Monday, November 1, 2010

Solemnity of All Saints

(Revelation 7:2-4.9-14; I John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a)

A distinguished defense attorney is asked, “Who is the most important person in the courtroom (to assure justice).” Perhaps it is the judge who sees that that due process is followed. Or maybe it is the collective members of the jury who adjudicate the case. Or possibly it is the trial lawyer who must persuade the jury of the client’s innocence. The attorney responds that after many decades practicing law as prosecutor, judge, and defense lawyer, he believes that the most important person in the courtroom is a reliable witness. Such a witness’s truthfulness and conviction become the determining factors in bringing about justice.

We can define saints as reliable witnesses to Jesus. By relying on God, by striving after righteousness, by reconciling opponents, by practicing all the beatitudes, saints witness to the primacy of Jesus’ message and the efficacy of his grace. Their words and, more so, their actions provide testimony that Jesus has risen from the day to actively support his followers.

The Church has officially declared only seven thousand or so saints. But this number hardly indicates all the people throughout twenty centuries of Christianity who have lived the beatitudes. Today we celebrate the millions of un-proclaimed saints who have given reliable witness to Jesus. Their number includes an African-American slave who lived so graciously that the slave-owning family buried her in the family plot proudly claiming her as kin. All of us have known people much better than ourselves who, we are sure, belong to the legion of reliable witnesses to Jesus.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Philippians 1:1-11; Luke 14:1-6)

Paul’s opening sentence in the Letter to the Philippians gives us pause for reflection. He addresses the letter to “all the holy ones in Philippi with the bishops and deacons.” Is it not odd that there would be more than one bishop at the primitive church in Philippi? And who are all the deacons? We might stir up the waters a bit by recalling that in his Letter to the Romans, Paul describes Phoebe, a woman, as having a diaconal function. Remembering also that Paul’s work in Philippi began with his encounter of Lydia and other women, it is not preposterous to ask if some of the deacons referred to here are women.

It is possible that Paul has women in mind when he writes to the Philippians. However, this does not mean that they are ordained ministers as we think of the diaconate today. When Paul writes “deacon,” he may intend what we think of when we say “lay ecclesial minister.” Likewise, almost certainly he is not addressing multiple bishops as we consider the term but rather the community’s leaders, a virtual parish council. Obviously, Paul is writing before the time when bishop and deacon carry the theological meanings which they have today.

The Church has never definitively ruled out ordaining women to the diaconate. The matter is under study. However, even if making women-deacons never happens, women still perform valuable ministry. In a short story titled “The Deacon,” Mary Gordon describes a woman religious performing all kinds of services in a busy, urban parish. The tale reflects what many of us realize well. The Church simply could not function without the ministry of women.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles

(Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

The names of Simon and Jude (really Judas) round out the list of Jesus’ apostles except for the notorious traitor, Judas Iscariot. The twelve form an inner circle of disciples whom Jesus appoints to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In this light we might think of them as the Old Testament rulers in the period between the death of Moses and the institution of the kingdom. But we should not limit their purview to the bounds of old Israel. The new order which Jesus establishes is meant to include the entire world. To this end there are legends of apostles bringing the gospel as far as distant India and Spain.

Jude and Simon are placed at the end of the list because of their historical obscurity. Curiously, Jude has become one of the most prominent of the twelve perhaps because his name is associated with impossible causes which many people see themselves as having. As in the case of Jude, there is another Simon among the twelve, the one whom we regularly recognize as Peter. In order to distinguish the two in the gospel today, Luke mentions that Simon is known as a Zealot. It would be anachronistic to say that this means Simon belongs to a revolutionary band as the Zealots will become a couple decades later. But in order to understand the twelve as a disparate group united by love of the Lord, we may think of Simon as zealously faithful to Jewish Law in contrast to Matthew who may have been the publican Levi living an unholy life prior to his encounter with Jesus.

