Monday, October 1, 2018

Memorial of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

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

Genetic selection is talked about as a certain reality in the not so distant future.  It is said to provide couples with the ability to have the kind of offspring they desire.  If they want a baby with as much brawn as Serena Williams or as much brain as Albert Einstein, they have only to arrange it with their geneticist.  Genetic selection has also the possibility of avoiding medical defects like autism.  What is disturbing about genetic selection, however, is that it obscures the consideration of children as a gift from God.  We hear Job declaring this truth in today’s first reading.

The Book of Job is a brilliant gem in the Bible’s jewelry shop.  For millennia it has provided a way to understand both the incomprehensibility and the ultimate goodness of God.  It also gives a portrait of a truly good man.  Job is not only notable for his patience but also for his faith.  He believes that God is the author of life and that children are His gifts to the parents who give them birth.  They do not belong to anyone except the Lord.

A theologian has expressed a valid stance for parents in the process of having children.  He said that they should be “open to the unbidden.”  That is, rather than trying to plan every aspect of children’s lives including genetic features, parents are to accept their children as they are.  Of course, they should provide their needs and instill in them moral values.  But they are to recognize that children are a gift from God not to be fabricated and engineered but cherished.  

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Luke 9:18-22)

In Umberto Eco’s novel The Island of the Day Before the main character is shipwrecked at a point just east of the International Date Line.  He sees his salvation in reaching an island that is west of the Date Line, seemingly existing in a previous time.  If he can get there, the reader gathers, perhaps he might undo the ills that have caused the shipwreck.  But, of course, it is an impossible quest.  The island does not exist in a time past.  Rather, the “day before” is only part of the time differentiations which humans construct to make sense of the transition of time around the world.

In the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes that we read today, the author Qoheleth speaks of another futile effort involving time.  It tells us that no matter how much time or toil we put into the project, human effort cannot achieve salvation because that is in God’s hands.  The text admonishes us to follow God’s ways according to the schedule He laid down in the Mosaic Law.

God does not abandon us in our quest for the eternal.  Rather, although it was beyond the view of Qoheleth, salvation does come through the Paschal event of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In today’s gospel Jesus recognizes that he is the anointed one to save the world.  That is, he is the fulfillment of the timeless hope, noted by Qoheleth, that rests in every human heart.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Luke 9:7-9)

It is said that St. Vincent de Paul was largely responsible for France’s overcoming of Jansenism.  This seventeenth century heresy was destroying souls in the name of grace.  It taught the need of an obsession over not committing sin, especially of the sexual sort, so that one might be assured of the grace for heaven.  Taking its name from a Dutch bishop, proponents of Jansenism recommended constant confession as a way to avoid eternal fire.  St. Vincent, on the other hand, promoted work of charity as a demonstration of God’s favor.

Born a peasant, Vincent was ordained a priest at the age of twenty.  Very talented, he might have had a comfortable life with the revenue received from a monastery to which he was appointed chaplain.  But the acquaintance of a cardinal in Paris steered his life in another direction.  Rather than enjoying a life of leisure, Vincent began visiting prisons and galley ships to comfort prisoners.  In time he founded the Congregation of the Mission, priests first known as Lazarists and then as Vincentians, to work among poor country folk.  He is also co-founder with St. Louise de Marillac of the Daughters of Charity, who have become renowned for their work with the poor. 

Today’s gospel comments that King Herod greatly wanted to see Jesus.  So would many people throughout the centuries.  We can turn to saints like Vincent de Paul to catch a glimpse of him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Proverbs 30:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)

Death is our biggest fear and greatest natural threat.  It may be considered the work of the devil.  It is not so bad when it comes after a long life.  The one who has lived eighty-five or ninety years may even welcome death as the end to the pains and humiliations of old age.  But when it threatens a young person or someone in middle age, it becomes a scourge.  For this reason Jesus gives his choice Twelve disciples power over demons and the ability to cure diseases.

