Thursday, August 1, 2019

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Exodus 40:16-21.34-38; Matthew 13:47-53)

Moral theologians are something like a fisherman who throws a net into the sea as in today’s gospel.  They treat of many things, most of which need to be sorted out and evaluated.  Their job is to judge acts first as either good or bad and then the bad ones as gravely or venially sinful.  To do this well they examine how the passions of the agent affected her actions.  Very importantly, they propose virtues which will support the will to do what is right and resist the desire to do evil.

Today we celebrate the patron of moral theologians, St. Alphonsus Ligouri.  He was an accomplished man in many respects.  He founded a prominent religious congregation and was made a bishop.  But Alphonsus is best known for infusing the academic discipline of moral theology with common sense.  When laxists were looking for grounds to dismiss every act as non-sinful and rigorists were ready to condemn, Alphonsus promoted a middle ground.  He wrote that an act may be dismissed if it has as many arguments for dismissal as for condemnation.  For example, some theologians say that getting a tattoo is almost always wrong. Others are not so sure.  If, after weighing the reasons that either group of theologians makes, there are equally good arguments for body tattoos as there are against, then they should not be condemned. 

We should be ready to promote good actions and be cautious to condemn bad ones.  If we have to condemn, let our object be the action and not the person.  Let God judge the person without forgetting that the parents in the home and the state in society take the role of God.  In this way we will give all their due – the essence of justice.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Memorial of Saint Ignatius, priest

(Exodus 34:29-35; Matthew 13:44-46)

Today the Church honors not just St. Ignatius but also the legacy he left.  Ignatius gave up a military career after he was injured and experienced conversion.  He prayed intensely and studied theology.  At the university he joined a group of scholars to form the Company of Jesus, the Jesuits.  They were ordained and soon spearheaded the Catholic Counter-Reformation.  The Jesuits have become the Church’s most prominent religious congregation.  Seven years ago, for the first time, a Jesuit was elected pope.

Ignatius’ conversion could be compared to the merchant’s finding a pearl in today’s gospel.  In reading and praying, Ignatius found Christ in a much deeper way than in his Catholic upbringing.  He gave up his sword and everything else to be like his Lord.  As the first leader of the Jesuits, he awoke the attention of the world to Jesus’ love. 

Today’s collect remembers Ignatius as a soldier-saint by recognizing the need of discipline in the quest for holiness.  We must take to heart the lesson.  We train ourselves to put aside earthly vanities by keeping our eyes on the Lord.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 33:7-11.34:5b-9.28; Matthew 13:36-43)

At a funeral a woman gives a testimony about her mother.  She says that as children her mother picked up her and her siblings from school every day.  On most days, she continues, her mother stopped at church before going home.  She wanted to visit the Blessed Sacrament.  The woman says that her mother was hardly a woman who would only pray for good things.  Rather she made them happen.  But she also found wisdom and strength in her conversations with the Lord.  Moses evidently draws the same energy in today’s first reading.

Does Moses see God face to face?  The reading says that he does, even that he was accustomed to doing it.  But it also says that when God passed by, Moses “at once bowed down in worship.”  Elsewhere in this same section of Exodus God indicates the impossibility of a direct encounter.  He tells Moses, “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."   But the question is moot since the only human face that God has belongs to Jesus. 

We have not been blessed to have seen Jesus in the flesh.  Or perhaps we are blessed not to have seen him so because we might have rejected him.  Nevertheless, we can find him today if we but look.  He is in the marginalized person whom we might not want to meet.  We will find his face reflected in quality art which moves us to speak to him.  And, of course, he is there in the Eucharist in a most wholly and helpful way.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Memorial of Saint Martha

(Exodus 32:15-24.30-34; John 11:19-27)

In today’s gospel Martha exhibits the same initiative that she shows in Luke’s account of the two sisters.  She goes out to Jesus with a complaint.  This time, however, her criticism is directed toward Jesus, not toward Mary.  She tells him that if he had come when they called him, Lazarus would not have died.  Jesus is kinder to her than the last time around perhaps because she is in mourning.  He asks her whether she believes in him as the resurrection and the life.

