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.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday of the Third Week in Advent

(Genesis 49:2.8-10; Matthew 1:1-17)

Some people would not have this gospel passage read at mass because names like Shealtiel are too hard to pronounce.  Others don’t see the point of all the “begatting” as an older translation had it.  Perhaps a few pious people are scandalized by the reference to cruel characters like King Rehoboam .  This son of Solomon when counseled to relieve the tax burden his father imposed responded by promising to increase taxes tenfold.  Thus, he precipitated the breakup of Israel into two kingdoms.  A few people might also ask, what is the point of mentioning the ancestors of Jesus like Achim and Eliud who are not known in any other part of the Bible?

St. Matthew, however, thought the whole list of names important.  He recognized that it not only shows Jesus’ human and kingly origins, but indicates something else almost as significant.  For Matthew God works through sinful and even incompetent people as well as great ones to produce His just ends.  He patiently and diligently saves humans from their sins by the agency of all kinds of people.

We, who may doubt God’s plan or even question the existence of God, should take note.  Evil is present everywhere, but God constantly turns it over for positive results.  We cannot exclude ourselves from His work.  That is, we cannot use our shortcomings, be they sins or disabilities, as an excuse not to act on God’s behalf.  We have to call others by word and example to join the Church in her work of salvation.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest

(Isaiah 48: 17-19; Matthew 11: 16-19)

St. John of the Cross lived in the turbulent sixteenth century.  The Protestant Reformation split the Western Church in half.  The decadence of the Renaissance popes was being corrected by the reforms of the Council of Trent.  Reformers of major religious orders were calling their numbers back to their original ideals.  John of the Cross played such a role in the Carmelites of Spain. 

John believed that the Carmelites had long abandoned the semi-eremitical life of their foundation in the twelfth century.  Along with others he founded a monastery of friars who would live a solitary life of contemplation and praise to God.  In this endeavor he pairs well with John the Baptist whom Jesus extols in today’s gospel.  Of course, John of the Cross also composed theological treatises exploring the mystical life. 

Jesus presents John as the yang to his yin.  John called for reform so that people could escape the wrath of God who was sending his Messiah to judge them.  Jesus, the actual Messiah, urges reform so that the people could experience the tender love of God.  This message does not oppose John’s complimented it.  The people, as today’s reading testifies, found excuses to sidestep both figures. 

Our society finds itself in the position of those people.  We can hear voices urging reform both to avoid the turmoil of civil unrest and to experience the solace of social harmony.  We await the return of Christ who will bring justice to the earth.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)

Martyrs are celebrated throughout the year.  They are the heroines and heroes of the Church.  But Advent particularly favors martyrs.  After all, they reflect the hope which characterizes the season.  They hoped for the eternal life Jesus promises as they died in witness to his Lordship. St. Lucy was an early Sicilian martyr.  As with most martyrs of antiquity we know little about her.  She stands out almost exclusively for the fact of her martyrdom.

In today’s gospel Jesus praises John the Baptist who suffered a martyr’s death.  He calls him the greatest of the prophets because John announces the coming of the Messiah.  Yet he did not know Jesus as the Messiah.  For this reason Jesus says that anyone who knows himself, the embodiment of God’s Kingdom, is greater than John. Those who have known him like St. Lucy and all who believe in the gospel should be ready to die for him.

Is this asking too much of us?  To be sure, it is not asking that we seek to be killed by extremist haters of Christianity.  But it is demanding that we give witness to the Gospel by dying to ourselves.  It means that we always do to others what we would want them to do to us. It also means that we desist seeking our own importance, wealth, and pleasure.  But it means as well that we find joy in Jesus’ company – one that will last forever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Revelation 11:19.12:1-6; Luke 1:39-48)

The most astounding statement at the recent assembly of Hispanic leaders was not made by a bold youth.  Nor was it uttered by a veteran Hispanic rabble rouser.  Nor was it proclaimed by a pious bishop devotee of the Blessed Mother.  As a matter of fact the person who pronounced it was neither young, ordained, nor even Hispanic.  The Honorable Carl J. Anderson has been Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus for eighteen years.  He served as a government lawyer in the administration of Ronald Reagan and has authored several books.  At the Quinto Encuentro, the Hispanic assembly, Anderson told the audience that he is looking forward to the day when the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe replaces that of the Immaculate Conception as the patronal feast of the United States.

The reason for the change is straightforward.  Our Lady of Guadalupe has an American origin.  She appeared to a native peasant on a hillside outside Mexico City almost 500 years ago.  There she claimed to be protector of the people of this land.  At first, only the indigenous saw in her motive to believe in her son, Jesus Christ, as their savior.  Not long afterwards the whole of Mexico – white, brown, and mestizo -- adopted her as their patron.  Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed the Virgin of Guadalupe “patroness of the Americas.”  Now as Hispanics are poised to become the majority of Catholic Church in the United States, it is not far-fetched to name her as its favorite model and intercessor.

Of course, substituting the Virgin of Guadalupe for the Immaculate Conception represents no real change at all.  Both names point to the same woman, Mary of Nazareth, who trusted the Lord enough to accept the offer of conceiving His Son.  If her patronage of the United States is ever recognized, she will not be gratified any more than before.  She will always say, as she does to Elizabeth in today’s gospel, that God is the One to whom our attention is due. Or, as she puts it, “’My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’"

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

(Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14)

Secularists sometimes have a conception of God; they are not all strict atheists.  They may theorize that God is a supreme force which set in motion the universe.  What they cannot fathom is a God who cares about humans.  “Why,” they might ask, “should the Creator love rational beings who often rather viciously disturb the order of being?”  The readings of today’s mass do not provide an explanation, but they do testify to God’s care for people.