The homage we pay to Simon, Jude and all the apostles comes from their role linking us to Christ. They are sent to preach the good news and to lead the community which Jesus has established. If not for them, we would not be who we are – members of Christ’s body, the Church, striving to love faithfully with his Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 6:1-9; Luke 13:22-30)

Pupils in Catholic schools used to ask many questions of religion teachers to both satisfy curiosity and to waste time. A typical question was, “Sister, if you were killed walking to church for confession, would you go to hell?” The sisters, who knew how to play the game as well, often answered, “What do you think?” In the gospel today we meet Jesus responding as nimbly as the sisters to a tough question.

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” someone in the crowd asks Jesus. Perhaps the Pharisees trained the questioner to think that most people are lazy, no-good hell-bounds. People today, aware of God’s mercy, are more inclined to ask a question to the opposite effect, “Doesn’t God save everyone?” Although we may try to practice the faith, all of us have loved ones who ignore the commandments. “God surely cannot just condemn them to hell, can He?” we wonder.

Jesus adroitly sidesteps the issue. Whom the Father will save or damn is up to Him to decide. Yet Jesus seizes the opportunity to create a proverb. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate,” he advises. He means that we must discipline ourselves to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. There is scant place among his followers for slouches who say, “A peek at pornography or a little lie won’t hurt anyone.” Nor are we faithful disciples if we ignore those in need.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13: 18-21)

No New Testament passage is more difficult for many people today than the first reading. A wife having to submit to her husband offends contemporary sensibility which sees absolute equality between the sexes. In order to avoid the difficulty some modern translations of the passage use a less grating word than “submit.”

In a couple of ways abuses of masculine power will be avoided. As much as the text obligates wives to submit to their husbands, it commands husbands to love their wives. That is, they should treat their wives with all possible care which implies pleasing them whenever possible. Also, it is a given that a woman does not have to comply with a husband’s dictate that is sinful. For example, the wife will not have to remain at home should the husband becomes violent.

Difficulties arise, of course, when husband and wife have differing opinions. She would like to paint the family room pink, but he prefers a soft green. Or he wants to leave a significant amount of their estate to charity, but she thinks their children will need the full inheritance. The directive in Ephesians does not prohibit discussion of problems or even final disagreement over resolutions. It does, however, mandate -- for unity’s sake and to demonstrate the Church’s subordination to Christ -- that she allow him ultimate determination of the matter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17)

It’s a sin against the first commandment to put one’s trust in another god, but does this mean that I cannot keep a tiger tooth for good luck? It’s a sin against the second commandment to take the Lord’s name in vain, but does this mean that I sin by saying “Oh God” when I see something awesome? It’s a sin not to honor one’s father and mother, but what am I to do when they tell me that they do not want to hear from me again? These questionable situations are similar to what Jesus faces in today’s gospel.

Apparently nothing in the Mosaic Law forbids healing on the Sabbath. However, certain Pharisees at the time of Jesus interpreted such an act as violating Sabbath observance. Following such an interpretation, the leader of the synagogue chastises the crowd for seeking Jesus’ cures. Knowing that the comment is an unsubstantiated interpretation, Jesus corrects the synagogue leader. He sees the Father’s activity among His people as essentially liberating. God freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and constantly liberates the people from ignorance with the Law. Now Jesus is only imitating his Father by freeing the woman from a particularly gruesome malady.

It would be unfair to say that Jesus is rationalizing his action. Again, the Law does not expressly forbid Sabbath healing. However, he is appealing to the people’s sense of justice and prudence in interpreting the Law. Always, he indicates, we have to use our intelligence aided by the virtues to determine what the Lawgiver expects with any given statute.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59)

In a remarkable painting the seventeenth century artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio depicts Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector. Light streams from behind Jesus to expose a look of complete surprise on the tax collector’s face. As Jesus points to Levi with a hand in the pose of God’s on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Levi is said to point his finger at himself as if to say, “Me? You must be kidding.”

As Jesus calls the tax collector to follow him, he beckons each of us. Like Levi, we may be astounded by the summons. “Am I fortunate or deluded?” we ask ourselves. “Does it mean that I have to give up everything?” we worry. The reading from Ephesians today does not demur in impressing on us the reality of the call. It also reminds us of the burden such a call imposes. We will have to bear with the idiosyncrasies of one another and strive to make our own less annoying.

