Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday of the First Week in Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

A friend says that she can no longer watch nature films on television. Viewing the story of a killer whale chasing a smaller whale and her calf for hundreds of miles before it separated the two and made its kill was so jarring an experience that now she dreads the sight of animals preying on one another.

We may think that original sin has caused alienation between humans and God and among other humans, but the transgression has even wider effect. The sin of Adam and Eve is said to have imperiled relationships among animals as well, indeed, throughout the whole of creation. For this reason Paul will tell the church in Roman, “...creation waits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19).

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah strikingly illustrates how the alienation is about to end. A ruler shall come from the line of King David who will restore original justice. He will cast out evil and lift up the oppressed. His actions will teach everyone knowledge of the Lord, the lack of which characterizes the present state of universal victimization. Proof of the new reign of justice will be found in the most vicious and the most defenseless of animals coexisting in peace. We see this prophecy’s fulfillment in Jesus Christ. As the gospel indicates, he brings knowledge of God the Father to all who care to listen. He humbles the arrogant and lifts up the lowly. When he returns in glory, peace will reign everywhere.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

(Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

Although we know very little about St. Andrew, Christians remember the date of his feast before that of any other apostle. November 30 is etched in our minds because of its association with Advent. The feast does not really mark the beginning of the season, but the Sunday nearest the date is always the first day of Advent.

As Advent marks a new liturgical year, St. Andrew represents the power of Jesus’ preaching. Today’s gospel shows Jesus calling the fishermen Andrew and his brother Peter to follow him. The evangelist Matthew indicates that they do not hesitate a moment but leave their fishing nets “at once.” In John’s Gospel Jesus encounters Andrew along with another man (not Peter) – both of whom are disciples of John the Baptist. The two begin to tail Jesus when he bids them to come into his home and share his life. In both Matthew and John, Jesus precipitates a radical choice from his followers. We must leave behind our former ways of life. That is, we must renounce the nets of our capriciousness and flee the comforts of our sins.

Homilette for Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 7:2-14; Luke 21:29-33)

We have difficulty appreciating apocalyptic literature. We live in a time where the main material worry is over the Dow-Jones average. In apocalyptic times people worried about ravaging armies and systematic servitude. Apocalyptic writers offered hope to the victims by providing a vision of eventual triumph after a long, hard struggle. The only example of a completely apocalyptic work is the Book of Revelation in which faithful Christians are assured victory over their Roman persecutors. In the Old Testament the Book of the Prophet Daniel is one of the prime examples of the apocalyptic. Written during the oppression of the wicked Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Daniel foresees an eventual reversal of lots. Israel will overturn its oppressor, and God will reign over it forever.

Interestingly, the grotesque passage from Daniel that we read today makes sense when it is interpreted with the aid of the Book of Revelation. The text at hand is obscure. But John, the visionary of Revelation, cites the same passage but works from a different manuscript which provides a sensible rendition of the passage’s meaning. It tells the same story as the passage from Daniel that we heard on Tuesday: the succession of empires leading to an everlasting reign of God.

This background should warn us not to take apocalyptic literature literally. Then how are we to understand it? We might spiritualize its meaning: we must struggle against the evil in our lives, be it lust, pride, or hatred. Or we might allow the stories to remind us that other people in the world live today with the same kind of oppression as the ancients: Tibetans, Chechens, and Mynamarians come to mind. Or we might appropriate the hope offered by these texts as the future of the earth: a time of universal peace, goodwill, and friendship among all nations under God.

Homilette for Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; Luke 17:11-19)

Why is Jesus annoyed that the other nine lepers do not return to give him thanks? Can he not appreciate how their first reactions after being so completely marginalized might be jubilation, not thanksgiving? Since he healed ten, does he feel personally offended that all do not recognize his power? Or is there another explanation more characteristic of Jesus?

