Friday, March 1, 2019

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 6:5-17; Mark 10:1-12)

Much like Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the Book of Sirach today notes different types of friendships.  The philosopher writes of friendships of utility and of pleasure.  In the first category are acquaintances for business purposes and in the second, pals to drink beer with.  Sirach might call both these kinds of friendship “fair-weathered.”  They will not likely last a lifetime, especially if the people move apart.  A third kind of friend both authors see as “another self.”  These are good people who can be trusted with the secrets of one’s heart.  They will respond honestly and wisely.  Sirach calls such a friend a treasure beyond any price.

In today’s gospel Jesus may be seen as enabling husband and wife to have this third kind of friendship.  He recognizes that divorce is the easy way out of a relationship that was meant to last until death.  Although he cites the first creation story to support the prohibition of divorce, he might have used the second as well.  By that account the woman was created from the man’s rib so that she might be his lifelong companion.  In everyday life such a relationship must overcome considerable differences of background and emotional response.  The task requires both time and effort which do not admit divorce.

We should count on God as our most esteemed friend.  He will listen to our heart-felt needs and respond in His myriad ways.  He will help married couples overcome the obstacles to loving relationships.  And He will assist all transcend any resistant fair-weathered-ness to become wise and enduring friends of others.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 5:1-8; Mark 9:41-50)

The Missionaries of Charity were founded by St. (Mother) Teresa of Kolkata to work with the marginalized. Peeking into one of their chapels, one notices a crucifix with the words, “I thirst” pasted at its side.  The peeper will ask, “Why is that phrase there?”  Of course, Jesus emits those words from the cross in the Gospel of John.  But why do the Missionaries of Charity focus on them and not on more famous “last words” like “’Father, forgive them?”

The answer to these questions may be found in today’s gospel.  Jesus is identifying with those who are in great need.  They are Mark’s gospel’s equivalent to what he says at the end of Matthew’s: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.’”  The Missionaries of Charity rightly see themselves as attending to the suffering Christ as they serve the marginalized.  As St. Teresa said, they are “Christ in disguise.”

We see the marginalized on street corners begging for money.  But these represent a small minority of their number.  They inhabit hovels and rented rooms in most big cities.  They live in vastly disproportionate numbers in Africa and South America.  Like Jesus on the cross, they cry out for assistance.  As we would have wanted to give Jesus a drink of water, we should move to help them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 4:11-19; Mark 9:38-40)

L’Chaim is the Hebrew toast to life.  Most everyone will lift a glass to it.  We all want to live and to live well. To do the latter requires wisdom which looks beyond the superficial.   Wisdom peers into the heart of reality informing us what is truly beneficial and what is harmful.  As Sirach says in today’s first reading, “He who loves (wisdom) loves life.”

Sirach goes on to describe how wisdom may be a hard taskmaster.  It often tells us things that are not of our liking.  Wisdom recommends that we do not try to manipulate human life by producing children without the marriage act.  For a childless couple this seems unfair.  The husband and wife only want the good of raising a child like the majority of families.  Wisdom provides reasons, however.  In the case of procreation wisdom speaks of the rights of the child.  She should know that she was conceived through an act of love between her father and mother.

Many today embrace the “technological imperative.”  This false axiom stipulates that what can be done must be done.  Pursuing it will lead to the ambiguous identity of human clones, to the dangerous instability of global nuclear weapons, and to a host of other threats to well-being.  No, before saying it must be done, we must ask if it is good to do it.  Only following wisdom in this way can we avoid disaster for ourselves and for the world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 2:1-11; Mark 9:30-37)

There is a story about Don Ramon, an old man who lived in a village in the state of Tabasco in Mexico.  Every day Don Ramos was seen sitting in front of the hut where he lived with an open Bible on his lap.  One day a passer-by, a visiting priest from the United States, stopped to talk with the old man.  “Don Ramon,” the priest asked, “what are you reading in the Bible?”  The old man looked at the priest and said: “Padrecito, I do not know how to read.  So I sit here every morning and ask God to teach me something from his Word.  And every morning He does.  God has never failed me!”  This story of Don Ramon exemplifies the message in today’s first reading.

