Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday of the Twenty-seventh week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 1:6-12; Luke 10:25-37)

For almost fifty years the western world at least has heard of “Godspell”.  The Broadway musical tells the story of Jesus’ ministry leading to his death.  It presents Jesus as under a spell of goodness which he passes on to others – hence God-spell.  This is not the origin of the word gospel which Paul uses in today’s first reading, but it does indicate the presence of grace which Jesus embodies.

For Paul gospel is the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.  He proclaims this good news with the claim that trusting in Jesus leading to Baptism will save one from the sinfulness that characterizes the world.  He does not mean that the profession of faith works as a magic formula changing the person as the words are uttered.  Rather he intends that faith in Christ testified by works of the kind that Christ describes in today’s gospel marks one as a member of God’s kingdom.

We should see the gospel itself as a kind of grace.  It offers us the words and example of Jesus.  Moved by his words to follow his example, the gospel allows us to encounter Jesus and to remain in his company.  His presence will bring us through the curtain of death itself because He has conquered death.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

(Job 38:1.12-21.40:3-5; Luke 10:13-16)

St. Jerome is sometimes pictured with a lion.  Some people opine that Jerome befriended lions, but that is not so.  Jerome was a lion.  He unreservedly criticized supposed heretics like Pelagius.  His critique of adversaries was both harsh and heady.  It could be compared to Jesus’ in today’s gospel.

Jesus has given up on three of the towns where his disciples have just preached.  In rejecting his disciples, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum have rejected not only Jesus but God the Father.  Jesus denounces their obtuseness.  Capernaum might be known for its fish and Bethsaida for its green grass, but now their fame is negative.  They are places known for refusing the message of God’s ineffable love.

We may wonder about the virtue of expressing anger like Jerome and Jesus.  Anger is considered a vice when it leads to violence.  Therefore, we must take care not to get carried away when injustice or untruth gives rise to hard feelings.  However, to call an evil by its name when we are sure of what it is, is likely the work of virtuous courage.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

(Daniel 7:9-10.13-14; John 1:47-51)

Volunteers of the Gabriel Project give moral, spiritual, and physical support to pregnant women who might abort their babies.  With good reasons these volunteers are called “angels.”  They are God-sends who show divine mercy.  It is the kind of help that Jesus envisions in today’s gospel.

When Jesus speaks of “angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” he is referring to the mighty works that he will perform.  He will turn water into wine, cure the lame, and feed the masses.  These are not of human origin.  They can justly be called angelic because they announce God’s gracious love to the world.

We too have received an angelic call.  God wants us to manifest His love for the world by acts of compassion and kindness.  We might volunteer for the Gabriel Project or perhaps assist one turn a week at the local night shelter.  In any case we too will become God-sends to people in distress.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Job 9:1-12.14-16; Luke 9:57-62)

Scientist Richard Dawkins once stated in an interview that he would be interested in a supreme power that gives rise to the forces producing the universe.  The statement raised eyebrows because Dawkins is well known as a “new atheist.”  This kind of god is described by Job in today’s first reading. 

Job speaks of a god who moves mountains and creates stars.  But he believes that this god would not bother to care about him personally. “If I appealed to him…” he says, “I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.”  Whatever Job has in mind here, the god he describes is not the one Jesus proclaims in the gospel. For Jesus God is so good, so loving that one would rather tell others about Him than bury a dead mother or father.

We have come to know the gracious God that Jesus proclaimed.  It is not that there are any other gods, but there are many mistaken conceptions of God. However, through his death and resurrection Jesus has shown his Father to be both just and merciful, both firm and loving.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

(Job 3:1-3.11-17.20-23; Luke 9:51-56)

Let’s picture life in the year 1600 when St. Vincent de Paul was ordained.  Arguably the most tumultuous century in all history has just ended.  Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. The Spanish colonized America.  Martin Luther called the Church to reform.  But for all the splendor of these accomplishments Europe lacks holiness.  Vincent would supply this need. 

Vincent spent time as a slave and time in the royal court.  He founded a congregation of men dedicated to seminary teaching.  But he is best known for his dedication to the poor.  He not only helped found a congregation of women to assist the poor, he attended the needs of the poor himself.  Equally remarkable, he created a spirituality of the poor that touched the heart of France.  In the gospel Jesus likewise surprises his disciples with a fresh idea of holiness. 

Going up to Jerusalem, Jesus admonishes James and John for wanting to use power to destroy others.  As God’s anointed one, he shows forbearance to all and expects the same of his followers.  In the city he will allow himself to be crucified.  His purpose is to win universal reconciliation through obedience to the Father’s will.

Working with the poor often demands such submission as Jesus’.  They do not always respond as graciously as we think they should.  But we must not give up the endeavor.  We shall be all right.  As Vincent taught, “Those who are resolved to depend utterly on God shall never be poor.” 

Monday, October 26, 2016

Monday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Job 1:6-22; Luke 9:46-50)

In a book four years ago sociologist Charles Murray demonstrated the importance of faith for a prosperous society.  People who earn large incomes tend to go to church more often than people who live in poverty.  The reason is not that they have more time, but that faith religion provides motives for working hard and avoiding life-disrupting vices.  In today’s first reading the prosperous Job experiences downfall.  It might be expected that he eject his trust in God.

But Job maintains a firm faith in God despite the losses heaped upon him and more difficulties to come.  Rather than curse God or simply forget about Him, Job’s response to hardship is: “’The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!’”

We are wise to trust God in both good times and in trials.  We act as His true servants when we encourage the poor to believe.  In today’s gospel Jesus says, “”Whoever receives this child in my name receives me…’”  That child is the poor person who should be sought out and then received at the church door.