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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Maccabees 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10)

We look to the aged for prudence.  Experience has taught them not to delay something which must be done and to work diligently.  We also expect faithfulness in our elders.  They have learned the value of keeping commitments over the long haul.  Generosity is another virtue associated with the silver years.  Seniors have come to realize that giving has never made anyone poor.  Today’s first reading celebrates old age with the story of Eleazar, a virtuous Jew.

Eleazar refuses to eat pork to save his life.  He does not care that he will be tortured, much less that his das are ended.  What matters to him is keeping faith in God who created him.  Even when he is offered a ploy to avoid execution, he refuses.  Eleazar understands that being part of a people makes one responsible for others.  In this case he does not want to create scandal by giving bad example.  He is particularly conscious of the young who might be led astray.  They need to learn the nobility of the nation’s traditions.

We live in an age of individualism.  People care mostly about themselves and the circle immediately around them.  Too often the elderly lack a sense of intergenerational responsibility.  We need them to act like heroes as Eleazar does.  We need them to show us how not to live only for ourselves but for others.  We need them to assure us that God’s ways will lead to glory.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Memorial of Saint Frances Cabrini, virgin

(Wisdom 6:1-11; Luke 17:11-19)

We should not be dismayed by the mindlessness of the nine in today’s gospel who do not return to give thanks.  Many of us act in the same way.  We are often blessed but quickly forget the Lord, the source of all goodness.  We may even attribute our blessing to luck or to some personal quality.  We should emulate the man who seeks to pay homage Jesus in gratitude.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini returned to the Lord after receiving his blessing.  She was at one point so frail that the sisters who educated her refused her petition to join them.  Yet she persisted in serving the Lord.  Gathering a group of women around her, she fulfilled her childhood hope of becoming a missionary.  Mother Cabrini, as she was called, established sixty-seven orphanages, schools, and hospitals.  She worked largely as an Italian immigrant with other immigrants in the United States.  Yet her dynamism did not stop at U.S. shores.  She extended her reach to South America and back to Europe. 

Gratitude becomes a person.  It bespeaks humility that enables him or her to keep self-deceiving pride at bay.  Recognizing the connectedness of society, gratitude further impels one to assist others.  It is not surprising then to see the Lord blessing the grateful cured leper with salvation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

(Wisdom 2:23-3:9; Luke 17:7-10)

Of all the evangelists St. Luke takes the prize for compassion.  His description of Jesus features this great virtue.  Only Luke quotes Jesus assuring Peter of his prayers when he predicts his denial.  Likewise, only Luke makes an excuse for his disciples sleeping while he is in agony in the garden.  He says that the disciples were “sleeping from grief.”  Only Luke will show Jesus healing the shorn ear of the servant.  So why does Jesus in today’s gospel imply that his disciples are not doing anything commendable when work overtime?

To understand Jesus’ intention one must note the context of the statement.  Jesus has just forbidden his disciples from giving scandal and mandating them to forgive.  When the disciples request more faith to carry out these commands, Jesus assures they already have enough faith.  Indeed, he says, even a little faith can move trees.  He implies that instead of needing added help, they must strengthen their resolve.

Today’s patron saint, Josaphat, exemplifies the kind of determination that Jesus has in mind here. He was a monk and later bishop of the Ruthenian (Eastern European) Catholic rite.  Through intensive apostolic effort, Josaphat was able to bring Orthodox Ruthenians into the Catholic fold.  He was martyred, however, by a mob of pro-Orthodox people resentful of his work.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, bishop

(Wisdom 1:1-7; Luke 17:1-6)

St. Martin of Tours captured the hearts of the people much like St. Francis many centuries later.  As a youth, Martin soldiered but resigned his commission rather than serve the heretical emperor.  He said at the time, “I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight."  Martin became a monk and then a missionary. One day he was called to visit a sick person in the city of Tours. He was taken to a church where people were waiting to make him bishop.  As bishop, Martin upheld Church doctrine but also defended rights of heretics.  His tolerance alienated him from the Roman emperor.  Martin is most remembered as the man who shared his cloak with a beggar.

The first reading today is taken from the Book of Wisdom.  The work in part instructs rulers to be just and prudent in their judgments.  Martin of Tours could serve as a model of its teachings.  “…think of the Lord in goodness,” it reads, “and seek him in integrity of heart.” Martin lived for the Lord.  He was true to God’s way of compassion.  He did not seek punishment as an end but reconciliation.

All of us have at least some authority.  We may be parents or supervisors.  If nothing else, we make decisions about how to spend leisure time.  We should strive to imitate St. Martin – faithful, diligent, and caring. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8)

A group of pastors was discussing a gospel passage much like the one we read today.  The ministers were taken aback by the implication that people should act out of self-interest.  Is an action worthy, the ministers seemed to ask themselves, if one gains personal benefit from it?

The ministers were questioning from the perspective of an imminent Lutheran bishop, Anders Nygren.  Intolerant of self-love, Nygren drove a wedge between it and divine love.  He termed acquisitive, human love eros and selfless, divine love agape.  According to Nygren, human love is always unworthy of those redeemed by Christ.  He would see such an act as indicative of fallen human nature.