Sirach, the Old Testament sage, tells his readers, “Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, …Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your way…”  God does not abandon those who seek him.  Rather they will learn that it is He who has sought them first.  Sirach probably learned this lesson from bitter experience.  During his time Israel was occupied by Greek rulers who tried to forcibly change Jewish ways and customs.  They even desecrated the Temple!  Sirach preaches patience and trust.  The Lord will show the Jews what to do.  They must wait on him.

We live in a trying time as well.  (Perhaps all times are trying.)  The Church appears under siege, and many people are angry about one thing or another.  We have to heed Sirach’s advice.  Like Don Ramon we are wise to wait on the Lord every day.  We have the advantage of being able to search the Scriptures for an inspiration.  There He will advise us how to not become discouraged but to help improve the situation.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 1:1-10; Mark 9:14-29)

Since Charles Darwin explained the evolution of the species, many Christians have had trouble believing.  They say with the father of the demoniac in today’ gospel, “’I do believe; help my unbelief.’”   We live in awe of science with its own brand of wisdom to explain how the world works.

Nevertheless, Jesus invites us to another, deeper wisdom.  Science is hardly likely to satisfy all our needs.  Yet God is ready to assist us in the endeavor to live free from fear and distress as Jesus shows here.  When we pray with confidence and diligence, God comes to our sides.  He provides what we need whether by granting our literal request or the means to grow in charity.  After all, it is the latter which makes us like Him, the immortal Creator.

We have all heard of the prayer for serenity: “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  The prayer helps us face our own limits when we feel responsibility weighing heavily upon us.  The prayer may be altered when our faith wanes.  We could pray: “Lord, grant me wisdom to know You, prayer to seek you, and love to remain with You.” 

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

(I Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19)

Today’s Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is meant to emphasize the authority of the bishop of Rome.  Like St. Peter, popes today use this authority to shepherd all the faithful in the Catholic Church.  Just last week Pope Francis made a decision that insures the well-being of some of the Church’s most vulnerable members.  He laicized a former cardinal and archbishop for sexual abuse of minors.  The action signals that no cleric – no matter his status -- will be exempt from severe consequences if he is responsible for an instance of this horrible crime.

Since yesterday we read the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark, we can compare it with today’s gospel in search of insights into its meaning.  In all probability Matthew used Mark’s gospel for his basic storyline.  He added material which he took from other sources to support his message.  Mark has Peter saying that Jesus is “the Christ.”  Matthew has him adding “the Son of God.”  Although “Son of God” does not likely mean here all that it means to post-Nicene Christians, it still indicates intimacy with the Almighty.  For this reason it should not be a surprise that Matthew has Jesus saying how Simon was able to identify Jesus through a special revelation from the Father.  Divine assistance, then, becomes a hallmark of the Chair of Peter.  Matthew also adds the renaming of Simon as Peter with the explanation that he is like a petrus or rock who serves as a firm basis for the Church community.  Finally, Matthew, but not Mark, pictures Jesus promising Peter the keys to the Kingdom.  These instruments, of course, are not physical but spiritual.  They represent Peter’s authority not only to forgive sin but also to impose or remove spiritual penalties.  In this way Peter can constrain people to do what is right.

Pope Francis is always asking people to pray for him.  Very likely he is sincere in this appeal.  With all his responsibilities, he realizes the need for divine assistance.  We do pray for him every day at Mass.  Today, however, our Mass becomes a special prayer that he uses his great authority for the benefit of all.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 9:1-13; Mark 8:27-33)

 “’Who do you say that I am?’” Jesus asks his disciples in today’s gospel.  We should make the question our own.  In our own way of thinking, who is Jesus?  Some may answer, “One of the great men of history.”  Surely as far as the answer goes, that is correct.  In fact, it may be shown that no other human has had the impact that Jesus of Nazareth has had.  But he is still being defined as a human being.

Peter’s answer to Jesus query does not really admit more than that.  Peter understands Jesus as “the Christ,” which is to say that he is like David and the other kings of Israel.  With this idea in mind Peter sees Jesus as cleansing Israel of Roman rule and being installed as king in Jerusalem.  But he is still far from all that may be said to disclose Jesus’ identity.

