Saturday, January 29, 2022

Stretching Our Hearts

 "Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." Lk 4:27

It is sometimes difficult to acknowledge that Jesus was not beyond agitating his adversaries. Although it was typical for Rabbi's to challenge one another at the time of Jesus, we are not always prepared for this kind of debate. Nevertheless, when Jesus confronts his listeners with evidence of their refusal to listen deeply to the Torah, it unsettles them and us.

The story of Naaman would have been very familiar to the Pharisees and Saducees, but they surely would not have expected Jesus to use it against them and to ratify his own authority. That Naaman, the Syrian and outsider, was cured by plunging seven times into the Jordan river was evidence that anyone who accepted the authority of God and the Law, not just Jews, could be cured. Jesus insists that he is a prophet like Elisha who is unafraid to offer healing to anyone who listens to his word. There are no limits to God's love and the Lord never fails to remind us of this.

Jesus continues to invite all people to embrace faith and to live its freedom, and it is the task of the church to proclaim this truth and evangelize the whole world. More important, when Christians listen to and live the Gospel selectively, they risk the same condemnation heaped upon the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. It is not for us to say who can be saved. Rather, we must announce Good News, like Elisha and Jesus, to anyone willing to listen.

Today, ask the Lord to stretch your hearts to see all people as he sees them.

What do you think we sometimes want narrow borders within which to think and live?

Friday, January 28, 2022


 "David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.' Nathan answered David: 'The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.'” 2 Sm 12:13

Reading the first verses of the twelfth chapter of Second Samuel makes readers terribly uncomfortable. The prophet Nathan, in the name of God, recounts all of David's awful behavior. After reminding David of all God did for him, the prophet then recounts the King's lust for Bathsheba, and his willingness to put Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, in the front of the fighting where he could easily be killed. For all of this, Nathan tells David, God will punish him severely. Repentant, David admits his wrong and Nathan assures him that he will not die, that God will eventually forgive him.

What kind of God is this? Though David's child with Bathsheba and three of his other children die, David's next child with Bathsheba is Solomon who will be called the wisest man in Israel. Our is a forgiving God, a healing God, a loving God beyond our imagination. His compassion makes no sense. His mercy knows no bounds.

If David can ask pardon and be forgiven, surely there is nothing to keep us from seeking God's mercy on a daily basis. Although we all sin and often have a difficult time breaking unhealthy, even sinful, habits, God is never far.

Today, hold fast to a forgiving God.

What is most difficult for you to forgive in others?

Thursday, January 27, 2022

St Thomas Aquinas

 "David then distributed among all the people, to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel, a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake." 2 Sam 6:19

Few people in the history of the Christian West had more influence on the church and the culture than Thomas Aquinas. Not only did Thomas help the church and other theologians integrate the thought of the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, into Christian theology, his ability to think clearly and logically set the tone for generations of theologians who followed him. His final work, the Summa Theologica, completed only a year before his death at forty nine, is still considered one of the classics of Western thought. 

The church is always better when it encourages its theologians to explore the edges and implications of the Gospel in any society. Today, theologians from all over the world, doing theology through the lens of their own cultures, are pushing the church to understand and integrate the insights of every culture when proclaiming the Gospel. When, moreover, the insights of new thinkers begin to influence the thinking and preaching of the older churches of Europe and the Americas everyone benefits.

Encouraging young people to reflect upon and articulate their faith in the digital age and challenging them to find ways to integrate blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the dozens of other social media into the proclamation of the Gospel might produce another Thomas Aquinas and change the face of the churches in the twenty first century. 

Today, pray for young people studying theology.

Whose thought most influenced your religious understanding and convictions? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Salt and Light

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

In early January, I had an opportunity to spend time with the Capuchin novices of North America, ten remarkably diverse young men. The light of Christ is very bright indeed and these young men are not putting their lights under a bushel basket.

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?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Sts Timothy and Titus

 "I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy." 2 Tim 1:4

St Paul's affection and love for Timothy is one of the few instances in the New Testament that allow us to experience the passion present in the first disciples. Paul reminds Timothy of    his roots. Timothy's mother and grandmother were filled with faith and Paul cites their commitment in urging Timothy to live the spirit of the Gospel in a similar way.

Seeing old friends, especially those who strive to live an integrated faith, is always a joy. While many have abandoned the practice of the faith, many more have deepened their commitment by daily prayer, reading and reflection. Some have joined religious book groups; others have entered renewal programs and scripture courses. Some have even become spiritual directors for others.

Joy is an important virtue. Nothing is more able to reflect the delight and gratitude that comes to us in faith. When people encounter believers whose joy is transparent and authentic, they cannot not be impressed and attracted to the One who gives us joy and proclaims through us the  freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Today, seek out an old friend and share your faith and joy.

Who or what brings you joy and hope?

Monday, January 24, 2022

Conversion of St Paul

 "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Acts 22:7

The drama of St Paul's conversion is compelling. Travelling to Damascus, determined to capture and persecute more followers of the "way", the gospel of Jesus, Paul is startled by a great light and, unsure of what is happening, falls to the ground. His companions see the light but don't hear the voice of Jesus. Only Paul hears the Lord's question, and frightened, asks what he should do. Jesus' response is cryptic but clear. Paul is to go to Damascus but his mission has been changed. No longer will he persecute Christians, he will join them.

If only faith was this clear for us. Our conversion, which is ongoing but often happens in hidden ways, is essential to our Christian life, but most of us have to read the signs of  times in the light of the Gospel to know the path we should take. While this might sound difficult, and is surely not as dramatic as Paul's conversion, it is easier if we have a spiritual companion and pray regularly. The freedom to speak with another about our own inner journey and our place in the world guides us, through prayer, to make good, thought through and felt through decisions that foster our ongoing conversion.

Today, speak with a soul friend and pray quietly for ten minutes.

What do you need to do to be open to God's ongoing call?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

St Francis de Sales

 "Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him." Mk 3:13

In many ways St Francis de Sales seems like a perfect example of what Pope Francis wants present day bishops to be. Pastorally active even after being ordained a bishop, he was anxious to work with children, preach and teach. To do this, he wrote two books that remain important today, The Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, both of which were intended for lay people. In addition, he wrote dozens of catechetical and spiritual pamphlets which he hoped would help Calvinists especially realize that all of creation was a gift from God intended to help us attain salvation.

Because of people like St Francis de Sales, who planted the seeds of lay spirituality, Catholics today know they are called to holiness in and through their everyday lives. Not all are called to be priests or religious brothers and sisters. Marriage, family, and the single life are all important paths to the heart of God, along which we meet God with every crumb of bread we share and every drop of water we offer to the thirsty. God is discovered in the small, everyday acts of prayer and charity we offer on a daily basis.

Today, let the sounds, sight, smell, touch, and tastes you experience teach you about God.

Who introduced you to a form of spirituality that made sense for you in everyday life?