Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lent 2 Tuesday

When my young son asked about a certain word he’d heard, I explained that he shouldn’t use it under any circumstances. “But Dad,” he objected, “I’ve heard you use it!” Oops… I’d taught him: “Do as I say, but not as I do.”

I was like the religious leaders in today’s gospel who didn’t practice what they preached. But that might be said about any of us. Most of us have been guilty of talking the talk, without walking the walk.

Sometimes we realize this and don’t “preach” at all, when actually we should be saying something. For instance, parents might avoid speaking about sex or drinking or drugs with their children, because their own histories are, shall we say, less than perfect.

So what’s to do? If we say something, others might roll their eyes; but if we say nothing, they might turn their eyes elsewhere and discover the wrong answers. Thankfully, Jesus suggests a way forward when he spoke of humility in today’s gospel. We can admit that we’re less than perfect, and place ourselves beside those we instruct, instead of exalting ourselves above them. Because at one level, we all stand before Christ as students before our teacher, servants before our master, sinners before our savior.

Should we do this, what others will hear is: “Do as Jesus says…not as I do.”

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent 1 Wednesday

In view of the selfishness and self-absorption that pervades our culture, we hear these days about the “Me Generation.” One psychologist, however, refers to it as the “Don’t Blame Me Generation.” She writes, “it is based on a belief system like this: ‘I am more important than most people; I am good; therefore I am incapable of doing bad things.’” What we have, she concludes, is a generation of people who don’t think they need to change anything about themselves.

In today’s gospel, Jesus spoke about another generation of people who didn’t see their need for change. Through his very presence amongst them as the incarnate Son of God, this generation was presented with something far greater than the wisdom of Solomon and the preaching of Jonah. Yet still they didn’t change; they just didn’t see the need. Jesus might very well have directed his words to our “Don’t Blame Me Generation” of today. And indeed he does.

In contrast, the people of Nineveh, when they heard God’s word through Jonah, recognized their need for change. And when they repented in sackcloth and ashes, they learned that God never spurns a humble and contrite heart. You and I will experience this as well, whenever we embrace our need for change and repent. As we celebrated in today’s psalm, God has mercy on us in his goodness; in his compassion he wipes out our offenses; he washes us from our guilt; and cleanses us from our sins. So while “Don’t blame me” may be the cry of our generation, Jesus invites us to make “Have mercy on me” our cry of faith.

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent 1 Tuesday

A familiar expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” means that noisy, pesky people usually are heard, and get what they want. Thankfully, as Jesus explained in today’s gospel, we don’t need to be a “squeaky wheel” with God. When we pray, we don’t need to pester God to get his attention; we don’t need to jump and shout or, to borrow Jesus’ phrase, “babble on and on like the pagans,” to get God to hear us. The truth is, God is already listening. He knows what we need even before we ask, because he knows us and loves us better than we know and love ourselves.

Nevertheless, we are to ask God for what we need, simply and honestly, for four reasons:

• First, so that we can learn to depend on God, and not on ourselves;

• Second; so we can acknowledge that all good things come from God, and give him thanks and praise in return;

• Third, so we can share with God, in a relationship of mutual love, those people and situations that are important to us;

• And fourth, because our prayer- really and truly- does change things.

We might say that God loves to hear our voice! We don’t have to raise it or cry out, because we already have his undivided attention. For us, God is “all ears.”

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent 1 Monday

A youth minister once shared with me how he had led a group of young people in song outside a high security prison. After some time, hands were seen sticking wet pieces of toilet paper on the prison wall’s small slit windows. Letters began to emerge, then a complete message. It read: "Pray for us." "We went to visit our brothers in prison," the speaker explained to me, "because Jesus was a prisoner too."

As I listened to this, I recalled another conversation, this time with a parish volunteer. Her pastor had asked her arrange for parish children to stuff Christmas goody bags of toiletries for local inmates. She was appalled at this suggestion and flatly refused. Those people were being punished for their crimes, she insisted; they didn’t deserve any goody bags.

What a contrast between these two people. Both are committed Catholics. Yet they held very different attitudes about the exercise of mercy. In today’s gospel, Jesus makes clear what he wants our attitude to be. He spoke of prisoners, the sick, the poor, and strangers in our midst - people we might be tempted to judge, condemn, dismiss, ignore, or neglect out of selfishness, indifference, and hardness of heart. Yet Jesus refers to them as his brothers, and explained that we serve him when we serve them. His challenge to us today, then, is to extend mercy to others, just as he has showered his mercy upon us

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Wedding banquets don’t usually come to mind when we fast during Lent; I’ve never seen fish sticks served at a reception, and I’ve been to more than a few!

