Homilette for Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 5:1-6.9-11; Luke 4:31-37)

In the gospel yesterday Jesus says that the Spirit anointed him to let the oppressed go free. Today we see that he means business. Before we consider how, let us make a few notes about demons. Most people see demons as tempters nudging the innocent to bad choices. The demons of the gospels, on the other hand, affect people physically and mentally, not morally. True, Satan tries to allure Jesus into sin, but he is the devil, not a demon. Today we seldom speak of demons possessing people as a diagnosis of physical or mental disease. Rather, we use other terms like “cancer” and “bipolar condition” to describe these conditions. Still, we should remember that Jesus came to terminate all forms of oppression

The man possessed by the demon in the gospel is already in the synagogue where Jesus is teaching. Evidently, the words of rabbis and the prayers of the people have not been able to relieve him of his torturer. But Jesus teaches with authority; that is, he both knows what he is talking about and can execute what he proclaims. Jesus’ words provoke the demon to intimidation as it cries out, “’I know who you are – the Holy One of God.’” But Jesus is more than up to the challenge. He speaks even more forcefully in the duel of words, “`Be quiet! Come out of him!’” The demon finally succumbs to Jesus’ power by dispossessing the man.

With medicine’s amazing success over disease we may today have difficulty considering Christ’s healing power. Of course, we can think of Jesus as working through medical professionals. But he also brings people from sickness to health beyond the profession’s capability. True, he may decide not to remove the physical or mental malady affecting the patient. But still, as physician of souls, he will always strengthen those at physical life’s end with the surety that the harmful symptoms of their disease will dissolve in eternal life.

Homilette for Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Luke 4:16-30)

Is it reassuring to learn that moderns have not been the first to question the resurrection of the dead? Obviously the Christians of Thessalonica considered the question a grave concern as the first reading today indicates. St. Paul does not flinch in addressing the issue but describes with dramatic flair how the dead will be raised.

Paul relies on the trustworthiness of the Lord for his insight. He writes “on the word of the Lord” that the dead will be awakened and led into glory prior to anyone who is still alive. At this point Paul believes that the revival would take place so soon that he along with most of his readers will be among the living who follow the dead into the clouds. These clouds will then serve as gondolas at a ski resort carrying passengers into the heavens.

We may compare Paul’s trust to that of baseball fans whose team is having a particularly very good year. Even when the team falls behind in the early innings, the fans do not worry. They know that their heroes have both resources and resolve to come back and win the game. So too do Paul’s words today allow us to trust that when we die, we will not recede into oblivion. Rather we know that Christ will come to usher into glory all who have put their faith in him.

Homilette for Friday, August 28, 2009

Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Thessalonians 4:1-8; Matthew 25:1-13)

In the 1920s the University of Chicago pioneered a course of studies in humanities called the “Great Books.” Students of the program pore over the classics of western civilization like Plato’s Dialogues and the New Testament. Criteria for the list of great books include relevance to the modern era, value in being reread numerous times, and treatment of questions humans continually ask themselves. It should not surprise us to learn St. Augustine’s works will be found on every list of “Great Books.”

After Augustine converted to Christianity and became a priest and later a bishop, he settled in the city of Hippo for the rest of his life. There he studied, preached, and wrote prodigiously so that his collected works could easily fill any bookshelf. He did not seek fame or fortune from his efforts but gave his life as God’s servant to the people he shepherded.

Today’s gospel speaks of the necessity of having lamps burning brightly when the master returns. As in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus tells his disciples that they are “the light of the world,” the reference here to lamps means that Jesus’ disciples are to perform good deeds in God’s name so that the world might glorify Him. Augustine in his extraordinarily gifted way did just that by humbly contributing to the wisdom of the ages with writings intended for the Christians of Africa but destined to the whole world.

Homilette for Thursday, August 27, 2009

Memorial of St. Monica

(I Thessalonians 3:7-13; Matthew 24:42-51)

“Night and day,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.” As Paul cares for the community of faith he founded in Thessalonica so St. Monica prayed for her son Augustine. The opening prayer of today’s mass indicates that tears accompanied her orations that Augustine might convert to faith in Christ.

