Monday, February 19, 2018
Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Ps 19; Mt 25:31-46
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
We focus a lot on the “Thou shall nots.” In the moral life, law and responsibility go hand-in-hand. It’s important to know the norms of proper behavior. We can better stay on the right path if we know the boundaries. So the Lord begins his instructions to Moses regarding how to speak to the children of Israel with a detailed listing of bad conduct. Moral teaching is full of precise examples of how not to act, but the Lord doesn’t neglect clearly addressing what we also should do. Simply avoiding evil isn’t enough. The Lord asks more of us than to grudgingly adhere to minimal obligations of decent behavior. We must act purposely, continually doing good. The attitudes that precede our actions are just as telling as the acts themselves.
Gentle Teacher, guide me to joyfully live your law of love.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Is 55:10-11; Ps 34; Mt 6:7-15
This is how you are to pray:
What are you doing for Lent? Acts of fasting and almsgiving tend to receive our greatest focus during Lent. It’s a season of denying ourselves and doing good works. Some of us traditionally discipline ourselves to limit our intake of sweets and increase our works of mercy. These are easily identifiable practices. We can quickly see progress as we put the money saved from giving up that daily latte into the rice bowl. Prayer, however, is a little more daunting, as its effects are not always immediately visible. The season of Lent calls us to reconnect with our prayer life. We must discipline ourselves to spend daily time with the Lord in prayer; doing so will develop a beneficial practice that will not end at Easter.
Loving Savior, thank you for giving us the words to confidently and continually call on you.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Jon 3:1-10; PS 51; Lk 11:29-32
...and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
Images of an angry God can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is somewhat deceptive. God doesn't want to punish us. He has the right and option, but not the desire. Images of his blazing wrath are mercifully, frequently countered with his loving forgiveness. If we sincerely seek the Lord's compassion, he withdraws his warning and cleanses us of our offenses. Even when we think we are seemingly beyond what we feel is the reach of redemption, the Lord reaches further with another opportunity to return to him. When the people of Nineveh were mired in sin, God sent Jonah to warn them so they would not perish. They turned from their evil ways, and God lovingly forgave them. Lent comes as a messenger like Jonah, calling us to repentance.
Gracious and merciful Father, I come to you with a humble and contrite heart.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
1 Pt 5:1-4; Ps 23; Mt 16:13-19
Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Tend to the flock in your midst.
Christ chose Peter to feed his flock, naming him to sit in his place as a servant-authority and a visible foundation of the unity of the whole church. The feast of the chair of Peter commemorates its occupant through acknowledging not only papal authority but also the vital mission entrusted to Peter to provide spiritual guidance to the faithful. This celebration of the papacy's authority, therefore, is not about pomp. As the servus servorum Dei — the servant of the servants of God—the pope is called to humble leadership, not superiority. At the 2013 Chrism Mass, Pope Francis called on the world's priests to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” Like Jesus, they're to mingle with the lowly, offering the healing power of grace to the marginalized.
Obedient Savior, give me the modesty to follow your example of servant leadership.
Friday, February 23, 2018
Ez 18:21-28; Ps 130; Mt 5:20-26
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
It's a sad that some people take pleasure in seeing others fail—especially those whom they deem deserving some form of divine retribution. Humans can be petty and mean-spirited, refusing to let go of past offenses, delighting in others receiving their comeuppance. However, our God, who has the right to judge our wrongdoing, prefers rejoicing in our returning to him. In fact, we are assured that when we turn away from sin and practice virTuesday our wrongdoing is forgotten. That unsettles the grudge-holders. God's law, however, is a law of love. A lack of charity toward others struggling with sin, frustrates the nature of love. We must allow others, and ourselves, to reforge bonds, not smugly triumph at their struggle.
Merciful Lord, may we genuinely seek and eagerly celebrate every sincere desire to return to you.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119; Mt 5:43-48
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
All people, even those we find least lovable, are children of God. Even if we're bitterly separated by ideology or even bloodshed, we share a common humanity. Loving those who wish us harm is not a simplistic proposition of forgive and forget. Forgiveness isn't weakness. We claim the power to allow all parties to move forward in humility and grace. Forgetting doesn't deny remembrance. Some things shouldn't be forgotten. Remembrance fuels a commitment to justice and fights rationalization and complicity. The love Jesus promotes is all embracing. If we withhold it from one of his children, the omission extends to all. God's mercy is infinite, and so is the need for love in this divided world.
Almighty and all-forgiving Father, grant all your children the capacity for compassion that you bestowed upon your beloved Son Jesus.
Monday, February 26, 2018
Dn 9:4b-10; Ps 79; Lk 6:36-38
The measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you.
What you give, God will give you? What you do to others, God will do to you? That sounds a little quid pro quo and not like the God that Jesus calls “Abba.” Or could it be that this “measure for measure” indicates something more basic, more intrinsic to the human makeup? Expending energy gives us more energy. Generosity makes us receptive to the many gifts of this life. Honesty makes us more trusting. Forgiving others helps us accept forgiveness and even forgive ourselves. Loving opens us to love. We’re made in God’s image to be like God — offering not grudging little trickles of mercy, but gushing waterfalls, testifying to the abundance, the bounty, of God.
Creator God, you who made us in your image and know us completely, give us the grace this day to reach farther, dig deeper, listen longer, and love without measure.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Is 1:10, 16-20; Ps 50; Mt 23:1-12
Do what they tell you, but do not follow their example.
Jesus has one message for those who do not practice what they preach and it’s harsh. (Hint: It starts out with, “Woe to you!”) He has very little patience with hypocrites. But today’s message is for those who would ignore a good teaching because the teacher doesn’t follow it. It is natural to imitate what we see, what we know. It’s also natural to let ourselves off the hook. But Jesus says, “I don’t think so.” Today’s lesson can be distilled to this: Another person’s bad behavior is not an excuse for yours. And this is true even if that other person is your parent or pastor or president.
Loving and nurturing God, grant me the grace to be the kind of person I wish others would be; to do for others what I wish others would do for me.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Jer 18:18-20; Ps 31; Mt 20:17-28
You do not know what you are asking.