Friday, July 31, 2020

Memorial of Saint Ignatius Loyola, priest

(Jeremiah 26:1-9; Matthew 13:54-58)

Today’s first reading dramatizes a prophetic oracle.  God tells Jeremiah what he must say to the people of Judah.  He must tell them to repent of their sinful ways and live according to the Torah.  If they do not -- God wants it known – Jerusalem, their capital, will be annihilated like Shiloh in the north.  It is too big a toad for the people to swallow.  They respond to Jeremiah by calling for his head.

The spiritual sons of St. Ignatius of Loyola have included many prophets.  God has often called Jesuits to speak out against injustice.   Some of those who answered the call have paid for the privilege with their lives. In 1989 six Jesuit priests of the University of Central America in El Salvador were murdered by the Salvadoran army.  Because they had defended the poor, they were considered subversives.  They were prophets in the line of Jeremiah and the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, St. Oscar Romero. 

Jesuits stand out in the Church for their numbers, their education, and the many institutions they administer.  Their most famous member is Pope Francis.  They deserve our admiration.  They also need our prayers especially today, the feast of their founder.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 18:1-6; Matthew 13:47-53)

 Next week will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bomb’s use in war.  It was a shameful event.  Not only did the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki target civilians; they also violated the principle of proportion in war.  Many defend the bombings as hastening the end of the war and hence reducing casualties.  Other want to hold President Truman responsible for mass murder.  Neither approach seems promising of positive resolution.  Perhaps a more valuable lesson can be derived by reflecting on the bombings in light of today’s first reading.

Seeing the potter mold, trash, and remake clay pots until he has it just right, the prophet thinks of God working on Israel.  Because the nation has not lived up to its promise as God’s people, it will be trashed.  God will then start over to build a new nation that is just.  The United States should consider allowing God to do the same with it.  It primal sins of slavery and nuclear bombing call for repentance.  Also in order is coordinated effort to correct the prejudices that led to such outrages.

We can begin the project now.  We need to recall how we have allowed personal prejudices to cause harm.  We also should ask forgiveness for our misuse of power.  Finally, we need to pray for those we have hurt and also for our children.  The former that they may have recovered from mistreatment.  And the latter that they will have learned by our mistakes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Memorial of Saint Martha

(Jeremiah 10:15.16-21; John 11:19-27)

We are accustomed to thinking of time and space as having different coordinates. Space has its set which marks a person’s locale.  Time gives another dimension that places a person in different locales at different moments.  Einstein showed how time and space can be brought together with one set of coordinates.  These coordinates can expand space to virtually infinite distances or, alternatively, stretch time virtually to forever. In the gospel Jesus invites Martha to think of him in a comparable way.

Jesus asks Martha if she believes that he is “the resurrection and the life.”  He does not refer to himself as destined to rise again but expresses himself as the resurrection itself.  Anyone who knows Jesus, therefore, experiences the resurrection. The person is put on the space-time continuum such that she is catapulted out of the ordinary space and time sets of coordinates into a new kind of existence.  This existence has universal range and lasts for forever.

But what does it mean to “know Jesus”?  It is to be touched by him whose love is oceanic deep and nuclearly powerful so that we are utterly transformed.  Like iron is magnetized after being rubbed by a magnet, we are made into perfectly loving creatures by being touched by Jesus.  We are we so touched by reading intently the Word of God and, most of all, by receiving sincerely the Eucharist.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 14:17-22; Matthew 13:36-43)

Today’s explanation of the parable of the wheat and the weeds can be read as a commentary on Jesus’ command, “’Do not resist evil.’”  At least as much as evil does not cause harm to the innocent, Jesus wants his followers to tolerate it.  He indicates in the parable that the reason for non-resistance is that the innocent will suffer when evil is resisted.  The parable also makes clear that God, at the end of time, will sort the good from the bad.  He will reward the former for their virtue and punish the latter for their vice.

