Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Philippians 1:1-11; Luke 14:1-6)

 A man evidently with dropsy comes to church most every day.  His right leg seems to be the size of an elephant’s.  He is not Catholic but comes to find shelter from the noonday elements.  He also is looking for a handout from mass-goers.

In today’s gospel Jesus takes pity on such a man.  Despite the presumed objection of the Pharisee whose house he is visiting, Jesus cures the diseased man.  He explains his reason for doing work on the Sabbath. The man with dropsy is as dear to him as a son is to his father.  He could no more neglect him than a father could sit by on a Sabbath after his son had fallen into a well.

Jesus loves us.  This is the basic message of the gospel.  It is what we have to convey to non-believers whose lives lack a foundation of truth, love, goodness, and beauty.  Jesus loves us so that we might love others.  In this way God is forming a family of all humans.  The family will be His family forever. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

 Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Ephesians 6:10-20; Luke 13:31-35)

 An article in The Atlantic magazine a few years ago challenged the prospect of finding genetic explanations for human behavior.  Since the development of genetic theory, scientists have hoped to discover genes that govern all human traits.  They have looked for genes that trigger virtue as there are genes that determine hair color.  The article concluded that genes do not work so neatly.  It said that genes almost always “overlap and interleave” with others to produce different effects.  Of course, behaviorists have always questioned genetic determinism.  They believe that upbringing is a more powerful force shaping behavior than genetic composition. With all this complexity it might be asked if the Letter to the Ephesians’ assertion that evil spirits cause one’s difficulty to be good is far-fetched.

The letter stresses that the quest to live morally is not a simple struggle with natural elements.  Rather it proposes that evil angelic principalities derail moral progress.  It also encourages readers to use the armaments of the Church to defeat evil powers.  Some of these arms are meditation on Scripture, receiving the sacraments, prayer, and fasting.

 We should not underestimate the attraction of evil.  Pleasure, power, and false pride tempt the best of us to put our own wills ahead of God’s.  It is not childish, and much less foolish, to think of our instinctual drives as being manipulated by evil spirits.  But we should also be aware that the Holy Spirit is available to us.  The Spirit will more than enable us to repel evil inclinations.  It will help us live as true children of our loving Father.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

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

Saints Simon and Jude are among the last apostles named on lists in the new Testament.  But today’s feast may be observed by more people than perhaps any other apostle.  It is not so much an incident of the gospel inversion of the last becoming first.  Rather, the reason for the reversal is that St. Jude is thought of as the go-to in hopeless cases.

St. Jude Research Hospital tells how Danny Thomas as a young entertainer was foundering when he prayed to St. Jude.  Thomas told his patron that if he guided him in life, he would build a shrine to him.  Thomas kept his promise by organizing the funding for a hospital for children with cancer. 

We would be presumptuous to think of our prayer to a saint as having power over evil.  Indeed, we would be superstitious of thinking of a saint with magical power.  When we ask God, however, or ask a saint to intercede on our behalf before God, we should expect evil to be subverted.  God loves us and always is enabling us to become more like him.  When we cooperate with His grace with expressions of faith, our situation will surely improve. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

 Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

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

One man would do anything for his wife.  He said that he owed it to her for raising their children while he was away in the Air Force.  But the bond was greater than a tit for tat.  He loved her quite like today’s first reading asks.  Another man nursed his wife as she was failing with Alzheimer’s.  They had exercised together, but as her conditioned worsened, he just walked her in the wheelchair.  He said that he loved her then more then than on their wedding day.

These couples have experienced the sublime vision of the Letter to the Ephesians. We tend to read its section on marital relations with suspicious hearts.  “Can the writer really mean that a woman has to subordinate herself to her husband?” we ask.  “Of course, husbands should love their wives; their wives do enough for them,” we say cynically. The author of the letter might despair if he heard such comments.  For him marriage is not a give-and-take, but the sacrament expressing Christ’s love for his disciples.  It lifts people from a state of banality into a realm of majesty. 

To reach this level requires sacrifice on our parts.  Couples have to hourly think of and pray for their counterparts.  They have to accept Christ as both the God who empowers them and the human who shows them how to live.  As we become conscious of his love for us, we will want to do everything for him.

Monday, October 26, 2020

 Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

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

In Jesus “inaugural speech” in Nazareth, he said that God sent him “’to let the oppressed go free.’”  He does exactly this in today’s gospel.  The woman has been oppressed by an evil spirit for eighteen years when Jesus heals her. And she is not the only one Jesus is liberating here.

The leader of the synagogue criticizes Jesus for working a cure on the Sabbath.  When Jesus hears of the complaint, he takes the official to task.  He calls him a hypocrite for untying his farm animal on the Sabbath but disapproving of the woman being then unbound.  The people approve both Jesus’ work and his wisdom.  They are being liberated from the rigorism of the religious leader.

At times religious leaders act more as overlords than as God’s servants.  They can humiliate people by their remarks.  They can also withhold a desired religious service until the bidder bends to their demands.  Once I saw a priest rush to the back of the church at the end of mass to make sure that no one left until the recessional hymn was finished.  We should, of course, comply with the Church’s traditions as well as right morals.  But we shouldn’t have to bow to authoritarian clerics.