Monday, December 1, 2014


(Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 8:5-11)

Because Advent is the season of hope, it is also the time of social justice.  Especially people under the sieges of war and of oppression should now sense an expectation of their deliverance.  They share Isaiah’s dream in the first reading that the scourge of the sword is being forged into a plowshare of prosperity.

The gospel portrays a man of eminent hope.  The centurion recognizes Jesus as God’s emissary.  He knows that what Jesus says has the full authority of the Almighty.  He hopes that Jesus will give him the word that his servant will be healed.  Once he hears it, there is no need to impose himself more on the Lord.  He takes his leave knowing that Jesus’ word will be fulfilled.

We should have hopes as high as Isaiah’s and the centurion’s at the beginning of Advent.  We hope that the wounds of racism will be completely healed.  We hope that the terrorists in Syria and Iraq are soundly defeated.  We hope that immigrants in our country will receive their just due.  Like a dieter with a vision of a thin self in mind, we realize that these hopes will not come without effort.  But, like her again, we know that they cannot be achieved without the help of God.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 20:1-4.11-21:2; Luke 21:29-33)

James Foley was the young journalist whom the ISIS captured and beheaded.  Foley was a devout man who believed that God called him to report the truth about a besieged people.  He seems worthy to stand among those dead being brought to life in today’s first reading.

The Book of Revelation was written to support first century Christians undergoing persecution.  It promises relief for those under siege and eternal life for those who succumbed to the force of the enemy.  Today’s passage relates the culmination of the saga.  The martyred come back to life.  The survivors are judged according to their deeds.

The brutality of war and of religious bigotry clash with the experience of Thanksgiving and the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping.  However, we would be foolish to drop them from our consciousness.  After all, we withhold our greatest thanks for Christ’s coming to share with us his love and peace.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

A preacher tells of a brother in the Lord who urges him to be “more eucharistic.” Did his friend mean that he should attend mass more often?  No, the preacher says, “he was simply urging me to be more thankful.”  The Greek root for our word eucharist means thanksgiving.  The leper in today’s gospel then in coming back to Jesus is truly acting eucharisticly.

The leper gives glory to God for a cure which Jesus performed.  He is not thereby recognizing Jesus as the incarnate Son of God.  But he is testifying to another theological insight: God works through secondary causes.  Jesus as human has power to cure people physically as well as spiritually. This ability comes from God.  Today it rests with physicians who perform virtual miracles in saving the lives of very sick patients.

We too should become more eucharistic.  It is a way of life, of course, not a seasonal custom.  We become eucharistic first by avoiding resentment with the disappointments we experience.  Then we develop the nightly habit of naming a blessing of that day for which we give God thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 15:1-4; Luke 21:12-19)

Eastern Europeans are largely incredulous of wide-eyed Westerners who show little stomach for arms.  Tempered by the bitter experience of iron-hand Communist rule, Poles, Czechs, and Ukrainians suffer few illusions that nations will live in harmony anytime soon.  They would resonate with John, the Presbyter, in the first reading.  After being exiled, he only revels at the dream of angels preparing plagues to be hurled at his people’s persecutors.

People who have not experienced persecution can barely stomach the Book of Revelation when it describes divine retribution.  They believe the accounts fanciful and basically un-Christian.  But they should recognize at least the possibility of fearful retribution.  After all, the gospels are full of of teeth-grinding and hell-fire.  Perhaps, however, the punishment warranted after failing to heed such admonitions is more of deprivation –missing out of life’s fulfillment – than of pain – burning in oblivion.

We may have difficulty gauging a response to God.  He is often portrayed in Scripture as the Almighty King capable of wreaking havoc upon the nations.  Yet Jesus describes God as a loving father.  Perhaps both conceptions are over-simplified.  God transcends our understanding.  We are less likely to come to terms with God than an amoeba with us.  But out of a similarly incredible love, God has invited us into a relationship of Him.  Our response can only be that of the victors in the reading: “Great and wonderful are your works…”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 14:14-19; Luke 21:5-11)

Peace-minded Muslims will say that jihad in the Quran refers to the struggle all people must make to conquer their sinful tendencies.  This is similar to how Christians should interpret war in the Book of Revelation.

As we know Jesus eschewed violence.  He told his disciples not to resist evil.  At one point he makes reference to a sword, but it serves as an image for the division between a follower and her loved ones may cause.  The plot of the Book of Revelation, however, turns around a cosmic war between the forces of light and those of darkness.  Obviously, this too is a spiritual campaign that all Jesus’ followers are called to join.  In today’s passage, the wrath of God against evil-doers is being prepared. It will totally annihilate the culprits so that the meek might inherit the earth.

Reading Revelation, we are to be consoled by the victory of righteousness.  It should not cause us to revel in war which is only metaphorical.  The battle it describes is the prosaic struggle we fight daily to be kind and merciful.  For some of us it is a difficult fight, but Christ is there to help us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and companions

(Revelation 14:1-3.4b-5; Luke 21:1-4)

Today the Church celebrates 117 Vietnamese martyrs.  Some of these were European missionaries but many were Vietnamese natives.  From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries 130,000 in Vietnam people gave their lives in testimony to Christ.  The number almost matches the 144,000 people surrounding the Lamb in today’s reading from Revelation.

The passage consistently reads “Lamb” but clearly refers to Jesus.  The hundred and forty-four thousand who follow him are those who testified with their lives to the Jesus’ divinity.  They are rewarded for their eloquent testimony by being the first to rise from the dead.  They make up a heavenly chorus singing what perhaps sounds like Beethoven’s “Ode to Glory.”

What are we to make of it?  At the year’s end we are reminded of the price of our salvation.  Not only did Jesus have to die to defeat the Evil One, but many others gave their lives so that we might know the Lord.  These realizations fill us with the kind of gratitude that makes us more willing to testify with our lives.  Our virtue and our service point others to the Lord Jesus so that they may know his salvation.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 10:8-11; Luke 19:45-48)

A few years ago John Allen, one of the leading Vatican journalists, wrote a disturbing book titled The Global War on Christians.  The book wakes comfortable Christians from their slumber.  Many think the days of religious persecution ended with the Puritan witch hunts.  The truth that Allen records is that persecution of Christians in places like Korea, China, and in many predominantly Muslim areas is rampant.

Sunday we celebrate Christ the King, the hope of Christians suffering religious persecution.  They know that sooner or later Christ will triumph over religious bigotry, no matter the setbacks now being experienced.  The reading from Revelation today hints of this victory.  The sweetness that John, the visionary, tastes comes from his narrating the ultimate triumph of Jesus.  The sourness in the stomach reflects the great suffering that must be endured in the process.

Some are predicting religious persecution in the United States soon.  The Church has certainly lost its credibility among many people.  The global experience of Christians should advise us that harassment at least is possible.  But whether or not there will be full-fledged persecution of the Church, we too look to Christ the King for assurance that justice will ultimately prevail.