Wednesday, July 1, 2020

(Optional) Memorial of Saint Junipero Serra, priest

(Amos 5:14-15.21-24; Matthew 8:28-34)

St. Junipero Serra continually pops up in the news.  Every so often images of him are vandalized by protestors who think of him as an ogre.  During a demonstration following the killing of George Floyd, a statue of him in Spain was torn down.  In today’s first reading the prophet Amos calls for “justice (to) surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.”  Despite protestors’ misgivings, history shows Junipero Serra having fulfilled Amos’ petitions.

Serra left comfort and status behind to evangelize in Mexico.  Eventually, he moved up the western coast to found the California missions.  His purpose was both religious and social.  He and his Franciscan brothers not only instructed the natives in faith; they also taught them farming skills.  There were incidents of natives leaving the communities, being returned and punished.  But Serra was more involved in defending natives from the Spanish lords than in persecuting them.

Justice in Scripture is primarily a personal virtue.  People become just by heeding God’s word.  In doing so, they give others their due and take special care for the vulnerable.  Junipero Serra was eminently just in all this.  He was considered a holy man and a humanitarian long after his death.  Those who malign him today do not make the effort to learn Serra’s story.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 3:1-8.4:11-12; Matthew 8:23-27)

Suffering is a mystery.  It hurts, but it can be good for us.  If this were not true, then our all-loving God would not send it our way.  The better we understand suffering, the less trouble it causes us.  In today’s first reading, the prophet Amos prepares the nation of Israel for suffering. 

The people have offended the Lord by worshipping other gods and neglecting the poor.  Now they will be chastened for their sins.  The prophet uses interesting images to show that God is behind all the ordeals they will undergo.  He says that just as two men agree to walk together, God has consented that evil befall Israel.  Again, just as a lion roars when it has found its prey, God is telling Israel through Amos himself that Israel is about to be devoured.

We have to accept suffering in a similar vein when it comes our way.   Ours sins may not be as grievous as Israel’s, but they do exist.  When we accept suffering as a corrective of our errant behavior, we are not being naïve or Pollyannaish.  We are accepting the Lord at His word.  He loves us and wants us to be rendered holy as He is holy.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, apostles

(Acts 12:1-11; II Timothy 4:6-8.17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)

Today’s solemn feast celebrates the two original pillars of the Church.  Peter was a charismatic preacher. He was entrusted by the Lord to watch over the growing Church community spreading from Jerusalem in all directions.  Paul was an accomplished theologian who articulated the doctrine that defined the Church.  He also founded communities of faith where the doctrine was lived.

The first reading shows how the Lord sends an angel to save Peter from assassination.  Known for having authority, Peter becomes the man for the Jews to stop before Christianity takes root in Palestine.  In the second reading Paul announces his legacy before being martyred.  He has fulfilled the Lord’s mandate that he preach his name to non-Jews.  He has felt the Lord’s hand in his efforts so far and is confident of his help to the end. 

The two men are different in some ways.  Peter is a fisherman by trade and Paul, a scholar although he knows how to work with his hands as well.  Both are Jews but Peter spoke Aramaic and Paul Greek growing up. They are the same in that both have strong personalities.  They deserve our admiration as they are responsible for the establishment of our faith.  More than that, however, they elicit our imitation.  We too should proclaim our love for the Lord as openly and strongly as they.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 25:1-12; Matthew 8:1-4)

We often think of pariah as describing the untouchables of the Indian caste system.  The actual term, however, is dalit.  Some Hindus evidently consider dalits as not having been formed from any of the body parts of their deities.  Dalits include leather workers, street cleaners, landless peasants, and people from a host of other humble professions.  Discrimination against dalits in India has largely disappeared in urban areas.  But it still exists in rural areas where dalits may be prohibited from sitting in eating places and using water sources.

In the gospel Jesus meets a dalit of his time and place.  Lepers were so feared among ancient Jews that they were banished from populated areas. In rural areas lepers had to wear a bell to warn others of their coming.  Yet Jesus shows no fear of the leper whom he encounters descending the mountain of his famous sermon.  Showing what it means to treat others as he would be treated, he touches the untouchable and cures him of leprosy.