Martha does not hesitate to express her faith.  She is, after all, a saint.  She acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the one coming to liberate the world from death.  She also shows patience to see his mighty works.  Rather than fret any longer, she graciously goes to tell her sister about Jesus’ arrival.

It is hard to wait on the Lord, especially when we are suffering.  We want him to act now to relieve our pain.  Saints realize that God’s time is not our time.  His apparent slowness may make us stronger in faith or more persistent in hope.  Whatever the reason, we know that if we love Him, all will turn out well.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 13:18-23)

Grandparents sometimes kid, “If we knew how much fun it would be to be grandparents, we wouldn’t have bothered having children but have had grandchildren right off.”  They are referring to the joy of seeing the wonder of children without all the responsibilities of assuring their growth.  But increasingly grandparents take on the duties of child-rearing as their own children give birth outside of marriage.  They will find a necessary resource for the task in today’s first reading.

The Ten Commandments, which the first reading dictates, serve as the basis of a truly good life.  Parents are wise to teach them to their children as early as possible.  More importantly, they have to model them so that children rightly assimilate them as habits.

Today we celebrate Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus.  We know them only through what might be called legend.  Still we can assume that they were God-loving people who did more than recite the Ten Commandments.   They practiced them as well and handed them on to their children and grandchildren.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Feast of Saint James, apostle

(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)

Remember the saying that chocolate or some other delicacy was “good enough to die for.”  In time people, following baser instincts modified the wording.  The chocolate was no longer “good enough to die for” but “good enough to kill for.”  Perhaps that phrase has now gone out of vogue.  In any case a similar evolution may be seen in the story of today’s patron, St. James.

The Acts of Apostles states that King Herod “had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword.”  In no way does Acts present James as a soldier.  As an original disciple of Jesus, he was probably a pacifist.  In today’s first reading St. Paul describes the kind of life James led.  The apostle writes of himself as well as the twelve that Jesus sent out to preach: “We are…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus…”  In time, however, when Christians in Spain were being threatened by Muslims, St. James turned into a military hero.  He was thought to have killed many Muslims and has become known as “Santiago Matamoros.” This means St. James, the Moor (Muslim)-killer.

We must take care that our faith in Christ does not follow the human fascination with violence.  There is a Christian tradition of just war, but it never exalts in killing.  Jesus certainly was not a warrior.  He even exhorted his disciples to “turn the other cheek” when unjustly struck.  We honor St. James today not for killing but for witnessing to Christ’s peace.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 16:1-5.9-15; Matthew 13:1-9)

Some seeds are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye.  No seed is very large.  Yet seeds can grow many times the stature of humans.  In today’s gospel passage Jesus intends to show how the word of God is like a seed.  It seems insignificant when it is first spoken.  But it can grow to do much good.

The history of Christianity is full of examples.  The Church itself began as a small community of disciples.  Within five centuries it became the most prominent institution in the western world.  St. Teresa of Kolkata started the Missionaries of Charity seventy years ago with a small group of woman.  Today the congregation has sisters tending the poor in most of the major cities of the world.

First and foremost, Christ is the Word of God.  Derivatively Holy Scripture telling about Christ is the word.  In a further relative sense we Christians are God’s word.  We become expressions of His love when we care for one another.  Thinking less of ourselves and doing more for others we will produce abundant fruit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 14:21-15:1; Matthew 12:46-30)

Today’s first reading describes perhaps God’s mightiest act in the Old Testament after creation.  He saved Israel from the Egyptian army as they crossed the Sea.  A careful reading of the text reveals two versions of what took place.  In what might be called the “natural version” of the event, God sends a dry wind over the Se of Reeds.  The shallow waters evaporate enough to allow the people to cross the seabed on foot.  But when Pharaoh’s army follows in pursuit, the wheels of their chariots become clogged with mud. 

The second “spectacular version” of the event shows Moses parting the sea under God’s instruction.  When the Israelis reach the far side, Moses makes another gesture which brings the waters together.  Pharaoh’s army then drowns in the middle of the sea.  The first version is obviously more plausible, but in either case God is the principal actor.  The narrative is meant to show that God saves His people from their enemies.