Isaiah speaks of God’s concern for exiled Jews exiled in Babylon. He announces that their punishment for disobedience has ended, that the Lord has heard their pleas for mercy.  In fact, the prophet says God is preparing a highway through the desert for them to return to Jerusalem.  The gospel gives a tender image of God’s loving concern.  As a shepherd might carry a sheep that has gone astray back to the flock, God pardons the sinner and returns him to the community.

We believe that God not only loves us, but also becomes one of us and then dies on our behalf.  It’s like someone donating not only a kidney but also a lung and part of her heart that we might not die.  What are we to do but thank that person continuously after we rejoice profusely for a new lease on life.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday of the Second Week in Advent

(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)

For most of us it is easier to say to a crippled person, “Your sins are forgiven,” than to say, “Stand up and walk.”  This is so because most of us say things to win the approval of others.  No one will know whether the crippled person’s sins are really forgiven.  But if the person does not stand up, they will think us foolish for telling the person to do so. 

Jesus shows himself to be a prophet because he cares about the truth of his words.  He will not say to a person that her sins are forgiven unless he has the authority from God to forgive.  In today’s gospel he shows that authority by healing the cripple.  He also shows himself to be the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  He has come to make firm the knees of the weak and to make the lame leap.  He has come to save us from lies and deceit.  He has come to give us joy and gladness.

As that paralyzed man in the gospel cannot walk, we are paralyzed by our social environment so that speaking with complete honesty is difficult.  Jesus heals us of this paralysis so that we not just tell the truth but do so in love.  In this way those around us will give more than a nod of approval.  They will thank God for our presence to them.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Isaiah 29:17-24; Matthew 9:27-31)

Saint Ambrose was not raised a Catholic.  His father was a Roman patrician who afforded Ambrose a classical education.  Ambrose became a government official and served as governor of the Roman province around Milan. While there, he decided to join the Christian catechumenate.  In this way he completed his intellectual formation from the perspective of faith in Jesus Christ.  It might be said that he was seeking a new way of seeing reality.  No longer would people be objects with only utilitarian value.  As a Christian, he would see them as images of the Creator worthy of respect and love.  Ambrose’s new way of seeing parallels the new sight Jesus gives to the two blind men in today’s gospel.  These cures are significant because they fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading.

Isaiah prophesizes that in the fullness of time blind persons would no longer live in darkness.  Jesus again provides this blessing.  But his cures of blindness do not stop there as if seeing sunrays were the epitome of human desire.  More importantly, Jesus confirms the faith of the blind men in him as Lord.  This gift moves them beyond the challenges of life to the road to eternal happiness.

Like Ambrose we believe in order to see.  That is, we accept the truths of faith so that we can have a rightful understanding of the world.  We need not fear that faith conflicts with science as secularists say.  The two -- faith and science -- cover different realms of being and are compatible.  Belief even aids research as it provides scientists with increased motivation.  Faith-filled scientists do their research not just to make a living and to develop knowledge but for a higher purpose.  They fulfill the human task of praising the Creator by discovering the wonder of His work.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 26:1-6; Matthew 7:21.24-27)

The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes good works to such an extent that it is a wonder any Christian can deny their importance.  In today’s passage, from the beginning of the gospel, Jesus stresses the importance of acting on his word.  He is exhorting his disciples to treat others as they want to be treated.  No doubt he has in mind respect, patience and help if one is in need.  At the end of the gospel Jesus tells the same men that the nations will be judged precisely on how they have treated the weak and poor.  If they have fed the hungry and visited the sick, they will be rewarded with eternal life.  If they have ignored the needy, they can expect punishment.

In the first reading Isaiah describes a society that takes care of the needy as “strong.”  Such a people can raise their heads high because they have fulfilled the will of God.  He will guard that society forever.

One way to care for the needy is to do “random acts of kindness.”  That is, for no reason other than it might please others we pay for someone’s coffee or make rice pudding to be eaten after a meeting.  We will find such acts strengthening our communities.  They also will please God and make us feel good about ourselves.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37)

Christians the world over feast on Christmas.  In Mexico many families enjoy turkey.  Italians have traditionally given culinary attention to the Christmas Eve meal.  First, an antipasto of cheeses, olives and perhaps shrimp and cuttlefish is served with white wine.  Then pasta in a tomato sauce made with clams is presented.  A red wine will accompany it.  The “second plate” will feature a variety of fish and seafood – always cod and usually lobster.  Salad is served on the side or after the main dish. Fruit is then brought to the table.  The meal concludes with cakes, coffee, and liqueurs.  No meat is given perhaps because abstinence was mandated for many centuries on Christmas Eve.  It also is true that by featuring fish, a symbol of Christ, the banquet anticipates midnight Mass.  In these ways Italians approximate the celestial banquet of which Isaiah tells in today’s first reading.

Isaiah is giving comfort to the people of Israel.  He or probably a later prophet has just predicted the tumultuous “Day of the Lord.” Now God reveals His purpose.  Judgment and punishment had to come so that all peoples could love one another as children of the same Father.  Jesus Christ has fulfilled this end by the paschal event.  He also has mandated that his followers recreate the victory of love over sin by a regular feast.  So we come together for this Eucharist.