We still have dalits in western society.  Twenty years ago people were often afraid to touch AIDS patients.  In some locales today the undocumented may be resented with the animus felt for dalits in rural India.  Alzheimer patients and, often enough, elderly living in nursing homes suffer such neglect that they may feel as if they lacked any relationship to divinity.  Like Jesus we must remember to treat all these groups as we wish to be treated.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 24:8-17; Matthew 7:21-29)

The philosopher David Hume taught the modern era to distrust anything spiritual.  The scientist Charles Darwin showed how life in the natural world has evolved from one form to another.  The writings of these great thinkers among others have led to a rejection of core spiritual beliefs.  Everything seems physical and changeable to the contemporary human.  For this reason many reject Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” which he completes in today’s gospel.

Jesus exhorts his followers not just to hear the sermon but to base their lives on it.  He tells them that only by doing so will they be able to withstand the storms that threaten every life.  Without hope of the kingdom of God they will likely leave the track of personal justice.  Without the Father’s grace they will never be able to live up to the demands that the Sermon makes. 

Jesus has drawn a line in the sand with this great discourse.  He wants us to commit ourselves to him by living what he has just taught.  To do so, we must buck much of modern intellectual thinking.  It may be a scary venture for some.  But we know from the saints that following Jesus leads to true peace.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

(Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66.80)

John the Baptist has been called a figure of both the Old and the New Testament.  His parents are pious Jewish people awaiting the redemption of Israel.  John himself preaches the coming of the Messiah.  One is reminded of the Victorian poem saying: “Wandering between two worlds, one dead the other powerless to be born…”  This straddling two worlds may be found in today’s gospel.

John’s parents go through with the old custom of naming their child as he is presented for circumcision.  But contrary to the tradition, they do not choose the name of Zechariah, his father.  Rather they name him “John” as the angel Zechariah saw in a vision mandated.  “John” means “The Lord has shown favor.”  God has shown favor on Zechariah and Elizabeth as he had on Abraham and Sarah by granting them a child in their old age.  But more importantly, John becomes the herald of the greatest favor God has bestowed on anyone.  He announces to the world the coming of God’s only begotten Son.

Jesus brings us fully into a new age.  What we think of as novel – computers and other electronic gadgets – do not compensate for human defects.  Pride, ambition, greed, etc., are old vices that abound as much today as ever.  Jesus lifts us to a new plateau where we experience a renewal of heart.  He enables us to live free of vain desires to experience the joy of divine love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 19:9b-11.14-21.31-35a.36; Matthew 7:6.12-14)

In this time of pandemic it is instructive to note a similar one in Scripture.  Today’s first reading recounts how the mighty Assyrian army ready to attack Jerusalem was overwhelmed.  It says that tens of thousands of its troops succumbed to the pestilence on the fields of Judah.  Those who did not die fled back to their native land.

The Biblical writer understands the fall of the Assyrians as a divine triumph.  God responds to the prayer of Judah’s king for help.  In fact, Hezekiah has a reputation of piety.  He opposes worship of foreign gods and reforms Judah’s cultic worship. It is right, then, that God acts on his sincere plea for help.

In today’s gospel Jesus warns his disciples to “enter through the narrow gate.”  He means, of course, that they conscientiously do his Father’s will.  Hezekiah’s doing so spared the falling of his kingdom into the hands of Assyria.  Let us not doubt that our doing so will secure similarly favorable treatment.  It will likely spare us much trouble and usher us into God’s kingdom.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 17:5-8.13-15a.18; Matthew 7:1-5)

This week the first reading of the daily mass narrates the fall of Israel.  Today, it recounts the fall of the northern kingdom, called Israel or Samaria, to the Assyrian army.  Toward the end of the week it will tell of a similar fate for the southern kingdom of Judah.  In both cases the Scriptures fault Israel’s own infidelity to God as the reason for its downfall.

It is not that Israel and Judah necessarily became weak with overindulgence that caused their downfall.  Nor is it the case that they fell because their enemies were stronger than they.  No, their undoing was that God “put them out of his sight.”  Because of their infidelity, God did not care for them as he did for their ancestors emerging from Egypt. 

It is sometimes said that the Church more than any nation on earth will continue to exist.  This is true because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Still the Church cannot take the Spirit’s presence for granted.  We must pray for its guidance and follow its promptings if we are to live in its glory.

