Saturday, May 14, 2022

Grace is like the rain

"You are my disciples if you have love for one another." Jn 13:35

St Cyril of Jerusalem, using the simplest of metaphors, helps us understand the Christ in a very accessible way:

But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water?...Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
That Jesus' Spirit is like rain invites us to sit by a window, watch the rain come down and imagine it nurturing and nourishing every plant and tree we can see. When it penetrates the roots of an oak tree, it allows the oak to be itself, strong and majestic, but when it drenches the roots of a tomato plant, it makes it possible for the plant to produce tomatoes. The miracle of grace and growth is obvious and important.

Our lives, lived in faith, should be like rain in others' lives. It is not our task to change those around us, but to help them become themselves in faith. When we give of ourselves freely to those in need, they can become the person God intends and needs them to become for the sake of God's reign. As God sends Jesus, and Jesus send us, so must we send others in Jesus' name to be signs of God's love.

Today, pray that those closest to you will become God's face in the world.

Who has been like rain in your faith life?

Friday, May 13, 2022

St Mathias

 “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love." Jn 15:9

Having someone near, especially in difficult circumstances, can be important and helpful. Knowing we are not alone reminds us that another will walk with and help us interpret whatever life brings. More important, Jesus promises us that his presence will never fail, that there is nothing we can do to turn God away from us. We can ignore or forget God's love, but God cannot forget us.

It is important to recall God's fidelity, especially when nothing about God or church feels right. Sometimes, stumbling through the dark woods of life's struggle, we can be distracted and doubt God's mercy, but the scriptures are forever reminding us that just as God loves Jesus, Jesus loves us.

It is also critical to have spiritual practices that remind us to turn each day, even several times a day, to God and seek God's understanding and intercession. Developing habits of prayer assure us that every day we will pause to remember the God who remains in and sustains us in life and grace.

Today, find a few moments to thank God for God's fidelity to us through the Spirit.

What practices do you have that help you remain in God as God remains in you?

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Thanking our Mentors

  "Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Jn 14:6

Relationships are the key to a gospel life. Without relationships rooted in faith there is no Good News. Though Thomas claims not to know the way, it is only because he has misunderstood Jesus, thinking the Lord is talking about a place to which he is going when he reminds his friends that they know the way. In fact, Jesus is the way. It is only in and through our relationship with him and one another in faith that we witness to God's saving love alive in us.

Most of us, thank God, know this truth intimately. From our earliest years we have been blessed with guides, mentors and soul friends, people who not only instructed us in the formal aspects of faith by teaching us our daily prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, but also witnessed to faith by how they cared for others and reached out to the needy. Today, when we think of them, we are more grateful for the way they lived faith and loved us despite our weaknesses than the catechism lessons they taught us.

Today, pause to remember those who blessed you with unconditional love.

From whom did you learn how to honor God and serve others?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Cheerleaders for the Gospel

 “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” Acts 13:15

Most of us know how important it is to have a cheerleader, someone who sees us with honest and compassionate eyes and does everything they can to help us see ourselves as capable and caring. For some it is their grandparents who do this. For others it is a good friend or teacher. 

Though they may have been testing St Paul and his companions, we might also wonder if the leaders of the Jewish community in Antioch were struggling with their faith and needy of someone who would help them see and understand their Jewishness in a different way. Reminding them of God's constant care for the Jewish people, Paul invites his listeners to see Jesus as the fulfillment of everything they already learned in faith. Jesus is not an heretical Jew, but a brother whose interpretation of the Torah and the prophets is inclusive and hopeful. Maybe Paul was the cheerleader they needed. Perhaps we can offer this same gift to our families, coworkers and neighbors. 

Today encourage someone. Be hopeful

Who helped you grow in faith when you were struggling?

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Discerning God's Will

 "I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world." Jn 12:47

Jesus must have been terribly confusing to the leaders of the Jews. Forever insisting that he wants only to live the Law and fulfill it, at the same time, he seems to break the law regularly. What were the Pharisees to do? If they did not challenge and condemn him, they would lose their own authority. If they did reject his teachings, they would lose the power they had over ordinary people. Their quandary, like ours, led them into impossible situations. More concerned with their own position in the community than with their role of instructing the people of God, they don't listen deeply to the Lord. Neither do we!

A life of faith is not something we put on or off at will. Neither can it be reduced to obeying legitimate authorities. Faith demands reflection, prayer and conversation with others seeking to know and follow God's law, all of which takes time away from other necessary duties in life. Too often, hoping for a simple and quick solution to complex questions, we avoid the hard work of following the Lord, and either put our foot in our mouth or kick ourselves in the shins.

It is important to remember the lesson of the Pharisees. While we can, and sometimes must, criticize church and state, it is only through reflection, prayer and honest conversation that God's will emerges.

Today, pray for the prophets in our world who remind us to live the Gospel fully.

How do you discern God's will in your life?

Monday, May 9, 2022

Relationships Take Time

 "For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians." Acts 11:26

Relationships take time, and are rarely easy. Paul and the first Christian missionaries knew this and took their time not only teaching the Antiochenes but getting to know them. Every message, even the Gospel, has to be spoken with one's audience in mind, and nothing is more important in this regard than culture.

Historians tell us that Antioch was among the most sophisticated of ancient cities with a large library, a magnificent theater and a half million people. Paul, who was learned, and his companions were beginning to articulate a theology of Christianity that demanded the attention of his listeners, but his willingness to remain in Antioch, to listen and learn were as important as the message he proclaimed.

Listening to others, especially those who expect little from us because we might be more educated or we connected than them, is not only a good strategy, it is a telling act of humility.

Today, listen twice as much as you speak.

What has been the most important thing you have learned by listening?

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Spiritual Safety

 "I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved." Jn 10:9

Are your home and parish spiritually safe places? Are your family members and fellow parishioners free to speak, question and challenge the unexamined assumptions that underlie so much of who we are and what we do?

No doubt for some these are threatening questions, but spiritual safety at home and in our parishes is critically important to our faith growth. Unless people can explore freely the foundations of their faith and question those in authority, not with intent to dissemble, but with the hope of learning more about God and entering more naturally into the life of the faith community, they will stagnate or wander away from the practice of faith.

In today's gospel Jesus reminds us that he is the source of safety for the sheep, and that whoever enters through him will be saved. Too many others, he insists, especially the leaders of the Jewish community, were not good shepherds to their flock. They did not look after them. They did not protect them against predators. Rather, they taught the law to reinforce their own power, not to advance the reign of God. How we avoid the misuse of power will be the test of our Gospel commitment in the 21st century.

Today, be a place of safety for someone who is struggling with belief.

Who helped you to trust God's shepherd like care when you were confused or hurt?