Tues, April 11th

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 26:1-30

Reflection—v. 12, this good news… what she has done will be told

In Lent we are invited to join of our lives with the larger narrative of our faith. Sometimes in the middle of the story, it’s good to take stock. While a lot is happening in Jesus’ life this last week, our focus is on two meals and two very different responses to Jesus. At the first, a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. She is challenged, even harassed, for her action, but she sees in Jesus the suffering of one particular poor person. She shows him mercy in a lavish, direct, personal way. At the second meal, commonly called the Last Supper, Jesus reveals he will be betrayed by one of his closest friends. At these two meals, the contrast between mercy and betrayal, both of which are deeply personal acts, could not be more clear. How are we responding to Jesus, especially as he comes in the poor and most vulnerable in our midst? Do the poor even have access to our tables? We are called to live in ways that embody personal, direct encounters of mercy. Yet we often choose betrayal, a harsh word perhaps, but nonetheless a true description of the ways we prove faithless in relationships, especially with the most vulnerable. No, these are not easy meditations to make in this holiest of weeks, but the love of God shows us in the life of Jesus begs us to take seriously our own stories. Let us incline our hearts toward mercy.

Prayer God of mercy, draw our hearts toward you, especially in the vulnerable.

Mon, April 10th

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 26:6-13

Reflection—v. 8, why this waste?

There are always those who want to sell something for a large sum and give the money to the poor in a programatic way. It makes sense, I suppose. Surely, this must be a better, more efficient use of resources, the reasoning goes. But the truth is it also keeps our hands from getting dirty with the dust of the feet of the poor—and conveniently, it maintains the status quo just as it is, with a clear line between ‘generous’ benefactors and ‘grateful’ beneficiaries. Matthew places the anointing at Bethany just after the parables of Matthew 25 where Jesus reminds us that how we respond to the poor is equal to how we respond to Jesus himself. The anonymous woman with the jar of perfume embodies the gospel—and it stands in stark contrast to a more sensible, efficient response to human need. She extravagantly anoints Jesus, one particular poor man, showing him care as the days to his death draw closer. She isn’t distracted by the ‘poor’ as an abstraction, a ‘problem to be solved.’ She sees the poorest man in her midst, and mercifully shares with him what she has for his need. Her sharing imparts the dignity of genuine mercy, as the giver shares her gift in a way that the one who receives is honored, having his head anointed like a king. In an instant, the status quo is shattered. This is the difference between the gospel and so many well-intended efforts to alleviate human suffering. The difference, in a word, is mercy.

Prayer Jesus, let me see you in one person today, discovering lavish mercy in poverty.

Palm Sunday, April 9th

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 21:1-11

Reflection—v. 5, humble and mounted on a donkey

This Palm Sunday, we celebrate the Savior King, and we let our loud ‘hosannas’ ring out with joy. But we know where the road that leads up to Jerusalem will take him. 12052648_955563684527593_276394815059261252_oWe know that the cross is not far away now, that other loud shouts will soon rain down upon him whom we praise today—calls to ‘crucify him’ and that ‘we have no king but Cesar.’ And as much as we identify today with glad shouts of praise, we cannot deny that we—in our sin and our selfishness—also betray, deny, abandon, and yes, nail him to the cross, just as his contemporaries did. For this reason, we must never allow our worship, even as we remember the ‘triumphal entry,’ to become triumphalist. It is the one we crucified who has been raised from the dead. And this truth gives a new beauty to our praise, for the victory of God is not the defeat of enemies but their reconciliation. The triumph of God is mercy. Our salvation is forgiveness. Knowing this, let us praise him who comes ‘humble, and mounted on a donkey’ instead of a ‘warhorse.’ (21:5; cf. Zech. 9:9). If nonviolence was not at the heart of the gospel, then surely we must know that none of us would be saved—for we have all made ourselves enemies of love, of life, of God. In a climate where we are constantly being told to hate our enemies, to wipe them from the face of the earth, we must refuse hate. We must choose love and the way of the cross as our most faithful praise, today and always.

Prayer Savior King, help us live the way of the cross, in love and mercy for all people.

