Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 2:1-11; Mark 9:30-37)

The Book of Sirach is named after its Jewish writer who lived in the second century before Christ.  It is also called the “Book of Ecclesiasticus,” which means the Church’s book, because it has been regularly used for moral instruction.  Today’s reading shows how well the book fulfills this purpose.

As Jesus indicates in the gospel, to follow him entails serving everyone especially the most vulnerable of people.  Those who give of themselves to this end should take to heart what Sirach recommends about listening to the word of God for support.  What is more, they can expect to receive God’s mercy when they call upon Him, again as Sirach testifies.

Often following Christ is a joy.  We may find ourselves among the best of people and experience the treasure of the Holy Spirit.  But why kid ourselves?  At times following Jesus means sacrifice not just of pleasure but of stability.  When this happens, we are wise to take Sirach’s advice.  We need to maintain hope that God will sustain us in trial.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 1:1-10; Mark 9:14-29)

More than eighty years ago T. S. Eliot’s asked: "Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"  Even then, before the Information Age, it seemed that humans were becoming lost in a sea of facts.  However, the quest for wisdom is a perennial effort as today’s first reading attests.

The Book of Sirach was written almost two hundred years before Christ.  It signals the word of God as the fount of wisdom.  By means of this word humans learn to live well which is whole purpose of wisdom.  Christians see Jesus as the consummate word of God.  He provides not only a modicum of happiness in physical life but its fullness in the resurrection of the dead.  In today’s gospel he indicates how to achieve wisdom.  People become wise by standing before God in prayer.  There they not only ask God to provide their needs but listen to God telling them what to do.

It is difficult for us to wait on the Lord in prayer.  Not only in the Information Age but throughout the ages we have wanted instant remedies to our problems.  If we were given these remedies, however, we would never become wise, never achieve happiness, and never know God.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 11:1-9; Mark 8:34-9:1)

Today’s first reading is filled with irony.  It tells of how people congregate in a city to improve their lot.  Their working together, however, leads to downfall.  Inclined to evil, they arrogantly try to build a tower so tall that it will reach into the heavens.  They probably think that they then will be able to see God.  But they do not even come close to reaching their objective.  God has to come down to frustrate their efforts before they kill themselves.  The gospel today prescribes the only path to God.

Jesus tells his disciples that people have to carry their individual crosses after himself.  The crosses are made of suffering and emptiness.  They involve a letting go of self to serve others.  A woman gives up his career to attend to her dying mother.  A reporter returns to Syria after being captured and released to chronicle the lot of the people there.  These Christians cling to the hope that God will provide for them. Arriving where Jesus is, they will know God face-to-face.  But sometimes they wonder as day after day they find no relief.    

We achieve nothing by wondering if there is another way to God.  God is love which gives of itself for the other.  We thank God for saving us time and again from our folly.  Even more, we praise him for coming to us in Jesus.  Here he suffered horrendously for us.  As his cross led to glory, so following him, we will be saved saved.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 9:1-13; Mark 8:27-33)

When Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals, there was no outcry from Catholic hierarchy.  Pope Benedict must have recognized the legitimacy of the execution even though there was never a trial.  Taking alive bin Laden, whose guilt for mass murder was widely recognized, and putting him on trial would have surely resulted in violent outbursts around the world.  The incident provides the exception that proves the rule for the Church’s opposition to capital punishment.

Following today’s passage from Genesis, the Church does not deny the validity of capital punishment when a life has been unjustly taken.  It also notes, however, that there are an inordinate number of innocent lives taken today, especially by procured abortions.  To bolster its affirmation of life, then, Pope St. John Paul II and his two successors have taught that the state should never execute a human being except in extraordinary situations like bin Laden’s arrest.

We need to constantly reassert our support of life.  We should be participating in the campaigns abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia.  We might also check our appetite for violence in entertainment.  If we relish viewing wanton slaughter, we are abetting the culture of death which will inevitably hurt those whom we love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 8:6-13.20-22; Mark 8:22-26)

The dove in the Baptism of Jesus represents the Holy Spirit.  Its whiteness indicates God’s purity.  Its being a bird of flight suggests presence anywhere and everywhere.  As in today’s passage from Genesis, the dove guides humans to salvation.  It is absolutely necessary since, according to the passage, the human heart has been always set on evil.

Yet God still loves humans.  Indeed, He will gradually incline their hearts toward goodness.  First, related in tomorrow’s reading, He will make a covenant with them.  He will give them sovereignty over the earth and require from them mutual respect.  Then He will train a specific nation to be His showcase of justice.  Finally, He will send His Son to complete the project with all the peoples of the earth. The gradual nature of God’s work is depicted in today’s gospel as Jesus gives sight to the blind man.  With Jesus’ first imposition of hands the man cannot see clearly.  But when he lays his hands on him again, he sees everything distinctly.

We have to keep our eyes open.  The inclination toward evil is still prevalent in many places.  As we recall how Jesus has transformed us with the Holy Spirit, we should act to transform evil.  Considerate words may relieve some of the tension in hearts set on evil.  Caring actions may turn those hearts to God.