Sunday, November 1, 2020

 THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS, November 1, 2020

(Revelation 7: 2-4.9-14; I John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12)

Twelve years ago, an American writer published an essay about his relative, an Italian priest. The author was almost ecstatic that his grandfather's cousin was named as a saint of the Church. He said that knowing that his cousin was a saint has made him a better man. He credited Pope St. John Paul II with facilitating the canonization of many saints like his cousin. In fact, this pope canonized more people as saints than all of his predecessors combined.

Saint John Paul II believed that the people need saints as models for their lives. He recognized how the Second Vatican Council called all the faithful of the church to holiness. Therefore, he exhorted people not to think of the saints as "unusual heroes" of holiness. He said that there are many paths to holiness so that every person can achieve it.

On today’s feast we celebrate all the men and women who have passed through these roads at the same time accessible and not much taken. We take into account canonized saints like Saint Gaetano Catanoso, the Italian priest and cousin of the American author. We also remember Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, a French couple and parents of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. Although they are canonized, we may not find their names on our parish calendars.

We also celebrate today many saints that Rome not even knows. They are the people who have walked their paths to holiness in relative obscurity. Possibly all of us have known at least one person who if he was not helping others, was praying for them. He may be the man who stopped by the parish every day to do the maintenance without asking for anything in return. He was such a trustworthy person that everyone from the pastor to the newest parishioners saw him as a friend. Or it may be the judge who comes to the noon mass from his courtroom in which he is known as a wise and just arbiter.

The Beatitudes trace eight paths to holiness. They all have the undertone of humility. The saint does not insist on having his way but always submits to the will of God. The poor in spirit do not seek wealth or fame but look to God as their reward. Those who hunger and thirst for justice do not plot to obtain their well-being but rather strive to do what God expects of them. The pure in heart have no other motive other than the desire to do God's will. To be holy is to leave the race to be admired by others in order to give glory to God through acts of love.

We like to see children in costumes on Halloween, the vigil of All Saints' Day. Some wear the clothes of a queen. Others dress like cowboys or Goldilocks. The lazy appear may come as hobos. That’s all right too. All these characters and many others besides are welcomed among the saints as long as they submit to the will of God. Saints are those who have submitted to God’s will.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Philippians 1:1-11; Luke 14:1-6)

 A man evidently with dropsy comes to church most every day.  His right leg seems to be the size of an elephant’s.  He is not Catholic but comes to find shelter from the noonday elements.  He also is looking for a handout from mass-goers.

In today’s gospel Jesus takes pity on such a man.  Despite the presumed objection of the Pharisee whose house he is visiting, Jesus cures the diseased man.  He explains his reason for doing work on the Sabbath. The man with dropsy is as dear to him as a son is to his father.  He could no more neglect him than a father could sit by on a Sabbath after his son had fallen into a well.

Jesus loves us.  This is the basic message of the gospel.  It is what we have to convey to non-believers whose lives lack a foundation of truth, love, goodness, and beauty.  Jesus loves us so that we might love others.  In this way God is forming a family of all humans.  The family will be His family forever. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

 Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Ephesians 6:10-20; Luke 13:31-35)

 An article in The Atlantic magazine a few years ago challenged the prospect of finding genetic explanations for human behavior.  Since the development of genetic theory, scientists have hoped to discover genes that govern all human traits.  They have looked for genes that trigger virtue as there are genes that determine hair color.  The article concluded that genes do not work so neatly.  It said that genes almost always “overlap and interleave” with others to produce different effects.  Of course, behaviorists have always questioned genetic determinism.  They believe that upbringing is a more powerful force shaping behavior than genetic composition. With all this complexity it might be asked if the Letter to the Ephesians’ assertion that evil spirits cause one’s difficulty to be good is far-fetched.

The letter stresses that the quest to live morally is not a simple struggle with natural elements.  Rather it proposes that evil angelic principalities derail moral progress.  It also encourages readers to use the armaments of the Church to defeat evil powers.  Some of these arms are meditation on Scripture, receiving the sacraments, prayer, and fasting.

 We should not underestimate the attraction of evil.  Pleasure, power, and false pride tempt the best of us to put our own wills ahead of God’s.  It is not childish, and much less foolish, to think of our instinctual drives as being manipulated by evil spirits.  But we should also be aware that the Holy Spirit is available to us.  The Spirit will more than enable us to repel evil inclinations.  It will help us live as true children of our loving Father.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 

The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

(Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

Saints Simon and Jude are among the last apostles named on lists in the new Testament.  But today’s feast may be observed by more people than perhaps any other apostle.  It is not so much an incident of the gospel inversion of the last becoming first.  Rather, the reason for the reversal is that St. Jude is thought of as the go-to in hopeless cases.

St. Jude Research Hospital tells how Danny Thomas as a young entertainer was foundering when he prayed to St. Jude.  Thomas told his patron that if he guided him in life, he would build a shrine to him.  Thomas kept his promise by organizing the funding for a hospital for children with cancer. 

We would be presumptuous to think of our prayer to a saint as having power over evil.  Indeed, we would be superstitious of thinking of a saint with magical power.  When we ask God, however, or ask a saint to intercede on our behalf before God, we should expect evil to be subverted.  God loves us and always is enabling us to become more like him.  When we cooperate with His grace with expressions of faith, our situation will surely improve. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

 Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13:18-21)

One man would do anything for his wife.  He said that he owed it to her for raising their children while he was away in the Air Force.  But the bond was greater than a tit for tat.  He loved her quite like today’s first reading asks.  Another man nursed his wife as she was failing with Alzheimer’s.  They had exercised together, but as her conditioned worsened, he just walked her in the wheelchair.  He said that he loved her then more then than on their wedding day.

These couples have experienced the sublime vision of the Letter to the Ephesians. We tend to read its section on marital relations with suspicious hearts.  “Can the writer really mean that a woman has to subordinate herself to her husband?” we ask.  “Of course, husbands should love their wives; their wives do enough for them,” we say cynically. The author of the letter might despair if he heard such comments.  For him marriage is not a give-and-take, but the sacrament expressing Christ’s love for his disciples.  It lifts people from a state of banality into a realm of majesty. 

To reach this level requires sacrifice on our parts.  Couples have to hourly think of and pray for their counterparts.  They have to accept Christ as both the God who empowers them and the human who shows them how to live.  As we become conscious of his love for us, we will want to do everything for him.