Sat, March 4th

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Reflection—v. 17, when you fast…

What is fasting, and how is it a practice of justice? Throughout history, people have fasted in the face of calamity and injustice. Why? Because fasting is essentially an act of protest, taking a case of injustice or tragedy to the highest possible court of appeals: God. Through fasting we are voluntarily taking on ourselves the suffering of our community by denying ourselves both comfort, such as good dress, and that which is essential to a thriving life, such as food. It is a way of saying we choose to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering, calling on the God of justice and mercy to stand with us and to save us. Fasting is a powerful practice of justice. But not if it is co-opted by the powers-that-be so that it becomes no more than a pious ritual by which we show we are culturally acceptable—that we are among the good and the noble, patting ourselves on the back for our righteousness. As Christians, fasting means not only are we entering into the suffering of our sisters and brothers to stand with them in the demand for justice, but that we are also entering into the sufferings of Christ with and for us. The life and death of Christ is the ultimate act of solidarity with those who suffer and are victimized by injustice—the ultimate act of protest against a culture of death and the values of domination. By the resurrection, God demonstrates our cries have been heard and answered with vindicating justice.

Prayer God, in our fasting, we join with all who suffer and with Jesus who died for us.

Fri, March 3rd

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Reflection—v. 6, pray to your Father who is in secret

‘Hypocrite’—a word for which most of us could supply a ready definition and perhaps even a few good examples—was a common word for an actor, especially one who wore a mask. Jesus seems to be saying that our attempts to find our self-worth based upon the values of the world or in the opinions of others leaves us as masked actors, playing out a part for others to see. But playing the part for others does not reveal the deeper truth of who we are at heart. Are we comfortable—and perhaps comforted—by just going through the motions of prayer, assured that our practices affirm for others and for ourselves that we are on the right side of righteousness? Jesus invites us into a secret place of prayer where we can discover our own secret heart—our ‘infinite desires,’ as Saint Therese says—in the eyes of the one who truly sees us. Whether in public or private, in a small group or large assembly, or maybe just on a silent walk alone, this is what prayer is really about. In this secret place, our true and inestimable worth is discovered again and again in the reality that we are beloved by God. No play-acting is needed, for ourselves or others. Having gained our heart in secret, we can now live out God’s justice in relationship to others—our neighbors and our enemies, those ‘who have trespassed against us’ and ‘those we have trespassed against’ (6.12). Such prayer is an indispensable practice of justice.

Prayer God of the secret place, you bid me come, and to find with you my secret heart.

Thurs, March 2nd

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Reflection—v. 2, whenever you give alms

Now, let’s see what it really means to ground our sense of self in the revolutionary values of Jesus. Traditionally, ‘alms’ is providing material assistance to persons in need. However, the Greek word that Jesus uses and our own English word are both derived from the word ‘mercy.’ For Matthew, mercy is a central concept that sets apart Jesus’ way of relating to others, particularly in situations of need, from other teachers of the Law, like the ever-present scribes and Pharisees (cf. 9.13, 12.7). Mercy does not ‘blow a trumpet’ to get the attention of others so that we might get human accolades or be thought of as saintly—all at the expense of the dignity of another person. This kind of alms-giving is nothing more than a transaction where someone’s need is traded in for our personal aggrandizement. Nothing could be farther from justice. But real mercy looks to put the dignity of others first and refuses to humiliate others, especially those who have already had their fill of humiliation. The merciful enter into mutual relationships rather than engage in transactions. They value others as God would, sharing generously. In turn, the one who ‘sees in secret’ rewards them with overflowing mercy (5.45, 5.7).

Prayer God, you call us to mercy, for you are merciful to all and in your mercy is life.

