Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

(Job 9:1-12.14-16; Luke 9:57-62)

In the first reading Job asks, “How can a man be justified before God?” He is quite aware that humanly speaking it is impossible, that human beings show ingratitude every time they veer from doing God’s will.  But all is not lost.  St. Thérèse shows us that there is still hope for us whether we are great sinners or almost saints.

St. Thérèse wanted to do great things for Christ, specifically to work in the missions.  But she was restricted from acting like Mother Teresa of Calcutta because of her status as a nun.  Nevertheless, she was able to see that doing great things is not necessary for justification.  Indeed, by itself being a missionary, a philanthropist or anything else will not merit justification.  One has to throw oneself on the mercy of Christ to be justified.  This is done by conforming oneself to Christ in the everyday matters of life.

We can so conform ourselves to Christ by following what has become known as St. Thérèse “little way.”  We will get up every morning and dedicate the day to him.  We will honor Christ in every person we meet.  And we will pray with Christ to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

(Job 3:1-3.11-17.20-23; Luke 9:51-56)

We sometimes see images of St. Jerome with a lion at his side.  Those who know little about him may think that Jerome befriended lions much like St. Francis of Assisi befriended the wolf.  But much more likely the lion represents St. Jerome himself.  Jerome displayed anger for his enemies that could flare into a rage.  The heretic Pelagius was one who felt the incandescence of Jerome’s anger.

In the gospel Jesus’ disciples James and John demonstrate a similar tendency to rage.  Learning that a Samaritan village will not welcome the Lord, they want to call down fire upon the place.  They have not taken to heart Jesus’ instructions for missionaries.  Jesus told his apostles that if a village refuses to accept them, they were to “shake the dust your feet in testimony against them.”

Jerome is a saint despite his irascibility not but because of it.  We may be sure that he mastered it before entering the Kingdom of God.  Jesus counsels forbearance and forgiveness when people rebuke our best efforts.  Uncontrolled anger has no place in his following.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

(Revelation 12:7-12ab; John 1:47-51)

Pope St. Gregory the Great reminds us that angels are spirits by nature and angels only by their function as messengers.  Angels are not actually angels when they are not on a mission from God.  What do they do in the meantime?  They enjoy the presence of God.

Today the Church celebrates three angels that are mentioned by name in Scripture.  Michael is cited in the Book of Revelation as the hero of the war against the Satan, who is called the Dragon.  Gabriel is the best known of the trio as he appears twice in the Gospel according to Luke.  First, he announces the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zechariah.  Then, he tells Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus.  Raphael accompanies Tobias on his journey to his father’s relative house.  There the young man marries the previously ill-fated Raguel with the blessing of his spiritual companion. 

All three angels represent God’s mysterious splendor.  We should not dismiss attention given to them because they appear as fanciful creatures.  With the angels and, today, because of them, we should want to praise God.  He has manifold ways to help us, and we can always count on Him. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Luke 9:18-22)

In the middle of the Cold War a Catholic Navy officer was serving as the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion on a nuclear submarine. His conscience began to trouble him as he contemplated being part of a missile launching that killed millions of people. He was eventually allowed to resign his commission. Although the stance seems extreme, it is certainly in line with the way Jesus sees himself.

The gospel today shows Jesus asking his disciples whom they think that he is. It is the Lucan rendition of the same scene that appears in the Gospels according to Mark and Matthew. In all cases Peter responds that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah who was to lead the Jews to freedom and dignity among the nations. In Luke, however, Jesus' response is immediate. He rebukes all the disciples (Peter is only acting as their spokesman), perhaps telling them to keep such ideas to themselves. As the other gospels in their own way make clear, Jesus does not want to be associated with a warrior-Messiah. He is a man of peace who comes to proclaim God's love, not to whip anyone into shape.

The Church has never forbidden Christians from serving in the military and going to war if necessary. Yet certainly Christian thought and practice is conditioned by Jesus foregoing any identification of a warrior. He is identified in the Scripture as the Prince of Peace. As his faithful servants, we strive to keep the peace and to limit injury in warfare.

Thursday, September 24, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Luke 9:7-9)

A philosopher tried to explain the need to rationally set goals for one’s life.  He said that those who make money their goal might think again.  Money – he went on -- is only an instrument.  Then he questioned some of the things that money can buy.  Swimming in the ocean?  One can do that without money, and so forth.  The philosopher was heading in the same direction as Qoheleth in today’s first reading.

Qoheleth – the name is translated loosely as preacher or teacher – warns that all human endeavors are ultimately in vain.  You want to become rich?  Your riches will mean less and less as you grow old.  You want to become famous?  You will soon be forgotten when you leave the scene.  You want to add something to the treasury of wisdom?  As another philosopher once said, “All philosophy is but footnotes to Plato.”  Qoheleth’s teaching undermines all of the supposed goods of life.

But is everything really worthless?  Perhaps it seemed so when Qoheleth wrote in the third or fourth century before Christ.  But this man, whom King Herod wanted so much to meet, has revealed something of permanent value.  He assures us that if we work for the Kingdom of God, our hopes will not be disappointed.  He tells us that seeking God’s justice will bring us eternal glory.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Proverbs 30:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)

Today’s readings provide an explanation of the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”  The text of Proverbs explains why one should not desire riches: they make her forget to seek her welfare in God’s Providence.  The gospel illustrates Jesus’ sense of Providence’s bounty as he sends his apostles on mission with just the clothes on their backs.

To be poor is one thing and to live in misery is another.  The poor have bread to eat but little more.  Lacking food, the miserable live in constant need.  They may steal, as the proverb indicates, and multiply their troubles.

Most of us have a good deal more than enough to live.  Yet we likely seek more rather than give thanks to God for our fortune.  In a sense we become like the miserable when we have much more reason to rejoice like the poor in spirit.