Thursday, November 1, 2018

Solemnity of All Saints

(Revelation 7:2-4.9-14; I John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a)

Every one of us probably can tell the story of a saint.  We probably did not know a canonized saint like Mother Teresa or St. Oscar Romero.  But we have known at least one or two people whose lives always reflected God’s holiness and goodness.  I knew a priest who even when he lived almost a hundred years would answer the door for all callers.  If they wanted him to hear their confession, which usually was the case, he would do it promptly, even if he was eating dinner at the time. 

Today’s gospel gives us the characteristics of these saints.  They are “poor in spirit” never resting on their laurels but always looking to God for salvation.  They show mercy to all never holding grudges but always willing to forgive those who wrong them.  They possess clean hearts never allowing animal desires to objectify others but treating everyone as a beloved brother or sister.

All saints have their feast day on which we remember their virtue and pray for their intercession.  Today we celebrate not those special saints whom we have known or heard of but of all whom we have not known.  We recognize that they have been transformed by God’s grace which spreads like air throughout the world.  We also pray today that we will allow ourselves to breathe in that grace.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 6:1-9; Luke 13:22-30)

Sir John Falstaff taught the English Prince Hal how to live a dissolute life.  Drinking, gambling, and womanizing were vices that the man passed on to his young protégé.  When Prince Hal became King Henry, Falstaff supposed that he would have life easy.  He expected his friend, the king, to provide him with all the money necessary for both pleasure and leisure.  King Henry, however, rejects his friend as an opportunist.  He banishes him from his presence “on pain of death.”  Jesus promises to do something similar in today’s gospel.

A man from the crowd yells at Jesus a question.  “’Lord,’” he asks, “’will only a few people be saved?’” Quite surprising to people today, Jesus warns the crowd that they had better desist doing evil.  He says that even though they “’ate and drank’” with him, they have not won salvation.  Rather they have to do good and avoid evil if they are ever to enjoy eternal life.

We Catholics sometimes have a similarly incorrect idea about the way to salvation. Some of us believe that just because we “’ate and drank’” with the Lord at mass, our eternal destiny is secure.  No, we must do so worthily.  This means that we strive along with Jesus to love God and neighbor.  It implies that we sacrifice our comfort to follow his way of service.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13:18-21)

Betty and her husband lived in a Texas city fifty years ago.  It was still a time when most women did not work outside the home, and Betty was no exception here.  But she had social interests that brought her in contact with the poor.  She began to advocate publicly for needy children.  She asked for government support for programs like Head Start.  Her husbands’ friends saw such social schemes as communist.  They told him that his wife she should stay at home.  But he told them that he believed his wife was right.  The community should assist poor families meet the needs of their children.

Betty’s husband was motivated by a deep love for his life.  He did not come to favor community social assistance on his own.  It was his love for his wife that made him see its justice.  No doubt he took seriously today’s first reading.  Husbands have to love their wives wholeheartedly.  True love requires careful attention to what the other believes.  It calls forth patience to both understand her truth and question her inconsistencies.  It also elicits sacrifice so that she might flourish in her goodness.

Today’s passage from Ephesians has been dismissed as culturally conditioned.  Even St. John Paul II said that love excludes any kind of servile subjection.  But it contains a message as critical as a hurricane warning.  Husband and wife must love one another unreservedly.  If they do not, they will not only fail their families but also their Lord.  As the Letter makes clear, their relationship is to reflect Christ’s love for the Church.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17)

Every seminarian should learn not to chastise people in public.  People may be willing to change improper behavior if told politely and discreetly.  But they will surely defend themselves if publicly humiliated.  Priests receive this lesson the hard way when they tell parents to remove a crying infant from church.  Today’s gospel gives another instance of this very mild form of clerical abuse.

The synagogue leader scolds the sick for coming to see Jesus on a Sabbath.  He faults them for causing Jesus to heal which he sees as a form of prohibited work.  Interestingly, he directs his criticism at the invalids and not at Jesus, the perpetrator of the perceived misdeed.  Anyway, Jesus comes to their defense.  His argument is that since the Sabbath celebrates liberation, how can it be wrong to liberate the suffering on that day?