Monica hardly prays alone. In the secular age which we inhabit, many mothers and fathers pray that their children will return to Christ. Parents realize that he is not only the bridge to eternal life but also an anchor to save us from drifting among the half-truths and the compromising pleasures of the world.

Augustine, of course, eventually put aside his mistaken beliefs and scandalous life-style to become first a Christian, then a priest and bishop, and along the way the greatest theologian of antiquity. His writings seem to confirm the efficacy of his mother’s prayers. Speaking to God, he writes in his Confessions, “You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you, yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.”

Homilette for Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:27-32)

Thessalonica was a prominent city in northern Greece. It was situated along the great Roman highway, Via Egnatia, about one hundred miles west of Philippi, Paul’s first stop after he crossed the Hellespont into Europe. Thessalonica had a Jewish synagogue as well as various pagan temples. Paul was evidently successful in preaching to both kinds of people there.

One reason for Paul’s success was probably his willingness to do physical work for his keep. Today’s reading from his letter mentions his “working day and night in order not to burden” anyone. Probably this means that he labored by day at his tent-making craft and at night preaching to the people. As evidenced by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in our own time, people generally accept missionaries who do not have their hands out.

Paul emphasizes that the Thessalonians are receptive not so much of him and his companions as of the word of God which they preach. They are but men, but their message has a divine thrust. It acts with unrelenting power to square motives and thinking with righteous action and a renewing spirit. This same word of God has remade us also as true children of God.

Homilette for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 23:23-26)

Matthew’s gospel shows Jesus beginning his first public discourse with eight beatitudes and his last discourse, recorded in the reading today, with seven woes. The beatitudes, of course, indicate the rewards Jesus’ followers will receive, and the woes, the punishments his enemies will undergo. There are also contrasts among the beatitudes and the woes. Today’s gospel passage relates the fourth and fifth woes which are opposed to the fourth and sixth beatitudes.

Where Jesus considers those hungering and thirsting for righteousness “happy” or “blessed,” he sees those who neglect “judgment and mercy and fidelity” as destined for destruction. The latter are the kind of people who attend to the minutia of the law – “pay(ing) tithes of mint and dill and cumin” -- without keeping its spirit on fairness and compassion.

While the scribes and Pharisees present a pleasing fa├žade – “the outside of cup and dish” -- what lies behind the scene – their “inside” -- is wicked. Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, strive to be “pure of heart” which means to desire inwardly what is worthy of God. It is a life-long struggle, to be sure, but one that promises honest relationships in this world and the beatific vision in eternity.

Homilette for Monday, August 24, 2009

Feat of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

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

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 Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the name Nathanael is absent but the name Bartholomew appears. This Bartholomew is always paired on these lists with the apostle Philip. In John’s gospel there is no mention of Bartholomew, but there is the story of Nathanael, a friend of Philip. It is logical then to assume that Nathanael and Bartholomew is the same person. Also, Bartholomew appears to be a surname since “bar” in Hebrew means “son of” which makes some conclude that the celebration today is more properly “the Feast of Nathanael Bartholomew.”

As interesting as the apostle’s name may be, we commemorate him today for something more. 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 comes from his being, as Jesus says, “a true child of Israel,” that is one who has faithfully waited for the Lord.

As Nathanael Bartholomew and all true Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah, so we and all true Christians wait for him to return. After two millennia we might feel frustrated if there were not evidence that he is close at hand. Most significantly, Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist from which we receive spiritual nourishment and moral guidance. We still want him to reappear in human form to tell us plainly secrets about ourselves as he does Nathanael in the gospel.

Homilette for Friday, August 21, 2009

Memorial of St. Pius X, pope

(Ruth 1:1.3-6.14b-66.22; Matthew 22:34-40)

The story of Ruth and Naomi from the first reading today is dear to Christians for at least two reasons. It demonstrates the importance of family to faith, and it relates part of the lineage of Jesus.