We must never forget the lesson.  God will bring about victory from defeat.  Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said that “the arc of the moral universe… bends toward justice.” It does so because God is the author of history.  As Moses does at the end of the reading, we want to praise God for the justice He has established.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
(Song of Songs 3:1-4b; John 20:1-2.11-18)

Of Gods and Men is a movie about contemporary martyrs in Algeria.  In one poignant a young woman asks her monk-doctor what love is like.  He replies that it is “an attraction, a desire, a quickening of the spirits, an intensification of life itself.” The monk admits that he had fallen in love a number of times.  Why didn’t he ever marry?  He says that he met a greater love that led him to the monastery.  Something like this may be said of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is sometimes portrayed as Jesus’ lover and even his wife.  There is no basis for these claims either in Scripture or in any other reliable source of antiquity.  However, today’s gospel indicates Mary’s physical attraction to him.  Yet, like the monk-doctor, Jesus knows a greater love - the love for his Father - which led him to the cross.  Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene did not spend her time pining the loss of Jesus.  Rather she announced his resurrection into glory.

Mary Magdalene can help us appreciate our own sexuality.  Just because we are attracted to someone should not allow us to harbor erotic desires.  As Mary with Jesus we cannot cling to these desires except, of course, for the one we will make our life’s partner.  Clinging to that person should even lead us to the Lord Jesus.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 11:10-12:14; Matthew 12:1-8)

Over the last few years the word weaponize has crept into English vocabulary.  It means to use an issue to hurt politically one’s opponent.  The fuss at the U.S.–Mexican border today has been weaponized by both political parties.  Democrats and Republicans are using the plight of Central America immigrants to their political advantage.  In today’s gospel Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for weaponizing the issue of sacrifice.

The Pharisees envy Jesus.  He speaks with authority while they cite sources ad nauseum.  Here the Pharisees chastise Jesus because his disciples have not kept the regular Sabbath observance.  Ostensibly because they have had nothing to eat all day, they eat grain picked in the field.  Jesus defends their action by showing that the law admits exceptions.  More important than Sabbath ritual, he says, is the quality of mercy.  God can judge whether his disciples are transgressing the law.  People should think mercifully when they see others in apparent need.

We may ask ourselves about beggars on street corners.  Should we give them money?  Virtuous people often do, but social workers sometimes recommend otherwise.  Stories of abuse exist as well.  There remains the obligation to help the needy.  Perhaps by a regular contribution to the local Gospel Mission is in order.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 3:13-20; Matthew 11:28-30)

Most people these days prefer being on a “first name basis” with everyone.  Perhaps some seniors are jarred when telephone sales reps use their first names as if they played cards together.  But the younger generation generally finds such familiarity unremarkable.  For this reason some may have a hard time understanding the concession God is granting to Moses in today’s first reading.  When He reveals His name, “I am who am,” He is inviting interruption.  It is as if God’s were giving out cell number.  Now Moses and the Israelites can call to Him for assistance at any time.

By revealing His name, God is showing how much He cares about Israel.  In the Old Testament He focuses attention on the small nation.  But it is only an initial step in a larger plan.  Through Israel God will bring the whole human race together.  For a while, Israel seemed incapable of minding God’s ways. Eventually, however, one of its members will obediently carry out God’s purpose.  This one, of course, is Jesus, the son of Mary.

It is said that “I am who am” reveals the essence of God, i.e., the source of all being.  Jesus will show beyond any doubt that being is not a passive or indifferent at its source.  To the contrary, it is both active and compassionate.  Through Jesus God will break down the stubbornness and hatred that keep humans from Him and from one another.  In Jesus God will reach out to all – especially the lowliest of people -- to make them one with Him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2019

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Exodus 3:1-6.9-12; Matthew 11:25-27)

Humans today enter a church to encounter God.  In more primitive societies God was typically found in nature.  The latter is the case for Israel in today’s first reading.  Moses meets the Lord on the mountainside of Horeb.  As a sign of submissiveness to God, Moses must remove his sandals at the site.

God wants Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt.  He seems ideal for the task.  Having been raised in the royal family, Moses can speak directly to Pharaoh.  He also has the trust of the people.  He had slain the Egyptian who was beating the defenseless Israelite.  Still Moses needs God’s assurance of support. 

