Sunday, October 25, 2020

 Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 25, 2020

(Exodus 22:20-26; I Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40)

(There is a saying: "All roads lead to Rome." You can change the saying for the four gospels. "All roads lead to Jerusalem." The purpose of the gospels is to show how Jesus dies in Jerusalem to redeem man from sin. For the past four Sundays we have found Jesus in Jerusalem debating with the Jewish leaders. First, he had to explain to the high priests why he had overturned the tables in the temple. So last Sunday he proved more cunning than the Pharisees who wanted to trip him up with the question about the tribute to Caesar. Now Jesus answers another leading question.

A doctor of the law approaches Jesus asking which commandment is the greatest. There are 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law. They are all considered important. Is the greatest the first one written in Genesis, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it"? Or perhaps it is the first in the Decalogue: "You will have no other gods apart from me." Still, Jesus doesn't seem discouraged by being tested with such a knotty question. On the contrary, as a bright young man he seems eager to manifest his understanding.

Jesus answers the question more with wisdom than mere knowledge. There is no elder authority that forms the first commandment in the same way as it. Perhaps Socrates would say, "The greatest commandment is 'Know yourself.' Machiavelli, the famous political philosopher of the Renaissance, perhaps would propose: "Be strong so that everyone respects you." But Jesus, whose human will always conforms to the divine will, does something wonderfully original. Because of his Jewish ancestry, he says that you have to love God above all else. But immediately he adds, as if there were not the first without the second, you have to love your neighbor. Like horse and carriage, it is not possible to love God if we do not love other human persons.

But what is love that Jesus refers to? It's certainly not the taste of tourists wearing T-shirts: "I love New York." Nor is it sexual gratification as contemporary songs would have. No, the love that Jesus has in mind is the sacrifice of the self for the good of the other. It is the love that Saint Paul wrote to the Romans: "God showed us his love in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

You can see this love in the lives of the saints. Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus wanted to go to the missionary lands and die as a martyr. But she was not only a nun in a convent but also sick and weak. Then she realized that she could fulfill her desire to be martyred by deepening in love. She devoted herself more and more to prayer and the good of her companions in the convent. Likewise, it is said of San Martín de Porres that she spent the nights in prayer and penance and the days showing the goodness of God in full force. One day when he returned to his convent, Martín found a bleeding man lying in the street, the victim of a murderer's dagger. Martín bandaged the wound as much as possible and rushed her to her convent to save her life. There he had to put him in his own bed because the superior of the convent forbade him to shelter the sick in the convent. When the superior found out, he demanded an explanation from Martín. The humble brother said he did not think that the precept of obedience exceeded that of charity.

"He who loves a lot, long ago" is a simple saying. It is rooted in the gospel and also in the lives of the saints. This type of love surpasses the dissimulations found in songs and in T-shirts. Those who follow him fulfill the first commandments of Jesus: "Love God first, then your neighbor."

Friday, October 23, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59)

 In his poem “The White-Tailed Hornet,” Robert Frost observes that humans do well to compare themselves with higher beings.  If they do not, he predicts that they will suffer one catastrophe after another.  Frost’s lines are worth remembering: “As long on earth/ As our comparisons were stoutly upward/ With gods and angels, we were men at least,/ But little lower than the gods and angels./ But once comparisons were yielded downward,/ Once we began to see our images/ Reflected in the mud and even dust./ ‘Twas disillusion upon disillusion.”  The passage from the Letter to the Ephesians today bears a similar wisdom.

 Ephesians urges its readers “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”  It claims that they have been chosen by God to be members of God’s family.  As God’s children then, they are to live peacefully avoiding quarrels.  More than they, they are to strive to have a like mind and heart based on truth.  It is a tall order, but it can be accomplished with God’s grace which is “over all and through all and in all.”

 Anger is a definite roadblock to peace and unity.  We must garner the courage to lay aside outrage with what others say and do.  In place of getting angry, let us try to put ourselves in the place of those who provoke our anger.  We also should pray for them.  These measures will lessen our animus and increase our understanding.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

 (Optional) Memorial of Saint John Paul II, pope

(Ephesians 3:13-21; Luke 12:49-53)

The two Scripture passages today seem at odds with one another.  In the first the author writes of Christ as the root of the love in the believer’s heart.  In the gospel Jesus sounds like the source of rancor and division.  “’I have come to set the world on fire,’” he declares.  But there is no contradiction in Jesus.  He is the face of God’s love for the world.  It is such an extreme love that people will reject it as overbearing.

In Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, the monk Fr. Zossima exemplifies the paradox of love in the two readings.  When he was young, Zossima was an arrogant army officer.  He challenged a civilian to a duel knowing that he could easily defeat him.  But before the duel took place, Zossima had a revelation of his cruelty and repented of his many sins.  In the duel he allowed his opponent to shoot first.  When the shot only grazed him, Zossima refused to fire back.  Some of his fellow officers despised him for dishonoring the army.  However, Zossima’s life had been completely changed from preoccupation with self to love of all.

Today we honor a saint whom many of us remember well.  St. John Paul II possessed a great love for the world.  He seemed to have no difficulty embracing victims of the AIDS virus and visiting the man who attempted to take his life.  Yet some people, even within the Church, reject him because of what they perceive as an entrenched conservatism. That is regrettable.  We are wise to emulate his love rooted in Christ.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

 Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48)

 Today’s gospel seems to have church officials in mind. Peter asks Jesus if his warning applies to the disciples, that is Jesus’ selected leaders.  His affirmative answer makes many of us think of sexual abuse scandal.  But the warning also applies to every person with authority over others.

Parents, teachers, managers, and others will be held accountable for their treatment of underlings.  They must model right behavior and show charity.  They should consider their positions not as a privilege but as a responsibility.  In the end they will be judged, at least in part, for their effect on those they lead.

The first reading conveys the proper relationship between a person of authority and those who are subject to him.  On behalf of St. Paul, the writer speaks of a stewardship of the word of God.  It is a grave responsibility to talk about God to others as it is to teach mathematics or to instill productive work habits.  But we need not be burdened with worry when we find ourselves in such positions.  We can turn to Christ in prayer for help. Then, like the writer, we may count on God’s grace to fruitfully carry out our responsibilities.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

 Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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

 John Kennedy told the story of a colonial legislature hard at work when a towering thunderstorm darkened the skies.  The occasion seemed so ominous that some of the legislators, fearing it was the biblical “day of the Lord,” thought it would be best to adjourn the session.  They wanted to return to their families for the Lord’s arrival.  The Speaker of the chamber, however, thought differently.  He spoke up, “If it is the ‘Day of the Lord,’ then we will want to be found at work when He comes.  If it is not, then we would look foolish for becoming terrified over a thunderstorm.  Therefore, I say, bring in the candles.”