It took almost three hundred years for the Church to come to an adequate conception of who Jesus is.  He is God, one of the Blessed Trinity.  This distinction is a mystery that we cannot really understand.  But it does reveal that he is the Creator and Lord of all.  It also calls us to worship him.  Finally, as his followers, it assures us of safety and well-being. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 8:6-13.20-22; Mark 8:22-26)

Perhaps you have wondered about why Noah sends out a raven first and then a dove.  And maybe you have asked why the dove but not the raven comes back to the ark when land cannot be found.  And then, what is the purpose of Noah’s animal sacrifice to God?  We should not think that these actions are arbitrary or, much less, that they comprise a historical record.  As in much of Genesis the author of the story is telling us something of nature – both human and non-human.  These questions have answers which may be ascertained through attention to both the Scripture and the environment.

A raven is a scavenger bird which is particularly fond of rotten flesh.  Evidently the raven was having a difficult time onboard the ark where there was only vegetative food.  It waited out the drying of the land rather than go back to a vegetarian diet.  The dove, which is content with eating vegetables, does not mind returning to the ark.  Noah burns animals as a sacrifice because he too enjoys the taste of flesh.  But God has always frowned on animals tearing apart one another and also on humans doing it.  He accepts Noah’s sacrifice but is not pleased with it.  He realizes that the plan to renew creation with both humans and beast living in harmony will never work.  So He makes a covenant with humans.  They can eat the flesh of animals and even offer Him sacrifices with it, but they will have to obey His law.  They may not eat the blood of animals and, most importantly, may not spill one another’s blood.

In time God will give humans other laws, but none will calm their hearts.  That will come only when God sends His Son to make up for humanity’s sins and to bestow on humans the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will bring about the new creation that turns women and men into true daughters and sons of God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 5:5-8.7:1-5.10; Mark 8:14-21)

On top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, stone statues of the twelve apostles look over the world that they have struggled to win for Christ.  Each member of the band appears so magnificent in wisdom and power that we are challenged to reconcile these figures with the fumbling characters we meet in the gospel today. 

The twelve have twice witnessed Jesus distribute a thousand times more bread than they had at hand.  Yet they worry about having enough food in the boat when they have one loaf – that is, the Lord himself!  Like most people, they cannot get over the human condition of scarcity.  They cannot see that in Christ’s company they have more than enough.

Bumpkins as they are at this point, Jesus has to warn the disciples about thinking themselves greater than they are.  He uses the example of leaven or yeast to give them the message.  Put a bit of yeast in a little dough and in a short time you find a full loaf of bread.  Yeast or leaven puffs up making something appear more massive than it is.  “The leaven of the Pharisees” and “the leaven of Herod” puff up their carriers to the extent that they cannot recognize God’s messengers.  The Pharisees think that they are defending God as they demand signs on the spot from Jesus, even after he has repeatedly given witness to his divine commission.  In decapitating John, Herod pretends to have authority over innocent life.  Jesus warns his disciples against both kinds of arrogance.  They and we are neither to worry about what is lacking nor to think of our own virtue as sufficient.  Rather, they and we must trust in Jesus.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 4:1-15.25; Mark 8:11-13)

The seven deadly sins capture most imaginations.  Sin appeals to egotistic self-interest.  The deadly or capital sins have greater attraction because they imply great risk and big payoff.  The seven are not so much sins as tendencies to sin.  They may be helpfully classified as run-away passions causing people to act contrary to the law and their real interests.  In today’s first reading God counsels Cain to keep these passions in check.

God acts benevolently toward Cain.  Rather than ignore him after He chooses Abel’s sacrifice rather than his, he gives Cain good advice.  He admonishes him to, in effect, let go of envy and anger.  God tells him that these passions need not control Cain.  Rather with the development of virtue Cain can control them.

