Monday, September 3, 2013

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

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

Americans tend to rest or recreate on Labor Day.  Unlike the other two national summer holidays, Labor Day has always fallen on Monday to make a long weekend.  Also, Labor Day marks the end of the vacation season – the last day of ease before the fall harvest of research papers or of production quotas.  Although election campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day giving some cause for reflection, the United States seems to have deliberately avoided a May 1 holiday when most of the world meditates on the meaning of work.

How opportune then is it for us to have today this gospel passage where Jesus proclaims good news to the poor!  Only in recent times has technology delivered many workers from poverty in developed economies.  Jesus brings salvation for the poor even ahead of the rich since money cannot buy entrance into the Kingdom of God.  Rather, it is a humble heart, which workers more than bosses tend to cultivate, that finds God’s favor.

Jesus’ good news includes the message that work itself is a gift from God.  Whether we are the architects of a cathedral rendering glory to God or the bricklayer’s apprentices mixing cement to hold its stones together, our work contributes to the advancement of society.  It also provides the bread for our tables, the roof over our heads, and medical assistance for our bodily welfare.  Finally, work disciplines us to be industrious, efficient, and considerate. We need work almost as much as we need to relax and to celebrate God's goodness.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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

Reading today's passage from St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, we get the idea that lust was perhaps the biggest temptation in his day.  It was the vice that set Greece against Troy in history's most famous war. Still today sexual desire creates intolerable situations.  Two years ago a promising politician in New York had to resign his seat in Congress for sending lewd pictures with his telephone.

In the reading Paul warns his readers that marriage too may be polluted by prurient desires.  Spouses should not look at each other as sexual objects but as companions who will bring them closer to Christ.  They are to love like Christ who gave himself as a sacrifice for his disciples.

We are challenged to overcome sexual desires in an overly indulgent culture.  Prayer is the first line of defense.  Discipline avoiding concentration on sexual stimuli is also necessary.  We should make every effort not to become preoccupied with sexual fantasy but to develop a mature attitude toward sexuality.  It is a positive natural force but like a nuclear meltdown can get out of control.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

(I Thessalonians 3:7-13; Mark 6:17-29)

A famous experiment showed that people are likely to inflict lethal pain on an innocent person if told to by an authority. When the professor who designed the experiment polled his students and colleagues beforehand, few predicted that subjects would be so compassionless. But to the chagrin of all the results have been duplicated in different societies.  Today’s gospel paints a similarly dismal portrait of humans.

King Herod recognizes John as "righteous and holy." From the account it sounds as if Herod wants to keep John as a spiritual guide.  But as attuned as Herod might be to John's goodness, he does not rise above his own pride.  Because he promises Herodias' daughter anything that she asks, he executes the eminently honorable John in order to not appear weak and unfaithful to his word.  A decent person would have apologized for his foolhardy promise and disciplined his step-daughter for making such an outrageous request.

We are wise not to deny our capacity to sin grievously and to thank God every day that we have avoided offending Him.  It is His grace, given through Christ, which turns us from brutal nature into people who love and desire the good.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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

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

It has been proposed that the three most important persons in early Christianity are Jesus, Paul, and Augustine.  Some might wonder why this short list would have to mention Jesus and why it does not include the Blessed Mother or St. Peter.  But the proposition concerns the formation of a great religion.  Jesus started it all.  Paul propelled it forward with his work among non-Jews.  And Augustine gave Christianity, in the West at least, a solid theoretical basis.

There are many comparisons to be made between Paul and Augustine beyond enshrinement in Christianity’s hall of fame.  Both experienced famous conversions.  Paul, of course, was persecuting Christianity when the Lord turned his life upside down on the road to Damascus.  Augustine’s conversion, on the other hand, was subtle and gradual.  He had leaned for a long time toward a heretical Christian sect.  Also, a promiscuous relationship hindered him from pursuing where his intellect was leading him.  Finally, however, he could not deny God’s calling from within and was baptized by St. Ambrose of Milan.  Another comparison is that both Paul and Augustine worked tirelessly for Christ after their conversions.  Paul suffered from the wiles of men as well as from the elements of nature to bring the gospel at least as far as Rome.  In today’s reading he hints at how he worked all day for his upkeep and preached all night for the salvation of souls.  Augustine’s enormous output of books and sermons eloquently testifies to his exhaustive work.