The Speaker of the chamber must have had today’s gospel in mind. He wants the legislators not only to be at their posts but also diligently at work should the Lord come.  What is surprising about the gospel passage, however, is Jesus’ promise.  He will turn around and take care of his good servants. Later in this same Gospel according to Luke, Jesus will say that a servant who only does his duty should not expect a reward (cf. Luke 17:9-10).  But he himself is such a lenient master that he becomes the “servant of servants.”

The Lord wants us to wait for his return but not to “play a waiting game.”  We wait for him by serving in his name.  Our service may be a formal or informal church ministry or, perhaps, meeting an urgent family or social need.  In any case, we want to serve as if the Lord himself were coming to inspect our work.

 

Monday, October 19, 2020

 Memorial of Saints John Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions, martyrs

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

Sts. John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues were not martyred together.  Neither were their “companions” killed with them.  They represent the efforts of many Jesuits working with native Americans on the American continent.  Both de Brebeuf and Jogues had two tours in the North American missions.  Brebeuf was sent back to France when the English expelled Jesuits from Quebec.  Jogues returned to France after suffering torture by the Iroquois.  He asked to return to America.  Shortly afterwards on a peace mission to the Iroquois he was captured by a Mohawk war party and beheaded.

Both Brebeuf and Jogues seem to have had a special love for Native Americans, at least the Hurons among both worked.  But in explaining what motivated them to persist in their missionary activity despite hardship and persecution one must go deeper than that.  The Letter to the Ephesians provides a satisfactory reason.  Grace recreated them in Christ so that they might sacrifice themselves for others.  Grace moves martyrs not only to love Christ but many others as well.

Despite their dedication to the people, no doubt the North American Jesuits have detractors criticizing their apostolic zeal.  In their defense something needs to be said.  The missionaries changed peoples’ culture so that the people may know the love of God.  This change does not disrupt culture so much as deepen it.  It keeps what is noble and infuses it with selfless love. To criticize such a change is tantamount to saying that selfless love is unbecoming of greatness.  But what is greater, more admirable that selfless love?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

 THE TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY, October 18, 2020

(Isaiah 45: 1.4-6; I Thessalonians 1: 1-5; Matthew 22: 15-21)

No one will argue that it has been a very strange year. The pandemic has made almost everything different. Many do not go to work but work at home. Those who go to the office, store, or workshop wear masks. This year will be remembered as rare also for the American elections. Two very different men have been named as candidates for the presidency. One attends mass every eight days and carries the rosary in his pocket. However, he does not adhere to one of the highest values ​​of the Catholic faith - the need to protect the human person from conception. The other candidate does not present himself as religious. In fact, some of his actions seem unchristian. But for his appointment of three justices to the Supreme Court he will possibly be known as the president who has done more for the unborn than anyone else. We are fortunate to have this gospel of Caesar's coin to reflect on these unique choices.

The Pharisees and Herodians come together to trip up Jesus. In their time these two parties are as different as Democrats and Republicans today. However, because they see Jesus as a common enemy, they combine their forces to punish him. They approach Jesus, the teacher of the ascending law, with a burning question. They ask for his judgment on whether it is lawful to pay the tax, which is tribute, to Rome. To many Jews the tax seems like supporting a pagan dynasty that suppresses the kingdom of God in the promised land.

Jesus avoids answering their question directly. He realizes the insincerity of his adversaries. They do not want his wisdom but his humiliation before the people. But Jesus is smarter than they are. He asks them for the currency to pay the tax. The fact that they have it shows that they are more willing to pay the deplored tax than he is. Then he gives his judgment: "’ Give… to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. "

Now some want bishops to come out in favor of candidates and parties in the elections. Their motives are often as selfish as those of the Pharisees. They want political backing for their candidates from respected people. However, bishops like Jesus in the gospel are not directly answering the question. There are a couple of reasons for this approach. In the first place, if the bishops support a candidate or a party, they are putting the Church in financial danger. In the United States, religious entities do not have to pay taxes if they do not get into politics. Second and most important, the bishops do not claim to be experts on political matters. They recognize that their expertise is personal morality and not the management of the common good.

However, as Jesus recommends that we give Caesar what is Caesar's, the bishops have some advice for the faithful in elections. Above all, they ask voters to form their consciences according to the moral tradition of the church. This tradition urges us to consider the character of the candidate. We want public officials who will not deviate from righteousness in an environment full of pride, money, and lust. Tradition also recommends that we look for candidates capable of meeting your goals. Nor do morals overlook the fact that rulers should be people of high principles with: respect for human dignity, conviction to solve most problems at the personal or family level, sense that the common good sometimes requires personal sacrifices, and finally, as Pope Francis has just reminded us, understanding that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

Elections sometimes discourage us. We feel that the elect are not the most preferable people. In these cases the first reading can help us. Isaiah says that with Cyrus, a pagan king, God achieves his goal. God often takes advantage of unjust people to form a better people. That is why we have to keep praying to God. Let us ask him to form, with his infinite ways, a society where the dignity of all is respected, even the unborn. Let us pray that he enlightens our consciences to make sacrifices for the good of all.

Friday, October 16, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

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

 The Letter to the Ephesians has been significantly reevaluated over the last two centuries.  Traditionally, it has been considered as written by St. Paul, to the church which he administered, while he was a prisoner in Rome in the years 61-63.  Modern scholarship, however, favors other starting points.  It sees the author as a disciple of Paul who penned a general instruction to many churches around the year 80.  The likelihood that Paul was not the author should not worry us.  In ancient days, like speeches today, disciples wrote letters in the name of their teachers.

The letter proclaims the mission of the universal church. It sees the Church as the announcer of God’s plan of salvation for the world in Christ.  It further claims that in the Church, the body of Christ, all people are brought together in peace. Today’s passage shows how Jews, with whom the author identifies, and Greeks find common ground in Christ.  Later in the letter the author names Christ as both peace and source of unity between the two peoples.

We might enjoy more reading Paul’s undisputed letters like Romans and I Corinthians.  They contain wit and passion not found in Ephesians.  However, we should not dismiss this letter as uncreative or as marginal.  It not only has been authenticated by its inclusion in the Bible but also develops Paul’s theology.  Without the Letter to the Ephesians we would not have as full a sense of our participating in the choir of heaven.  We would have trouble seeing ourselves as giving praise to God in Christ.

Thursday, October15, 2020

 

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

(Ephesians 1:1-10; Luke 11:47-54)

Prophets by profession encounter opposition.  They speak on behalf of God judgments that many do not want to hear.  In St. Teresa’s world a prophetic issue concerned religious lifestyle.  Women would enter convents with their servants in tow.  They often lived more comfortably than ascetically and thus betrayed their evangelical vocation.  Not liking it, Teresa founded monasteries of a strict rule.  Carmelite superiors opposed her, but she was working with the Holy Spirit.  Her reform won acceptance and has been the source of blessing for the order and the Church.

