About Me

Bilingual Roman Catholic priest of the Southern Dominican Province. The "homilettes" on this website are completely the work of Fr. Mele. He may be contacted at cmeleop@yahoo.com. Telephone: (415) 279-9234.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Solemnity of All Saints

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

Mike is a simple, honest fellow. He never went to college but has been able to earn a comfortable living by working with unions. He sees himself as so fortunate that he wants to give back to others some of what God has bestowed on him. Unlike many with similar motivation Mike helps people anonymously; that is, he tries not to make a show of his generosity. Someday Mike may be among the people that we celebrate today, the Feast of All Saints.

In Matthew’s gospel, after Jesus calls “blessed” those who are poor and meek, yearn for justice, and suffer persecution, he tells his disciples that they should strive for holiness without calling attention to themselves. As if it were possible, they are not even to let their left hand know what their right hand is doing. Because many have followed Jesus’ admonition through the ages, the number of saints vastly exceeds the 10,000 or so that are on the Church’s books. Especially these anonymous ones are called upon today for assistance.

But, of course, invocation of the saints is only half our responsibility. We must imitate the saints’ holiness as well. Our “random acts of kindness” should also be “anonymous acts” as much as possible. When we live in this way, we will find ourselves not just pleasing God but also living in peace.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 11:29-36; Luke 14:12-14)

A religious education program conducted its classes prior to Halloween every year in the parish cemetery. When daylight ebbed, the children grew skittish and ran back to the cemetery entrance where they might feel the security of numbers. The experience provided a spark in the religious ed curriculum but was actually a missed opportunity. Rather than provide a lesson on eternal life, the organizers of the event only added a thrill in an overheated season of excitement. Today is a teachable moment when a walk through a cemetery may reveal God's goodness to people accustomed to taking it for granted.

Humans are created with souls united to bodies as intimately as words and music make up a song. Death separates the two bringing the body to decay and the incorruptible soul (or spirit if you wish) to carry on alone. But there are few historical records of mischief-making spirit-sightings. More likely spirits yearn for bodily reunion perhaps like we feel when we have a tune in our head but have forgotten the words that match it.

Here we see the unsearchable ways of God that St. Paul refers to in the first reading. The souls of the saved are destined to be reunited with their bodies at the end of time just as Jesus' body and soul came together in his resurrection with the result of actual sightings. It promises to be even more glorious than the finale of Beethoven's Choral Symphony where words and music are joined to God’s eternal glory.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles

(Ephesians2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

“Jude the Obscure” is the title of a novel by English author Thomas Hardy, but it might as well be the name of the second of the two apostles whom we celebrate today. Besides its appearance on the lists of apostles given by Luke, Jude’s or, since in Greek the two names are spelled in the same way, not the traitorous Judas’ name is mentioned only in the Gospel according to John where he asks Jesus why he will reveal himself to his disciples apostles but not to the world (John 14:22). It is not likely that this apostle wrote the New Testament letter that bears the same name.

Simon’s story is a bit thicker than that of Jude although all that we know of him comes from the distinction the evangelists make between him and Simon Peter. Luke says that he is known as “a Zealot,” meaning that he is passionate about fulfilling the Jewish law. Nevertheless, we should not think of him as a member of the revolutionary band that is known as Zealots a generation after Jesus. In Matthew and Mark, the same Simon is designated “the Cananean” which stems from the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek word zelotes.

The first three evangelists are in accord that Jesus intentionally chooses only twelve men to form his core group of disciples. They also show that the disciples come from different backgrounds -- fishermen and a tax collector, for example. The fact that Simon is a zealot about the Law while Matthew’s (or Levi’s) tax collecting downplays the Law’s authority further indicates that Jesus has a plan in mind. He wants his followers to resolve their differences as a sign that he has come to reunify the twelve tribes of the Kingdom of Israel. Inclusion of non-Jews into the Kingdom is also anticipated in the gospel, but it must wait the inauguration of the Church after Pentecost.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:31b-39; Luke 13:31-35)

When St. Paul writes of nothing separating the Christian from the love of Christ, he no doubt has his own experience in mind. He not only felt the existential pain of distancing himself from friends and -- who knows? – family when he left mainline Judaism but went on to endure torture and the miseries of third class travel in the first century. The latter included walking long distances and scaling mountains always with the fear of robbers. Or, as an alternative, Paul endured the misery of deck passage with the difficulties of cooking, resting, and relieving oneself. In all these trials he still felt the love of Jesus.

