Monday, September 3, 2018

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(I Corinthians 2:1-5; Luke 4:16-30)

Like some of the other national holidays, "Labor Day” has lost much of its meaning.  Few people today see it as an opportunity to celebrate work.  Instead, like Presidents’ Day and even Memorial Day, Labor Day is just another day off.  Ideally, it is an opportunity to contemplate at leisure the meaning of work and its inherent dignity. Today’s gospel can assist us in this effort.

Jesus proclaims "glad tidings to the poor." He does not have only the homeless and unemployed in mind.  The vast majority of workers at this time have difficulty meeting family needs. As is indicated in the parable of the Laborers of the Vineyard, many workers do not receive a full day’s wage.  But now that Jesus has come, workers may fret no longer.  He brings the good news of salvation. As his disciples, the rich will share with the poor.  More to the point, as God’s anointed Jesus will lead the people from fetishes and misconceptions about religion.  He will speak authoritatively so that they will follow.  Most of all he will care for the people sacrificing himself so that they may be freed from the snares of sin.

Work, of course, produces much more than money to put food on the table. As importantly, it gives all women and men occasion to confirm their inherent dignity by participating in divine creation. This may be readily seen in the efforts of engineers, scientists, and artists, but it is also true of people who labor. By cooking, selling, or cleaning, we make the world a better place.  Putting our mind as well as our muscle into work, we can legitimately call ourselves “co-creators of the world.”

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 1:17-25; Matthew 25:1-13)

Last year the movie Casablanca celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary.  Of course, that is not so great a milestone.  It was newsworthy because the movie never ceases to capture the imagination of the public.  What makes it so outstanding?  Some will say it was the acting of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.  Others marvel at how the movie was filmed in its entirety in Hollywood.  But consider this as the reason for the movie’s popularity: it re-presents the sacrifice of which St. Paul writes in today’s first reading.

The movie portrays a man’s sacrifice of the woman he loves for her benefit and that of a foreign nation.  In the Letter to the Corinthians Paul tells of how he preaches Jesus Christ who sacrificed himself for the good of humanity.  The sacrifice, Paul says, would be considered folly by the Greeks, the worldly wise, who marvel at rational arguments.  Likewise, it would be considered inconsequential by Jews, the worldly prudent, who look for demonstrations of power.  But to those with an inkling of the true God, Christ’s sacrifice reveals the superabundance of divine love.

God’s love for us is more immense than an ocean and more intense than the sun.  We can never understand it fully, much less imitate it completely.  We only can give thanks for it and vow to follow the same Jesus Christ in all he said and did.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 1:1-9; Matthew 24:42-51)

A year before he was murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a famous speech about work.  He preached that each of us in her or his occupation should do the best job possible.  Knowing that many of the people listening to him had relatively simple jobs, he focused on street sweepers.  “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” King said, “he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.”  In today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples to work with the same kind of diligence.

The passage comprises the middle section of Jesus’ “eschatological discourse” in Matthew’s gospel.  The Lord is teaching his disciples how to consider the end of time when he will come in glory.   Ironically he says that one prepares for his coming by not preparing.  Since the end will come when it is least expected, disciples must always be ready for it.  They are to assiduously fulfill their daily responsibilities.  Jesus uses a butler as his prime example.  As a worthy butler will dispense food rations equitably so must disciples perform their duties prudently.   As the responsible butler will be made chief steward, faithful disciples will find secure places in the Kingdom.

For many of us a new year is beginning at this time when summer is ending.  It is time to rededicate ourselves to our task – be it school work or waiting tables.  We do it for the Lord as much as for ourselves or for the common good.  We want people to say, “There goes a true Christian,” if they should see us at work.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist

(II Thessalonians 3:6-10.16-18; Mark 6:17-29)

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Julius Caesar, the protagonist says: "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once."  Caesar is referring to the many occasions in which cowards betray their consciences.  Out of fear they fail to do what is right.  King Herod proves himself to be a coward in today’s gospel.

Herod fears that his guests will think of him as weak-kneed for refusing to carry out the promise he made.  He also shows himself a coward for not reprimanding his stepdaughter for her outrageous request.  Quite the opposite, John the Baptist shows real courage by speaking out against Herod for causing a public scandal.  He knows that civic leaders should give good example to the people by living upright lives. 