Perhaps most importantly both Paul and Augustine can be considered together for their work developing the concept of grace.  Paul understood that we humans were doomed to sin when God sent His son to save us.  Augustine made it clear that salvation is not a little bit God’s offer and a little bit our response.  No, Augustine taught, even the inspiration to respond to God’s offer is a movement of divine grace within us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Memorial of Saint Monica

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

Many Catholic parents of adult children today readily identify with St. Monica.  Their children just do not care about religion.  They may or may not identify themselves with the faith, but they do not go to Mass and readily express disagreement with Church teaching.  Like Monica these parents pray fervently for their children and, hopefully again like her, remind them of not just the glorious destiny that Catholic Christians have but the joy of knowing Jesus Christ.

St. Paul in the reading today sees himself as a similar loving mother.  He writes, “…we were gentle among you as a nursing mother cares for her infants.”  He means that like a mother he loved his spiritual children so much that he was patient in his initial preaching to the Thessalonians taking pains to explain the gospel in simple terms and also that he sacrificed himself for them by practicing his trade of tent-making rather than burden them for his upkeep. 

We must be careful not to take up the erroneous ideas of the young.  Surely they have things to teach us like tolerance for different races, but we have something more essential that like Paul to the Thessalonians we have to impart – the truth that salvation comes from the self-sacrificing love of Jesus which all are called to imitate.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 12:5-7.11-13; Luke 13:22-30)

Father Ferapont is an austere but unholy monk of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.  When the genuinely good monk Father Zossima dies and his body begins to putrefy, Ferapont does not hesitate to interpret the natural decomposition as proof of Zossima’s depravity.  Ferapont is a more modern example of vanity masquerading as religious zeal that Jesus condemns in today’s gospel.

The Pharisees should not be considered as a sect or a group of fanatics.  Actually many serve the Lord by safeguarding against laxity among ordinary Jews.  Still some, as Jesus observes, fail to assist the people they purport to keep on the straight and narrow.  Rather their condescending manners move people away from true worship.

We who go beyond the minimum obligations that the Church dictates have to guard against the sanctimony of the Pharisees.  We need to give positive example without condemning and to patiently support rather than precipitously dismiss those who do not have the wherewithal to yet commit themselves fully to the Lord. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

(Optional) Memorial of Saint Rose of Lima, virgin

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

St. Rose of Lima (Peru) exemplifies how to deal with adversity.  As a young woman, she wanted to enter a cloister.  But her father would not allow it.  She did not disobey but carried on a life of austerity and compassion while living on her parents’ property.  She died at a young age but not before winning the admiration of the entire city. Although her story in many ways differs from that of Ruth, both woman show a remarkable love of God and consideration of family.

Ruth comes from a pagan background during the time of the Judges.  She marries an Israelite and accepts his God and well as his family as her own.  Today’s passage shows how Ruth refuses to give up either when her husband dies and her mother-in-law, considering Ruth’s need for a husband, tells her to return to her people.

Ruth gives witness to the priority of serving the Lord so vitally needed in our own time.  Many today are willing to forsake God’s law – be it the Sunday obligation to attend Mass or the prohibition of using contraceptives – to conform to social norms.  The example of Ruth encourages us to always do what God wills.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Judges 11:29-39a; Matthew 21:1-14)

The first reading today leaves us heart-sick if not confused about fulfilling the vows one makes.  The Israelite judge Jephthah sacrifices his daughter in fulfillment of a vow to the Lord.  Perhaps he was thinking of an animal when he promises to sacrifice the first one who comes from his house if he is victorious in battle.  However, the text clearly state: “’I shall offer him up as a burnt sacrifice.’”

