Friday, July 1, 2011

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Deuteronomy 7:6-11; I John 4:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30)

With all the attention given to long-distance learning we might think that human teachers are becoming obsolete. But, of course, this is not the case. As much as computers abet instruction, students often need physical contact with a person to learn. They have questions that computers cannot understand and difficulties that only human intuition can ascertain.

In the gospel today Matthew presents Jesus as the “teacher of the ages.” Jesus’ meekness will not reject anyone. He never says one thing then does another but instructs by example. The yoke that he lays on apprentices – the lessons they are to follow – is not onerous because he supplies the strength to bear it. It is simply that they love another as he loves all.

The heart of Jesus, pierced and aflame, symbolizes all the richness of this gospel nugget. Its ardor reaches all people without exception. Its vulnerability knows the trials of the weak who in some manner include everyone. It invites each of us to enter its chambers where we might be renewed for the journey heavenward.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 22:1b-19; Matthew 9:1-8)

As it is easier to say, “May God bless you,” than to give your money to a poor man, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” than to say, “Arise and walk.” But “May God bless you” would be a blasphemy if one says it from miserliness which brings us to the critical issue in this passage. Is Jesus blaspheming as the scribes accuse him, at least to themselves, when he speaks of forgiveness of the paralytic’s sin? Apparently he is not because Jesus proves that he is God-like by revealing the thoughts of the men.

Then why, we need ask, does God have to test Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son if He already knows his heart? It sounds like an impertinent question. After all, who are we to critique God’s actions? But the command to destroy one’s son seems so out of character with what we believe God to be like that we are compelled to question God’s motive or be left forever thinking that God is as capricious as a cocky kid with pocket full of firecrackers.

Tests serve more purpose than giving the tester a means for evaluation. Tests enable students to learn about themselves as well as their subject matter. In this test Abraham learns that God does demand full allegiance from His people and that God will not hurt them on a whim. He also learns of how much he cherishes Isaac by the pain it causes him inwardly to reach the brink of destruction. God further teaches us of His love for us. After all, God did not spare His Son from carrying out the mission of our redemption even though He knew that it would end in His Son’s sacrifice which is not that different from what Abraham was about to do to Isaac.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, apostles

(Acts 12:1-11; II Timothy 4:6-8.17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)

The “yin yang” principle in Eastern philosophy explains how apparently opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent so that each gives rise to the other in turn. The most common example of the principle would be a male and female coupling to form other males and females. In Tao iconography Yin is pictured as a black tadpole with a white eye and yang as a white tadpole with a white eye. Yin is thus characterized by coldness, darkness, softness, expansiveness, and passiveness such as found in the earth, the night and, of course, women. Yang, on the other hand, is characterized by speed, hardness, and light and is associated with fire, the sun, and men. Yin yang can be used to explain today’s feast.

Peter and Paul are arguably the most prominent Christian saints. Each one’s martyrdom certainly merits a separate feast day. But the Church has chosen to celebrate them together not because they died together (they didn’t) or even on the same day of the year although no reliable historical records give the days of their martyrdoms. The Church seems to celebrate both saints’ martyrdoms on the same day because they represent how very different backgrounds, mentalities, and temperaments – a yin yang – came together to bring a vibrant community. We could call Paul the yin force whose reflectivity and diffusion opened new worlds to Christianity. Meanwhile Peter’s focused attention and gift for preaching make him more a yang figure. Together they brought about a universal Church by going to other lands and by having the homeland accept the idea of foreign members.

Today is a holiday in Rome, but most likely we will only have time to offer a prayer of thanks for these greatest of apostles. They brought us to know Jesus and provided us sterling examples - warts and all - of following in his way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr

(Genesis 19:15-29; Matthew 8:23-27)

It may seem like the lesson of Sodom is one of disgust with homosexual behavior. Remembering the context of the story, we realize that the angels warn Lot to flee the city before God annihilates it out of outrage from the townsmen’s attempt to violate Lot’s guests. But as often happens in Genesis, the wisdom is more profound than what first meets the eye.

