Friday, November 1, 2019

Solemnity of All Saints

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

A distinguished attorney is asked, “Who is the most important person in the courtroom (to assure justice).”  Perhaps it is the judge who sees that due process is followed.  Or maybe it is the collective members of the jury who decide guilt or innocence.  Or possibly it is the defense lawyer who must investigate his client’s case and persuade the jury.  But the man after decades as prosecutor, judge, and defense attorney responds surprisingly.  He believes the most important person in a courtroom is a reliable witness.   Such a person’s truthfulness and conviction bring about justice.

We can define saints as reliable witnesses to Jesus.  Their faith, holiness, and integrity witness to the primacy of the gospel and the efficacy of his grace.  Their words and actions provide testimony that Jesus has risen to support his followers.

The Church has officially declared only seven thousand or so saints.  But this number hardly indicates all the people throughout Christianity who have lived the beatitudes.  Today we celebrate the millions of un-proclaimed saints.  Their number includes slaves and slave-owners, people of every continent and even of different religions.  All of us have known people whose words and actions gave reliable witness to Jesus.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:31b-39; Luke 13:31-35)

People today think of a fox as a wily creature.  A foxy man does not reveal his intentions.  He takes advantage of another, then slips way.  In ancient Jewish culture, however, a fox was more destructive than clever.  Foxes were not to be trifled with.  For this reason in today’s gospel the Pharisees warn Jesus to get out of Dodge.  He goes but not because he is afraid.  Indeed, he continues his march to Jerusalem where he knows he will be killed.

Jerusalem is where God meets humans.  God speaks there through the prophets.  Also, Jerusalem is the home of the temple.  In it animal sacrifices are offered to God for the forgiveness of sins.  As multiple the sacrifices were and even as devout as those offering the sacrifice may have been, they could not achieve their purpose.  The New Testament testifies that only Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross achieved the forgiveness of sins.  

Different words in today’s gospel conjure up Halloween.  There are foxes and chickens that make interesting costumes.  Jesus speaks of demons and the entire reading holds the specter of death.  More to the point, however, is that Halloween means “All Hallows Eve,” the eve of All Saints.  The saints were made holy by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:26-30; Luke 13:22-30)

Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr has become a spiritual master in the Catholic Church.  Respected as a young priest, he speaks with authority as an old one.  Fr. Rohr finds the two halves of life calling forth different responses.  In the first half people must learn how to stop their egos from running wild.  Then need laws so that they may tolerate one another.  By the second half of life most have learned some self-control.  Yet if they are to develop fully, they need to be transformed into gentle, caring subjects.  Their base instincts and, often enough, culture as well work against this goal.  To transcend these obstacles Rohr sees the Holy Spirit at work.  In today’s first reading St. Paul writes to the Romans of the Spirit’s work.

Paul says that the Spirit intercedes on behalf of believers.  It asks for what the heart does not even know it needs.  The heart wants solutions to the challenges confronting it.  But the Spirit knows that what is essential is not domination.  More critical is compliance to the will of God the Father.  Humans may pray for insight and strength, but the Spirit prays for wisdom and docility.

The human project, which each of us faces, is an enormous task.  Simply put, it is to become a saint.  We are hindered all along the way to holiness.  Fortunately, we have the Spirit praying within us for the grace to reach our goal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 8:18-25; Luke 13:18-21)

The 62-year old worker talked of retirement.  He was suffering from two arthritic knees that needed replacement.  He also had a pinched nerve in his shoulder.  It was obviously painful for the man to do a full day’s work.  Many people have difficulty growing old.  Even trusting Christians like St. Paul begin to wonder when they see their bodies failing.

Paul writes of all creation “groaning in labor pains.”  It waits patiently for the redemption promised by the resurrection of Jesus.  Humans, made in the image of God, have the most to hope for.  They will assume spiritual bodies like their Redeemer’s that will not age or experience pain.

