Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 13:2.5-18; Matthew 7:6.12-14)

In the Sermon on the Mount Matthew portrays Jesus as a great sage.  He shows him first proposing the “kingdom of heaven” as the happiness which all discerning people seek.  Then Jesus is described a revealing the new morality which will enable his disciples to reach their goal.  It is composed not so much of actions as of a disposition of the heart.  They are not to despise or will to harm anyone but to love even their enemies.  Of course, this tall order requires assistance so Matthews shows Jesus teaching his disciples how to ask God’s help.  In today’s passage from the sermon Jesus adds to the wisdom he has imparted proverbs that illustrate what he has been saying.

With the first proverb Jesus warns his disciples not to be na├»ve about what they believe.  People who have not been prepared to receive it will revile it.  Tell a man of the world that he should keep quiet about the good that he has done, and he will wonder why you thought he did it if not to achieve the approval of others.  Then Jesus epitomizes his message as he sums up the Old Testament: his disciples are to consider what they wish for themselves as the measure of what they will do to others.  The passage ends with another warning.  Disciples should not think the road to heaven is a lazy highway.  It is more like – Jesus tells them – a winding path which requires focus and care to navigate.

As a truly wise man, Jesus could not please everyone.  For different reasons some opposed his teachings just as Socrates found detractors in ancient Athens.  Following the ways he teaches will not always win for us either the approval of others.  However, we know from experience that doing so brings repose in the form of a friendly conscience as well as the promises of eternal life. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 12:1-9; Matthew 7:1-5)

In order to appreciate God’s call of Abram from Genesis today, one has to note the context.  Babel has just fallen and with the illusion that humans left to their own devices can do much good. Although God has scattered the peoples all over the earth, He intends to bring them together in peace.  His plan is to establish a new nation with Abram as its founder to be an exemplar of loving obedience.  This nation’s virtue will draw all peoples to it.

Abram is an unlikely candidate to engender a new nation.  Although his name means exalted father, he is, in fact, childless at seventy-five years of age!  He is also homeless and nation-less.  He does have a wife, the beautiful Sarai, whom he loves – a fact that does offer him some recommendation.  He also has ambition as he responds to the unlikely call to greatness.

God directs Abram to leave his father’s house for a new land.  There God will give him the first lessons in nation-building.  Abram will thus become the greatest of the biblical patriarchs, but not the kind which feminists love to hate.  God will teach Abram to be conscious and fair, not arbitrary and self-promoting.  He will lead Abram to a consistent respect and tender care for women, not to hardness and domination.  He will cherish his children, and not neglect them.  These are lessons for all men to note as we listen to the story of Abram unfold.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Deuteronomy 7:6-11; I John 4:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30)

With all the attention given to on-line learning, one might think that classroom teaching will soon be obsolete.  But this is not likely.  As much as computers abet instruction, students often need physical contact with a person.  They have questions that computers cannot understand and difficulties that only human intuition can ascertain.

In the gospel today Matthew presents Jesus as the “teacher of the ages.”  His meekness will not reject anyone.  His integrity assures that he never says one thing then does another.  The yoke that he lays on apprentices is the lessons they are to follow.  It is not unduly burdensome because he helps students bear it.  Put simply, the yoke is that his students love another. 

The heart of Jesus, pierced and aflame, symbolizes all the richness of this gospel nugget.  Its ardor reaches all people without exception.  Its vulnerability knows the trials of the weak who in different ways include everyone.  It invites each of us to enter its chambers where we might be renewed for the journey to truth, goodness, and love.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, martyrs

(II Corinthians 11:1-11; Matthew 6: 7-15)

As the Fourth of July approaches, Americans think about patriotism.  What might they do for their country?  They may want to display a flag or to explode firecrackers.  But these acts are superficial.  Love of one’s country entails sacrifices for the good for which the country stands.  We have examples of this deep kind of patriotism in today’s saints.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More lived in Tudor England.  John was a churchman and Thomas, a lawyer.  They were loyal subjects of Henry VIII until the king placed himself above justice.  They then ceased to serve although they did not protest publicly.  Still Henry demanded their allegiance and eventually beheaded them for not giving it.  Among Thomas’ last words was the proclamation of patriotism's right order: “I am the King’s good servant, but the Lord’s first.”

Americans will soon have to struggle with the questions of illegal immigration.  Millions of immigrants have either entered the United States illegally or stayed, again illegally, beyond the time permitted by their visas.  Most of these people have established a home in the country.  They have worked, gave birth to children, and built strong social ties.  Patriotism calls citizens to discern a just way of resolving their status.  It seems cruel to send the undocumented packing.  Yet law-breaking should not be ignored.  Somehow the undocumented must be penalized without jeopardizing their future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

(II Corinthians 9:6-11; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga died rich in the eyes of God although perhaps poor in the sight of many in the world.  He gave up a claim to his family’s fortune to become a Jesuit.  Once a religious, he dedicated himself to caring for the victims of the plague which was racking Italy.  Eventually he contracted the disease and died from it.  His willingness to give himself completely out of love for Christ amply illustrates today’s first reading.

St. Paul is urging the Corinthians to be generous in his collection of alms for the Christians in Jerusalem.  He tells them that they will reap what they sow.  In other words, if they make significant sacrifices, they will merit marvelous reward.  Because God ultimately produces eternal life as well as crops, they will not be disappointed for their efforts.

We may tire of being pestered by charities.  As we hear of names being passed from one charitable organization to another, we may not want to help anyone new.  Let us not make such a decision out of frustration, however.  Rather let us pray for the grace to make prudent use of our resources for the good of the needy.