Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

Count on the holy seasons of Advent and Lent to get to the heart of Divine Revelation.  For the most part during the rest of the year the Scripture readings at daily mass follow episodic sequences.  The gospels recount the story of Jesus in first in Mark, then in Matthew, and finally in Luke.  John is reserved for Eastertime.  Meanwhile the first reading is taken from an Old Testament or New Testament work, read in daily installments which summarize the work as a whole.  In Lent and Easter, however, the link between the first reading and the gospel is manifest.

Today’s gospel, for example, hints at how Jesus fulfills the heart-felt prophecies of early Isaiah.  The people of the prophet’s time longed for a strong leader who would rule justly.  They wanted to see the poor prosper without be pampered.  They hoped that the natural enmities among classes, nationalities, and races would cease.  Jesus recognizes in himself such potential being realized.  He will bestow manifold blessings upon those who obey his commands. The poor especially are positioned to follow him.

We hear while shopping in Wal-Mart how this is “the most wonderful time of the year.”  It is but not because of mistletoe or tree lights.  It becomes wonderful when we contemplate how the yearnings of the human heart are fulfilled in Jesus.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

(Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

Very little can be said with certainly about St. Andrew.  Today’s gospel relates that he was the brother of Simon Peter and a fisherman.  John’s gospel includes a couple more nuggets of information.  He was John the Baptist’s disciple until he spent a day with Jesus.  Then, convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, he brought his brother to him.

Andrew exemplifies what recent popes have called all of us to do.  We are to get to know Jesus by spending time with him.  We should recognize him in the poor and speak to him in prayer.  We are also to bring others to him.  First and perhaps foremost, these are our family members.  They also include our friends who may have never had the pleasure of knowing him.  We are not to be shy about telling even strangers about what Jesus means to us.

We have entered Advent – the designated time of preparation for meeting Christ.  Now as people busy themselves for the Christmas holidays we must remind them of who is at the heart of the celebrations.  Like St. Andrew we need to tell them that he is the long-awaited joy that can fill their heart.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 7:2-14; Luke 21:29-33)

Jesus seems to be talking about the end of time in the gospel today.  The event has now been expected for generations, but has not yet taken place.  Perhaps his words may be reinterpreted to mean the end of each human life.

The image he uses of a fig tree leafing makes good sense then, at least for the just.  The spectacle takes place as summer approaches.  It is a time of flourishing.  Jesus is predicting that death for his disciples will not mean the cold earth reclaiming their beings but a time of warm delight.  They will see Christ in all his glory.

This thought should bring solace to Syrian Christians undergoing persecution today.  All of us really might consider the challenges we face daily in this same light.  Perhaps we were overlooked for a promotion at work.  Perhaps we are suffering from a wound or disease. Perhaps our car has been totaled.  When we bear these troubles patiently, we might not flinch as we sense our life’s number being called.  Rather we should anticipate a time of flourishing. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

A number of years ago a worker in a Central American country fulfilled his promise to the Virgin Mary.  He had asked her intercession for the success of his country’s soccer team in the World Cup playoffs.  The team had done well for a small country winning games against two European competitors.  Making a pilgrimage on foot to the national shrine of the Virgin was this man’s way of saying “thanks.”  We are given a holiday today to do the same.

And that is another reason to be thankful.  Employers, spurred by government mandate, are paying us without our having to do any work.  As if it were a Sunday, we have a large swath of time to give thanks.  We pray, rest, and enjoy the company of friends all in the spirit of thankfulness.  Every day holds many reasons to thank God.  The wise person does not retire without doing so.

The gospel indicates that God takes notice of our giving thanks and our not doing it.  It tells us that Jesus asks the one leper who thanked him why the other nine he cured didn’t.  More significantly, the passage emphasizes that Jesus rewards the one who does with salvation.  We can say that our recognition of God as our benefactor is crucial.  It will save us from the punishment due for our sins. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 5:1-6.13-14.16-17.23-28; Luke 21:12-19)

The writing on the wall has been decipherable for some time now.  Yet many still refuse to pay attention.  The sexual revolution begun in the 1960s has caused more misery than could have been imagined.  Children born without fathers to protect them, women and men contracting diseases, and the felt need to destroy emerging life are all pathologies attributable to the frivolization of sex.  Sexuality is God’s gift to humans for both personal and social development.  Humans have turned it into an entitlement for egotistic pleasure.

In being both blind to the writing on the wall and abusive of their bodies as sacred vessels, humans today duplicate the story of the Babylonians in the first reading.  The latter should have been conscious of what they were doing when they robbed the Jerusalem temple of its sacred objects.  But they were greedily oblivious.  They might realize that the peculiar writing on the wall can be nothing but a message of doom for their rapaciousness.

We should want our young to shun present ideology that seeks to control the consequences of sex rather than to respect its creative power.  In teaching how to discipline their sexual drives we are providing them a road map of both moral integrity and human happiness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, martyrs

(Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11)

Perhaps no experience in United States history has been as sobering as the Vietnam War.  It was clear that this country meant to save South Vietnam from a Communist takeover.  It certainly expended tremendous human and material resources to achieve that goal.  However, the Vietnamese Communists prevailed.  The American people should have learned that they are not invincible.  Much like the temple that Jesus contemplates with his disciples in today’s gospel, they will not exist forever.

This does not mean the end of hope.  In the reading Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to be deceived.  They must be vigilant in holding onto the truth that he has taught them.  That truth may be summarized in the paradox that in order to gain one’s life, one must lost it.  In other words, people have to serve one another if they are to thrive. 

The Vietnamese martyrs offer an example.  Many died during the persecutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Yet the Vietnamese today exhibit a vibrant Catholic tradition today.  Both in their native countries and in the U.S. they excel in commitment to God, family, and nation. Now with their inclusion the United States may rededicate itself to justice and goodwill among nations.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20; Luke 21:1-4)

Babette’s Feast is a short story and later movie that tells the story of the sacrifice of a widow.  The woman lost her family and livelihood as a chef in a political insurrection.  She comes to live with two matrons who lead a small Protestant congregation.  The woman wins the lottery and spends all her award to prepare a lavish banquet for the community.  The feast transforms everyone present; their ordinary pettiness turns into gracious magnanimity.  All come to see life as radiating God’s goodness.  The widow in the story is seen as an image of Christ.  She also reflects the widow of today’s gospel.

The poor widow contributes her last pennies to the Temple in an obvious demonstration of devotion.  The scene prefigures Jesus’ own sacrifice on the cross which will take place in a few days.  “How will she live?” one wants to ask. She does not worry, however, because she knows that God provides for those who love Him.  She will thrive just as Jesus does in the resurrection.

As we approach the great Christian feasts at the end of the year, we should keep both widows and certainly Jesus in mind.  We are wise to see the bounty that we share as part of God’s gift.  And we need to ask how we may give ourselves to Him in thanksgiving.