Our Christmas celebration should take on the meaning of the celestial banquet feast.  We should give thanks to God for the blessing of so many kinds of sisters and brothers.  Perhaps we can invite people of other cultures and even faith traditions to our Christmas table.  There we may share the hope that the entire world will soon live together in peace.  Of course, we will leave the table charged to bring that peace into our daily lives.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday of the First Week in Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

A short story entitled “Attitude Adjustment” tells of a priest who gets hit by a train while driving.  Father Jim survived the crash because somehow he failed to clasp his seatbelt and was thrown from the car.  He was left a mess, of course.  His face was racked and his brain discombobulated. During his recuperation Fr. Jim made many mistakes from a loss of perspective.  The bishop had to retire him to doing children’s liturgy. 

At the end of the story the priest reads the parable of the Good Samaritan.  When he finishes, he asks the children why God permitted the Jewish man to get beat up so badly.  One six-year old answers that God wanted to teach the man a lesson for hating Samaritans.  He says that the man needed an “attitude adjustment.”  Then the children start asking Fr. Jim about what had happened to him.  They show him healing concern as if they were all the Balm of Gilead wrapped in children’s clothing.  No doubt, Fr. Jim now realizes why the accident happened and why his life was spared.  God allows such tragedies so that people might look into the eyes of a stranger and find a friend.  Furthermore, God wants His children to act as healing balm to one another.

In today’s gospel Jesus cites children as understanding God’s gracious will.  He indicates that they know more than the wise and learned know how we should show concern for others.  In Advent more than preparing for Christmas, we are waiting for Jesus to come to judge us.  We know that he will give a thumbs up if we work to heal the wounds of those who are hurting.  If we require an attitude adjustment, let it be.  We have to work to heal the wounds of those who are hurting.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest

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

Can only a Christian be saved?  Evidently St. Francis Xavier thought so. In a letter from India he wrote that many natives wanted to become Christians but there was no one to baptize them.  He said that he wished to go to the universities of Europe yelling to the students that their keenness on studies has resulted in many people being consigned to hell.  But is Baptism necessary for salvation?

The gospel passage indicates otherwise.  Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith in God.  He implies that there will be many like him coming from faraway places to take a seat at the heavenly table.  Although he does not say explicitly that these people are not his followers, he does leave this impression.  The centurion shows himself worthy a member of the Kingdom of God as much by his concern for a servant as by his deference to Jesus.

During Advent we express our hope for Jesus’ return as much by acts of mercy as by praying about the Advent wreath.  Our efforts on behalf of others imply faith in Jesus’ teaching that what we do to the least of humans, we do to him.  At the same time we show a relationship of care to the needy which suggests a common Father in God.  Francis Xavier had a point about the need for missionaries to teach about God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice.  However, the Holy Spirit works in many ways. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 22:1-7; Luke 21:34-36)

The words discipline and disciple have the same Latin root discere which means to learn.  But this learning is not so much an intellectual exercise as it is a moral training.  Disciples learn a moral lesson by following a rigorous rule.  Today’s gospel conveys part of the rule while the first reading describes the disciple’s reward.

In the gospel Jesus exhorts his disciples not to become lax in the pursuit of virtue.  They are to watch out that they do not fall into either physical or moral addictions.  Physical addictions would be alcohol, drugs, or sex.  Moral addictions would be power, greed, or pride.  All of these corrupt the spirit so that the person cannot inhabit the city of God described in the reading from Revelation.  There, like a luxurious retirement community, the people live in health and joy.

Today as the last leaves fall from the trees (in northern climes), we have occasion to consider the fleetingness of life.  Most of us ran fast in our youth and exhibited soft skin and vigorous hair.  Hopefully we learned moral discipline then.  But if we didn’t, the Lord calls us today to change our ways.  More precisely perhaps he is calling us to himself in his heavenly city.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Feast of Saint Andrew, apostle

(Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

Unlike other teachers of his time Jesus called a group of disciples to him.  Other teachers waited for men to come and study Torah with them, but Jesus is pro-active.  As we hear in the first reading and see in the gospel, Jesus searches out followers.  Peter and Andrew are the first of many disciples from whom Jesus will select twelve for a special mission.

Jesus is responding to the call of God to inaugurate the kingdom in the world.  It is to be a rule of justice where goodness is blessed and evil rooted out.  The new order takes effect as Jesus heals the sick, casts out evil demons, and preaches the will of God.  Andrew, Peter, and the other apostles will assume these ministries when Jesus leaves.  They will receive the Holy Spirit to spread God’s kingdom of justice and love throughout the world.

We may not have been called to be apostles, but all of us are Jesus’ disciples.  We study the Christian Torah, actually the whole Bible, with emphasis on Jesus in the gospels.  We are also sent out to the world to give witness to God’s kingdom.  By living righteously, by praying continuously, and by treating others with love, we fortify the kingdom’s foundations.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 18:1-2.21-23.19:1-3a.9; Luke 21:20-28)

The other day a man entered a religious goods store and committed horrible crimes.  He sexually violated two women and killed one of them.  The barbarism resembles the happenings which Jesus foresees in today’s gospel.  He says that lawlessness and destruction will take place everywhere at the end of time.