Their mission is to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  This is no monarchial territory but the reign of justice and peace.  Subjects of the Kingdom are to live righteously, but they are freed from the terror of an early death.  The Kingdom’s full beneficence is not revealed until the end of the gospel.  It bestows not only a long, worthwhile life but also the prospect of eternal bliss.  Those who prove themselves righteous will share in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

It is fashionable today to reject eternal life as fanciful.  Some try to content themselves with following the customs and most of the commandments of Christianity.  They reason that these traditions provide a satisfying rhythm to life and a more or less workable morality.  Not only will this mental picture prove insufficient when life’s challenges mount, but it also betrays the wisdom of today’s first reading.  We are to accept the gospel in its entirety.  We also walk as Jesus’ his disciples – poor but not wanting with the gracious help of one another.  With those disciples as well we look up the road to an eternal destiny where every need is more than satisfied.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Proverbs 21:1-6; 10-13; Luke 8:19-21)

Most baby-boomers remember with fondness the Mickey Mouse Club.  Walt Disney’s daily television show of the late 1950s provided edifying entertainment without pedanticism.  Proverbs were an almost daily feature.  The show’s host repeated a proverb like the ones of today’s first reading.  Then he sang a tune, “Proverbs help us all to be better mouseketeers; that is, followers of Mickey Mouse.  The cheerful, good-hearted cartoon creation was proposed as the model for children of the generation.

The ten proverbs cited today were probably used on the Mickey Mouse Club.  They do not have a unifying theme beyond the need to be humble, earnest, honest, and kind.  They reflect the Decalogue in their moral wisdom and succinctness.

The fact that Jesus frequently uses proverbs in his preaching gives those we hear today added currency.  As he says in the gospel, his closest human relatives are they who hear such words and put them into practice.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Proverbs 3:27-34; Luke 8:16-18)

A lifetime ago poet T.S. Eliot asked of his generation questions that seem even more relevant to ours.  Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” Eliot wrote. And, “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”  Our society seems to know more and more but acts with less and less prudence.  Information abounds, but few seem to use it well.  News media provides an example.  All too often newspapers and TV news editorialize as they report.  They picture reality through a distorted prism so that readers and viewers are left with a biased understanding of what is happening.   One can turn to Scripture as a more reliable source of knowledge and wisdom.

The passage from the Book of Proverbs today reminds us to be generous and just.  In the gospel Jesus uses proverbs to teach the crowds.  The wise, he says, will listen carefully to worthy instruction or they will lose whatever edge they have in facing life’s challenges.  Jesus is showing himself to be the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy at the gospel’s beginning.  He is the light of the nations who comes to reveal God’s plan for the world.

Wisdom is not knowledge and much less mere information.  It is truth about life which for most of us takes a lifetime to comprehend.  We can find it most compactly in Jesus.  If we are going to reach life’s true objectives, we should heed all that he tells us and follow always in his way.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist

(Ephesians 4:1-7.11-13; Matthew 9:9-13)

A young pastor in Chicago speaks of the theology of space.  He sees his community as addressing violence wherever it happens. He reasons that the Church building should reflect an outreach to those often involved in violence. So he has opened in the middle of the church by moving the pews to the side.  Now the youth who often cause violence can gather in church for different activities seven days a week.  The pastor shows the same zeal to call sinners as Jesus does in today’s gospel.

What does Jesus see in Matthew?  No doubt, the tax collector has financial ability.  But Jesus needs preachers who will be loyal to him and then be ready to endure hardship on his behalf.  Perhaps he notices on Matthew’s face dissatisfaction with his compromised profession.  As a fine judge of character, he may see a reluctance to handle money and a need to uplift others.  In any case, he has assessed Matthew correctly.  As soon as he issues his call, Matthew leaves behind his professional accoutrements to follow.

Jesus calls every one of us to serve.  Certainly, we are not all to be apostles.  But, as the Letter to the Ephesians says, everyone is invited “for the work of ministry.”  Let us not hesitate to respond.  Like Matthew let us readily put our things aside to follow Jesus.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, priest and martyr; Paul Chong Ha-sang, martyr; and companions, martyrs

(I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 7:36-50)

The Charismatic Renewal has received more than its rightful share of criticisms.  Pastors sometimes want to suppress it or to keep it from gaining a foothold.  They find its participants too emotional and insufficiently submissive to prayer norms and customs.  Yet the movement is perhaps the most effective resource for evangelization in the Church today.  Detractors might consider the message of today’s gospel before launching criticisms.

