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, May 27, 2019

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4a)

The Catholic Church bases its health care ethics on the human person’s innate dignity from conception until natural death.  It exhorts medical professionals to honor this dignity by refusing to take part in abortion, assisted suicide and other contradictory procedures.  In doing so, the Church has been criticized.  Doctors who refuse to render death-dealing services have also been threatened with censure.  Jesus warns of such developments in today’s gospel.

He is telling his disciples to expect persecution because they follow his teaching.  He has specifically in mind the harassment of Christians for seeing himself as the Son of God.  But with the coming of the Spirit to complete his teaching, Jesus would include other doctrines. 

Much of Catholic health care ethics is derived from natural law and not from explicitly gospel sources.  Nevertheless, Catholics will have to abide by it even if it means not practicing medicine because of state persecution.  However, we pray that society comes to recognize the truth of natural law morality.  We pray as well that it honors the freedom of citizens to practice their respective religious beliefs.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17)

An old song said, “Love makes the world go round.”  A high school teacher challenged this idea.  He told his students that love does not make the world go round.  Rather, he said, money does.  He was referring to the idea that money motivates most people to work which, in a way, sets the world in motion.  An astrophysicist would give another answer.  She would claim that the earth spins on its axis because of the way it was formed.  The swirling gases and dust from which the earth was formed started the rotation which has never ceased. 


With today’s gospel in mind we might ask ourselves, what does love do then after all?  Love puts us in harmony with God.  Since God’s very being is love, we share God’s life when we love others.  There is the difficulty of how to identify true love.  St. Augustine can help us here.  He once preached, “What does love look like? It has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want.  It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men and women.  That is what love looks like.”

As we all know, it is easy to talk about love but quite another thing to live.  The novelist Dostoyevsky wrote that love in action is “a harsh and dreadful thing.”  It requires sacrifices that we would be loath to make except for the good of the beloved.  For God, the greatest good, we should be ready to make great sacrifices.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11)

Humans today, as in any age, desire pleasure.  They crave the satisfaction of their senses from sex, food, or drugs.  Pleasure is not necessarily bad, but there is something much better.  Joy brings more beneficial satisfaction.  Pleasure is an agreeable sensation which passes quickly and must be renewed.  Joy, which comes from having done something well, fills the soul for a long time.  Pleasure is opposed to pain; they cannot coexist at the same time.  Joy is often accompanied by suffering in the quest to do something well.  Parents may take some pleasure in the vacation in Honolulu which their children gave them for their anniversary.  But they will feel joy after raising their children to be loving, honest, and hardworking human beings.  In today’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to find joy.

He says that joy is the fruit of love.  When the disciples love one another like he has loved them, their spirits will be filled with joy.  When they lend a helping hand in time of need or a shoulder to cry on in distress, they will feel the joy of love.  All of God’s commandments are oriented to bring joy to those who keep them.

As we grow older, we should come to the realization that joy is what makes life worth living.  Experience teaches that more than forever eating tasty foods or exploring picturesque beaches, we become truly satisfied when we have given of ourselves in loving others.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)

Thomas Aquinas thought of virtue in a way that might surprise many.  He saw it as a good quality of the mind that disposes humans to live righteously.  So far, no surprises.  But Thomas went on that no one can make bad use of a virtue.  This idea is provocative.  “Cannot a terrorist show courage in a holy war” someone might ask, “so how can it be said that no one can make bad use of it?”  Thomas accepted the Christian tradition that true virtue is infused by God when the person surrenders to God in love.  It is a gift which no one can use badly because it comes from God and remains related to Him as a gift of his love.  The beginnings of virtue may be sown when God enters the soul at Baptism.  In any case no one can make bad use of a gift that keeps her in a relationship with God.  The same idea can be found in today’s gospel.

Jesus exhorts his disciples to remain in him as he remains in them.  Both he and the Father will come to them with the Holy Spirit.  The presence of all three will guide the disciple’s actions to always act in ways that conform to divine love.  In this way their actions cannot be anything but good.  Jesus uses the illustrative image of a vine and its branches to describe how virtue is transformed into benefits for others.  He says that the Father will act like a gardener pruning the vines’ branch.  Just as the pruned branches yield a greater harvest so life attentive to the Father’s commands will result in many blessings.

Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus by following his (and the Father’s) law of love.  We are to go beyond the Golden Rule.  Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us.  We are to make sacrifices for the good of others as Jesus died to free us from sin.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a)

What is this peace of Christ that is unlike any other?  One biblical expert sees it as “being freed from sin and united to God."  Perhaps it is the same composure that drives Paul onward to preach the Good News despite just being stoned almost to death.  Paul does not harbor great resentment toward the Jews.  In fact, he maintains a great love for them.  He writes later, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).  

The same peace is found among the families of the twenty-one Coptic Egyptians whom ISIS martyred four years ago.  The families proudly wear t-shirts with pictures of their beloved in martyrs’ array – white robes and crowns superimposed on their heads.  The author of an article on the martyrs has written provocative comments about the village where sixteen of the martyrs lived.  He says: “All the houses I visited shared one common feature: The household was not in mourning. Condolences and expressions of sympathy seemed out of place. They struck me as somehow elevated to another plane.”