In all likelihood the evangelist Luke embellished the prediction of Jesus with accounts of actual events.  Just before he wrote his gospel Roman troops decimated Jerusalem.  They not only destroyed the Temple beyond hope of rebuilding but evidently ravaged the people.  Such marauding is typical of foreign soldiers sent to punish a nation.  It is no wonder then that the first reading describes God’s the downfall of Rome in such graphic terms.  “Babylon” is code word for Rome since both were associated with extravagant hedonism.  According to the reading, Rome is completely devastated.  It is as if an earthquake swallowed up the city.

Both Luke and the author of Revelation mean to encourage Christians to live righteous lives.  They see Jesus as coming to save his people when the situation becomes most desperate.  He will recognize them by their courage to stand erect in hope of being rescued.  The righteousness and courage which the Scriptures bespeak include efforts to build a society of justice.  We will not be able to eliminate all crime and misfortune in the world.  But guided by the gospel and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can approximate the peace of the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Both readings today proclaim the ultimate triumph of Christians who persevere.  The first reading pictures Christian soldiers making music over the ash heap of their impious foes.  The gospel passage ends with Jesus’ assuring those who remain faithful that their lives will be secured.  Such an overwhelming victory is hardly what we experience in everyday life.

A news report today focused on the war in Yemen.  Unknown to many Americans, the war is taking a costly toll on children.  According to the report, 85,000 children under five years of age have died of starvation and related disease in the middle eastern country.  Such evil occurs all too frequently in our world.  Yet we run across goodness as well all the time.  Groups of Catholics and oth4r people of good will are accompanying immigrants to hearings to assure their fair treatment. We seem to endlessly live in that wheat field where the enemy has sown weeds.  We may count on good and bad coexisting until the end of time.

This dualism reflects the struggle going on in our hearts.  We feel the urge to act sinfully.  Perhaps we want to tell an egregious lie to spite someone we don’t like.  Or maybe we dream of abandoning our families for a more adventurous lifestyle.  With God’s reliable grace we will be able to overcome these wicked impulses.  More significantly, with the same we will be able to love God and neighbor continuously.  This love will assure us a place in the symphony making music over our sins.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Death is often personified as a grim reaper.  Sickle in hand the reaper cuts down living plants.  The harvest is then either eaten and enjoyed or burnt as fuel.  Similarly human death ends in a judgment of either worthiness or worthlessness.  One is either destined for glory with God or for desolation.  Today’s first reading illustrates death seizing the entire world.

The first character mentioned seems to be Jesus Christ who refers to himself as “son of man” in the gospel.  In any case he swings the sickle of death over a bountiful and useful grain harvest.  The produce will be stored in barns for human consumption.  This is the people who pleased God and are destined to glory with Him.  The second reaper cuts down the vine yielding grapes which will be pressed into wine.  The stern seer John perceives wine as an intoxicant which turns humans into mindless animals. This produce then constitutes those people who are lost for eternity.

As fall gives way to winter weather, in northern climes at least, we are wise to consider death.  Sooner or later it will reach us.  Although an evil in that it snuffs out physical life, death serves a useful purpose.  It reminds us that we do not have forever to fulfill our destinies as human beings.  For Christians this means that we strive to be truly loving people.  We are to give of ourselves for the good of others.  In this way when death finally comes we will be gathered into God’s house as His beloved family.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is perhaps America’s best known choral ensemble.  Attending one of its concerts one is moved by the members’ dignified dress, their superbly trained voices, and their expansive numbers.  In analogous ways the celestial choir of today’s passage from the Book of Revelation can be understood.

The heavenly chorus is praising to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  All its members have God’s name written on their foreheads.  The writing is a type of uniform that symbolizes their belonging to the Lord.  They sing a song whose intricacies require a dedicated voice.  Here dedication is more than training; it is a commitment to virtue.  The fact that there are 144,000 members of the choir does not mean that there is a strict limit to their number.  The number is symbolic for enormity so that there is room for every virtuous person.

With all the reason in the world we hope to sing with that celestial ensemble.  There is no need to worry about there not being a slot for us.  But we should concern ourselves with acquiring the virtue so that we might sing along.  We do not have to be especially intelligent or educated.  We do have to put aside all selfish pursuits to follow Jesus, the Lamb.  He generously gave of himself for others.  We should do the same.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

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

One day in 1979 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Laureate, gave a talk at Harvard University.  People were prepared to hear him describe the atrocities of the Soviet Union.  They were not expecting a moral critique of western society.  But by then Solzhenitsyn had lived in the United States a number of years and was not edified by all that he saw.  He did not equate the American system with the dishonesty and corruption of the Soviet Union.  But, he said, America for a long time had lost a core of virtue.  In place of justice and courage the United States has given itself to materialism, consumerism, and radical individualism.  Solzhenitsyn’s message has the sweet-bitter flavor of the scroll eaten by the seer in today’s first reading and the actions of Jesus in the gospel.

Eating a scroll symbolizes a speaker’s assimilating a message so that it becomes part of him.  It is sweet on the tongue as it means learning God’s will.  But it is bitter when it settles in the stomach because it demands reform that people resist.  This is actually what takes place in the gospel passage.  Jesus, acting on God’s word, cleanses the Temple of venal commercialism.  Many people praise him for such courage.  The religious leaders meanwhile want to kill him for it.  Jesus knows this and so prepares himself for suffering.

