Saturday, August 21, 2021

To Whom shall we Go?

 "Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go?'" Jn 6:68

Many years ago while visiting the friars in Central America, I learned of a struggle many friars had with women to whom they were ministering in small mountain villages. Abused often by their heavy drinking husbands, the women would not leave their villages. Initially, the friars thought the women were staying because of the vows they took when they married. Only after many visits did they realize they were staying with their abusive husbands because they had no place to go. Penniless, they felt trapped. With three or four children, it seemed impossible to them to go anywhere. Instead, they endured the abuse for the sake of their children, and the friars stood by them as best they could.

For those who work in the developing world, situations like this arise regularly, and sometimes I wonder whether Peter was saying something similar to the women of Central America when he asked Jesus, "To whom shall we go?" Indeed, Peter was a fisherman with few options. He was probably illiterate and owned no property. To what could he return? While the gospel writers cast Peter's response as an act of faith, which it surely was, it might also reflect his powerlessness, a helplessness that becomes his greatest strength. Unable to go anywhere without Jesus, he teaches us how we must live in the 21st century.

Today ask yourself what you do when you feel powerlessness in the face of overwhelming problems?

How can we stand with the poor and the powerless in their everyday lives?

Friday, August 20, 2021

St Pius X

 "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts." Ex 36:27

Sometimes Popes do things that surprise us. Pius X, who was born in poverty, filled the apostolic palace with survivors after the 1908 earthquake in Messina well before the Italian government acted. Imagine what the 21st century media would do if Pope Francis opened the Vatican to Syrian refugees!

Pius knew, like Ezekiel, what it meant to have a new heart and new spirit. Determined to stand behind those most in need with open arms, Pius also worked to make the Eucharist available to a larger and larger group of people, especially children, and it was his leadership that encouraged all people, not just the clergy, to seek holiness through a devout life.

Like Pius, we must ask for a new hearts and spirits and yearn for a new way of living so the church can become the poor church for the poor that Pope Francis envisions. It is so easy to get comfortable in life and in faith, but when we do, we fail to hear the ongoing call to conversion that is at the heart of the Gospel.

Today, remember what it is like to have your heart and spirit renewed..

How can we help others know the God who continually renews our hearts and spirits.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor

"If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mt 19:21

St Bernard of Clairvaux, in a remarkably moving and demanding sermon, begs Mary to help her sons and daughters:
Let humility be bold, Mary, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
Reading Bernard's words always lifts my spirits. It is clear that the Saint thought of Mary as his sister, mother, and friend, someone to whom he could speak plainly and with abandon. Mary was not an historical figure, but a living, breathing companion with whom Bernard could plead and beg. His example should embolden us. Both Mary and Jesus are meant to be accessible players in our personal and communal lives. We should never be afraid to approach them and ask for help and guidance.

Today, imagine you are Mary's sister. Stop her and ask for direction and help.

What spiritual practice has most helped you strenghten your faith?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Sharing Wealth

 "Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those (the rich and powerful) who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’"  Mt 22: 8-9

Wealth itself is not the issue in the Gospel, but the attitude that rich people sometimes have about what they possess is. It is easy to believe, especially if you have worked hard, that you deserve all that you have and can do almost anything to protect your assets. Worse, when the wealthy act as if they have the power to control life or belittle poor people by stereotyping them as lazy, shiftless and undeserving of a decent wage and modest success, they offend God and the Gospel.

On the other hand, when people have been blessed with good fortune and are always grateful for what they have, they usually are anxious to find ways to help others. Realizing that some of their success came to them because they were in the right place at the right time or they have a rare skill that others need. They live simply, look out for others in need and get involved socially in projects that help the less fortunate to live with dignity and joy.

Today, thank God for the all that you possess and examine your conscience about what you really need to live the Gospel well.

What are your biggest fears about not having enough money, property and possessions?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

God's Generosity

 "‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’....Are you envious because I am generous?’" Mt 20:16a

Upon first reading Matthew's parable about the laborers who worked only an hour and received a full days wage, we are puzzled. Trained to believe that when we work hard we will receive our reward, Jesus' story turns our expectations upside down, and that is the point. The parable is not about the workers at all. It is about God and God's generosity, and its purpose is twofold: to remind us that God is good beyond our imagination and to challenge us to live more generously than we have in the past.

No matter how hard we try to understand God's greatness, the scriptures keep reminding us that God and God's graciousness have no parallels in human life, and while it is helpful to think of metaphors and similes that open up our understanding, they will always fail to capture the fullness of God's goodness. Most of us have gazed at a sunrise, sunset, the ocean or a majestic mountain and been unable to describe what we experience. The grandeur and power of nature defies description, and  the love of God's is even more impossible to label or name. Only awe and silence seem a proper and fitting response.

What we can and must do is accept God's challenge to live lives of limitless generosity and learn how to spend the love we have been given with humility and delight. While a tall order, even this is possible with God's help.

Today, give someone something they have not deserved or earned.

Do you  have a favorite way or story to desribe God's generosity/

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Danger of Wealth

 "“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven." Mt 19:23

When social standing, wealth and power lead to blindness of spirit, they become impediments to knowing and loving God, and must be avoided or rejected. Only those, rich and poor alike, who see with the eyes of God and respond in justice to the poor deserve to be remembered, named and imitated. Every person, no matter how poor, has a dignity and importance in the reign of God. This is a great obstacle to many.

People of every generation, social class, race and culture need to remember that it is not our accomplishments or wealth that lead us to God, but our humility and love of all creation which save us. Jesus expresses this bluntly in today's Gospel. "It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mk 10;24) When wealth blinds us to God's will and others' need, we are from the reign of God. Only a change of heart can help us.

Today, pray for anyone you may have dismissed because of their weakness, race or poverty.

How do you understand Jesus when he says that it is terribly hard for rich people to get into heaven?

Sunday, August 15, 2021


 “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mt 19:21

Perfection is a multifaceted word in English and can refer to many different things. Getting a score of 10 for a competitive dive or a mark of 100 on an exam indicate perfection to some, but it is not what the word perfect means in the Scripture. Literally, we could translate the Greek teleios as complete, as in having all our fingers, toes and body parts, but a better translation means being yourself without guile or posturing.

Being ourselves before God and others is difficult. It means accepting ourselves as we are without pretension, and letting ourselves be known by others without deception. Obviously, this is a life long pursuit and can never be accomplished without a large helping of grace. God can do in us what we cannot do for ourselves, but this is often a hard and painful lesson. Most of us want to define perfection and draw its parameters according to our own insights and desires. Worse, we work for perfection diligently and obsessively, and only when we fail over and over again do we finally submit to God and ask to be who God would have us be.

This last is a strange kind of perfection. Like Paul who lived his entire life with a "sting" in his flesh, it means living with and even treasuring our weaknesses because they not only teach us much about ourselves, they demand we learn and practice compassion towards others.

Today, let God make you as perfect as God needs you to be for others.

Which of your faults is most difficult to bear?