We are being continuously jarred by the unseemly acts of politicians.  Marital infidelity and cavorting with prostitutes are regular front-page features.  We need to look to Jesus for a remedy.  He will tell us not to cast stones on the guilty.  But he will add that their sins cannot be tolerated.  They should repent, do penance, and find consolation from us.  After all, we too struggle at times to live righteously.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

(II Thessalonians 2:1-3a.14-17; Matthew 23:23-26)

It has been said that the three most influential persons in Christianity are Jesus, St. Paul, and today’s patron, St. Augustine.  It is a plausible selection.  Jesus and Paul are natural choices, and much can be said to defend Augustine’s placement in the troika. His prodigious thought lent coherency to biblical teaching.  And his long service allowed him to comment on most aspects of theology and church life.  He wrote books, theological tracts, and sermons.  His best known work, The Confessions, is found on most lists of great books of Western Civilization.  He certainly fulfilled the demand articulated in today’s first reading.

The Second Letter to the Thessalonians like most New Testament epistles emphasizes the urgency of holding to faith traditions.  “…stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught,” it says.  Unlike other religious systems Christianity understands itself as a religion with a fixed theological tradition.  Proper understanding of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit more than anything else makes one a Christian.  Morality, particularly love of God and neighbor, is also essential but in a real sense not so much as firmness of belief.

Today, as in biblical times, there are many odd ideas that pretend to be Christian.  The “prosperity gospel” provides a relevant example.   Of course, Christ never preached the desirability of riches, quite the opposite.  Endeavoring to understand our faith will help us to practice as he taught and lived.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Memorial of Saint Monica

(II Thessalonians 1:1-5.11-12; Matthew 23:13-22)

As many young people do not practice the faith of their childhood, St. Monica is becoming a more popular saint.  Parents turn to her as their patron and model.  Monica prayed for the conversion of her errant son Augustine.  As a young man, the future saint pursued esoteric teachings and lived with a mistress.  In today’s first reading Paul tells the Thessalonians how he prays for them much like Monica prayed for her son.   

Paul asks God “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in (the Thessalonians), and (they) in him.” This indeed took place.  The Thessalonians endured trials to maintain their faith in Christ and were to be justly rewarded for their efforts.  However, the Thessalonians’ influence on Christianity and western civilization can hardly be compared with that of St. Augustine.  He was one of the Church’s greatest theologians.  Equally important, his introspection set intellectual thought on a psychological course that continues today.

Above all, Monica teaches us the need for persistent, loving prayer.  She prayed for years that Augustine might use his prodigious talents for God and the Church.  Likewise, we must not give up when our prayers are not readily answered or seem to ask too much.  We need to pray until our knees bleed and our hearts are ready to faint.  Then we will see blessings.

Frdiay, August 24, 2018

Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)

As with most of the twelve disciples whom we recognize as apostles, we know little about Bartholomew.  Since in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he is paired with Philip, Biblical scholars hold that he is the same as Nathanael whom the Gospel of John associates with Philip.  Nathanael, as today’s gospel relates, proclaims the identity of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.  With this statement the evangelist John presents Nathaniel-Bartholomew like Luke introduces the sage Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  Both are portrayed as prophets announcing the redemption of Israel. 

Even though Bartholomew’s biography remains largely obscure, any one of us would trade places with him.  After all, he saw and even touched salvation in person!  That is, he followed Jesus first-hand, heard his voice, felt the warmth of his hand.  It is taken for granted that the apostles suffered martyrdom.  They could do so willingly, however, because they knew that Jesus to whom they testified would give them eternal life.

We cannot know Jesus as the twelve apostles did, but nevertheless he allows us access to himself.  His words remain in the gospel, his flesh and blood are ingested in the Eucharist, and his Spirit is felt in the love Christians demonstrate.  In faith we know that Jesus is present to us.  Drawing strength from him, we like the apostles may give witness to him by dying to ourselves in service to others.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezekiel 36:23-28; Matthew 22:1-14)

Fr. Stanley Rother, an American missionary to Guatemala, was assasinated in 1981.  Two years ago, Pope Francis declared that Fr. Rother was killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith); that is, as a martyr which qualifies for him the title of “Blessed.” His story portrays atypical heroism and also a typical devotion on the part of the native peoples of Guatemala. 