We are being called to assimilate the word of God and to live it in the world.  It will both thrill and cost us.  We will find satisfaction in knowing that we are doing God’s work.  At the same time we will hear of cynics judging us as we ask others to cooperate in our service.  We must not shrink from the task.  For love of God and other human beings we have to put into practice the values that Christ has taught.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Day

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

Thanksgiving is a uniquely human response to another’s service.  Only humans can perceive a gratuitous act done on their behalf and acknowledge their indebtedness.  This is the essence of thanksgiving: a verbal recognition that another has graciously and freely rendered one help is some way.  Animals, particularly pets, may express subservience, but their responses are programmed to obtain favor.

Thanksgiving can be justly expected.  One’s service may not only be unrecompensed but really impossible to reciprocate.  It may not be a matter of scant resources but of the nature of the deed which no return offering can satisfy.  For this reason Jesus expresses disappointment that nine of the ten cured of leprosy do not acknowledge God’s goodness. 

We also need to give thanks.  Of course, our American tradition has singled out today – the fourth Thursday of November – as especially appropriate to express gratitude to God.  We call one another together not only for a meal but also for a communal prayer.  We thank God for all the blessings we have enjoyed as Americans – a land rich in resources, friendly neighbors, and the genius to make and follow laws promoting both individual initiative and assistance to the needy. Also as part of the American tradition we should thank one another, especially those whose help has been both indispensable and gratuitous.  We remember how the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to their feast for helping them save their lives.  Finally, today in the Eucharist we thank God for His Son Jesus Christ.  He quite saves us from our follies and provides for us an eternal banquet of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Revelation 4:1-11; Luke 19:11-28)

Liturgy connects us with the mysteries of salvation so that we might participate in their effects.  The Eucharistic liturgy, for example, enables us to experience Jesus’ death and resurrection as if we were there when they took place.  It is more efficacious than a dramatization because we actually receive a share of his eternal glory.  The passage from the Book of Revelation today shows the liturgy of the heavens with all creation giving glory to God.

The Almighty sits on a throne sparkling like jewels.  The twenty-four elders surrounding Him represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles.  Their white garments indicate their faithfulness and their golden crowns victory over their oppressors.  The four living creatures are traditionally associated with the four evangelists, but their symbolism goes deeper.  They represent the range of creation – human and beast, bird and farm animal -- harmoniously praising God.

The liturgy here closes the first part of the Book of Revelation.  Seven letters describing the strengths and weaknesses of Christian churches under persecution have been read.  Although the persecution will continue, the liturgy assures a victorious outcome.  The purpose of the service is to encourage the churches to keep the faith despite persecution.  We today find hope in the message for persecution continues.  Whether Christians are menaced by Communists in China or by our personal desires leading them from virtue, we want to continue following Jesus.  The assured end will make our journey worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-third week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 3:1-6.14-22; Luke 19:1-10)

The old woman listens to the news with a dose of chagrin.  It may be fires in California or hurricanes in Florida that sets her off.  She believes that these catastrophes are a message from God.  She says, “God is trying to tell us something, but no one is listening.”  The Book of Revelation has a similar theme.

The opening chapters of the book contain letters written to the churches of Asia Minor.  The seer John is relaying God’s warning to Christians who are not living the faith they profess.  One letter, which is read today, is addressed to the progressive community at Sardis.  It accepted the Christian message with enthusiasm a generation or two ago.  Now, as it wants to move on to something else, John calls it back to its original commitment.  Similarly the church of Laodicea is not living up to the gospel.  It is no better or worse than other peoples.  That is scandalous for a people who claim to follow Christ.  John will have no more to do with them that he would with rotten a rotten apple.

The Book of Revelation is timely in every generation.  It certainly is so today.  We live in an age where solidarity among people is regularly ignored.  We construct homes in gated communities.  And play games with ourselves on our personal telephones.  These are not ways to prepare for Christ’s return.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 1:1-4.2:1-5; Luke 18:35-43)

Crowds are notoriously fickle.  One moment they can strongly support a person or team.  The next, because of a mistake or misfortune, they may turn against the same.  Theorists have proposed that in crowds individuals lose their sense of responsibility.  They allow the prevailing mood of the group to control their thinking.  This is especially apparent in Luke’s gospel.

In today’s passage the crowd rebukes the blind beggar for asking help from Jesus.  They are certainly insensitive if not mean to the poor man.  When Jesus is being tried by Pilate, the crowds act with similar hostility.  Three times they call for his crucifixion, more than in any other gospel.  But in both cases the crowds change their dispositions.  In today’s passage it is said that they “gave praise to God.”  After the crucifixion, the crowds return from Calvary “beating their breasts.”  In both instances the cause of the change is the experience of Jesus as the compassion of God.  He gives sight to the blind man.  On the cross he not only prays for his persecutors but promises a repentant thief a place in Paradise.

We too have experienced Jesus as the compassion of God.  He forgives our callowness, lustfulness, and viciousness in the sacrament of reconciliation.  He gives himself as food in the Eucharist so that we might conduct lives worthy of an eternal destiny.  He has told each of us of his love for us in prayer.  We too can only give praise to God for our encounter with Jesus.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(II John 4-9; Luke 17:26-37)

In many places throughout the United States and Western Europe Catholic churches are less than half full on Sundays.  People no longer worship God at mass as they did two generations ago.  Certainly some of the fallout comes from clerical abuse of children.  However, before that scandal was publicized, the numbers had begun to drop.  Many people are following “progressive” ideas which today’s first reading rails against.