Sometimes young parents brought up as Catholic do not to baptize their infant children. When queried about their practice, they say that they don’t want to prejudice their children’s faith. That is, they want their children to make their own choices regarding religion. It probably does not occur to them that they are indeed prejudicing their children away from Catholic belief. After all, we believe that Baptism is the key to eternal life. Not baptizing infants and not bringing children to church relay the message that religion is not really important, that Baptism has little to do with eternal life, and possibly that eternal life is really a myth symbolizing the good life one wishes to live in the world. Ruth in today's Old Testament reading would no doubt disagree vehemently with these ideas. Family ties keep her close to the God of Israel. Or is it that the God of Israel keeps her close to her family? It is hard to say given the strong interconnection between family and religion.

Christians owe a huge debt to Ruth. Her dedication to the God of Israel leads her to marry Boaz. The two give birth to Obed, the grandfather of David, king of Israel, whose descendant is Joseph. Joseph, the husband of Mary, gives Jesus his name and his royal lineage.

Homilette for Thursday, August 20, 2009

Memorial of St. Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

(Judges 11:29-39a; Matthew 22:1-14)

The first reading is so shocking that we cannot help but consider it. There are at least two noteworthy issues here: human sacrifice and virginity. We should comment that God does not suggest human sacrifice in this case; indeed, the Law expressly forbids it. Jephthah seems too proud to admit that he made a foolish vow. We can say as well that Christ has liberated women from the shame that Jephthah’s daughter feels for remaining a virgin, that is, for never giving birth. Since Jesus, a woman’s role in life goes far beyond child-bearing but includes discipleship for the sake of the kingdom.

Other than Jesus himself, no one exemplifies virginity for the sake of the kingdom better than Mary, his mother. When Jesus tells the woman who would bless his mother for having given him birth, he turns the blessing around and praises his mother for having heard the word of God and putting it into practice.

Today we celebrate a great proponent of Marian devotion, Bernard of Clairvaux. He once wrote, “In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary....And to more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps.”

Homilette for Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Judges 9:6-15; Matthew 19:1-16)

Fables are short stories humanizing animals or other non-human entities to make a moral message. The reading from the Book of Judges today comprises a fable about the appointment of a king over Israel. Useful trees like the olive and the fig refuse the honor of kingship among trees so a buckthorn, which is no more than a bush, assumes the office. The buckthorn represents Abimelech, the cutthroat son of Gideon, who slaughtered seventy half-brothers to secure his throne. He proves consistent in maliciousness by burning alive the people of Migdal-shechem as the reading anticipates.

The moral offered by the story is that Israel should not seek a king but accept the kingship of God. Accepting anything less will only bring heartache to the people as the full story shows. Jesus in the Gospel passage is preaching the Kingship of God as well. He begins by the familiar statement, “The Kingdom of heaven is like ...,” and proceeds to tell the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of the workers, he says, grumble at the end of the story because the landowner -- the God-figure -- chooses to pay all his workers the same salary. Jesus is only relating the supreme justice of God which enables every worker to provide for his family. The grumblers, on the other hand, insist on a more exacting, although in the end less just, form of payment.

Fables are short stories humanizing animals or other non-human entities to make a moral message. The reading from the Book of Judges today comprises a fable about the appointment of a king over Israel. Useful trees like the olive and the fig refuse the honor of kingship among trees so a buckthorn, which is no more than a bush, assumes the office. The buckthorn represents Abimelech, the cutthroat son of Gideon, who slaughtered seventy half-brothers to secure his throne. He proves consistent in maliciousness by burning alive the people of Migdal-shechem as the reading anticipates.

The moral offered by the story is that Israel should not seek a king but accept the kingship of God. Accepting anything less will only bring heartache to the people as the full story shows. Jesus in the Gospel passage is preaching the kingship of God as well. He begins by the familiar statement, “The Kingdom of heaven is like ...,” and proceeds to tell the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of the workers, he says, grumble at the end of the story because the landowner -- the God-figure -- chooses to pay all his workers the same salary. Although it may seem unfair to us, Jesus only relates the supreme justice of God which enables every worker to provide for his family. The grumblers, on the other hand, insist on a more exacting although, in the end, less just form of payment.

