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Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Process of Conversion

 "Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." Mt 4:28

Conversion is a process. We all know this, but continue to get fooled. Just as we think we can relax, sit back and enjoy where we are in life, change comes or is demanded of us. A parent or a friend gets sick, a child's life turns in a direction we never expected, and we have doubts about our vocations. There is no getting around it. Though we often resist it, change is necessary and inevitable.

In today's first reading, David's lust gets him in trouble. Almost like a peeping Tom, David, walking on his roof top, sees Bathsheba bathing. Smitten, he summons her, has relations with her and when she announces shortly afterwards that she is pregnant, he panics. David's pride or perhaps his fear of losing his influence in the community block his conscience, and he arranges to have Bathsheba's husband Uriah killed.

As our young people might say, you can't make this stuff up. Though David will be despised by God for sleeping with another man's wife and having her husband killed, his real punishment will be the death of the child he conceived with Bathsheba. Most of us would expect this to be the end of the story, but it is not. God relents, forgives David and Bathsheba gives birth to Solomon.

The lesson is clear. No matter how egregious our fault and sin, if we express true sorrow and are willing to change, God will forgive us and help us take the next steps in life. Conversion, like the land yielding fruit, is an ongoing process, "first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

Today, ask forgiveness of every sin, and the grace to change. There is much more life for all of us to live.

Who has helped you understand that conversion is a lifetime process?















































































































































































































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Friday, June 11, 2021

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

 "You are a people sacred to the LORD, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own." Dt 7:6

The feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us that we are embodied, that our faith celebrates not just the salvation of our souls, but our entire person. Like the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the feast of the Sacred Heart counters any tendency in the Christian community to forget that God sent his son among us as a fully human person and through him reminded us that God wants to be us with us body and soul forever. How our resurrected bodies might look is not the issue. That we will be with God in our bodies is.

The scriptures are forever reminding us of this, but in a world where so many live in large cities, we can forget the importance of creation, all of which manifests the glory and face of God in marvelous ways. The Canticle of Daniel even reminds creation itself to praise and bless the Lord. Listen:
Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Dew and rain, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
Today's feast calls us to come closer to the heart of Jesus where we will find mercy, consolation and hope. What else could we desire.

Whose loving heart has most formed you in faith?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Reconciliation

 "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt 5:23

One of the fundamental questions asked of every school of spirituality is where it begins? Ignatian spirituality, for instance, begins with personal and world sin. Only after a person has confronted his or her complicity in making the world a harsher place and community through selfishness, pride, lust and arrogance, does the pilgrim join the journey of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. It is a natural and understandable place to begin, but it is not the only place.

Franciscan spirituality begins by reminding the pilgrim to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness and goodness of God, and only after celebrating the glory of God in all creation does it ask believers to face their sin. It is a different path with the same goal, to know, appreciate and enter the mystery of God's unconditional love. For Franciscans, only the strength and assurance they gain from seeing God's presence in all creation makes it possible for them to face the awfulness of their own ingratitude.

Jesus' reminder to his disciples seems to take this second path. God is more intent on rejoicing in our conversion and willingness to be reconciled with our sisters and brothers than in than in taking pleasure from our death through sin. God wants to celebrate who we are when we turn to him, not to turn from us in disgust. How wonderful God is!

Today, take a deep breath and ask God what you must do to be in God.

Where does your heart lead you in beginning again your spiritual journey?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Righteousness

 “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 5:50

Righteousness is a difficult word to get hold of in American English. Often confused with self righteousness, Americans think of righteous people as arrogant and dismissive of others, especially those they judge to be uneducated or of a lower class. Righteous people smile slyly when others make factual errors or grammatical mistakes in speech. Righteous people don't make great friends.

Righteousness in the bible is a virtue we need to build into our lives. Righteousness can be translated as doing justice, especially in our social relationships. When Jesus tells his disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the Jewish leaders, he makes clear that no matter how needy they might be, they must not be greedy, but still treat others with compassion, understanding and justice. Cheating anyone, but especially foreigners or the very poor, will result in God's harsh judgement.

Though it would have been understandable for the first disciples to want vengeance against the Scribes and Pharisees because of how poorly they were treated, Jesus wants them to change the social paradigm which led to a society of winners and losers. In Christ all are winners because Christians will always share n justice whatever they have with the needy.

Today, ask God to heal you and heal those oppressed by injustice.

How might we better explain righteousness as a Gospel imperative?





Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Discerning God's Will

 "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.'" Mt 5:17

Jesus must have been terribly confusing to the leaders of the Jews. Forever insisting that he wants only to live the Law and fulfill it, at the same time, he seems to break the law regularly. What were the Pharisees to do? If they did not challenge and condemn him, they would lose their own authority. If they did reject his teachings, they would lose the power they had over ordinary people. Their quandary, like ours, led them into impossible situations. More concerned with their own position in the community than with their role of instructing the people of God, they don't listen deeply to the Lord. Neither do we!

A life of faith is not something we put on or off at will. Neither can it be reduced to obeying legitimate authorities. Faith demands reflection, prayer and conversation with others seeking to know and follow God's law, all of which takes time away from other necessary duties in life. Too often, hoping for a simple and quick solution to complex questions, we avoid the hard work of following the Lord, and either put our foot in our mouth or kick ourselves in the shins.

It is important to remember the lesson of the Pharisees. While we can, and sometimes must, criticize church and state, it is only through reflection, prayer and honest conversation that God's will emerges.

Today, pray for the prophets in our world who remind us to live the Gospel fully.

How do you discern God's will in your life?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Be a light

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket." Mt 5:14

Every year I have an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin novices of North America a remarkably diverse group of young. One year there was a novice from Syria who had been living in Canada. Another year there was  a Jewish convert who was born in Israel. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under bushel baskets.

The gospel today reminds us that we are salt and light, people who are supposed to bring flavor, perseverance, healing and hope to the world. Gathering with such a diverse group of committed and joyful young men was a wonderful reminder that God continues to do God's work even in a church as hurt and broken as ours.

Being a light in the world is simple, but often difficult. It means discerning when to speak or be quiet in difficult circumstances. It means doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. It means remembering that it is not our own light but Christ's that we put on the mountain top so that all can see.

Today, be a light to others.

What or who brings the light of Christ into your life? 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Living the Beatitudes

 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mt 5:2

One cannot say too often or emphasize too much that the beatitudes are a template, a frame with which to understand all of Jesus' preaching. Very few commentators would suggest that Jesus actually spoke all of these truths at one time and in one place. Rather, the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus' preaching which was recorded in a form that made them easy to memorize.

Without a printing press or a written form that would allow easy distribution of the sayings and teachings of Jesus, the first Christians memorized Jesus' teaching and repeated them often for their own well being and to announce the Gospel. While many contemporary believers still do this, it can be a dangerous practice.

When we reduce the teaching of the New Testament to a few memorized sayings, we risk creating a "bumper sticker" faith and a community that repeats catch phrases out of context and with little regard for the culture out of which they emerged. When we do this, we impose our cultural lens on a text, and use the scriptures to reinforce our own opinions rather than learn more about how God spoke at a particular time to a particular people.

Today, read all of chapter five in Matthew's Gospel.

What practice has helped you develop a real love for the Bible?