At the time of the writing of the Second Letter of John the progressive ideas include belief that Jesus was not really human.  At least a few people at the end of the first century believed that he did not have a physical body.  They are likely tired of talk prohibiting sexual relations outside marriage and weary of living up to it.  They figure that it is his teachings and not his death and resurrection that save.  That is, they began to think that one may gain eternal life by getting along with others and rendering helpful service.  Who one goes to bed with does not factor into the equation.  The “presbyter,” who writes the letter, refutes such an idea.  First, he commends those who “walk in the truth” of moral righteousness.  Then he condemns those who teach ideas like Jesus’ not having a body for leading others astray.

It seems like things have not changed so much over twenty centuries.  Sexual morality is still a great impediment to many today.  We do not like to restrain ourselves sexually.  But this is why Jesus’ humanity is so important.  It not only shows us that it is possible to live a sexually upright life; it also enables us to do it.  By dying and rising in the flesh, Christ provides us the grace to live with minds and hearts directed to him.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(Philemon 7-20; Luke 17:20-25)

It is often said that the biblical Kingdom of God is better rendered Reign of God.  The reason given is that the concept indicates a dynamism more than a territory.  Something similar may be said about heaven.  Although people may point to the sky when they say the word, heaven is more a condition of love than a physical locale.  In today’s gospel, Jesus stretches the idea of Kingdom of God even more.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is neither a place nor a thing.  He adds that it is “among” them.  He may be referring to a relationship with himself.  The Kingdom of God is friendship with Jesus himself.  He provides all the security and support, the joy and the affection that makes life worth living.  Since he will rise from the dead, the Kingdom of God will likewise never know a sunset.

Jesus extends his hand to form a relationship with us daily.  He is present to us physically in the Eucharist where we actually take him into ourselves.  The experience does not diminish him, but it does expand us.  Having his love and support, we can become as gracious and happy as he.  We become bearers of the Kingdom to others.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(Titus 1:1-9; Luke 17:11-19)

The readings today indicate two responses to God’s graciousness.  The Letter to Titus recommends that Christians respect everyone by being peaceful and considerate.  Since Baptism has healed them of crude and spiteful behavior, they should try to win over others to Christ.  The gospel’s recommendation for expressing gratitude is more direct.  The tenth leper, healed of disease, returns to Jesus with thankfulness on his lips. 

Jesus is the central figure in both passages.  He is God’s instrument in the first reading.  Sharing in Jesus’ cross through Baptism, the Christian dies to sin.  Experiencing rebirth in the same baptismal waters, she now lives for God and not for self.  In the gospel Jesus pronounces physical healing for each of the ten lepers.  Then he announces salvation for the one who comes back to give thanks.

We are fast approaching the great American holiday of Thanksgiving and the joyful Christian feast of Christmas.  Both occasions invoke great amounts of gratitude.  Americans thank God for their remarkable prosperity.  We Christians raise our voices to God in highest praise for sending Jesus, our Redeemer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin

(Titus 2:1-8.11-14; Luke 17:7-10)

A family is not a household.  A family is based upon blood relationships among people. People can belong to the same family without living in the same household. People live together in a household for a common purpose.  They share daily experiences in order to be united in a community of care.  In a household people come to know that they live for one another and not for themselves.  In a Christian household they learn as well that God has called them to this purpose and that Christ has made known the reason for the call.

Today’s first reading from the Letter to Titus assigns responsibilities to different members of the household.  Older women are to teach younger women.  Younger women are to take care of household needs.  Younger men are to teach their children virtue so that no one can criticize the Church, the household of households.  The purpose of this great household is to witness to Christ, the Savior, who will come to justify the sacrifices made by his people.

Most of us live in a culture that plays down the work of a household.  We seldom pray together at home, much less teach our children about God.  We don’t even eat together much anymore.  Should we wonder why young men and women have lost the faith?  Likewise, should we wonder why the young are individualistic?  We need to reclaim the work of the household to pass on our hope for the Savior.  Indeed, we have to reclaim it to pass on our humanity.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Memorial of Saint Josephat, bishop and martyr

(Titus 1:1-9; Luke 17:1-6)

The fruit of the mulberry tree is hard to enjoy.  It has a taste both sweet and tart, but more objectionably a mulberry lacks substance.  Eat one or a hundred and you still feel hungry.  What is worse, it stains the hand that picks it and blotches the sidewalk if found on a city street.  The mulberry tree gives little shade but sits like a mole on one’s face defying the beauty around it.  It is no wonder that Jesus suggests that it be rooted out and sent to the sea.

We might compare eating mulberries to forgiving others of their quirks and bad habits.  Both set our teeth on edge.  It seems that people should have more control of their actions, yet they can repeatedly make the same offensive remark or commit the same foolish mistake.  We want to scream at the perpetrators, but Jesus tells us to be ready to forgive them.

The disciples ask Jesus for an increase of faith to follow his directive.  They reason the more they trust God, the more conviction they will have to love others.  Jesus assures them, however, that they have enough faith. They have only to get over the self’s feeling abused by others’ mindless actions.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

(Ezekiel 47:1-2.8-9.12; I Corinthians 3:9c-11.16-17; John 2:13-22)

It would be hard to over-exaggerate the importance of the Jewish Temple in Jesus’ day. Religiously, it served as the one place where Jews could give due reverence to God.  Economically, it provided most Jerusalemites with livelihood. If it could be compared with any structure today, it would be the great mosque in Mecca which millions of Muslim pilgrims give homage to God every year.  It should cause little wonder then why Jesus’ action in today’s gospel creates such consternation.

