Sunday, July 14, 2024

 FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 14, 2024

(Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13)

Dear friends, today's Gospel presents a curious turn of events. It is expected that Jesus will send the apostles to preach the Kingdom of God, just as he has been doing. However, the passage does not mention the Kingdom. It says that the Twelve preached only repentance from sins. Furthermore, it specifies that they expelled demons and cured the sick. These three things – repentance, the expulsion of demons, and healing the sick – serve the same purpose. They prepare the people to accept the message of the Kingdom that Jesus will deliver later.

We often think of expelling demons and healing the sick as extraordinary occurrences. But that is not the intention here. Instead, expelling demons and healing the sick are to be understood as references to our spiritual life. Together, they are requirements for living in peace with God and with others. Demons are the errors in our thinking that distort our judgment. Healings can be physical or spiritual, but they always lead us to thank God. Let me try to describe some of these demons and explain what we seek as a cure.

In the early centuries of Christianity, monks spoke of the "noonday devil." This demon tried to convince the monk that he cannot win the struggle to live without sin, suggesting it would be better to give up trying. It was associated with noon because at that hour, the monk felt both hot and hungry.  He was inclined to despair of his vocation and to interfere with other people’s business. This noonday demon affects us when we become bored with our responsibilities, whether at work, with our family, or to God. It is expelled by recalling the benefits we have received and giving thanks to God. Also, a look at the crucifix reminds us that Christ suffered much more for us than we suffer for him.

Another demon that affects many could be called the "I don't matter" demon. This demon tries to convince us that neither we nor our actions matter much in the end. Therefore, according to the demon, we are free to do as we please. Influenced by this demon, young men, and even women now, look at pornography, telling themselves, "Pornography doesn't hurt anyone; therefore, it's not bad for me." Another example of this demon is a person who defends his or her speaking ill of another by saying everyone does it. However, these sins, like all sins, corrupt the souls of those who commit them. They make us more eager to dominate others and less inclined to care about their welfare. And who says these actions don't cause harm? There is even slavery in the sex trade, and many reputations are damaged by gossip.

The last kind of demon we will address is, in a sense, the opposite of the "I don't matter" demon. This demon tries to lift those who have it to new heights by telling them how wonderful they are. We can call this the "pretension demon." It urges us to think of ourselves as better than those around us. It inclines us to boast about our own accomplishments instead of recognizing the goodness in others. One of the best scientists working for NASA, the federal government agency for space exploration, was a black woman. When she left home to work in Houston, her father told her, "Remember, child, that you are no worse than anyone else, and no better either." This is the best way to defeat this demon: to recognize that everyone has their own talents so they can do things that we cannot.

In addition to having our demons expelled, we want our illnesses to be cured. These cures happen, although they are seldom miraculous. The cures are like those treated in a film called "The Miracle Club" that premiered two years ago. It showed a group of pilgrims from Ireland destined for Lourdes. They all had a desire to be cured of a physical condition, although their parish priest warned them of this illusion. He said, "You don't go to Lourdes for a miracle but for the strength to carry on when there is no miracle." When they returned to Ireland, they were all in that way cured. They all felt more than ever the love of their families. They were all more convinced than ever that God's love will heal the wounds they carried from their and others’ sins.

It is fantasy to think that God will heal all our illnesses. We all have to die one day despite our prayers to continue living. However, the Lord offers us the courage to suffer pain and death for the good of others. In this way, we are prepared to participate in the Kingdom when Jesus comes. May we not have to wait for that much longer.

 

 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23)

During the Diocletian persecution at the beginning of the fourth century many Christians were martyred. Being found at mass was reason enough to earn martyrdom. At the town of Abitinae in present Tunisia a group of forty-nine Christians were surprised while celebrating Sunday mass. They were questioned before being tortured and executed. One of their number responded to the interrogator: “Sine domininico no pussumus” (Without Sunday we cannot live.)

The answer shows how Jesus' prophecy in the gospel was fulfilled. The Spirit of God the Father spoke for the Christian giving a testimony that continues to inspire more than 1700 years later. What he said was not false or exaggerated. Without the Eucharist, that most receive only on Sunday, our life is in a sense lifeless. The Eucharist forgives our sins, unifies us in love, and strengthens us to reach eternal life.

Unfortunately, many Catholics today do not appreciate the Eucharist as a source of life. They do not believe that the Lord is really present under the forms of bread and wine. It is up to us to bear witness not only with righteous lives but with words indicating our belief.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot

(Hosea 11:1-4.8e-9; Matthew 10: 7-15)

St. Benedict serves as much as a symbol of Europe as a model and intercessor for Christians.  Benedict in a sense founded Europe by establishing monasteries in Italy which gave rise to others throughout the continent.  The monasteries gave unity to the different lands.  Keeping record of the classical period in antiquity through copying its books for their libraries and establishing schools, they also preserved for Europe its cultural legacy.  For good reason, then, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed one of the copatrons of Europe.

As Christian culture is being threatened by secularism and even paganism, there has been a call to rekindle the Benedictine movement.  Named the “Benedict option,” young men and women are retreating to the country to form communities of like-minded people where they may raise their families with Christian values.  The movement is not meant to be massive.  But it is hoped that it might nudge youth everywhere to reconsider the fundamental principles of their lives.

We may not be young enough to seriously consider taking the “Benedict option.” But we can incorporate Benedictine values into our lives.  As Benedictines value the divine office, we might consider making part of it our daily prayer.  As they value hospitality, we might more regularly invite people into our homes.  By adopting these practices, we will probably find our lives more satisfying and peaceful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 10:1-3.7-8.12; Matthew 10:1-7)

In today’s first reading the prophet Hosea rails against Israel for its injustice.  He says that the more the nation experiences prosperity, the more it turns from its Lord.  The prophet finds little hope for such a people.  He predicts the end of its kingdom and despair for its people.

Modern western nations will do well to see if they are not following Israel’s path to ruin.  Once firmly established on biblical morality, these nations are no longer uphold the nuclear family.  They allow human embryos to be discarded and desperate women to take the lives of the children forming in their wombs.  Many predict that these peoples will experience loss of culture if they do not come to their senses.

Such a warning will be dismissed by some as religion meddling in public affairs.  This is a red herring meant to distract people from the seriousness of the issue.  Obviously, there will be significant changes when a people no longer desire to have progeny.  Other people will come and fill their space.  The loss of western civilization will mean the impoverishment of culture with perhaps great social upheaval.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 8:4-7.11-13; Matthew 9:32-38)

Two very different dispositions are seen in today’s gospel.  On the one hand, there is Jesus’ concern for the people who come to him with various kinds of problems.  He casts out the demon to allow the dumb man to speak.  Then he proceeds to proclaim the Kingdom of God’s love by working more cures.

On the other hand are the Pharisees.  Jealous of their authority, they criticize Jesus for his care of others.  They make the absurd charge that he casts out demons by being in league with them.  In time they will collude with other Jewish authorities to have the Roman government execute him.

But they will never be able to stop Jesus.  He will rise from the dead to launch a worldwide movement of justice and love.  We have hitched ourselves to it.  Let us pray that we be laborers who work faithfully and well to bring Christ’s peace to all.