God also speaks to us in the sanctuary of our consciences.  He means to liberate us from the wrongful ideas and runaway emotions that can lead to ruin.  We should heed what He says.  He loves us and will supply all the strength necessary to love our neighbors.  He has in mind for us a more satisfying reward than any payoff the world offers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

(Exodus 2:1-15a; Matthew 11:20-24)

Moses’ mother uses both work and wit to save him from destruction.  She takes pain to hide him when he is born so that he would not be taken away.  When that is no longer possible, she strategizes to have Moses adopted into the royal family.  She even manages to take care of him on behalf of the Egyptian princess.  Her care is of the order celebrated on this Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

In Christian tradition Mary, the Mother of God, is known in various ways.  She is the Virgin Maiden who disposes herself completely with God’s call.  She is also the Queen of Apostles, the first human to proclaim God’s love in Jesus Christ.  She is also the great protectoress giving shelter to those under siege.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel should be seen especially in this last way.

She is associated with the brown scapular.  Scapulars were originally exterior clothing worn over the shoulders as an outer vestment.  They were like sweaters or, if worn alone, light jackets to provide protection against the elements.  In time the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel became famous for protecting its wearer from vices.  Because the full-body version was not needed for this spiritual purpose, its size was reduced.  Today the scapular is but two cloth emblems linked by two laces but still worn over the head.  As always with sacramentals, the scapular itself does not protect anyone.  But it does remind us to ask Mary to pray for us to God.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Exodus 1: 8-14.22; Matthew 10:34-11:1)

A man tells the story of his daughter.  When she was a teenager, she became pregnant outside marriage.  She wanted to have her baby, but her mother encouraged her to have an abortion.  For the elder, the girl was not only too young to be a mother but also needed to finish her education.  The girl desperately turned to her father who was divorced from his wife.  The man believed in his daughter and promised to help her keep her baby.  Relieved, the girl said that she had bought a bus ticket to another town in case no one would support her at home.  Whether she knows it or not, this girl is following Jesus’ instructions to his apostles in today’s gospel.

It is not that Jesus has abortion in mind as he lectures his apostles.  Rather, he knows that his righteousness will always unleash opposition.  His insistence that divorce opposes the Creator’s original intention will cause a furor among those who favor a more lenient standard.  His reaching out to the grubby poor will scandalize those with a high sense of propriety.  In these ways Jesus forces people to choose.  Will they stand with him or conform to the defective ways of their family.

We may not have to choose between family and Jesus.  We may not have to choose between family and Jesus.  Our choice may be between Jesus and the urgings of the heart.  Will we follow our sexual impulses or will we resist sinful sexual desires?  Will we support organizations that assist the homeless or perhaps help them ourselves?  Or will we totally ignore those who roam the streets?  Facing issues like these, we realize that Jesus does not bring the peace of mind that we may desire.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 46:1-7.28-20; Matthew 10:16-23)

A narrative is a story.  The word is used often to explain a people’s ethos or values.  Today’s first reading reveals one of Israel’s significant narratives.  God tells Jacob not to fear going to Egypt.  There, He says, his family will prosper to become a great nation.  This narrative will give Israel reason to be tolerant of other kinds of people living among them but not sharing their culture.

The gospel relates a significant Christian narrative.  It tells of how followers of Jesus will be persecuted because of his legacy.  It indicates that they are not to retaliate but to respond with the truth which the Spirit will give them.  In this way the world will come to know Jesus’ message of enemy love not just as doable but also as salvific.

Narratives help us to appropriate the lessons taught by our founders.  They form us with an identity and a common understanding.  As descendants of Israel we should be tolerant of other peoples.  As followers of Jesus, we should be ready to suffer insult rather than strike back at our detractors.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot

(Genesis 44:18-21.23b-29.45:1-5; Matthew 10:7-15)

Today St. Benedict is being held up as a model for men and women disillusioned with Western society.  He is seen as an innovator whose legacy slowly, methodically, and completely transformed the decadent remains of Roman civilization.  Benedict’s followers established monasteries as centers of retreat, labor, and conservation of classical works.  In doing so, they were able to live the Christianity they professed while justifying its claim as the culmination of history.