Jesus disrupts the usual business at the Temple.  He virtually starts a riot as he drives away the merchants along with their livestock and the money changers.  The Jews misconstrue his motives as much as they misunderstand his words.  They think that he is an upstart looking to make a name for himself.  When Jesus tells them that if they try to destroy him, he will rise again, they believe he is referring to the Temple.

In celebrating the Lateran Basilica in Rome today, we celebrate all Catholic churches.  The giant structure serves as a sign for all places where Christians come together to offer bread and wine to God and receive in return the body and blood of Jesus.  The feast indicates that we don’t have to go to Rome to give true worship to God.  Our parish church serves quite well in providing space for offering the sacrifice of our salvation.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thursday if the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Philippians 3:3-8A; Luke 15:1-10)

Last week in a perceptive column author David Brooks analyzed the social ecology of American society.  He said that Americans are becoming increasingly lonely.  We spend way too much time by ourselves often in front of a computer.  We do not join organizations as our parents and grandparents did.  The resultant isolation triggers bizarre fantasies of power, suicide, or the yearning for drugs.  Brooks calls for a war on “division, discord, and isolation.”  But, he writes, the war is to take place not among different kinds of people but inside every human heart.  Today’s gospel indicates both the ongoing war of the heart and the spiritual weapon necessary to win it.

Jesus tells the Pharisees and scribes of the need for repentance.  He points to the tax collectors who are giving up their propensity to extort money from the people.  He says that their moral turnarounds cause rejoicing in heaven.  But it is not that the Pharisees and scribes are so righteous that they cannot precipitate a party among the saints.  Rather, they and the rest of humanity have dark sides that need illumination.  All people have hearts divided between loving and loathing, between serving and being served.

As wealthy, our society affords many people opportunities to live distant from others.  Not only do many have their own households, they can also can work, shop, and recreate without leaving home.  As luxurious as this may seem, we must resist at least some of it.  If we are going to live in harmony with ourselves, we must interact with others.  Jesus has already shown us how to do it.  We should follow his example of civility, service, and friendship.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary time

(Philippians 2:12-18; Luke 14:25-33)

St. Paul’s words about perversity ring in most people’s minds these days.  However, the people are divided about what it comprises.  Some see perversity in the attitude and actions of the American president and his supporters.  These people find the equating of racial bigots with civil rights activists outrageously scornful.  They judge fear-mongering about falsely documented immigrants as merciless and hateful. 

Another ideological bent judges as bankrupt many of contemporary society’s mores.  The people of this large segment are indignant over the increasingly high percentage of children born outside of marriage.  They reel at the indifference with which many, concentrating on their smart phones, ignore one another.  Generally elderly, these folk yearn for the past when civility meant addressing a stranger by her or his last name with the proper salutation.

Both sides of the ideological divide can build up arguments for their moral persuasions.  Today’s reading from Philippians tells us that present outrage is nothing new.  Sin and injustice have been rooted in the world since almost the beginning.  But it exhorts us to rise above the mire by following Jesus, the Lord.  Later in the letter Paul tells his readers: “…our citizenship is in heaven.”  We care about the world because Jesus died to redeem it. But if we have embraced him, we know that soon enough either we will pass or it will pass away.  In either case we will take our places in a new world of justice and love.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

 (Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 14:15-24)

The parish has a small community named after Saint Monica.  She was the mother of Saint Augustine who prayed for her son’s conversion and lived to see it happen.  The small community took the name because its members were likewise praying for the conversion of their adult children. 

Young people are abandoning the faith in large numbers.  Although they are baptized and confirmed, they often report to have no religion at all. They seem like the invited guests in Jesus’ parable who do not show up for the wedding feast.  Like these guests, they have reasons for giving up on the faith.  They say clerical abuse, boring masses, and a lack of coherency between faith and lifestyle among Catholics have disillusioned them.  Will they be left out of the Kingdom of God?

We certainly hope not.  But we also must be clear.  The Kingdom of God is not for the average Alan or Allison.  One certainly does not have to be White or educated to belong, but one must have the same attitude as Jesus.  The first reading describes what that means.  We all fall short, but we can ask God’s mercy.  We only pray that youth today will remember to do that.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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

Most of us find ourselves competing with others.  We resent when a peer receives attention, and we are ignored.  We become envious when he is promoted and we are left behind.  We begin to calculate in our minds how we are as good, maybe better than the one others admire.  In today’s first reading Paul beseeches the Philippians not to engage in such unproductive thoughts.

Paul has a special affection for the Philippians.  According to Acts, it is the first community he evangelized after crossing over from Asia to Europe.  In this letter he will share with them personal ambitions and intimate thoughts.  At its beginning, however, he exhorts unity within the community. They are to do nothing out of selfishness but to judge everyone as better than themselves.