Examples are not hard to find.  The Church now teaches that the death penalty is no longer helpful.  It was tolerated for ages as the state acted in the place of God to protect its people.  But that substitution has always been open to abuse.  Now the Church recognizes the possibility of successfully incarcerating criminals to protect the public.  Another example of an evil that is tolerated for a time is the restrictions imposed in face of the novel corona virus.  Some resent having to stay at home and wearing facemasks in public.  The state imposes this kind of evil to fulfill its responsibility of keeping people safe.  Regarding pandemic restrictions, the imposition, gratefully, should not last very long. 

It is possible that not resisting evil makes us both stronger and more sensitive people.  We learn humility when we submit voluntarily to others’ will.  We also better understand the much greater deprivations people like refugees must endure.  The key to reaping such benefit is closeness to Jesus.  We join in his suffering for the good of all.  We also find strength from the bread he gives us to bear our cross. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 13:1-11; Matthew 13:31-35)

Walking through a shopping mall, both men and women are allured by the lingerie shop.  The window display arouses such interest that all wonder what can be inside.  Of course, the apparel is meant to increase the intensity of desire of a husband for his wife.  In today’s first reading the prophet Jeremiah uses such an image to describe the relationship between God and Israel.

The loin cloth described in the passage was to be worn by men to cover their genitals.   In public the loincloth was worn under a tunic, but whether in private or in public it signifies intimacy.  The prophet himself states this meaning: “As close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord.”  The tragedy that Israel abandons intimacy with the Lord for flings with its neighbors’ idols is symbolized by the loincloth being buried and rotting.

God has created humans as sexual beings so that we might relate to one another.  Genital sexuality is reserved for a husband and wife to solidify their union.  That union further becomes the source and environment for children.  Thus, it fulfils God’s plan for creation.  Unfortunately, humans often distort this blueprint by making pleasure the sole purpose of sexual intimacy.  Like Jeremiah‘s rotting loincloth, such a practice cannot last long.  We can look to Jesus, who reinforces the original teaching on sexuality in Genesis, as our advisor in these affairs.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 3:14-17; Matthew 13:18-23)

Jesus’ parable speaks of seed being scattered throughout a field. There is no part of the field that does not receive some. The parable indicates how the gospel carrying the story of the sacrifice of the Son of God for the world is spread throughout the world. All kinds of people hear it and respond to it according to their own disposition. The parable describes four dispositions as conditions of the earth: the roadside, the shallow earth, the thorny earth, and the fertile earth. It is worth reflecting on each of these conditions carefully in what I would like to say today.

Some people are like seed on the roadside.  They do not want to leave the street. They think of life as a great competition to get the most pleasure possible. Other people are like rocky ground. They hear the word of God and are attracted to its promise of eternal life. But they do not have the will to follow Christ in order to attain it.  A third kind of people are like seed sown among thorns. They also respond favorably to the story of Jesus in the beginning. They want to follow him, but they also want to follow things that take them in another direction. The "good land" describes people who love others as well as God. Like Jesus himself they want to sow seeds of peace and love among the people.

Instead of thinking of ourselves as a type of land, it is better to consider ourselves as a field. Our field has all four types of land mentioned in the parable. We are partly road, partly rocky soil, partly land with thorns, and partly good land. Our task in life is to till the field so that all our land yields produce. We have to cover the road with dirt to avoid the crudeness that spoils the soul. We have to also add soil to the rocks by keeping our promises to God and to others. And we have to pluck the thorns of frivolous pursuits from our lives. Doing all this, we will be supporting our companions, giving glory to God, and preserving the hope of eternal life for ourselves.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 2:1-3.7-8.12-13; Matthew 13:10-17)

We think of Jesus’ parables as charming stories that help people understand God’s working in the world.  For this reason Jesus surprises us in today’s gospel by saying he uses parables to confound his listeners.  Furthermore, Jesus’ citing the prophet Isaiah sounds mean-spirited.  Does he really mean to disassociate from his listeners because they have shown hardness of heart?

Examining the context of Jesus’ remarks should enable us to understand what is taking place.  Jesus has taught brilliantly to both the learned and the unschooled.  He has also worked many mighty deeds – cures and even raising the dead.   The people should have realized that he is no ordinary teacher, no regular healer.  They should have recognized him as God’s chosen messenger announcing a new age.  They should have repented of all their pride, greed, and lust.  They should have committed themselves to doing God’s will.  But they haven’t, and Jesus has stopped trying to break through their self-serving souls.