The fourth preface for weekdays may provide a clue to answer these questions. The preface is the prayer of thanksgiving that the priest makes on behalf of the people at Mass just before the consecration of the bread and wine. One option of the many prefaces available uses these words: “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.” In the gospel Jesus is not upset because he is slighted by the nine lepers who do not return. Rather he is sorry that they do not take advantage of the gift that God extends by our giving thanks. Jesus reveals God’s inestimable gift of salvation when he tells the grateful leper, “...your faith has saved you.” As terrible a curse as leprosy is, it cannot compare to eternal oblivion. In contrast, the tenth leper has found his way to never-ending communion with the Lord.

Today we pause to thank God’s for many gifts, but especially prosperity to our nation. Although salvation has a radically personal element, still the environment in which we find ourselves contributes to it. God has blessed Americans with universal education, an over-abundant food supply, and almost limitless opportunity to practice virtue. Like the good leper we seek salvation today as we turn to God in thanksgiving for all our blessings.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 5:1-6.13-14.16-17.23-28; Luke 21:12-19)

In his autobiography Justice Clarence Thomas writes of the ordeal he underwent after being nominated to the Supreme Court. He says that a coalition of self-interest groups conspired with a group of senators to undermine his confirmation. Throughout the struggle Senator John Danforth, Thomas’ mentor and an ordained Episcopalian priest, counseled him to allow the “Holy Ghost” speak through him. Much like Jesus advises his followers to do in the gospel today, Thomas was to trust in the Lord to see him through the lies and calumnies that his detractors were raising.

For awhile Catholics in the United States did not have to worry about defending themselves against persecution. Earlier in the nation’s history a virulent anti-Catholicism festered in America. The Ku Klux Klan, for example, singled out Catholics as well as Blacks and Jews as America’s enemies. Then, for roughly the middle of the last century, a genuine toleration of religion thrived through most of the country. Everyone was encouraged to “attend the church or synagogue of your choice.” More recently, however, Christian beliefs and practices have been under severe scrutiny. Many, especially the sophisticated, cannot accept as genuine those who profess a religion which forbids extramarital sex and values human life as inviolable from conception to natural death. We are likely to have to defend our faith again if not our own lives.

As Jesus would tell us, the current secular atmosphere does not call us to prepare speeches in defense of our faith. But we should pray to God for enlightenment and also take advantages of opportunities to learn what the Church teaches. Fortunately, excellent resources are at hand. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, is available on the Internet. We need not worry that our faith is unreasonable much less ridiculous. The truth is just the opposite. Although faith is a divine gift, it does not oppose rationality. Indeed, for twenty centuries Christian intellectuals have contributed immensely to world thought.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 24, 2009

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, martyrs

(Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11)

Scholars claim that Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is not entirely accurate. Although there has been disagreement in the past about which empires the different parts of the statue’s body represent, today experts are convinced that the golden head is the empire of the Assyrian-Babylonians; the silver upper body, that of the Medes; the bronze lower body, the Persian Empire; and the iron and tile feet, Alexander’s Greek domain. The historical mistake in Daniel’s interpretation would be that the Persians, not the Medes, conquered Babylon.

Most likely the writer of the Book of the Prophet Daniel was using the popular Jewish understanding of events when he wrote in the second century before Christ. Obviously, this writer was not the prophet who lived in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, four centuries earlier. He was an interpreter of history seeing the great empires leading up to the recreation of Israel’s monarchy. This was “the stone hewn from the mountain...which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold.”

Christians have taken Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as realized in Jesus. He inaugurated another kind of kingdom that, we believe, will be eternal. It is a kingdom unlike all others because it does not claim rule over land nor does it tax people’s pocketbooks. Rather, it moves us interiorly to love God above all and neighbors as ourselves. We might add that it is the Kingdom for which St. Lung Dung-Lac and the other Vietnamese martyrs gave their lives.
Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20; Luke 21:1-4)

Dr. Andrew Weil is one of America’s most noted nutritionists. In one of his books he writes of the superiority of a vegetarian diet and the harmful effects of alcohol. Dr. Weil would probably find the first reading today, telling of the four young men who thrive on vegetables and water, significant. He might call it ancient corroboration of the best modern scientific research on diets.