When the three strangers visited Abraham in the country, he welcomed them like kings. He gave them water to refresh their skin and a feast to recover inner forces. Now in the city of Sodom, Lot similarly treats two of the same travelers, but his neighbors threaten them. Indeed, the men of Sodom move to rape the travelers as apparently is their custom. Lot in a rather foolish effort to protect his guests offers the men his virgin daughters, but the Sodomites spurn the women.

The men of Sodom, like those of Babel earlier in Genesis, demonstrate the corruption of city-life. City dwellers collaborate to advance their knowledge, but in their progress they leave a righteous way of life. Their learning makes them consider themselves as independent of God’s authority. Not feeling accountable to anyone, they try to take advantage of the defenseless. Their quest for ever more adventure leads the men of Sodom to despise women in favor of other men. There is no antidote for such barbarity. God must destroy them completely. Although it is a hard lesson, city dwellers must develop a righteous fear of God to temper their advancement in knowledge.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 18:16-33; Matthew 8:18-22)

A novel begins with two soldiers saying “good-bye” to their girlfriends at the train station. Both are going to fight in World War II - one with the army in the Atlantic theatre; the other with the marines in the Pacific. Few would deny the right of their country to conscript such young men into service even if they are about to marry. In the gospel today Jesus claims such a right for himself.

What gives Jesus this authority? The passage hints that Jesus can make a claim upon his followers’ lives because he is the anointed Son of God. This will be expressed outright at the scene of the Transfiguration and again when Peter answers Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Now Jesus indicates his divinity when he makes the otherwise outrageous demand that the disciple not go home to bury his father. No one should doubt that the situation is urgent as Jesus suggests when he states, “…the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” That is, because he must spread his message as far and as fast as possible, he will not sleep in the same bed for very long.

Fortunately we can be present at our parents’ funerals. Yet as followers of Christ we will be called upon to make sacrifices for his sake. Beyond the regular requests to give of our time and treasure parents looking forward to grandchildren may have to bless their children entering the seminary or the convent. Also, any one of us may be called out of our zones of comfort to speak up for the goodness of God in creation and the wisdom of the Church in her teachings in the face of contemporary cynicism and doubt.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

(Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66.80)

As great a dramatist as William Shakespeare was, he could not have achieved such masterpieces as Prince Hamlet or King Lear without writers of comparable skill working at the same time. Shakespeare’s plots were deepened, his vocabulary was polished, and his characterization was developed by the likes of Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kidd producing dramas in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century England. To give a feel for his times, many teachers of Shakespeare require students to read a play by one of his lesser known but still quite talented contemporaries. Something similar may be said of John the Baptist in relation to Jesus.

As a preacher, John seems to have shaken ancient Israel. Although most of what is known about John comes from the four canonical gospels, he seems to have had an impact like few others. In fact, there is a religious sect today which claims John as its founder and leader in a way very similar to the way Christians view Jesus. Still the gospels see John as a foil to Jesus. That is, they relate his story as a way to highlight Jesus’ own. Luke tells us in today’s passage, for instance, that John is remarkably conceived by parents in old age. A bit later in his narrative he will show how Jesus is conceived even more miraculously by a virgin. In the fourth gospel, Jesus stands out more artfully. John’s disciples gravitate to Jesus, and John himself utters the humble yet lofty line, “He must increase; I must decrease.”

In a sense all Christians are foils of Jesus. Like him we can extend a hand to the downcast and provide bread for the hungry. But we recognize that we only imitate his goodness and that if there is anything about our actions that is truly unselfish, it is produced by his grace working in our hearts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 16:1-12.15-16; Matthew 7:21-19)

If Abram showed himself in yesterday’s reading to be a man of faith, he betrays that faith in the sequel today. Rather than trusting in God to bring about a great nation, Abram acts against God’s will as it is implied in nature. He accedes to Sarai’s treacherous plan to give him progeny by means of her maidservant. It is wrong because, as Jesus reminds the Sadducees in the gospels, from the beginning one man and one woman were created to form one partnership.