Of course, the narrative says nothing about charismatic prayer.  Rather, it tells the story of an emotional woman showing gratitude to Jesus.   She likely heard him preach of God’s mercy and came to the house of Simon, the Pharisee, to show her appreciation.  She lavishes affection on Jesus which would appear extreme except, perhaps, at a Charismatic prayer meeting.  To Simon she is giving added evidence of harlotry, but Jesus recognizes a show of genuine contrition.  He forgives her all her sins while pointing out to Simon his complacencies. 

We should see the Pharisees in the gospel as warnings that we do not criticize the ways of others to worship God.  What may seem odd or eccentric to us may please the Lord as much as our rosaries and penances.  Charismatics especially deserve our continual consideration as they both praise God regularly and bring others to the community.  Truth be told, they are more likely than most to participate in join services to the needy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 7:31-35)

Pope Benedict XVI wrote as helpful a reflection on love as one can hope to fine.  His encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) asks a critical question: Are there different kinds of love, or is it a single reality? If there are different kinds, then some kinds would have a higher quality than others.  In classical terms agape, normally considered as selfless love, would be better than eros or desire.  Quite unexpectedly, Benedict holds that love is singular, that agape is but a purified form of eros. Paul’s great elegy on love, comprising today’s first reading, should be read with Benedict’s insight in mind.

The passage consistently uses agape, yet it is the reading of choice at wedding ceremonies.  Its context bespeaks union, but its words relate consideration and care for the other.  It implies that love is the greatest of the virtues because it is most God-like.  While it does not deny one’s own desires, it seeks first the good of the other. 

St. Therese of Lisieux was surely correct when she recognized that through love anyone could achieve the highest of human desires – sanctity and eternal life.  Whether we are married, religious, or single if we dedicate ourselves to loving others we will not only brings others happiness but also find it ourselves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31a; Luke 7:11-17)

Prophets speak on God’s behalf.  They often utter truths that no one wants to hear. When Judah was being besieged by Assyrian troops, Isaiah told the people to trust in God and not in strategic alliances.  When Israel’s economy was humming, Amos chastised the nation for ignoring the needs of the poor.  In both readings today mention is made of prophets in New Testament times.

Paul lists prophets as the second most important ministry of the Church.  Prophets were not ordained but had a natural ability to speak a necessary but unexpressed truth at a given moment.  Especially Luke’s gospel presents Jesus as a prophet.  Like the primordial prophets Elijah and Elisha he raises the widow’s son from the dead.  He also reveals God’s will on questions like whether one should heal on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ prophecy culminates in Jerusalem when he predicts the destruction of the city.  He tells the people to lead virtuous so that he might rescue them at the critical hour.

The Church has prophets although not a formal ministry of prophecy.  Pope St. Paul VI was a prophet when he wrote the difficult truth of Humanae Vitae.  Prophetic voices are being raised now.  They speak of the need to include women at all level of Church decision-making.  We best listen carefully or we may be defying the will of God.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

( I Corinthians 11:17-26.33; Luke 7:1-10)

A hundred years ago the Church often separated a minority group from the dominant one. Rather than one integrated parish, there were two - a rich parish in the nice part of town and a poor parish of African-Americans, Mexicans or other immigrant group on the poor side of the railroad tracks. Unfortunately, a similar practice is sometimes allowed today.  Communities with means resist having a Eucharist in Spanish, Polish, or other language. St. Paul addresses this abuse in the first reading.