Hopefully, Jesus counts us among his disciples with blessed eyes and ears.  Hopefully, we respond to God’s love for us with gratitude and willingness to serve.  Should we, like Jesus apparently does in today’s gospel, write off those who don’t respond?  No, that would mean not doing God’s will.  The people Jesus encountered actually saw the living God.  Today people get only a poor image.  We must improve that image by better caring for others as best we can in Jesus’ name.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
(II Corinthians 5:14-17; John 20:1-2.11-18)

Like that of St. Francis of Assisi, the life of St. Mary Magdalene has been greatly romanticized.  Moderns like to picture Francis as a rebellious youth who formed a hippie-like commune.  They see him leading his followers in a non-conformist life of peace and love.  Historians find the real Francis more religious in sentiment and more intent on faithfulness to the institutional Church.

Mary Magdalene has long been considered a sinner – even a prostitute -- and more recently as the wife of Jesus.  Again, scholars find her story less dramatic.  Jesus does cast out seven demons from her, but she is more notable for her faithfulness than for her affection.  She stands by Jesus when he is crucified and is the first to visit his tomb after the Sabbath following his death.  She also is the first person to announce his resurrection.

We can have a similar relationship with Jesus as Mary.  It entails accompanying Jesus by taking to heart the gospel and ingesting him in the Eucharist.  It includes telling others about how his words and his love have transformed us.  We should not minimize the positive effect that this relationship will have.  It will build a happiness without end or limit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Micah 7:14-15.18-20; Matthew 12:46-50)

Both readings today provide images for the People of God.  The prophet Micah calls the nation of Judah “the flock of (the Lord’s) inheritance.”  The term implies dependency since sheep survive generally with the care of their shepherd.  Unlike sheep, however, the people have rebelled against their Lord.  Nevertheless, God has shown them mercy.

There is no hint of rebellion in the gospel image.  Jesus calls his disciples “brother, sister, and mother...”  Indeed, they have become his family because they obey the will of God his “Father.”  They have accepted his yoke which they can readily bear with his accompaniment.

We too have been called into Jesus’ family.  Perhaps we rebel at times by not doing what God asks of us.  For this we should humbly ask forgiveness and accept God’s mercy.  When we do, the outcome is immeasurably satisfying.  We receive Jesus’ eternal accompaniment.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Micah 6:1-4.6-8; Matthew 12:38-42)

The police chief of a rather large southern city was outspoken.  Murders had been increasing in the city, but people were obsessed with police brutality.  He asked, “Where is the outrage for (the murder victims’) lives?”  Noting the recent meetings and conversations about changing law enforcement policy, he asked, “Where are the meetings, and where are the conversations, and where are the protests for these victims?”  A similar disparity between people’s demands and more critical needs may be found in today’s first reading.

Micah reports of the people of Judah’s attempt to appease God for their sins.  They want to offer God multiple animal sacrifice in atonement.  Someone makes the outrageous suggestion that he sacrifice his own child to make up for his sin.  But the people overlook what is essential.  God speaks through the prophet about what they are to do.  They must, in sum, change their hearts.  His famous command is “to do the right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Murder is increasing in many places.  It threatens social cohesion as it destroys young lives and causes great sorrow.  It can be curtailed with deliberate, coordinated action.  Certainly God will want us to discuss it and to establish ways to reduce it.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 38:1-6.21-22.7-8; Matthew 12:1-8)

Sixty years ago, all Catholics were to abstain from meat on Fridays and adults were not to eat between meals during Lent.  The practices distinguished Catholics from others and instilled a sense of sacrifice for the Lord.  However, they also fostered criticism of those who did not abide by these penances.  As much as anything else, this third result probably led the bishops to withdraw the obligations.  In today’s gospel Jesus gives his position on imposed dietary regulations.