In no way is human sacrifice legitimate.  Indeed, it is forbidden by Mosaic Law (Lev 18:21).  Its practice indicates a period of the history of Israel when the Law is not heeded if it is even established.  No one today should even think of such a barbarity today.  Nor should any parent claim the right to dedicate a son or daughter to God in the sense of imposing on him or her to become a priest or religious.  (Of course, this does not mean that a father or mother may not pray for a vocation in the family and support a child who shows an inclination or expresses a desire to serve the Lord in this intimate way.)

Almost no one will consider sacrificing another human being to God, but many propose other kinds of sacrifices that are imprudent or even impossible.  One theologian recommends that the parish priest be consulted if one wants to give away land to the Church or begin a fast from food for an extended period of time.  As in the Old Testament the priest seems the one appointed by God to judge the appropriateness of personal sacrifices.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

(Judges 9:6-15; Matthew 20:1-16)

The young woman comes to work once a week.  She goes to the mail room, and if there is any paper to be shredded, she does that.  If not, she may sit there for the rest of the afternoon.  Because of her severe retardation, she cannot do anything but the most menial of tasks.  But who would deny her the little bit of money she likely receives for reporting to work?  Here is the lesson that Jesus means to teach his disciples in today’s gospel.

The passage troubles most readers because one of the principles of worker justice is that each worker is to be paid according to the value of his/her contribution to the end product.  This measure guards against cronyism in which workers with close relationships with the manager are paid more.  Jesus is saying that truly just compensation must consider other factors than labor input such as the need of the worker.  Paying a day laborer the “usual daily wage” would give him just enough money to take care of his family, no more.  If the owner paid the workers who come late in the day less, their children would probably not have enough to eat that evening.

The parable coming directly after Jesus’ assurance that those who make sacrifices for his sake will inherit eternal life warns us against greed.  We need sufficient resources to take care of our families, but we also need to foster the kind of society where all people can do the same.  To be sure, it is a complicated task.  But our disavowal of greed comprises a major step in its realization.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

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

St. Bernard, the monastic reformer and hero of the Middle Ages, wrote a famous letter of admonition to his cousin Robert.  The young man had lived with Bernard in the reformed monastery of Clairvau but in the latter’s absence was lured to the comfortable monastery at Cluny.  Bernard felt that he was putting his eternal life in jeopardy.  “If furs smooth and warm, if cloth fine and costly,… make a saint,” he penned, “why do I delay to follow thee?  Such things are comfort for the feeble, not weapons for the valiant.”  One can hear in these words an echo of Jesus in today’s gospel.

Jesus assures his disciples that those who sacrifice comforts and family “for the sake of my name” will gain eternal life.  He knows that such service can be costly if not in physical depravation than perhaps in emotional loss as living Christian values may mean alienation from those counted on for support.  Yet, Jesus says, it is worth much more than any effort given.

We sometimes think of the good life as receiving adulation from others.  But real satisfaction comes from taking joy in doing God’s will.  He does not want to see us unhappy.  Rather He calls us to communion with Him in the delightful company of saints like Bernard and others closer to us in time and space.

Monday, August, 19, 2013

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Judges 2:11-19; Matthew 19:23-30)

“Bear” Bryant won the reputation of harsh and successful taskmaster.  His players were notoriously slim, not because they didn’t eat but because he trained them so hard.  Coach Bryant’s teams very impressively won six national titles in his twenty-five years as the head coach at the University of Alabama.  In today’s gospel Jesus presents himself similarly as the one who leads his disciples to perfection.