Two thousand years is a long time to have waited for redemption.  But who is to say that it will not take another two thousand or perhaps two million years?  In the meantime we, given the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, keep the faith.  We love our neighbor and care for the poor.  Most of all, we thank God for our blessings and pray for our needs.  It is a good life that will be glorified when Christ returns

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

(Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

Today’s feast celebrates, using St. Paul’s phrase, “the last of the apostles.”  At least, they are mentioned last on the lists of apostles in the gospels except for Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer.  Simon and Jude are taken together today, perhaps because so little is known about either historically.

Scholars debate the meaning of “zealot” by which Luke’s gospel identifies Simon.  In Matthew and Mark, Simon is called the Cananean, but that is just a transcription of the Hebrew word for “zealot.”  “Zealot” may describe someone “jealous of the law.”  It could be said that “zealous” means “fanatical” today.  Or it could mean “revolutionary,” which is to say a fanatic who is willing to perpetuate violence for his/her cause. 

Interestingly, Matthew and Mark give “Thaddeus” as an alternative for “Jude” in Luke.  The tradition has kept both names calling the eleventh apostle (in Luke) “Jude Thaddeus.”  His name was really “Judas,” but English and French translations usually disassociate him from the betrayer. Jude is a forgotten saint.  As he has been recognized as the patron of hopeless causes, many turn to him for intercession.

The gospel is built upon reversals.  Mary proclaimed how the lowly will be raised and Jesus was raised from the dead after being crucified.  He also said that the first will be last and the last, first.  Therefore, we need not hesitate to seek the assistance of these two apostles.  They stayed close to Christ on earth and cannot be far from him in eternal life.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans Luke 7:18-25a: 12:54-59)

In Gethsemane Jesus’ disciples sleep while he is praying.  He asked them to pray with him, but their bodies gave way to the natural tendency to doze off at night.  Jesus makes an excuse for the disciples.  He says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is week.”  St. Paul says something very similar in today’s first reading.

Paul is trying to explain why it seems that he never does the good that is in his heart.  Rather he does the evil that his flesh seems to desire.  Paul is speaking generally and does not specify any specific sins.  People today may relate to what Paul is saying in dealing with pornography or gossip.  They do not want to look at pornography but somehow their fingers cannot resist pressing its button.  They may have resolved not to criticize others, but somehow there mouth cannot be quiet when certain names are mentioned.

Today’s passage only presents us the name of our deliverer from sinful deeds of the flesh.  Jesus Christ will lead us from submission to fleshy desires.  He will ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to strengthen our resolve.  He will also provide eternal life as a motive for us to try harder.  We find Jesus in the sacraments.  We should not tire of asking his assistance there.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:19-23; Luke 12:49-53)

The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under a river of volcanic lava in 79 A.D.  Then in the late 1800s, it was uncovered to give a three-dimensional snapshot of life in the Roman Empire.  The view is not always edifying.  One house has a statuette of a boy lifting his phallus with the opening of the gate to salute a visitor.  Perhaps even more than people today, Romans were obsessed with sex.  For this reason St. Paul, writing not long before Pompeii disappeared, comments to the Romans on sexual license.

In general Paul’s letters indicate that many people became Christians as a way out of sexual enslavement.  Christianity provides a support group to help people cope with an oversexed environment. It also promises the grace of the Holy Spirit to pursue a virtuous life.  Paul emphasizes in today’s reading another reason to forego extramarital sex.  He writes that the effect of sexual sin is death in contrast to eternal life Christianity offers.

Sex, like all creation, is a natural good for which we should thank God.  However, it has been corrupted through sin so that it now appears as much a threat as a benefit.  For this reason we need to be careful about our dealings with it.  We should not think of sexual intimacy as inherently impure or sinful. Yet we cannot declare it good outside marriage.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 6:12-18; Luke 12:39-47)

Although the comparison with American slavery is troublesome, St. Paul often describes himself and his converts as “slaves of God.”  He believes that people should not hesitate to trust themselves to a benevolent master like the Lord.  Paul sees the situation as imminently better than that of people who are under the aegis of a lax master.  In today’s reading from his letter to the Romans he describes both situations.

According to Paul, Christ has liberated those who accept him as Lord from sin.  Now they have a choice.  They can either give themselves over to their liberator as, in a sense, slaves to him.  Or they can hang free.  If they take the latter course, they will soon find themselves slaves again to some material obsession.  Pleasure, power, and prestige are three common masters who may be lax but under whom subjects are ruined.  Meanwhile, following the commands of the Lord leads to happiness and eternal life. 