He does not oppose such restrictions, but he is open to exceptions.  He defends his disciples’ eating grain on the Sabbath as akin to David’s men eating the Temple bread.  He further points out that just as priests do not violate the law by working on the Sabbath, neither do his disciples who are on a kind of mission.  Jesus clinches the argument by citing the prophet Hosea who said that God wants “mercy, not sacrifice.”  That is, God is more pleased when we judge mercifully than when we abstain or fast.  The latter is not to be forsaken, but the former is to be pursued.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 26:7-9.12.16-19; Matthew 11:28-30)

A television drama featured the story of a Catholic school teacher.  The woman was fired for having conceived a baby through in vitro fertilization.  The drama portrayed the Church as dominated by rules and regulations with little compassion for barren couples.  Although people do not like to think of Jesus acting in this way, his Sermon on the Mount certainly sounds unrelenting regarding obligations and prohibitions.  In it he demands perfection and prohibits divorce.  One wonders then what Jesus could mean in today’s gospel when he says, “My yoke is easy.”

His yoke seems to be very difficult, indeed.  Perhaps the reason for this perception is that most people think of it as a code of conduct.  But that is not what it is at all.  Jesus’ yoke is his relationship with God, his Father.  He, more than anyone else, knows God to be his Father who always cares for him.  He delivers himself to evil men knowing that things will turn out all right.  He now offers his followers a share in this relationship.  They too can feel the freedom of being children of God. 

We should realize that people do not need a lot of things to be thrive as human beings.  Indeed, having things often is a prescription to misery.  But we do need loving relationships.  When we join the Church, we are adopted into God’s family.  We help one another appreciate how to live as God’s children.  The relationship with the Father, with Jesus, and with one another brings a modicum of happiness.  It is likely that others will take note of our happiness and join us.  It is certain that we will experience fulness of happiness in eternal life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church

(Isaiah 10:5-7.13b-16; Matthew 11:25-27)

St. Bonaventure was both a scholar and an administrator.  He held the Franciscan chair at the University of Paris until he served as Minister General of the Franciscan Order.  On a superficial level this background seems to eliminate him from Jesus’ company.  After all, in today gospel Jesus thanks the Father for revealing his mystery “to the wise and the learned.”

But Jesus does not mean to exclude all wise and learned.  What he cannot tolerate are those who use knowledge to lord it over others.  He has the Pharisees especially in mind.  These men advise the poor to make sacrifices while they find excuses to avoid them.  Jesus knows that true wisdom recognizes the need for divine love.  It also discerns how this love has been extended to the faithful poor.

Our task is to imitate Jesus as Bonaventure did.  We first pray to God in thanksgiving.  God is the source of everything including the benefits of life and love.  Then we make known to God our needs.  We want to ask for simplicity that recognizes the goodness of each person but pays tribute mostly to God.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Memorial of Kateri Tekakwitha, virgin

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

Kateri Tekakwitha’s life was short and hard.  At the age of four she and her family contracted smallpox which left her both orphaned and physically impaired.  In becoming a Christian she was rejected by the Iroquois tribe among whom she grew up in what is now New York State.  She emigrated to the indigenous Christian community near Montreal.  There she might have chosen resentment for all the setbacks she experienced.  Instead, she devoted herself to prayer to God and concern for others.  She can be seen as a model of the conversion which Jesus desires in today’s gospel.

Jesus laments over the towns of Galilee where he has worked wonders to no avail.  Despite his preaching and cures, the people carry on with life as usual.  Whether they do not accept his message or refuse to respond out of laziness, Jesus cannot but regret their failure.  The prophetic “woes” he utters are condemnations for the refusal to live in accordance with God’s loving mercy.  

The life that Jesus calls for is not that we begin to pray all the time although that would be helpful.  He wants us to change our hearts - to live with compassion for others like Kateri Tekakwitha.  He wants us to imitate the very goodness of God.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 1:10-17; Matthew 10:34-11:1)

One wall of the home was covered with crucifixes and crosses.  They were large and small; wood, metal, and stone.  Coming from different parts of the world, they comprised a fascinating testimony of Christian faith. Jesus likely would have taken notice.  How would he have responded?  Two things come to mind.

First, he would have cited Isaiah in today’s first reading.  He does so elsewhere in the gospel of Matthew.  He would have said that it is not a display of crosses that he desires any more than God seeks “new moons and festivals.”  He wants people who pursue righteousness in the way they live and justice for the vulnerable.  In other words, he wants mechanics to charge fair prices and hospitals to provide care to the poor.