Passions in themselves are not evil.  They may even lead to some good.  There is a righteous anger, for example, and erotic love may lead to marriage and a family.  But even in these instances, we want to control their power.  Developing virtue through prayer, patience, and persistence in doing good we can harness our passions to serve us and our community. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 3: 1-8; Mark 7:31-37)

It is a classic axiom that humans do not choose evil because it is bad.  Rather they choose it under the aspect of some good that it brings.  In today’s first reading the serpent tempts the woman by mentioning apparent advantages of eating the forbidden fruit.  First, her “eyes would be opened”; that is, she will have gained insight or knowledge.  Then it adds that she and her mate “will be like gods.”  They will not only know more but will decide for themselves right and wrong.  Once the woman’s reason has been stirred by the serpent’s ideas, she imagines other benefits.  The fruit becomes “pleasing to the eye” and apparently to the palate.

The story is reflected in every sin.  The thief prizes another person’s treasure more than the person’s right to keep what she has legitimately obtained.  The fornicator thinks little of the harm he creates by satisfying his lust but mostly of the pleasure it gives.  Even people who know well of the evil that sin incurs may commit it anyway for the sense of autonomy it brings.

In today’s gospel as everyday Jesus is proclaimed as doing the Father’s gracious will.  He restores hearing and clear speech to the man as a sign of God’s love.  Such love is manifested in every judgment of conscience that some act would be evil.  In refusing to sin, we acknowledge that God forbids evil acts because He loves us.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, bishop

(Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 7:24-30)

Today in this liturgy we celebrate four evangelizers.  We may be stretching both the term as well as the liturgy to render such a result.  However, it will be worth the effort if we reinforce our sense of being evangelizers as well.

The first to be mentioned is Jesus himself.  He is the evangelizer par excellence.  The Father sent him to the world to announce His great love.  In the gospel reading Jesus evidently needs some rest from the work.  Nevertheless, he heals the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter so that she too can give thanks and praise to the God of Israel.

Should we not see the Syrophoenician as an evangelizer?  She explains -- to Jesus in a sense and certainly to us – that God’s love was never intended solely for Jews.  She knows instinctively that it is meant for every human being.  She also shows us how God especially bestows His efficacious love on the humble of heart.

Today the Church remembers Saints Cyril and Methodius.  They were ninth century missionaries who overcame hardships and challenges to convert a part of Russia and Moravia to Christ.  Coming from Greece, their orthodoxy was suspect in the Western church.  German bishops were especially hostile to their efforts to work among the peoples of Moravia.  However, they demonstrated their faithfulness to established doctrine and used their scholarship to abet their work.  They translated the Bible into Slavic languages which assisted their evangelization efforts.

According to Fr. Stephen Rehrauer, a Redemptorist moral theologian, St. Valentine was a priest of Rome during one of the great persecutions of the Church.  He was arrested and spent time in jail before his execution.  There he converted the jailer’s blind daughter to Christ.  On his way to his martyrdom, he slipped the girl an envelope with a note reminding her to be faithful to her promise to love others like Christ.  He signed the note, “Your Valentine.”  When the girl opened the envelope and found the note, she received the gift of sight.  Fr. Rehrauer concludes that when people today exchange Valentine greetings, they might keep this story in mind.  He says that in asking one another to be their “Valentine,” they are not asking that they be their lovers, but their mentors.  They are asking that they teach them the love of Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2109

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 2:4b-9.15-17; Mark 7:14-23)

Today’s first reading presents the mysterious “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” It stands in the middle of the garden – at the center of human existence.  It is unlike any of the other trees in that God has specifically warned not to eat its fruit.  Eating it will cause death.

“Knowledge” here is more than intellectual knowing.  Rather knowledge is the often painful process of learning by experience.   It is our experience of fire or of rejection.  The Lord wants to spare Adam this bitter process.  Because He has given Adam plenty to live on, He tells Adam not to eat of the fruit.  Of course, Adam with the help of his soon to be created partner will reject this good advice.  They will freely choose to disobey God’s command in pursuit of experiential knowledge.   Their action will indeed introduce death into creation.

Humans have developed beyond Adam’s primitive state.  We have searched for knowledge in a trillion ways.  The knowledge has brought us some good like machines to relieve us of back-breaking labor.  It has also brought us anxiety and war.  There are still prohibitions established by God both in nature and revelation for our welfare.  We are not to kill.  We are not to exploit the poor and the weak.   When we violate these commands, we can expect a fate more gruesome than death.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 1:20-2:4a; Mark 7:1-13)

A number of years ago people started talking about producing a square tomato.  They said it would be easier to pack and ship.  Agriculturalists took up the challenge with some success.  Today there are tomatoes that are less rounded, but they are mainly used for processing.  Scientists have more critical projects to work on.  In doing so, they respond to God’s mandate in today’s first reading.