But Nygren’s thesis does not adequately account for how humans are created.  We are people with real needs.  Beyond physical necessities we need support and assurance.  Having a destiny beyond the troubles of earthly life, we work for this end.  This means that we strive for perfection out of a desire for eternal life.  Jesus’ parable tells of a man who takes risks so that he may not suffer in the future.  In like manner we love the poor, God’s special concern.  We do not want to lose the eternal life which Christ promises us.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 14:7-12; Luke 15:1-10)

It is said that a person is known by the company she keeps.  If she goes about with good people, she is probably worthy of trust.  But if she hangs around with liars, her words should be scrutinized.  It is for nothing, therefore, that the Pharisees in today’s gospel are suspicious of Jesus.  He seems to enjoy the company of sinners.

But Jesus will no more adopt the ways of sinners than Pope Francis will look for a luxury hotel.  Quite the contrary, Jesus goes out to sinners because they need him.  They are, as the gospel says, “lost.”  This is a fate worse than death.  Unless they receive help soon, they will not find their way home.  They will perish in a fearful place.

We too must try to bring back “lost” believers.  We do not want to see our loved ones, or anyone else, perish.  Our strategy is simple.  It does not include harangues.  Rather, we talk with them in our homes as people who love them.  More importantly, we show by the qualities of our lives God’s blessings for those who love Him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday of the Thirty–first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 13:8-10; Luke 14:25-33)

The territory of Utah before statehood was rife with polygamy and slavery.  There was no law to prohibit these practices.  Gradually submitting to federal control, Utah banned both.  Its experience exemplifies what St. Paul has shown in his Letter to the Romans.  Without law everything is permissible.  Once law is established, it condemns people for evil acts.  But it does not make a people good.  They need more than prohibitory statues.  They need the Holy Spirit.

Today’s first reading speaks of divine love as the fulfillment of the law.  Love is the work of the Holy Spirit moving adherents to practice virtue.  They do no one any harm.  More characteristically, divinely inspired love moves those affected to care for others.  In the gospel Jesus gives the same testimony.  He sees love of God and of neighbor as the basis of all righteousness.

Love takes effort.  For this reason the Holy Spirit is involved.  The Spirit prompts us with its gifts to do what is just and helpful.  We ask the Spirit’s help to fulfill what is known its “law”; that is the law of love.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 12:5-16ab; Luke 14:15-24)

In one of her novels Mary Gordon writes of viewing a sunrise from a mountaintop.  A group drives to the trailhead well before dawn.  There it begins a swift hike up the mountain in the dark.  As the light begins to appear, one young woman notices a patch of flowers in the field.  She rushes toward it in glee.  Meanwhile her companions are yelling after her to forget about the flowers for now.  The sun is going to come up in just a few minutes.  That young woman may be compared to the invitees who refuse to attend the banquet in Jesus’ parable.

The invitees should realize that the rich man’s table is so extravagant that it should not be missed.  Yet they absorb themselves in their own limited agendas.  The rich man does not sulk with the regrets.  Rather, he invites the people of the streets to take the place of the self-satisfied. 

Jesus is telling us that God’s love is not puny.  Like the rich man He invites everyone to partake of the wealth of His kingdom.  For our own good we want to put aside personal interests to participate in it.  We will not regret any cost that it might involve.  Indeed, we will only have regrets if we refuse to be part of it.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Romans 11:29-36; Luke 14:12-14)

Since almost the beginning of Christianity, ignorant Christians have harassed Jews.  They have called Jews “Christ-killers” and persecuted some until death.  Such a vindictive spirit contradicts the New Testament as St. Paul explains in today’s first reading. 

The passage states that the call of God to the Jews to be His people is irrevocable.  In other words, despite what happened to Christ, God still claims the Jews as His own.  Paul sees God bringing Jews to righteousness in an unexpected way.  First, He uses the disobedience of Jewish authorities to justify Christians.  Those leaders plotted for Jesus’ crucifixion.  His death and resurrection then unleashed the Holy Spirit sending apostles to the corners of the world.  They converted the pagans to righteousness.  Finally, in Paul’s vision, Jews observing this wonder will seek conversion. 

Many Jews have converted to Christianity, especially in late antiquity.  Still, however, millions of Jews remain.  Are they somehow lost?  Judging by Paul’s criteria, one may think so.  But, as Paul also states, God’s ways are unsearchable.  We find among the Jews many who are both good and loving.  Who is to say that they are not saved?

Friday, November 1, 2019

Solemnity of All Saints

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

A distinguished attorney is asked, “Who is the most important person in the courtroom (to assure justice).”  Perhaps it is the judge who sees that due process is followed.  Or maybe it is the collective members of the jury who decide guilt or innocence.  Or possibly it is the defense lawyer who must investigate his client’s case and persuade the jury.  But the man after decades as prosecutor, judge, and defense attorney responds surprisingly.  He believes the most important person in a courtroom is a reliable witness.   Such a person’s truthfulness and conviction bring about justice.

We can define saints as reliable witnesses to Jesus.  Their faith, holiness, and integrity witness to the primacy of the gospel and the efficacy of his grace.  Their words and actions provide testimony that Jesus has risen to support his followers.

The Church has officially declared only seven thousand or so saints.  But this number hardly indicates all the people throughout Christianity who have lived the beatitudes.  Today we celebrate the millions of un-proclaimed saints.  Their number includes slaves and slave-owners, people of every continent and even of different religions.  All of us have known people whose words and actions gave reliable witness to Jesus.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:31b-39; Luke 13:31-35)

People today think of a fox as a wily creature.  A foxy man does not reveal his intentions.  He takes advantage of another, then slips way.  In ancient Jewish culture, however, a fox was more destructive than clever.  Foxes were not to be trifled with.  For this reason in today’s gospel the Pharisees warn Jesus to get out of Dodge.  He goes but not because he is afraid.  Indeed, he continues his march to Jerusalem where he knows he will be killed.