We may recoil at the words “slaves of God” because of the often bitter experience of American slaves.  Yet we could not put ourselves in better hands.  God will not always dictate to us what we must do.  Rather, like wise parents when children mature, He will give us increasing autonomy.  We cannot do better with any other master.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

(Optional) Memorial of Saint John Paul II, pope

(Romans 5:12.15b.17-19.20b-21; Luke 12:35-38)

Christmas 2004.  Pope John Paul II is seen on Italian television looking over the people.  He appears older than his eighty-four years and very sickly.  He almost died a few months earlier.  But he will not let go of the papacy.  It is not that he is proud or stubborn.  Rather he wants to impart a last lesson to the world which has come to trust him.  Despite their unseemliness his pitiful visage and garbled speech reveal a love willing to make sacrifices on behalf of the beloved.  His patience and tenacity proclaim his will that everyone care for the weak and needy.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples to keep watch for him.  He means that they are not to give up loving one another and caring for the poor until he returns.  John Paul II did that until he was no longer able to breathe.  Who of us would say that Jesus does not keep his promise to wait on people like him in heaven?

The world is much richer for having witnessed the life of John Paul II.  He was a man who took delight and excelled in many things.  But his legacy will be one of proclaiming the truth of Christ’s love for the world when it was easy and when it was hard.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 4:20-25; Luke 12:13-21)

Original sin is said to have turned human nature in on itself.  This development has caused people to sin.  In today’s gospel parable Jesus relates how God looks on this dismal situation.

The farmer cannot be considered an evil person.  He does not extort much less assault anyone to gain his wealth.  However, he is not a good person either.  His fault is that he does not consider anyone but himself.  He seemingly produces his harvest by himself, builds his barns for himself, and even talks only to himself.  In no way does he mention his family or his workers or the orphanage in town where the food supply often runs short.  God is surely right in calling him a “fool” for allowing himself to become so extremely self-centered.

Most Americans today receive more money than they need to live.  We use the excess often enough in ways that can be termed frivolous.  We should take care that we are not being foolish by sharing the excess with those in need.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

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

Of all the evangelists only Luke shows Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples to preach the good news.  His purpose may well be to anticipate the great exodus of disciples in the Acts of the Apostles.  They will be chased out of Jerusalem and will reach the ends of the earth.  The Book of Genesis reports that there are seventy-two nations in the world.  Luke has a disciple for each.

The message that Jesus dictates for his preachers has a curious twist.  After telling them to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, he adds “for you.”  He means for the people themselves.  Throughout the gospel and into Acts Luke shows Jesus’ concern for the poor.  Here he quotes Jesus as wanting to remind the people that the good news is for them, the poor of the world.

We cannot help but cherish Luke’s gospel.  Not only does it give us the most complete picture of the Virgin Mary, it also tells the most beloved parables.  But more important than seizing these aspects, we have to allow it to move us to comfort the poor.  It is the best way to honor St. Luke.  Indeed, it is the best way to honor the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

St. Ignatius of Antioch plays a pivotal role in Church history.  He was born in apostolic times and may have been a disciple of John.  There is also a legend that he was consecrated a bishop by Saints Peter and Paul.  As bishop, he was captured during the reign of the emperor Trajan and sent to Rome for execution.  On the journey he dictated seven letters which feature a developed theology of Church.  He also expresses an ardent desire to give his life as a martyr.  Upon arrival in Rome he was not disappointed.  He was sent directly to the hungry lions in the amphitheater.

Today’s gospel anticipates martyrdom of men like Antioch.  Jesus is castigating the Pharisees and scholars of the law for hypocrisy.  He links the persecution of the prophets of the Old Testament with the martyrdom of apostles in the New.  As a bishop, Ignatius was a successor to the apostles and certainly shared their fate.

