Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 8:4-6.9-12; Matthew 9:9-13)

Of all the symbols of freedom in the United States none seems to capture the imagination like the Statute of Liberty.  Standing on a patch of land in New York harbor, the image of a strong and lovely woman holding a torch high has lifted the hopes of millions of immigrants.  The statute beckons the newcomers to take advantage of the opportunities which the country provides.

Today’s gospel shows Jesus in a similar vein.  He is not calling the righteous to follow him but sinners.  He provides them opportunity to begin life anew through repentance and commitment.  They have to forfeit their larcenies, but they are given a greater treasure in the friendship he offers.

It is necessary that we see ourselves as sinners, but we should not take pride in the fact.  Sin hardens us from becoming the loving persons God calls us to be.  We need to constantly purify our thoughts, actions, and desires so that our lives might reflect God’s goodness.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 9:1-8)

The other day the journalist George Will made the news himself.  He announced that he was leaving the Republican Party.  He said that he could not tolerate the nation’s leading Republican’s endorsement of Donald Trump for the presidency.  Will explained that he still sees himself as a conservative but judges the Republican Party as leaving conservatism behind.  He may feel like Amos in today’s first reading.

Amos has long preached reform in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He has tried to persuade the king as well as the people to give up flirting with foreigners.  He believes that salvation comes from the God of Israel alone.  Now he is being told to return to the Southern Kingdom where he was born.  He knows that Israel is rejecting the principles which made them a chosen people.

We rightly talk about God as having unconditional love for us.  But this truth should not delude us into thinking that we are free to do whatever we wish.  God has given us His Spirit so that we may become loving like He is.  The Spirit often requires sacrifice of personal desires to accommodate God’s ever-gracious will for us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

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

Many people prefer to think of the Church as a community of believers and a sign of God’s presence in the world rather than as an institution.  But because it has laws, customs, and properties, the Church has been able to thrive through the centuries.  The institution, of course, is headquartered in Rome where Saints Peter and Paul came to organize the evangelization of the world.

Rome, especially in the first century, is unlike any other city.  Romans are practical people and ancient Romans were consummate lawyers and engineers as well.  Their aptitude for organization, which they lent to the Church, and their excellent roads have enabled Christianity to spread across the globe.  Part of the genius of both Peter and Paul was to take advantage of all the benefits that the “Eternal City” offered. 

Today, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the people of Rome have a holiday while Catholics everywhere have opportunity to contemplate the authority of the pope, the bishop of Rome.  Like Peter he is the symbol of unity of the Church.  Like Paul he has the commission to assure the spread of the gospel, especially to pagan nations.  Over the past century men of great holiness and wisdom like Francis have served as popes.  They give us good reason to celebrate at least a little with Romans.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr

(Amos 3:1-8.4:11-12; Matthew 8:23-27)

Irenaeus lived in challenging times for the Church.  In the latter part of the second century Christians were subject to persecution.  Also, heresies were creeping into Christian thought and much of the Church’s doctrine needed clarification. Irenaeus responded magnificently.  He wrote theological treatises that show remarkable sensitivity for Scripture.  As bishop, he settled a dispute among Christians about the day Easter was to be celebrated. The Church was being tossed about then like Jesus’ boat in today’s gospel passage.

Jesus appears to his disciples as a superman as he sleeps in the boat with a storm raging.  He has demonstrated his great wisdom and even has worked some cures.  Now he shows his authority over nature.  The disciples cannot help but wonder what kind of human being he is.  In tomorrow’s gospel there question will be answered as Peter names him “’the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

 We must trust that Jesus is with us today to save us.  There are plenty of difficulties.  Solid morality, like the insistence not to take human life, is publicly compromised.  Money, not the common good, seems to be the principal motivator for most people.  The world is threatened by mass terrorism, a new form of militarism. We have, as it were, to wake up Jesus with our prayer.  He will calm present storms as sure as he has done throughout the ages.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 2:6-10.13-16; Matthew 8:18-22)

Last year a couple of women completed the Army Ranger training.  It was a significant achievement.  The Rangers are the Army’s elite, and their training is grueling.  It includes days in the wilderness with mostly one’s wits for survival.  In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to a similar ordeal.

People want to join Jesus’ travelling group of disciples perhaps unaware of its costs.  Jesus disabuses them of notions of instant glory.  He tells one that he will not provide a home to rest in and another not to expect home leave.  The life of discipleship is not easy.

We should not expect it to be so today.  We may not have to leave family or even a house to be disciples, but following Jesus still requires sacrifice.  We are called to give up some comforts to provide for the needs of others.  More costly still, we are instructed to let of the egotistic will so that God’s glory may radiate to all.