Jerusalem is where God meets humans.  God speaks there through the prophets.  Also, Jerusalem is the home of the temple.  In it animal sacrifices are offered to God for the forgiveness of sins.  As multiple the sacrifices were and even as devout as those offering the sacrifice may have been, they could not achieve their purpose.  The New Testament testifies that only Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross achieved the forgiveness of sins.  

Different words in today’s gospel conjure up Halloween.  There are foxes and chickens that make interesting costumes.  Jesus speaks of demons and the entire reading holds the specter of death.  More to the point, however, is that Halloween means “All Hallows Eve,” the eve of All Saints.  The saints were made holy by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:26-30; Luke 13:22-30)

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr has become a spiritual master in the Catholic Church.  Respected as a young priest, he speaks with authority as an old one.  Fr. Rohr finds the two halves of life calling forth different responses.  In the first half people must learn how to stop their egos from running wild.  Then need laws so that they may tolerate one another.  By the second half of life most have learned some self-control.  Yet if they are to develop fully, they need to be transformed into gentle, caring subjects.  Their base instincts and, often enough, culture as well work against this goal.  To transcend these obstacles Rohr sees the Holy Spirit at work.  In today’s first reading St. Paul writes to the Romans of the Spirit’s work.

Paul says that the Spirit intercedes on behalf of believers.  It asks for what the heart does not even know it needs.  The heart wants solutions to the challenges confronting it.  But the Spirit knows that what is essential is not domination.  More critical is compliance to the will of God the Father.  Humans may pray for insight and strength, but the Spirit prays for wisdom and docility.

The human project, which each of us faces, is an enormous task.  Simply put, it is to become a saint.  We are hindered all along the way to holiness.  Fortunately, we have the Spirit praying within us for the grace to reach our goal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:18-25; Luke 13:18-21)

The 62-year old worker talked of retirement.  He was suffering from two arthritic knees that needed replacement.  He also had a pinched nerve in his shoulder.  It was obviously painful for the man to do a full day’s work.  Many people have difficulty growing old.  Even trusting Christians like St. Paul begin to wonder when they see their bodies failing.

Paul writes of all creation “groaning in labor pains.”  It waits patiently for the redemption promised by the resurrection of Jesus.  Humans, made in the image of God, have the most to hope for.  They will assume spiritual bodies like their Redeemer’s that will not age or experience pain.

Two thousand years is a long time to have waited for redemption.  But who is to say that it will not take another two thousand or perhaps two million years?  In the meantime we, given the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, keep the faith.  We love our neighbor and care for the poor.  Most of all, we thank God for our blessings and pray for our needs.  It is a good life that will be glorified when Christ returns

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

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

Today’s feast celebrates, using St. Paul’s phrase, “the last of the apostles.”  At least, they are mentioned last on the lists of apostles in the gospels except for Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer.  Simon and Jude are taken together today, perhaps because so little is known about either historically.

Scholars debate the meaning of “zealot” by which Luke’s gospel identifies Simon.  In Matthew and Mark, Simon is called the Cananean, but that is just a transcription of the Hebrew word for “zealot.”  “Zealot” may describe someone “jealous of the law.”  It could be said that “zealous” means “fanatical” today.  Or it could mean “revolutionary,” which is to say a fanatic who is willing to perpetuate violence for his/her cause. 

Interestingly, Matthew and Mark give “Thaddeus” as an alternative for “Jude” in Luke.  The tradition has kept both names calling the eleventh apostle (in Luke) “Jude Thaddeus.”  His name was really “Judas,” but English and French translations usually disassociate him from the betrayer. Jude is a forgotten saint.  As he has been recognized as the patron of hopeless causes, many turn to him for intercession.

The gospel is built upon reversals.  Mary proclaimed how the lowly will be raised and Jesus was raised from the dead after being crucified.  He also said that the first will be last and the last, first.  Therefore, we need not hesitate to seek the assistance of these two apostles.  They stayed close to Christ on earth and cannot be far from him in eternal life.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans Luke 7:18-25a: 12:54-59)

In Gethsemane Jesus’ disciples sleep while he is praying.  He asked them to pray with him, but their bodies gave way to the natural tendency to doze off at night.  Jesus makes an excuse for the disciples.  He says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is week.”  St. Paul says something very similar in today’s first reading.

Paul is trying to explain why it seems that he never does the good that is in his heart.  Rather he does the evil that his flesh seems to desire.  Paul is speaking generally and does not specify any specific sins.  People today may relate to what Paul is saying in dealing with pornography or gossip.  They do not want to look at pornography but somehow their fingers cannot resist pressing its button.  They may have resolved not to criticize others, but somehow there mouth cannot be quiet when certain names are mentioned.

Today’s passage only presents us the name of our deliverer from sinful deeds of the flesh.  Jesus Christ will lead us from submission to fleshy desires.  He will ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to strengthen our resolve.  He will also provide eternal life as a motive for us to try harder.  We find Jesus in the sacraments.  We should not tire of asking his assistance there.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:19-23; Luke 12:49-53)

The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under a river of volcanic lava in 79 A.D.  Then in the late 1800s, it was uncovered to give a three-dimensional snapshot of life in the Roman Empire.  The view is not always edifying.  One house has a statuette of a boy lifting his phallus with the opening of the gate to salute a visitor.  Perhaps even more than people today, Romans were obsessed with sex.  For this reason St. Paul, writing not long before Pompeii disappeared, comments to the Romans on sexual license.