It seems that a distorted sense of self-worth often causes our mentally competing with others.  We need to recognize that our basic dignity comes from being created in God’s image and knowing Jesus Christ.  More than anything we can do, this gives us importance.  How others judge us in the end makes little difference.  As God’s servant and Jesus’ friend, we should strive to serve one another, not to better them.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day)

(Wisdom 3:1-9; Romans 5:5-11; John 6:37-40)

The old priest said that he did not care if he was a heretic but he believed that all people are saved.  He might have shown more respect for Church dogma, but in this case he could not be called a heretic.  The Church teaches that hell exists, but it has never said that any human being resides there.  Those who hold for universal salvation may look to today’s gospel for support.

Jesus tells the people that anyone who believes in him will have eternal life.  He probably has in mind followers who make sacrifices to serve others, but their numbers are not necessarily limited. Is it not possible that all who have ever done a loving deed may be considered a follower who has served?  Perhaps those guilty of serious sins were affected by conditions that lessened their culpability.

In any case today we pray for all the dead.  We want to be generous enough to include in our prayers those whose deeds we detest.  Our prayer should cover the man who just killed eleven people at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.  It also would include a former boyfriend or girlfriend who may have betrayed us personally.  Of course, it embraces our loved ones who fell short of perfection but nevertheless tried to help us.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Solemnity of All Saints

(Revelation 7:2-4.9-14; I John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a)

Every one of us probably can tell the story of a saint.  We probably did not know a canonized saint like Mother Teresa or St. Oscar Romero.  But we have known at least one or two people whose lives always reflected God’s holiness and goodness.  I knew a priest who even when he lived almost a hundred years would answer the door for all callers.  If they wanted him to hear their confession, which usually was the case, he would do it promptly, even if he was eating dinner at the time. 

Today’s gospel gives us the characteristics of these saints.  They are “poor in spirit” never resting on their laurels but always looking to God for salvation.  They show mercy to all never holding grudges but always willing to forgive those who wrong them.  They possess clean hearts never allowing animal desires to objectify others but treating everyone as a beloved brother or sister.

All saints have their feast day on which we remember their virtue and pray for their intercession.  Today we celebrate not those special saints whom we have known or heard of but of all whom we have not known.  We recognize that they have been transformed by God’s grace which spreads like air throughout the world.  We also pray today that we will allow ourselves to breathe in that grace.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Sir John Falstaff taught the English Prince Hal how to live a dissolute life.  Drinking, gambling, and womanizing were vices that the man passed on to his young protégé.  When Prince Hal became King Henry, Falstaff supposed that he would have life easy.  He expected his friend, the king, to provide him with all the money necessary for both pleasure and leisure.  King Henry, however, rejects his friend as an opportunist.  He banishes him from his presence “on pain of death.”  Jesus promises to do something similar in today’s gospel.

A man from the crowd yells at Jesus a question.  “’Lord,’” he asks, “’will only a few people be saved?’” Quite surprising to people today, Jesus warns the crowd that they had better desist doing evil.  He says that even though they “’ate and drank’” with him, they have not won salvation.  Rather they have to do good and avoid evil if they are ever to enjoy eternal life.

We Catholics sometimes have a similarly incorrect idea about the way to salvation. Some of us believe that just because we “’ate and drank’” with the Lord at mass, our eternal destiny is secure.  No, we must do so worthily.  This means that we strive along with Jesus to love God and neighbor.  It implies that we sacrifice our comfort to follow his way of service.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13:18-21)

Betty and her husband lived in a Texas city fifty years ago.  It was still a time when most women did not work outside the home, and Betty was no exception here.  But she had social interests that brought her in contact with the poor.  She began to advocate publicly for needy children.  She asked for government support for programs like Head Start.  Her husbands’ friends saw such social schemes as communist.  They told him that his wife she should stay at home.  But he told them that he believed his wife was right.  The community should assist poor families meet the needs of their children.

Betty’s husband was motivated by a deep love for his life.  He did not come to favor community social assistance on his own.  It was his love for his wife that made him see its justice.  No doubt he took seriously today’s first reading.  Husbands have to love their wives wholeheartedly.  True love requires careful attention to what the other believes.  It calls forth patience to both understand her truth and question her inconsistencies.  It also elicits sacrifice so that she might flourish in her goodness.

Today’s passage from Ephesians has been dismissed as culturally conditioned.  Even St. John Paul II said that love excludes any kind of servile subjection.  But it contains a message as critical as a hurricane warning.  Husband and wife must love one another unreservedly.  If they do not, they will not only fail their families but also their Lord.  As the Letter makes clear, their relationship is to reflect Christ’s love for the Church.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17)

Every seminarian should learn not to chastise people in public.  People may be willing to change improper behavior if told politely and discreetly.  But they will surely defend themselves if publicly humiliated.  Priests receive this lesson the hard way when they tell parents to remove a crying infant from church.  Today’s gospel gives another instance of this very mild form of clerical abuse.

The synagogue leader scolds the sick for coming to see Jesus on a Sabbath.  He faults them for causing Jesus to heal which he sees as a form of prohibited work.  Interestingly, he directs his criticism at the invalids and not at Jesus, the perpetrator of the perceived misdeed.  Anyway, Jesus comes to their defense.  His argument is that since the Sabbath celebrates liberation, how can it be wrong to liberate the suffering on that day?

The passage from Ephesians gives us the proper perspective for correcting others’ mistakes.  It exhorts us to be kind and compassionate to one another.  Fraternal correction is an act of charity if done with respect for the dignity of the person at fault.  We have to help him or her to feel cared for and not demeaned.