The testimony which martyrs have given should support our faith.  They do not deny Christ as Lord even to save their lives.  We can arrest our doubts which arise in this secular age.  It is true that Jesus arose from the dead.  Attaching ourselves to him by faith, as Paul urges in today’s reading, we share in his eternal life.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 2:1-11; Luke 11:42-46)

The English word hypocrite is derived from a Greek word of similar pronunciation.  The ancient form designated people who interpreted their situations to determine how they were going to act.  Thus hypocrites were those who changed their attitudes and actions according to their own interests.   Hypocrisy, the state of the hypocrite, thus befits an actor but not everyday people.  Both St. Paul and Jesus in today’s readings take aim at hypocrites.

Paul has Jews in mind when he writes, “You, o man, are without excuse.” He has finished his critique of pagan morality and now turns his eye to Jewish behavior.  He finds his own nation pretending to live righteous lives when they act similarly to pagans.  Jesus sees the Pharisees as equally pretentious.  They feign holiness with concern over the fine points of religious observance.  They miss the purpose of religion which is to give God glory by imitating His goodness. 

Followers of Christ avoid hypocrisy.  Paul tells us later in the letter to the Romans that we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this aim.  Luke shows us in his two volume masterpiece of Luke-Acts that the grace comes through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  Still we have to want it, pray for it, and to work with it when it duly arrives.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Romans 1:16-25; Luke 11:37-41)

May we call comfort and convenience contemporary gods?  People certainly pay them much tribute.  Drive-through services, for example, abound:  bank deposits, fast food purchases, even prescription pick-ups are done seemingly as often as not without getting out of the car.  One downside of this form of convenience is that partakers deprive themselves of personal encounters and a little exercise.  Another is that fossil fuel producing greenhouse gases is being burnt.  But there may be something deeper at stake.  People need to ask themselves if the regular use of drive-ins is God’s will.  They would find St. Paul's critique of worshiping created things in today's first reading helpful in their self-interrogation.

For Paul the universe gives ample testimony to a Creator and to the Creator’s will.  For millennia the latter was called natural law and well accepted in civilized societies.  Paul also believes that God punishes those who do not abide by that law.  Venereal disease would be an example as a punishment for fornicators and adulterers.  Paul’s purpose is not to give a philosophical treatise but to introduce God’s plan of universal salvation through Jesus Christ.  Humans - he will show in the course of the letter - would not be able to abide by natural law without the grace of Jesus.

St. Theresa of Jesus believed that often religious in her day were ignoring God the Creator in favor of creaturely comforts.  She reformed the Carmelite Order so that a purer worship might be given to God.  We too might improve our worship of God by reforming our lifestyles.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 1:1-7; Luke 11:29-32)

Today’s first reading mentions two callings, two vocations.  The first belongs to Paul who is called to be an apostle.  The term means “one sent.  Jesus himself called Paul and sent him to preach the good news of God’s love to all the Gentiles.  It is a herculean task.  But Paul does not proceed without assistance.  He has been given the grace of apostleship, the Holy Spirit’s gifts.  These include truthful knowledge, caring discernment, and convincing words.  

The addressees of the Letter to the Romans receive the second calling.  They are summoned to be holy people, set apart to demonstrate the same love of God.  They also are graced by the Holy Spirit.  They can let go of egotistic desires to care for one another.  Beyond that the Spirit will bestow on them peace. They will show the world that in loving God and neighbor their greatest desires are satisfied.

We too have been called and sent.  Although we may not like to think of ourselves as pursuing holiness, that is our vocation.  Holiness is not pious posturing, but taking on Jesus’ ways.  We are to develop his selfless care for others and his prayerful dependence on God.  We are also sent into the world to tell others about God’s love.  Chiefly by our actions but also by our words we transmit the message that we are cherished beyond our own merit.  God cherishes us so much that He has destined us for eternal happiness.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Joel 1:13-15.2:1-2; Luke 11:15-26)

The “Crucifixion” by the Spanish painter Velazquez merits meditation. It shows an almost nude Christ with arms outstretched.  He does not appear to be hanging so much as presiding over the sacrifice of his own self. His long hair drapes half his face as if the painter wants to show that Christ’s humanity hides his divinity.  But his divinity shines through in the brilliance of Christ’s skin which contrasts with the totally dark background.  The painting expresses what the prophet Joel in the first reading warns Judah to prepare for.  This is “the day of the Lord.”