The contemporary movement resurrecting the model of St. Benedict is called the “Benedict Option.”  It began with observations by the moralist Alasdair MacIntyre.  The well-regarded philosopher wrote that Western Civilization has lost its way in a morass of individualism and relativism.  He conjectured that there is no use trying to correct the situation.  Rather, he said, people of good will must begin again with the ideals of St. Benedict in mind.

Benedict himself may have seen what he did as a response to Jesus’ instructions in today’s gospel.  Jesus had a project in mind when he sent his apostles to preaching the gospel.  They were to announce the “Kingdom of heaven,” i.e., God’s remaking the world in His love.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 41:55-57.42:5-7a.17-24a; Matthew 10:1-7)

 “Food security” has been defined as all people having access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food.  It is a modern idea but an ancient problem.  In today’s first reading food insecurity brings Joseph’s brothers to Egypt.  Experiencing famine in their native land, they turn to the region’s giant producer.

Today agricultural science has kept the supply of food well ahead of population growth.  Still populations can go hungry because of a disruption of food supplies.  Wars and despotic governments may cause a lack of access to food and resulting famine.  These conditions testify that the good news of God’s kingdom has not been heeded.  In the gospel Jesus sends out twelve chosen disciples to preach that message.

When we embrace God’s kingdom, we no longer worry about food.  We understand that God will provide all that we need for happiness.  God’s kingdom summons us to assist one another – family, first, but never exclusively.  God, the King, invites us to assist Him in relieving the burdens of the needy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 32:23-33; Matthew 9:32-38)

Mike did so well in high school that he won a scholarship to a fine eastern university.  In college he began to drink and then to use drugs.  To cover up his addictions Mike lied and deceived family and friends.  It was not long before he lost his scholarship and then failed out of school.  He left for the west coast to start over but never left his bad habits.  One day he tried riding his bicycle on the beach.  Soon his tire got stuck in the sand, and Mike fell over.  His situation –immobilized without the possibility of getting started again – reflected what was happening in Mike’s life.  He knew that he had to take a radically different course if he was to fulfill his destiny.  We see Jacob in an analogous situation today.

Jacob struggles with the man of God.  The incident may be interpreted as a metaphor for Jacob’s troubled conscience, the voice of God.  He knows that he swindled his brother Esau and now cannot sleep because of guilt.  He also sinned by marrying two women and by having children outside of marriage.  Jacob survives the encounter and even manages to extract a blessing from his opponent.  But he knows that he will have to somehow reconcile with Esau.  The blessing consists in his no longer being defined by his twin brother.  At birth he was given the name Jacob meaning heel catcher.  It was an apt name because he was born lurching after Esau who came out of their mother’s womb first.  From now on, however, he will be called Israel after God Himself.  The name means you have struggled with God.

We too know what it is like to struggle with God.  We don’t like to admit sins against charity and much less against chastity.  As God does not destroy Jacob, he will not abandon us because of our sins.  Rather, He lets us know that we are His sons and daughters whom He is ready to forgive.  He also blesses us when we take account of our sins and make amends for them.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 28:10-22a; Matthew 9:18-26)

We think of Jesus as a carpenter or a healer, but foremost he was a teacher.  He taught the people while sitting down in the custom of his time.  Thus, in today’s gospel when the official asks Jesus to revive his daughter, he must rise to accompany him.  Jesus shows no reluctance at all to make the effort.  In fact, he is subservient throughout this section.  He takes time to heal the weak woman with a hemorrhage on the way.  And does not allow the dirge singers to impede him from carrying out his purpose.

Throughout the gospels Jesus teaches as much by his actions as by his words.  As he taught the necessity of trusting in God, he exhibits such faith by taking the dead girl’s hand. In this case he does not have to say a word.  The girl rises as if she had a near-death experience. 

Jesus teaches us, most of all, of the goodness of life.  He shows us that it is God’s most essential gift and that it should be valued accordingly.  He also teaches that it is not the greatest gift.  That distinction belongs to the kingdom of God or, even better, God’s love for us.  When we die for God’s love, we can be assured of its blessing.  This will be nothing less than the absolute fullness of life.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 23:1-4.19.24:1-8.62-67; Matthew 9:9-13)

Today’s first reading mentions Abraham’s attempt to buy land from the Hittites for the burial of his wife.  The sale is problematic because Abraham is a resident alien without rights to own territory.  Eventually he is granted the right, and a purchase is made.  Abraham thus has a foothold in the land that God promised him.  In time through work, shrewdness, and conquest, all the land of Canaan will belong to Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason Jews today claim a right to settle throughout the region.