Homilette for Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Judges 6:11-24a; Matthew 19:23-30)

The casual dialogue between Gideon and the Lord sounds something like the script of “Fiddler on the Roof.” When God assures Gideon that He stands with His people, Gideon retorts cynically. “If you are with us,” he implies, “then why have we suffered so much humiliation?” The passage from the Book of Judges read yesterday actually provides the reason for the lack of Israelite success. The Israelites have been unfaithful to their Covenant with God. Compromising their integrity as a people, they become easy prey to enemies.

Gideon may be talking flippantly because he is not sure if the stranger before him is really the Lord. He asks for a sign which is soon given when fire consumes Gideon’s sacrificial offering. Then Gideon begins to wonder if he will suffer for his impertinence, but God reassures him that he will be fine.

We should not hesitate to open our hearts to God in prayer like Gideon does here. But humility is called for in the presence of such an awesome collocutor. God is, after all, not our buddy but our Creator. He befriends us out of love but does not share our tendencies to complain and gossip. Let us speak to Him with minds attentive to both His correction and His encouragement.

Homilette for Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Judges 2:11-19; Matthew 19:16-22)

We think of judges as people who interpret laws and rules in individual cases. The judges of a dance competition, for example, determine which dancers best reflect in their movements the principles of agility, creativity, and clarity of expression. But interpretation is not the principal function of the judges of the Old Testament. Rather than sit back and decide, these men and women lead the people forward by reestablishing righteousness when the ways of God are forsaken.

Today’s reading from the Book of Judges indicates the difficulty that the judges face. The people are not given to tow the line but readily chuck the Covenant made with the Lord in favor of heathen practices. The waywardness leads to internal weakness and hence subjugation to foreign power. God raises up judges to stir ardor within the tribes of Israel to follow His ways and to reject their oppressors. Regretfully, however, the new righteousness is always short-lived.

The failure of judges to produce lasting goodness eventually will give way to the period of kings who consolidate the tribes and, at least initially, have some success in transforming the people’s errant ways. Although this arrangement will ultimately fail, it does bring the hope of a messiah who would be capable of effecting lasting righteousness. Jesus in time fulfills this expectation by establishing not a political state but a holy people living in every land. We make up part of this people today and try with all our soul to live up to Jesus’ righteousness.

Homilette for Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Joshua 24:1-13; Matthew 19:3-12)

In one sense there is no vocation crisis. Many men feel called to the permanent diaconate and many women, to church ministry. Far fewer people, however, wish to forego the possibility of marriage in order to serve the Church.

A simple way to resolve the current shortage of priests would be to ordain married men. This was done throughout the first millennium of Christianity, and exceptions to the rule of celibacy are made today as Episcopalian clergymen converting to Catholicism are usually ordained priests even though they have wives.

Of course, there are practical problems that the Church would have to face with married priests. More significant, however, is the question raised in the gospel today. Jesus says that whoever can renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom ought to do so. He obviously did, and those who desire to be completely conformed to him should be willing to make the same sacrifice.

Homilette for Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Joshua 3:7-10a.11.13-17; Matthew 18:21-19:1)

Thanks to Cecil B. De Mille most people know that the Bible depicts the Red Sea splitting in two so that the Israelites might escape the Egyptian charioteers. Few, however, are aware of the Jordan River parting so the God’s Chosen Ones might enter the Promised Land. The first reading today from the Book of Joshua tells this second story. The responsorial psalm also refers to it. This same psalm is part of the Liturgy of the Hours for Easter Sunday evening which helps us understand the meaning of the event in Christian eyes.

The Church reads the Old Testament as foretelling the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Theologians call such a reading typology. The story of the Ark of the Covenant leading the Israelites through the Jordan is a type for Christ’s bringing his followers into the fullness of God’s kingdom. Jesus is for us the Holy of Holies whose death and resurrection make it possible for us to transverse the otherwise impassible gulf between earth and heaven.

If Jesus facilitates the crossing, then what must we do? Our role in our salvation is both nothing and everything. All that is required of us is to believe in Jesus by following his commands. The gospel demonstrates the paradox of this challenge. You would think it would be nothing for the servant whose master has just written off his large debt to forgive the small debt of a fellow servant. But no, the servant – probably thinking “this is a different case” – punishes his counterpart. We must not do likewise; rather we are to open our hearts to those who genuinely ask forgiveness just as Christ has opened the way to our salvation.