Just as important, Jesus would have said, we have to learn something from the crosses on the wall.  As Jesus bore his cross in obedience to the Father, so are we to bear our crosses.  The cross we take up may be to love a difficult person with whom we work or live.  It may be to follow the directives of health care officials or even to accept contagion and isolation during this pandemic.  However challenging it is, each of us must carry her or his particular cross with patience.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23)

Oddly, in a way, religious freedom has been threatened as secularism becomes more dominant.  One would think that fewer people would care how religious people worship.  But worship is more than praying in church.  A believer’s whole life should manifest different ways of giving God His due.  Today religious people are being persecuted for refusing to cooperate with evil that has been sanctioned by the state.  Pro-life pharmacists are being harassed by government for not selling abortion inducing pills.  Catholic sisters are being pressured into providing contraceptives for their employees.  Catholic doctors are being told they may have to leave their practice if they do not cooperate with physician-assisted suicide. In today’s gospel Jesus warns his disciples to expect such mistreatment.

Jesus tells his disciples to be as “as shrewd as serpents.”  He wants them to avoid confrontation with their persecutors as much as possible.  But they are also to be “as simple as doves”; that is, he does not want them to obfuscate the truth with rationalizations.  Jesus recognizes that this strategy will lead to persecution but also assures his followers of rewards for their valor.

Most of us will not be persecuted directly for practicing our faith.  Nevertheless, we should support those who are.  We should consider voting for policymakers who respect religious freedom.  We may consider contributing to pay legal fees of those who are being harassed.  Of course, we are to pray that our society will protect religious freedom.

Thursday, July 9,2020

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 11:1-4.8e-9; Matthew 10:7-15)

I have six pence, jolly, jolly six pence/ I have six pence to last me all my life.
I have two pence to spend and two pence to lend,
And two pence to send home to my wife, poor wife.

Many of us sang such rhymes in our youth perhaps making the best of the days when our earning power was minimal.  Perhaps the apostles sang something like it as they were sent by Jesus to proclaim the Good News.

Jesus tells them that they are not to “take gold or silver or copper” with them.  The last, a copper coin, is what we call today a penny.  Jesus wants the apostles are to preach the goodness of God by their poverty as well as by their words.  Completely dependent on Divine Providence, without even a penny to their name, they will show how the Lord cares for those who trust in Him.  He not only gives them upkeep but a more valuable inner joy.

Often enough today we forget this instruction from Jesus.  Preachers will set substantial fees for their services.  Lay people also may always look for compensation for any service rendered.  It is not that asking a definite amount for one’s efforts is wrong.  The problem is that we do not see ourselves as God’s children with responsibility for one another.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 10:1-3.7-8.12; Matthew 10:1-7)

Matthew begins his gospel with a list of names tracing the lineage of Jesus.  He starts with Abraham who received God’s promise to create a people more numerous than the stars of the sky.  He ends with Jesus, who brings that promise to fulfilment.  Matthew mentions a few women like Rahab and Ruth, non-Israelites who exhibit extraordinary faith and courage.  The genealogy indicates God’s hand guiding the process despite the people’s shortcomings. 

In today’s gospel Matthew provides another list of names.  In one sense, these twelve men provide a counterweight to those of the previous list.  As the Old Testament figures lead up to Jesus, the apostles will carry Jesus’ name to the world.  In another sense, however, they are similar to Jesus’ ancestors.  They are a diverse lot.  Many of them, like Matthew, the tax-collector, seem unlikely candidates to carry out Jesus’ mission.  Once again there is a sense of God’s directing the whole affair.

We should see ourselves as part of still another list of people connected to Jesus.  We have similarities to the people already mentioned.  As the first group comprised Jesus’ ancestors, we are his spiritual descendants.  Like the apostles, we are called by Jesus to bring others into his Church.  We can do so by caring for one another and by professing Jesus’ name to those whom we meet.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 8:4-7.11-13; Matthew 9:32-38)

Several years ago two economists surveyed fallen-away Catholics about why they left the Church.  Unsurprisingly, many said that they no longer practice the faith because of the Church’s rules.  For example, they did not understand why divorced and remarried Catholics could not receive Holy Communion.  The survey uncovered other reasons as well, but high moral standards seemed to discourage Catholics as much as anything else.  In today’s first reading the prophet Hosea chastises Israel for abandoning the faith of their ancestors for similar reasons.