The passage from Ephesians gives us the proper perspective for correcting others’ mistakes.  It exhorts us to be kind and compassionate to one another.  Fraternal correction is an act of charity if done with respect for the dignity of the person at fault.  We have to help him or her to feel cared for and not demeaned.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59)

In a remarkable painting the seventeenth century artist Caravaggio depicts Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector.  Light streams from behind Jesus to expose a look of complete surprise on the tax collector’s face.  Jesus points to Levi with his hand reminiscent of God’s on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  A new creation is taking place. Levi is being called to become a new man.  Meanwhile he points his own finger at himself as if to say, “Me?  You must be kidding.” 

As Jesus calls the tax collector to follow him, he beckons each of us.  Like Levi, we may be astounded by the summons.  “Am I fortunate or deluded?” we ask ourselves.  “Does it mean that I have to give up everything?” we worry.  The reading from Ephesians today does not demur in impressing on us the reality of the call.  It also reminds us of the burden such a call imposes.  We will have to bear with the idiosyncrasies of one another and strive to make our own less annoying.

Sooner or later our effort will cause us to ask, “Is the call worth it?”  A recent analysis discovers four stages of happiness: satisfying our physical senses, bettering our neighbors, coming to peace with others, entering into a relationship with God.  The first two kinds are fleeting while the latter settle deeply within the soul.  Ephesians proposes these final types of happiness as it speaks of “unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” and “one God and Father of all” as our destiny in Christ Jesus.  It harbors no doubt that the assured goal more than justifies any energy exerted.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:14-21; Luke 12:49-53)

A lot of people want to be cool. They want to be liked without being engaged with others.  More importantly, they want to be admired without becoming attached.  They like to use their cells.  With these devices they can communicate with anyone or everyone without having to settle for present company.  They want to impress others as being happy, but in reality they are probably lonely.

Today’s readings are meant to offer the ones who want to be cool another route in life.  They speak of love – not so much physical love although that is not necessarily excluded – but a richer kind.   They tell of the love which enables one to transcend personal desires for the benefit of neighbor.  The Letter to the Ephesians is more direct.  It prays that the love of Christ which moved him to die so that the world might live may dwell in the readers’ hearts.  This love is the fire with which Jesus in the gospel says he wants to ignite the world. 

With such love we do not care about being cool.  We want to help strangers as well as relatives.  With such love we will put away our telephones to talk with those around us.  With such love we come to realize that happiness can never be singular but must be shared with others.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48)

Faulty church leadership has erupted into the news this year.  The Attorney General of Pennsylvania documented numerous cases of episcopal cover-up of clerical child abuse.  Former Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., was cited for numerous homosexual incidents with clerics and seminarians.  A bishop in Chile was forced to resign after protecting a pedophile priest and even reportedly witnessing his abusiveness.  Even Pope Francis suffered a loss of credibility when he temporarily defended the Chilean bishop.  Jesus warns against such misuse of holy offices in today’s gospel.

Jesus uses the startling image of a burglar to express how he will surprise those who use their authority to abuse others.  He says that they will be punished severely if they knew of his concern for justice as all bishops and priests surely do.  Peter has asked Jesus if the punishment applies to the apostles.  Jesus answers effectively that they can bet their lives that it does.

The Church has survived worse scandals than the present ones.  The corruption in the hierarchy in the Renaissance serves as a ready example.  But this fact should be of little consolation.  Its mission in an age of skepticism and autonomous thinking has been severely compromised.  It must, as Francis as begun to do, root out the abuse of clerical power especially when it leads to sexual exploitation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:12-22; Luke 12:35-38)

Romeo and Juliet is never considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.  Its poetry at points supersedes its plot, and its heroes are too immature to have truly tragic dimension.  Yet more than Hamlet, Macbeth, or other of the more esteemed works, Romeo and Juliet accomplishes the purpose of the tragic form.  It purges viewers of the destructive flaw in their lives that brings about catastrophic outcomes. Romeo and Juliet works in a way like the Christ event in today’s first reading.

As the death of the young lovers brings peace to their feuding families, the death of Christ reconciles the world to God.  It says that Jesus preached peace to Jews and Gentiles. Although his main thrust was among Jews, Jesus also proclaimed his Father’s love by healing Syro-Phoenecian woman’s daughter and driving the demons from the Geresene strongman.  A conspiracy of Jews and Gentiles brought about his death although he was innocent of all sin.  Yet he offered himself to it in obedience so that all human disobedience may be forgiven.  All can now look at his crucified image to experience a wave of contrition followed by a spring of transforming grace.