The passage challenges its readers.  It seems to indicate that the way to eternal life is to renounce one’s wealth in order to follow Jesus.  “Are then,” it may be asked, “only those who take the vow of poverty guaranteed a place in heaven?”  An affirmative answer here is faulty on two levels.  First, it misses Jesus’ point that perfection is a matter not so much of being destitute but of following him.  True, the young man in question is ostensibly called to poverty, but more generally the sine qua non of eternal life is adherence to Jesus, not forfeiting possessions.  Second and as a corollary, taking a vow of poverty or even living in radical poverty does not necessarily mean having a virtuous life.  Again, eternal life is a matter of taking one’s cues from Jesus.

Still, we should not be overly consoled by the understanding that renunciation of wealth is not absolutely necessary for eternal life.  The rich very often find their greatest satisfaction in what they can do for themselves and not in what God does for them through Christ.  Such a stance is incongruent with following Jesus.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Jesus claims in today’s gospel that the only case in which married people may divorce is porneia.  The New American Bible translates this Greek word very generally as unlawful.  Thus, it seems that any infraction of the Church’s canons regarding the legitimacy of a marriage would give grounds for divorce.  Biblical scholars, however, find a much more restrictive meaning to the word – an incestuous relationship.  Paul attests that this occurred among Christians in Corinth and insists not that the people involved may divorce but that they must.

The Church rightfully upholds the indissolubility of marriage.  It is plainly God’s will as Jesus explains.  The real question is whether it is right in making as many exceptions as it does.  Many ridicule the Church for doing so by calling annulments “Catholic divorce.”  But the Church has an exulted view of marriage that goes beyond superficial promises and physical consummation.  It expects people to know what they are promising, to believe in the efficacy in what they are saying, and to have the power of spirit to carry out their assumed responsibilities.  Anything less in its view is not a true marriage.

Because marriage is so central to human living, it must be supervised with extreme care.  The Church proceeds to do so by trying to provide adequate preparation, by allowing for annulments when couples won’t or can’t take that preparation seriously, and by not granting divorces on a whim.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Revelation 19a.12:1-6a.10ab; I Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56)

Biblical scholar Fr. Raymond E. Brown, being concerned about ecumenical relations, tried to reassure his Protestant colleagues that Catholic traditions are not as unbiblical as detractors claim.  Regarding Catholic teachings about Mary, he pointed out that what the Church professes of Mary, she generally envisions for all Christians.  With this perspective we can say that although extraordinary, the dogma of Mary’s Assumption - body and soul - into heaven is essentially what most Christians believe is the ultimate destiny of all faithful followers of Christ.  The reading from First Corinthians hints at a progression.  It states that Christ was raised as the first fruits of redemption, then those who belong to Christ. The dogma of the Assumption interjects Mary in the “proper order” to which St. Paul alludes.  She, the Church has declared, is raised after her son by reason of her exceptional life of grace and before all others.

The doctrine of the immortal soul has clouded appreciation of the resurrection of the body which we believe awaits us.  Although the soul or life’s breath somehow has existence outside the body, it originates with the body and depends on the body for development.  The body is not just a container for the soul as a pitcher for water so that any body might contain my soul as any pitcher can contain the same water. No, the body interacts with the soul such that it helps shape who I am.  My height, weight, health, etc. contribute to how my soul sees, judges, and lives.  When I die, my soul will yearn until the end of time for reunification with my body.  The doctrine of the Assumption reassures us that this is bound to happen. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kobe, priest and martyr

(Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Matthew 8:15-20)

St. Maximilian Kobe’s martyrdom has been contested.  It has been said that he did not die in defense of his faith but for his generosity.  The facts of his case are that he substituted himself for a fellow prisoner in a concentration camp whom the Nazis arbitrarily chose for execution when another prisoner escaped.  However, it must be remembered that martyrdom means witnessing one’s faith which St. Maximilian’s heroic act of love did.

In the gospel Jesus instructs his disciples on how to give further testimonies to faith.  He says that when wronged, a disciple is to be direct and discreet.  He or she is to go to the one who gave offense, make the charge to the person, and hopefully receive an apology so that forgiveness may be extended.  If there is doubt about the facts of the case, the offended party is to bring a few witnesses to testify to what happened.  Jesus in no way recommends mass denunciation much less retaliation.  Christian witness always does what is truly loving.