Memorial of Saint John Fisher, bishop and martyr, and Saint Thomas More, martyr

(I Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 10:34-39)

Today’s gospel reminds us of the necessity to love Jesus more than family.  It spurs us to follow his directives rather than our parents’ when the two sets diverge.  The gospel implies as well that we are to love Jesus more than our country.  It may hurt to think of having to choose between God and country, but at times in our lives there may be reason to do so.  Thomas More was forced to choose God as He is interpreted in the Church over his king.  His stand costed him his life.

We wonder if there are laws that we should not obey for love of God.  In some areas doctors are being subject to legal censure if they do not participate in physician-assisted suicide.  Some may have to resign from their practice rather than submit to a law demanding that they do so.  For a long time legislators similarly have faced a moral dilemma akin to disobeying an unjust law.  They have had to choose between voting in favor of abortion-friendly bills and losing popular support. 

One element of Thomas More’s story should give us consolation.  He did not seek martyrdom.  He refused to say anything about the defining question of his day – the Act of Supremacy declaring the English monarch as head of the Church in England.  For people of lesser stature and perhaps with a more tolerant king, his life would have been spared.  In any case, we pray in the Our Father, “deliver us from evil” that we will be spared such ruinous choices.  But let us also pray that when we cannot avoid making a costly decision, we will like Tomas More do so in favor of the Lord.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Deuteronomy 7:6-11; I John 4:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30)

Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is eternity.

The author of these words, Henry Van Dyke, was a Christian preacher.  No doubt, he realized that his statement is true because of Jesus Christ.  Jesus not only showed the world the extent of God’s love by his death on the cross.  He also sent us his Spirit so that we too might love as he did. 

What makes the love of Jesus different from ordinary human love?  Two qualities stand out. First, Jesus, imitating the Father, loves us in our sinfulness.   He sees our beauty despite knowing our defects.  Second, Jesus’ love for us is without any particular gain for himself.  He does not need our love, but we need his if we are to love for all eternity.

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart especially celebrates the love of God in Jesus Christ.  His heart is often pictured with a crown of thorns and drops of blood.  Both indicate the passion Jesus endured in expressing his love for us.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 48:1-14; Matthew 6:7-15)

Somethings become simpler as we become older.  As children, we thought tying a shoelace was a real accomplishment.  As grow ups, we do not give it a second thought.  Other things, however, become more profound as we age.  The Our Father is one instance of this.  As children, we learned to rattle it off like a nursery rhyme.  As adults thinking about its meaning, the Our Father reaches the depth of our being.

The very first words, “Our Father,” unite us with Christians throughout the world.  We are sisters and brothers to Africans, Asians, and Native Americans to name just a few.  “Thy Kingdom come” is a plea for the end of the world when we will be judged for our deeds.  “Forgive us … as we forgive …” commits us to letting go of all grudges despite the pain others have caused.  Each of the seven petitions made in the Our Father challenges us to change our lives.  This takes effort since we become comfortable even with things that grieve us. 

In teaching the Our Father, Jesus directed our prayer away from childish wants to eternal longings.  There is no petition that our football teams wins or that we ace a test.  No, we ask that God’s name be honored by everyone so that there may be peace.  And we request that our trials be not so burdensome that we fall beneath them into sin.  We learn the Our Father as children so that we never forget how to pray it as adults.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 2:1.6-14; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)

Shortly after St. John Paul II died and Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, a picture of both appeared on the streets of Rome.  The photograph showed the wizened pope embracing his chief counsellor and soon to be successor.  Both looked intently at each other.  Love and trust emanated from their faces.  It is the kind of confidence that exists between Elijah and Elisha in today’s first reading.

Elisha realizes that Elijah’s remaining time is short.  He asks Elijah to give him a double share of his spirit.  This is not a grab for power but a rather humble acknowledgement on Elisha’s part.  As Elijah’s successor he will have to confront kings and masses of people with God’s word.  He may not have Elijah’s natural powers so requests more of his spirit of wisdom and faith. 

Such a request becomes us as well.  We may find ourselves lacking the spiritual resources of our parents or mentors. Of course, the times are more hostile to faith than for centuries.  We must pray to God to send the Holy Spirit to us so that we may help others know the peace of Christ.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 21:17-29; Matthew 5:43-48)

Living in democratic societies, people cannot appreciate the authority of an ancient king.  He had a standing army to pursue his interests.  His wealth procured anything or he desired.  His fame and influence made him the envy of the whole nation.  Can it be any wonder that kings are given to excess?  They wanted many wives, increasing amounts of territory, and the populace to treat them as if they were gods.   For these reasons prophets came to the fore during the time of monarchy in Israel.  Prophets are rightly seen as messengers sent by God to channel the king’s power to ways of justice.