We are not likely to feel Christ’s peace because our faith wavers.  We wonder if the legacy which the apostles have handed down is true.  We feel the cravings of sex and pride that our times offer.  To feel that peace we must do as Jesus preached from the beginning: “’Repent and believe…’”

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:5-18; John 14:21-26)

The first reading sounds more like a situation comedy than an episode of true history.  Sometimes, however, reality is stranger than fiction.  In any case, people have an odd penchant of adulating men and women as if they were gods and goddesses.  Today athletes and entertainers have godlike status in the eyes of the public.  A Tom Brady or a Nicole Kidman command immense salaries and attention to the banalities of their lives.

In the biblical passage Paul and Barnabas are worshipped as gods after facilitating an instant healing.  The two apostles take advantage of the opportunity to explain God’s love for them.  They tell the pagan townspeople that such a mighty deed is but an extension of the care God shows in creation.  Still like many today the people in the reading refuse to abandon their fantasies.  They continue to prepare sacrifices for the apostles.

Unfortunately the attention paid to athletes and entertainers often detracts from worship of the true God.  We know of people who do not go to church on Sunday in order to watch a football game.  Many as well accept the caprices of entertainers as norms for everyone.  The situation leaves us with a double responsibility.  We must be careful not to fall into these vices.  And we must instruct our youth that the living God demands righteous living.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:26-33; John 14:1-6)

In today’s gospel Jesus declares himself as “…the truth.”  He means that he is the highest truth because he reveals God the Father.  In reaching for this truth, the scholar does not abandon the truth found in nature.  The physical sciences discover much that leads to God.  Nor should people think that the truth that is Jesus is different from the truth they are supposed to tell in daily life.  When we conform our words to reality, they will eventually tell of Jesus.  Nevertheless, God still belongs to another order than humans.  Jesus, who is one with the Father, has made Him known as much as humans are capable of understanding.

The pregnant gospel passage hints in different ways to the Father.  He is beneficent, that is, ready to shelter those who come to Him in need.  To reach Him one must follow Jesus, the way.  Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do the same to one another.  To follow Jesus, then, is to care for one another by providing service.  Finally, God bestows life.  More than being the source of life, God gives life in its fullness sense.  He enables humans to thrive, to be all that they can be.  In the end this means that all humans become Jesus-like.

Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  We might say that he is the true roadmap to happiness.  When we follow him we will neither lose our way nor become tired and disillusioned.  We will find ourselves ever satisfied, ever grateful.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

Once in a while we may hear religious sisters talk about their “missions.”  They speak of where they have served as where they have been missioned.  They say something like, “Denver was my first mission, and then I was missioned in Milwaukee.”  Today’s gospel helps us to think of all Christians as having a mission.  Whether it be to some far off city or in the neighborhood where they were born, Christians are sent off to serve.

Jesus is speaking with his disciples at what we call the Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper.  He is preparing them to go out to the world and preach the good news.  He implies that they can be confident of the claims he will make about himself because he will predict all that happens to him.  Then he says that anyone who receives them receives him and God the Father as well: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

We were sent forth as “other Christs” on the occasion of our Baptism.  The sending is renewed at every Eucharist.  Occasionally, the mission is explicit.  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” is one of the four approved dismissals at the end of mass.  Whether the priest or deacon uses that wording or not, we are being sent on a mission.  The Lord has allowed us to partake of his Body and Blood not only for our own edification.  Rather, he expects us with this Eucharistic food to assist others on the way of salvation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50)

Perhaps the greatest mind in the Age of Enlightenment belonged to the English scientist Isaac Newton.  Newton mapped with mathematical accuracy the laws of mechanics and of motion.  He was also a philosopher and theologian.  The poet Alexander Pope lyrically summed up Newton’s achievements, “God said, ‘Let Newton be,’ and all was light.”  In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of himself also as coming into the world as light.

As light Jesus performs two great services.  First, he uncovers human sinfulness so that people may repent and be reconciled.  Some desire privacy so that their sins may not be known.  But Jesus does not allow them to fool themselves by speaking to their consciences.  More importantly, Jesus shows humanity how to love.  Because of him, the highest measure of love will not have anything to do with sex.  It will be counted in the degree of sacrifice one makes for the good of others.

Sometimes we feel reluctant to allow the light of Christ to shine on us.  We may take pleasure in our sinfulness or we may hate others so much that we do not wish reconciliation.  When these conditions invade our being, we should turn to Jesus in prayer.  His light will provide gentle warmth to draw us out of our funk into his grace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Feast of Saint Matthias, apostle

(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

Today’s first reading relating the election of Matthias contains one critical message.  The apostles considered it necessary to select a replacement for Judas.  Having twelve men who would testify to Jesus’ resurrection was essential. Why is this?  Shortly the Holy Spirit will descend upon the group of Jesus’ disciples to begin the mission to the ends of the earth.  If this new reality was to be the New Israel then it would have to be modeled after the Old Israel.  Each apostle would represent one son of Israel, one of the nation’s twelve tribes.