Some background to Abram’s adulterous consent helps to appreciate what the story intends. Abram and Sarai sojourned for a while in Egypt where Abram coaxed Sarai into doing something similar to what she has him do in the reading today. Out of fear for his life when Pharaoh takes a shine to the beautiful Sarai, Abram asks Sarai to join his harem. After Pharaoh experiences hardship, he gives Abram back his wife and chastises him for his deceit. In the reading today, of course, Sarai turns table on Abram by suggesting that he sleep with another woman.

We should derive at least two critical lessons from the stories. First, marriage has a sanctity that is not to be violated. Wife and husband form an inseparable union that demands sacrifice even, if necessary, of one’s life. Second, and no less insufferable to contemporary ears, we are not to do evil to bring about good. Abram is in grave error for complying with Sarai’s scheme which he should know is wrong. Although we are to move with God’s promptings, we must never think that God allows us to do what is wrong.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 15:1-12.17-18; Matthew 7:15-20)

In his Letter to the Romans St. Paul looks to the passage of Genesis that we read today for an example of righteousness. He comments, “…it was through the righteousness that comes from faith” that Abraham received the blessings that God promises. Martin Luther eventually strips faith of any element of service as he argues that a human being needs only a firm declaration of belief to be saved. Critics of the Reformation point out that Paul obviously has a more wholesome concept of faith as he writes to the Galatians that what counts is “faith working through love.”

We might appreciate Luther more if we step back and see the pitfalls of those who stress works of charity over the necessity of faith. Too soon they lose the perspective that salvation is a gift from God and see it more as an earned reward if not an entitlement of birth. Abraham keeps a healthy balance which we will see as his story unfolds in the coming days. He gives due honor to God, his sovereign Lord, but he fulfills whatever he deems God expects of him, at least at his best moments.

Our faith turns around Jesus, God’s son, who gives his life on the cross so that we might receive his Holy Spirit. This Spirit enables us to fulfill Jesus’ commands which slackers would avoid. It moves us from the television and the dining table to visit the sick and encourage the depressed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

(Genesis 13:2.5-18; Matthew 7:6.12-14)

If Abram, whose name means “exalted father,” is to generate a truly great nation, he must overcome the vices of greed and treachery. Diligence and magnanimity befit one whose descendants will number like particles of dust on the earth. The reading from Genesis first indicates that Abram has already become rich through hard work. Then it shows his golden disposition. When Abram realizes that his and his nephew Lot’s households have grown too complex to coexist, he tells Lot that the two clans must separate. He neither dictates which land will be his nor suggests that a flip of coin determine who gets what. Rather he proves himself more than fair by giving Lot his preference. Shrewdly but ultimately unwisely, Lot picks the more favorable plains to the east. There he will mix with city dwellers who incur God’s wrath. Meanwhile, God blesses Abram’s nobility of spirit with what has been known as the “Promised Land.”

Today the Church honors St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Like Abram he showed himself to be prudent in face of ambition. Seeing how his family was corrupted by power, Aloysius gave up his claim to nobility. Unlike the patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims, however, he was a young man when he showed willful self-restraint. But his virtue never went unnoticed. His courage and determination caused a sensation in Italy. He died young in the late sixteenth century caring for people infected with the plague. Since the first part of the eighteenth century he has been recognized as the patron of youth. For this reason his Jesuit order has named many universities and high schools after him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 12:1-9; Matthew 7:1-5)

It is recommended that catechists set up an altar in the place where they are to teach. The altar may be covered with a white cloth signifying Jesus’ burial garb left behind once he rose from the dead. On the cloth could be placed a crucifix, perhaps another image of Christ, the Virgin or one of the saints, and a lighted candle, which also symbolizes Christ. The purpose of the altar is to show the instructed that they are being taught first and foremost by Christ himself.