Today’s first reading tells of the prophet Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, king of Israel.  On God’s behalf Elijah denounces Ahab for profiting by the murder of an innocent man.  His punishment is severe.  The king and his treacherous wife will suffer the same brutal ending as the poor man she had killed. Interestingly, God with the mercy that Jesus suggests in today’s gospel commutes Ahab’s sentence.  When the king repents of his wrong-doing, God decides that his son and not he will suffer the ignominious end.

We need prophets today to temper the power of national leaders.  All should listen to the voices of men and women who give their lives to prayer and wisdom.  These people will not be the first to speak nor will they have a comment on everything that takes place.  But they will denounce what civil rulers do that is patently wrong and injurious to the nation.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 21:1-16; Matthew 5:38-42)

In Matthew’s gospel the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin try to call false witnesses against Jesus.  Such a treacherous ploy did not originate with them.  Nor did it start with Jezebel in today’s first reading.  In fact, it is no surprise that it is still being done.  In places like Pakistan Christians are sometimes prosecuted for blasphemy on the basis of probably false testimony.  But it happens in European societies as well.  Cardinal George Pell was accused of sexual abuse of children on the basis of a witness that appears to have testified falsely.

In today’s gospel Jesus seems to say that such evil should not be resisted.  Can a moral person accept this teaching?  What is going on here?  One bishop comments that it is “a very difficult teaching” that must be weighed against biblical injunctions to care for the innocent.  He suggests that the just person ask, “What does the evil-doer really need?”

So what are we to do?  Do we follow Jesus’ literal command to endure evil?  Or do we try to suppress it with force if necessary?  Perhaps we must defend others who are threatened by evil, but we should not try to defend ourselves?  We might ask the help of others to assure our rights.  Obviously we need to pray for enlightenment and strength when confronted by evil.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 24:8-17; Matthew 7:21-29)

The philosopher David Hume taught the modern era to distrust anything spiritual.  The scientist Charles Darwin showed how life in the natural world has evolved from one form to another.  The writings of these great thinkers among others have led to a rejection of core spiritual beliefs.  Everything seems physical and changeable to the contemporary human.  For this reason many reject Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” which he completes in today’s gospel.

Jesus exhorts his followers not just to hear the sermon but to base their lives on it.  He tells them that only by doing so will they be able to withstand the storms that threaten every life.  Without hope of the kingdom of God they will likely leave the track of personal justice.  Without the Father’s grace they will never be able to live up to the demands that the Sermon makes. 

Jesus has drawn a line in the sand with this great discourse.  He wants us to commit ourselves to him by living what he has just taught.  To do so, we must buck much of modern intellectual thinking.  It may be a scary venture for some.  But we know from the saints that following Jesus leads to true peace.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 19:9a.11-16; Matthew 5:27-32)

Jesus in today’s gospel delivers two thunderbolts. First, he says that lustful looks comprise a grievous sin.  Then he forbids divorce in all cases except where the marriage was null from the beginning.  So why does the first reading seem to say that God was not found in natural catastrophes like a tornado, an earthquake, or a forest fire?

With this story of the natural revelation to Elijah Scripture makes an important point for today.  The story itself means that God’s revelation is not to be necessarily associated with any kind of natural occurrence.  God may use nature to reveal his sovereign will, but no phenomenon is definitely a divine oracle.  Wise people will want to discern what God is saying with the current pandemic.  But it is foolish to say offhand that the pandemic is a negative judgment on the world.

Many have commented recently that racism is a pandemic of equal order to the Corona-19 virus.  It is certainly rooted in society and is taking too long to eradicate.  I would hold that pornography is another pandemic with disastrous effects.  It obsesses both young and old alike.  It creates desires that are not capable of being fulfilled in healthy marital relationships.  And it exploits innocent people who are often minors or de facto slaves.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, apostle

(Acts 11:21b-26.13:1-3; Matthew 5:20-26)

Much like Mr. Rogers of the children’s television program, the personalist psychologist Carl Rogers had a tremendous sensitivity toward others’ suffering.  He used to give the irrefutable statistic, “One out of every one of us is hurting.”  In response to universal suffering all should be considerate and compassionate.  Such a stance will help the Christian fulfill Jesus’ challenging instruction in today’s gospel.