After all, Israel is really more than a nation or a country.  It is a people with an identity and a mission.  It belongs to God and is to reflect his holiness in the world.  This people has been formed over centuries by God’s Law.  Of course, it failed to live it fully because it lacked the Holy Spirit.  Now it will receive the Spirit so that it may accomplish its mission.  The Spirit will also compel the people outward to gather adherents around the world.

The Church is the New Israel, the people of God.  Its success in exemplifying holiness is reflected in its saints.  Sadly sinners belong to the Church as well.  It will take more centuries to achieve universal sanctity, but there are signs of progress.  But more than time, universal holiness depends upon our living the Law that Jesus summarizes in today’s gospel.  We are to love one another as he loves us.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:11-18)

At the Second Vatican Council discussion of religious freedom became a burning issue.  Some felt that a social policy protecting the freedom of each person to worship as he or she thinks is necessary.  They argued that the inner sanctum of conscience must not be forced.  Others thought a policy favoring Catholic belief where possible would be preferable since only the Church professes the fullness of faith.  Adherents to this thinking charged, “Error has no rights.”  The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray countered that neither error nor truth has rights since both are abstractions.  People have rights, one of which is to pursue religious belief as the person sees fit.  In the reading from Acts today the Christian community in Jerusalem grapples with a similar issue.

Jewish Christians are upset by the news that Peter not only baptized Gentiles but ate at their table.  They demand some explanation since the law forbids taking foods that are not kosher.  Peter explains that he was only following the will of the Holy Spirit made known to him in a vision.  Evidently Peter’s explanation convinced his critics.  They too recognize the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy for one to say that the Holy Spirit or “the spirit” moved her to do something.  But such a defense for an innovation begs more justification.  The Holy Spirit is not just the Spirit of peace and tranquility but also of wisdom and prudence.  We must question actions that veer from established norms.  Are they motivated out of love? Do they contradict the teachings of Jesus? Are they reasonable?  Only after receiving the appropriate answers to these questions may we accept the actions as the will of God.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)

Paul is so central to the establishment of Christianity that the story of his conversion is told three times in the Acts of the Apostles.  The accounts differ in details but all convey the central point: Paul was called directly by the Lord to missionary service. 

Interestingly, Jesus did not choose Paul because of his preaching ability.  Paul himself disclaims any charism for proclaiming orally the word of God. However, his gifts of theological profoundness and willingness to suffer make him a great missionary.  There is another factor, however, that contributed even more to Paul’s accomplishments.  Today’s reading mentions it.  Paul was “filled with the holy Spirit.”  The Spirit provided the zeal with which Paul worked.  More than that, it crowned all of Paul’s abilities and efforts with love of God and neighbor.  Paul’s profundity and his long-suffering were so productive because he cared deeply for others.

The same Spirit, of course, is ours.  It is bestowed as we enter the Church, the community of love.  It grows when we come together to share Christ’s Flesh and Blood.  Reversing the natural process, we become what we eat – more like our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Today the Church remembers two saints who, like all others, testified to the power the Holy Spirit.  St. Antoninus was the Dominican archbishop of Florence.  He oversaw the religious affairs of the city at his historical moment of greatness at the beginning of the Renaissance.  We also commemorate Fr. Damien, missionary to the lepers of Hawaii.  He took care of the outcasts so selflessly that he became one himself.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

Last year an article questioning the value of the Old Testament appeared in a leading religious journal.  The author drew attention to the work of a German scholar who says that the Old Testament should no longer be used in Christian churches.  The scholar believes that it does not contain references to Christ as the Fathers of the Church took for granted.  Also, the scholar holds that reading the Old Testament as if it did insults the Jewish people.  Both readings today, however, point to a different conclusion.  They show that it was not only the Church Fathers of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries who read the Old Testament as a treasury of coded references to Christ.  They demonstrate that the New Testament authors did the same.

In the reading from Acts, Philip instructs the Ethiopian that the reference in Isaiah referring to the Suffering Servant foretells the mission of Christ.  In the gospel Jesus says the verse, found also in Isaiah, “They shall be taught by God,” refers to himself.  There are probably hundreds of other passages from the Old Testament incorporated in the New.  Before the gospels were written, the apostles saw the correlation between Jesus’ life and the writings of the Old Testament.

The Church long ago declared the validity of the Old Testament as the inspired word of God.  We must see its value not only in what is foretells of Christ but also in what it teaches independent of those references.  We are to study it, teach it, live it and cherish it.  In doing so, we will draw closer to Jesus, our Savior.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

In a story taking place during World War II a Paris museum entrusts its locksmith with the richest diamond in the world.  The locksmith demonstrates great skill in his work.  He also takes impeccable care of his blind daughter.  More than anyone else he can keep the diamond away from the Nazi invaders.  In today’s gospel Jesus tells how the Father has entrusted him to take similar care of God’s people.

The Gospel of John tells of God’s love for the people of the world.  He sent his Son to bring the people out of darkness.  He intends to give them the fullness of life.  However, not everyone wants to follow the Son to eternal life.  But those who do will not be lured away by evil nor will they perish as they approach their goal.  Jesus gives himself as bread for the journey.  He will also raise to life any who die before the end is reached.