In general Paul’s letters indicate that many people became Christians as a way out of sexual enslavement.  Christianity provides a support group to help people cope with an oversexed environment. It also promises the grace of the Holy Spirit to pursue a virtuous life.  Paul emphasizes in today’s reading another reason to forego extramarital sex.  He writes that the effect of sexual sin is death in contrast to eternal life Christianity offers.

Sex, like all creation, is a natural good for which we should thank God.  However, it has been corrupted through sin so that it now appears as much a threat as a benefit.  For this reason we need to be careful about our dealings with it.  We should not think of sexual intimacy as inherently impure or sinful. Yet we cannot declare it good outside marriage.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:12-18; Luke 12:39-47)

Although the comparison with American slavery is troublesome, St. Paul often describes himself and his converts as “slaves of God.”  He believes that people should not hesitate to trust themselves to a benevolent master like the Lord.  Paul sees the situation as imminently better than that of people who are under the aegis of a lax master.  In today’s reading from his letter to the Romans he describes both situations.

According to Paul, Christ has liberated those who accept him as Lord from sin.  Now they have a choice.  They can either give themselves over to their liberator as, in a sense, slaves to him.  Or they can hang free.  If they take the latter course, they will soon find themselves slaves again to some material obsession.  Pleasure, power, and prestige are three common masters who may be lax but under whom subjects are ruined.  Meanwhile, following the commands of the Lord leads to happiness and eternal life. 

We may recoil at the words “slaves of God” because of the often bitter experience of American slaves.  Yet we could not put ourselves in better hands.  God will not always dictate to us what we must do.  Rather, like wise parents when children mature, He will give us increasing autonomy.  We cannot do better with any other master.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

(Optional) Memorial of Saint John Paul II, pope

(Romans 5:12.15b.17-19.20b-21; Luke 12:35-38)

Christmas 2004.  Pope John Paul II is seen on Italian television looking over the people.  He appears older than his eighty-four years and very sickly.  He almost died a few months earlier.  But he will not let go of the papacy.  It is not that he is proud or stubborn.  Rather he wants to impart a last lesson to the world which has come to trust him.  Despite their unseemliness his pitiful visage and garbled speech reveal a love willing to make sacrifices on behalf of the beloved.  His patience and tenacity proclaim his will that everyone care for the weak and needy.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples to keep watch for him.  He means that they are not to give up loving one another and caring for the poor until he returns.  John Paul II did that until he was no longer able to breathe.  Who of us would say that Jesus does not keep his promise to wait on people like him in heaven?

The world is much richer for having witnessed the life of John Paul II.  He was a man who took delight and excelled in many things.  But his legacy will be one of proclaiming the truth of Christ’s love for the world when it was easy and when it was hard.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 4:20-25; Luke 12:13-21)

Original sin is said to have turned human nature in on itself.  This development has caused people to sin.  In today’s gospel parable Jesus relates how God looks on this dismal situation.

The farmer cannot be considered an evil person.  He does not extort much less assault anyone to gain his wealth.  However, he is not a good person either.  His fault is that he does not consider anyone but himself.  He seemingly produces his harvest by himself, builds his barns for himself, and even talks only to himself.  In no way does he mention his family or his workers or the orphanage in town where the food supply often runs short.  God is surely right in calling him a “fool” for allowing himself to become so extremely self-centered.

Most Americans today receive more money than they need to live.  We use the excess often enough in ways that can be termed frivolous.  We should take care that we are not being foolish by sharing the excess with those in need.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

(II Timothy 4:10-17b; Luke 10:1-9)

Of all the evangelists only Luke shows Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples to preach the good news.  His purpose may well be to anticipate the great exodus of disciples in the Acts of the Apostles.  They will be chased out of Jerusalem and will reach the ends of the earth.  The Book of Genesis reports that there are seventy-two nations in the world.  Luke has a disciple for each.

The message that Jesus dictates for his preachers has a curious twist.  After telling them to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, he adds “for you.”  He means for the people themselves.  Throughout the gospel and into Acts Luke shows Jesus’ concern for the poor.  Here he quotes Jesus as wanting to remind the people that the good news is for them, the poor of the world.

We cannot help but cherish Luke’s gospel.  Not only does it give us the most complete picture of the Virgin Mary, it also tells the most beloved parables.  But more important than seizing these aspects, we have to allow it to move us to comfort the poor.  It is the best way to honor St. Luke.  Indeed, it is the best way to honor the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

St. Ignatius of Antioch plays a pivotal role in Church history.  He was born in apostolic times and may have been a disciple of John.  There is also a legend that he was consecrated a bishop by Saints Peter and Paul.  As bishop, he was captured during the reign of the emperor Trajan and sent to Rome for execution.  On the journey he dictated seven letters which feature a developed theology of Church.  He also expresses an ardent desire to give his life as a martyr.  Upon arrival in Rome he was not disappointed.  He was sent directly to the hungry lions in the amphitheater.