But Paul’s personal encounter with the resurrected Christ propelled him forward. It was not a spiritual experience but, as he wrote to the Corinthians, an appearance every bit as real as the one to the other apostles. The encounter engraved in Paul’s heart the love of Jesus for him so that he could endure hardships and eventual martyrdom.

We may wish for such a personal encounter with the Lord like Paul’s, but how many are ready to endure the trials that such an experience brought? We are grateful for the spiritual experiences of Christ that we have in the good people we meet and in the Eucharist we share with fellow believers.

Wednesday, Octobr 26, 2011

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:26-30; Luke 12:22-30)

Jack Bernowitz was working at a financial company into middle age. When the economy turned south a few years ago, Jack lost his job. Rather than worry about finding more work in finance, Jack followed a long-held inkling to learn to cook. He enrolled in culinary school and now works as a pastry chef. As St. Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, “All things work for good for those who love God.”

Paul’s encouragement has enabled theologians to resolve the problem of evil. No one -- good or bad -- can escape suffering in life. Disease, death, the hardness of others, and self-deception touch every human life, sometimes in quantities that seem disproportionate and even unjust. Most always, however, as Paul writes, the situations resolve themselves for the better if those involved do not lose faith. Even when life ends on a bitter note, Christians look forward to eternity where the hand of the Almighty is not obscured from sight.

When we know people who experience the scourge of evil, we need to offer consolation. But often such moments are not the times to talk about things working out for the good. As God’s witnesses we go forward with the proverbial shoulder to cry on. Our presence alone witnesses God’s mercy. The few words of comfort we offer are enough to insure God will improve the situation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:18-25; Luke 13:18-21)

“What is the Kingdom of God like?” Jesus asks in the gospel today. It is like a mustard seed that grows into a large bush sheltering God’s creatures. It is also like a bit of yeast that folded into a small amount of dough produces enough bread to feed a family. We might also say that the kingdom of God is like the inclusiveness that St. Luke shows throughout his gospel.

In today’s passage we find the inclusiveness in a parable involving a male planter followed by one with a female householder. At the beginning of the gospel the angel Gabriel appears first to Zachariah and then to Mary. After Jesus is born, his parents take him to the Temple where they meet the seer Simeon and then the prophetess Anna. Luke reminds us throughout his work that women as well as men are direct participants in and beneficiaries of the Kingdom. They are by no means second-class Christians.

The Catholic Church is often criticized as being sexist or, more simply put, of favoring men over women. Regrettably there is evidence to support the assertion. However, we should not accept the charge that because the Church insists on a male clergy, it is sexist. After investigating the issue fully, Pope John Paul II concluded that the Church cannot ordain women at least as priests or bishops because Jesus did not do it. It is still possible that the Church will decide to ordain women deacons as it is certain that women served in that role in its initial centuries.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:12-17; Luke 13:10-17)

People are horrified when they hear of Jehovah Witness parents refusing to allow their child to receive a blood transfusion that would save the child’s life. But Jehovah Witnesses are just interpreting an Old Testament proscription of partaking of the blood of another (Leviticus 17:10). In the gospel today the leader of the synagogue takes a comparable position as he chastises the people for coming to Jesus to be cured on the Sabbath.

Jesus obviously does not interpret the Scriptures quite so stringently. We should note that in this case the issue is whether Scriptures allow anyone to cure – which is a form of work – on the Sabbath. The Book of Exodus calls for “complete rest” or “be put to death" (Exodus 31:14). Yet we should not think of Jesus as a free-thinker. One commentator says that Jesus takes a “commonsense approach to Sabbath observance” that allows peasants to keep their farm animals and the poor to be relieved of suffering.