Evidently people have reported to Paul that the well-off in the Corinthian community are separating themselves from the poor.  They have what amounts to a private party while the poor wait for the formal Eucharist to begin. Paul reminds the community that the host of the gathering is Jesus himself present in spirit. In him, he says later in the letter, all are united – slave and free, Jew and Greek, Mexican and Irish, men and women - into one body. Seeking divisions betrays that unity.  It may even nullify his presence

No doubt reaching out to people from other cultures takes us out of our comfort zones. But there is really no alternative for Christians. If we are what we say we are - the Body of Christ -- then we have to act inclusively.  By integrating our communities we profess Jesus Christ as the one Lord of the whole world.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

(Numbers 21:4b-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17)

One of the earliest poems in the English language is a reflection on the Holy Cross.  In “The Dream of the Rood” the rood is a pole or a cross. The poem describes the trajectory of its existence.  It was once a tree before being cut down and formed into an instrument of death.  Brought to Calvary, the rood realized that it was being embraced by Jesus and so would suffer with him.  In the end the rood was adorned with precious stones where the Savior’s body had been attached.  The story is a kind of personal remembrance of today’s second reading.

The passage from the Letter to the Philippians is believed to have originated as a hymn sung by early Christians.  It was adopted by Paul for his lesson on humility and obedience. The Son, Christ Jesus, was always God, but at the Father’s command humbled himself to be born as human.  On earth he continued in obedience in order to fulfill his Father’s will to redeem humanity from sin.  He was crucified, but death was not the last word about his mission.  God raised him up so that he might be adored and worshiped.

Both “The Dream of the Rood” and the Letter to the Philippians encourage us to suffer with Christ.  Catholics today are facing ridicule for continuing as members of a Church whose leaders have sometimes sinned.  We can accept the humiliation as a way of participating in the Savior’s crucifixion.  Our comfort is to know that following Christ, we will come to his glory.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Corinthians 8:1b-7.11-13; Luke 6:27-38)

Reading a biographical sketch of St. John Chrysostom, one is reminded of Pope Francis.  Like Francis, John was an excellent preacher.  In fact, the appellation “Chrysostom” means golden-mouth.  He was also a bishop of an imperial see who lived in simplicity and befriended the poor.  John made enemies among the elite for his outspoken opposition to aristocratic extravagances.  He particularly criticized churchmen for unseemly wealth and abuse of power.  The lives of both John and Francis indicate an assimilation of today’s readings.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians that love demands sacrifices.  He says that even if some desired action is not evil but would cause scandal, one should not do it out of love.  Paul’s words reflect a profound acceptance of Jesus’ teaching. The Lord commands his disciples to love even their enemies.  Their love must do more than wish the other person well.  It must be willing to make sacrifices for the person.

It is fair to ask if Jesus should be taken literally when he tells us to “’give to everyone who asks of you.’”  I do not believe that it is necessary that we give everything others may request.  But we do have to try to meet people’s basic needs.  We are to clothe the naked and feed the hungry.  We are also to honor the God-like dignity of every man and woman.

Wednesday, September 13, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 7:25-31; Luke 6:20-26)

A perennial question in the Church concerns priestly celibacy.  Should married men be ordained to the priesthood?  There are former Episcopalian priests with wives who are ordained Roman Catholic priests, but here we want to consider the rule and not the exception.  Some believe that celibacy is the right option for those who believe they would be happier without a wife.  St. Paul offers an interesting alternative to this position.

Paul admits that he is speaking on his own here; nevertheless, his words are authoritative.  Believing that Jesus is to return soon, he recommends that all people not marry.  Paul says that although married couples should not separate, the unmarried should not seek marriage.  Rather, he believes that they are wise to keep the Lord constantly in mind.  Paul is well aware of the human tendency to preoccupy itself with sex if that is at hand.

Most priest celibates experience some difficulty.  Like most men they long for intimacy with a woman and to raise a family.  However, married couples do not have life easy either.  Marriage is necessary to continue the human enterprise, and celibacy testifies to the Lord’s eventual return.  It is not likely that enough men would choose celibacy without a rule for this witness to be widespread.  Therefore, it may be said that although it requires deeply felt sacrifice, priestly celibacy is valuable for preaching the full gospel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 6:1-11; Luke 6:12-19)

A recent article on the editorial page of The New York Times criticized the Church for its sexual morality.  The author reacted to the suspicion of homosexual activity among priests and bishops raised by the former Apostolic Delegate to the United States.  More to the point, the author said that the Church has failed “to come to grips with sex.”  Especially problematic for him was St. Paul’s condemnation of homosexual activity, an instance of which is found in today’s first reading.