However, the writer of the Book of the Prophet Daniel tells the story of Daniel, Hananhiah, Azariah, and Mishael with a different idea in mind than nutrition. He sees the boys’ thriving not because of their diet but in spite of it. He notes that they refuse the fare from the royal table because eating it would mean defiling the Law of Moses. These are pious lads who resist fine foods in order to carry out God’s commands.

Many Americans are thinking about food this week. Some cannot wait to taste the latest Thanksgiving appetizers. Others worry about standing their ground against the onslaught of calories from Thursday until Super Bowl Sunday. The four Jewish boys show America the most enlightened attitude toward food possible. It provides sustenance so that we might, in turn, give God thanks and praise.

Homilette for Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59, Lucas 19:45-48)

The first reading today describes the origins of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. Many see this feast as the Jewish Christmas because it is celebrated around the same time of year and is especially mindful of children. However, its significance to Jews seems as thin as a pencil in comparison to the meaning of Jesus’ birth to Christians.

As we have heard for the last week, the Maccabees clan resisted the reforms of the Seleucid (Syrian) king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The king tried to impose pagan customs on the people to the extent of desecrating the Temple with an altar to Zeus. After eight years of outrage, Mattathias Maccabeus and his sons had enough. They rallied faithful Jews behind them to oust the occupiers. In the passage today Mattathias’ son Judas leads the rededication of the Temple and declares an annual celebration which Jews observe today as Hanukkah.

In the gospel we find Jesus performing a vaguely similar cleansing of the Temple. The situation, of course, is very different but it is the same zeal for the holy that impels Jesus to drive out the vendors. Both readings remind us of the centrality of a consecrated place to worship. We might praise God anywhere and should pray wherever we find ourselves. But formerly the Temple and now the synagogue for Jews and the church for Christians have a unique importance. They are the designated places of encounter with God hallowed by the prayers of forbearers in many cases for ages.

Homilette for Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Maccabees 215-29; Lucas 19:41-44)

A proverb says, “The old man who will not cry is a fool.” Everyone should come to tears as she or he realizes that life is often tragic because people fail to learn its most important lesson. This is that we are to give glory to God by caring for one another. Too often we humans take life as a game in which we are to gather as much prestige and gain as much prosperity for ourselves as possible.

In the passion account of Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the women of Jerusalem that they are not to weep for him but for their children. In today’s passage he does exactly this. Jerusalem refuses to learn life’s lesson taught in the Law, reiterated by the prophets, and confirmed by Jesus himself. Its inhabitants would rather retain its values of wealth and honor. Although Jesus is hardly an old man, in his day at thirty-three years he has already entered middle age. In any case he shows himself as wiser than the ages with his tears.

Should we cry at what we see around us? There is, for sure, enough egotism about to make even children weep. After we shed our tears we should resolve to live lives worthy of the gospel. That is, we should amend our ways by placing the good of others alongside our own and by praying that God turn the situation around.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Maccabees 7:1.20-31; Psalm 150; Luke 19:11-28)

One of the greatest achievements of the twentieth century was completed on December 10, 1948. On that day the United Nations overcame cultural and ideological barriers to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Of course, the system of rights and responsibilities has not always been honored by its signees. We will even find breaches in the conduct of the United States government despite its founding on many of the same principles as the Universal Declaration.

One right which Pope Benedict thinks resides at the very core of the freedoms expressed in the Universal Declaration is that of practicing one’s religious beliefs. Taken seriously, religion is not a personal choice much less a whimsical fancy, but the following one’s conscience where God speaks to the person. Furthermore, religion gives one reason to live virtuously respecting others and striving for personal perfection. Where religion is downplayed or its expression unreasonably curtailed, we should expect not only loss of initiative and other personal values but also rebellion and eventually anarchy.

The pious story that the Second Book of Maccabees today relates tells of the attempt of a ruler to suppress the Jewish religion. Evidently many Jews went along with the barbarism possibly thinking that religion does not matter so much as long as there is food on one’s table and a roof overhead. The mother and her seven sons know better. Because they believe that violating a commandment of God is worse than death, they willingly accept the latter. Their sacrifice anticipates that of Jesus who likewise dies in obedience to God. But his sacrifice seems even greater since he had to endure the contempt of the religious leaders of his own people.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Maccabees 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10)

The word scandal comes from the Greek skandalon meaning a trap or stumbling block. Scandals are moral potholes into which weak individuals may fall and injure themselves. We see scandal in the well-substantiated reports of American officials torturing Muslim detainees after 9-11. Such immoral behavior belies human dignity. Unless it is repudiated soon, future generations of Americans will accept the fallacy that torture is acceptable and even beneficial.