“Then why does the Church forbid abortion in cases where mother and baby are likely to die if a pregnancy is allowed to continue?” some will ask. It is a very difficult question that does refer to real, although rare, situations. The answer lies in abiding by Jesus’ injunction against doing evil (as in Matthew 5:39). The difference between the abortion case and the one in the gospel today is that it involves directly taking an innocent human life, which is always forbidden. It should be noted that intervention to save the mother that does not involve the direct killing of the fetus is generally permitted.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 7:18-25a; Luke 12:54-59)

“Red sky in the morning: sailors, take warning….” Seamen have used this rhyme or similar words for 2,000 years to predict the weather. Stormy days are forecasted when the morning sky is red because 1) high pressure in the east causes dust particles to collect at a low altitude and refract sunlight in the red range and 2) the high pressure system is followed by low pressure with storm clouds moving in from the west. It sounds rather complicated, no? But this is the point Jesus is making in the gospel today. If people can figure out the meaning of a red sky, they should consider the signs of another, more important, kind of storm. He is referring to judgment day which is approaching with his death.

When he mentions the need to settle with one’s opponent, Jesus is again warning the people to prepare for judgment. They should realize that if they go before the divine court claiming innocence, God -- who will be both their opponent and judge -- will surely convict them of wrong-doing. Jesus advises that it would be far better to reconcile with God now.

It may be hard for some of us who attend mass or who read Scripture daily to identify ourselves in this reading. Perhaps we notice that Jesus is addressing himself to the crowds and not to his disciples. Yet all of us at times find ourselves at odds with what we know to be true. Jesus is urging us as well, then, to recognize our sinfulness and to ask forgiveness.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:19-23; Luke 12:49-53)

The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under a river of volcanic lava in 79 A.D. and left unseen for 1700 years. When it was uncovered, the world had a snapshot of life in the Roman Empire. One house, by no means extraordinary, has a statuette of a boy lifting his phallus with the opening of the gate to salute the visitor. Perhaps even more than people today, Romans were obsessed with sex. For this reason St. Paul, writing not long before ancient Pompeii was buried, can address the perniciousness of sexual license.

Paul’s letters and, to some extent, the gospels leave the impression that many early Christians were and found Christianity as a way out of sexual enslavement. Christianity not only provides a support group to help one overcome lascivious desires but also the grace of the Holy Spirit to pursue a virtuous life. Paul emphasizes in today’s reading another reason to forego immoral sexual actions. He writes that the outcome of sexual sin is death in contrast to eternal life which Christian discipleship offers.

Sex, like all creation, is a natural good for which we give God thanks and praise. It has been corrupted, however, through sin with universal enslaving potential. For these reasons we are cautious about our approach to sex. We should not think of intimate sexual relations as inherently foul or dirty, yet we cannot proclaim it as a good outside marriage.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Memorial of Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and companions, martyrs

Romans 6:12-18; Luke 12:39-47)

Msgr. Charles King was a priest’s priest. He gave himself completely to the shepherding of souls. He did take a weekly day off and once in a while left town for a few days’ rest and recreation, but he will be remembered as giving 100 percent of himself to pastoral care. As an example, on Sundays after parish masses were celebrated, Msgr. King called shut-ins of the parish to offer his support in their trials. This pastor illustrates what Jesus has in mind when he answers Peter’s question in the gospel today.

“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” Peter asks Jesus on behalf of his companions. In his answer Jesus implies that it is meant for his apostles not so much as missionaries but as pastors. They are to guide communities of faith providing exemplary pastoral care. Above all, they should avoid using their authority by exploit their flocks.