Genesis pictures humans as the epitome of creation.  After God creates the material universe, He sets the earth aglow with life.  First plants then fish and birds followed by land animals inhabit land, sea, and sky.  Finally, God creates men and women in His image.  In a sense they are like God because He has granted them dominion over the other creatures.  They are to develop what God has made.  But a definite responsibility is implied with this authority.  As they are given only plants to eat, humans may use animals for labor but are not to kill them for food.

Eventually, God conceded that humans may eat the flesh of animals.  But we must take care not to abuse God’s grant of dominion.  We do not have a right to squander natural resources.  Nature was created for us to use, to perfect, and to preserve.  God never intended that it be polluted and destroyed.  Where this has already been done, humans have the responsibility to restore nature as best we can.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes

(Genesis 1:1-19; Mark 6:53-56)

Every year eight million people visit the town of Lourdes in southern France.  Most go to be healed of some malady or to pray for another who is sick.  The water from the spring at the site of Our Lady’s appearance to St. Bernadette has shown to be especially curative.  Pilgrims drink the water and fill bottles with it to be taken home.  Many take baths in the pools.  They are immersed a few seconds and emerge healed either spiritually or physically.  The custom can be compared with one noted in today’s gospel.

The reading tells how the sick beg Jesus to touch one of his tassels.  The practice sounds superstitious but actually expresses great faith.  Jews are required by the Law to wear tassels.  Jesus, known as a holy man, keeps that precept and the whole Law in both spirit and letter.  By touching one of his tassels, a person manifests her own acceptance of God’s will.  This in turn puts the person in God’s favor.  If she is sick, she can expect some kind of healing.

Tassels serve Jews in a way not at all unlike how the sacraments serve us.  They put us in touch with the Holy One whose power created the universe.  Submitting our will to His, we too will be healed of our ailments.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 13:1-8; Mark 6:14-29)

Sometimes a prayer is uttered for prison reform.  The person who makes it has a finger on a festering sore in the United States.  There are over two million people imprisoned here.  This country also has the largest per capita number of prisoners in the world.  Most of the imprisoned are not convicted of the crimes for which they were originally jailed.  Rather plea bargaining is typically done whereby the district attorney offers the apprehended person a reduced sentence if the person pleads guilty.  This happens whether or not the person has done anything wrong.  The exhortation in Hebrews today to be mindful of the imprisoned sounds especially cogent here.

The other exhortations of the reading can be taken as a remedy for the appalling number of prisoners.  Whether or not people have perpetrated the crimes for which they are imprisoned, there are a large number of crimes committed.  At the root of these crimes are often found “love of money,” the abandonment of marriage vows, and forgetting the moral lessons taught in youth.  Addressing these sources should draw society closer together.  Everyone then should develop a sense of responsibility for the good of all.

As Hebrews repeatedly reminds us, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.  We want to love him, to imitate him, and to teach him.  Whether people believe in him or not, he will draw our society together in care for one another.  He certainly will bring fulfilment beyond money, sex, and illusory teachings.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 2:1-4.10-12; Mark 6:7-13)

St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers as a response to a missionary necessity.  Many people, especially in southern France, were attracted to Catharism, a religion that taught the dualism of matter and spirit.  What is spiritual, the Catharists believed, is good and what is material is evil.  Food, drink, even sex between married partners were to be avoided.  Truth and goodness were to be embraced.  For idealistic people this kind of reform will have some appeal. 

Monks galloping on horses from well-endowed estates had little success in checking the Catharist distortion.  Their near betrayal of poverty seemed only to confirm what the dualists were teaching.  Dominic dreamed of a different tact.  He would form a group of men who would beg for the food they ate and go on foot – two by two -- to preach the truth to the people.  Actually much of Dominic’s program is based on today’s gospel.  Jesus sends his disciples out with the same scarcity of physical resources – “no food, no sack, no money in their belts.”  However, they go forth with spiritual power to cast out demons and to cure the sick.  They return, as shall be read in Saturday’s mass, with astounding success.

