that inhibits or limits this participation is his concern, and should be ours.

Sometimes, although we see and hear perfectly well, we fail to respond to others who are struggling. Too busy, too self absorbed or too compulsed by the need to succeed, we are blind and deaf to the needy. Advent is a good time to open our eyes and ears to anyone, especially members of our family, who is struggling.

Today, listen to someone you normally avoid.

What have you been privileged to see or hear that opened your heart to the Gospel?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

St Philip Neri

 "Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy." 1 Pt 2:10

St Philip, a gregarious, funny, and well respected man was committed to humility as an essential value for the Oratorians, the society of Apostolic life which he helped found in the sixteenth century. Begun in a church that was sharply divided by the Protestant Reformation, the Oratorians were committed to being quiet cells of prayer and hope in a church that had lost its way and needed serious internal reformation. One story about Philip in this regard says it all. After hearing one of his brother priest's give a well received homily, he ordered him to give it again six times in a row so that people would think he had only one sermon.  

Though Philip's action might seem cruel to some, many of my brother Capuchins tease one another that the best homilists among us have only three distinct sermons, and most of us have one! At the same time, we acknowledge that the one thought or one homily, rooted in God's power to save rather than our eloquence, helps people more than all our insights.

Today, pray for the gift of humor as you admit your faults.

Who or what keeps you humble?

Monday, May 24, 2021

Humility

But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Mk 10: 31

The challenge not to seek the first place in anything is an important Gospel lesson. Jesus is clear when he warns his followers not to worry about the issues that can so easily consume them. Whether they struggle for financial security or want assurances that the path they are following is a good one, Jesus' disciples must remember that God's promise to them is not first about this world, but about the next.

At the same time, we need to be careful when interpreting this passage. Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus used their modest wealth, knowledge of the law and religious authority as weapons to frighten and intimidate the underclass, and more than anything else, Jesus condemned this behavior. The purpose of the Law was to assure believers that God was their companion and guide and they had nothing to fear from any civil power, even their oppressors, if they lived the law with joy.

For Christians, the call is direct. Jesus, as the fulfillment of the law, is the one who must be at the center of our lives. Nothing we can gain in the world can substitute for this relationship. As long as we are willing to enter into the mystery of God's love in Christ and submit ourselves to him, we have nothing to fear.

Today, remember who you are before God and be grateful for your faith.

Which spiritual practices help you counter your pride?






Sunday, May 23, 2021

Mary, Mother of the Church

 "Standing by the cross was his mother." Jn 19:25

The fidelity of Mary to Jesus, especially during his suffering and death, has been a consolation to believers since the beginning of Christianity. While his closest friends abandon him at the moment of his most acute need, Mary does not, and her refusal to leave her son in his suffering challenges us to live our faith in a much more complete way.

At the same time, a less than careful understanding and appreciation of Mary's role in the story of our salvation, can be dangerous. Suffering in itself is not a good, and Mary's fidelity should not encourage any of us, but especially women, to accept abuse or unnecessary suffering. Jesus challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees at every turn when the lay heavy burdens of others and do nothing to help the confused and lost. Mary's courage is similar. Though she can do nothing to ease her son's suffering, she is not passive. She accepts her fate, but does not seek it.

Today, accept what you must, but work to change a society and church that sometimes idealizes the suffering of women.

Which women in your life most impress you with their endurance and fidelity?"St