Fr. Rother refused to leave the indigenous people of his village despite persistent death threats.  Eventually soldiers carried out the crime.  When Fr. Rother’s family came to take Fr. Rother’s body for burial in Oklahoma, the people resisted.  They claimed that he had been their priest and their protector.  Finally, the two sides compromised.  All of Fr. Rother’s body except his heart was returned to the United States.  The native people, however, retained his noble and loving heart in their church.

The reading from Ezekiel today promises that everyone’s heart will be purified like Fr. Rother’s.  Ezekiel says that God will replace the stony hearts of the people with tender hearts.  Then they will be able to give fitting homage to God and show loving care to one another.  He adds that this will be done by gathering the people in a new land and sprinkling them with clean water.

Ezekiel’s prophecy has been fulfilled in our time.  Jesus has renewed our hearts in Baptism (the sprinkling) which brings us into his Church (the new land).  Regrettably, however, some fail to follow him choosing instead self-gratification.  We can pray for them while we give thanks for our renewal in love.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Ezekiel 34:1-11; Matthew 20:1-16)

The lay woman was complaining about the injustice to religious sisters two generations ago.  She reiterated the fact that those valiant women labored in Catholic schools for thirty dollars a month.  Then the woman compared that system with the current way teachers receive less than counterparts in business. Was the system back then really unjust?  And how about the current payment of teachers: is it fair?

As always it is necessary to consider the context when evaluating moral actions.  The sisters had vowed to a life of poverty.  Also, the people they served were often poor themselves.  They sacrificed themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of the children they served.  They may be equated to the workers in today’s gospel that bear the day’s heat only to receive the minimum of support.  But unlike at least one of those workers, they did not grumble.

In God’s Kingdom all workers receive a just wage.  That wage takes account of family needs as well as the principle of equal pay for equal work.  Of course, it is no simple matter to balance all claims to justice.  Nevertheless, it should be said that teachers have an enormous responsibility.  When they fulfill it faithfully, they do deserve an income commensurate with peers in industry.  They also merit our appreciation and gratitude.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

(Ezekiel 28:1-10; Matthew 19:23-30)

In The Great Gatsby the consummate self-made man tries to woo back a former lover by showing off his expansive wardrobe.  The woman, however, who is also wealthy, is not impressed.  Neither the man nor the woman realizes the true purpose of wealth.  It does not buy happiness but supports growth of self and others.  Parents might invest in the education of their children or perhaps use their nice home for a social with church workers. 

The gospel today as well as the reading from Ezekiel conveys the folly of hankering after wealth.  Jesus’ disciples are astounded when he suggests that the wealthy have no place in the Kingdom.  They see the wealthy as blessed by God on earth and destined to inherit choice places in heaven.  No, Jesus advises them, the rich perhaps more than the poor need God’s mercy to be saved.

To follow Jesus we must come to terms with wealth.  As he says, no person can serve both God and money. We should show not waver in our allegiance to the Lord.  One man did this living by the maxim: for a successful life a person is to spend twenty years learning, twenty years earning, and twenty years serving.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

(Ezekiel 24:15-23; Matthew 19:16-22)

In today’s gospel Jesus calls the rich young man to a rich spiritual life.  He invites him to go beyond the basics of keeping the commandments.  He wants him to be “’perfect as (his) heavenly father is perfect.’”  The young man must dispossess himself of his riches and walk with the poor man Jesus.  It may seem like a hard row to hoe, but the man has asked for the formula for eternal life! 

St. Bernard not only lived this “body and soul” spirituality but, like Jesus, called others to it.  As abbot he regularly warned monks about satiating the palate with delicacies and pampering the flesh with fur.  But he also recognized that holiness is more a matter of sacrifice of spiritual excess than of material excess.  Pride can be a greater temptation than gold.  Sloth may prove a larger pitfall than “surf and turf.”

Jesus does not call all of us to religious observance but he does invite everyone to sanctity.  We must deny ourselves in order to love God and neighbor.  We cannot live for power, pleasure, or prestige.  Rather we must sacrifice these ego-gratifying glories to serve others.  Doing so, we will be beneficiaries of God’s eternal glory.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezekiel 19:59-63; Matthew 19:3-12)

The woman is no longer young.  She has never married and, no doubt, wonders if she ever will.  She asks for a book on sexual ethics to guide her.  She says that most of what she sees pertains to married couples or to youth who one day will marry.  She implies that the Church has abandoned people in her position.  Even in the gospel today Jesus does not seem to address the possibility that one may not marry because there never was an opportunity to do so.