Pastors need the Spirit’s special support and, therefore, the prayers of the faithful to fulfill their responsibilities. When we think about it, we come to realize that such prayers redound to everyone’s benefit. Not only are the people in the pews assisted by their parish priests, but those same people also have shepherding roles. Certainly the parents among them are to guide their children, and every Christian should be conscious of leading others to God by his or her good example.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

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

Today many dioceses sponsor an annual “White Mass” for medical professionals because it is said that St. Luke, whose feast is being celebrated, was a doctor. The legend comes from the Letter to the Colossians which calls Luke “the beloved physician.” There is as well a subtle shred of evidence within the gospel testifying to Luke’s being a medical practitioner; namely, of all the evangelists Luke takes the most critical attitude toward lawyers.

Luke has also been named the “patron of artists.” This distinction stems from a tradition that he was a painter as well as a doctor. Another reason to call Luke an artist is his ability to retell Jesus’ parables. With all the acumen of a Chaucer or Dante Luke relates the stories of “The Prodigal Son,” “The Good Samaritan,” and “Lazarus and the Rich Man” – all of which are exclusively found in his gospel.

We also might call Luke the “patron of the poor” for his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, which he also wrote, give paramount consideration to the lowly of the earth. We can as well designate Luke the “patron of prayer” and “patron of the Holy Spirit” –themes that are at least as pronounced in his gospel than in the others. Finally, while we are at it, let’s declare Luke the “patron of Marian devotion” and “patron of devotion to the child Jesus.” Once again, no gospel writer has as much to say on these topics as Luke.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Romans 4:20-25; Luke 12:13-21)

Theresa lived ninety years close to God. She raised a large family and served at her parish first as a crossing guard for the school, then as the secretary and in various other capacities. Theresa, of course, regularly attended Mass and was considered by many as a trustworthy friend. Most everyone would like to have some of Theresa’s qualities whether it be her wisdom, her dedication, or her care of others. Theresa today helps us understand some of the dynamics of faith.

We sometimes hear faith described as “blind” and entailing a “leap” into the unknown. These phrases have a limited value in describing what faith entails. There may be moments when faith seems like a blind or dubious choice, for example, when a martyr is called to renounce her faith or die. Also, faith does demand a leap or letting go of complete control of one’s life and trusting in God. But usually our faith is firmly based not only on the Gospel message but on the solid examples of saints like Teresa.

In the first reading today Paul assures us that faith will win God’s favor. When we believe that Christ died for our sins and God raised him for our justification, we will share in his glory. To be sure, the faith implied here is more than a nod of assent to various propositions about God. Rather, it involves discipleship of the Lord Jesus.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 4:1-8; Luke 12:1-7)

The five year-old did not have a dime in his pocket, yet he rode the cars at the carnival all day. How did he manage it? His father was the ice cream salesman who recycled the tickets received from the purchase of ice cream to the amusements manager. Privileges often come with relationships and not with merit. St. Paul emphasizes this lesson in his Letter to the Romans.

Paul uses the story of Abraham in today’s reading to illustrate that human salvation comes about by faith, which is a relationship with God. Abraham was a very good man, yet his merits did not win him God’s blessing. Genesis insists that his faith induced God to promise him a nation of descendants. In a similar mode Paul sees the very fallible men and women of his day as capable of salvation by virtue of their belief. That is, by faith in Jesus they will not be lost to pride, power, or pleasure.

Some of us may seem to be always at the top of the game. But even these relatively few are liable to fall on their faces. Our only hope is to cling to Christ in the way of discipleship. He will teach us how to live with love in our hearts which propels us beyond worldly seductions into eternal life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

In a book of prayers, the great twentieth century theologian Karl Rahner asks if God is the God of all the laws which the Church has on record. There certainly are many rules, rubrics, and regulations in Church files. Rahner answers his question with characteristic paradox. No, God is not the God of laws, but he is the God of the one law of love. When a person obeys the laws, which may seem trivial, out of love for God and not to appease the powerful, then he or she is assured of finding God in acquiescence.

Rahner recognizes the possibility that some Church rules may be too burdensome for people to bear. He finds in the gospel itself testimony that those who legislate such unwarranted will be held accountable. In the gospel yesterday and today Jesus charges the Pharisees and Scribes with doing just that. They need to repent every bit as much as thieves and adulterers.

