Franciscan Reflections on Daily Life

 

The Scandal of True Power (November 2012)
I confess that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the fact that the Church places the feast of Christ the King right after a series of apocalyptic readings that focus our attention on the end of time.

Turning Water into Wine (January 2010)
By celebrating the marriage at Cana with friends and relatives, Jesus reveals to us that the wondrous miracle of love is a participation in his incarnation, full of grace and truth.

A Listening Heart (September 2009)
I want to coin a phrase: There are none as blind as those who will not listen, meaning we cannot understand reasonably what we do not experience truthfully.

True Bread of Life (August 2009)
When I dedicated my life to Jesus, I began to get fat. I know that sounds counterintuitive. Research tells us that, on average, people of faith are healthier than the norm. Still, I gained weight.

In Giving Receive (July 2009)
As I reflected on a Sunday reading (Ez.2:2-5), I felt it applied to me in the humblest of ways. It was as though it read, “A spirit entered into me and set me on my feet…I am sending you to bring hope and joy to people who are filled with sadness and despair.”

No to Violence (April 2009)
Shootings on the streets of Vancouver or bombings in Gaza or the death of Canadians troops in Afghanistan: we are constantly reminded of how pervasive violence is.

Go to the Breaches (March 2009)
Whether we enter the season of Advent or the season of Lent, I always like to compare the two. I find it interesting how we make huge distinctions and tend to forget the similarities.

Transcending Loss (November 2008)
Death is a life-altering experience, both for the person who dies and those dealing with loss. Each case is unique; yet some things don’t change.

Authentic Love (September 2008)
Among the most admirable traits of humanist decency is the inclination to treat others at least as well as we ourselves would like to be treated in similar circumstances. So pervasive is this idea that world religions share this common ground.

Lift up the Poor (September 2007)
Sooner or later, progress on the spiritual journey of faith, hope and love leads us to the path of compassion. Along the way, we come to see with the eyes of Jesus those set aside by what the world calls “progress.” Among these are the poor and the marginalized.

Persistence in Prayer (August 2007)
Most discussions about prayer eventually come around to the subject of efficacy. In other words, what exactly does prayer accomplish, and why?

The Charter of Christianity (July 2007)
The purpose of Jesus’ mission was to show us the heart of God. In a way, that’s our job too. That’s the job of a missionary disciple, which we are all called to be.

Understanding Love (June 2007)
For the sake of those of us who need to be reminded of the most basic truths of our faith, Psalm 8 reminds us of some very key principles.

Peace Built on Love (May 2007)
Fundamentally, the only strategy that leads to true peace involves faith, hope and love, and an equal measure of justice, compassion and respect for the dignity of each individual.

The Wilderness Within (January-February 2007)
Jesus leads the way in everything: in baptism, in self-giving love and in rising to new life. But we forget sometimes that he leads us into the wilderness in order to show us how to come out of it stronger, with a better sense of our mission and purpose.

Receive to Give (December 2006)
We often say that “it is in giving that we receive.” There are countless ways to experience the wisdom of this expression. But the reverse is also true. The period of Advent is also one in which we must accept that, “It is in receiving that we give.”

The Church and AIDS (August 2006)
A true theology of love also reminds us that if we are One Body, as Saint Paul told the Corinthians, our joy is one joy and our suffering is shared by all. When the least of God’s children suffer, we all suffer, whether we know it or not. Things are connected more than we realize.

The Gospel of Meaning (July 2006)
One thing that is often said about young people today – as well some not so young – is that they are obsessively driven to find ways of escaping the dreariness of their lives. What lies behind this is a crisis in meaning. Faith gives meaning and meaning gives hope.

Fear and Faith (June 2006)
Fear is possibly the single greatest obstacle to living authentically. The antidote is the confidence that God, who calls us to a particular mission, will grant us what is necessary to accomplish it.

A Holy Priesthood (May 2006)
Once a year, the Catholic Church implores its members to carefully consider the present situation of vocations and to pray to the Almighty that he might send workers into his fields. The implication: either that too few people are called or too few heed the call, or both.

Epiphanies in Our Lives (November-December 2005)
Epiphanies remind us that we’re born to be in meaningful relationship with others and with Christ in others. Seeing that is an epiphany. Our growth in caring about others can be a cause or an outcome of such experiences of the essential nature of divinity, and it moves through particular stages, beginning with indifference, and then becoming pity, then compassion and later solidarity.

Sacred and Secular Worlds (October 2005)
“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” While the law to which this question referred is the law of God, it raises a number of problems viewed in both a sacred and a secular perspective.

Standing for Something (September 2005)
Righteousness is about right relationship with God but also with ourselves. It’s about saying what we do and doing what we say. It’s about integrity, which is necessary for living authentically. It makes us effective when we are right and able to correct our actions when we are wrong.

An Understanding Mind (July-August 2005)
According to Scripture, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered to grant any wish that he might have. Solomon’s response is both surprising and instructive.

God’s “Love Triangle”(May 2005)
When we read of Jesus telling Nicodemus, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life, do we appreciate the implications of that statement?