In the first reading today we find a counter-example. Eleazar, a ninety year-old Jew, refuses to give scandal to younger Jews who might be inclined to compromise the integrity of their faith. Rather than feigning to eat pork by substituting kosher meat for it, he decides that he would rather die at the hands of his persecutors. The noble stand has not only won Eleazar Maccabees a place in heaven; it has also become an example of righteousness and integrity for all history.

We should look to the elderly for guidance on what truly matters. Chastened by experience, they might remind younger generations that God counts above all and that our neighbors deserve as much of our love as we have for ourselves. In the upcoming holiday season they will hopefully show us again that our first obligation is to give thanks to God for all that we have. Then let them demonstrate how continued and caring concern for others outshines diamonds as gifts.

Homilette for Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Maccabees 1:10-15.41-43.54-57.62-63; Luke 18:35-43)

Many see God’s scrambling the speech of the builders of the Tower of Babel as a punishment. Perhaps they are right, but it was also as an act of mercy. The men who constructed such an edifice in the vane hope of forcing a meeting with God could only have killed themselves if they continued. It was better that God garbled their speech so that they could no longer work together.

But humans can be slow learners. In the first reading today from Maccabees the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes wants all people in his kingdom, which includes Palestine, to assimilate Greek customs. Their children are to attend Greek schools, speak the Greek language, and adopt Greek culture. Any faithful Jew is abhorred by this prospect because he or she recognizes that God has called the Jewish people to stand apart. They are to shine as a beacon of righteousness for the world to emulate. God, we might say, revels in a multiplicity of cultures.

The Church today recognizes the imperative of preserving many cultures. Although she seeks world unity in everyone recognizing Jesus as Lord, she nevertheless promotes cultural differences. She sees the various artistic expressions, racial features, and even languages as if it were a symphony of instruments coming together to praise the Creator.

Homilette for Friday, November 13, 2009

Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin

(Wisdom 13:1-9; Luke 17:26-37)

“Don’t ask for whom the bells toll,” the poet-priest John Donne writes, “it tolls for thee.” Of course, the bells in mind here ring the death march. Although we prefer to put off thinking about it, the hour of our judgment is near. For some of us it will be sooner rather than later that we give account of our lives.

Jesus makes the same point in the gospel today. With an image that might send a chill up a polar bear’s back, he says, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” That is, death is part of our lot in life because we have bodies which will one day stop functioning. So, Jesus adjures us, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Jesus’ prescription for dealing with our mortality deserves attention. We are not to try staving off death indefinitely through art or science. Rather, we are to give ourselves over to death by denying ourselves. We can look toward St. Frances Cabrini as an example. Like Mother Teresa two generations later, Mother Cabrini worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the poor. It is said that parents chided their teenagers when they came home late, “Who do you think you are -- Mother Cabrini walking the streets day and night?” Still we hope that our young will, like her, extend themselves for the good of others.

Homilette for Thursday, November 12, 2009

Memorial of St. Josaphat, bishop and martyr

(Wisdom 7:22b-8:1; Luke 17:20-25)

However arrogant the Pharisees appear in the gospels, they also sincerely want to know about God. In today’s gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come about. Like us they long for a society where everyone behaves as God commands.

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees -- that the Kingdom is in their midst -- echoes what he has said before. The Kingdom presents itself gradually like wheat growing in a field. It is there even as Jesus speaks. As a matter a fact, it has come in the person of Jesus who stands before them. It is present in us as well as we carry Jesus in our person through Baptism.

