Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone
Fr. Emmanuel Mansford, CFR

As Christians, Jesus tells us to “read the signs of the times.”  What then are we to make of these times?  The recent election in the US has caused many to sit up and ask real questions about what’s going on in society.  Whatever one’s perspective might be, this election has highlighted the division and distrust that is present in American politics.  This vote has been seen by commentators as a form of protest against an establishment that has become somehow “out of touch” with the lives of ordinary people.        
The Christian Faith is all about a God who is “in touch” with His people, about Power that is humble.  “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not cling to equality with God as something to be grasped at.  Rather he emptied himself, and took the form of a slave, being found in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-8).  In Christ, God, the all-powerful One, became man.  He stepped from eternity into our reality to save us “from the inside.”  He clothed Himself with the messiness of our humanity.  He worked with calloused hands and walked with blistered feet.  He knows how I feel and He cares.  This is the beauty of the Incarnation.  God is not distant.  He is close to us.

As much as I may not like it, discernment of my vocation takes place amidst the darkness and sin of the real world that Christ entered into.  I come to know myself -my desires, my gifts and my weaknesses- through my encounters with others, by entering into real relationships.  As an “Englishman in New York” I love living in Harlem NYC, but it also takes me out of my comfort zone.  The other day one of the postulant brothers and I went to a block of government housing- going door to door- to invite our neighbors for lunch at our friary.  To see the reality of the poverty in which some people live was very difficult.  But at the same time it was beautiful to connect with them there- to be with them in their reality.  And some came for lunch simply because they were invited, instead of sitting in their room alone!  

So often I want to remain comfortable but God wants to stretch me because He sees who I can become.  A big part of discernment is about allowing the Lord to call me from where I am and who I think I am to where He wants me to be and who He is calling me to be.  St Francis’ life is a powerful illustration of one who constantly allowed himself to be led by the Holy Spirit - from the lepers to the Pope to the Sultan- and this resulted in the renewal of the Church and society in his time.  What does God have for me in our time?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Asking like a Child
Br. Pier Giorgio, CFR

In Mt. 18:3 Jesus tells us “Truly, I say to you unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This teaching has always puzzled me, and made me wonder what it really means to be childlike. Certainly, Jesus does not mean to act in childish ways, but rather to have the disposition of a child. One of those dispositions is to ask. Children ask for everything because they recognize that they cannot provide for themselves, so they go straight to those who can, their parents. The same is true for all of us we must go to our Heavenly Father and ask, if not beg, Him for all that we need, trusting and confident that He will provide for us.
Not too long ago I was driving on a very busy road in Manhattan. While sitting in traffic I realized that there was someone blocking the cars ahead of me. It was a homeless man standing in the middle of the road begging for money and food. As I got closer to him I rolled down my window to greet him. When he saw me he ran over to my car and gave me a huge smile and a high-five, and started praising and thanking God. Unfortunately I had nothing to offer him, so after a quick exchange I wished him well and continued on my way. As I drove away I was struck by this man’s childlike disposition and faith, he knew that the only way to get people’s attention and to get what he needed was to stand in the middle of a busy road. This may seem crazy to us, but we need this level of faith and trust in our relationship with the Lord to be like the child who are uninhibited by norms and will throw himself into his parent’s arms when he is in need because he has great confidence that he will not be refused. We can learn from this poor man’s example- we can ‘get in God’s way’ and be confident that He will stop and give us exactly what we need. Let us strive to be like children, confident and trusting in the Father’s love for us, knowing that we can bring all our pains, needs, and desires to Him and that He will graciously receive and hear our prayer.