Love never ignores the truth but seeks the true benefit of others.  Sometimes it demands that we take a stand that may be inconvenient or even more costly.  We do it out of solidarity with the Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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

University students are especially preoccupied that their sports teams are considered the best; that is, rated number one.  They will chant incessantly as their teams compile an undefeated record, “We’re number one!”  The concern may be truly called sophomoric in light of today’s gospel.

The disciples come to Jesus with the question, “Who is first in the Kingdom of God?”  Pointedly Jesus ignores the concern to give a lesson on service.  He tells them that they must humble themselves like a child so that they may respond to the needs of others.

It is hard to give up our sense of self-importance.  We want to be appreciated for what we do.  But Jesus is reminding us again that we do not earn heaven on our own.  It comes as grace from God to which we respond with the eagerness of children trying to please their parents.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Matthew 17:22-27)

In his landmark “Gettysburg Address” Abraham Lincoln appealed to the “Declaration of Independence” in exhortation that the nation carry on the struggle for a united nation.  He said that the government founded to protect the freedom of all peoples is worth dying for.  In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses makes a similar argument. 

The Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land.  They have every reason to hope that they and their children will have all the resources they will need to live in prosperity.  But Moses, conveying the will of God, wants for them more than that.  He wants them to fulfill their destiny of being a model of God’s justice.  So he exhorts them to remember God’s graciousness to them and to their ancestors.  He is especially concerned that they treat other peoples fairly for, he says, “…you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”

As mass immigration has become a reality in all parts of the world, we should highlight these words of Moses.  It is difficult to sojourn in different lands with different customs and a different language.  Immigrants need understanding, fairness and even compassion.  Such treatment would show our solidarity not just across national boundaries but among generations.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Today’s optional memorial celebrates St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, more commonly known by her name at birth, Edith Stein.  Her death amply illustrates Jesus’ gospel message, “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Edith Stein was born a German Jew.  She earned a doctorate in philosophy studying with the eminent phenomenologist Edmund Husserl.  Converting to Catholicism around thirty years of age, she joined a Carmel in Germany about the time when the Nazis started their systematic persecution of Jews.  Sr. Teresa Benedicta transferred to a Carmel in Holland where the Nazi regime was more tolerant of Jewish-Catholic converts. But when the Dutch bishops spoke out against the Nazis, the authorities rounded up known Jewish-Catholics there and sent them to Auschwitz.  Sr. Teresa Benedicta died in a gas chamber in 1942.

St. Teresa Benedicta’s life and death illustrate that following Jesus can be costly.  Many today think of being Catholic as belonging to a distinguishable social group that goes to mass on Sundays and says the rosary at wakes.  St. Teresa Benedicta testifies that to live the implications of our faith, we must be ready not only to make the daily sacrifices that faith requires but also to suffer humiliation and even death if systematic persecution should begin again.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest

(Numbers 20:1-13; Matthew 16:13-23)

“’You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do,’” Jesus tells Peter in the gospel today.  The lead disciple has just denied that Jesus will have to suffer and die because he is the Messiah.  He wouldn’t say the same thing to Dominic as a young cleric.

Dominic was studying in Palencia, Spain, when the region underwent a famine. The poor were perishing, but few rich people or the authorities came to their assistance.  Dominic could not bear the sight.  He gave away all his possessions to the poor and even sold the parchments he had for study with the proceeds going to feed the hungry.  Eventually Dominic founded his order based on radical poverty.  He did not mean to burden anyone but to preach that peace comes from trusting in God.