Everyone knows that murder is wrong, but few question “righteous anger” when it spills over into name calling and insult.  Jesus calls for a stop to such behavior.  He pleads for patience toward those with emotional difficulties.  He does not mean allowing the disturbed person to act violently. But he does insist that his followers show respect so that wrongdoers may recognize their faults and correct them.

We will be reeling in the wake of the George Floyd murder for a long time.  The police involved seemed to have shown pointedly merciless behavior.  We must be careful not to seek revenge on them.  Rather a punishment that fits the crime should be given along with our prayers for their repentance.  We are wise as well to pray that we never hurt anyone as we carry out our responsibilities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 18:20-39; Matthew 5:17-19)

Pedro identifies himself as a catechist.  He loves to teach others about the Lord and his Church.  He does not seem to have aspirations to become a deacon.  He knows that teaching has its own distinction.  Writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul places the office of teacher third in line of importance after apostles and prophets (I Corinthians 12:28).  Jesus gives the work even greater prominence in today’s gospel.

Jesus says that true teachers “’will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” However, he does not extol all teachers.  He criticizes those who do not teach all of the commandments and who may disregard some of them.  He is not being severe but emphasizing what he has just pointed out.  He has not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them.

We may ask ourselves what commandments we disregard.  Some will argue that Sunday Eucharist is not compulsory (that is, in ordinary times).  Others may say that artificial contraception is all right.  Granted, the latter commandment is not found in Scripture.  Yet we should form our consciences according to the teaching of the Church.  If we know ourselves to be weak in some regard, we must be especially careful not to influence others in the same way.  In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells of the rewards to his faithful servants.  He also does not hesitate to name the punishments for those who ignore his teaching.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 17:7-16; Matthew 5:13-16)

Few passages in American literature move the soul more than the ending of The Grapes of Wrath.  It shows a family struggling to survive.  It left the “dust bowl” of Oklahoma for the promise of California. But there the situation becomes direr.  Their labor is exploited, and winter rains sweep away their home.  The eldest daughter, whose young husband abandoned her, has given birth to a still-born. The family takes shelter in an old barn.  There they meet a young boy and his father who is starving to death after giving his son all his food.  The young woman who lost her baby then agrees to give her breastmilk to the dying man.

Today’s first reading relates a parallel story.  Elijah, the prophet, is fleeing Israel because of a draught.  He goes to Zarephath, a town on the Phoenician coast. There he encounters a pagan widow who is dying of hunger along with her son.  The prophet tells her to bring him some bread.  She replies that she only has a handful of flour left to feed her son.  Elijah tells her not to worry but to bring him the bread.  She believes the prophet, feeds him, and miraculously never runs out of food.

Most of us use the possibility of incurring a shortfall as an excuse not to help others.  We may say that “charity begins at home.”  But charity begins with God who gave His Son as the living bread for the life of the world.  Sharing our resources with those in need will not make us poor.  Indeed, as much as our motive is faith in the ever-generous God, it will enrich us.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Kings 17:1-6; Matthew 5:1-12)

Protesters are yelling in the street.  The mayor has imposed a curfew to maintain order.  Everyone feels disgusted with the police brutality of two weeks ago.  But most people do not want to have the injustice compounded by riots, burning, and looting.  How would Jesus have responded to such a situation?  Today’s gospel offers some clues.

The passage relates the beatitudes which describe the saintly life.  They promote patience and forbearance in face of persecution. However, they do not criticize the defense of human rights.  Rather they indicate the need for Christians to suffer for what they believe to be just.  They abhor violence and exhort peaceful ways to resolve problems of persecution.

We cannot expect that everyone will follow Jesus’ program for saintliness. Nevertheless, we have to follow him as are model and surest guide.  He will not fail us but make us sources of blessing in our communities.  We will also find our society improving, perhaps incrementally but surely.  There may be steps backward at times, but generally we will feel the improvement.


Friday, June 5, 2020

Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr

(II Timothy 3:10-17; Mark 12:35-37)

Today’s first reading sounds like a description of the missionary activity of St. Boniface.  Much like St. Paul, Boniface experienced hardship and persecution in preaching the gospel in Germany.  Yet faithful to his mandate to convert the German peoples, Boniface became enormously successful.  He was born in England, became a monk, and followed the call to preach the gospel in foreign lands.  He died a martyr after resigning from his position as archbishop of Mainz and patriarch of Germany.