The first reading from Genesis mentions Abram twice constructing altars. No doubt the passage takes for granted the sacrifices that are offered signifying Abram’s desire to please the Lord. Yet the altars themselves are a symbol of God because Abram constructs at least the first one on the place where God appears. The altars remind Abram and Sarai that God accompanies them in their journey.

We may construct an altar in our homes. It would remind us of the Lord’s presence and serve as a focal point for our offering of prayer. Like the couple we are on a journey to a Promised Land where we will be part of a great people. Our homes are but resting places, like Abram’s “stages,” as we find our room in God’s house.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(II Corinthians 11:18.21-30; Matthew 6:19-23)

The first reading is reminiscent of a story told of a preacher who was promised a hefty reward by a man if he said something good about the man’s brother who had just died. The preacher felt pressed because the deceased was a particularly bad person as was his brother. So the preacher just said that the dead man had many faults but that he was better than his brother any day.

St. Paul is having difficulty keeping the Corinthians Christians on the true Christian path. Evidently, although it is not explicitly stated, the Corinthians have been misguided by errant apostles. Perhaps the apostles spoke of the necessity to abide by the precepts of the Jewish Law as did the evangelizers who taught among the Galatians after Paul. More probably, since Paul speaks of the sacrifices he has made to preach the gospel, they have demanded fee for services in a venal way. By his own admission Paul embarks on an imprudent course in refuting them. Rather than attack the error directly, he tries to show that he should be heeded not the others because he is a more authentic apostle.

Money like sex can be the downfall of good people. We pray to God that we can be like Jesus and Paul serving without looking for any unjust reward.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(II Corinthians 11:1-11; Matthew 6:7-15)

A proud Texan was telling someone he met at the airport what a great state he comes from. He said that it is such a fine place to live that at the end of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings when everyone says the Lord’s Prayer together, he changes the words to say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Texas.” Not everyone has such a high opinion of the Lone Star state, but there are customs and courtesies there, as everywhere, worth emulating.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ petition that the earth be more like heaven. How would it have to change to become so? Everyone could submit a list of suggestions. Here are mine. We would study the word of God more and justify our own opinions less. We would be ready to listen to others’ ideas, slow to endorse them, and reluctant to reject them completely. We would develop a helping hand, a caring heart, and a clean mind.
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(II Corinthians 9:6-11; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)

“Giving has never made anyone poor,” a fund-raising adage touts. The saying is not meant figuratively as if one only grows in God’s favor by being generous to the needy. Quite literally, it means that people who give to the poor find themselves the beneficiaries of material blessings. Of course, this is not an investment strategy, but it may be more than intuition. Like the proven realities that people who go to church earn more, have children who are more likely to do well in school, and live longer, it may be possible to show that on the average those who support charity find themselves soon recompensed.

St. Paul has spiritual benefits most in mind when he writes to the Corinthians, “…whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” However, his thought for today concludes by saying to the faithful, “You are being enriched in every way…

As much as God inspires awe in the view of a mountain peak or an ocean sunrise, He works wonders in everyday experience. We need not be surprised when it happens and can almost expect it. Still it seems precarious to predict how God will astound us next.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary time

(II Corinthians 8:1-9; Matthew 5:38-41)

Having been invited to a pro-life center’s annual banquet, the man heard several testimonies about the positive effect the organization was having. Then he was told of its needs and invited to take out, along with everyone else, his checkbook. At first he felt confused. “Was this not a social?” he thought, “Then why is there a push for contributions?” Upon further consideration, however, he found himself assenting to the call for a donation. In the first reading we hear Paul making a similar appeal to the Christian community in Corinth for assistance on behalf of the Christians in Jerusalem.

