Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezra 1:1-6; Luke 8:16-18)

In the 1950s and 1960s civil rights activists sang, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  They saw themselves as small beams of light in the ongoing struggle with the darkness of racial bigotry and prejudice.  The song, written in the early part of the last century, recalls Jesus’ words of the gospel today.

Jesus wants his disciples to understand that they have been chosen to reflect the light of God’s grace.  Christianity is not a private religion in the sense that Jesus’ followers might pray on Sunday and be indifferent to their neighbors on Monday.  Quite the contrary, Christian prayer should lead to action on behalf of the needy.

There is a story about a Quaker prayer meeting once attended by a non-member.  As their habit, the Quakers were sitting in quiet meditation which discomforted the guest.  The guest turned to the Quaker sitting at his side and whispered, “When does the service begin?”  The Quaker responded, “The service begins as soon as the prayer ends!”  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Timothy 6:2c-12; Luke 8:1-3)

A cartoon shows a fat corporate executive describing a recent business decision.  “It was a matter,” he says, “of either losing a friend or losing money.”  No doubt is left as to which of the two the tycoon values more. 

However, the New Testament repeatedly indicates that money makes a poor friend.  In Luke’s gospel Jesus often warns against the accumulation of wealth although, as today’s passage indicates, he and his disciples had needs which the women’s money met.  Perhaps Scripture is nowhere more wary of money than in the first reading.  We should note, however, that First Timothy does not condemn money itself as the root of evil but “the love of money.”  

Should charities accept money from patently sinful sources?  Much good can be done with so-called tainted money, but then virtue’s kissing vice leaves many people morally bewildered.  Scandal must be avoided, but at times thieves may make reparation for their crimes by privately reciprocating institutions that care for the needy.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist

(Ephesians 4:1-7.11-13; Matthew 9:9-13)

Sometime near the year 90 of the Lord a man we know as Matthew wrote his gospel.  He took the Gospel according to Mark, a book of sayings that was being circulated among first century Christians, and his own sources to form a testimony to Jesus Christ.  It would enlighten his community somewhere in Syria regarding its mission.

The end of the first century was a time of profound change in the Christian world.  The Jews had reorganized after the destruction of the Temple twenty years earlier.  They could no longer tolerate Christians in their midst.  Christians as a result were more apostolic than ever.  They were founding their communities now more than ever in Gentile and not in Jewish areas.  By ending with Jesus’s sending his disciples to all the nations of the world, Matthew’s gospel reflects this change of concentration. 

Today’s passage indicates how a shift of emphasis was part of Jesus’ historical mission.  The tax collector Matthew was not the author of the gospel although it is possible that he provided some of its source material.  In any case he is an outsider because he is considered an extortionist and collaborator with the Roman oppressors of the Jewish people.  Nevertheless, Jesus calls him to become his disciple to the complete chagrin of the narrow-minded Pharisees.  He too must repent of any sins he has committed, but he should not be labelled as unfit just because he collected taxes.  Jesus calls us as well.  We must turn from our sinful ways, especially those which despise immigrants and other socially shunned groups. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, martyrs

(I Timothy 3:14-16; Luke 7:31-35)

Today the Church honors the first Korean martyr-saints.  Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions gave their lives in witness for their faith in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Andrew Kim was Korea’s first native priest, but most of the people canonized with him were lay women and men.  In today’s gospel Jesus foretells the glory of such heroic people.

He is seen trying to explain why people are not repenting of their egoistic ways.  He says that they have been approached in two very different ways.  John the Baptist came to them as a fire and brimstone preacher.  His ascetic life was meant to convert people from their rather exclusive self-concern.  Jesus himself is preaching the love of God for all people including the worse of sinners.  Yet people still will not open their hearts.  Almost in exasperation he says, “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  He means that not only John and himself but also the many martyrs to follow will demonstrate the wisdom of repentance.  They will be glorified in heaven while those who refuse to love others will suffer want.

We live in a narcissistic time. Facebook and other social communication foster egotism and minimize the value of concern for neighbor.  Those who vaunt themselves can hardly be called true followers of the Lord.  While those who die to themselves for the sake of God will find themselves sitting with Jesus and the martyrs in glory.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31a; Luke 7:11-17)

"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light."

Poet Dylan Thomas conveys the absolute unacceptability of death. It breaks up our relationships as well as separates our bodies and souls. As one reverend termed it, "Death is THE enemy." Jesus addresses himself to the culprit in today's gospel.

While the widow grieves the loss of her only son, Jesus takes compassion. It is notable that he does not attempt to console her by saying God will provide or by assuring that her son now knows a greater peace. Rather he restores her son to her alive and whole. As the prodigal father says of his formerly wayward son, he was dead and has come back to life.

The faithful know that the sainted dead live on in God’s love, but they should realize that this state is not the fullness of our hope in Christ.  No, we humans –consummate bodily creatures all – look forward to the resurrection of our bodies when we will live in light and beauty.  And if we are now disfigured by disease or even our own compulsions, will we have to feel at loss forever?  No, Christ’s calling us from the dead will give perfect form to each of our bodies.  It is truly an end to prepare for.