Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr

(I Timothy 1:1-3.6-12; Mark 12:18-27)

Justin, whose surname is apparently unknown, studied philosophy as a young man.  Then he read the Scriptures which changed the course of his life.  He came to Rome where he was brought before the prefect for being a Christian.  There he began a discourse to convince the Roman of the validity of his faith but was ignored.  He and six others were summarily beheaded for not offering sacrifices to idols.  Justin certainly typifies the kind of spirit that the first reading today exhorts.

The passage is taken from the First Letter to Timothy.  It sees the addressee, a young pastor, as so burdened by responsibilities that he cannot offer clear testimony of faith.  It advises Timothy to be strong. “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control,” it says.  These are words for all Christians.

We too should proclaim our faith openly.  We can express our thanks to God for who we are.  We can offer to pray for those whose needs are beyond our means.  We can say how we have been enriched by the gospel. No one, at least in our society, will behead us for such statements.  But some may become interested in knowing the Lord Jesus as well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Luke 1:39-56)

The sportswriters seemed frustrated.  They wanted the game’s most valuable player to talk about his performance, but he continually deferred to others.  His teammates’ blocking allowed him to stand out.  His family’s support was instrumental in making him who he was.  This interview resembled, in a way, Mary’s speech in the gospel today.

In visiting her kinswoman, Mary is given a supreme compliment.  Elizabeth calls her the “most blessed …among woman” for bearing Jesus inside her womb.  At this point one would expect Mary to return the compliment or to explain what she did to merit such an honor.  But her eyes are fixed on God.  Rather than speak of her own virtue or anyone else’s, she gives all the credit to the Lord.  He “has looked with favor on his lowly servant” and “has done great things” for her.  More than that, He always “has mercy on those who fear him.”

Most of us enjoy talking about our achievements.  At times we even become vane doing so.  Mary, the model disciple, reminds us that God is the source of every good deed we do.  To sing His praises, not our own, is our role in the new evangelization. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Peter 1:2-7; Mark 12:1-12)

Images of flowers adorn the catacombs as a symbol of the paradisiacal state of the saints.  Today many American Christians will bring flowers to the graves of their loved ones unconsciously honoring the ancient custom.  The first reading from the Second Letter of Peter suggests that God is the source of this practice.

The letter states that God’s “power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion…”  God wants us to remember our dead not with mournful regret but with hopeful longing.  Through Jesus’ resurrection we have the promise of overcoming the separation that death causes.  With good reason we hope that we will be reunited with our loved ones in Paradise.

The reading also provides us a course of action.  We are not only to believe in Christ but also to live like him.  Most of all we are to let our lives be controlled by love.  That is, we are to bear with one another’s faults with joyful affection.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Peter 4:7-13; Mark 11:11-26)

Poets sometimes use physical objects as symbols describing the mind’s inner-working.  For example, when Robert Frost depicts the horseman watching the woods fill up with snow, he means that the man is contemplating the eeriness of death.  Such symbols have been labeled objective correlatives.

The evangelist Mark presents an objective correlative in today’s gospel passage.  He pictures Jesus cursing a barren fig tree as a sign of his disgust with the Temple which he is about to enter.  Mark is indicating that the Temple like the fig tree is doomed because it has not fostered a righteous people.  Jesus will shortly throw the money changers out of the Temple.  More definitively, his death will bring about the tearing of the Temple veil which renders its sacrifices useless.

We should not think of the evangelist and much less Jesus as anti-environmental.  Throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus is at home in nature.  He retreats from the crowds to the mountains.  He spends time by the sea.  He even stands up to the storm.  But Jesus does expect religious people like us as well as sacred places to bring about fruits of righteousness.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest

(I Peter 2:2-5.9-12; Mark 10:46-52)

Faith has been called another way of seeing.  It looks beyond the physical to the spiritual realities that surround us.  It recognizes that our true goals in life are not comfort and pleasure but the joy and peace of God’s kingdom.  It also sees the Church as our help in attaining these goals.  Both readings today convey this message.

When Bartimaeus asks Jesus for sight, he no doubt wants to see colors and shapes like his companions.  Jesus grants him this ability but adds the gift of faith.  With that addition Bartimaeus does not go his own way but joins the community of disciples on the way to eternal life.

In the first reading the presbyter Peter calls the people to look beyond the attractions of the world.  He wants them to forego worldly desires so that they may enjoy the peace of living close to God.  His message serves us well today.  We are to set as our goals not luxury but friendship with both God and neighbor.