Beyond thanks our response to Christ’s reconciling death is to seek peace with others.  Through dialogue and patience we strive for understanding and care of all people.  As Christ is brother of all, we become family to members of other nations, beliefs, and races.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 12:13-21)

Both readings today speak of riches.  The Letter to the Ephesians, citing a passage from the Old Testament, says that God is “rich in mercy.”  It goes on to explain how this abundance is extended to humans in the “riches of grace” which is accessed by faith in Christ. 

The gospel offers contrasting riches.  Jesus warns the crowd not to seek material wealth with his parable about the rich farmer.  The man, who is called a fool, builds a storehouse with his surplus rather than use it to help the needy.  At the end of the story Jesus references God’s riches to exhort the people to be merciful and gracious.

The other day the lottery in our state publicized on highway billboards a $660 million jackpot.  No doubt thousands of people stopped on their way home to buy tickets.  The vast majority of us, even if we don’t want to become rich, feel the need for something more.  If we are wise and not foolish, we will seek that “more” in God’s riches.  With mercy and graciousness, we become like our Creator.  Seeing that, He will keep us as his own for all eternity.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, priests, and Companions, martyrs

(Ephesians 1:11-14; Luke 12:1-7)

Many think that Christ’s “passion” only refers to his suffering for our sake.  But the word “passion” indicates much more.  As Mel Gibson said when he released his famous movie, “passion” refers first to Christ’s burning love.  Passionate love moved Christ to suffer the worst of deaths so that we might enjoy the best of life.  If newcomers to the Church are not impressed by this, what can touch their hearts?

The seal or sign of our being chosen by God is received in Baptism.  There the Holy Spirit marks us – the “you” of the Ephesians passage -- as God’s own.  Now we too can look forward to eternal life.  Now we too should live for God by giving Him praise and calling others to Him.  A deceased bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth had his baptismal date inscribed on his tombstone.  He used to tell his people that it was the most important day of his life because on it the Holy Spirit adopted him into God’s family.  He might have added that on that day he received the Spirit’s grace to help transform the world.

But many of us do not remember the date of our Baptism, much less celebrate it.  Perhaps we don’t know or believe that there is anything special at all about being baptized.  We do not see that Baptism makes God our Father in a unique sense because it joins us to Christ.  We are oblivious to the truth that this relationship gives us a claim on an eternal home of joy and love.  Ephesians declares that we have already received an installment of this inheritance.  We should already be experiencing this joy and love in our communities -- family, church, and society.  Even if they are not exemplary, our challenge now is to improve the quality of these situations.  We should strive to make them places which reflect the goodness and peace of God. When they do so, no one will doubt the wonder of being a Christian.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

(II Timothy 4:10-17b; Luke 10:1-9)

In a sense today, today we celebrate a Scripture more than a man.  We know very little about St. Luke other than what can be gleaned from his writing.  The New Testament references to him are thin.  Indeed, it cannot be said with complete certainty that the “Luke” found in the writings attributed to St. Paul is the author of the third gospel.  Nothing is known of how he died, much less of where he was born. This is said not to create skepticism but awe for the magnificent work of this evangelist.

Luke refers to himself directly only twice in his New Testament writings.  At the beginning of his gospel he says that he investigated “everything accurately anew.”  He does present much material that is not found in the other gospels – the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, for examples, as well as the Christmas story from the viewpoint of Mary.  The writings’ classical style and polished Greek indicate that Luke was well educated.  Luke emphasizes the Holy Spirit in both his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.  Not only are there numerous references to the Spirit’s presence, but also the effects of the Spirit are manifest.  More than the other evangelists, Luke pictures Jesus and the disciples praying.  Also, he testifies to the Spirit’s uniting all people by continually including women and both the poor and the wealthy.

Luke is often referenced as the patron of physicians and artists.  We could easily see him as the sponsor of writers, scholars and charismatic prayer groups as well.  He is also a special friend of women, of the poor, and of those with great Marian devotion.  Really all Christians are indebted to him.  He deepened, expanded, and colored our knowledge of our Savior.  How can we not toast him and pray to him today?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Galatians 5:18-25; Luke 11:42-46)

The letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch come as a ray of sun shining through a miry fog.  The New Testament leaves the episcopacy in a murky state.  They detail in a limited way the qualifications for the office of bishop but say little about his functions.  St. Ignatius, who lived at the end of New Testament times, fills in the lacunae.