Jesus again champions our cause by revealing God’s will. He shows us that people who appear to be holy may not be living according to God’s way. He wants us to be holy but takes pains to point out that holiness has less to do with binding regulations than with freeing people of slavery to power or pleasure so that they may love as God loves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 2:1-11; Luke 11:42-46)

The great psychoanalyst C.J. Jung observed that people frequently criticize and condemn in others what they dislike about themselves. He calls the shunned characteristic one’s “shadow” and implores people to make peace with it before it wreaks havoc. Jung develops language to name the same evil that St. Paul describes in the reading from the Letter to the Romans today.

Paul is making a diatribe. He does not actually have his readers in mind when he accuses people of ignoring the defects in themselves that they criticize in others. The “man” addressed is all men and women who delude themselves into thinking that they are better than others by ignoring their own shortcomings. Paul adds that purposeful blindness merits punishment.

Reconciling with our shadow means more than recognizing our faults. We need to accept them in the context of the benefits that God has bestowed. He has permitted the faults – be they the almost universal desire for undue recognition or something darker like compulsiveness about physical pleasures -- so that in correcting them with His grace we might grow more thankful as well as virtuous.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 1:16-25; Luke 11:37-41)

The trajectory of Dominique Strauss-Kahn sheds some light on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Mr. Strauss-Kahn is the French diplomat who was accused of raping a hotel worker in New York a few months back. It turned out that most probably the two engaged in consensual sex, but the public reaction did not die down with the dismissal of rape charges. Once talked about as a candidate for the French presidency, now the people of France, according to one press report at least, have dismissed Strauss-Kahn as a viable choice. They ask, do we want a man who would engage in casual sex to be our leader?

In the reading from Romans today, Paul shows how those who ignore God’s revelation in natural law will similarly be left to their own ruin. People should realize from the way the world functions sex outside of marriage is not okay. Rather humans must strive to overcome the inclination to lust. The gospel, described by Paul as the “power of God,” offers humans the best possibility of accomplishing the task. It gives people not just a community as a support group or eternal life as an incentive but the grace of the Holy Spirit to act virtuously.

Then why do some Christians remain seemingly imprisoned by sex? The human psyche is an area more complicated than the traffic of a city. It is possible that some need specialized help to forego the urge to pleasure. For all in such need, we pray for special intervention. After all, for many of them it is a question of hell in the hereafter but, for all the guilt they experience, of living hell on earth.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 1:1-7; Luke 11:29-32)

This epithet was once given for a foolish man: “He is often wrong but never in doubt.” Unfortunately sometimes humans are reluctant to even recognize the possibility of having erred. Even when faced with the loss of family or life, for example, some alcoholics refuse to admit the inability to control their intake of liquor. Yet recognition of one’s faults and the courage to change are necessary for positive growth. Winston Churchill stated the process well: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Jesus tells us something similar in the gospel today.

The people whom Jesus addresses are not what we would consider bad people. They are not thieves, murderers, adulterers, or the like. But they do identify God’s will with their own ways of thinking. Samaritans, they might say, are damned because they do not worship correctly. People are poor, they may add, because they have sinned. Jesus tries to correct these mistaken ideas with fundamentally two parallel truths: God is love and God wants humans to love one another. These truths, however, run against the human tendency to see God as a judge given to punishment and to love others
selectively.

We cannot escape the sinful human situation with its prejudices. But we can change our positions when we find them in error. The key is to discover the sources that will reveal the truth to us and indicate the ways we need to change.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Joel 1:13-15.2:1-2; Luke 11:15-26)

“Ten for joy, five for sorrow” described the rosary for most of its trajectory. That is, the original fifteen mysteries were divided into three equal groups featuring stories surrounding either the birth of Jesus or his paschal triumph. Few people argued for the need of reflection on the ministry of Jesus although Blessed Pope John Paul II noted the lacuna. In the year 2002 he inaugurated the luminous mysteries to help Catholics understand the words and actions of Jesus as integral to his saving mission.