Today’s gospel anticipates martyrdom of men like Antioch.  Jesus is castigating the Pharisees and scholars of the law for hypocrisy.  He links the persecution of the prophets of the Old Testament with the martyrdom of apostles in the New.  As a bishop, Ignatius was a successor to the apostles and certainly shared their fate.

The testimony which martyrs have given should support our faith.  They do not deny Christ as Lord even to save their lives.  We can arrest our doubts which arise in this secular age.  It is true that Jesus arose from the dead.  Attaching ourselves to him by faith, as Paul urges in today’s reading, we share in his eternal life.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 2:1-11; Luke 11:42-46)

The English word hypocrite is derived from a Greek word of similar pronunciation.  The ancient form designated people who interpreted their situations to determine how they were going to act.  Thus hypocrites were those who changed their attitudes and actions according to their own interests.   Hypocrisy, the state of the hypocrite, thus befits an actor but not everyday people.  Both St. Paul and Jesus in today’s readings take aim at hypocrites.

Paul has Jews in mind when he writes, “You, o man, are without excuse.” He has finished his critique of pagan morality and now turns his eye to Jewish behavior.  He finds his own nation pretending to live righteous lives when they act similarly to pagans.  Jesus sees the Pharisees as equally pretentious.  They feign holiness with concern over the fine points of religious observance.  They miss the purpose of religion which is to give God glory by imitating His goodness. 

Followers of Christ avoid hypocrisy.  Paul tells us later in the letter to the Romans that we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this aim.  Luke shows us in his two volume masterpiece of Luke-Acts that the grace comes through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  Still we have to want it, pray for it, and to work with it when it duly arrives.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Romans 1:16-25; Luke 11:37-41)

May we call comfort and convenience contemporary gods?  People certainly pay them much tribute.  Drive-through services, for example, abound:  bank deposits, fast food purchases, even prescription pick-ups are done seemingly as often as not without getting out of the car.  One downside of this form of convenience is that partakers deprive themselves of personal encounters and a little exercise.  Another is that fossil fuel producing greenhouse gases is being burnt.  But there may be something deeper at stake.  People need to ask themselves if the regular use of drive-ins is God’s will.  They would find St. Paul's critique of worshiping created things in today's first reading helpful in their self-interrogation.

For Paul the universe gives ample testimony to a Creator and to the Creator’s will.  For millennia the latter was called natural law and well accepted in civilized societies.  Paul also believes that God punishes those who do not abide by that law.  Venereal disease would be an example as a punishment for fornicators and adulterers.  Paul’s purpose is not to give a philosophical treatise but to introduce God’s plan of universal salvation through Jesus Christ.  Humans - he will show in the course of the letter - would not be able to abide by natural law without the grace of Jesus.

St. Theresa of Jesus believed that often religious in her day were ignoring God the Creator in favor of creaturely comforts.  She reformed the Carmelite Order so that a purer worship might be given to God.  We too might improve our worship of God by reforming our lifestyles.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 1:1-7; Luke 11:29-32)

Today’s first reading mentions two callings, two vocations.  The first belongs to Paul who is called to be an apostle.  The term means “one sent.  Jesus himself called Paul and sent him to preach the good news of God’s love to all the Gentiles.  It is a herculean task.  But Paul does not proceed without assistance.  He has been given the grace of apostleship, the Holy Spirit’s gifts.  These include truthful knowledge, caring discernment, and convincing words.  

The addressees of the Letter to the Romans receive the second calling.  They are summoned to be holy people, set apart to demonstrate the same love of God.  They also are graced by the Holy Spirit.  They can let go of egotistic desires to care for one another.  Beyond that the Spirit will bestow on them peace. They will show the world that in loving God and neighbor their greatest desires are satisfied.

We too have been called and sent.  Although we may not like to think of ourselves as pursuing holiness, that is our vocation.  Holiness is not pious posturing, but taking on Jesus’ ways.  We are to develop his selfless care for others and his prayerful dependence on God.  We are also sent into the world to tell others about God’s love.  Chiefly by our actions but also by our words we transmit the message that we are cherished beyond our own merit.  God cherishes us so much that He has destined us for eternal happiness.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Joel 1:13-15.2:1-2; Luke 11:15-26)

The “Crucifixion” by the Spanish painter Velazquez merits meditation. It shows an almost nude Christ with arms outstretched.  He does not appear to be hanging so much as presiding over the sacrifice of his own self. His long hair drapes half his face as if the painter wants to show that Christ’s humanity hides his divinity.  But his divinity shines through in the brilliance of Christ’s skin which contrasts with the totally dark background.  The painting expresses what the prophet Joel in the first reading warns Judah to prepare for.  This is “the day of the Lord.”

Velazquez may have taken his theme from any of the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the sky darken as Jesus dies on Calvary.  This accords with the darkness and gloom that Joel foresees.  The first three evangelists indicate – as John does in a distinct way – that the cross presents the moment of judgment for the world.  Those who recognize Jesus as the Son of God by the sheer graciousness of his death are saved.  Those who cannot distinguish Jesus’ goodness from the darkness of the world are doomed. 

Of course, recognition here implies willingness to conform to his ways. Jesus is, after all, our teacher, our elder brother, and our hope.  Not following him would be like not following the instructions of the pilot of a rescue ship when we are drowning in the sea.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Malachi 3:13-20b; Luke 11:5-13)

The Book of the Prophet Malachi has traditionally sat at the end of the Old Testament.  It was probably composed during the difficult times after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile.  The author is actually anonymous. “Malachi” just means “my messenger.”  Biblical experts suppose that the prophet preferred to go nameless because of his harsh critique of Jerusalem’s priests and rulers. 

