Thursday, July 9,2020

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 11:1-4.8e-9; Matthew 10:7-15)

I have six pence, jolly, jolly six pence/ I have six pence to last me all my life.
I have two pence to spend and two pence to lend,
And two pence to send home to my wife, poor wife.

Many of us sang such rhymes in our youth perhaps making the best of the days when our earning power was minimal.  Perhaps the apostles sang something like it as they were sent by Jesus to proclaim the Good News.

Jesus tells them that they are not to “take gold or silver or copper” with them.  The last, a copper coin, is what we call today a penny.  Jesus wants the apostles are to preach the goodness of God by their poverty as well as by their words.  Completely dependent on Divine Providence, without even a penny to their name, they will show how the Lord cares for those who trust in Him.  He not only gives them upkeep but a more valuable inner joy.

Often enough today we forget this instruction from Jesus.  Preachers will set substantial fees for their services.  Lay people also may always look for compensation for any service rendered.  It is not that asking a definite amount for one’s efforts is wrong.  The problem is that we do not see ourselves as God’s children with responsibility for one another.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 10:1-3.7-8.12; Matthew 10:1-7)

Matthew begins his gospel with a list of names tracing the lineage of Jesus.  He starts with Abraham who received God’s promise to create a people more numerous than the stars of the sky.  He ends with Jesus, who brings that promise to fulfilment.  Matthew mentions a few women like Rahab and Ruth, non-Israelites who exhibit extraordinary faith and courage.  The genealogy indicates God’s hand guiding the process despite the people’s shortcomings. 

In today’s gospel Matthew provides another list of names.  In one sense, these twelve men provide a counterweight to those of the previous list.  As the Old Testament figures lead up to Jesus, the apostles will carry Jesus’ name to the world.  In another sense, however, they are similar to Jesus’ ancestors.  They are a diverse lot.  Many of them, like Matthew, the tax-collector, seem unlikely candidates to carry out Jesus’ mission.  Once again there is a sense of God’s directing the whole affair.

We should see ourselves as part of still another list of people connected to Jesus.  We have similarities to the people already mentioned.  As the first group comprised Jesus’ ancestors, we are his spiritual descendants.  Like the apostles, we are called by Jesus to bring others into his Church.  We can do so by caring for one another and by professing Jesus’ name to those whom we meet.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 8:4-7.11-13; Matthew 9:32-38)

Several years ago two economists surveyed fallen-away Catholics about why they left the Church.  Unsurprisingly, many said that they no longer practice the faith because of the Church’s rules.  For example, they did not understand why divorced and remarried Catholics could not receive Holy Communion.  The survey uncovered other reasons as well, but high moral standards seemed to discourage Catholics as much as anything else.  In today’s first reading the prophet Hosea chastises Israel for abandoning the faith of their ancestors for similar reasons.

Hosea was an eighth century B.C. prophet who preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  It was a time of prosperity.  But rather than turning to the Lord in gratitude, the people fancied the gods of their pagan neighbors.  The pagan deities were much more indulgent than the Lord.  Where the Lord insisted that the people control their sensual appetites, paganism extolled licentiousness.

In Jesus the Lord’s commands are brought to fulfillment.  His new commandments may seem to us harder to obey.  We may ask, “How can we never look at a beautiful woman or handsome man with desire?” and “How can we never resist an insult from another?”  But we must remember that Jesus is there to help us do the seemingly impossible.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 2:16.17c-18.21-22; Matthew 9:18-26)

Jesus successfully begins his ministry in Galilee.  After the Sermon on the Mount, the people believe in him.  Their faith facilitates a host of miracles, two of which are recorded in today’s gospel.  But Jesus’ success will not last very long.  The Pharisees will sow doubt among the people, and his cures will be limited.

The Jewish official’s faith is so great that he asks Jesus’ help even after his daughter has died.  Jesus does not dawdle in response to the request.  But on the way a severely sick woman causes him to tarry.  She too believes in him, but her faith is somewhat magical.  She thinks that by touching Jesus’ cloak, she will be healed.  In truth, she must encounter the Lord before she is relieved of her illness.  Touching Jesus does not bring about a cure, but his touching another will.  When Jesus arrives at the official’s house, he takes the dead girl’s hand.  His touch, like a spark setting fire to dry grass, puts new life in the girl.

These healing stories should impress on us the need of faith in Jesus.  He will help us if we believe in him.  This means that we have to ask his assistance and faithfully follow his teaching.  His love for us will not fail.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Feast of Saint Thomas, apostle

(Ephesians 2:19-22; John 20:24-29)

A debate in the philosophy of science centers on the question of the existence of spiritual being.  Some philosophers hold that matter is all that there is.  They try to reduce the mind to the material functions of the brain.  More classical thinkers respond saying that the elements of matter cannot account for the intricate capacity of thought.  They understand the mind as a spiritual substance dependent upon matter for its formation but having a reality apart from it.  In today’ gospel St. Thomas seems to be a materialist until he meets the risen Lord.

When Thomas is told that the other disciples have seen Christ after he was crucified, he demands to touch Jesus’ body before accepting the fact of his resurrection.  Jesus gives him the opportunity to do it. Does Thomas actually go ahead with the experiment?  The Scripture does not say so.  In fact, it indicates that he does not. Jesus says that Thomas believes only with seeing as the other disciples.

The passage ends with Jesus giving later Christians a blessing for believing in the resurrection without ever seeing the resurrected one.  Because our times challenge such belief, we have to support one another in the faith of the resurrection.  Orthodox Christians do this by a ritual statement and response.  “Christ is risen,” says the priest.  “He is risen indeed,” answer the people.