Homilette for Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Matthew 18:15-20)

Development has been a growth industry for thirty years. Of course, the development that I have in mind has nothing to do with land or cameras but with growing funds for a church or charitable organization. Development advisors make a mantra of the conventional wisdom that in order to receive you have to ask. Often churches and charities are reluctant to beg from individuals because they fear putting them on the spot. But developers point out that most people do not mind being asked. Sure, some will refuse a direct request, but more people than petitioners imagine are willing to make a contribution to a cause they can believe in.

In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples not to be shy about asking favors from the Father. He assures them that God is ready to grant their requests. This assurance comes after the statement on fraternal correction probably because Jesus wants his disciples to give priority to community needs, especially the necessity of unity in truth and love.

Of course, sometimes the Lord does not grant what we request. “What went wrong?” we may then ask ourselves. Did we not pray hard enough? Perhaps we did not believe that God could grant our petition? Rather than wonder about our diligence or question God’s omnipotence, we might remember how Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “...let this cup pass from me” without receiving a positive response. It is important as well to remember the second part of Jesus’ prayer, “...yet not as I will, but as you will.” Disposing ourselves to the divine will does not undercut our requests. Rather, it recognizes that God knows best and will take care of us whatever hardship we have to face.

Homilette for Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memorial of St. Clare, virgin

Deuteronomy 31:1-8; Matthew 18:1-5.10.12-14)

Cardinal John Foley recently told the story of how he became a priest. After high school he entered the Jesuit novitiate but left the Society of Jesus thinking that he might be happier as a diocesan priest. After enrolling in college, he did volunteer work teaching catechism to mentally handicapped children. One day the principal of the school where he taught entered his class and asked the students if they liked Mr. Foley. “No,” one boy answered, “We love Mr. Foley. “Why do you love Mr. Foley?” the principal queried. “Because he teaches us about Jesus” was the boy’s response. Cardinal Foley says that the boy’s answer solidified his vocation. Not long afterward he entered the diocesan seminary.

As Jesus makes clear in the gospel today, working with children or any marginalized people is a sure measure of having accepted Jesus himself. Cardinal Foley considers his mission to children as solidifying his vocation to the priesthood. We might say that work among the marginalized solidifies anyone’s vocation to Christian holiness. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a Christian without genuine concern for the lowly.

Homilette for Monday, August 10, 2009

Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr

(II Corinthians 9:6-10; John 12:2-26)

Although not much is known about St. Lawrence’s life, he remains a popular saint. Probably his name appearing in the Roman Canon has contributed to his being remembered. Also, his name rings a bell in the consciousness of some because of the famous “night of San Lorenzo” (the night of August 10) when skies over Italy, at least, are ripe for meteor showers. Many as well have been charmed by the humor of Lawrence related in two stories surrounding his martyrdom.

Lawrence was a deacon in the Church of Rome with charge over the communal treasury. When he was brought before the authorities during the Valerian persecution (ca. 250), he was told to hand over the church’s treasures. Lawrence then gathered together the poor of the city and brought them to the Roman prefect announcing, “These are the church’s treasures.” The quip evidently won for Lawrence a martyr’s death by being roasted alive. The story goes that during this gruesome ordeal, Lawrence kept his sense of humor. After being tortured awhile, he reportedly told his executioners that they might turn him over because he was done on one side.

Humor was for Lawrence a virtue that we might emulate. He seemed to see everything – wealth and even his own physical welfare – as of little value compared with the eternal life won for us by the Savior.

Homilette for Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Deuteronomy 4: 32-40; Matthew 16:24-28)

Aboard the ship Arbella just before landing in Boston harbor, Governor John Winthrop told the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony that they must be like a ¨city on a hill¨ for the world to see and imitate. Of course, Governor Winthrop was making a reference to Jesus´ Sermon on the Mount, but his words also echo Moses´ in the reading from Deuteronomy today.