Sooner or later our effort will cause us to ask, “Is the call worth it?” A recent analysis discovers four stages of happiness: satisfying our physical senses, bettering our neighbors, coming to peace with others, entering into a relationship with God. The first two kinds are fleeting while the latter settle deeply within the soul. Ephesians proposes these final types of happiness as it speaks of “unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” and “one God and Father of all” as our destiny in Christ Jesus. It harbors no doubt that the assured goal more than justifies any energy exerted.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:14-21; Luke 12:49-53)

Jesus sounds frightening in this gospel passage. He speaks of setting the world on fire and dividing families. We should note, however, that by this point in the narrative Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem which gives everything he says particular urgency.

Although it may seem disrespectful, we may not always endorse and sometimes should oppose the values and habits of our families. Becoming disciples of Jesus means giving our first and greatest loyalty to God. A song from the musical “South Pacific” tells of being taught to “hate all the peoples your relatives hate.” Such prejudice needs to be rejected. Most of us, mercifully, have grown up in families which instilled a love of both God and neighbor. However, no family is perfect. Graced by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we should cast off the elements of imperfection in our particular family. If this means disownment, there remains for us the more important company of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3: 2-12; Luke 12:39-48)

“How odd of God,” wrote Ogden Nash, “to choose the Jews.” The Letter to the Ephesians today would turn this verse on end. “How odd of God,” it seems to say, “to include Gentiles.” It is odd because Gentiles have not spent forty years in the wilderness learning God’s ways. They have not been steeped in the Law which teaches that family and community must be placed above individual desires. A Jewish physician and bioethicist provides an example of what is meant here. He has considered the possibility of assisted suicide if in old age he becomes a burden to his family. Then he reconsiders realizing that hastening his death would deprive his children of the opportunity to express their care and fulfill their responsibilities to their parents.

Too often Christians spurn Jewish faith as an aberrant to true love of God and neighbor. Yes, Jesus added to our appreciation of the Father by revealing himself as Son, but he was enabled to do this by mastering Jewish traditions. When we can embrace Jews as our elder sisters and brothers in faith and turn to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other religious beliefs or no beliefs at all as if they were younger siblings in need of Christian example, then we approach realization of the mystery of Christ envisioned in the Letter to the Ephesians.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:12-22; Luke 12:35-38)

It is said that Jesus enjoyed eating and drinking so much that he chose to spend his last hours with his disciples doing just that. However true that it is, we must not trivialize the Last Supper by thinking of it simply as a going-away party. Jesus used it as the occasion to actualize all that he did in the world. He transformed a meal – in this case the traditional Passover Supper – into an eternal legacy by which he would be physically present throughout the ages. The reading from the Letter to the Ephesians today summarizes what that meal, which we know as the first Eucharist, means.

The letter calls Jesus “our peace ... who broke down the dividing wall of enmity through his flesh.” Jesus becomes our peace at the Eucharist not primarily because we begin mass with the penitential rite, but because in the mass we re-member or reconstitute Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. He gives his flesh and blood to reconcile us to God and to one another. It is this peace that the Letter to the Ephesians underscores here indicating that only through reconciliation with God may our reconciliation with one another take place. The Second Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation emphasizes this truth: “You gave him up to death so that we might turn again to you and find our way to one another.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

(II Timothy 4:10-17b; Luke 10:1-9)

If the Church were to use only one gospel, many people would campaign that it be the Gospel According to Luke. Although not the most profound theologically, Luke’s Gospel shines on elements of faith that touch us deeply. It gives the most detailed account of Jesus’ birth as well as of Mary, the mother of God. It also relates the most memorable of Jesus’ parables and shows Jesus constantly in prayer and making a preferential option for the poor. The list could go on almost indefinitely.