Velazquez may have taken his theme from any of the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the sky darken as Jesus dies on Calvary.  This accords with the darkness and gloom that Joel foresees.  The first three evangelists indicate – as John does in a distinct way – that the cross presents the moment of judgment for the world.  Those who recognize Jesus as the Son of God by the sheer graciousness of his death are saved.  Those who cannot distinguish Jesus’ goodness from the darkness of the world are doomed. 

Of course, recognition here implies willingness to conform to his ways. Jesus is, after all, our teacher, our elder brother, and our hope.  Not following him would be like not following the instructions of the pilot of a rescue ship when we are drowning in the sea.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Malachi 3:13-20b; Luke 11:5-13)

The Book of the Prophet Malachi has traditionally sat at the end of the Old Testament.  It was probably composed during the difficult times after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile.  The author is actually anonymous. “Malachi” just means “my messenger.”  Biblical experts suppose that the prophet preferred to go nameless because of his harsh critique of Jerusalem’s priests and rulers. 

Today’s passage from Malachi exposes the thinking of the faithless and God’s promise to the faithful.  The faithless despair of the Law.  Not prospering after trying to keep it, they want to abandon it.  Like the proud everywhere, they find little if any need for God.  However, God promises that those who strive for justice will find salvation.  It will feel like the comforting warmth of sunrays on a winter day.  Meanwhile, God threatens the unjust with fire caused by the fierce sun of summer.

The prophecy has been fulfilled at least partially in Jesus.  He has brought comfort to the suffering in many ways.  He healed the sick.  Today Christians, the members of his body, perform countless healings and acts of charity in his name.  We may not heal physical maladies, but we can provide spiritual comfort.  By listening attentively, speaking humbly, and acting graciously we contribute to the spiritual well-being of the world.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 4:1-11; Luke 11:1-4)

If we haven’t heard the words ourselves, we certainly have heard them spoken to others.  A father or, at least, a person with power threatens a subordinate who did something wrong.  He says, “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.”  In today’s first reading God teaches Jonah a lesson that he is not likely to forget either.

Jonah has successfully converted the immense city of Nineveh to the Lord.  But he is not proud, happy, or, much less, grateful for the accomplishment.  He sulks because of his prejudice against Ninevites.  God then teaches Jonah a lesson about bias.  He gives the prophet a plant which brings him comfort.  Then suddenly God takes the soothing plant away.  Jonah is upset over the loss.  God explains that as the plant was to Jonah, the people of Nineveh were to God.    Because losing the people’s trust upset Him, the Lord sent Jonah to bring them back.  The prophet should not hate Ninevites but love them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

There are two faults with trying to teach another “a lesson that they will never forget.”  First, the one teaching is putting herself or himself in the place of God.  There are situations in which this is legitimate.  However, the person who assumes that authority should take care that he or she has a right to it.  Second and more importantly, God always acts out of love.  He wants people to repent of their sins so that they may rejoice with Him.  He does not act out of spite as does one intent on teaching another a lesson that will never be forgotten.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 10:38-42)

Acute observers compare how yesterday’s gospel passage ended with today’s lesson.  After relating the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told the scholar of the law, “’Go and do likewise.’”  The one who meditates on the Scriptures must also help his neighbor.  Today Jesus has the opposite message for one who spends her day helping others.

Martha is like my aunts when they prepared their house for guests.  She completes every detail.  In the process she exhausts herself and then wonders why her sister does not lend her a hand.  Of course, Mary is listening to the Lord.  But Martha does not think that it is worthy excuse and takes her complaint to Jesus.  He advises her that she must learn when to stop working and listen.

The spiritual life like most everything else is a matter of balance.  At times we must pray and listen to the word of God reverberate within us.  At other times we must act on that word with love.  Doing either of these exercises exclusive of the other will lead to imbalance and frustration. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Jonah 1:1-2:2.11; Luke 10:25-37)

 Unlike religious zealots the Bible tends to be inclusive.  Last week the Old Testament readings at mass chastised Israel for cavorting with foreigners.   Today the reading features God’s effort to save Assyria, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies.   God sends Jonah, the reluctant prophet, to convert the nation which He also loves.