Paul assures Timothy that faithfulness to Christ brings suffering.  There is irony here because Christ is the epitome of divine virtue.  Shouldn’t such virtue be admired and not punished?  And it is; most of all, virtue pleases God who rewards those who possess it with eternal life.  But there are people for whom another’s virtue is an obstacle to their purposes.  Some will mock concern for poor, young women whom they want to exploit for profit in the sex trade.  They will also attack anyone who threatens their business.

We must not be naïve in following Christ.  There is much to commend it – good people as friends and an eternal destiny.  But there are also challenges like those who resent the practice of virtue.  Let’s keep our eyes on the saints like Boniface today.  They had a clear vision of what they hoped to achieve in life.  They also were wise not to rely on their own resources but on God’s grace.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(I Timothy 2:8-15; Mark 12:28-34)

The Corona virus has challenged the religious practices of many.  Forcing churches to close, it has kept people home where many are not accustomed to reading Scripture or even praying.  Some, out of fear of crowds or just out of habit, may never return to worship in church.  They will be like the ones that St. Paul mentions in today’s first reading.

Paul is exhorting his disciple Timothy to practice diligence in his pastoral oversight. He knows that some may deny Christ to avoid persecution and others just to make a little profit.  He realizes that it is even more likely that some may just quit practicing their faith out of laziness.  He does not find excuses for these men and women.  Rather he says forthrightly that Christ will deny those who deny him and be faithful to those who take up their cross after him.

We can maintain our faith if we make a habit of counting our blessings and giving thanks.  God is good to us.  Even those with very hard lives, like those battling cancer, can find blessings surrounding them. We must take time to name the graces that we have received.  We can do so both individually or collectively, whether with our family or at church.  In this way we can count on Christ affirming us when judgment comes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and companions, martyrs

(II Timothy 1: 1-3.6-12; Mark 12:18-27)

Bob Santamaria was an Australian Catholic famous for organizing labor and defending Church teaching.  In the 1940s and 50s  Santamaria educated workers on the factory floor of the dangers of Communist ideology.  In this way he helped save the nation from Communist government.  In the effort he was inspired by the Catholic social teaching of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI.  Later he defended as well the controversial teachings on the family of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.  Bob Santamaria did what St. Paul encourages Timothy to do in today’s first reading.

Sensing some discouragement in Timothy, Paul tells his disciple to “stir into flame the gift of God.”   This gift is nothing less than the Holy Spirit.  It comes with the laying on of hands both in Confirmation and in Ordination.  The Spirit strengthens the person for service in Church and world.  Not being timid, the Spirit prompts Christians to defend life whether from abortion and the hangman.

At times, we tire of working for the Lord.  Friends may think the work strange or worthless.  We yearn to live like, we imagine, everyone else - pursuing their own desires.  At these moments we should heed Paul’s admonition.  We should call upon the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with peace from serving the King.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Peter 3:12-15a.17-18; Mark 12:13-17)

Although the Church has usually advocated obedience to public authority, it has not always done so.  It certainly prohibited worship of Roman deities when the authorities demanded it.  Although the bishops probably capitulated to Henry VIII in England, Thomas More and John Fisher are canonized saints for not signing the Act of Supremacy.  In today’s gospel Jesus gives his instruction on the issue.

The Pharisees and Herodians, strange bedfellows but united in contempt, approach Jesus.  They ask his opinion of a paramount issue when no crisis is on the horizon.  What kind of loyalty do Jews owe to Rome, represented by Caesar?  Should they pay taxes to support the empire?  The Pharisee-Herodian conspiracy think they have Jesus trapped.  If he says “yes,” then he would lose the growing support he has for being the Messiah.  If he says “no” and the Roman authorities hear of his position, they might seize him.  He doesn’t punt on the issue.  He advises that people owe government some support for building roads, keeping the peace, etc.  But, he would insist, they should always put God first. 

Issues regarding civil authority still arise from time to time.  A wise bishop once made this insight.  Civil laws that are not evil in themselves must be obeyed.  Only when they demand something that is patently wrong should they be resisted.  For the bishop, doctors should not prescribe drugs expressly prohibited by the indicated government authority.  On the other hand, they would have the duty not to participate either directly or indirectly in euthanasia or abortion.  If a government were to mandate such participation, they would be obliged to give up their practice.