Today’s passage from Malachi exposes the thinking of the faithless and God’s promise to the faithful.  The faithless despair of the Law.  Not prospering after trying to keep it, they want to abandon it.  Like the proud everywhere, they find little if any need for God.  However, God promises that those who strive for justice will find salvation.  It will feel like the comforting warmth of sunrays on a winter day.  Meanwhile, God threatens the unjust with fire caused by the fierce sun of summer.

The prophecy has been fulfilled at least partially in Jesus.  He has brought comfort to the suffering in many ways.  He healed the sick.  Today Christians, the members of his body, perform countless healings and acts of charity in his name.  We may not heal physical maladies, but we can provide spiritual comfort.  By listening attentively, speaking humbly, and acting graciously we contribute to the spiritual well-being of the world.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 4:1-11; Luke 11:1-4)

If we haven’t heard the words ourselves, we certainly have heard them spoken to others.  A father or, at least, a person with power threatens a subordinate who did something wrong.  He says, “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.”  In today’s first reading God teaches Jonah a lesson that he is not likely to forget either.

Jonah has successfully converted the immense city of Nineveh to the Lord.  But he is not proud, happy, or, much less, grateful for the accomplishment.  He sulks because of his prejudice against Ninevites.  God then teaches Jonah a lesson about bias.  He gives the prophet a plant which brings him comfort.  Then suddenly God takes the soothing plant away.  Jonah is upset over the loss.  God explains that as the plant was to Jonah, the people of Nineveh were to God.    Because losing the people’s trust upset Him, the Lord sent Jonah to bring them back.  The prophet should not hate Ninevites but love them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

There are two faults with trying to teach another “a lesson that they will never forget.”  First, the one teaching is putting herself or himself in the place of God.  There are situations in which this is legitimate.  However, the person who assumes that authority should take care that he or she has a right to it.  Second and more importantly, God always acts out of love.  He wants people to repent of their sins so that they may rejoice with Him.  He does not act out of spite as does one intent on teaching another a lesson that will never be forgotten.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 10:38-42)

Acute observers compare how yesterday’s gospel passage ended with today’s lesson.  After relating the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told the scholar of the law, “’Go and do likewise.’”  The one who meditates on the Scriptures must also help his neighbor.  Today Jesus has the opposite message for one who spends her day helping others.

Martha is like my aunts when they prepared their house for guests.  She completes every detail.  In the process she exhausts herself and then wonders why her sister does not lend her a hand.  Of course, Mary is listening to the Lord.  But Martha does not think that it is worthy excuse and takes her complaint to Jesus.  He advises her that she must learn when to stop working and listen.

The spiritual life like most everything else is a matter of balance.  At times we must pray and listen to the word of God reverberate within us.  At other times we must act on that word with love.  Doing either of these exercises exclusive of the other will lead to imbalance and frustration. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Jonah 1:1-2:2.11; Luke 10:25-37)

 Unlike religious zealots the Bible tends to be inclusive.  Last week the Old Testament readings at mass chastised Israel for cavorting with foreigners.   Today the reading features God’s effort to save Assyria, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies.   God sends Jonah, the reluctant prophet, to convert the nation which He also loves.

But Jonah has evidently developed a bias against Assyria.  He disobediently boards a ship heading away from the nation to which God has sent him.  Likely depressed by his sin, Jonah sleeps through a violent storm that arises.  Interestingly, the pagan sailors ask Jonah to pray to his God for deliverance.  These same barbarians question the morality of Jonah’s recommendation that they throw him overboard.

There are good people everywhere.  It can even be said that the majority of people everywhere are good.  We should not make blanket statements condemning the people of Afghanistan, Somalia or North Korea.  Then again evil is always lurking over us so that even the best of peoples commit egregious offenses.  Ours is to repent of sin both personal and social.  At the same time we pray that the faults of other individuals and nations be corrected.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, religious

(Baruch 1:15-22; Luke 10:13-16)

One of the reasons that St. Francis of Assisi has been so popular through the centuries is that he is seen as a romantic.  It is said that Francis separated himself from his money-driven father by taking off his fine clothes in the public square.  Even more charming is the story of his taming a vicious wolf by appealing to the wolf’s reason.  He promised the wolf that if it would stop ravaging the town, the townspeople provide it every day.  The difficulty with stories like this second one is that they are not always accurate.

A recent biography by a hard-nosed historian dismisses a large amount of the legend surrounding Francis.  What he finds is a man like the rest of us groping to God in a troubled world.  But Francis, of course, reached his object without the pains of purgatory.  Perhaps it was a special devotion to Christ that gave him the critical edge.  Francis loved the Lord because Jesus truly impoverished himself many times over.  He became human and then died on the cross.  Then he has fed his disciples with his own body in the Eucharist.

We do well to imitate Francis of Assisi.  We need not go barefoot or eschew swatting flies.  But we should carefully contemplate the mystery that confronts us at Mass.  It is Jesus under the guise of bread and wine who calls us to humble ourselves so that we might strengthen others.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Nehemiah 8:1-4a.5-6.7b-12; Luke 10:1-12)

A number of years ago a play featuring the gospel won acclaim in New York.  It wasn’t “Jesus Christ, Superstar” or “Godspell” but one person rendition of the Gospel according to Mark.  The performer, no doubt, was able to convey the depth of human love which Mark relates.  Evidently, the scribe Ezra is able to give a similarly effective performance in today’s first reading.