We call the author of the third gospel “Luke” but cannot be sure who he was or even if “Luke” was really his name. Several sources from the second century identify him with the Luke who is mentioned several times in Pauline letters as we heard today. At one point in these letters he is described as a “beloved physician.” For this reason he is honored by medical professionals today as their patron. It is also said that he was an artist and so enjoys the patronage of that profession as well. But it seems best to name his profession as he describes himself: an historical researcher who puts in good order the events of the life of Christ (Luke 1:-3). However, he is more than a historian because his narrative, as we see exemplified in today’s gospel, everywhere announces the “kingdom of God,” personified in Jesus himself, calling us as its fortunate citizens.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Ephesians 1:11-14; Luke 12:1-7)

On his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict warned American bishops about privacy in religion. He said, “To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair it loses its very soul.” The pope only echoed what Jesus tells us in the gospel today. We are to be especially wary of hypocrisy, which is to say one thing and do another.

Pope Benedict’s remarks on privacy probably had much to do with some Catholic public officials’ refusal to work for outlawing abortion. The officials claim that such an endeavor would be imposing their private beliefs on the general public. But that is hypocritical since taking the life of an inborn baby is not a matter of belief but an outrage against humanity. It is a veritable denial of the most basic right of a living human being.

Catholic officials should not check in their religion when they come to the halls of public service but allow its moral principles to guide their decisions. Of course, this does not mean that they need to wear a cross around their necks, but awareness of Jesus’ cross should remind them that they may have to sacrifice popularity to do what is right. They may console themselves with the words of St. Teresa: “Let nothing trouble you; let nothing make you afraid…God alone is enough.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 1:1-10; Luke 11:47-54)

For a long time the Western Hemisphere dated historical events in reference to the birth of Jesus. Occurrences that took place before his birth were dated as so many years “B.C.” or before Christ. For example, Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. Occurrences after Christ’s birth were designated as so many years “A.D.” or Anno Domini, that is, in the year of the Lord. The system of dating follows the assertion made in today’s passage from the Letter to the Ephesians. The passage states that in the fullness of times God summed up all things in Christ. He, then, is the center of history.

In deference to people of other faiths many people today use “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” signifying before the common era and in the common era. This may sound treasonous to Christian ears believing what we do about Jesus’ divinity. But the new designation no doubt promotes harmony with non-Christians and shows Christian goodwill.

Nevertheless, in Church documents and among the Christian community “B.C.” and A.D.” give us pause to marvel at what God has accomplished in Christ. As the Letter to the Ephesians relates, through him God has overcome human depravity. We no longer are slaves to our passions but children of God capable of meritorious acts. Being aware of this enormous benefit may be far from assimilating it for ourselves. But still we employ the initoals “B.C.” and “A.D.” to remind us that the journey has begun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 5:18-25; Luke 11:42-46)

In the gospels Jesus seems to have a running battle with Pharisees. But we should not think that Pharisees are necessarily his enemies. As he has done before and will do again in Luke’s gospel, Jesus in today’s passage is dining at the home of a Pharisee. Obviously there are some differences of outlook, but Jesus also holds much in common with Pharisees. We may validly suppose that some of the criticism in the gospels of Pharisees stems not so much from Jesus’ time but from the time of the evangelists when Pharisee-like Christians were bearing down hard on others.

Catholics even today, like some Pharisees of Jesus’ time and Christians of the first century, sometimes pay too much attention to details and too little to the gospel message. Some go to church checking to see if the holy water fountains are filled rather than reviewing the Mass’s readings. Others like to gossip about the pastor’s use of a profanity without noticing their sin of detraction.

In today’s gospel Jesus compares the nit-picking Pharisees to “unseen graves.” He means to say that they are already dead because they do not accept the love of God which brings life. St. Teresa of Avila, less somberly but with the same impatience, once prayed, “God save us from sad-faced saints.” Both she and Jesus realize that righteous living is not so much frowning on other people’s sins as turning to God in thanksgiving for our blessings and praying for those in special need of help.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 5:1-6; Luke 11:37-41)

Two words in the first reading today beg clarification. First, Paul tells u as well as the Galatians that Christ has set us free. He means that Christ has freed humans from the onus of the Law as a way to please God. The Law never worked very well in the first place like kerosene lamps for reading. But Paul does not mean that humans can do whatever they wish now that the Jewish Law has been abolished. Rather, he says, it is for freedom that Christ has freed them. Here freedom refers to the life of the Spirit residing within. Without the Spirit freed people are no better off than an illiterate person who comes to a library to learn. With the Holy Spirit they live exemplary lives that bring joy to neighbors and truly please God.

