Monday, December 3, 2018

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest

(Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 8:5-11)

Can only a Christian be saved?  Evidently St. Francis Xavier thought so. In a letter from India he wrote that many natives wanted to become Christians but there was no one to baptize them.  He said that he wished to go to the universities of Europe yelling to the students that their keenness on studies has resulted in many people being consigned to hell.  But is Baptism necessary for salvation?

The gospel passage indicates otherwise.  Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith in God.  He implies that there will be many like him coming from faraway places to take a seat at the heavenly table.  Although he does not say explicitly that these people are not his followers, he does leave this impression.  The centurion shows himself worthy a member of the Kingdom of God as much by his concern for a servant as by his deference to Jesus.

During Advent we express our hope for Jesus’ return as much by acts of mercy as by praying about the Advent wreath.  Our efforts on behalf of others imply faith in Jesus’ teaching that what we do to the least of humans, we do to him.  At the same time we show a relationship of care to the needy which suggests a common Father in God.  Francis Xavier had a point about the need for missionaries to teach about God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice.  However, the Holy Spirit works in many ways. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 22:1-7; Luke 21:34-36)

The words discipline and disciple have the same Latin root discere which means to learn.  But this learning is not so much an intellectual exercise as it is a moral training.  Disciples learn a moral lesson by following a rigorous rule.  Today’s gospel conveys part of the rule while the first reading describes the disciple’s reward.

In the gospel Jesus exhorts his disciples not to become lax in the pursuit of virtue.  They are to watch out that they do not fall into either physical or moral addictions.  Physical addictions would be alcohol, drugs, or sex.  Moral addictions would be power, greed, or pride.  All of these corrupt the spirit so that the person cannot inhabit the city of God described in the reading from Revelation.  There, like a luxurious retirement community, the people live in health and joy.

Today as the last leaves fall from the trees (in northern climes), we have occasion to consider the fleetingness of life.  Most of us ran fast in our youth and exhibited soft skin and vigorous hair.  Hopefully we learned moral discipline then.  But if we didn’t, the Lord calls us today to change our ways.  More precisely perhaps he is calling us to himself in his heavenly city.