Saturday, April 2, 2022

Asking for Forgiveness

 "Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle." Jn 8:3

When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders who caught a woman in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin, their options were few. Theirs was not an authentic righteousness. More concerned with trapping Jesus than with justice for the woman, they were considered "malicious witnesses," who, if they acted, would have been liable, according to the Rabbis, to the same punishment given to the woman. Afraid for their lives, they walked away, not because they wanted to do justice but because they were fearful of the stoning they deserved.

Then and now, Jesus demands authentic justice for all. While sin and crime sometimes demand serious punishment, more often than not, those seeking justice do not have pure motives. Wanting vengeance because they lose money or a loved one to death, they demand capital punishment, all the while ignoring or denying their own sins and crimes. Hurt and anger get in the path of mercy, but theirs is not a Gospel response. Jesus demands that we look at our own sin every time we are tempted to condemn others.

Today, ask to be forgiven for your sins.

How do you understand Gospel mercy?

Friday, April 1, 2022

Standing up for Justice

  "Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, 'Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?'”

It is always heartening to read about heroes whether they be Christian saints or national icons. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, demonstrates great courage in trying to get the leaders of the Jewish people to put aside their fears that Jesus was attracting too much attention and distracting everyday Jews from living the Torah. That his challenge was not heard matters little. Nicodemus had the courage to risk his own position and power for the sake of living the law as he learned it. Like St Paul and Dorothy Day, everyday heroes always do the right thing.

Lent is a good time to ask ourselves how much we are willing to risk on behalf of the Gospel. Are we involved in any organization that works for an end to violence or poverty? Are we willing to support financially groups that work on behalf of the unemployed or under employed? Are we open to working with people who help refugees and other struggling minorities?

Today, ask yourself how much living the Gospel costs you?

Who are the heroes you most admire?

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Suffering for the Truth

 "His hour had not yet come." Jn 7:30

For most of us, thank God, life makes sense most of the time. We are blessed with homes, friends, food and family. We have resources upon which we can call when we are in trouble or sick. We know, even if we do not always appreciate it, that we are not alone.

Learning to accept and even be grateful for life as it comes to us, no matter the suffering it brings, is one of the hardest lessons we learn. We push back, avoid, deny and wrestle with the dark turns that life brings us. Archbishop Oscar Romero knew that if he continued to speak on behalf of the poor he would likely be murdered, but he could not and chose not to avoid this awful burden. That he gave his life for the gospel continues to uplift all, but especially those who work among and with the poor. Suffering is not good in itself, but suffering for the sake of the truth and the voiceless is sanctity.

Today, accept whatever comes to you with gratitude.

Have you known anyone who gave their life for the sake of others?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

God and Moses

 "Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Like the Forgiving Father in the Gospel (Lk 15: 11-32), God rushes out to meet us at the first sign of our guilt and sorrow. More, God cannot do enough for us when we repent. God puts cloaks around our cold shoulders, rings on our broken fingers, and sandals of our battered feet to demonstrate how gratified he is to embrace us and welcome us home.

Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

God is like our Mother

 "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." Is 49:15

The importance of a loving mother in the life of a child can hardly be overemphasized. Mothers are routinely asked to find time, day and night, to listen to, console, and advise their children on matters as simple as a haircut and as complex as the choice of a life partner. More important, they have the   burden of creating a safe space, emotionally and spiritually, for their entire family.

No doubt it is because so many mother's astound us by their heroic virtue that we hold them up as icons of hope and imitation. Perhaps you remember reading about Stephanie Decker, who shielded her children from the ravages of a tornado only to lose both her legs. Unable not to help her children when they were in great danger, she was willing to risk anything to help them.

When Isaiah assures us that God's love for us is even fuller than a mother's love for her children, he opens an image of God that is both powerful and challenging. If we are made in God's image than we must be capable, like Stephanie Decker, of loving others as God loves us. More, we must put aside anything that gets in the path of living the Gospel fully, not for our own salvation, but to announce Good News.

Today, let go of your own safety to help others.

What story comes to mind when you think of God never forgetting us?

Monday, March 28, 2022

Helping the Helpless

 “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jn 5:7

Flowing waters evoke growth, life and hope in and around us. They remind us that God wants to feed us, desires that we live along the fresh waters of a river so that we can benefit from the fruit and vegetables that will flourish there. Flowing waters also remind us of baptism and God's desire to cleanse us for service to others.

The difficulty faced by the fellow who has been ill for 38 years is clear. His disability doesn't allow him to enter the flowing waters, and he has no one to help him.  That he would still desire to know the cleansing and healing waters after suffering for 38 years is remarkable in itself, and Jesus, the one who will be known as flowing waters, rewards his patience and dream by telling him to take up his mat and walk.

Healed, the newly cleansed fellow faces his greatest challenge. Will he realize that his healing is a call to serve others, especially those who have been suffering for a long time? Unless he does, his new life will fail to bear the fruit promised by God to those living near flowing waters. The lesson should not be lost on us.

Today, be grateful for the cleansing waters of Baptism.

What kind of service has most enriched your life?

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Wisdom of our Elders

 "Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death." Jn 4:46

For the last few years I have been talking with and listening to older people, most of whom are open, honest and enjoyable conversation partners. When leading parish missions, I have encountered mostly retirees who have the time to make a parish mission and are anxious to review their lives by making serious attempts at growing in prayer and faith. Rarely defensive nor overly anxious, they are funny and fun to be with, and that is the point. We have many committed seniors in our church but I wonder whether we are taking adequate advantage of their learning, wisdom and passion.

Calling seniors passionate might surprise some readers, but it is exactly this that I experience. Anxious to pass on their faith, the older people I meet wonder just how they might do this most effectively. They pray, they listen, they serve as Eucharistic ministers in nursing homes and hospitals, they drive friends and neighbors to doctors appointments, they visit the sick and the imprisoned, and they do all of this because it is the right thing to do. Occasionally guilty because they failed to find time earlier in life to live their faith more dynamically, they know now they are disciples of Jesus Christ and are anxious to do more. Why do we fail to hear them or see them? Are older believers invisible in the church in North America much like immigrants and uneducated? How can we change this?

Today, ask someone who is older what their faith means to them.

Have you ever gained new insights and hope from listening to older people?