The second word that needs pondering is faith. Martin Luther stressed the idea that faith alone brings salvation. But did he mean an abstract faith which gives only verbal assent to the truth of Christ’s resurrection? That is not what Paul concludes as he extols “faith working through love.” Without love faith withers like flowers cut off from their stems. Love in a sense is the object of our faith. We are not speaking of human love here, but the divine kind which has rescued humans from the darkness of absolute zero for no absolutely benefit to itself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)

A story is told about a rabbi who walks through the woods and is accosted by a robber. “Give me the most precious thing you carry,” the thug demands. The rabbi thinks for a moment, then reaches into his bag and pulls out a huge diamond as big as a grapefruit. The robber takes the diamond and flees. Later the same day, however, he returns to the rabbi. He now orders the rabbi, “You better hand over to me the treasure that you have that made giving up the diamond so easy.”

Just as there is no satisfying the robber, there is no pacifying the people in the gospel passage who demand a sign from Jesus. Any further cure or exorcism that he performs would only create the desire to see additional works of wonder. There will never be enough evidence for them to believe that he comes from God because that takes a humble act of faith. That is, they will have to repent of all false desire and begin living God’s justice.

How about us? We may think that we are living pretty good lives. Perhaps we would give ourselves a “B+” or an “A-” for conduct. But we know that we would do better if we felt absolutely certain that God is in our midst. We too must consider that the Queen of the South and the people of Nineveh may condemn us as well those gathered to hear Jesus in the gospel. After all, God comes to us in word and sacrament in this very Eucharist, and still we only make an eighty-five to ninety percent effort.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 3:7-14; Luke 11:15-26)

In every election cycle candidates court the people’s favor by distributing T-shirts and, if they are incumbents, finagling legislation that gives constituents unlikely benefits. Like the crowd in the gospel wondering if Jesus casts out demons because he is in league with Beelzebub, the voters should question such freebies.

Knowing the suspicions of the people, Jesus tries to calm their anxieties in different ways. First, he uses logic. Beelzebub would be working against himself, he says, if he cast out demons. It would be as foolish as cutting off your nose to spite your face. Then Jesus makes a comparison. He casts out demons no differently than local healers. If they suspect him, should they not also question the background of the village exorcist? Finally, Jesus proposes a challenge. They might accept his marvelous deeds as a sign that the Kingdom of God has finally come. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful!” he intimates.

But Jesus does not avoid the fact that the coming of the Kingdom will entail a response on the part of its beneficiaries. People have to convert to its standards of justice, compassion, and peace. If not, the vacuum created by the removal of the evil spirit will invite an even more pernicious presence. We might think of a household that has exterminated all the mice that inhabited it. Unless safeguards against pests are put in place quickly, rats may come in force.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Galatians 3:1-5; Luke 11:5-13)

Paul’s frontal attack against the Galatians – “O stupid Galatians, who has bewitched you?” – makes us wonder what kind of people would tolerate such criticism. Most likely Paul is addressing a community of Christians he founded in the northern part of the province of Galatia. The fair-haired and light complexioned inhabitants of that area migrated in the third century before Christ from the region of the Pyrenees Mountains separating what is presently France and Spain. “Galatians” comes from the same root as the Latin word Gallia which refers to the expansive tract of Western Europe that includes modern France.

In Paul’s day Galatians were considered something like the Brobdingnagians of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. One biblical commentator describes them as “large, unpredictable simpletons, instinctively generous, ferocious and highly dangerous when angry, but without stamina and easy to trick.” Paul evidently considers them good-hearted enough to accept his sharp disapproval without rejecting the gospel. He probably developed a deep rapport when ill health caused him to stay with them for a protracted time.