But Jonah has evidently developed a bias against Assyria.  He disobediently boards a ship heading away from the nation to which God has sent him.  Likely depressed by his sin, Jonah sleeps through a violent storm that arises.  Interestingly, the pagan sailors ask Jonah to pray to his God for deliverance.  These same barbarians question the morality of Jonah’s recommendation that they throw him overboard.

There are good people everywhere.  It can even be said that the majority of people everywhere are good.  We should not make blanket statements condemning the people of Afghanistan, Somalia or North Korea.  Then again evil is always lurking over us so that even the best of peoples commit egregious offenses.  Ours is to repent of sin both personal and social.  At the same time we pray that the faults of other individuals and nations be corrected.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, religious

(Baruch 1:15-22; Luke 10:13-16)

One of the reasons that St. Francis of Assisi has been so popular through the centuries is that he is seen as a romantic.  It is said that Francis separated himself from his money-driven father by taking off his fine clothes in the public square.  Even more charming is the story of his taming a vicious wolf by appealing to the wolf’s reason.  He promised the wolf that if it would stop ravaging the town, the townspeople provide it every day.  The difficulty with stories like this second one is that they are not always accurate.

A recent biography by a hard-nosed historian dismisses a large amount of the legend surrounding Francis.  What he finds is a man like the rest of us groping to God in a troubled world.  But Francis, of course, reached his object without the pains of purgatory.  Perhaps it was a special devotion to Christ that gave him the critical edge.  Francis loved the Lord because Jesus truly impoverished himself many times over.  He became human and then died on the cross.  Then he has fed his disciples with his own body in the Eucharist.

We do well to imitate Francis of Assisi.  We need not go barefoot or eschew swatting flies.  But we should carefully contemplate the mystery that confronts us at Mass.  It is Jesus under the guise of bread and wine who calls us to humble ourselves so that we might strengthen others.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Nehemiah 8:1-4a.5-6.7b-12; Luke 10:1-12)

A number of years ago a play featuring the gospel won acclaim in New York.  It wasn’t “Jesus Christ, Superstar” or “Godspell” but one person rendition of the Gospel according to Mark.  The performer, no doubt, was able to convey the depth of human love which Mark relates.  Evidently, the scribe Ezra is able to give a similarly effective performance in today’s first reading.

The occasion is an assembly of the people of Jerusalem at the Temple site.  Ezra reads the Law, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, to an astonished crowd.  The people are spell-bound by the story of God’s love for them.  They start to cry when they think how they and their ancestors have betrayed this love.  However, Nehemiah, the governor, intervenes.  He tells them not to be sad.  After all, God still loves them and forgives their sins.

There are many passages in the New Testament that invoke tears.  John 3:16 and Romans 8:38-39 come to mind even before the Gospel of Mark.  There are days when we should weep for betraying Christ’s love.  But today in gorgeous October we might just give thanks to God for Jesus.  He has witnessed the Father’s goodness in a way that transcends our imaginations.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019,

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

(Nehemiah 2:1-8; Matthew 18:1-5.10)

We hear today’s gospel as an assurance that God cares for little children.  It is that. Some will add that God gives the same care to every person.  Yes, God loves everyone.  But we miss half the message if we limit our consideration to Guardian Angels protecting people.  The reading confirms the basic gospel proclamation of raising up the lowly and putting down the mighty.

At this point in Matthew’s Jesus is launching his sermon on Church order.  He will challenge his disciples to not allow anything to cause them to sin, even a roving eye or an itchy hand.  He will also admonish them to always be ready to forgive the sins of others. Because of their humility curtailing pride, God will raise them up.

Egocentrism caused Adam to sin and has kept a hold on his descendants.  Yet Christ has shown us that it is possible to live without over-concern for the self.  More than that, he has won for us the grace to break its grasp.  Staying close to him by contemplating his word and partaking of his body, we can be humble.  Then we will have no need to worry.  God will raise us up as sure as the sun rises in the morning.