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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Fear of the Other

 'A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak." Mt 9:19

Reading today's Gospel about a woman bleeding for years, I cringed.  Most of Jesus contemporaries would have avoided this woman at all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the woman's struggles to live a faith filled life.

In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. The fear of Covid 19 is paramount, but immigrants also seem to threaten many in our society, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the countries and cultures from which these people come. Because they speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different foods and practice a different religion, we wonder whether we should admit them to our shores and sometimes even suggest they are criminals out to take advantage of our generosity. But Jesus' response to people's criticism and fear is plain.

"Do not be afraid," he cautions them. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, he assures his listeners, they can build the kingdom of God together.

Today, stretch beyond your comfort zone and meet someone from a different culture or country.

Have your cultural or racial fears gotten in the way of your freedom?

Friday, June 25, 2021

Humility

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." Mt 8:7

Most humble people have been humbled. Born into wealth or privilege, circumstances conspired against them and they lost everything. The proud complain or curse God; the humble realize that everything they had was a gift and not something they earned or deserved. The proud do almost anything to reclaim what they believe is theirs by divine right. The humble echo the Japanese proverb: When my house burned down, I could finally see the sunrise.

Remarkably, the centurion in the today's Gospel is not asking Jesus to help him but to heal his servant, and Jesus, obviously moved, is willing to respond to the centurion's request. But the centurion becomes an icon of humility for the ages when he acknowledges Jesus' power to heal without touch or physical presence. Not wanting Jesus to risk the condemnation of the rabbis for entering his house, the centurion asks Jesus only to speak a word of healing.

Today, be grateful for all of life no matter how humbling.

What keeps you from humbly acknowledging your weaknesses? 






Thursday, June 24, 2021

Forever

 "I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." Gn 17:7

When Abraham heard that he would be the father of many nations, he was very much afraid. After all, he was ninety nine years old and could not imagine that God would choose him for so noble a task. I can imagine that for a time at least, he thought he was going mad and that everything God said to him was only a dream. Abraham had been unable to conceive a child with Sarah and now this! How could it be. No doubt Abraham expected that God would lay heavy burdens upon him, and he was not sure he was up to the task.

But God's demands are light. Abraham had only to keep the covenant which God make with him in a unilateral way. He didn't have to worry about penalties and punishment. He had only to be circumcised so that there would a sign "in his body" that indicated his acceptance of the living God. God wanted Abraham to know peace and he wants us to be at peace, too.

The Covenant with Abraham, as Pope John Paul II reminded us often, has never been broken by God. Jews are God's chosen people and always will be. That Jesus is the new Covenant, the fulfillment of the old Covenant, is something we need to announce with passion and hope, but we can never forget that God's Covenant with Abraham is true and forever. The proof of our acceptance of this truth of our faith lies in our treatment of Jews as our brothers and sisters.

Today, glory in God's covenants with us.

Have you ever been frightened by God's call?

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Discovering our Role in Faith

 His mother replied: "He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." Lk I:59

What's in a name?  In the ancient world, everything. Names were given to children by their fathers to honor his ancestors and elders. Mothers had no role in this ritual, but Elizabeth does. Only when Zechariah writes the name John on a tablet is his "mouth opened and his tongue freed." Clearly, Elizabeth's child John would play an important role in salvation history. John, whose name means God is gracious, would usher in a new order and a new way of being in the world.

Unlike so many, John would have no doubts about his role. He knew he was not the Messiah, despite the desire of so many who accepted his baptism. Rather, his entire life would consist in pointing to Jesus, and announcing the coming of the Messiah. Admitting that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandal strap and that he needed to decrease and Christ increase, John becomes a symbol for every Christian.

Our task as believers is not to posture or pretend that we are important, but to be grateful for the name Christian, recognize Christ in every person and prepare others to receive his Good News. Accepting that we are God's children gives every Christian an identity that is empowering forever. We need not have any fear about who we are or what we are to do. Like John, we are to point to Christ as Redeemer and hope for all humankind.

Today, help someone find Christ.

What are the biggest obstacles we face in announcing the Good News?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Counting Stars

 “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Gen 15:5

Living near a major city makes it difficult to look up in the sky and see anything. Some nights, when there is no moon, you can see a few stars, but nothing like the country sky in the summer when you can lie on your back and try to count. Even as you look, more and more stars seem to appear, and this is just the beginning. Astronomers tells us that there are more galaxies in the universe than stars in our galaxy. Whether their study and speculation prove accurate is not the point. That it is more impossible than ever to count the stars is and God promises Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars.

The goodness of God's heart and God's promises to us is beyond our ability to count or manage. We can only pause in awe, wonder and gratitude, and stopping to celebrate God's goodness is even more necessary during Lent. Lent is the time that we take time to recall the infinite love of God in the Christ. God sends his son to accompany us in life and remind us of God's promises. Even though Jesus will suffer and die because he tells the truth and is the truth about God, he does not hesitate. When his disciples suggest that he might want to slow down and walk away from Jerusalem in order to avoid the wrath of the Jewish leaders, he pushes on and reminds us to do the same. He will not abandon us, he will show us the way, and no matter what happens to us, as long as we live the truth of his love, God will be at our side.

Tonight, count a star or two and be grateful.

What gets in the way of committing ourselves totally to God's path for us?

Monday, June 21, 2021

Facing our Prejudices

 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine." Mt 7:6

Not infrequently, gentiles and the poor were compared to dogs, people who did not appreciate the word of God, but Jesus turns this saying upside down, just as he does when he reminds us that the first will be last.

In Jesus preaching, the only criterion used to judge people was their openness to the fullness of God's word. In other words, the rich, the powerful, the interpreters of the law were all judging themselves if they refused to hear Jesus' call to reform their lives and return to the heart of the law.

For contemporary believers the same standard endures. Unless we are open to the transforming power of God's word, which is more inclusive than we often want to acknowledge, we are the dogs about whom the Gospel speaks. When we use the Good News as a hammer to exclude those who are racially, religiously, culturally and spiritually different from us, even when they are enemies, we judge ourselves.

Today, pray to be free of prejudice.

What practices help you not to judge others? 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

St Aloysius Gonzaga

 "Forgive us our trespasses" Mt 6:12

The Lord's prayer reminds us to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our sins. For those especially who have been humbled in any way, the Our Father is a consolation. Sin can be a strength if it leads us to the acceptance of our faults and encourages us to work with others to overcome them.

But we need to be cautious. There is a temptation for some who recognize a serious weakness to seek out others who struggle in the same way they do, and this is almost always a mistake. While we console one another, we also subtly suggest that there is nothing we can do to change, and this results in a kind of stagnation. The recognition and acceptance of our sinfulness only becomes a strength when we enter more deeply into the life of the faith community and depend for strength on our oneness in Christ.

Aloysius Gonzaga is a good example of someone who recognized that despite his family's wealth and desire for him to seek power over others, he could only fulfill his destiny by renouncing his family's affluence and join the Jesuits in the pursuit of God. Freed by the Society of Jesus to honor God totally, Aloysius plunged into the care of plague victims only to succumb himself to the disease.

Today, embrace your weakness. Cling to the body of Christ.

Which of your weaknesses most disturbs you?