Paul does not make distinctions when he declares that “sodomites,” like other kinds of blatant sinners, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  By using that term he might well have in mind promiscuous men who seek to victimize others.  Perhaps he would not as hastily doomed men in a committed relationships.  However, the issue here is the purpose of sexual activity.  The Church has always maintained that genital sex is ordered to have children.  In more recent times the Church has emphasized another purpose which is to assist a married couple grow in mutual love.  Procreative, love-nurturing sexual activity is not an ideal for the holiest couples.  It is a reality in millions of marriages throughout history and today.

Advocates of the Sexual Revolution have proclaimed that sexual activity outside marriage can be good.  With the wreckage of poverty, emotional distress, to say nothing of abortions, that has resulted from “free love,” one should think that it is they, not the Church, who have to come to grips with reality.  The Church must continue teaching, whether or not its message is accepted, what it has received from Jesus:  when a man and a woman marry, they become “one flesh” which is not to be divided.  St. Paul never denies this truth but means to affirm it with his condemnation of sodomy.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

( I Corinthians 11:17-26.33; Luke 7:1-10)

A hundred years ago the Church often separated a minority group from the dominant one. Rather than one integrated parish, there were two - a rich parish in the nice part of town and a poor parish of African-Americans, Mexicans or other immigrant group on the poor side of the railroad tracks. Unfortunately, a similar practice is sometimes allowed today.  Communities with means resist having a Eucharist in Spanish, Polish, or other language. St. Paul addresses this abuse in the first reading.

Evidently people have reported to Paul that the well-off in the Corinthian community are separating themselves from the poor.  They have what amounts to a private party while the poor wait for the formal Eucharist to begin. Paul reminds the community that the host of the gathering is Jesus himself present in spirit. In him, he says later in the letter, all are united – slave and free, Jew and Greek, Mexican and Irish, men and women - into one body. Seeking divisions betrays that unity.  It may even nullify his presence

No doubt, reaching out to people from other cultures takes us out of our comfort zones. But there is really no alternative for Christians. If we are what we say we are - the Body of Christ -- then we have to act inclusively.  By integrating our communities we profess Jesus Christ as the one Lord of the whole world.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 6:6-11)

Donald Trump’s “locker room banter” many times is more than bravado.  Men will brag of actual sexual exploits as if they were still school boys propelled by excess dopamine.  The same coarseness has long been in comic routines and now appears even among strangers.  St. Paul takes the Corinthians to task for showing acceptance of a similar display of lewdness.

Paul is outraged upon hearing how the Corinthian community gossips about sexual sins. Evidently the community is more amused than affronted by a member’s sleeping with his father’s wife. He chastises everyone for finding delight in the travesty.  He implies that this kind of practice indicates a loss in the Christian quest for holiness.  He says like leaven in dough they have been inflated by sin.  He exhorts them to renew the quest by distancing themselves both spiritually and physically from the guilty party.

In this time of sexual license many will think it normal, even healthy to describe sexual adventure.  The ancients labeled such description “obscene” to relegate it to the periphery.  We should be wary that such talk does not become familiar.  It will lure us into thinking the sexual intimacy may be pursued by anyone at any time.  Surely such an idea will detour us from the road to sanctity.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 5:33-39)

It is always perplexing to hear people seemingly without a prejudiced sentiment in their soul deride old age.  Perhaps they invert a friend’s age saying that she is thirty-seven rather than seventy-three.  Or maybe they repudiate that the friend has any age at all be calling her “seventy-three years young.” 

What is it about old age that we don’t like to think of ourselves or those whom we love as having a part in it?  When living things become old, they naturally die so humans at least fear growing old for that reason.  Similarly, we know that in old age people experience a decrease in ability, be it the physical capacity to work day and night or the mental ability to recall facts immediately.  But becoming old has positive sides.  People often correct destructive behavior patterns in old age, and there is some truth to the celebrated “wisdom of old age.”  Antiques have a definite charm as they imply craftsmanship and originality.  In today’s gospel Jesus reminds us of an item that generally improves with years – wine.

