Monday, January 16, 2017

Learning Through Obedience

The Letter to the Hebrews underlines the connection between obedience and suffering:  "he [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (Heb 1:10). There's no getting around it:  there is pain in this life, there is opposition, there is controversy, but there is also obedience:  obedience to a higher call, a "higher power", a dream.  All of this comes to a head in Jesus, but it was also exemplified in the life and crusade of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is honored by a national holiday in the United States today.  In trying to focus on respect and equality of all peoples, he suffered threats, verbal and physical attacks and eventually, death.  He followed the path walked by Jesus and only after his death was his message implemented, at least to a degree, with many more dreams and miles to go.
Our own footsteps along this path similarly require more pain, more learning, more obedience.  Jesus reached the high bar and assures us that the path of suffering and obedience is the path to redemption, our own, and that of our society. May we not give up, but grow stronger in our faith and conviction with each day, with each step of the way.
Bro. Rene

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Called To Be Holy

It will be 52 years ago this year that the Second Vatican Council resounded with its many shifts and insights into what it means to be a Christian Catholic. The Church, the world, still reverberates with them;  we are still absorbing them and working toward implementing them.  One of them, "the universal call to holiness," has opened a door that affects every one of us.  It's not just priests, sisters and brothers who are called to be saints, but each one of us as well.
 Our readings today emphasize this call.  St. Paul addresses his first letter to the Corinthians,'to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours...."(1 Cor 1:2),  Followers of Jesus are to be, as Isaiah writes, "a light to the nations,/ that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Is 49: 6). How do we become holy, how are we to be light?  John the Baptist points to Jesus:  "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (Jn 1: 29). John recognized in Jesus the one who takes away our sins and makes holiness possible, for is not holiness based upon an absence of sin?  We do not cleanse ourselves, but Jesus lifts our sins from our shoulders when we ask him to do so, when we seek this will all of our heart, when we die to our selfishness and put our lives at God's disposal.  Today, may we heed our call and act upon it.
Bro. Rene

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Two-edged Sword

"The word of God is living and effective, sharper than a two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart." (Heb 4:12). These words could be frightening or consoling:  we could imagine "Big Brother" scrutinizing every word or action, GOD SEES YOU, or yes, the God who knows the far reaches of our endless universe, also knows and sees the goodness that lies deep within me even better than I do, so that, being on "my side," he encourages me to "confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." (Heb 4:16).  Not to fear this two-edged sword, but to see it as a defense weapon that enables me to carry on with life knowing that I have an ally who sees me to the core of my being and is able not only to sympathize with my weakness but also to strengthen my goodness. Lord, you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand; nothing is hidden from you, I walk, then, with joyful confidence to carry out the day's tasks with you within me and beside me.
Bro. Rene

Friday, January 13, 2017

Healing

Interestingly enough, today's theme comes to us on the dreaded "Friday the 13th".  Nothing to fear from this superstition, however, but everything to gain as we see Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered to him through the roof for a cure.  Jesus not only healed the man but forgave his sins, and as proof, told him to pick up his mat and walk home. No question here about the power Jesus had to forgive sins as well as to heal the sick. (Cf. Mk 2: 1-12).
Today, fittingly, is also the Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers, France, who accepted the Faith in his 30's and was acclaimed Bishop of Poitiers by the people. Besides being one of the 35 saints who are Doctors of the Church, he is the patron of the ill.  (We are not sure of the reason for this.)
It seems we are always being asked to pray for someone undergoing surgery or suffering from some illness, so this Gospel and St. Hilary stand as reminders that the power of God, working through our prayers as well as the hands of the doctors, can bring about the sought-after healing.  Let us, then,  be generous and persistent in our prayers for all the sick as well as for those particular people who have requested our prayers.
Bro. Rene

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reaching Out For Help And To Help

St. Mark give us the story of a leper who approached Jesus, begging for a cure.  Jesus was moved with pity and said, "I will do it.  Be made clean." (Mk 1:41) (Two memorable words in Latin:"Volo, Mundare."--good to repeat often, especially when we are helping others).  The direct approach of the leper moved Jesus to pity. May it move us to ACTION.
We celebrate as well, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the first Canadian Saint, a missionary from France, who when 20 was touched by a glance from a statue of Mary that changed her life.  She became a Sister of Notre Dame and later traveled to Canada to tend to the children of the colonists in "New France." Quickly realizing that cloistered life would not help serve the children, both of the colonists and natives, she worked to establish a non-cloistered group of sisters, which became the Congregation of Notre Dame. She founded schools and established several communities to help children learn both spiritual truths and practical skills.  She and her sisters reached out beyond the confines of the cloister to help, to be of service.
Following her example, we might look for ways we can extend ourselves beyond the normal confines of our daily routine in order to provide help where it is needed.
Bro Rene

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why He Came

After curing Peter's mother-in-law, Jesus spent the evening curing all the sick and possessed that the townspeople brought to him.  With a only a short night's  sleep, he rose early to be alone in a deserted place to pray, but Simon and others found him told him that people were looking for him.  He responded, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come." (Mk 1: 38).  Preach he did, also driving out demons and healing the sick.  How his love moved him to raise people from the dust of disease and demon-possession, self-disgust, fear, ingratitude and selfishness.
His love continues to reach us and lift us out of that same dust. May we allow him to pick us up in a binding embrace and fuse our hearts with his so that his love will cast out our fears and problems and fill us with his own life, love and happiness.  He knows us through and through, even in that awful place between the proverbial frying pan and fire where there seems to be no human solution, except to turn to him and let him do what he came to do: fill us with his love and save us from all evil.
Bro. Rene

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Teaching With Authority

We begin Ordinary Time with an extraordinary tale of Jesus as he began his public ministry.  He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and astonished the people with his teaching, "for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." (Mk 1: 21).  He even drove an unclean spirit out of a man in the presence of all.  "All were amazed" as this time  he acted "with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." (Mk 1: 27)  Because of this authority, his fame spread throughout Galilee.  A good beginning but one which eventually led to a clash with another authority, that of the Scribes and Pharisees. 
His boldness in speaking and acting the way he did came from an understanding and appreciation of his identity as God's Son and the embracing of his mission to speak in God's behalf, not simply as an ambassador, but as God himself.  He raised the bar high for us, his followers, and there have been myriads who have striven to carry on his mission by daring to speak with his authority.  The Church's mission, guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, continues to preach with authority, not always popular, but faithful to the truth, 2000 years after Jesus.  May we stand firm in our convictions, our actions and words to continue this witness to the Authority of God.
Bro. Rene