We can safely assume that Christians living in Corinth enjoy more prosperity than their counterparts in Jerusalem. For one thing they live in a busy commercial center. For another, the Christians in Jerusalem have been persecuted. Other motives for Paul’s request are Jesus’ continual concern for the poor and the need to establish bonds between the Geek and Jewish Christians. There has been some speculation that Paul may have personal reasons for taking up the collection. Because he has uttered what might be taken as criticisms of church leaders of Jerusalem, he may be making amends by showing his concern for Christians there.

Giving money for the poor is sometimes hard, not because we lack resources but because we are not sure that our donation will be well-used. It is only prudent to seek assurance that the contribution we plan to make will truly benefit the people for whom it is intended. Once that is attested, we can give freely knowing that, as Paul says, we are imitating the Lord Jesus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, priest

(II Corinthians 6:1-10; Matthew 5:38-42)

Few Christian communities have taken Jesus’ message in the gospel today more literally than the Quakers, the Society of Friends. For generations Quakers were given deferments from conscription into the U.S. Army because of their official position against the use of force. In today’s gospel Jesus lays the groundwork for the Quakers’ policy.

Jesus’ command to offer no resistance to evil is a super-tall order. Many insist with good reason that he is using hyperbolic language. This means that Jesus exaggerates the obligation in order to move his followers from the natural disposition of taking revenge. In other words, disciples do not have to submit completely to aggressors but, nevertheless, should be forbearing in their response.

Forbearance is not a popular virtue today. People either try to get even when they are offended, or they sulk in bitterness. Forbearance inclines us to tolerate others’ faults and to forgive their offenses. In these ways we mirror the Father’s patience with the sins of the world, which include our own.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 25:13b-21; John 21:15-19)

Many evangelical Protestants openly profess their love of Jesus. But surely love of the Lord is as much a characteristic of true Catholics. Mother Teresa used to describe herself by saying, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

In the gospel today Jesus uses love for him as the one criterion for service of his lead apostle. Some will scoff that it is silly to say that we love someone who died two thousand years ago. They also will question what kind of love it is if the beloved, like a baseball star or a pop singer, has millions of professed lovers. But these objections really do not faze us because we know that Jesus is alive and dwells among us spiritually. We can even have a personal relationship with him by caring for his body, the Church, and listening to his words in Scripture. Finally, because he is God, we know that he can care for all his lovers with the utmost personal attention.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 22:30.23:6-11; John 17:20-26)

Although St. Thomas Aquinas found metaphysical meaning in God’s name, John the Evangelist sees it in a different way. Aquinas taught that the name “I am who am,” which God revealed to Moses, indicates that God’s existence is His very essence such that everything that exists is rooted in Him. Aquinas pointed out that this assertion does not reveal anything of God’s nature. For that, he realized, divine revelation is needed. John’s gospel supplies abundant description of who God is. He is (or, as Jesus says, “I am”) “the light of the world,” “the Good Shepherd,” “the bread of life.” Since Jesus reveals the Father, these images apply to the Father just as much as they to him.

In today’s gospel Jesus prays to his Father that he has made the Father’s name known to his disciples. They know that the “I am” is not a distant God but as close to the world as the light that fills it. They realize that the “I am” does not disregard any of His human subjects but treats each one with the care of the most responsive of shepherds. They recognize that the nourishment of the “I am” is not truncated as the earthly sojourn ends, but that the bread He provides nourishes for eternity.

As the Easter season ends, we stand in awe of God’s blessing in Jesus Christ. He has called us back from sinful ways, demonstrated the infinity of His love with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and now will grace us with the Holy Spirit so that we mig

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 20:28-38; John 17:11-19)

Latin America has become pluralistic with regard to religion. In most cities Protestant churches dot neighborhoods like grocery stores, and missionaries pace the streets inviting people to taste their spiritual food. There is little concern for ecumenism. Priests see the missionaries as bandits raiding their flocks as Paul warns of in today’s first reading. Meanwhile, Protestant pastors criticize Catholic priests as betrayers of the word of God which the gospel mentions as given by Jesus to his disciples. The situation defies Jesus’ prayer for unity at the heart of his “Priestly Prayer.”

