Saturday, October 23, 2021

Asking till it Hurts

 “'Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.' He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man replied to him, 'Master, I want to see.'" Mk 10:50

From the time we are children we learn that the measure of faith is the courage to keep trying. No matter how often we fail to live our faith fully, sin or turn away from God, the Christian learns to dust him or herself off and start walking faith's path again. Because God is always there to help us up, this terrible and terrifying challenge, though difficult, is possible. This simple lesson is important even for the experienced believer.

The blind man in today's Gospel is proof of this. Despite the fact that those around him tried to keep him quiet so as not to bother Jesus, the blind man kept shouting until Jesus responded. Refusing to be reduced to his blindness, he trusted that Jesus would help him if only he kept asking.

The lesson is clear. If we allow ourselves to lose courage or faith because we think we are beyond help or only bothering others, we will never do the right thing. Whether we are asking for ourselves or others does not matter. The demand of faith is that we keep asking God for help and trusting that God is near.

Today, be grateful for anyone who extended a hand to you when you were struggling.

What practices most help you persevere in faith?

Friday, October 22, 2021

Fig Trees

 "For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?" Mk 13:7

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was an arid land with little water and shallow soil. Farmers had to use their resources carefully. Because they could not afford to allow fruit bearing plants or trees that did not produce a good crop to litter the land, they became a ready example for Jesus to teach.

All of us must bear fruit. Given faith as a free gift, we need to spend it freely for the good of others. Faith is not something that merely calls us to personal holiness. It is a treasure intended to help others know God and the Good News of Jesus. Only when we live faith in a transparent way does it bear the fruit intended by God.

Today,  reach out for someone lost.

What keeps you from producing fruit for all to eat?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The End Times

 "When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified." Lk 21:9

We are always looking for signs. Is there a red sky in the morning? Will it be a rainy day? Iranians threaten to develop nuclear arms. Will there be another war in the middle east? The stock market passes 16000. Will the country finally be able to produce new jobs? Many people work very hard at reading these signs and as often as not there are so many variables that their prognostications are worthless, but we don't stop trying. We want to know in order to control life and in the end our efforts are fruitless.

While all of us must be diligent and caring about creation and our relationships in Christ, trying to control them like toys in a game not only does not work, it is wrong. Life belongs to God and the church challenges us to work hard and then let go into God's hands, trusting that like a Father he will watch over his children, guide them and show them the path to life.

Especially at the end of another liturgical year, the church reminds us that though we have a long road to hoe, God will never abandon us. There is nothing we have to fear as long as we keep trying to turn towards the light and trust God's direction. While this can be difficult, especially when we have been disappointed by life or our religious leaders, faith demands we enter the mystery and let go.

Today, accept your sinfulness and wait for God.

What about life do you most try to control?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Signs of the Times

 "Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Lk 12:56

Jesus often uses nature to help his listeners understand how plain the Gospel message is. When they hear thunder or see lightning in the sky they know to get out of the water or away from trees. In a similar way, our spirits regularly tell us that there is something brewing is us that needs attention.

When we become moody or resistive to the simple requests of friends or family, it ought to be a clue that something is wrong and needs our response, not our reaction. More important, we need to listen to our inner voice when it urges us to reach beyond our normal boundaries to help others, many of whom we will never know.

Poverty is everywhere in the world, and we have no choice as Christians but to respond to those in desperate need. Not to look at or see the world's poor, especially migrants streaming out of countries where their own leaders torture and chase them is a horror too plain to ignore.

Today, listen to or watch a report on the world's hungry.

Are you rushing too much making it impossible to hear the signs of the times?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Giving of our Substance

 "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Lk 12:48

Sometimes Jesus is too clear for our liking. When we think about the benefits of living in the United States we can be embarrassed. Most of us have homes, food, electricity, television, computers, unlimited access to the internet and disposable income to buy gifts for others and simple pleasures for ourselves. 

More, education is available to almost everyone without cost and when we are disciplined about learning most of us can find work that gives us dignity and the ability to support ourselves. The challenge of the Gospel is to make sure all of what we have and earn benefits others, and this is not always the case.

Too often we feel entitled to all that we have and live as if we have a right to even more. When this happens we lose sight of the Gospel and undermine its power. Giving generously to others, especially those who have little, does more for us than those who receive our gifts. Giving changes us and reminds us that all we have is of God and from God, and while it is true that some have earned every penny they have, they too must share with others in the name of Christ and for God's glory. To share from our substance is to imitate God who gives us the Christ without strings or demands.

Today, share whatever gifts God has given you no matter how simple or few.

What impedes your willingness to give to others from your substance?

Monday, October 18, 2021

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Companions and Martyrs

 "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord." Ps 130:1

One of the most difficult situations every missionary faces is learning the nuances of another language. Knowing the idiomatic expressions, the intonations and the humor of other languages requires a life long effort, and even then most people never lose the accent from their fist language. Nevertheless, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what to say, that the Holy Spirit will teach you. Good advice, even today.

When John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions came to the New World they knew very little about it, and undoubtedly did things that frightened the Native Americans they encountered. Rene Goupil was killed for tracing the sign of the Cross on a child's forehead, and we will never know how the Native Americans interpreted his gesture. Could they have believed Rene was harming the child? Were the missionaries able to communicate their dreams and purpose? We trust that their intent was always good, but some of what they said and did was misinterpreted, and that is a good lesson for us.

Knowing the culture into which one is inserted, even while living in the United States, is vital for good and lasting relationships. While none of us want to make seriously egregious mistakes when speaking and living with people from different cultures, it is bound to happen, and this can lead either to a deepened appreciation for one another or create fissures between and among us that are very hard to heal. For those who desire a deeper relationship and not a lasting break, it is vital to listen deeply and ask the Lord for the words that will help us articulate the power of the Gospel in a way others can understand.

Today, listen to someone from another culture or race and say nothing.

Have you ever had to ask God for the words to speak the Gospel?

Sunday, October 17, 2021

St Luke

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Lk 10:2

St Luke is credited with writing Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospel, in all  more than 25% of the New Testament. Sometimes called the Gospel of St Paul because Luke often traveled with Paul and was his disciple, Luke wrote primarily for Gentiles. Not as concerned as Matthew's gospel with demonstrating that Jesus was a Jew and the new Moses, Luke writes about the poor, women, the sick and the underclass, assuring the Gentiles that the Gospel of Jesus was intended for all people, not just the Jews.

How we proclaim Jesus to people from different cultures, nations and races is critical to inserting the Gospel into places it has never been heard. We know this not only because so many believers before us lived the Good News with passion, but also by their mistakes. If Christianity is proclaimed primarily as a religion of the West, especially the European West with all of its cultural symbols and rituals, it will never become the Good News about which Luke wrote.

We need to remember this lesson as 21st century disciples. As nations around the world find their own identity, they need to know that the Gospel will marry with their culture without destroying it, and the Christianity they embrace can celebrate the great mysteries of faith in a way that makes cultural sense to them. Knowing this will free those new to the Gospel to hear and embrace, in their own cultural context, the freedom that Jesus promises to all.

Today, ask St Luke for the grace to know how to speak the Gospel to all those struggling with faith.

What do you think missionaries in the 21st century ought to emphasize about the Gospel?