The Kingdom of God is present when we make ourselves “Advent Angels” or some other kind of caregiver. It is found in our presence when we reach to help the stranger. It is there where the man stops on the highway to assist a driver with a flat tire and no idea how to jack up a car. It is there when we smile at the driver who comes into our lane.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, bishop

(Wisdom 6:1-11; Luke 17:11-19)

During the Viet Nam War, President Lyndon Johnson once was handed a memo concerning the pros and cons of using tactical nuclear weapons. According to his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the memo stated that use of such weapons would move China to enter the war its own nuclear weapons starting a full-fledged nuclear war. Rusk later reported that the words of the memo “popped out of the page” to Johnson who as President of the United States felt responsibility for not just his country but for the world.

The reading from Wisdom tells us that princes and kings (and we can surely add to the list presidents and prime ministers) should indeed feel grave responsibility for their actions. It emphasizes that the burdens of their offices will not exempt them from divine judgment. Rather those responsibilities will entail God’s intensified scrutiny of their actions.

The Church recognizes the responsibilities and difficulties of civil leaders. Together with prayers for Church needs, the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM for short) specifies that the faithful are to pray for “public authorities and the salvation of the world” in the intercessions after the homily. Although there are always those who think that they can do a better job, we are wise to pray for those in power rather than covet their positions.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(Wisdom 2:23-3:9; Luke 17:7-10)

The passage from the Book of Wisdom today includes some of the most consoling words that Catholics hear at funerals. They especially give hope to families of those who have died after living justly and charitably over many decades. Since Wisdom was written in the Greek language neither Jews nor Protestants accept it in their canon of Scripture. Yet its message of hope is universal.

Wisdom was probably composed in the century before Christ in Alexandria, Egypt. In some ways the Jews in that context were dealing with the same challenges Christians today face. Individualism was on the rise along with skepticism and dissatisfaction with traditional beliefs. Formerly religious people were turning to pagan belief systems and secular philosophy while all felt the threat of persecution. The author turned to the Scriptures for answers to the questions that his co-religionists were asking under these conditions.

One of the answers is related in today’s reading. God rewards the just for their virtue. Trials come with living. Indeed, God sends them to determine who is worthy of happiness with him. There is no mention of resurrection from the dead in Wisdom. However, we can see how Christians given the experience of Jesus’ resurrection would readily embrace this scripture.

Homilette for Monday, November 9, 2009

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

(Ezekiel 47:1-2.8-9.12; I Corinthians 3:9c-11.16-17; John 2:13-22)

A woman once badgered an official of a minute city not to approve a request for rezoning. The request came from a small Christian community that wanted to use a storefront for its church. The woman opposed the request because the property would no longer generate tax revenue. The official approved the request, however, because he thought it advantageous to have churches within the city.

Not only in the marketplace but also within the Christian community there exists ambivalence about church structures. We build churches not only to give people a place to congregate but also to testify to the glory of God. Yet we know that churches transcend buildings. The primary theological definition for the church is “the people of God” forming the “Body of Christ.” As Paul teaches the Corinthians in the second reading today, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

The Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome, is called “the mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.” In celebrating its dedication today we celebrate all church buildings. They are not as important as the people who worship inside them. But they perform an invaluable service by providing those worshippers a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the world where they may pray to their Creator.

Homilette for Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8)

Once an ecumenical group of ministers was discussing a gospel passage much like the one we read today. The ministers were nonplussed at the obvious implication that people should help others out of their own self-interests. Is love really the motivator, the ministers seemed to ask themselves, if ones benefits from the action?

The ministers were responding from the perspective of the influential Lutheran theologian, Anders Nygren. Intolerant of self-love, Nygren drove a wedge between real love, which he termed agape or divine love, and acquisitive love, which since the Greek philosophers has been called eros. According to Nygren, the former has nothing to do with the latter. He would label any action falling short of pure selflessness as unworthy of Christianity and revelatory of fallen human nature.

But Nygren’s thesis does not adequately account for how humans are created. We are people with real needs. Beyond physical necessities we need support and assurance which come to us when we go out to others. It is not necessarily selfish to satisfy these needs. What differentiates love from exploitation is the presence of cooperation for the good of all concerned. With this distinction in mind Jesus in the gospel today shows his disciples that they, like the parable’s steward, must show kindness to the poor, who are like the parable’s debtors, so that God will in turn favor them.