These stories should challenge us to re-examine our lives.  We should ask if our possessions might not give a counter-message concerning what we treasure most.  More than that, the stories should move us to seek spiritual values.  Truth, beauty, and goodness should take precedence over material goods and to in our lives.  Finally, we should especially prize telling others about God’s love.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

(Hebrews 12:4-7.11-15; Mark 6:1-6)

In a book of prayers Mother Teresa asks for what appears to be strange things.  “Jesus, deliver me from the desire to be approved,” she says.  Then she goes on, “Deliver me from the fear of being ridiculed.”  “Why would she not want to be approved?” we might ask.  And, “Who would ridicule Mother Teresa?”  But Mother Teresa was a prophet.  She frequently said things of God that people did not want to hear.  She was like Jesus in today’s gospel reading. 

At first, all the people praise Jesus.  They think of him as “’Joseph’s son,’” a local lad who has done well.  They turn on him when Jesus makes them realize that he is God’s prophet.  If he is to do in Nazareth what he has done in Capernaum, the people will have to repent and believe in God’s love.  They will have to recognize that God is not a local deity but the Lord of the universe.  Jesus cannot do marvelous works for them just because they think they know him.  With that the people become so furious that they are ready to stone Jesus to death.  Because his hour has not come, he is able to escape from their clutches.

We too must realize that Jesus has come not just to help us because we are familiar with him.  No, we have to believe in him as the God of salvation who comes to help us, sure, but also to call us to repentance and to love of God and neighbor.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Memorial of Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 12:1-4; Mark 5:21-43)

Today we celebrate St. Agatha, a Sicilian virgin and martyr.  Her story is much like that of St. Agnes, the Roman, whom we remembered last month.  It is said that Agatha had a powerful suitor who sent her to a brothel and then to be tortured when she refused him.  The similarity of the two stories may be attributed to the way early Christians took pride in their saints.  Coming from different regions, they would boast whose martyrs were the bravest or bore the gravest trials.

We can see a glimpse of this pride in today’s first reading.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds his community of its “cloud of witnesses.”  These were the men and women of Israel who sacrificed themselves for love of God.  The writer exhorts his people to follow in their ways.  He does not want them to abandon their faith to pursue pleasure or comfort.  Rather they are to make the necessary sacrifices to follow Christ to eternal life.

Because there are fewer people at mass these days, the exhortation of Hebrews has pointed relevance.  We too have a “cloud of witnesses” – certainly saints like Mother Teresa and Padre Pio but also relatives and friends.  These people kept the faith despite hardships.  Perhaps they walked a mile to mass in freezing weather.  Maybe they gave up the opportunity to marry because their suitor was divorced or because of a religious vocation.  Their lives were first testimony of God’s love for us.  Then they witnessed the hope of all Christians for eternal happiness.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 11:32-40; Mark 5:1-20)

In the final scene of George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan, the protagonist appears in a dream.  She has been convicted of heresy, executed, but then exonerated and made a saint.  She now proposes that she work a miracle and return to her people.  But no one in the dream thinks it a good idea.  They say that the world is not ready for saints like her.  The gospel passage today has a similar conclusion.

Jesus has just resolved one of the Gerasene territory’s biggest problems.  The man who was possessed by demons and terrorizing the people now sits as graciously as a butterfly.  You would think that the people should thank Jesus and invite him to dinner.  But they ask him to leave their area.  True, the taming of the strongman did result in the loss of a herd of pigs.  However, the reason for the people’s desire that Jesus distance himself lies deeper.  His evident holiness makes them painfully aware of their own sinfulness.  Rather than seek his mercy, they beg that he move on.

We may not directly ask Jesus to leave, but our response to Jesus’ presence may be little better.  We often refuse to acknowledge him.  We neither ask his help nor follow his example.  Instead, we often choose to worry about our problems and curse our luck if not rivals.  But he is there to cast out the demons that get us worked up.  We only have to open ourselves to him.