Ignatius clearly distinguishes the duties of bishop, priest, and deacon.  He leaves no doubt as to who is in charge.  But he has favorable words for all the ordained.  He compares the bishop with God, the Father.  For this reason he is considered the originator of the “monarchial bishop.”  He sees the priests’ role as like that of the Holy Spirit who is found sanctifying the people in all places and ways.  Deacons in Ignatius’ view are quite honored.  They are like Christ, the Savior, doing good to all whom they meet.

As much as a theologian, Ignatius is renowned as a spiritual writer.  His letters can turn deeply personal.  He reflects on his upcoming execution as an opportunity to join Christ in suffering and death.  In one memorable passage he tells Roman Christians not to interfere with his being sent to the lions.  Why? He wrote, “I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ”!  Saint Ignatius of Antioch was a martyr and a bishop, a wise man and a holy man.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 5:1-6; Luke 11:37-41)

All great religions stress the importance of almsgiving.  It is one of the five obligations of every Muslim.  Jews find testimony of it in their Scriptures written in the last centuries before Christ.  Jesus speaks of its importance to cleansing the soul in today’s gospel.  Then why do people have such difficulty giving money to the poor?

The reason is not hard to imagine.  Often enough recipients of alms do not use them for basic needs.  Rather they purchase peripheral goods and sometimes harmful substances.  As much as this is the case giving alms implicates one in an evil.  But there are other ways to help those begging assistance.

Perhaps befriending the poor, listening to the stories of their lives, and providing them with food is the best thing that can be done.  Also, when we see them on a street corner soliciting cars passing by, we might promise ourselves to send a donation to Catholic Charities or the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  Finally, praying for the poor not only secures God’s help but reminds us to do what we can.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church
(Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)

One of the great debates in ethics is over the definition of freedom.  Is freedom merely the absence of physical restraints?  If this were the case, one would be free as long as no one were holding the person back.  In freedom Jack could help Jill, ignore Jill, or kill Jill.  A second, deeper definition of freedom sees it as transcending both physical and spiritual barriers.  One is free if in addition to having no physical holds to overcome, there were no inward compulsions determining how the person will act.  The person would choose between different ways of doing good because humans are made for that.  Jack might buy Jill a cup of coffee, read her a sonnet of Shakespeare, telephone her when she gets sick, etc.  Surely St. Paul has this second idea in mind when he writes to the Galatians in today’s first reading, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.”

Paul realizes that sin has short-circuited human freedom.  Since Adam no one has been able to do the good that they deeply desire to do because of pride, lust, envy, and the other vices.  Recently, however, Christ has freed them from sin by his cross and resurrection.  His obedience to God and God’s ever-gracious approval have unbound the inner hold that sin has had on humans.  Now they can love as they were always meant to do.

If we are to realize the freedom Christ has won for us, we must remain close to him.  We do so through receiving Holy Communion and the other sacraments; by reading Scripture, especially the gospels; and by associating with the good people who comprise his body, the Church. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 3:7-14; Luke 11:15-26)

In every election cycle candidates court the people’s favor by distributing T-shirts.   If they are incumbents, they finagle legislation that gives voters more incentives to vote for them.  Like the crowd in the gospel wondering if Jesus casts out demons because he is in league with Beelzebub, the voters should question such freebies.

Knowing the suspicions of the people, Jesus tries to assuage their doubts in different ways.  First, he uses logic.  Beelzebub would be working against himself, he says, if he were casting out demons in his name.  Then Jesus tries to convince the people of his innocence with a comparison.  He casts out demons no differently than local healers.  If they suspect him of being in league with the devil, should they not also question the validity of the village exorcist?  Finally, Jesus proposes a challenge.  They should accept his marvelous deeds – he tells them - as a sign that the Kingdom of God has finally come.  “Wouldn’t that be wonderful!” he intimates.

But Jesus does not avoid the fact that the coming of the Kingdom will entail a response on the part of its beneficiaries.  People have to convert to its standards of justice, compassion, and peace.  If not, the vacuum created by the removal of the evil spirit will invite an even more pernicious presence.  We might think of a household that has been exterminated of mice.  But unless safeguards against pests are put in place quickly, rats will invade the house in force.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 3:1-5; Luke 11:5-13)

Fr. Paul Hinnebusch used to teach theology to a charismatic prayer community in Dallas.  He said that he did not pray in tongues nor did he particularly care for other forms of charismatic prayer.  But he enjoyed being with the community because of their desire to know about the Lord.  Fr. Hinnebusch would share St. Paul’s concern about the Galatians in today’s first reading.