The first reading shows how Jesus’ followers embraced his promise.  Persecuted in Jerusalem, they go forth to preach salvation in Jesus to others.  We can have confidence then in both what Jesus says and in what his followers do.  Remaining a Christian may become more challenging as people around us give up practicing the faith.  But with such witnesses as these strengthen us rather than cause us to worry.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35)

Stephen’s speech can be heard as incendiary.  He accuses the Jewish leaders of not observing the Law.  But so did Jesus!  Indeed, Stephen’s actions quite closely imitate those of Jesus.  He too at his execution asks forgiveness for its perpetrators.  Like Jesus he dies commending his spirit to God.

Stephen’s exemplary behavior will have immense effect.  One of its witnesses, Paul of Tarsus, will do an about turn in his stand toward Jesus.  Evidently at the moment he finds Stephen’s words contemptible.  But in short time he will, like Stephen, give testimony to Jesus’ righteousness.  He too will suffer death for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

There is plenty for us to imitate in Stephen’s story.  We should proclaim the Lord Jesus by our willingness to suffer for the truth.  Most of all, we should pray for our enemies, especially those who may persecute us. Then our lives also will attract others to Jesus’ righteousness.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 6:8-15; Acts John 6:22-29)

Since Vatican II the Church has admonished Catholics who think of “the Jews” as guilty of Jesus’ death.  Nevertheless, the term is used especially in the Gospel of John to indicate the rivals of Jesus.  This reference reflects the time and place of Jesus’ life.  It is more correct to think of “the Jews” as those who do not understand his teaching.  Unfortunately, it would include many baptized Christians today.

For example, many Christians seek the satisfaction of their sense appetites more than freedom from sin.  These are precisely the people whom are labeled as “the Jews” in today’s gospel. They do not understand that Jesus fed the multitude to signify his fulfilling a deep-seated spiritual need.  He bestows the wherewithal to love one’s neighbor.

We do want to love our neighbor even if we do not express ourselves always in this way.  We want to live in peace with everyone.  We want justice to reign and every valid need met.  Following Jesus’ teaching, this hope may be better realized.  Remaining like “the Jews,” we will likely find continued rivalry.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, apostles

(I Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14)

Try standing on one foot with your eyes closed. If you last fifteen seconds, consider your balance remarkable. Eyes open and focused make the same feat easy. As sight enhances balance, Jesus' disciples need a new source of vision to understand what he is talking about in today’s gospel.

The reading begins with Jesus responding to a remark made by Thomas.  The latter said that since the disciples do not know where Jesus is going, they cannot know the way.  Jesus tells him that to know him is to know the Father.   Now Philip, whose feast day we are celebrating, speaks up.  He obtusely asks Jesus to show the disciples the way to the Father.  It should have been obvious to him and the other disciples that the Father is in Jesus and he is in the Father.  They have only to look at him to find the Father.  But they have trouble seeing this truth because it requires the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will come shortly with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

The Spirit provides us with a new way of seeing. It is like a physician having a MRI when making a diagnosis or a soldier having a night vision device on midnight patrol. His presence allows us to accept Jesus' teaching as not so much demanding as life-giving.  From it we know that Jesus will assist us in our every need.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)

The Church in its first few centuries had to come to a common understanding of its belief.  One of the most perplexing issues was exactly who is Jesus Christ.  From passages like today’s first reading he might be understood as a most virtuous man whom God raised from the dead.  He would be of the order of Elijah or Enoch, an ancient patriarch who is said to have been assumed into heaven.  But surely the Gospel of John has more in mind when it says in today’s passage: “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to the Son.”

The debate about Jesus reached its climax in the early fourth century.  A priest named Arius took the lesser view of Jesus.  He thought that putting Jesus on the same level as God would be like calling a cat a lion because it has teeth and whiskers.  Today’s patron St. Athanasius opposed the minimal view.  He rightly saw that God cannot be compared to earthly things.  Both Jesus and the Father are of another order or substance.  The Council of Nicea affirmed his position: Jesus and the Father are the same along with the Holy Spirit.

All this may sound heady and impractical.  But belief in Jesus as God affects us significantly.  Because he and the Father are one, we can feel confident in following him.  As guide and end, his teaching cannot lead us astray.  We can also pray to him.  He has the power to help us in our every need. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

(Optional) Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker

(Acts 5:17-26; John 3:16-21)

American writer Marilynne Robinson has won fame for her novel Gilead.  As evidenced in the book, she can articulate profound thoughts.  In a separate essay entitled “Humanism” Ms. Robinson queries the seven dimensions to being that string theory physicists have added to the usual four.  She says that the concept, established in mathematics, changes how humans consider reality.  Like the Galilean revelation that the earth is not at the center of the universe, string theory makes even Einstein’s notion of relativity obsolete.  It might be said that today’s gospel anticipates string theory.

The passage has been called “the gospel in miniature” as it goes to the heart of the Christian message.  It speaks of “eternal life,” whose root meaning is outside of time.  The concept of eternity presents a new dimension of reality.  It cannot be experienced in its fullness, at least, under present circumstances.  It is peace, joy, and – most of all – love in all their wonder.  God, the Father, wills eternal life – the life He lives with the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit -- for the world.  He has sent His Son, who is called Jesus the Christ, to deliver it.