Jesus asks his Father to make all those who believe in him one in faith and love. He has in mind all the churches that his disciples will establish. We extend that vision today with the hope, expressed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical That They May Be One, that Christian communities of the Reformation as well as the Orthodox churches someday share with Catholics the Eucharist. We can move toward this goal by cooperating with other branches of Christianity on charitable projects, by participating in ecumenical dialogues and prayer services, and by voiding criticism of other religious traditions.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 20:17-27; John 17:1-11a)

Beethoven’s ninth and last symphony ends on a note of glory. The composer pulls all stops from the orchestra and even introduces a chorus to give God the highest praise. It is moment of rapture seemingly meant to call the dead from their graves. It is not too far-fetched to say that the composition, familiarly called the “Ode to Joy,” reflects Jesus’ “Priestly Prayer,” which today’s gospel begins.

Jesus is wrapping up his Last Supper discourse and, indeed, his teaching mission. He turns to his Father in prayer while keeping an eye on his disciples. He reiterates what he has taught all along – he is God’s true image so that when he is seen, the Father is seen. Now he asks the Father to glorify him so that in turn the Father may be glorified. He will be seen as pouring out his blood that the world might glimpse the extent of God’s love for all.

As we begin this culminating week of Eastertide, we too lift up our voices in prayer. Like Jesus we ask that God glorify us with exemplary lives so that our actions may redound to His glory. Specifically we pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon us with all His graces.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33)

The paintings of Alice Dalton Brown stand out for their airiness and lightness. A typical illustration shows a window through which pours sunlight on top and a sturdy wind at its opened bottom. Outside is pictured a pool of water. More than likely the painter is portraying the Holy Spirit that comes in Baptism to enlighten our minds to know Jesus and moves our hearts to love him.

In the reading from Acts today Paul meets some disciples who do not know the Holy Spirit. It has been speculated that these people followed Jesus before he went to Jerusalem that last and fateful time. They realize the need for repentance as Jesus preached. But they lack the grace of the Holy Spirit which turns the need into an unquenchable desire to delve more deeply into relationship with the Lord. Paul, of course, does not allow them to tarry longer. He imparts the Spirit so that they may know the fulfillment of life in Jesus.

It is not impossible that we are like those disciples who do not know the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Spirit has entered into our lives, but have we taken notice of his presence? We have to pray that he touch us again – very deeply this time – that we experience the fullness that Jesus promises his disciples.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, martyrs

(Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23)

A Ugandan priest reported last week of today’s feast: “Pilgrims have started walking from within and outside the country to commemorate the twenty two Ugandan saints who perished for standing for the gospel values.” St. Augustine spoke of similar excitement during the feast days of the ancient African martyrs.

Charles Lwanga lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century. By that time Uganda had many Christians, Catholic and Protestants. But its king lived more like a decadent Roman emperor. Adolescents serving in his court were harassed into sexual liaisons. When Lwanga protected some of these youths, he was summarily executed. Pope Paul VI canonized him and twenty-one others who resisted the king’s tyrannical lust.

In the reading from Acts the Lord tells Paul not to be silent. Lwanga and companions heard the same message and spoke out with both words and actions. Their example validates our struggle to live holy lives that give testimony to Jesus’ resurrection.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20)

Weeping is caused by the secretion of fluid from the lachrymal glands to lubricate the surface of the eye. Exactly why people cry is an open question. Some scientists say simply that it is a response to strong emotions. Others, proceeding from biochemical analysis, claim that weeping removes hormones associated with stress.

From experience we associate weeping with loss of affection. We cry when those whom we love take their leave. So parents sob at weddings, and the bereaved weep at funerals. Because he is about to be handed over to death, Jesus in today’s gospel anticipates his disciples’ tears.

In another gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.” He does not mean that crying brings automatic relief. Rather he is saying that when we cry in recognition of our need for divine guidance, help is sure to come. As in the passage today, Jesus is indicating that he will send us his Spirit of joy.