Called to Live the Gospel (April 2005)
To be called, as we all are, means that we are significant in the eyes of the good shepherd. It also means that we are called to occupy a particular place in the flock. The abundant life that he gives us is a role that we are to occupy in the big picture of the life of the flock.

The Passion of the Poor (March 2005)
Recalling the Lord’s Passion gives us a moment in which to meditate upon the reality of Christ’s great sacrifice, which was made painfully vivid to us in last year’s movie The Passion of the Christ. But perhaps more importantly, this sacred moment allows us to reflect, in the midst of our otherwise busy lives, upon some unfinished business.

The Sureness of Hope (February 2005)
Hope is the link between faith and love. Faith gives us a reason to hope, and hope gives us the will to love. Hope is the spice of faith and the energy of love.

Where Does the Light Lead? (January 2005)
To those around him, Jesus said, “Follow me.” He says this still to those who would be his disciples. But where are we being led? Where did Jesus go when he spoke these words?

Called to be Saints (December 2004)
The word “saints” appears dozens of times in Scripture, including numerous references in the Book of Psalms. There are a great many in the Pauline letters and notable ones in the Book of Revelation. It is almost always plural. What is implied is a communion, not only with God, but also with the people of God.

Is this my King? (November 2004)
What challenges us as Christians is that despite the fact that God offers heaven and earth, that he offers the abundance of life, and that he offers freedom, we are so reticent to give what he asks.

Reflection on Divine Mercy (October 2004)
When we make bad choices in life, the option of returning to the right road is always open to us. Indeed, God is always eager to lead the way. And, he is even more eager to do so if we are afflicted by the bad choices of others.

Reflection on Humility II (September 2004)
Humility, we are told, is the root and guardian of all virtues. If this is so, then its importance in living according to Gospel values can scarcely be exaggerated.

Reflection on Humility I (August 2004)
There is a banquet scene found only in Luke’s gospel (Chapter 14) that cleverly teaches Pharisees (and us) the very essence of humility, and the generosity that humility enables.

Teach Us How to Pray (July 2004)
Each of us has moments of doubt about prayer. We wonder what it is; how it works and what fruit it bears. We do well in those times to recall the disciple in Luke’s Gospel who, speaking as well for many of us, asks Jesus how to pray.

Who Do You Say You Are? (June 2004)
Joy is one of the most complex and difficult-to-define human emotions. Its quality is particularly elusive when we speak of spiritual joy.

Believe and Repent, and Believe (March 2003)
There was a time in my life when I doubted the divinity of Jesus. At that time, while accepting the existence of a historical Jesus, I tended to attribute his wisdom chiefly to the realm of human psychology.

What Eyes Have Seen (February 2003)
Major feasts of the liturgical year, their scope reaching well beyond the day on which they are celebrated, in a sense, overlap one another to create an integrated whole.

Personal Epiphanies (January 2003)
This story is about a friend’s sister. It took place several years ago when she, her husband and two young children moved to a new city. Her husband travelled frequently. She often felt overwhelmed by her new surroundings, the distance from friends and family and the demands of her role as mother to her two children, the youngest of whom was just a baby.

A Journey to Perfect Joy (December 2002)
Mary and Joseph journeyed. The shepherds journeyed. The wise men journeyed. We too journey. We are pilgrims…persons who journey to a sacred place …to a place deep within ourselves …a place where we might see in our soul the likeness of God …a place of encounter with Christ …a place of free and full union with our brothers and sisters …a place of perfect joy.

Foolish Bridesmaids (November 2002)
Among the expressions that have stuck in my mind since childhood is the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. While its secular meaning has been evident to me since my days in short pants, I have more recently come to see it as also having religious significance.

Robes of Gratitude (October 2002)
In accomplishing a task, we are generally challenged not only to choose the right course of action, but also to conduct ourselves in a suitable manner …to do the right thing right.

Compassion in Forgiveness (Septemer 2002)
The longer we plumb the depths of God’s love for us, the more mysterious becomes our discovery. We find layers of meaning we tend to describe in human terms: kindness, mercy, anger, compassion, and fear of the Lord.

Encountering Strangers (August 2002)
Encounters define us. Relationships with the people we encounter on either a planned or random basis reveal who we are, or who we think we are, and what we are to become. After all, ours are a relational species and our identity flows from this reality.

My Burden is Light (July 2002)
If you received an invitation that read: “You are cordially invited to take up your cross and follow me. Signed: Jesus”, would you shout out: “Yes!”? Would you change your summer vacation plans to accept this invitation?

Mercy, not sacrifice (June 2002)
Among the many accountabilities we appear to have as a mandate from heaven is one that we seldom recall, regarding mercy.

The Breath of Life (May 2002)
The classic way of verifying if someone is alive is to “see if they’re still breathing”. In many ways, life and breath are synonymous.

Troubled Hearts (April 2002)
Perhaps what is most bewildering about our Christian faith is the promise of peace. How can we still be gripped by so much violence some two thousand years after the birth of the Prince of Peace?

Lazarus in us (March 2002)
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus after four days in the tomb poses several intriguing challenges to the inquiring mind.