Of course, the right of the Jews to the whole region, classically called Palestine, is contested by Arabs.  These mostly Muslim people have inhabited Palestine for most of the last millennium and beyond.  They resent the recent Jewish settlements in areas beyond the boundaries of modern Israel. 

The question of ownership cannot be easily resolved.  Do Jews because of their direct descent from Abraham have a divine right to all Palestine?   It should be remembered, however, that Abraham is seen as the father in faith to Christians and Muslims as well.  As a way to settle the issue of ownership, we might see Jesus as the key figure in bringing about justice for all.  Jews and Muslims as well Christians can find in him a brother.  Indeed, people throughout the world have a relationship through him to one another.  The land belongs to everyone.  Nevertheless, for the time being it is expedient that the state of Israel administer it.  Its government still has an obligation to see that all people in the region are fairly treated.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 2:1b-19; Matthew 9:1-8)

Today’s first reading is a hallmark of the Bible and of Western Civilization.  In it God tests Abraham by telling him to kill the son he had longed for.  Abraham does not delay in complying and stops only when God sends a contravening order.  By his obedience, Abraham shows himself a worthy beneficiary of God’s awesome blessing.  He can be a true father to many nations.

As the United States celebrates its foundation today, it faces a test similar to Abraham’s.  The premise for its freedom from England was based on natural law.  As its founders proclaimed on July 4, 1776, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The test is whether the nation will continue to pursue freedom in accord with God’s will as given in human nature.  The alternative path on which the nation is headed is to dally in invented freedoms like abortion and homosexual marriage.

We come together today to implore the risen Lord present in our midst.  We ask him to straighten the distorted path the United States has taken in recent years.  We pray that a nation so well-endowed with resources may not deviate from the way of freedom upon which its founders set it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Feast of Saint Thomas, apostle

(Ephesians 2:19-22; John 20:24-29)

Although St. Peter and perhaps St. John are the most important apostles, St. Jude and St. Thomas are the ones with whom most people identify.  St. Jude is known as the patron of hopeless causes.  Both saints and more retrograde sinners have considered their situations as impossible.   St. Thomas doubted the resurrection when he heard about it from his confreres.  Like him most people wonder if the apostles were “just seeing things.”

Today’s gospel passage seems to have been written to dispel such doubts.  In its initial section Thomas demands physical proof that Jesus has risen.  He says, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands…I will not believe."   Then Jesus appears again and shows Thomas his hands.  The response goes beyond belief in the resurrection to belief in Jesus’ divine nature.  Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God!”

We have to believe in both Jesus’ resurrection and divinity without physical proof.  But there is plenty of circumstantial evidence attesting to the claims.  His teachings and example have allayed passions and promoted human welfare.  The Church he established and identified as his living body continues to thrive.  Most of all, he continues to speak in our hearts assuring us of his love and exhorting us to love one another.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 19:15-29; Matthew 8:23-27)

General George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff during World War II and later Secretary of State, was renowned for his self-control.  It is said that after making critical decisions involving thousands of lives, Marshall could take a nap.  In today’s gospel Jesus proves himself to be a person of even greater composure.

Jesus’ disciples are amazed that the sun and moon seem to snap at his command.  It is almost as remarkable that he could sleep in a small boat being rocked by a storm.  The story is meant to teach more than Jesus’ authority over nature or his serenity.  It is also a lesson in Jesus’ presence to the Church after the resurrection.  The ship in the storm symbolizes the Church in its infancy.  It is being challenged in every direction – persecutions, heresies, contentious questions like accommodation of non-Jews.  The portrayal of Jesus sleeping represents the temptation of thinking that he is indifferent about these challenges.  But all the disciples have to do to secure his help is beseech him in prayer. 

We too at times may feel overwhelmed by the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Perhaps we have promised to do more than now seems possible to accomplish.  Or maybe our children bring home problems that we thought happen in only the most troubled of families.  We too can find recourse in the Lord Jesus.  As he calmed the storm for his disciples, he will assist us in our need.