Today’s gospel provides an illustration of a luminous mystery. Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God does not go without opposition. People wonder, could his marvelous deeds be done by virtue of diabolical power? No, Jesus claims, if the devil were behind his power to save, he would not allow Jesus to remove other demons. Jesus then invites people to recognize the too-good-to-be-true truth: his authority over demonic power comes directly from on-high. He is not someone to be shunned but embraced and followed.



The rosary, which we celebrate today, may not be every Catholic’s cup of tea. But especially as we become older, we may find great consolation in reviewing the gracious events of our salvation while beseeching the Lord, especially through Mary’s intercession, for help with personal struggles.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Malachi 3:13-20b; Luke 11:5-13)

Why do some people have difficulty asking God for help? Perhaps they do not want to feel foolish should God not grant what they ask. Or maybe they like to consider themselves as not owing God any favors. Or perhaps they just don’t think God cares enough to help. In the gospel today Jesus provides two images to free people from these errant ideas about God.

First, Jesus suggests that God may be considered a friend to whom we may go with little as well as big problems. That is, we might ask God for a loaf of bread just as well to heal mother’s cancer. But, Jesus indicates, God is better than a friend because He will assist us not just to avoid the embarrassment of denying someone He knows. No, God is like a father – the second image – who grants what we need because He deeply loves us. That is, God seeks only what is good for us. The difference between God’s friendship and every other friendship -- or, for that matter, God’s Fatherhood and any other fatherhood -- is that God can bestow the perfect gift, the Holy Spirit, who fills us with joy, love, and peace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 4:1-11; Luke 11:1-4)

Emergency airline safety often requires speed. In the case of an evacuation, everyone should be out of the plane in ninety seconds – a real feat as it takes at least ten times that to fill up the plane. Of course, to facilitate rapid exit, personal belongings are left behind. This represents a considerable sacrifice when one must leave behind a computer. Yet there is no real alternative when human lives are at stake. In the first reading God calls upon Jonah to make a similar realization.

The Book of the prophet Jonah was written after Jews became aware that the Lord God was more than their personal savior. He is, of course, creator and redeemer of all peoples. Because Jonah at first does not understand the universality of divine love, God utilizes a simple plant to teach him. As God says, if Jonah could mourn the demise of a plant, should not He (God) have greater remorse over the possible loss of the men and woman He created?

Sometimes we feel frustrated over inconveniences that are forced upon us for the sake of others. A good example is having to park our cars away from our destination while handicap parking is readily available nearby. In these instances we might remember Jonah’s lesson. People with great needs may be the beneficiaries of our sacrifices.
Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, religious

(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 10:38-42)

In 1219 Francis of Assisi went to Egypt on a missionary journey. When by a stroke of luck he was able to meet Sultan Malik al-Kamil, the two tried to convert each other. Kamil challenged Francis to walk across the image of a cross woven into a carpet thus committing apostasy. Francis did so but reminded the sultan that there were three crosses on Calvary and he had trod on the cross of the bad thief. Then Francis offered to walk across burning coals if the sultan would convert to Christianity. The sultan demurred saying that if he would forsake Islam, both he and Francis would be executed.

Francis may not have converted the sultan, but his experience did change the heart of his own order. When his friars established the norms for missionary activity among Muslims, Francis insisted that they prohibit any attempt to use weapons as a means of conversion. Nor were they to taunt Muslims into making martyrs of them. The same “conversion of ourselves” is at work in the Book of Jonah. The story of a mass conversion in Nineveh is apocryphal, but the purpose of the book is to move Jews to a conversion of heart. They are to note the attentiveness of the pagan Ninevites to the word of God and to respond with similar thoroughness.

Franciscan friars at their best still call us to renewed conversion. Walking in their habits, attending to the needs of the poor, bringing goodwill to all, Franciscans call us out of the narrow concerns into which even pious people may wander. They urge us, as did their great founder, to compassion, simplicity, and holiness.