Today we remember St. Joseph the Worker.  The feast day was established to support the faith of ordinary people.  Anyone who works should celebrate today.  But they should not be content to give thanks for a job or even for the role of being co-creator (perhaps, better, junior apprentice) with God.  No, we give thanks to God as well for the gift of eternal life.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7b-15)

Jesus explains to Nicodemus the movement of the Spirit in today’s gospel.  He says that it moves the reborn person to act in new ways.  She no longer lives for herself but for others.  She loves without expecting anything in return.  She also takes delight in seeing others growing free, loving, and wise.  The Spirit has assured her of God’s infinite love.  This kind of person makes up the community of disciples described in the reading from Acts.  Each member supports one another.  The result is that everyone has all that is necessary to live in peace.

Communal experiences of mutual love are frequently tried and sometimes they last for years.  Usually they end as members are drawn away by different personal needs.  However, monasteries have been able to preserve communal harmony for centuries.  They often draw high-minded people who respond well to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

We may not live in communities as mutually supportive as that of the Christians in Jerusalem after the resurrection. Nor are we likely to join a monastery.  Nevertheless, we are being moved by the Holy Spirit to live less individualistically, more communally.  We feel the urge to share time and material possessions with those in need.  We also are prompted to move beyond our fears and desires to assist others.  In these ways we show ourselves to be born from above with heaven as likewise our destiny.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

The Internet has enabled hundreds of millions of people to stay in touch.  People see the faces of loved ones through Skype and follow their thoughts on Facebook.  Fifty years ago no one dreamed of such immediacy.  However, those who have developed a deep spirituality may have always been more closer to the Lord.

In today’s first reading Peter and John have returned from their confrontation with Jewish leadership.  They pray to God who is intimately present to them because of the Holy Spirit.  They do not ask for protection but for boldness to proclaim Jesus.  The Spirit confirms that God hears their prayers by causing the ground to shake.

The same Spirit enabled Catherine of Siena to feel intimately Christ’s love for her.  She described her relationship with him as a marriage.  She and Christ were bride and bridegroom.  As a wife considers her husband’s body her own, Catherine worked tirelessly for Christ’s body, the Church.  In times of political intrigue and ravishing plague, Catherine strove to keep that body from falling apart.  Her success has resulted in her being named the patron saint of both Italy and all Europe.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)

In every mass this week – actually from Monday to Sunday – the gospel tells of an appearance of the risen Jesus.  Although the accounts bear marks of editorial expansion, they assure readers of the resurrection as a fact of history.  The resurrection is a trans-historical event.  This means that it has never been duplicated in history.  But reliable witnesses testify that Jesus appeared to them in the flesh.  Their stories, especially when considered in total, explain the empty tomb.  Thus the stories go beyond circumstantial evidence for the resurrection.

Today’s gospel appearance takes place on the Sea of Tiberius.  It may seem strange that Jesus’ disciples would return to their former occupations after seeing Jesus.  After all, he equipped them with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins.  Yet many people who have had profound religious experiences begin to question their beliefs.  Sometimes they become almost indifferent to what happened to them.  Jesus, true to his promise, does not abandon his disciples in their questioning.  Rather, he appears to them again and reissues the mandate to go forth and preach forgiveness.  This is expressed symbolically in today’s passage when he says, “’Cast your net over the right side…’”

Many people dismiss the gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances.  They see them as fishing stories; that is, exaggerations of wonderful experiences.  These skeptics challenge us believers to explain the possibility of the stories’ ever taking place.  We should respond to the challenge in at least two ways.  First, we need to study the gospel accounts with the help of faithful commentators so that we may provide explanation of their reasonableness.  Second, we want to testify to their veracity by living truly changed and holy lives.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

 “What’s in a name?” Juliet asks, “that which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”  She will learn that a name contains more than commonly imagined.  Names identify people both as individuals and as members of an association.  Invoking a name in a situation can bring the power of the person or association to bear on it.  In today’s first reading Peter tells the Jews that the paralytic was healed by faith in the name of Jesus. 

Peter and John have just healed the man begging near the Temple gate. Now Peter launches into one of the sermons in Acts that is considered paradigmatic of Christian preaching.  In other words, all Christian preachers should not only imitate its conviction but also its claims.  Peter has no reservations that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the source of new life.  People have only to repent of their sins and call upon his name to inherit eternal life.

More and more people today are searching for their identities in their DNA. They want to know who they are by associating themselves with particular real estates.  Of course, it is interesting but it is hardly conclusive and holds little prospect for the future.  We are far better off to associate ourselves with the name of our Redeemer.  In Jesus we are adopted daughters and sons of God.  He bestows on us the destiny of eternal life.  Like the paralytic in his name we are made whole.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday of the First Week of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Lucas 24:13-35)

Today’s gospel is different from other accounts of Christ appearances after his resurrection.  Its length and its motion distinguish it from his appearances near his tomb, in the locked room, and even by the seashore.  Perhaps it is because of these differences that it has become the favorite appearance account among Christians.

In many ways the narrative resembles the Christian experience of the Eucharist.  It takes place on the first day of the week.  Jesus is present but cannot be seen by the travelers.  The Old Testament is explained in homiletic fashion.  Most of all, it ends with a blessing of bread and recognition of Christ’s physical presence.

