Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Revelation 11:19a.12:1-6a.10ab; I Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56)

We might think that the Church honors Mary just for being the mother of Jesus.  As we too well know from the recent “royal wedding,” relations to the sovereign have special status.  But Mary’s relationship with Jesus runs deeper than blood.  The Church recognizes her as the first and most committed evangelizer.  In today’s gospel passage Mary proclaims the good news of Jesus before he is born!

Mary sings of how God saves the poor, among whom she considers herself. She says that God has “’has lifted up the lowly’” and “’has filled the hungry with good things.’”  This is very good news for all who have waited patiently for the Messiah.  Not only the destitute but also the faithful who generously help the needy can now rejoice.

Mary is rewarded for her own faithful attentiveness to God with a special place in heaven.  She occupies this space body and soul according to the ancient tradition of the Church.  We gladly sing her praises, follow her example, and pray for her intercession before the Almighty.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr

(Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5.10.12-14)

Today the Church recalls a martyrdom whose valor parallels those of ancient times.  Arrested by the Gestapo during World War II, Franciscan friar Maximilian Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz.  Three months later, a fellow prisoner escaped.  According to the prison’s outrageous rule, ten innocent men were to be executed for the “crime.”  Knowing one of the men selected for the punishment to be a young father, Fr. Kolbe offered himself as a replacement.  The death sentence was carried out with an injection of carbolic acid. 

In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the necessity of becoming like a child if one is to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Certainly liberality regarding personal sacrifice characterizes children.  Much more than adults, children at least speak of their willingness to give all they have for the well-being of others.  Maximilian Kolbe’s demonstration of this willingness well into middle age assures him of a place among the saints.

Today’s society presents interesting opportunities to demonstrate such heroism as Maximilian Kolbe’s.  We may ask ourselves whether we should donate a kidney to a person whose life is in danger for lack of a functioning one.  Although there is no obligation to do so, such a sacrifice certainly qualifies as another example of fulfilling Jesus’ call to become like little children.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary time

(Ezekiel 1:2-5.24-28c; Matthew 17:22-27)

Every other summer the Church presents a healthy selection of readings from the prophets of Israel in weekday masses.  Some may wonder why the Church bothers with these ancient authors.  For centuries the answer was because the prophets foretell the coming of Christ.  But since the Vatican renewal, the prophets and, indeed, the entire Old Testament are read with a wider scope.

In today’s reading the prophet Ezekiel tells of his call to proclaim the word of God.  He finds himself in Babylonia as an exile.  The heavens roar with thunder, and the lightning gives way to a vision of glory. God appears in human form.  The scene is reminiscent of a famous definition of God as mysterium tremendum et fascinans (fearful and fascinating mystery).

God calls us out of ourselves and our petty concerns to serve Him.  The experience can be frightening. It means letting go of at least a modicum of peace.  But following the Lord’s directive, we will find greater happiness.  He will lead us to a life transcending our dreams.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Feast of Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr

(II Corinthians 9:6-10; John 12:24-26)

The Church’s calendar is so filled with memorials for the early martyrs that some may think there were more in antiquity than today.  But they would be mistaken.  More people die because of their belief in Christ now than ever.  The Christians who were slaughtered by ISIS soldiers a few years provide all too real evidence that blood continues to flow for Christ.

Today’s gospel assures that martyrs do not die in vain.  In the parable of the grain of wheat Jesus compares a martyr with a seed.  Just as the grain must die if it is to bring about an abundance of grains to eat, so must there be martyrs to attract the multitudes to Christ.  For this reason the Church has claimed, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

Today we celebrate one of the most illustrious Roman martyrs.  Lawrence was a deacon in charge of the Church’s treasury.  It is said that when the imperial authorities came searching for the Church’s treasures, Lawrence led them to the poor whom the Church has always fed.  The authorities lost no time in punishing this act of defiance.  We should emulate Lawrence in both ways indicated here.  We should testify to the Church’s option for the poor.  And we should readily make sacrifices for the Lord.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 16:13-23)

It has been seven-three years today since the city of Nagasaki was devastated by the atomic bomb. The ruin was calamitous – estimates indicate that a quarter of the population perished and a good portion of the city destroyed.  It completed demoralized the Japanese resistance which almost immediately surrendered to the Allied forces.  One might think of Nagasaki in picturing Jerusalem at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy in the first reading.

Hope in the holy city is scant as the Babylonians have desecrated the Temple, killed thousands of people, and taken into captivity many other thousands.  “What good could possibly come of all this?” the prophet, a survivor, surely asks himself. But he does not remain in disillusion very long.  He feels the Holy Spirit welling inside him.  Like a musical round that refuses to leave one’s head repeating words of consolation, the Spirit speaks.  “I will write my law upon their hearts,” it says.  The people will never stray from God’s law again because it is to be engraved in them.  To the contrary it will bring righteousness to individual lives and justice to society.

The law of which the prophet foretells and Jesus proclaims is none other than God’s Holy Spirit.  Inscribed upon our hearts with Baptism, the Spirit prompts us to always do good, to avoid evil, and to love sincerely.  It has written counterparts in the Sermon on the Mount and other Scriptural passages.  But the New Law is first spiritual, intractable, and comforting even if it demands of us everything.