Nevertheless, when Jesus was challenged about fasting in today’s gospel, he responded by calling himself a bridegroom, and by referring to us, his friends, as his wedding guests. Jesus was saying that our relationship with him, in many ways, is like a joyful wedding feast.

Jesus wants us to keep this joy in mind as we approach the discipline of fasting. We fast during Lent, not primarily to lose weight, not because it’s a Catholic cultural badge, and not because we need to prove our holiness to God or anyone else. As Catholics, we fast- from food or from anything else that can become a compulsion in our life- to help us grow in freedom, and thus bring us a little bit closer to Jesus. And anytime we grow a little bit closer to our Lord, the result is always joy. You might say, then, that we fast in order to feast- feast upon the new and abundant life that Jesus wishes to pour out on us, during this special season of grace.

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

"I'm in with the 'In Crowd,' boast an old popular song, "I go where the 'In Crowd' goes." This catchy tune is still being remade today (recently it was on a TV commercial), becasue it gives voice to the desire to be popular, admired, a little envied, hip. To be, not "holier than thou" but "cooler than thou."

As an antidote to this desire, Jesus offers us a warning in today's gospel. To follow in his footsteps, he explained, often involves being out of step with the world. As his disciples, we are to think differently, and act differently, from the world around us. In other words, we may not always be "in" with the "In Crowd." This is what Jesus means- at least in part- when he speaks of losing ourselves, even if we've gained the "whole world." In other words, if we confirm ourselves to the world- the "In Crowd," we risk losing ourselves in the process.

Jesus' invitation to daily take up our cross and follow him may lead us to being at odds with the world, and the world as a result may in turn consider us odd. To follow Jesus is not necessarily to "go where the 'In Crowd' goes." Jesus was "rejected," and we may find ourselves rejected too- at least by the "In Crowd." But when all is said and done, that's okay. We may not be "in." But we will find ourselves, and have true life.

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

“Bad publicity is better than no publicity.” This catchphrase reflects the desire within our culture to “see and be seen” – no matter the reason or the cost!

That’s why Jesus’ words in today’s gospel can be so challenging. He told us to guard against performing religious acts for others to see. Our left hand must not know what our right hand is doing; we’re to pray in private behind closed doors; and our appearance shouldn’t reveal that we’re fasting.

Jesus knows that we often bring mixed motives to our religious undertakings. Some of our motivations- the ones inspired by God- are noble and good. Things like wanting to serve others, meet their needs, alleviate their suffering, grow closer to God, and make amends for our sins.

But sometimes we have other motives that aren’t as laudable. We may do religious things because we hope others will see us as holy or admire us for the kind things we’ve done.

When we act in this way, we’re seeking to glorify ourselves- and there’s the catch. Because as Christians, all we do, in one way or another, should be done for the glory of God. As we journey through the 40 days of Lent, let’s ask the Lord to purify our motives, so that what we do is not driven by concern for public relations, but by a spirit of private praise

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ordinary 6 Tuesday

To borrow a phrase from "Mister T," I pity those fools who forgot to remember their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day. They’re finding themselves in the doghouse right now.

It’s exasperating when people forget important things they really should have remembered. Take today’s gospel, for instance. The disciples were all worried because they’d forgotten to pack bread for their trip, and they were down to their last loaf. When Jesus found out, he was floored. Just days before he had miraculously fed great crowds of hungry people with only a handful of loaves- and the disciples had witnessed the whole thing! If Jesus ever pulled his hair out or banged his head against a wall, he surely did it here. "How could you have forgotten what I’ve done?" he asked. "Are you blind?"

If the disciples had remembered what Jesus had done, they wouldn’t have been so stressed out. There’s a lesson here for us! We get anxious and worried just like the disciples did. When that happens, it’s good to remember what Jesus has done for us. The disciples should have remembered the miracles of loaves and fishes. We can only read about that. But we can witness an even more wonderful transformation of bread- whenever we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

At Mass, we remember that Jesus died and rose again to save us, and show us how much he loves and cares for us. So then why do we worry? There’s no need to, as long as we "Do this in memory of me."

My devotional of daily Lenten reflections from 2013 is still available as an e-book from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Devotions-Lent-Living-Gospel-ebook/dp/B00B8BVHXE/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1424178573&sr=8-5&keywords=scott+hurd