American Catholics need to be wary of denigrating old age because both their faith tradition and their government are practically ancient.  The Catholic Church is sometimes dubbed “the oldest institution in the world.”  Likewise, there are few constitutional governments older than that of the United States.  We can say that it is good to be old when age has a regenerating element that self-corrects corrupting tendencies and adapts to current ways of life.  In the Church we recognize this factor as the Holy Spirit.  In American society we see it as a sense of human equality.  More than most other societies we believe “that all men (and women) are created equal.”

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 3:18-23; Luke 5:1-11)

Simon makes his livelihood fishing.  Having his own boat, he probably is an accomplished fisherman.  That means he knows the sea; he is sea-wise.  But St. Paul tells the Corinthians in the first reading that there is something better than being “wise in this age.”  He exhorts them to become like fools needing instruction.  So what happens when Simon abandons his own wisdom to follow Jesus’ instruction? That’s right; he catches two boat-loads of fish. 

The catch is symbolic for Jesus.  He tells Simon that he will be catching humans, not fish, implying that there will be many.  But to do so, once again Simon must become foolish by giving up his boat and gear.  If he is to preach the Kingdom of God, he must dedicate himself one hundred percent to learning from the master.  How can Simon help but to take up the challenge?

We too must give up the quest for worldly wisdom.  That is, we must forsake the incessant pursuit of fame and fortune.  Jesus has chosen each of us to learn from him so that we might teach others about him.  We are not talking necessarily about enlisting converts here.  No, we are sent to convert others to his ways by example, instruction, and tender care.  Through our efforts may our associates become more just, loving, and faithful people.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 3:1-9; Luke 4:38-44)

Although the Catholic Church claims to be one, a telling fissure appears on its surface.  Liberal and conservative Catholics criticize each other continuously.  Liberals believe that the Church must change if its teaching is to maintain credibility.  They see, for example, a married clergy as not only desirable but critical. Conservatives believe that most changes betray the tradition handed over through the centuries. They even frown on the revived customs of taking Holy Communion in the hand and from the chalice.  St. Paul provides a needed corrective of both sides in today’s first reading.

Paul calls the Corinthians “fleshly people” for creating divisions among themselves.  “Fleshly” appears to be the same quality as “natural” in yesterday’s passage.  It refers to living according to the animal desires of dominance and sensuality.  Even though they have been baptized into Christ, Paul sees them as no more Christ-like than ruthless warriors.  He urges the Corinthians to transcend their differences by seeing God as their all-encompassing life-force.  His compassion for all must be emulated.

We do well to follow Paul’s recommendations.  Of course, we are to pursue truth by making strong arguments for what we believe.  But even truth does not allow us to denigrate those who take different positions.  Most always there will be something to note with approval.  In this way that fissure threatening Church unity will soon disappear.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 2:10b-16; Luke 4:31-37)

Medical authorities note that the misuse of opioid drugs has reached epidemic proportions.  Easy access to an assortment of prescribed and illicit opium derivatives is having drastic consequences.  Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under fifty years of age.  Life expectancy for Americans has decreased in the last few years because of the epidemic.  In today’s gospel Jesus uses his authority to overcome the power of drives like opioid addiction.

Jesus has come from Nazareth where he announced that his anointing to bring relief to the oppressed.  He is confronted by a man who is said to have an “unclean demon.”  Although demons are commonly thought today to be living spirits, in ancient times they were often associated with inner compulsions.  An unclean demon could be a psychological or emotional drive for contact with decomposed matter, excrement, or forbidden food.  Jesus’ command forces this demon to leave the besieged soul.

Facing people with opioid addiction or any uncontrollable inner drive, we should turn to Jesus.  Prayer will have positive effect on the affected.  It may take a while and may not be experienced completely at once, but Jesus will bring relief.  Of course, prayer as a spiritual resource should not exclude medical assistance and emotional support.  God works in harmony with nature to bring us salvation.