Once in a while during Sunday mass we feel like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  “Our hearts burn(ing) within us” perhaps because the homily is especially insightful or a hymn resonates with our lives.  Or maybe it is the presence of other people who have been nurtured by faith to a particular greatness.  In any case, we find in this gospel passage valuable instruction.  It teaches us how to experience the risen Lord every time we gather for Mass.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tuesday of Easter Week

(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)

When I am with children whose names I do not know, I will call them “son” or “sweetheart.”  On a couple occasions boys have responded, “I’m not your son.  Why do you call me that?”  I am not sure whether they are confused, defiant, or just playing with me.  In any case Jesus in today’s gospel is ready to make his disciples sons of his Father. 

Jesus meets Mary at the tomb.  He may want to console her, but he definitely will give her a mission.  But first he tells her not to cling to him because he is about to ascend to heaven.  There his humanity will be glorified so that he might impart the Holy Spirit on whomever he pleases.  The Spirit makes those who receive it daughters and sons of the Father.  As Jesus indicates in the passage, his disciples then become his brothers and sisters. Mary is to let the other disciples know of this wondrous eventuality.

Do all humans have God as their “Father”?  Certainly John the Evangelist does not think so.  For him that distinction is reserved for those who have been “born from above” (John 3:3).  For this reason we should hold a special affection for other Christians, especially those who partake of the same Eucharist.  Nevertheless, we are to love everyone.  John also says that “God so loved the world…”  Because we are God’s daughters and sons, we must love the world’s inhabitants as well.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday within the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:24.22-23; Matthew 28:8-15)

One of the inmates at the federal prison came to the chapel every Sunday for mass.  He sat their quietly not calling attention to himself or giving his attention to anything but the Lord.  He apparently had lived a somewhat loose life.  His marriage ended, and then he had trouble with the law.  But he learned his lesson.  Repenting of his sins, he received a share of the Holy Spirit’s grace.  Now he was to be released.  He would live outside of prison with the same discipline that he was showing inside. 

The most dramatic blessing of Easter is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It not only will bring the dead to life but renews the lives of the living.  The first reading today makes this clear.  Peter testifies that Jesus once raised from the dead pours forth the Holy Spirit upon his followers.  Indeed by means of this Spirit Peter is preaching fearlessly to the people of Jerusalem.

We also qualify as followers of Jesus.  He pours his Spirit upon us as well.  We too can go out and proclaim Jesus risen from the dead.  Because we may find cool reception to our words, we will probably show that Jesus has risen by gracious care for others. In any case, people will know that we have the Spirit because of our love for others.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

In some places on Good Friday preachers give a long sermon on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  Actually these are not single words but seven statements taken from the four gospels.  If the preachers’ remarks are perceptive, they show how the statements conform to each evangelist’s vision of Jesus.  In the Passion according to John, which we just read, Jesus’ last words portray him as the royal Son of God.

In John Jesus does not so much suffer on the cross as reign from it.  He indirectly told Pilate that he is a king; now he gathers all people to himself on Calvary as a king his subjects (John 12:32).  Close to him, as if it were his royal court, stand his mother and best loved disciple.  Also, a sign proclaiming him king in three languages is tacked to the cross.  No one mocks Jesus on the cross; rather, all listen to his royal decrees.

The first words Jesus utters present his mother to his disciple and his disciple to his mother.  The purpose of this exchange goes beyond a dutiful son providing for an aged parent.  Jesus is establishing his church with the two people who have shown the greatest faith in him.  Then Jesus says, “I thirst.”  The narrator has pointed out that he speaks these words to fulfill the Scripture.  References may be found to Jesus’ thirst in both Psalms 22 and 69.  More importantly, however, Jesus is showing kingly control over all that happens.  He thirsts because his Father ordained it.  Finally, Jesus pronounces his last words, “It is finished.”  He dies when he is ready and his work is done. No one or nothing has power over him. Jesus shows himself here as king not only of the Jews or of the world but of time and all creation as well. 

John’s consistent perspective of Jesus as king serves us well.  Some days things seem to fall apart.  We may be suffering great pain or feeling under pressure to do something very wrong.  We can look at Jesus reigning from the cross to find support.  Like him we know that worldly powers do not have control over us.  Because we stand with him, we have power to resist evil.  We know as well that we are destined to reign with him in glory.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 15:23-26; John 13:1-15)

At a Jewish Passover meal the youngest at table asks, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?”  We might pose a similar question for our Eucharist this evening. How is this mass different from other masses?  A fitting answer would be that in this mass we emphasize the act of remembering. 

The word remember literally means to put component parts or members back together.  When we remember we recreate what existed in the past to make it present to us now.  This evening we remember three events found in the Scripture readings.  First, we recall God’s liberating the Israelites from their exile in Egypt.  Second, we reestablish Jesus’ initiation of the Eucharist on the night before he died.  Finally, we bring to mind Jesus’ astonishing demonstration of service as he washes his disciples’ feet.