The occasion is an assembly of the people of Jerusalem at the Temple site.  Ezra reads the Law, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, to an astonished crowd.  The people are spell-bound by the story of God’s love for them.  They start to cry when they think how they and their ancestors have betrayed this love.  However, Nehemiah, the governor, intervenes.  He tells them not to be sad.  After all, God still loves them and forgives their sins.

There are many passages in the New Testament that invoke tears.  John 3:16 and Romans 8:38-39 come to mind even before the Gospel of Mark.  There are days when we should weep for betraying Christ’s love.  But today in gorgeous October we might just give thanks to God for Jesus.  He has witnessed the Father’s goodness in a way that transcends our imaginations.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019,

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

(Nehemiah 2:1-8; Matthew 18:1-5.10)

We hear today’s gospel as an assurance that God cares for little children.  It is that. Some will add that God gives the same care to every person.  Yes, God loves everyone.  But we miss half the message if we limit our consideration to Guardian Angels protecting people.  The reading confirms the basic gospel proclamation of raising up the lowly and putting down the mighty.

At this point in Matthew’s Jesus is launching his sermon on Church order.  He will challenge his disciples to not allow anything to cause them to sin, even a roving eye or an itchy hand.  He will also admonish them to always be ready to forgive the sins of others. Because of their humility curtailing pride, God will raise them up.

Egocentrism caused Adam to sin and has kept a hold on his descendants.  Yet Christ has shown us that it is possible to live without over-concern for the self.  More than that, he has won for us the grace to break its grasp.  Staying close to him by contemplating his word and partaking of his body, we can be humble.  Then we will have no need to worry.  God will raise us up as sure as the sun rises in the morning.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, virgin and Doctor of the Church

(Zechariah 8:21-23; Luke 9:51-56)

Mother St. Teresa of Kolkata famously said, “…we can do small things with great love.”  She may have had St. Therese of the Child Jesus in mind.  Therese spent most of her short life in a Carmelite convent.  She wanted to go the missions but knew God intended her to pray for missionaries.  She also bore with great patience the travail of tuberculosis and the often irritating life in a cloister.   Therese resembled Jesus heading toward Jerusalem in today’s gospel.

The passage represents a turning point in the gospel.  Jesus has achieved notoriety as a preacher and healer.  He realizes, however, that his mission involves a sacrifice of self in Jerusalem.  He does not flinch and wastes no time fussing with uncooperative people.  He moves deliberately but graciously to offer himself for the salvation of the world.

St. Therese wrote an autobiography that has attracted a great following.  Although she lived a very different external life, she faced the same inner challenges as most people.  In love with the personification of love, Jesus Christ, she serves as a model for all.

Monday, Sptember 30, 2019

Memorial of St. Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

 (Zechariah 8:1-4; Luke 9:46-50)

Today Jews around the world celebrate one of their high holydays.  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, prepares the people for the Day of Judgment.  Already for thirty days the shofar horn has been blown to wake sinners from slumber.  Now three books are opened: the book lf life for the righteous, the book of death for evil people who will die, and the book for those with doubts but non-mortal sins.  Today’s first reading reveals another important element of Jewish belief which Christians also maintain.

In the reading from the prophet Zechariah God claims to be jealous of His people.  He does not want to see them abandon Him for idols.  To keep them for Himself God promises to bring the people back from exile.  God also pledges to rejuvenate the ruined city of Jerusalem for them.  He will set in the streets old people returning from exile with children playing around them.  More than jealousy, the passage conveys God’s tender love.

God loves the Jewish people foremost because His Son was to be born among them.  He had prepared them to provide Jesus a homeland by giving the Law and the prophets to interpret it.  Jesus refined that Law and handed it to us, who have become a second “People of God.”  God loves us as much and promises to settle us in the “New Jerusalem” of eternal life.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

(Haggai 1:1-8; Luke 9:18-22)

St. Vincent de Paul founded the Daughters of Charity to take care of the poor.  Once some of the dedicated women worried that their mission was taking them away from prayer.  Vincent told them that their concern was not justified.  He said that they were leaving Christ to go to Christ.  Today’s gospel teaches us to also see Jesus in this way.

Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the “the Christ of God.”  But Jesus tells him and the other disciples not to refer to him as such.  He does not want the people to think of him as a king with an army.  Rather he has been anointed (what the word Christ means) to serve the people.  He is a teacher and a healer whom the people voluntarily follow.

Christ does not walk among us today, but this does not mean that he is not present.  One sign of his presence is the poor.  Their simple faith accepting of suffering reminds us of Jesus in the gospel.  By assisting them we will know his love and realize his promise. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Haggai 1:1-8; Luke 9:7-9)

Many Christians today ask themselves Herod’s question of today’s gospel.  “’Who then is this about whom I hear such things?’” the king asks.  We today want to know if Jesus is God incarnate as the Church has claimed for two thousand years.  Or is he just a man – a very good and wise man, to be sure – worth our attention but not our allegiance until death?

The passage says that Herod keeps trying to see Jesus.  They finally meet at the end of the gospel.  Pilate sends Jesus to him to ascertain his guilt. As much as Herod would like to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31), he cannot find him culpable of a crime.  In Luke’s gospel any half-objective person who sees Jesus has to admit that he is more than innocent.  He is holy.  Pilate knows this too but cedes to the will of the Jews demanding his crucifixion.  Herod seems to prefer Pilate’s friendship to the truth as he does not object to the prefect’s judgment.