The apostle Paul does take up the issue in the First Letter to the Corinthians where he says that that “it is a good thing” that the unmarried and the widowed remain as they are if they can exercise control over their passions.  He reasons that the unmarried may concern themselves exclusively with pleasing the Lord where the married have various interests competing for their attention. 

But Jesus is actually not far from Paul as he advises that those who can accept what he teaches about forsaking marriage for the sake of the Kingdom should do so.  Furthermore, those who lack opportunity to marry need not lament over their situation but should consider it carefully.  They will probably discern, as professed celibates readily do, that being unmarried offers manifold possibilities.  They will have more opportunities to serve the common good, to befriend different kinds of people, and to learn about the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope

(Ezekiel 28:1-10; Matthew 19: 23-30)

In The Great Gatsby the consummate self-made man tries to woo back a former lover by showing off his expansive wardrobe.  The woman, however, who is also wealthy, is not impressed.  Neither the man nor the woman realizes the true purpose of wealth.  It does not buy happiness but supports growth of self and others.  Parents might invest in the education of their children or perhaps use their nice home for a social with church workers. 

The gospel today as well as the reading from Ezekiel conveys the folly of hankering after wealth.  Jesus’ disciples are astounded when he suggests that the wealthy have no place in the Kingdom.  They see the wealthy as blessed by God on earth and destined to inherit choice places in heaven.  No, Jesus advises them, the rich perhaps more than the poor need God’s mercy to be saved.

To follow Jesus we must come to terms with wealth.  As he says, no person can serve both God and money. We should show not waver in our allegiance to the Lord.  One man did this living by the maxim: for a successful life a person is to spend twenty years learning, twenty years earning, and twenty years serving.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ezekiel 12:1-12, Matthew 18:21-19:1)

Exile is a terrible experience.  We only have to review the situations of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan to appreciate exile’s horrors.  The foreign cultures they inhabit lack familiar institutions that might provide some solace.  They have trouble finding jobs which leads to their exploitation as slave labor. They are also exceptionally vulnerable to new diseases and to swindlers’ deceptions. 

In the reading from Ezekiel today God wants the prophet to show the Jerusalemites that they are headed on a course of exile.  Ezekiel is to act as a person uprooted from his native place to awaken the people that their sins are bringing them to ruin.  The hope is that the people will reform their lives so that God might spare them the trauma of exile.  Sadly, however, they will refuse to repent.

We see Jesus as bringing us out of the exile that sin has caused.  Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden was the prototype of exile from which Jesus has rescued us.  He brought us to the “Kingdom of heaven,” not yet heaven but on the way there.  This state is not so much a physical place as it is a renewed relationship with God in which we experience the peace of Christ.  Acquiring the relationship, we will forgive others their offenses against us, as the gospel today recommends, because we have come to realize how gracious God is to us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Revelation 11:19a.12:1-6a.10ab; I Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56)

We might think that the Church honors Mary just for being the mother of Jesus.  As we too well know from the recent “royal wedding,” relations to the sovereign have special status.  But Mary’s relationship with Jesus runs deeper than blood.  The Church recognizes her as the first and most committed evangelizer.  In today’s gospel passage Mary proclaims the good news of Jesus before he is born!

Mary sings of how God saves the poor, among whom she considers herself. She says that God has “’has lifted up the lowly’” and “’has filled the hungry with good things.’”  This is very good news for all who have waited patiently for the Messiah.  Not only the destitute but also the faithful who generously help the needy can now rejoice.

Mary is rewarded for her own faithful attentiveness to God with a special place in heaven.  She occupies this space body and soul according to the ancient tradition of the Church.  We gladly sing her praises, follow her example, and pray for her intercession before the Almighty.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary time

(Ezekiel 1:2-5.24-28c; Matthew 17:22-27)

Every other summer the Church presents a healthy selection of readings from the prophets of Israel in weekday masses.  Some may wonder why the Church bothers with these ancient authors.  For centuries the answer was because the prophets foretell the coming of Christ.  But since the Vatican renewal, the prophets and, indeed, the entire Old Testament are read with a wider scope.