Dogs can remember in a sense, and we regularly pay a compliment to computers by speaking of their memory.  We must distinguish human remembering from the trivial memories attributed to animals and machines.  When we remember, we assign to a past event a meaning that shapes our lives.  In remembering the liberation of the Israelites we think of our deliverance from sin.  The Father has sent the Son to die and rise so that our chain of selfishness may be broken.  Remembrance of the first Eucharist allows us to imagine the celestial banquet in which we hope to participate.  We believe that our following Jesus will bring us to full union with him and all the saints in eternity.  Our final instance of remembering shows us Jesus’ way.  Moved by the Holy Spirit, we render loving service to one another. Now we can look forward to glory.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25)

Unfortunately our gospel translation omits a word that is in the original Greek manuscripts.  The passage should begin with the word Then.  “Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot…”  This time notation indicates a critical moment in the lives of both Jesus and Judas. 

Jesus has just been anointed by an unknown woman with expensive ointment.  His disciples complain about the waste of money that might have been given to the poor.  But Jesus tells them that there are times when significant outlays of money are justified.  Such a time is burial of the dead for which the woman anointed Jesus.  At the same moment then Judas goes seeking money from the chief priests.  For thirty pieces of silver he will deliver Jesus into their hands.  Actually it is a small amount – the equivalent of paying a hitman approximately $50 for committing murder.  For some other reason Judas must want Jesus out of the way.  Unlike Jesus he does not know the value of things.

A recent statement by Pope emeritus Benedict indicates the value of something that is frequently overlooked today.  The statement was issued to show how the sexual revolution and the deterioration of moral theology gave rise to sexual abuse of children.  In the statement Benedict emphasizes the value of faith.  He says that our Christian faith must be protected.  In the context of sexual abuse this means that the rights of an accused priest must not be exaggerated to the extent that faith in Christ and his Church is jeopardized.  In a larger context it means that we proclaim the priority of faith when contemporaries treat it as superstition or personal preference.  Faith in Jesus gives human life a solid meaning.  It assures the presence of love among persons and nations.  It gives everyone – from the poorest beggar to the wealthiest king – hope for eternal life.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33.36-38)

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of Holy Week one of the four Servant Songs of Isaiah is read during the liturgy.  These passages point to a personage whose suffering saves Israel from its sins.  The servant acts like the firefighters of 9-11 who gave their lives rescuing trapped victims in the burning Trade Center. In today’s reading the Servant himself outlines the accomplishment of his efforts.  He says that not only have they brought Israel back to the Lord but are seen as a model for all nations.

The Suffering Servant is never named in Isaiah.  Some have thought him to be Moses or the prophet Jeremiah. Most Old Testament scholars today identify the servant as the collective people of Israel who have suffered atrocities like the Holocaust.  Nevertheless, Christians from the beginning have heard the Servant Songs as prophetic testimony to Jesus.  Although limiting his mission to Israel, Jesus’ suffering and death have redeemed the sins of the world.

The Servant Songs help us to link Christians with Jews and all peoples. God brought about human salvation through the people of Israel.  They gave birth and context to His Son whose life and teachings model human perfection.  Even more impressively, his gift of self in the brutal crucifixion manifested God’s love for the world.  Most critically, his resurrection unleashed the Holy Spirit to renew the world in that love.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11)

In Luke’s gospel Mary sits as Jesus’ feet when he comes to her and Martha’s home.  She listens to him teach.  In today’s passage from John’s gospel Mary is again at Jesus’ feet in her home.  But her role has changed.  She now anoints Jesus for burial.  Martha in both gospel scenes busies herself with service, and Mary in both chooses “the better part.”

Mary has the prophetic insight of realizing that Jesus will be dead soon.  Because she also knows that he is the royal Messiah or “anointed one,” she gives him a lavish anointing.  The narrator says that the fragrance from the oil filled the whole house.  The image might be expanded to say that the fragrance filled the universe.  The death Jesus is about to undergo will redeem humanity for all its sins.

We too might anoint Jesus in a sense.  We can spare some time daily this week to meditate on the meaning for ourselves of Jesus death and resurrection.  Through these events we know the Son of God.  By these events we are freed from the guilt of our malicious acts.  Because of these events we like Jesus are destined to glory.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent

(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)
A television drama many years ago featured two angels – a good one and a bad one.  In the drama they were known as Mr. White and Mr. Black.  The people of the place where the two angels came could not distinguish who was the good angel.  So they concocted a test to tell which of the angels was the good one by having them sit down and stare at each other.  The angel who first turned away his face would be considered the inferior, and thus bad, angel.  The staring match went on for hours with neither angels flinching.  Then a small child slipped away from her mother and was going to enter into the electric gaze of the two angels.  Mr. Black suddenly got up to save the child from destruction.  Mr. White was declared to be the good angel until someone objected.  “Wasn’t really Mr. Black the good angel,” the person reasoned, “for saving the child from electrocution?”  Of course, he was, and Mr. Black became the hero whom the people followed. 

In today’s gospel Jesus similarly asks to be judged not by the people’s prejudices but by his works.  Has he not healed the sick and judged justly?  Isn’t he worthy of being called “the Son of God”?  Of course, he is.