Moses reminds the Israelites of God´s special interest in them. God has led them from captivity in Egypt to freedom. He has carefully weeded them of their vices and made them into His holy people. Now, Moses says, the people must respond to the Lord´s particular kindness to them by keeping His laws and statutes. In this way they will give testimony to the world of God´s own righteousness.

We should consider ourselves every bit as chosen as the Puritans and the Israelites. God has called us by name in Baptism and fed us with the body and blood of His son in the Eucharist. We show our closeness to God by heeding the words that Jesus speaks in the gospel. Rather than complain and reject the crosses that burden our lives, we are to accept them in imitation of Jesus who bore a much more formidable one. In doing so, we not only become a model for the world to follow; we also gain the fullness of happiness that our hearts desire.

Homilette for Thursday, August 6, 2009

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

(Daniel 7:9-10.13-14; II Peter 1:16-19; Mark 9:2-10)

We come from a Christian culture. Experts say that the situation is changing, however, and that in short time most people won’t know more about Jesus than we know about the Hindu god Vishnu. But for the time being at least people have a good idea of what it means to rise from the dead.

But what of the time before Jesus’ resurrection? Would the people living in, say, the year 32 have any idea of what to rise from the dead means? Would even Jesus’ apostles understand the concept? Probably not! The resurrection from the dead would probably boggle their minds like the idea of human beings growing like apples on a tree puzzles us today.

On this Feast of the Transfiguration we hear how God gives Jesus’ disciples a clue about what shall have happened when Jesus is reported as having risen from the dead. The gospel today relates that Jesus’ body is changed into a realm of light so bright that his clothes appear to gleam. He takes on a completely new form of being which allows him to communicate with saints long dead. God confirms this vision of glory by naming Jesus his “beloved son” and saying that he should be listened to. When news comes that Jesus has risen from the grave after a scandalous death, the disciples will not be fettered by doubt. At least their leaders will remember what they were privileged to see on the mountain. They will be sure that Jesus is the son of God whose story the world needs to hear. And they will sacrifice their very lives so that all might receive this good news.

Homilette for Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Numbers 13:1-2.25-14.1.26a-29a.34-35; Matthew 15:21-28)

How the gospel today touches our hearts! It not only shows the value of persistent prayer but also the valor of a woman who seeks the welfare of her child. We must, however, take care not to be scandalized by the remark of Jesus comparing non-Jews to dogs. He only means to say that his mighty works are not to be frivolously squandered as they are meant to foster a living faith in God’s goodness. As the woman shows that faith, Jesus readily grants her request.

Rather than contrast the urgency of the woman’s plea with the hesitation of Jesus to help her, it is more instructive to note the difference between the disciple’s desire to dismiss the woman and Jesus’ willingness to listen to her. Like the disciples we may at times not be interested to give the time of day to people who come to us begging assistance. It is true that granting them what they ask often is not prudent or possible. Yet to listen to their needs, to respond in truth and courtesy, and to sincerely pray for their welfare, whether or not we concede to their requests, are expectations of us as the Lord’s servants.

Homilette for Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Memorial of St. John Mary Vianney, priest

(Numbers 12:1-13; Matthew 14:22-36)

In this year dedicated by Pope Benedict XVI to priests it is fortuitous that the first reading on the feast of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron of parish priests, concerns the priest Aaron. Of course, Aaron and his sister Miriam hardly display exemplary behavior as they criticize their brother Moses for marrying a non-Israelite and attempt to usurp the prophet’s authority. The Lord, however, indicates to the disgruntled pair that as distinguished a place as priests have in the hierarchy of God’s holy people, their office and their wisdom are not necessarily of the highest grade. Rather they too have to listen to what the Lord himself speaks through the voice of His prophet.

The pretension of Aaron in the reading today could never be attributed to St. John Vianney. He lived a life quite to the contrary. As a priest he served simple people in a humble way but with a consistency and a purity that drew the attention of thousands of people who lived around him. He remains a model not just for priests but for everyone on the road to salvation. Realizing that grace abounds in a world that often seems hopelessly corrupt, John Mary Vianney stuck to the path of goodness and peace that brings us true happiness.