Monday, November 3, 2014

Memorial of Saint Martin de Porres, religious

(Philippians 2:1-4; Luke 14:12-14)

Flannery O’Connor describes a vision of saints entering heaven like this: “There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.”  The party resembles the kind of banquet Jesus recommends that the Pharisee throw in today’s gospel.

Jesus teaches that the way to heaven is to take care of those most in need.  God’s Providence uses ordinary people to assist the needy.  When people fulfill this plan, they can count on God’s blessing in death.  Then they may not be surprised to find themselves in the same company which they served.

St. Martin de Porres spent his life serving the most humble of God’s creatures.  He not only helped the poor but took care of the animals as well.  He is frequently shown as befriending a rat.  No doubt, he feels at home in heaven where the faithful poor surround the Lord’s table.  But there are others as well.  People like us who remember the poor not just with leftovers but with our heart’s desires.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Passing through neighborhoods today we see signs of death.  Neighbors are not really being ghoulish although the displays of figures hanging from trees defy generosity of thought.  The lighted pumpkins and moving skeletons actually ridicule death because of widespread belief in the immortality.  Secular humanists aside, the people believe that the soul transcends death.

But should they really be so sanguine about it? Souls may continue to exist, but bodies deteriorate in the ground if they are not incinerated beforehand.  And bodies are so integral to the human person that it is hard to imagine life without them.  Could we communicate without tongues to speak, ears to listen, or fingers to type our thoughts?  We wouldn’t enjoy a meal with friends to say nothing of the satisfaction that we derive from a glass of wine or perhaps a Dunkin’ Donut.  Death may be one frustration after another until the last day when Christ will raise our bodies to be like his in glory.

All Saints and All Souls Days bid us not to worry about life after death.  They assure us that the same Christ, who cures the man suffering from dropsy in today’s gospel, will not forget those who believe in him.  He will be there when they die, be it the Sabbath or not, to fulfill their needs.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 6:10-20; Luke 13:31-35)

A frustrated Illinois state official named James Shields once challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel.  Lincoln had criticized Shields, the Illinois state auditor, for professional and personal shortcomings.  The latter felt he had to defend his honor.  Having the right to choose the dueling weapons, Lincoln called for cavalry swords thinking he might intimidate his diminutive opponent before the duel began.  Besides, Lincoln knew that there was less possibility of either being killed with sabers than with pistols.  The strategy worked.  When Shields realized that he had little chance of prevailing over the six foot four inch Lincoln, he accepted the future president’s explanation that the criticism was never meant to defame the state official’s character.

In today’s gospel Jesus is challenged to a duel of sorts.  The Pharisees tell Jesus that Herod wants to kill him.  No doubt Herod resents Jesus because he, like John the Baptist, preaches repentance and reform which Herod needs as much as any scoundrel in history.  We can easily imagine that Jesus would like to confront Herod.  John was Jesus’ kinsman and probable mentor whom Herod has murdered with impunity.  Evidently Jesus does not fear Herod since he mentions that he will accomplish his purpose.  But, unlike Lincoln, he does not allow himself to be embroiled in a duel.  His rule is always to do his Father’s will and not his own.  Jesus knows that God is leading him away from Herod’s territory to Jerusalem where he will give his life for the world’s salvation.

Abraham Lincoln shows us how to use our wits to save face and perhaps life when challenged directly.  But Jesus gives a more valuable lesson.  He exemplifies subservience to God’s will as we face all life’s challenges.  No matter how great our desire to react, no matter how much of our ego or self-image is on line, we must follow the Lord’s, not our own, will.  More than that, Jesus’ action in this passage points to God’s love for us.  He will lead His son into the hands of his worse enemies so that we might inherit eternal life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

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

The title of a well-advertised book asks a question which approximates the one in the gospel today. Will Many Be Saved? evidently gives an answer similar to Jesus'.

Jesus does not actually say that many will be condemned but certainly the logic of his statement points in that direction. He urges his listeners to make every effort to live holy lives.  Only those, he implies, who commence the quest early and persist in long struggle will achieve their end. However, his language resists the conclusion that he means only a privileged few will find eternal happiness.  People, he says, will come from all directions to participate in the heavenly banquet.

Nevertheless, we are wise to take to heart Jesus’ implied warning. If it is the case that most people will fall short of eternal life, then our efforts may prove eminently worthwhile. And if God is as indulgent as some people think, then we will at least be an example that might save a few from human folly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

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

A young woman recently wrote a guest editorial that was published in the Wall Street Journal. The woman has graduated from a state university in Florida and is about to pursue a master’s degree.  What’s remarkable is that having failed first and second grades, she was once considered a hopeless case.  Then her godmother took her into her home and pursued getting her a state voucher to a private school.  There the girl received the special attention she needed.  Today we celebrate the saint who may be considered the young woman’s patron.

St. Jude is sometimes surnamed Thaddeus because he is not mentioned in Mark’s and Matthew’s gospel while Thaddeus is.  But the most distinguishable remark that can be made about Jude in the gospels is that his name appears at the end of the list of apostles except for the infamous Judas Iscariot.  In other words Jude is the last of the apostles.  Yet in the eyes of many Catholics around the world Jude is perhaps the most famous other than St. Peter.  The reason for his popularity is that his being positioned in the last place has made him the patron of hopeless causes – a feeling which everyone has of herself at one time or another.

In truth none of our causes is really hopeless.  God has sent Jesus to help us.  We only need to trust in him, perhaps with the intercession of St. Jude.  He will supply us with the opportunity to rise from hopelessness.  He will make us well.