In today’s gospel Jesus prophetically chastises religious leaders.  He finds them betraying the very people they pretend to emulate.  He claims that the Pharisees do not heed the prophets to whose memories they pay tribute. Likewise, Jesus castigates the scribes for both not learning the meaning of the Law and not enabling others to know it.  Like the martyred prophets, Jesus can expect a violent death because of these charges.

Few want to suffer the fate of the prophets.  Yet sometimes we must speak up against flagrant injustices in church and society.  Perhaps there is racial slander among the people with whom we work.  That needs to be addressed.  Perhaps donations for charity are being squandered.  That too must be challenged.  We should not expect praise for speaking out in these matters.  But we might expect the promise of the beatitudes: “’Blessed are they who are persecuted for justice’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.’”

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

 Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week

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

Throughout Christianity there have been cynics who see the body as evil.  In the first centuries after Christ Docetists claimed that the body was so bad that Christ could not possibly have had one.  In more recent times puritan sects have propounded that the body has had to be kept under tight wraps.  But the New Testament is unanimous, Christ became incarnate.  He had a body which is good.

But the good of the body can be taken over by its own evil inclinations.  St. Paul alludes to these inclinations in today’s reading from Galatians.  He identifies them as the works of “the flesh.”  They are sexual impurity, hatred, selfishness and the like.  The flesh’s relationship to the body may be considered as breath inflating a balloon.  The balloon moves but is sluggish and heavy.  Paul contrasts “the works of the flesh” with “the fruit of the Spirit.”  The “Spirit,” of course, is the Holy Spirit.  It fills the body with buoyancy.  It is like a balloon inflated with helium.  The body becomes alive and life -giving.  It acts with patience, kindness, generosity, etc.

The Holy Spirit has been imparted to us in Baptism and fortified by the Eucharist.  It enables us to be more than loving children and good neighbors.  It prepares us for self-sacrifice like Christ’s for those whom we have never met or seen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

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

Most of the Pharisees presented in the gospels are myopic.  They scrutinize a person’s behavior for small items in the Law but fail to see the more important matters.  Jesus levels this criticism against them in today’s gospel.  One Pharisee is ready to criticize him for not performing a purification ritual which the Law does not even mandate.  The Pharisee is oblivious, however, to the fact that such criticism goes against the Law’s requirement to love one’s neighbor.

An incident in the life of St. John XXIII indicates how pharisaic behavior can affect the Church.  When he was a young priest, Angelo Roncalli, the future pope, taught Church history in a local seminary.  At the time, some Roman officials were so supercilious about maintaining orthodoxy that they suppressed faithful scholarship.  Roncalli was reported to Rome for assigning a book that the pharisaic officials thought objectionable.  It turned out that the book became recognized as an important study of the early Church, and Roncalli, of course, recognized as a saint.

We frequent churchgoers must beware of pharisaic tendencies contaminating our spiritual lives.  We can wonder why everyone does not do all that we do.  We think that because we give up alcohol for Lent, everyone should.  We must withhold judgment on these small items if we are to live up to St. Paul’s standard in the first reading: in Christ Jesus the only thing that counts is “faith working through love.” 

Monday, October 12, 2020

 Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)

 A young drug addict entered a rehabilitation program.  After a time of retreat, he was sent to work in a rectory.  In a month or two the priests were missing things in the rectory.  They confronted their worker.  He said that he might be an addict, but he was not a thief.  Eventually, the young man was let go, and no more things were missing from the rectory.

The young man could not control himself.  He needed restraints.  He was not truly free but under the spell of drugs.  Even if it meant stealing to acquire them, he would do it.  In the first reading, St. Paul is pleading with the Galatians not to have something similar happen to them.  They have been given true freedom with Baptism in Christ.  They should not trade this for subjection to the Jewish Law, no matter how right the Law makes them feel.  They should trust that acceptance of the Holy Spirit will allow them to live justly.  For this freedom Christ had set them free.

Few of us would want to take on the Jewish Law with its many knit-picking practices.  But some of us still do not care to live in the freedom of the Holy Spirit.  They may not be under the influence of drugs but of other interior impulses.  They insist on holding grudges and seeing the dismal side of things.  The Spirit’s freedom gives joy and peace to the soul.  Yes, it calls us to sacrifice our will in certain matters, but it also promises happiness, both short-term and eternal.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

 THE TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY, October 11, 2020

(Isaiah 25: 6-10; Philippians 4: 12-14.19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14)

Six years ago the headlines reported something striking. They said that Pope Francis believes there is room for pets in heaven. It was new news because the Church had never declared on such a thing. However, after an investigation it was determined that the pope said nothing about saving animals. The journalists were obviously confused.

It's not that the Church has a disdain for animals. Rather, she views only human persons, made in the image of God, as worthy of an eternal destiny. Yes, animals, particularly those with feelings, deserve respect. But it would be like finding a donkey flying in the air to see an animal wandering in the sky. A more knotty question than the animals in the sky is whether all human persons will be found there. For the love that the Lord requires of us, we hope so. However, the Gospel today indicates that this is not certain.

The parable of Jesus should be heard as relating the history of Israel. All elements correspond to the people and events of that nation. The king is God. The wedding banquet is the eternal life that He has prepared for His people as the first reading says. The servants who come out to invite the people to the banquet are the prophets. The first guests are the leaders of the people with money in their pockets and arrogance in their hearts. When invited by the king, they look for excuses not to attend the banquet. In fact, the leaders of Israel brutally persecuted the prophets Jeremiah and Amos.

Then the king makes a second invitation. This time the servants are the apostles of Jesus who call the people to repentance. Those who respond are both criminals and prostitutes and ordinary people. They are accepted into the banquet if they have left their former ways to live as sons and daughters of God. But one person has sneaked into the celebration without changing his life. It is identified by not having a party dress. This costume is the baptismal dress that symbolizes that the person has chosen a new way of life. Because man has not conformed to the ways of God, he does not belong in the banquet.

We read this parable at Mass not to learn the history of Israel but to help us please God. As the Philippians in the second reading are generous with Saint Paul, God wants us to help the poor. A parish asks for pledges from families to make sandwiches for the homeless. It is not a difficult task, but it palpably contributes the good of the unfortunate. Unfortunately many of the families that have compromised do not keep their promises. They will no doubt have excuses comparable to those of the first guests in the parable. They are busy and have to take care of their pets. These families are like the man without a party suit; that is, without real reform.

An Internet service gives five excuses for not going to work. One excuse is that a large shipment is expected. Another is that you had to make an appointment with the vet for the pet. The world likes excuses to avoid unpleasant things. But we should be careful. The heavenly feast is not unpleasant but is the most pleasant thing possible. We don't want to overlook the invitation. Rather, we want to do everything possible to enjoy it.