In today’s reading the prophet Ezekiel tells of his call to proclaim the word of God.  He finds himself in Babylonia as an exile.  The heavens roar with thunder, and the lightning gives way to a vision of glory. God appears in human form.  The scene is reminiscent of a famous definition of God as mysterium tremendum et fascinans (fearful and fascinating mystery).

God calls us out of ourselves and our petty concerns to serve Him.  The experience can be frightening. It means letting go of at least a modicum of peace.  But following the Lord’s directive, we will find greater happiness.  He will lead us to a life transcending our dreams.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Feast of Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr

(II Corinthians 9:6-10; John 12:24-26)

The Church’s calendar is so filled with memorials for the early martyrs that some may think there were more in antiquity than today.  But they would be mistaken.  More people die because of their belief in Christ now than ever.  The Christians who were slaughtered by ISIS soldiers a few years provide all too real evidence that blood continues to flow for Christ.

Today’s gospel assures that martyrs do not die in vain.  In the parable of the grain of wheat Jesus compares a martyr with a seed.  Just as the grain must die if it is to bring about an abundance of grains to eat, so must there be martyrs to attract the multitudes to Christ.  For this reason the Church has claimed, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

Today we celebrate one of the most illustrious Roman martyrs.  Lawrence was a deacon in charge of the Church’s treasury.  It is said that when the imperial authorities came searching for the Church’s treasures, Lawrence led them to the poor whom the Church has always fed.  The authorities lost no time in punishing this act of defiance.  We should emulate Lawrence in both ways indicated here.  We should testify to the Church’s option for the poor.  And we should readily make sacrifices for the Lord.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 16:13-23)

It has been seven-three years today since the city of Nagasaki was devastated by the atomic bomb. The ruin was calamitous – estimates indicate that a quarter of the population perished and a good portion of the city destroyed.  It completed demoralized the Japanese resistance which almost immediately surrendered to the Allied forces.  One might think of Nagasaki in picturing Jerusalem at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy in the first reading.

Hope in the holy city is scant as the Babylonians have desecrated the Temple, killed thousands of people, and taken into captivity many other thousands.  “What good could possibly come of all this?” the prophet, a survivor, surely asks himself. But he does not remain in disillusion very long.  He feels the Holy Spirit welling inside him.  Like a musical round that refuses to leave one’s head repeating words of consolation, the Spirit speaks.  “I will write my law upon their hearts,” it says.  The people will never stray from God’s law again because it is to be engraved in them.  To the contrary it will bring righteousness to individual lives and justice to society.

The law of which the prophet foretells and Jesus proclaims is none other than God’s Holy Spirit.  Inscribed upon our hearts with Baptism, the Spirit prompts us to always do good, to avoid evil, and to love sincerely.  It has written counterparts in the Sermon on the Mount and other Scriptural passages.  But the New Law is first spiritual, intractable, and comforting even if it demands of us everything.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest

(Jeremiah 31:1-7; Matthew 15:21-28)

Most effective people set limits on their work.  Without limits they may find themselves dispersed and their projects come to nothing.  A therapist writes of the limit he imposed on a sibling who was draining him emotionally and financially.  He had to focus his attention on their mother with Alzheimer’s, his own family, and his clients.  In today’s gospel Jesus tries to set a limit with a pagan woman who asks him to help her daughter.

At first Jesus politely tells the woman that he cannot meet her need.  He says that his mission is among the Jewish people.  But the woman refuses to accept his reason.  Then Jesus attempts brushing off her request with barbed humor.  The woman, however, throws the remark back at him.  Jesus, whose love for people knows no bounds, finally gives in and grants her needs.

