Monday, August 29, 2016

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

(I Corinthians 2:15; Mark 6:17-29)

This summer the archdiocesan schools of Chicago have publicized a prayer for a peaceful summer.  They are not making a conventional plea of goodwill among all people.  Rather the city’s ghettos have become battlegrounds that threaten the lives of children.   Such wanton violence claims Jesus’ forerunner in today’s gospel.

John has preached the coming of one greater than he to impart the Spirit of holiness.  He was arrested by King Herod for condemning the king’s unlawful marriage.  Now he is killed out of the spite felt by the king’s wife.  John has shown himself to be a true prophet by announcing God’s will to the world and suffering dire consequences for it.

We honor John today for pointing the way to Jesus.  We give both Jesus and John honor by working to end violence.  We can strive to eliminate violence from our thoughts and our tongues.  We can also teach children to do likewise.   

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 1:17-25; M
atthew 25:1-13)

Light is the first product of God’s creation.  Besides Jesus himself light becomes God’s finest gift to humankind.  Light enables people to see and, by analogy, to discern and understand.  For this reason, Jesus is referred to as the “light for revelation to the Gentiles” in the gospel of Luke and the “light of the world” in John. 

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew’s gospel, he tells his disciples, “...your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  In today’s reading, which comes from his last public discourse, Jesus refers to light again.  The five virgins with enough oil to keep their lamps burning brightly have stocked their lives with good deeds and are now prepared to greet the bridegroom who is Christ.  Meanwhile, the five who whose oil runs out are those whose supply of good deeds is scant.  They will miss their heart’s desire when he arrives.

Many of us would help others if asked yet are hesitant to seek out opportunities.  As a result, many real needs go unmet.  Prisoners needing visitors, hospitals needing volunteers, and night shelters needing helpers only begin to name possibilities for those who desire to fulfill Jesus’ command to his disciples.  Such services take time, but the deeper question is commitment.  How much of ourselves are we willing to give to the Lord now so that we might be his forever?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 1:1-9; Matthew 24:42-51)

 “The Ballad of Father Gilligan” by poet Y.B. Yeats tells the story of a faithful country curate.  The priest has grown weary from anointing many parishioners before they die.  When he is called late at night to anoint yet another, he prays a moment before leaving and falls into a slumber.  Awakening in the morning, he rushes to the dying man’s house to discover that he is too late.  The man’s widow then tells the priest that her husband died happy to have been visited by the priest.  Evidently, God had taken pity on the curate by sending an angel in his place to anoint the dying man.  The priest can be compared to the faithful and prudent servant that Jesus mentions in today’s gospel. 

The passage applies especially to Church leaders.  Put in charge of God’s household, they are expected to serve faithfully and well.  If they carry out their duties, they will receive a blessing.  If they are negligent or abusive, however, they will be punished very severely.

The parable also applies to parents who head families and, indeed, to all of us with responsibility for others.  Christ demands that we faithfully discharge our duties.  Failing to do so will result in disaster.  Caring for those in our charge, on the other hand, will find us in God’s favor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, apostle

(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)

How is it that on the Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle, we hear a gospel story about Nathanael?  It is not an oversight.  On the lists of apostles in the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the name Bartholomew always appears paired with Philip.  In John’s gospel, which makes no mention of a Bartholomew, Nathanael appears as a friend of Philip.  The Church, therefore, has assumed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person.  Also, Bartholomew may be a surname since bar in Hebrew means son of.  Perhaps then the celebration today is more properly the Feast of St. Nathanael Bartholomew!

As interesting as the apostle’s name may be, we commemorate him today for something more.  In today’s gospel he proclaims Jesus “the Son of God (and) King of Israel.”  At the end of John’s gospel Thomas calls Jesus “my Lord and my God.”  But he will have the advantage of seeing him after the resurrection.  Nathanael’s insight into Jesus’ identity comes from his being, as Jesus says, “a true child of Israel.” This means that he has faithfully waited for the Lord to send his servant for the redemption of His people.  Now the Messiah is here, as Nathanael says, the Son and King.

As St. Nathaniel Bartholomew and all true Israelites waited for the Messiah’s coming, we and all true Christians wait for his return.  We yearn for him to tell us secrets about ourselves as he does about Nathanael in the gospel today.  After two millennia we would feel frustrated if there were no evidence that he is close at hand.  But such testimony is available. Jesus is present to us in word and sacrament.  Attentive to these, we discover who we are and where we are destined. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Memorial of Saint Rose of Lima, virgin

(II Thessalonians 2:1-3a.14-17; Matthew 23:23-26)

A priest ministering to the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s congregation, rightly feels humbled.  The sisters sit at his feet attentive to every word that he utters. The priest knows that they, more faithfully than he, carry out the work of Jesus in their meticulous service to the poorest of the poor.  In her daily life St. Rose of Lima demonstrated as great self-effacement and dedication as the Missionaries of Charity.  Her care for the poor was overshadowed only by other acts of piety as she demonstrated love for God to the edification of an entire city.

Today’s first reading offers a blessing to the community of Christians at Thessalonica.  It expresses the desire that the people remain committed to the teachings of Christ.  Evidently, they were rankled by new ideas at odds with what St. Paul taught.  No, the letter implies, they are to keep the faith, assist, the poor, and support one another.

The practice of the saints should move us from self-concern to devotion to others.  Certainly there is no shortage of self-love in our times deafening us to the teachings of Christ.  Thankfully, we have saints today as much as in times past to show us that God commands us to purify our love for others.