Monday, July 25, 2016

Feast of Saint James, apostle

(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)

People were gathering in a bar in New York City to have a drink after work seven months after nine-eleven.  A young marine in full dress was standing at the bar with two older men, possibly his dad and uncle.  At one table sat a group of outdoor workmen; at another a group of office women.  Into the room walked two men wearing NYFD tee shirts.  Perhaps because they were wearing boots as well, no one seemed to doubt that they were really firemen.  Everything stopped as all the customers rose to their feet.  The marine turned around and gave the fireman a full salute.  Everyone else followed suit.  The bartender poured the firemen drinks, and all went back to what it had been.  Today the Church honors St. James with the same instinct that captured the attention of that crowd in the bar after nine-eleven. 

St. James was the first of the apostles on record to have been martyred for the sake of Christ.  The Acts of the Apostles mentions that he was executed by order of King Herod.  In time all of the others except St. John are believed to have similarly given their lives as a witness to Christ.  For this reason they are venerated as James today with a proper feast day.

After so many centuries we have lost some of the fervor in honoring the apostle-martyrs.  But we should never neglect to observe their feast days but less forget their stories.  In the first reading Paul, also an apostle-martyr, explains why.  They suffered travails as well as death so that we might know Jesus Christ who gives us eternal life.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
(Song of Songs 3:1-4b; John 20:1-2.11-18)

The Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, for centuries have honored St. Mary Magdalene as one of their patrons.  Their motive has been the same that recently moved Pope Francis to raise her memorial day to a full-fledged feast.  As the Dominicans see themselves sent to proclaim the gospel, they take after Mary Magdalene whom Jesus dispatches to his apostles with the news of his resurrection.  

Dominicans should strive to imitate Mary Magdalene’s love for the Lord as well.  Luke will name her first among the women who accompany Jesus and his disciples in their mission of preaching the Kingdom.  In John’s gospel, Mary stands at the foot of the cross and goes alone to his grave.  She not only esteems Jesus’ goodness but also possesses the valor to be identified with him.

Mary really serves as a model for all Christians.  All of us, as again Luke describes her, have been exorcised of the demons of rebelliousness and self-righteousness.  All of us are called to follow Jesus which will only move us to love him more.  All of us are urged to proclaim Jesus’ new life, which is ours, by acts of selfless love.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 2:1-3.7-8.12-13; Matthew 13:10-17)

Flannery O’Connor has been called the greatest American Catholic novelist.  Yet her novels are seldom about Catholics.  Rather they concern the working of grace in very peculiar Bible-belt Protestants.  Once she was asked why she wrote about such strange characters.  She answered that when people are near deaf, you have to shout. 

Jesus responds similarly to the question, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”  People need such on-the-money stories to wake them up to God’s goodness.  The parables proclaim that God is so generous he will pay laborers who work but an hour a full day’s wage.  They say that God’s kingdom is such a treasure that it is worth making any sacrifice to attain.  Unfortunately, in a world of diversions from home entertainment systems and iPhones Jesus’ message does not always get through.

Some people see parables as make believe.  They say that since the Kingdom does not bring immediate gratification, it is not worth pondering, much less pursuing.  But the parables have been validated by Jesus’ own experience. His eating with sinners became the search of the shepherd for the lost sheep.   His crucifixion became the seed that dies in order to produce abundant life.  Because of Jesus’ life witness the parables not only entertain us, they also move us to follow him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 1:1.4-10; Matthew 13:1-9)

It is said that Joseph Kennedy, Sr., raised his son Joseph, Jr., to be president.  When the younger Joseph Kennedy was killed in World War II, the elder turned his attention to his second son, John.  In today’s first reading the Lord God has a similar design for Jeremiah, the prophet.

Jeremiah hears a call from God.  He understands that God wants him to speak on His behalf.   But, he argues, he is too young for such a responsibility.  He is told not to fear.  He has been prepared for the mission since before his birth and will be accompanied by the Lord Himself every step of the way.

God knows each of us in such an intimate way – all seven billion of the earth’s present inhabitants and the countless numbers who preceded us.  He has a mission for us as well.  He wants us to root up the walls of fear that separate us from others.  In their place He wants us to build bridges of mutual love. As daunting as it seems at times, the challenge is not too great since God has promised to be our strength.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Micah 7:14-15.10; Matthew 12:46-50)

Robert Kennedy was President’s John Kennedy’s closest advisor.  He had a Harvard education and considerable experience.  But the president confided in him because they shared the same family and background.  Robert couldn’t betray John without betraying himself.  More importantly, Robert understood John’s way of thinking and could confidently tell him when he believed that he was mistaken.  In today’s gospel Jesus recognizes his disciples as having a similar relationship with him.

When Jesus is informed that his parents wish to speak to him, he surprisingly does not stop his presentation to see them.  Rather he acknowledges that he is establishing a new family precisely with his preaching.  Those who heed his words by doing the will of God, his Father, he considers true family.  To the extent that his own blood relatives love others, they too become his “brother and sister and mother.”

We should see in Jesus’ statement here an offer to know him intimately.  He has come to share with us his intimate thoughts and desires.  We won’t have to correct any of his ideas.  We only can profit by feeling his love for us and following his wisdom.