Hosea was an eighth century B.C. prophet who preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  It was a time of prosperity.  But rather than turning to the Lord in gratitude, the people fancied the gods of their pagan neighbors.  The pagan deities were much more indulgent than the Lord.  Where the Lord insisted that the people control their sensual appetites, paganism extolled licentiousness.

In Jesus the Lord’s commands are brought to fulfillment.  His new commandments may seem to us harder to obey.  We may ask, “How can we never look at a beautiful woman or handsome man with desire?” and “How can we never resist an insult from another?”  But we must remember that Jesus is there to help us do the seemingly impossible.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 2:16.17c-18.21-22; Matthew 9:18-26)

Jesus successfully begins his ministry in Galilee.  After the Sermon on the Mount, the people believe in him.  Their faith facilitates a host of miracles, two of which are recorded in today’s gospel.  But Jesus’ success will not last very long.  The Pharisees will sow doubt among the people, and his cures will be limited.

The Jewish official’s faith is so great that he asks Jesus’ help even after his daughter has died.  Jesus does not dawdle in response to the request.  But on the way a severely sick woman causes him to tarry.  She too believes in him, but her faith is somewhat magical.  She thinks that by touching Jesus’ cloak, she will be healed.  In truth, she must encounter the Lord before she is relieved of her illness.  Touching Jesus does not bring about a cure, but his touching another will.  When Jesus arrives at the official’s house, he takes the dead girl’s hand.  His touch, like a spark setting fire to dry grass, puts new life in the girl.

These healing stories should impress on us the need of faith in Jesus.  He will help us if we believe in him.  This means that we have to ask his assistance and faithfully follow his teaching.  His love for us will not fail.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Feast of Saint Thomas, apostle

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

A debate in the philosophy of science centers on the question of the existence of spiritual being.  Some philosophers hold that matter is all that there is.  They try to reduce the mind to the material functions of the brain.  More classical thinkers respond saying that the elements of matter cannot account for the intricate capacity of thought.  They understand the mind as a spiritual substance dependent upon matter for its formation but having a reality apart from it.  In today’ gospel St. Thomas seems to be a materialist until he meets the risen Lord.

When Thomas is told that the other disciples have seen Christ after he was crucified, he demands to touch Jesus’ body before accepting the fact of his resurrection.  Jesus gives him the opportunity to do it. Does Thomas actually go ahead with the experiment?  The Scripture does not say so.  In fact, it indicates that he does not. Jesus says that Thomas believes only with seeing as the other disciples.

The passage ends with Jesus giving later Christians a blessing for believing in the resurrection without ever seeing the resurrected one.  Because our times challenge such belief, we have to support one another in the faith of the resurrection.  Orthodox Christians do this by a ritual statement and response.  “Christ is risen,” says the priest.  “He is risen indeed,” answer the people.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 9:1-8)

It is said that St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) could tell when a person needed confession.  His eyes seemed to look into one’s soul.  A similar capacity was shown in the movie last year about Mr. Rogers.  Seeing a young man with an injured nose, he knew that it was due to more than the excuse he was given.  In today’ gospel Jesus exhibits this ability of looking into the heart of people.

A paralytic is brought to Jesus.  Ostensibly he comes to have his body healed.  But Jesus recognizes that the corporal defect is not what is most ailing the man.  Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sin causing the most distress.  The religious workers comment that Jesus’ action violates God’s sovereignty over sin.  Jesus then shows that he has received authority to forgive sins by curing the paralytic’s physical ailment.  The passage ends with the people glorifying God for giving men the power to forgive.

We should hear the word “men” as referring to priests today.  God has given to the priests of the Church authority to forgive sins.  We are not helpless if we find ourselves guilty of an unjust deed.  We do not have to journey to a faraway place to make a sin offering.  We only have to repent of our wrong-doing, confess our sin to a priest, and sincerely promise to avoid the sin in the future.  We can put aside the worry of having done something that will upend us forever.