Today the Church remembers St. Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers.  Like Jesus, he set limits but was willing to transgress them.  Dominic was a man imminently disposed to do the will of his colleagues.  That was a self-imposed limit.  But there is one recorded incident when he seemingly acted unilaterally although, no doubt, under the Lord’s direction.  In August of 2017 the group of men Dominic gathered together was living with him in southern France.  Dominic decided to send them out two-by-two to different cities in Europe.  Some objected that it was not yet time to begin the apostolate.   Dominic only replied that he knew what he was doing.  The bold action has resulted in significant accomplishments both for the Church and western civilization.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 28:1-17; Matthew 14:22-36)

A man tells of a revelation during a particularly trying time.  He felt his world crumbling after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.  The night they received the news while locking the doors of his parish church, he stopped to make a plea for mercy.  Then, he says, he felt an arm reaching across his back and a voice telling him that everything will be okay.  How else could the man interpret this experience except as a divine pronouncement?  The apostles in today’s gospel would have known what this man was feeling after their encounter with the Lord.

The passage is often taken as an allegory for the early Church in crisis.  Jesus is risen and ascended into heaven.  The nascent Church, symbolized by the little boat, is having great difficulty, perhaps from persecution or maybe from internal disputes.  The stormy sea represents primordial, destructive forces that always threaten human projects with annihilation.  But the Lord, who seemed to the apostles to be absent, is actually there to help them.  He tells them not worry.  He even bids their leader to act boldly in face of the crisis.

Just as much as hurricanes and earthquakes threaten the order of creation, accidents and diseases lurk among us.  We need not hesitate to call on the Lord for protection.  But let us not forget to thank him when the clouds break, the sun shines, and we feel as free as butterflies.  

Monday, August 6, 2018

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

(Daniel 7:9-10.13-14; II Peter 1:16-19; Mark 9:2-10)

When Pope St. John Paul II visited the United States in 1987, I and perhaps others had a moment of truth.  At the time the world was being traumatized by the AIDS epidemic.  Many feared that not just any contact but simply being the presence of an AIDS patient risked contamination.  John Paul, however, showed the world that AIDS patients deserve care not isolation.  In San Francisco he hugged the AIDS patients that were invited to meet him.  With all his strictness he proved to be a person of compassion more likely expressing the will of God than any of his critics.  In today’s gospel a similar revelation takes place.

Jesus’ disciples have an inkling of his divinely appointed leadership.  Peter had recently declared that Jesus was the Messiah.  But then Jesus, quite astoundingly, said that he would have to suffer and die at the hands of men.  A question no doubt arose in their minds, “Can Peter have been right in seeing him as the long-awaited king of Israel?” Jesus then takes his most prominent disciples to the mountain where his glory is revealed.  Peter named him correctly.

As we know too well, we live in an age of disbelief.  People no longer believe that God, His angels and saints are here to help us.  We too can find reassurance in the episode of the Transfiguration.  Yes, Jesus is the Messiah.  He died to free us from the burden of our sins.  He is leading us to the glory of the saints.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 26:1-9; Matthew 13:54-58)

You Can’t Go Home Again is the provocative title of a novel by novelist Tom Wolfe.  The story describes the plight of a writer who publishes a successful book about his hometown.  When he returns to the town, he finds his former neighbors upset with how he has portrayed them.  Apparently it is not that they have changed so much as it is he who changed.  Now he sees deep into reality to note people’s motives and desires.  Jesus has a similar experience when returning to Nazareth in today’s gospel passage.

Jesus, it can be assumed, tells the people of Nazareth about his Father, God.  This claim disturbs his neighbors.  “”Is he not the carpenter’s son?’” they ask openly. Rather than heed what he says about God, they dismiss his preaching as pretentious.

We must take care not to treat Jesus similarly.  He is the Son of God who deserves our utmost attention and obedience.  He is not like any other human being whose message in part is destined to be relativized.  Rather his words will always resound with how to live in harmony with the Father.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 18:1-6; Matthew 13:47-53)

Preachers today often speak of God’s “unconditional love.”  Rightly understood, the statement is on target.  God’s love is not conditioned by our actions.  He loves sinners as wells as saints. He wants the best for all humans.  He is always there to help them if they but turn to Him.

Yet it seems that some run too fast with the idea of God’s unconditional love.  They seem to say that it assures everyone a place in the Kingdom.  They want to claim that nothing anyone does might deprive him or her from life eternal.  A funeral director, who hears plenty of homilies about God’s mercy, said that this was one of the results of Vatican II. 

But, of course, the bishops arrived at no such conclusion fifty years ago nor could they do so today.  It would counter Jesus’ teaching in the parable of a huge catch of fish some good and some bad.  In the first reading as well the Lord declares Himself able to reject a people to whom He has shown great love.