Bright, Salty People (February 2002)
Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. What does he mean by these analogies?

Peace as One Body (January 2002)
I have in my breviary a beautifully crafted card that I received years go from a dear Franciscan sister, which contains a wooden cross thinly sliced from an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane and tiny pressed flowers from the Holy Land. On it are the lovingly hand-written words “Afin que tous soient un!” (That all may be one).

Holy Family Time (December 2001)
At Christmas, we celebrated that wonderful day on which Mary and Joseph delivered Jesus to us, so that we might call him our brother. There is perhaps no more vivid sense of this than the one we get from recalling the first reconstruction of the Nativity scene, something we take for granted in our Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Time (November 2001)
As I reflected on the season of Advent the other day, I began to wonder if the reason the people of Bethlehem had turned their backs on Mary and Joseph was not so much because they lacked the space, but rather because they lacked the time.

Humble Pie (2) (October 2001)
To figure out how long it will take to accomplish a given task, it sometimes helps to work backwards from the time when the output will be needed. The same is true of a journey. Such planning also helps to understand what intermediary steps are required.

Humble Pie (September 2001)
I once sat in a job interview facing someone who asked me how I would deal with a hypothetical confrontation at work. As part of my answer, I made a vague reference to the fact that I would approach the situation “with a certain sense of humility”.

The Hands of Christ (May 2001)
Take a long, close look at your hands. You are looking at the hands of Christ.

A Bittersweet Time (April 2001)
Good Friday is bittersweet. It is bitter because it reminds us of our sorrows – pain and suffering; rejection and loss.

Follow the Leader (March 2001)
Some of us remember playing “follow the leader” as a childhood game. The more mischievous among us may even recall the “devilish” thrill of leading others through awkward places, such as water puddles or woods thick with undergrowth.

Blessed are those who trust in the lord (February 2001)
Everyone is keen to find happiness, but few are prepared to look in the right places.

The Heart of unity (January 2001)
When I was in my teens, in 1960s Eastern Ontario, I knew a few families in which the mother would head out to church on Sunday morning in one direction and the father in another. Generally the children would accompany the Catholic parent.

The Joy of Peace (December 2000)
The last time I meditated on the traditional Prayer of St. Francis, I understood it from a fresh perspective. Instead of Peace being one of its goals – along with joy, love, pardon, faith, hope and light – I began to see how Peace is the crowing gift that marks the achievement of all the rest. Or at least, that Peace blooms insofar as other virtues are seeded and nurtured.

The Once and Future King (November 2000)
Throughout most of the history of civilisation, authoritarian rulers, often called kings, have governed humanity. Such kings have had a rudimentary covenant with their subjects in that, in exchange for some semblance of security, they granted themselves the right to lord it over the inhabitants of their kingdom.

The Challenge of Wealth (October 2000)
You can’t read, listen to or reflect on the teachings of Jesus very long without coming up against the thorny question of whether or not money is indeed the root of all evil. In fact, you can’t go very far down the mystical road without making sense out of the apparent inconsistency between the generosity of God and the insistence of Jesus “to sell what you own”.

The Challenge of Tradition (September 2000)
Jesus said that we must judge a tree, if we are to judge at all, by the fruit that it bears. Also, Jesus roundly condemned the tree that bore no fruit at all. It may be said that tradition is like a tree. It may be magnificent to behold. And aside from its visual appeal, it may provide comfort and a sense of security. It may even offer the illusion of protection from predatory elements. Yet ultimately, it must bear fruit. Eventually, it withers and dies and its vitality must shift to its progeny.

The Feast of Understanding (June 2000)
It may surprise some readers to see me refer to Pentecost as the Feast of Understanding. There is great joy in celebrating the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, but what I think most corresponds to the change that came over the apostles during the event we commemorate on this occasion is their meaningful appropriation of the great truths that they had freely accepted in faith.

The Shepherd In Us All (May 2000)
There is no doubt that the quintessential pastor is Jesus. In John’s gospel, we read how he defines himself as a shepherd and attributes to himself all the best qualities of a good shepherd.

Zeal Consumes Me (April 2000)
The gospel of John is often regarded as the most spiritually profound of the four official accounts of the life of Jesus and opens, after the prologue, with what is sometimes called the “book of signs”. This section moves through seven episodes or stories that point out deep theological truths.

The Spirit of Renewal (March 2000)
Some biblical references have over time entered into such common usage that they have almost lost their spiritual significance. Such is the case for expressions such as “salt of the earth” and adages such as “new wineskins for new wine”.

Be Free From Anxieties (February 2000)
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells the faithful I want you to be free from anxieties. This could be interpreted to be both a gift and a command. It is certainly a gift in that it is the key to what is perhaps Jesus’ most significant legacy, namely the freedom to achieve our full potential. But it is also a command in that Paul is intimating that we must take deliberate action in order to access that potential.

Surprised By Joy (January 2000)
Have you ever tried to imagine yourself as one of the characters in the Nativity scene? I have, and I’ve imagined myself to be everything from Joseph through a shepherd to a donkey, with which I am told I share more than a few characteristics.