Friday, October 9, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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

There is a story about a monk named Fr. Moses.  Fr. Moses was having a particularly hard time keeping lustful thoughts at bay.  He went to the wise, old Fr. Isidore for help.  He told the elder that he could stand it no longer, that he should leave the monastery.  Fr. Isidore took him outside to see the night sky.  He told Fr. Moses to look west.  The young monk looked there and saw a great number of devils whooping it up for battle.  Then Fr. Isidore told him to look at the eastern sky.  There Fr. Moses saw a countless host of angels.  Fr. Isidore said that this was the help God sends to his holy ones to defend them from evil spirits.  It is like the strong man who overtakes the guard of the palace in Jesus’ parable today.

Jesus is repudiating the charge of his critics that he casts out a demon by invoking an evil spirit.  He implies that the charge is absurd because one evil spirit will not harm another. Jesus claims that he can cast out demons because he has the power of God which is greater than that of any demon.  But he warns that a demon can return to a person to make matters worse if he or she only makes superficial changes.  The person must undergo a radical change of life if demons are going to be kept away.

We should not doubt the possibility of having our sins forgiven, be they having to do with sex or with justice.  Nor should we doubt the possibility of committing those same sins again if we do not change our ways.  We must avoid the things that lead us into temptation and pray constantly for God’s help.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

 Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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

An old folk tale tells the story of John Henry, “a steel driving man.”  John Henry dug tunnels through mountains by hammering a rod of steel against the rock.  When his livelihood was threatened with the invention of a power drill, he challenged the makers of the drill to a contest.  Who would make a tunnel through a mountain first?  In the competition John Henry died of a broken heart.  This story relates to both readings today.

St. Paul is upset with the Galatians for adopting the Jewish law.  He tells them that it is not practicing the law which makes them just but believing in Christ.  When they seek his mercy, they become true children of God.  Then, as the gospel relates, they can ask for whatever they wish with assurance that it will be given.  The person striving for salvation with personal works is like John Henry, who, however nobly, relies on his own resources.  The person of faith, on the other hand, has the almighty power of God like the man with a power drill.

Faith in Christ is no mere lip service but a true surrendering to his ways.  It means allowing one’s self to be formed according to his model.  It is loving beyond measure without forsaking the other virtues.  It entails dying to one’s egotistical desires in order to do the Father’s will.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

 

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Galatians 2:1-2.7-14; Luke 11:1-4)

What makes a Catholic Christian?  In St. Paul’s day this question involved whether a Greek had to be circumcised like Jesus of Nazareth.  The Church authorities then decided that circumcision was not necessary but care for the poor was.  Could we say the same today about the rosary?  Do we have to say the rosary to be Catholic?

The rosary is identified with the Catholic faith.  Probably Catholics are the only Christians who use it regularly in devotion.  Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is Catholic, is said to carry a rosary in his pocket. Besides the Mass Catholics are more likely to recite the rosary when they gather than use any other prayer form.  Its focus on a sequential part of Christ’s life, its brevity, and its physicality all contribute to its popularity.

Our Blessed Mother is usually associated with the rosary.  The mental reflections prescribed for each decade of the rosary consider her second to Jesus. Indeed, the decade itself is the recitation of a prayer to her repeated ten times.  There are also legends of her exhorting the praying of the rosary.  Although praying the rosary is not essential to being Catholic, honoring Mary is.  And she is especially honored precisely in saying the rosary.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

 Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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

As much as some people look for God, often enough it is God who finds them.  Both readings today testify to God making a call on people.  In the first reading St. Paul tells the Galatians how he was persecuting Christians when Christ paid him a visit.  The account of Christ’s appearance is the most authentic available.  It is the personal testimony of someone who saw the risen Lord.    Unfortunately, Paul does not elaborate beyond saying that Jesus was revealed to him so that he might proclaim him to the Gentiles.

In the gospel Jesus stops at Martha and Mary’s house for a visit.  They are evidently his friends as Martha does not mind complaining to him.  Indeed, they seem to be such good friends that Jesus can correct Martha’s attitude without ingratiating himself first.  Meanwhile, Mary knows that when the Lord comes, people should drop everything to listen.  No matter that dinner is on the stove or that the dryer buzzer has just rung.  He deserves complete attention.

Jesus comes to us especially in the Eucharist.  But he also arrives throughout the day at unexpected moments.  He may say something important to us through the friendly mail deliverer.  Or perhaps when we face a setback, he will speak to us if we offer a prayer instead of a curse.  He is always around and will make himself apparent if we open ourselves to him.

Monday, October 5, 2020

 

Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

 (Galatians 1:6-12; Luke 10:25-37)

 Most people, when they have something hard to say to another, will try to ingratiate themselves first.  If you have to tell an employee that his work could be better, you might start by complimenting him for showing up on time.  But Paul in his letter to the Galatians wastes no time for niceties.  Right after his salutation, he delivers his first salvo of criticism.  This is where today’s reading begins: “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you…”

Paul has been informed of a serious aberration in the faith of the Galatians.  He preached salvation through faith in Jesus and imitation of his love.  Since he left them, however, other preachers have convinced the Galatians of the need to observe Jewish law in order to follow Christ.  After all – the preachers would say – Jesus was a Jew.  In his letter Paul assures the Galatians that trying to abide by the Jewish law would only entangle them in a morass of regulations.  He tells them that they must either accept Judaism or accept Jesus.

We may wonder if the Catholic Church has become somewhat like Judaism with its many laws.  We see Protestant communities boasting, “All are welcome,” and question whether the Church is exclusivist by not offering the Eucharist to all who wish to partake of it.  But such questions are simplistic.  The Church would rejoice if people would commit themselves to her through Baptism and Confirmation.  She would gladly give Communion to anyone who repents of their sins to follow Christ.  The regulations it maintains are only to keep repentant sinners -- as all of us are -- centered on Christ’s love.

Friday, October 2, 2020

 Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

 (Job 38:1.12-21.12-21.40:3-5; Matthew 18:1-5.10)

 “The Memorial of Holy Guardian Angels” sounds like something for the liturgical calendar of children.  Yet in truth it bespeaks an emphasis of the “good news.” It reminds Jesus’ disciples of God’s particular concern for the weakest members of society.

Perhaps because so many children died in ancient societies, they were not considered very important.  Jesus, however, underlines their value when he says that each child has an angel to look after him or her.  Their angels are not the ordinary kind either but ranking members of the heavenly realm.  They have direct access to the Father.

Contemporary society seems to cherish children more earnestly.  It has made many laws protecting them from abuse.  Yet many children suffer without two parents in the home caring for them.  Today’s memorial does not only say that children have spiritual protectors.  It also reminds us of our responsibility to care for them and other vulnerable people.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

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

St. Therese of Lisieux has been named co-patron of the missions although she never set foot in a “mission land.”  More important than travelling to Africa or China, however, Therese had the soul of a missionary.  She loved Christ and wanted to win souls for him.  As a young teen, she prayed in front of an image of Christ crucified: “I wanted to give my Beloved to drink, and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls."