Homilette for Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 14:7-12; Luke 15:1-10)

A recent decision by Pope Benedict has created a roe among Catholics. Two weeks ago the Vatican announced that it would set up ecclesiastical structures by which whole dioceses of Anglicans continuing their own traditions might be accepted into the Roman Catholic Church. Liberal Catholics are responding to the announcement with consternation for they see acceptance of these Anglicans as strengthening the conservative positions against homosexual sex and women’s ordinations. Of course, conservative Catholics see the development as a positive step toward Christian unification. What would St. Paul say of all this?

The reading from Romans today is part of a long passage addressed to the problem of “strong” or liberal Christians (probably the Gentile Christians) and “weak” or conservative Christians (probably Christians of Jewish origin). In Paul’s time an issue is dietary customs, e.g., whether a Christian has to observe the customary fast days of Wednesday and Friday. In the passage Paul exhorts his readers to avoid judgment on these matters but to allow each person to live according to her or his conscience. Of course, Paul does not condone everyone doing what he or she pleases. After all, it is the Lord who speaks to us through consciences being informed by valid interpretation of His word.

Today Paul would likely give thanks that at least part of the Anglican community is being reconciled with the Church. In any case he would chastise those who continually harp at Vatican decisions as too conservative or, in rare cases, too liberal. Rather, he would exhort each side of an issue to be more considerate of the other’s perspective. This means that we search for the value of what those who disagree with us are saying and, unless the situation becomes outrageous, accept the other side as brothers and sisters in the Lord with the assurance that the Lord himself will ultimately judge what is right.

Homilette for Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Romans 13:8-10; Luke 14:25-33)

Gospel commentators call Jesus’ saying that his followers are to hate their families a “Semiticism.” This term means the way Jesus’ contemporaries expressed themselves in their own language. Evidently the Aramaic language, which Jesus spoke, did not use comparatives. For Jesus to mean that his disciples had to love him more than their families, he had to say that they were to love him and to hate their families. Of course, he never intended that they were to scorn their loved ones. After all, how could Jesus -- who taught about the primacy of love long before St. Paul wrote about it to the Romans – want us, his followers, to literally hate those who mean the most to us?

But still some of us may have trouble with the idea of loving Jesus more than our children and our parents, to say nothing of our spouses. “How could we do that?” we might ask. The answer is both simple and hopeful. First, we can and should love Jesus above all because he is so good – really perfect. Then, by loving Jesus above all, we actually love our children, our parents, and our spouses not less but better. Primary allegiance to Jesus means doing what is truly good for all. We will not confuse indulgence with care and give in to the whims of our children. We will not accept the prejudices that lived in our parents’ home but treat all people with respect. We will not allow communication with our spouses to shrivel but make a continued effort to express our thoughts and feelings.

Homilette for Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, religious

(Romans 12:5-16a; Luke 14:15-24)

God does seem to lift up the lowly as Mary proclaims in her great song The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Last week we celebrated the feast of the most obscure yet most popular of apostles, St. Jude. Certainly St. Therese, the Little Flower, seems to have eclipsed in fame her patroness, St. Theresa of Avila. Perhaps no saint is more broadly known than St. Francis who is thought of as il poverello, the little poor one. Today we celebrate a humble Dominican saint who has come to shine in more people’s heavens than any of his illustrious confreres, Martin de Porres.

Martin was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave Black woman. It is said that he might have become a street urchin had his mother not taught him kindness and generosity. Martin evidently did not take advantage of anyone because he thought of himself as lowlier than everyone. As St. Paul urges the Romans in the first reading today, Martin anticipated everyone in showing honor. Martin also followed Paul’s advice to not lack zeal for doing good.

In our age of increasing awareness of the environment we can again look to Martin de Porres for patronage. He was trained as a physician, which in his day meant as much an herbalist who grew his own medicines as a diagnostician or therapist. He also befriended animals. Indeed, he is often pictured with a rat at his side because he was a person who could readily thank God for all creation.