It may not be prudent to empty our bank accounts on behalf of charity. But it is certainly unjust to horde money or to spend it lavishly while people suffer want.  We should pray for the gifts of wisdom and generosity that we may come to think and live as God would have us do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

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

The movie “Chariots of Fire” features the men of great heart who composed the 1920 English Olympic track team.  In one scene their American rivals demonstrate technical excellence in training.  They do warm-up calisthenics as if they were jet engines tuning up for take-off.  In the end, however, the Americans are bettered by the determined Brits.  Such heart seems in short supply among the Israelites as they hear the reports of the inhabitants of the Promised Land in the first reading.

The Israelites fail to see that they have God on their side.  He has saved them from Pharaoh’s mighty army and provided for their needs in the desert.  Still the people cower after hearing of formidable enemies. They should know by now that it is not any physical advantage that would provide the margin of victory but God’s presence on their behalf.

When we face long odds, we best redouble our prayers.  It is not that we expect to triumph in every challenge, but we can pray that we emerge from the contest wiser, more gracious people.  Win or lose, we remain children of the unbeatable God.  In the end He will be our winning margin.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Transfiguration of the Lord

(Daniel 7:9-10.13-14; II Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28b-36)

In commenting on the Transfiguration in the Gospel of Luke, Pope Benedict XVI notes that it occurs when Jesus is praying.  He says that it is the interpenetration of Jesus with God the Father that produces the sensation of pure light.  Jesus becomes, as John’s gospel declares, “light from light.”

In prayer Jesus recognizes that God is calling him to suffer.   He can glimpse the cross awaiting him in Jerusalem, the “Exodus” which Moses and Elijah mention in the passage.  The vision does not deter him but compels him forward because he knows that it is the Father’s will.  Meanwhile, the disciples are being prepared for the shock ahead.

We should see a similar eventuality for ourselves in the future.  Whether we suffer through old age or face death in an instant, the experience will not be easy.  Like Jesus we should place our trust in God.  Like him we will be giving positive example to our associates.  Like him we will come to know God’s glory.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Numbers 11:4b-15; Matthew 14:13-21)

When a commodity becomes plentiful and cheap, people are likely to look for more costly alternatives.  At one time chicken was most families’ favorite fare mostly reserved for Sunday dinner.  Today, by contrast, with mass (and inhumane) methods of poultry farming, it has become relatively inexpensive, and many families prefer steak or salmon on special occasions.  In the first reading something similar is brewing.

The Hebrews have grown tired of manna.  Having to eat it every day, they return to Moses with the complaint that they should have stayed in Egypt.  Moses goes to the Lord with the dilemma.  He may think that the people should be grateful to have sustenance along with their freedom, but he knows that they are still not holy, still not truly the Lord’s.   Perhaps Moses himself betrays the same rebellious spirit as he attempts to weasel out of God’s service.

Holiness is a matter of being different.  But the difference is not being individualistic.  Holiness is going against the grain of human sinfulness that hankers after pride, pleasure, and power.  It is overcoming the tendency to see ourselves as all-important, thanking God as the source of our blessings, and then becoming a blessing to others.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Leviticus 23:1.4-11.15-16.27.34b-37; Matthew 13:54-58)

In one of his novels Larry McMurtry tells the story of an antique collector who buys a precious item from the owners of a second-hand store.  The owners ask a price many times below the object’s value because they do not know its real worth.  In the gospel today the townspeople where Jesus grew up similarly do not recognize Jesus for who he really is. 

The people of Nazareth think that they know Jesus because they know his family.  They cannot comprehend that he is the long awaited Messiah who comes to save Israel.  Even his miraculous cures and his wonderful teaching do not convince them but just confound them more.

Some of us may likewise be scandalized by the ways that Jesus dominantly makes himself present today.  He does not come in a grand banquet which we have to pay thousands of dollars to attend.  No, he is present in the simple hosts and the inexpensive wine that we bring to the altar.  His teachings promising eternal life are also neither complex nor enigmatic.  No, they contain the straightforward message that we are to love God above all and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We must be careful not to reject Jesus as his townspeople do in the gospel.  Quite the contrary, we must be ever grateful that he makes himself available to us and to all.