In today’s gospel Jesus sends seventy-two disciples with a similar “thirst for souls.” They are to proclaim the Kingdom of God with both healings and words.  Their number is significant. It represents, according to Genesis, the number of nations on earth.  They will demonstrate the love which they preach. Taking nothing with them, they will show how God provides for those who love Him. 

Most of us do not see ourselves as missionaries.  We may say that we have enough to do seeing our own way to eternal life. Nevertheless, the Lord sends us out to others.  Like Therese our mission field may be very limited – our families or work associates.  Through our peace, joy, and care, we are to relay to them God’s love. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

 

Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

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

We do not follow Christ because we have nothing better to do.  Nor is his love just a substitute for a brother’s or even a wife’s or husband’s. No, we choose Christ because he has shown us to be the Lord and the way to eternal life.  Indeed, he is eternal life such that in knowing him we experience peace and justice. For these reasons Jesus could tell would-be disciples that there is no turning back when he calls.

St. Jerome certainly knew the value of Christ.  He mastered the Scriptures so that he could know Christ intimately.  He entered intellectual frays which became deadly so that true faith in Christ may be maintained.  As a young man, he became a desert hermit in response to a vision of Christ.

We make Christ our first priority when we do not allow anything to interfere with our relationship with him.  Pornography and drugs should be easy castaways.  Lying and stealing to make our lives easier should also be readily overcome.  Even our desire to please wives, parents, or children should not move us to sin.  So that those whom we love may also know him, we want to hold fast to Christ.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

 Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

(Revelation 12:7-12ab; John 1:47-51)

Not everyone prays to St. Michael.  Some people may think it is like believing in ghosts.  But those who do, feel under siege and in need of supernatural help.

The “Prayer to St. Michael” was composed by Pope Leo XIII toward the end of the nineteenth century.  He mandated that It be said after all “low masses,” that is masses without singing. Leo, like his predecessor and three successors, felt hemmed in by the Italian government. The papacy had lost jurisdiction over a vast part of central Italy and thought their ability to govern the universal Church weakened.  The original culprits against whom Michael’s interference was requested were the Italian nationalists.  When the issue was resolved with the creation of the Vatican state, Pope Pius XI mandated the prayer continued with a new intention, the conversion of Russia.  The obligation of saying the prayer after low masses was removed during Vatican II.  But the prayer has continued to be said, albeit with new intentions.  Many people with an addiction to pornography feel the need for St. Michael’s help to overcome their weakness.

Angels are God’s emissaries.  They are a powerful means that God uses to accomplish His purposes.  If it helps us to pray, we should beseech to these intermediaries.  St. Michael seems to have a record of success.  But if we pray more intensely to God directly, He is the origin of any assistance we might receive.

El domingo, 4 de octubre de 2020

 El VIGESIMOSÉPTIMO DOMINGO ORDINARIO

(Isaías 5:1-7; Filipenses 4:6-9; Mateo 21:33-43)

No todos, pero muchos hombres sueñan de tener un terreno donde pueden hacer un huerto.  Plantarían frutales. Sembrarían verduras. Tendrían corral para un caballo u otro tipo de animal.  No sería grande el terreno, pero les rendiría no solo frutas sino también la paz.  Este sueño es la base de la parábola de Jesús en el evangelio hoy.

El propietario presta su viña a algunos trabajadores.  La tierra es fértil y bien preparada.  Con esfuerzo puede producir mucho fruto.  Se puede entender la viña como la posibilidad de la buena vida que se proporciona a cada uno de nosotros.  Tenemos no solo cuerpos para trabajar físicamente.  Aún más importante, tenemos almas para ver, juzgar y realizar nuestras ideas.  Estas capacidades cualifican a los humanos como cocreadores con Dios, aunque mucho más inferiores.

Sin embargo, no somos libres para hacer cualquiera cosa que nos dé la gana.  Siempre tenemos que hacer la justicia.  Eso es, no debemos defraudar a nadie ni mentir.  También, porque todos somos vinculados, tenemos que cuidar al uno y al otro, particularmente a los débiles.  En primer lugar, somos responsables por los nuestros – eso es, por nuestros hijos y nuestros padres mayores.  Pero nuestra responsabilidad se extiende también a los pobres, a los infantes, incluso a los no nacidos, y a los ancianos.  La justicia abarca también el agradecimiento a Dios.  Donde la parábola dice que el propietario envía “a sus criados para pedir su parte de los frutos”, tiene en cuenta todos estos actos de la justicia.

Desgraciadamente los trabajadores de la viña maltratan a los criados.  Eso es, los judíos de la época de los reyes de Israel abusaron a los profetas.  La parábola sigue a predecir lo que los sumo sacerdotes y líderes del pueblo judío harán a Jesús: le echarán mano, lo sacarán fuera de la ciudad y lo matarán en la cruz.  Por eso, el propietario toma la viña a los trabajadores para dársela a los otros.  Esto es lenguaje parabólico.  Significa que Dios tomará la promesa del Reino a los judíos para darla a los discípulos de Jesucristo.

Se puede decir que, aunque la promesa del Reino se ha pasado a los cristianos, no es seguro que todo cristiano la heredará.  Es posible que algunos pierdan su herencia por la misma falta de justicia.  Hay una pareja que trabaja siete días por semana para ganar la vida.  Tienen cuatro hijos todavía jóvenes. Aunque estos padres pueden proveer a sus hijos con teléfonos y carros, tienen que darles más.  Tienen que proporcionarles su atención y su cariño.  También deben honrar a Dios el domingo como se nos manda.  Si no cumplen estas responsabilidades, son ni buenos padres ni hijos de Dios dignos.

Ahora festejamos a San Francisco de Asís.  Era persona que siempre tenía en cuenta a los pequeños, sean los pobres o las responsabilidades cotidianas.  El introdujo el pesebre de Navidad para ayudar a los pobres contemplar la encarnación de Dios como hombre.  También, tenía siempre en su corazón alabanzas a Dios por la creación.  Imitamos su espíritu cada vez que cuidamos a los débiles. De igual importancia, nos probamos herederos del Reino cuando demos a Dios las gracias.  Qué estas cosas sean los frutos de nuestras almas – cuidar a los débiles y dar gracias a Dios.

Monday, September 28, 2020

 Monday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Job 1:6-22; Luke 9:46-50)

In a Civil War movie a group of Black recruits are training for war.  One fellow, known for having a good eye, hits the practice target.  Then the trainer gives the marksman a true test of combat readiness. He comes near and shoots his gun while the man is aiming his rifle.  The recruit becomes unglued and fires way off the mark.  Today’s first reading tells a similar story.

It is said that the measure of a person is taken not in good times but in times of adversity. So perhaps Satan has a point in wanting Job’s righteousness tested when events turn against him.  In the passage Job is sent a series of horrible setbacks.  Despite losing both family and fortune, however, he still praises the Lord.  He will be tempted even more viciously but will always remain loyal to God.