And so are we worthy when we regularly assist the needy and help the poor.  We cannot consider ourselves sons or daughters as Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  We are born into a sinful condition and sometimes falter in our good efforts.  Nevertheless, through the sacraments especially of Baptism, Eucharist, and Penance we are only made like Jesus.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59)

Much of the Gospel of John makes most sense when read as representing the struggle between Christians and Jews in the latter part of first century Palestine.  Christians by then have been ejected from Jewish synagogues because they have accepted Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus, of course, takes their role in the gospel, and “the Jews” represent their persecutors. 

In today’s passage Jesus expresses the Christian belief in eternal life for those who believe in him.  This belief has been given substantial basis in his resurrection.  But the Jews do not accept the fact and claim that Jesus – really Christians – is possessed.  Their argument is that Jesus is surely no greater than Abraham who died.  But Christians see the prophecy which God made to Abraham in today’s first reading fulfilled in Jesus.  They find the success of Christianity in spreading throughout the known world as evidence that Abraham has come to be “the father of a host of nations.”   The heated debate grows hotter as Jesus hints at his divinity by saying of himself, “I AM,” which is code for God.  It is unlikely that he ever made this claim, but Christians have come to know him in this way after the resurrection.  For Jews anyone who claims to be God is committing blasphemy and merits death by stoning.

Although once in a while we see Christians, not Jews, wanting to take up the old debate, it is dead and should be left alone.  Christians and Jews have much in common and should dialogue for mutual edification.  But there are others who resent Christianity today.  Radical Muslims have persecuted Christians as infidels.  Some Western secularists also find Christianity a threat to rational investigation.  They believe the Catholic Church must be taken down because of its influence on vast numbers of people.   There is much to lament in the history of the Church but much, much more to appreciate and praise.  At our best we defend the Church in truth.  This means that we admit egregious errors have been made in the name of Christ.  We also note the many saints and ordinary Christians who have made the world a better place.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42)

The ironic lament, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” helps to understand today’s gospel.  Jesus is shown defending himself against Jews “who believed in him.”  Although it is not certain, the evangelist is probably reading back into the life of Jesus a debate that took place in the early Church.  By “those who believed in him,” John has in mind Jewish Christians with an inadequate understanding of their faith.  They do not recognize that Jesus frees people from the burden of the Law.

St. Paul provides a complete explanation of this idea in his Letter to the Romans.  He writes that only by faith in Christ as God’s only true messenger can one live righteously.  Trying to observe the parts of the Law which describe a righteous life by oneself is impossible.  It would be like digging a canal with a teaspoon.  Faith in Jesus implies loving God and neighbors with more than words.

Many today have a tenuous hold on faith. Like those who are said to believe in Jesus in the gospel, they do not understand what faith implies.  This kind of Christian largely follows secular norms with little attention to worship and doctrine.  We need to remind them of what faith in Jesus entails.  Inviting them to Mass or our small, faith-based communities may provide them some insight into authentic Christianity.  Faith calls us not to abandon such people but to endeavor to show them the light of Christ.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

(Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30)

Many Catholic children, even those in parochial schools, do not attend mass on Sunday.  If you would ask them why, they say that they sometimes have a soccer game or go out of town.  Their parents, of course, are not attending either.  They may find themselves one day like the Jews in today’s gospel unable to understand Jesus.  They may think that he suffered a needless death that was tantamount to suicide.

We are probably mistaken if we think of the dialogue in the gospel as an actual conversation. More likely it is the evangelist’s rebuttal of the Jewish denial of Jesus as the Messiah.  He uses ideas and phrases from Jesus but directs himself to Jewish critics of Christianity a generation or two later.  These Jews, the evangelist is saying, cannot appreciate what Jesus said and much less did.  They think in worldly ways that Jesus was an imposter who claimed to be God.  They cannot accept that he spoke and acted as God’s real representative. They also think that they did away with Jesus on the cross.  But the evangelist knows that the crucifixion was the supreme sacrament of divine love.  Because he did His will, the Father has raised Jesus from death to glory.

Jesus’ sacrifice is memorialized in the mass, especially on Sunday.  It is not just a lesson in recall but a re-enactment of the sacrifice for our advantage.  Somehow we must draw both children and their parents to this sacrament.  Only in this way will they transcend worldly ways to participate in Christ’s glory.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent

Law and order advocates believe that stricter laws, tougher judges, and more prisons are the best ways to remedy crime.  They would praise the sagacity of Daniel in the first reading today.  He ferrets out two culprits willing to see an innocent woman stoned to cover up their lust.  However, hardliners are not likely to approve of Jesus’ more daring way to bring about justice.

In the Gospel of John Jesus repeatedly announces that he has not come to judge the world.  His judgment would not be defective, but neither would it would produce good people.  It would only condemn everyone.  But God loves the world and does not want anyone condemned.  He sends Jesus to save the world by offering himself at the appointed time.  Jesus will turn human hearts to goodness by graciously allowing himself to be crucified.  Those who believe that Jesus’ sacrifice demonstrates God’s love will have eternal life.  Those who deride such sacrifice are doomed to darkness.

We have entered into what used to be called Passiontide when all images were covered in Catholic churches.  Our minds and hearts are to focus on Jesus supreme sacrifice.  Once again, he gives himself willingly to be tortured, reviled, and killed so that we might be justified.