Paul’s language, however, reveals more about himself than about the Galatians. For Paul the single, most important fact of life is God’s redemption of humanity in Jesus Christ. For some mysterious reason Christ commissioned him to preach this truth to non-Jews. He does not mean to subjugate anyone but only to express his love for his hearers by moving them to accept the salvation won by Christ. If strong language is necessary, he would work up the highest indignation. If refined rhetoric would do the job, he would polish his argumentation. As he himself would write to the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all, so that I might save at least some” (I Cor 9:22).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 2:1-2.7-14; Luke 11:1-14)

Pope John Paul II, who is legitimately called “the Great,” received his doctorate degree from the University of St. Thomas in Rome. One of his professors, an elderly Dominican priest whom the pope credited as having special influence on him, was once asked how he remembered the future pope. The old man confessed that he had so many students over his decades at the university that he could not remember him. His surprising comment has been cited as a mark of honesty.

St. Paul writes of a situation in which he was called to respond with equal honesty. He saw Peter eating what was probably pork with the non-Jews of the Christian community in Antioch. But as soon as Jewish officials from Jerusalem arrived, Peter separated himself from the ham eaters. In order not to confuse non-Jewish Christians, Paul speaks out against what he calls in today’s passage from his Letter to the Galatians “hypocrisy.”

Too often we try to please ourselves or others by disregarding the truth. It is not easy to tell a friend that he is doing something sinful or to speak up when an official equivocates about what is happening in one’s firm, but there is an obligation to do so when such action results in harm. Paul is not afraid of being honest because he knows that Christ is with him. He is also with us. After thoughtful, prayerful reflection we should not remain silent when we see people being hurt by another’s transgressing the truth.
Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)

Most diocesan and religious vocation directors have a policy of not allowing recent converts to begin the formal formation process for priests and religious. They know well that the enthusiasm of those embracing the faith is apt to wear thin after a while. In order to assuage fears that he too might be just a firebrand, St. Paul assures his readers in the passage heard today that after his conversion he spent three years in a kind of retreat to Arabia. Although it is not certain what he did there, he seems to have waited before beginning his proper mission in Western Asia.

We might speculate what Paul was thinking about during that time abroad. By this date the gospels were long from being written. And it was Paul himself who gave us the earliest known writings of Christianity. But Jesus was being preached by the apostles and their designates whom Paul no doubt conversed with. It is also possible that some of Jesus’ sayings had by this time been written down. What is extraordinary is how closely Paul’s writings conform to these sayings which were later gathered together in the gospel narratives. Cynics sometimes try to draw a line between Jesus and Paul, but careful comparison of his theology with the gospels shows relatively perfect harmony.

Paul was not only convinced intellectually that Jesus brought salvation, he experienced first-hand of what it consists. Today we read Paul’s own summary of that experience. He mentions no blinding light or falling down (this information is given in the Acts of the Apostles written much later), but that God revealed Christ to him as an act of grace. We might say that whatever happened, Paul definitely saw the light of revelation and that his life was turned upside down because of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, religious

(Galatians 1:6-12; Luke 10:25-37)

Because of St. Francis’ love of the poor, his embracing poverty, and his unfailing effort to bring about reconciliation, he has been called “another Christ.” We too see in him a reflection of Jesus who lived hundreds of years before. We should similarly find a likeness of Christ in the Good Samaritan.

We are used to thinking of the Samaritan as a person like ourselves who should overcome prejudice to love everyone. An older interpretation of this parable, however, identifies us with the victim lying in the road. In this reading we have been brutalized by sin and left for dead in our folly. Then, the analysis continues, Jesus out of compassion comes to save us from damnation.

Our response to Christ for his generosity is to heed the commandment he gives to the scholar of the law inquiring about the requisites of eternal life. In going and doing like the Good Samaritan we imitate Christ. St. Francis serves as a worthy model in this endeavor. After his conversion from youthful swagger, Francis dedicated himself to preaching salvation by deed even more than by word.