It can be assumed that the Galatians had a prayer style similar to what we know as charismatic prayer.  Three times Paul mentions the Spirit in the passage.  It is the same Spirit that he associates with the gift of tongues in the First Letter to the Corinthians.  Evidently the Galatians prayed in ways that are still associated with the Holy Spirit.  That is, they sang songs of praise to God and even spoke in tongues.  Paul does not criticize them for this.  But he twice calls them “stupid” because through a lapse in theology they have assumed Jewish religious practices like circumcision.  He tells them almost brutally that they are saved by faith in Christ, not by religious works.

In our desire for salvation we sometimes lapse into thinking that we are saved by our works.  We may think that no matter what we do as long as we go to church on Sunday, we will enjoy eternal life.  Or perhaps we believe that heaven is the reward of all who help their neighbors.  No, as Paul states quite clearly in this same Letter to the Galatians, the only thing that matters is “faith working through love.”  We have to peer at the cross and say, “Yes, Lord, you are my Savior; I will follow you.” Of course, then we have to follow through.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 2:1-2.7-14; Luke 11:1-14)

It is hard to overestimate the contribution of St. Paul to early Christianity.  He was arguably its greatest theologian and its most successful missionary.   Although he continually proved himself a person of undaunted courage, he could also be tender and loving.  Today’s first reading indicates another supreme virtue of Paul.

Even though he received a mandate to preach from Christ, Paul never breaks covenant with the Twelve.  Quite the opposite, in the passage from Galatians Paul shows how he gave them deference.  He went up to Jerusalem for their approval of his mission.  He also gladly accommodated their desire that he take up a collection for poor Christians in Jerusalem.  But Paul is not necessarily placid before the regular apostles. When Peter tries to avoid criticism for eating with Gentiles, Paul charges him with hypocrisy. 

Paul serves us well both as a model to be imitated and a sage to be contemplated.  He loved Christ more than anyone or anything.  He also helps us to know the Lord by writing openly of his personal relationship with him.  It might not have been always comfortable to know Paul as exacting as he was.  However, the acquaintance would have brought us much closer to our goal of salvation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 1:13-24; Luke 10:38-42)

It is said that St. John Paul II used to teach that the first duty of every Christian is to allow herself to be loved by God.  Some people seem to believe that they must earn this love so they never stop working.    They act in a way similar to Martha in today’s gospel.

Remember the story of Jesus visiting Zacchaeus’ home; how he tells the tax collector, “’…salvation has come to this house.’”  Salvation has come to Martha and Mary’s home, but Martha does not realize her fortune.  Her only concern is service to her guests.  As admirable as this intention may be, it blocks an encounter with the Lord.  Out of obsessive concern for work Martha misses a unique opportunity for salvation.  Mary, in contrast, realizes the uniqueness of the opportunity.  She responds with attentiveness to what Jesus has to say.

The long day provides many opportunities to work.  It also offers us moments to contemplate God’s goodness and to thank Him for His bounty.  We are wise to be a little like both sisters in this gospel episode.  Like Mary we want to attend to the Lord by cherishing his words and thanking him for his goodness.  Like Martha we want to serve him by caring for the need of others.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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

Liberation theologians of the last century called attention to the need of what they called “orthopraxis.”  This long word comes from two Greek words meaning right practice. The liberationists often said that orthopraxis was more important to salvation than orthodoxy or correct belief.  That statement had some shock value, but as today’s readings indicate, the two – orthopraxis and orthodoxy – correspond like a hand in a glove.

In the first reading Paul expresses dismay with the Galatians for accepting a false doctrine.  By having themselves circumcised, they were rejecting the orthodox position that salvation comes through faith in Christ.  In the gospel Jesus shows howt faith must be applied to the workaday world.  Faith in him means to practice the active love he taught by word and deed.  The Samaritan proves worthy of salvation because he sacrificed his time, effort, and money for the man who was waylaid by robbers. 

Paul will write later in the same Letter to the Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).  The two – faith and a working love – might be seen as two halves of a paper dollar.  Faith without works cannot purchase us anything because it lacks grounding in life.  On the other hand, love without faith is likewise worthless for salvation because it lacks abiding commitment.  Together faith and love enable us to know Christ which is the essence of eternal life.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Job 38:1.12-21.12-21.40:3-5; Luke 10:13-16)

 On the anniversary of his being ordained a bishop, St. Augustine said: “Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you.  For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian.  The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation.”  More than most clerics, Augustine was aware of the great responsibility he assumed with ordination.  Jesus suggests the enormity of the undertaking in today’s gospel.