Ash Wed, March 1st

By: Chad Hyatt

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Reflection— v. 4, your Father who sees

It is helpful to examine more closely the broad label Jesus gives to the practices of alms-giving, prayer, and fasting. Some English translations render it ‘piety’ or ‘religion.’ img_20170109_115637Naturally, we might read this and conclude that alms, prayer, and fasting are pious, religious practices. But the word Jesus actually uses in Greek is ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice.’ In Jesus’ view, alms, prayer, and fasting are practices of justice. Secondly, Jesus is situating these practices of justice in the context of competing value systems. He does this by asking whose honor do we seek when we show mercy, pray, or fast. Do we practice justice ‘before others in order to be seen by them’ or before ‘your Father who sees in secret’? The difference is which set of eyes give us our sense of worth and validation, our core sense of identity. Do we derive our sense of meaning and importance based upon how closely we hew to the norms and standards of our culture or the teachings of Jesus? Jesus set out for us the radical, revolutionary vision of God—how God sees our world: ‘Blessed are the poor… blessed are those who hunger and thirst… blessed are the meek.’ This is not the vision of the world around us, not in Jesus’ day and not now. Can we find the courage to live from our heart and find our worth in the eyes of the God who loves us all and blesses the poor?

Prayer Holy God, may you look on us with mercy, that we may be filled with life.

Fri, Jan 6th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2. 1-12
Reflection—v. 3, ‘they saw the star they were filled with joy’
It was still distant, but the star stopped moving. The end was in sight, their long
journey almost half over. The idea of following a star sounds so whimsical. I
suppose there are some benefits, like never being out in the hot sun, but traveling only at night sounds dark, disorienting, difficult, and lonely. With so many stars in the sky, however did they distinguish them all? It’s astonishing how a little speck in the sky could keep them moving forward over thousands of miles. Hope can be like that, the smallest bit of light can inspire us to do the impossible. There are so many things that beg our attention—other stars that glimmer and flicker—but that do not bring the same joy as following God’s mysterious path. So much around us promises momentary pleasure—more so than ever before. In past years we had to work for the things that bring us pleasure, but these days, with so many pleasurable things at our fingertips, we forget the deeper satisfaction that comes with patience and joy. May we turn to God’s light and experience the joy that comes with God’s promise of presence and peace.
Prayer
Lord of light, help me to discern your light, that I might follow it.

Thur, Jan 5th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection—v. 18, ‘weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled because they are no more’
We get so uncomfortable by the weeping and grieving of others, but that process
is so important. It is difficult to be present in those moments, there is nothing to
do, nothing that we can fix. Often when we try to comfort others it is because
of our own discomfort, not because they are ready to stop—the release is an
important part of the process. Loss should be honored. Instead of silencing the
voices of hurt and pain, I wonder if we are willing to hear the lamentation so
many try to keep to themselves. There is healing in the sharing of the experience, there is healing that comes from truly being heard and that experience being honored. To work through our own grief and to hold the experience of others, we have to slow down. Together we will find our way through. It may be slower than we want, but we will find our way.
Prayer
God, nothing will ever be right again. There are times when I am so
scared and sad that I don’t know what to do. Help me find my release. Help me
to have safe places to share my story. Help me to move toward hope

Wed, Jan 4th

By: Maggie Leonard
Matthew 2.13-23
Reflection—v. 16, ‘he grew angry’
Anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion. Ever. Anger can be a gift. Which is not to say that we always
respond well to anger, because we don’t. Herod for instance, was faced with a lot of stress
when he got the news of the newborn Jewish king’s birth and the escape of the magi. I
imagine he was still holding on to the fear he felt at the news of the baby and the anger
he felt when he realized his plan hadn’t worked. After all, his own father was murdered
by Malichus, a Jewish official who hoped to bring a Jewish ruler back to Judea (Herod was
raised Jewish, but always seen as ethnically an Idumaean Arab). His own rule had been
precarious with the assassination of Julius Caesar and invasion of Jerusalem—and yet he
was able to retake Jerusalem three years later. He submitted to Rome, but fancied himself
a faithful and generous ruler to his fellow Jewish people. And then, an unforeseen challenge to the throne arises. Anger can indeed serve us, as can fear. When we allow anger to be felt in our bodies and acknowledged, but not reacted to, we can allow the emotion to move us in positive directions. Anger can help give us strength, energy, and motivation. If we deny it or allow it to drive us to reactivity, it can turn to rage. Similarly, fear can help us to become discerning, wise, and protective. However, unchecked it turns into paranoia and panic. May we allow God to use our anger and fear for good.
Prayer
Son of Humanity, help us to feel the feels and channel them toward your
merciful work.