We too then have to decide about Jesus.  Shall we commit ourselves to him forever?  Or will we, like Herod, prefer more advantageous friends and convenient “truths”? To be sure, we take on faith that Jesus has risen, ascended, and has sent his Holy Spirit.  Evidence for these truths is very remote and to an extent circumstantial.  We believe because he has enlightened our minds to see the truth of his doctrine.  Even more, he has moved our hearts to give of ourselves in love as he did.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezra 9:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)

Fr. Meinrad served in Fort Worth for many years as an assistant pastor.  A Benedictine monk, he wore his black habit on the street.  In fact, because of the habit many people noticed him walking from one hospital to another to visit the sick.  Fr. Meinrad was not noted for his preaching skills.  Yet his simplicity, devotedness to service and gentle demeanor spoke more eloquently than model homilies.  Jesus is calling forth such virtues as he sends his apostles out to preach in today’s gospel.

In his instructions Jesus emphasizes the importance of poverty or, what might better be called today, simplicity.  His preachers are not to take anything with them on the journey.  Money, food, even a change of clothes become excessive burdens.  His reason for streamlining is to impress upon the people the message of the kingdom.  God provides for those who trust in him.  The people will supply preachers’ needs.  In this way they will not only receive the good news but will also have an opportunity to share it.

Although bishops are the successors of the apostles, priests do their work.  They will more authentically and effectively fulfill the mission of preaching when they embrace evangelical poverty.  At this time of concern for the environment priests could help transform the world by becoming models of simplicity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezra 6:7-8.12b.14-20; Luke 8:19-21)

Contemporary Catholics flock to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The immense structure creates awe not just for its grandeur but for the faith it signifies.  However, St. Peter’s is of lesser importance to Catholics than the Jerusalem Temple was to Old Testament Jews.  The latter was univocally the “house of God.” Only in that Temple could Jews offer sacrifice to make up for their sins.  For this reason the charge that Jesus would destroy the Temple was taken utmost seriousness.  Today’s first reading speaks of the dedication of the second Temple in the sixth century before Christ.

The scribe Ezra records how the Temple was actually commissioned by Persian kings.  He says it was built by donations from the people as well as with public funds.  He also mentions the feast prepared for the Temple’s dedication.  Four hundred lambs are slaughtered for the occasion. But this sacrifice pales in comparison to the preparations for the dedication of Solomon’s Temples.  David’s son had 120,000 sheep slain for his Temple’s dedication.  One factor is that people are poorer in Ezra’s time.  Perhaps they have been humbled by the tragic immorality that led to the first Temple’s destruction.

Churches, temples, and mosques are the most fitting places to worship God.  We should frequent them more often than to meet the weekly obligation.  They do not have to be large or filled with expensive ornamentation although these features have some value.  What is important is that we pray in these places fervently.  We need God’s grace to follow Jesus’s way to God’s heavenly home.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest

(Ezra 1:1-6; Luke 8:16-18)

In some circles Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., has the status of a movie star.  He is famous for his work  with the Eternal Word Television Network.  Every year Fr. Pacwa goes to a Maronite church outside Dallas for Holy Week.  There he celebrates mass and hears confessions.  He is so well considered that penitents wait all night to confess their sins to him.  As remarkable as it sounds, St. Pius of Pietrelcina – Padre Pio - had an even longer line of penitents.  Busloads of people would come to the Italian town where he lived to have him hear their sins.  It is said that he spent ten hours each day in the confessional.

Both Padre Pio and Fr. Pacwa are sure administrators of Jesus’ judgment.  In today’s gospel the Lord speaks of a lamp that is placed on a stand so that it can give light.  Of course, Jesus himself is the lamp, the “light to nations.”  He enables people to correctly evaluate the grey areas that pervade most lives.  Jesus tells his disciples, “Take care.”  He means that they should be attentive to all that he says so that they will live righteously.

Should we take care in choosing a confessor?  Some state correctly but perhaps unhelpfully that any priest will do.  True, our sins can be absolved by any priest.  But still some are more helpful than others in pointing out how the gospel affects our lives.  We are wise to look for these when we confess our sins.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, priest and martyr, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, martyr and companions, martyrs

(I Timothy 2c-12; Luke 8:1-3)

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first native Korean to be ordained a priest.  After formation he returned to his native country where Christianity was forbidden.  He ministered to his people a while but eventually was taken into custody.  He was tortured and beheaded at the age of twenty-five.  His dying testimony reflects the spirit of Mary Magdalene in today’s gospel.  Andrew said as he was being put to death: “My immortal life is on the point of beginning.”

No doubt, Mary Magdalene felt her life beginning anew when she met Jesus.  She had been possessed by “seven demons.”  Whether or not she had the traumatic experiences of those claiming to be possessed today, she underwent severe harassment.  Jesus relieved the condition and gave her new purpose.  Of course, she wanted to stay close to him.  That is what eternal life is about.

We should want the same.  Jesus delivers us from the roads that lead nowhere: pleasure, power, and prestige.  He gives us not just the promise of “immortal life” but meaning and goodness every day.  Even if it means martyrdom like St. Andrew Kim’s, we stand in the best good company with Jesus.