Can we do the same?  We hope so.  But it is wise to prepare ourselves for hardship by discipline and compassion.  We might fast regularly from food and visual stimulation to prepare for times of deprivation.  We could also go out to the grieving and distressed.  Sharing their pain, we anticipate the days when a heavy load will be placed on our shoulders.

Friday, September 25, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time


(Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Luke 9:18-22)

We may not want to do it, but we can pity Donald Trump.  At the beginning of the year, he was riding high.  His party defeated a move to remove him from office.  His economic policy seemed to be working.  Joblessness was low, and income for everyone was rising.  Even his foreign policy which defeated ISIS and withdrew from heavy commitment had its appeal.  Then the Covid pandemic pushed his campaign for reelection to the side of the road.  The electorate would not judge him for his earlier accomplishments but for how he dealt with the virus.  Strange as it may seem, the preacher Qoheleth has this kind of turn of events in mind in today’s first reading.

There is an old saying, “Man proposes, and God disposes.”  The preacher notes how humans want to control things according to their liking.  They want to be like God.  The preacher says, God has “put the timeless into their hearts.”  But for all the planning humans might do to have things their way, it is God whose orders arranges things. He has “an appointed time for everything.”  Humans must follow God’s promptings.  They are born and die when God sees fit.  They plant when God withdraws the snow and sends the rain.  When God permits a war, they must stop their work to defend their country.

Over-planning does not become humans but gives them the illusion that they are gods.  Of course, we should make provisions for the future.  But even more so, we should look to God for guidance and assistance.  It is folly to think that we can control everything.  And it is wisdom to say along with Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

 Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Luke 9:7-9)

Nothing belies the first reading today more than the second.  The preacher Qoheleth says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” but Herod is startled by what he hears of Jesus.  Since Jesus, things have not been like they used to be nor can they ever be so again.  He has changed the world uniquely.

Once on Christmas Eve it started to snow.  The white flakes were falling gently to the earth in the dusk of the evening.  People were rightly worrying about traffic jams as they hurried home and then to services.  But the snow was a reminder of the wonder of the birth of Christ.  Heaven was coming to earth in beauty and peace.

Christ has renewed our hearts.  Because of him, we know – despite appearances to the contrary – that we have an eternal destiny.  We want to let his words and example form our lives.  We want them to root out the egotism that makes it seem like things will never change.

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2020

 

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest

(Proverbs 30:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)

Today’s readings provide an explanation of the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Proverbs asserts that rich people, trusting in their wealth, are likely to deny God as the source of their well-being.  The gospel illustrates Jesus’ sense of God’s graciousness as he sends his apostles on mission.  He tells them not to take more than the clothes on their backs.  He is implying that God will provide for all their needs.

To be poor is one thing and to live in misery is another.  The poor have bread to eat but little more.  Lacking even food, the miserable live in dire need.  They may steal, as the proverb indicates, and that only multiplies their troubles.

Most of us have a good deal more than enough.  Yet sometimes we seek even more without thanking God sufficiently.  If we do not show gratitude but reach for more, then in a sense we become like the scrounging miserable. We will roam with unsettled hearts worrying over nothing.

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Proverbs 21:1-6; 10-13; Luke 8:19-21)

The old priest was describing “the best man (he) had ever known.”  He said it was his father.  The “best man he had ever known” was not well-educated as is thought today.  But he possessed each of the virtues described in today’s first reading. He was not proud, but he was diligent. He told the truth and took pity on the poor.  He listened to others’ instructions and takes note how the wicked end in ruins.

In today’s gospel Jesus does not mention his father when he speaks of his mother and brothers.  In all the gospels only God in heaven is Jesus’ father.  But his mother and brothers can be said to be many.  Jesus calls those who hear the word of God and practice it “my mother and my brothers.”  He is specifically referring to his disciples.  But in Luke’s gospel his reference does not exclude the possibility of his immediate family being disciples.  Mary, especially, showed herself attentive to the word of God when she visited Elizabeth as soon as she heard from the angel of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

We were made brothers and sisters of Jesus at Baptism.  But the distinction needs continual updating.  This happens in the Eucharist.  We hear the word of God and are nourished by Christ’s body and blood.  Then we are sent to put what we heard and were nourished by into action. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

 Feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist

(Ephesians 4:1-7.11-13; Matthew 9:9-13)

John’s gospel can be said to be more sublime.  Luke’s gospel, all in all, is probably more beautiful and Mark’s more passionate. But Matthew’s gospel seems to be the preferred gospel among people who take their faith seriously.  More than the others, Matthew’s gospel teaches Christians how to follow Christ.  After the narratives of Jesus’ infancy and baptism at the beginning and before the account of his passion, death, and resurrection at the end, the Gospel of Matthew gives five expertly formed lessons in discipleship.  Each of these lessons has a narrative and a discourse.  They inform readers how to live, how to evangelize, what the kingdom of God is like, how to be a church, and what to expect at the end of time.

Today’s passage from Matthew tells how Jesus called a tax-collector named Matthew to follow him.  This man has been thought to be the writer of the gospel because a second century scholar mentions a certain Matthew as the collector of sayings of Jesus in Hebrew.  Scholars today, however, see the author as having written in Greek during the eighth or ninth decade of the first century.  He probably never met Jesus although he knew a lot about him, especially his Jewish background.

Matthew’s gospel emphasizes the importance of faith.  If we are to experience the wonder of Jesus’ works, we must believe in him as Lord.  As Jesus promises at the end of the gospel, he will accompany us until the end of time.  Believing in his presence, we may turn to him in our need and experience his gracious care.

Friday, September 18, 2020

 

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 8:1-3)

We should hear St. Paul’s discourse on the resurrection as Britain heard Winton Churchill’s speech at the beginning of World War II. The country was in a desperate situation.  German armies were taking over France and most of the rest of Europe.  The English were not completely sure whether brokering a peace treaty with Hitler was not the most prudent course.  But the prime minister spoke surely and determinedly.  The Nazis could not be trusted; they needed to be resisted.  So, Churchill said, the English would never surrender.

Paul had heard that some Corinthians were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead.  Perhaps, they opined, Christ rose from the dead, but for them that did not mean that his followers rise as well.  In that case, the advantage of being Christian was the comradery it brandishes.  Paul takes this way of thinking as a challenge to be met head on.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, he writes, Christ did not rise from the dead.  And if Christ did not rise from the dead, then he is a fool for preaching it and the people are fools for listening to him.

