Saturday, May 7, 2022

Hearing God's Voice

  "My sheep hear my voice." Jn 10:27

Hearing the voice of someone you can trust is a very comforting sound, especially if you are in a difficult or new situation. The first time I traveled to Bolivia I got off the plane after 15 hours of travel, looked around and could not find a familiar face, but after collecting my baggage, I heard the friar I was intending to visit call my name. Although I was far from New York and very tired, I felt at home.

Shepherds in the ancient world did that for their sheep. Most shepherd's had a different whistle or sound for each of their sheep and when the sheep heard their master's whistle, they followed him. He was their guardian and would lead them to fertile pastures where they could eat and drink.

Most of us have had people in our lives who seem able to hear us on a level that both sustains and challenges us. Gifted with the ability not to speak too quickly or forcefully, our shepherds help us understand ourselves and the God who seems silent but always has a message. Although we often resist their insights, eventually we let go and trust the God who speaks through them.

Today, be grateful for the shepherds in your life who help you hear God's voice.

Whose voice was most important to your growth as a person?

Friday, May 6, 2022

Trusting Jesus

  "Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'” Jn 6:67

When friends are not who we thought them to be, especially if they speak poorly of us, we are disappointed and disillusioned.  We might even be tempted to end our friendship, or at the very least step away from it for a while. Shock does that to us. Unsure of someone else, we also wonder how we missed something important about them. Were we so needy that we failed to realize that our relationship was not as secure or as deep as we imagined?

John's gospel reminds us that not all of Jesus' disciples remained true to him. Discipleship, like friendship, is built not on completely understanding the other, but on trusting that the relationship is authentic and rooted in God's love and the truth of the Gospel. Because we know that God is faithful, we can trust that whatever God teaches is for our good and glory of God. Trusting God is the root of our faith and faithfulness.

Today,  ask not for understanding but acceptance.

How do you manage the loss of a friendship?

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Letting God Open our Eyes

 "Scales fell from Paul's eyes and he regained his sight." Acts 9:18

All of us, like St. Paul, have had epiphanies, times when the scales fell from our eyes and we could see and experience life in ways that before were hidden. These are important moments which often shape our lives for years to come. At the same time, they are only epiphanies. Critical and revealing, but nothing and even a hindrance if not acted upon. 

Jesus is clear about this when he reminds us that to those who have been given much, much will be expected. Gifts of faith, insight, wisdom, understanding and integrity are not for us alone. Rather, they are given to us for the good of the community of faith. We must spend them, much as we would a gift certificate, and we must give them away freely as Paul did after his conversion.

Most of the time, our eyes are clouded but this should not distract or discourage us because we probably could not bear seeing everything as it is, but when our eyes are opened, we must look for and respond to those most in need.

Today, ask the Lord for a simple Epiphany for the good of the church.

What have been your most important Epiphanies?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Understanding the Bible

 “'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?'” Acts 8:30

Unfortunately, in a Twitter world where all communication is limited to 280 characters, too many believers cling to or focus on one phrase from the Gospel and use it as a lens for their spiritual lives. Doing this almost always leads to misunderstanding and confusion.  The New Testament cannot be fairly read or understood when we remove it from its own cultural context and setting.

The Ethiopian eunuch reading the scriptures alone knew he needed help and asked Philip to instruct him There should be little doubt that Philip responded to this seeker's request using all the information and skill he had. Blessed with so much wonderful scholarship and insight, we ought to follow Philip's example in the 21st century. Don't just read the scripture regularly or return to your favorite passages, taste the Word of God, chew on it and savor it.

Today, pick up a Catholic study bible and read the introduction to one of the Gospels.

Who or what most helped you to understand the scriptures more deeply?

Tuesday, May 3, 2022


"As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him."

The Easter season is a time when we remember Baptism, especially our own, but because most of us were baptized as infants, we don't remember it. Sometimes it might help to reflect and meditate on photos of our baptism, but even better we might read the ritual of baptism, stopping regularly and picturing what it was like to have a priest or deacon sign us the sign of the cross and invite our parents and Godparents to do the same. 

This simple gesture, often called the laying on of hands, symbolizes the handing over to each person being baptized the entirety of  faith. More important, as each infant grows into a child and then an adult, it is the task of the community of faith to remind each of us of this great gift.  Baptism reminds us that we are never alone, we are surrounded and strengthened by every person, living and dead, who has ever professed the name of Jesus.

Today, take some time to remember and be grateful for your baptism.

Who has helped you remember the great gifts of baptism?

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Cost of Discipleship

 "Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." Acts 8: 3-4

It is startling to hear about Saul's (St Paul's) violent assault on those professing faith in Jesus. It is one thing to attack men physically, but dragging women out of their homes and throwing them into prison tells us not only about Saul's vitriol, but about the level of upset the Jewish community had with those who would soon be called Christians. Violence against women, and others without social standing, is always a sign of a person or culture that is out of control.

At the same time, it is important for us to hear about and accept how difficult life was for the first Christians. Not only did the followers of Jesus venture forth into a hostile Gentile world, they felt enormous pressure from within the community out of which they came. In order to follow Jesus, they risked everything, and eventually lost everything, even their lives. But it was the promise that when they lost their lives they would gain eternal life that gave them the courage to let go, to continue to preach the Good News, and not worry about the results. Their task was to be faithful, not to be successful.

While too many people in the 21st century continue to be persecuted for their religious convictions, Christians know that suffering for the reign of God is worth it when done for the right reasons. Jesus' promise to give life to those who die for the sake of the Good News remains the ground upon which we build our lives.

Today, accept whatever ridicule comes your way for professing the Gospel.

Have you ever suffered for your Gospel convictions?

Sunday, May 1, 2022

St Athanasius

 "He gave them bread from heaven to east." Jn 6:31

It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like for Christians at the beginning of the fourth century. For three centuries they had been persecuted. Welcome neither in Jerusalem's synagogues nor Rome's temples, they hid in the catacombs or died in the Coliseum, but within fifty years of the conversion of Constantine, Christianity became the state religion and anyone who sought office in the Roman empire had first to be baptized.

St Athanasius was about 20 yrs old when Constantine first professed faith in Jesus and led a tumultuous life. Exiled five times from his see in Alexandria, he continued to defend the divinity of Jesus in a world that wanted compromise at any price, and held up St. Anthony of Egypt and his simple life as a model for all Christians. That he remained faithful to the most basic teachings of Christianity despite great personal suffering makes his life a challenge for believers everywhere.

The struggle to live a faith based life at the beginning of the 21st century is great. With the explosion of  the newly emerging social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, there is enormous competition for our attention. How the practice and life of faith fits into all of this is unclear, but with Athanasius we can recommit ourselves to live simply and transparently as witnesses to God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

Today, be grateful for anything and anyone who reminds you of God's love for us in Jesus

Who most impresses you with their simple life of faith?