Jesus is dismissing the seventy-two disciples for their missionary journey.  He has mandated that they announce the kingdom of God.  Now, after indicating the consequences of rejecting the proclamation, he identifies himself with them, and God the Father with him.  It may be a privilege that they have been chosen to preach God’s word, but it entails a huge mortgage.  They will be responsible for other people’s salvation.  If they fail because of carelessness or giving rise to scandal, they can expect a fate more disastrous than the condemnation of Tyre, Sidon, and Capernaum.

All of us are being called today to be missionary disciples.  We are to learn from Jesus the ways of holiness, love, and justice.  And then we are to show these qualities to others.  There is not much room for slack on the mission.  But let us not be troubled so much by the responsibility.  After all, as Augustine knew well, knowing Christ has graced us.  We not only can but are delighted to share his love with others.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi

(Job 19:21-27; Luke 10:1-12)

In Luke’s gospel Jesus sends out two groups of disciples.  In the first commissioning Jesus sends the Twelve with power over demons and the ability to cure diseases.  They are to proclaim the Kingdom of God by using the powers that Jesus entrusted to them.  In the second – the one we hear about in today’s gospel – Jesus sends out a much larger number of disciples. (There are seventy or seventy two, depending on the manuscript tradition that is followed.)  Like in the first sending, Jesus tells them to heal the sick and to proclaim the kingdom but no mention is made of power over demonic spirits.

We should ask ourselves, why are there two commissionings in Luke and only one in Matthew and Mark?  And then, what is the difference, if any, between the two? Luke very well may have a universal mission in mind when he writes of Jesus’ second commissioning.  He is likely saying that the seventy (two) disciples represent most of Jesus’ followers.  They are to proclaim by word and deed the coming of the Kingdom of God.  In the more limited first sending Jesus commissions the Twelve who will become the first apostles with the power to confect the Eucharist.  Here they are given the power to forgive sins -- the sacramental equivalent of casting out demons.

Today we celebrate one of the greatest saints of the Church.  Francis of Assisi was known for his humility.  He did not think himself worthy of being a priest and even resisting being made a deacon!  Yet he found an order of preaching brothers to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  He inspires all of us to go out and tell others about Jesus Christ.  Like the seventy (two) are sent by Christ to proclaim the Kingdom, we are to tell others of the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Perhaps we think we do God a favor by praying every day.  We may think that God somehow needs our support.  Job’s understanding of God in today’s first reading more truly hits the spot.  God is utterly beyond us so that anything we do either individually or collectively can hardly faze Him.  Yet God has made our lives important.  He created us with a certain likeness to Himself so that we might in know and love Him.  More marvelous still, He sent us His Son to clarify our knowledge and purify our love.

Today’s gospel indicates the upshot of Christ’s revelation.  The presence of the Kingdom -- which is to say the presence of God -- relativizes all other concerns.  Even care for our parents, to whom we owe the most in this world, is subordinate to service of the Kingdom.  Jesus also suggests that giving priority to God can challenge our peace.  We may find ourselves like him without a home to call our own.

Then how do we deal with the exigencies of life?  What are we supposed to do when we cannot attend Mass because we are called to work on Sunday?  What if we see someone on the side of the road obviously needing help but have other obligations to keep?  Such situations enable our love of God to mature.  Often we can find alternative ways to fulfill all our obligations.  We may not be able to attend Mass in the morning but perhaps in the evening.  Alternatively we can pray for the person in need.  We have to realize that we cannot do everything but we always can do something (usually more than most people think) to love God as only He deserves.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

(Job 3:1-3.11-17.20-23; Matthew 18:1-5.10)

Spiritual teacher Ronald Rolheiser the other day wrote that no one really parents children alone.  He said that single parents can count on God to guide their children along with them.  This idea expresses a very similar insight to Jesus’ reference to Guardian Angels in today’s gospel.

Jesus echoes an Old Testament tradition that God sends angels as His ambassadors to watch over human beings.  Jesus’ point is that not only leaders -- which is to say the most important people -- have divine guidance.   Children, the simplest of humans, have such help as well.  He is advising his disciples not to seek importance but to rejoice to have God as their Father.

We as well want to be recognized as important, not only by a few but by everyone.  It is a vain ambition since no one will be admired by all – not even a Pope Francis.  However, everyone can count on God’s love.  This providential care is well expressed by the doctrine that Guardian Angels continually watch over us.