Whether people today say or not that the dead in Christ will rise, many live as if they will not.  They do not restrain their desires as he taught, and they ignore the teachings of the Church, his body.  However, we who read the Scriptures for instruction as well as inspiration look forward to a life with Christ in eternity.  As surely as Britain resisted Hitler’s Germany, we will follow the way of Jesus.  He is our hope and our destiny.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

 Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

 (I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 7:36-50)

 The main attraction at the year 2000 World Youth Day in Toronto was, of course, Pope John Paul II.  Even at eighty, the saint was able to move people deeply.  During the event a young prostitute accompanied a youth group at a local parish to the pope’s mass.  There she heard the pope say to all the youth that he loved them.  The words changed the prostitute’s life.  Many men, she said, had told her before that they loved her but that this one meant it.  The story mirrors today’s gospel.

 In part the issue of the passage is the claim that Jesus is a prophet. Simon, the Pharisee, denies it because Jesus allows the woman to wash his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. But Jesus shows himself to be a prophet by reading the Pharisee’s mind.  Not only that, his being a prophet is confirmed by pronouncement of forgiveness.  Jesus says that her demonstration of love is a response to being forgiven of many sins.

 Jesus showed God’s great love for the world.  He did not seek pleasure or consolation.  He died on the cross as the supreme sacrifice that wins for us the forgiveness of sin.  We are both humbled and edified to consider -- like the Toronto prostitute – that he meant it when he showed his love for us. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope, and Saint Cyprian, bishop, martyrs

(I Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 7:31-35)

Both St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were caught up in the intense persecution of mid-third century.  Both died martyrs for the faith.  Both also were involved in the debate within the Church regarding how to treat the lapsi.  These were Christians who apostatized or left the Church rather than be martyred.  The issue was whether they could be readmitted. 

Cornelius was besieged from two sides.  He thought the lapsi could be forgiven but should do penance.  Some of his critics, however, thought all apostates should be forsaken.  Evidently, critics on the left did not find a rigorous penance necessary.  Cyprian likewise thought the lapsi could be forgiven. 

The wisdom of both Cornelius and Cyprian in forgiving the lapsi is reflected in today’s first reading.  Paul’s famous elegy on love testifies that love bears all things, even apostasy.  Paul also claimed that love “does not brood over injury.”  Rather it gives hope by charting a course of repentance.  Sinners then can make amends for their wrongdoing and be strengthened to sin no more.  This is essentially what the Church prescribes for us in the Sacrament of Penance.  We are never forsaken in our sins.  We always, because of God’s intense love, have recourse to forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

 Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

(I Corinthians 12:12-14.27-31a; John 19:25-27)

A German writer went to Egypt to find out more about the twenty-one Coptic martyrs a few years ago.  The men were slain by Muslim extremists for their adherence to belief in Christ.  The writer discovered that the mothers of the young men were not grief stricken, at least at the time of his visit.  They were mostly joyful and proud that their sons gave their lives for Christ.  Mary in today’s gospel has this air as well.

Mary, like everyone else in John’s gospel, accompanies Jesus to the cross.  There Jesus pronounces her mother of his beloved disciple.  It is not necessarily a singular responsibility.  In becoming the mother of the unnamed disciple, Mary becomes the mother of all Jesus’ beloved disciples.  Like the mothers of the Coptic martyrs, Mary would feel proud and joyful.  She now has an intimate relationship with the multitude of Christians through the ages.

We do not mean to say that Mary is not at the same time sorrowful.  No doubt her heart is heavy to see her son executed.  But from the beginning of the gospel she is a woman of faith.  She knows that Jesus’ horrific death will turn into unimaginable glory. We likewise believe that, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our dying to self leads to eternal life.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

(Numbers 21:4b-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17)

Some see in the figure of a cross the hope of transcendence.  A horizontal line signifies a never-changing end of life.  Things may improve from one generation to the next, but everyone is terminal.  The cross, however, has a vertical component breaking through the relentless movement toward death.  This pole promises glory beyond the struggles of the world. Paul expresses this work in the passage from Philippians.  Because Christ accepted death on a cross, God raised him to glory.

Early Christians especially saw the cross as a sign of contradiction.  To them the cross represented Rome’s cruelest form of execution.  It meant torture and death.  Yet Christ, by dying on a cross and then rising from the dead, turned the cross into an instrument of life.  Today’s first reading reveals the cross as a sign of contradiction.  The Israelites having been bitten by serpents were dying from infection.  But  when they looked on the serpents mounted on the pole, they were cured of the snakes’ venom.  

Today’s gospel expresses still another Christian view of the cross.  The cross becomes the sign of God’s love for us.  When Jesus tells of the Son of Man being lifted up, he is speaking of both his crucifixion and his resurrection.  When we look upon him as our savior, we avail ourselves of God’s love that enfolds us into eternal life.

Friday, September 11, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 9:16-19; Luke 6:39-42)

 Alexander Pope was an English, Catholic poet of the eighteenth century.  The lines of his poetry usually form rhyming couplets that are easy to remember.  Perhaps his most famous lines relate to today’s gospel.  Pope writes:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

 

Disciples, Jesus says, must learn well or they will be blind guides who lead their followers to ruin.  He is insisting that they must listen carefully to what he teaches.  They can ask questions. But the purpose of their questioning should be to understand and not to refute. 

We must do so as well.  We live in a time of, what philosophers call, “deconstructionism.”  People, finding problems in the way thing are, want to tear down working structures.  Even Christianity is found hopelessly wanting.  That is like putting a log in your eye.  We should critique society with the gospel in hand.  But we must keep in mind that the gospel has been interpreted in various ways at different junctures of history.  We must endeavor to seek its truth and apply it to our times.  The gospel puts us in touch with our friend and Lord.  He is like a compass that keeps us on course in an often-tempestuous world.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

 

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 8:1b-7.11-13; Luke 6: 27-38)

St. Paul does not use the word scandal in today’s first reading, but he talks about it.  When one says or does something to cause another to sin, that person is giving scandal.  Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid scandal by not taking food that has been offered to pagan gods.  Although the gods do not exist, he knows that some believe that food is contaminated when offered to them.  These people will be scandalized by seeing another Christian eat it and may eat it themselves.  They will sin because their scrupulous consciences will tell them that it is wrong to eat offerings to god.

Scandal is a difficult torrent to maneuver around.  People can be scrupulous about the slightest thing.  Some think drinking coffee at Starbucks, whose founder has contributed to Planned Parenthood, is sinful.  Some moralists have tried to rationalize scandal by distinguishing between “scandal given” and “scandal taken.”  The former is doing something truly wrong, for example, attending an “all-girl revue” at a men’s club.  The latter is considered a problem of scrupulosity on the part of the viewer.  But this distinction conflicts with what Paul is saying.

We should heed Paul’s advice and not say or do something that will be taken as sinful among the people present.  If scrupulosity is the problem, we might explain how what we are doing is not sinful.  What is essential is that we follow Jesus’ gospel command to love everyone by doing what is good.  He has loved us by sacrificing everything for us.  We can sacrifice something for the sake of our sisters and brothers in him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, priest

(I Corinthians 7:25-31; Luke 6:20-26)

As Jesus says to his disciples in today’s gospel, St. Peter Claver no doubt said to African slaves, “’Blessed are you poor…’”  The slaves may have wondered if he were ridiculing them.  But they would have been convinced when Peter not only preached to the slaves, he helped them.  He gave them food and medicine and defended them from their slave masters.  They were blessed by Peter’s selfless work on their behalf.

The beatitudes in Luke’s gospel are fewer and more focused than those in Matthew’s.  Jesus speaks exclusively to those who are suffering – the poor, the weeping, the hungry, and the persecuted.  They are blessed because he, the Lord, has arrived to assist them.  His companionship is more valuable than gold.  His love will turn their tears into laughter.  And he will feed them with food that gives eternal life.

In these days of racial tension, we need to look to Peter Claver for inspiration and intercession.  As he descended into the holds of ships to care for sick slaves, let us go out to persons of different races, creeds, and backgrounds.  As a Jesuit, Peter Claver belonged to the Company of Jesus.  Surely, he will beseech his companion to help us help others if we ask him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

 Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 (Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 1:1-16.18-23 or Matthew 1:18-23)

The Byzantine Orthodox Church has a beautiful prayer to the Christ child on Christmas.  The prayer expresses the age-old desire to present Jesus with a special gift.  It proposes as a truly worthy offering on the part of humanity a Virgin Mother.  She is Mary, the fairest of women – one who will prepare Jesus for his mission of revealing God’s love.

Today the Church celebrates Mary in a special way.  Hers is the only birthday recognized in the liturgical calendar besides those of Jesus and John the Baptist.  By calling attention to her birth, the Church recognizes a life completely dedicated to God. 

Mary is also singled out as a model for young and old today.  We should find in her chastity to be happy in our state of life.  She also personifies obedience to God’s will as she accepts the offer to be the Mother of the Savior.  Most of all, of course, Mary exemplifies love.  She cares for Jesus at his birth in Matthew and Luke and at his death in John’s gospel.  She speaks up in Cana for the whole world.  “’They have no wine,’” is a plaintive call for the happiness of the kingdom.  Each of us should strive to live as faithfully as this woman.

Monday, September 7, 2020

 Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 6:6-11)

It is quite appropriate that on Labor Day there is a gospel involving a labor dispute.  Jesus is being accused of violating the law forbidding work on the Sabbath.

Of course, Jesus sees the situation differently. He does not mean to undermine the Sabbath.  Like any good Jew, Jesus recognizes the value of the Sabbath in preparing the people for the kingdom.  The relaxation, the joy of being with friends, the opportunity to visit whether someone’s house or a lovely natural place all anticipate the wonder of heaven.  But one of God’s beloved children stands in dire need.  How can Jesus not but help the paralytic?

God loves each of us as much.  He gives us work both to utilize our intelligence and to provide our needs.  And he also gives us this day of rest to contemplate His goodness and to share with one another.

Friday, September 4, 2020

 Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 4:1-5; Luke 5:33-39)

In today’s first reading St. Paul calls himself and other apostles “stewards of the mysteries of God.”  The sacraments, especially in Paul’s time Baptism and Eucharist, are considered “mysteries.” The word “mystery” refers to both God’s incomprehensibility and the way God incorporates his people into Himself.  The apostles can be considered stewards in as much as they preach about God and administer the sacraments.

Recently a case of an unfaithful administering of the sacraments was reported.  After watching a video made of his baptism, a young man who had supposedly been ordained to the priesthood concluded that he was never validly baptized.  The deacon, who performed the rite, said, “We baptize you in the name of the Father…”, instead of, “I baptize you …”  The difference of words does matter, not just because the latter goes back to ancient times but because it indicates that Jesus, through the minister, is the one baptizing.  The man had to be baptized, confirmed and given Holy Communion, all for the first time.  Then, after a week’s retreat, he was validly ordained.

Paul talks about the need for a steward of the mystery to be trustworthy.  The steward must faithfully carry out his responsibilities.  We might say something similar for all Catholic Christians.  We should learn the teachings of the Church and faithfully hand them on.  It is not for us to tell others of our opinions of birth control or the Virgin birth, at least as much as our opinions conflict with Church teaching.  God has sent us bishops, the apostles’ successors, to guide us to Himself. They form Church teachings from the tradition that has been handed down to them.  Sometimes, regrettably, they fail to fulfill all their responsibilities.  Nevertheless, they are signs of God’s love for us as are their teachings. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(I Corinthians 3:18-23; Luke 5:1-11)

St. Gregory the Great ranks high on any list of great popes.  After saving Rome from devastation by the Lombards, he was considered the city’s civil as well as spiritual leader.  He took keen interest in providing for the poor with the revenue received from the lands the Church owned.  He also had a hand in modifying the liturgy and in forming “Gregorian chant.”  He preached extremely well and wrote important books on morality and pastoral care.  Most remarkably, with all these accomplishments Gregory maintained a humble demeanor.  His manner is reminiscent of his predecessor in today’s gospel.

Witnessing the great catch of fish catalyzed by Jesus’ holiness, Simon falls before him.  He must admit to Jesus his unworthiness.  “’… I am a sinful man,’” he says openly, hoping that his confession would mitigate the Lord’s judgment.  But Jesus has no intention of punishing Simon.  In fact, he means to convert the sinner’s strengths into resources for evangelization. 

St. Gregory confessed openly that he did not always fulfill his responsibilities with due diligence.  But he still led the Church faithfully.  He saw himself how each of us should see herself or himself, “The servant of the servants of the Lord.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

 

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

 (I Corinthians 3:1-9; Luke 4:38-44)

 At a parish in El Paso, Texas, there was an increasingly acrimonious rivalry between the Guadalupanas (the Sodality of Our Lady of Guadalupe) and the Carmelitas (the Sodality of Our Lady of Mount Carmel).  Each contended that they were the best women group in the parish.  The members of either group began to shun members of the other group.  The pastor noting the un-Christ like behavior had the two groups come to an agreement.  On July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Guadalupanas would serve breakfast to the Carmelitas after the mass their patronal feast.  Of course, the courtesy was reciprocated on December 12.  The resolution improved the situation considerably.  In today’s first reading St. Paul similarly tries to stem the rivalries brewing in Corinth.

 After spending over a year with the Corinthians, Paul knows that they have been instructed well.  He has preached, modeled, and taught unity in Christ. He naturally becomes upset when they break down into factions like all their pagan neighbors.  He reminds them that they are different from other people because they have been formed by Christ into his body. In him there is no place for rivalry.  As he writes to the Galatians, in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

 Life in Christ makes us a new creation.  We are to leave behind thinking of ourselves as better than others.  We should no more form rival groups than consider our arms as more valuable than our feet.  Christ has made us one in love to reflect the love between him and his Father.