Monday, March 1, 2021

 Monday of the Second Week of Lent

(Daniel 9:4b-10; Luke 6:36-38)

Abraham’s Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address assigns responsibility for the Civil War to both sides in the conflict.  It does not justify the actions of either government but accepts the punishment as fairly given.  Similarly, as the Church was about to celebrate the bicentennial of Jesus Christ, Pope St. John Paul II confessed sins of the past.  He asked pardon for such outrages as persecution under the Inquisition, violence during the Crusades, and extermination of Jews.  Today’s readings encourage such humility and even more promotes human mercy.

The first reading would be extraordinary if done today.  A great nation admits guilt for disobeying its constitutional principles.  Nothing in the passage asks directly for mercy.  Nevertheless, the people have been so humbled that they cannot but ask God’s forgiveness.  In the gospel Jesus exhorts his disciples to imitate God the Father by readily showing mercy.  He goes so far as to say that God’s mercy to them is contingent upon their mercy to others.  

We have as much difficulty showing mercy as we have asking forgiveness.  We see mercy as a sign of weakness and want to be perceived as strong.  The truth, however, is the opposite.  Mercy becomes us.  As the heroine says in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “’T is the mightiest in the mightiest.”

Sunday, February 28, 2021


(Genesis 22: 1-2.9-13.15-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mark 9: 2-10)

The woman was commenting on the Lord's Prayer. She said that she was willing to accept all that is God's will. But she - she added - "may God not have something bad happen to my children." Abraham certainly has the same attitude in the first reading. The last thing he wants is for something bad to happen to his son Isaac.

The Jews call this passage in Genesis "the binding of Isaac." They say that the story is the most powerful in the book. God really asks Abraham to kill his own son! The text adds that the petition is a test. But it does not specify the purpose of such a morbid test. It seems exaggerated, inconceivable of God. Anyway, Abraham passes the test. He shows that he is willing to sacrifice even his own son his if God asks.

We Christians have another way to understand this story. It is not so much a test of Abraham but a parable expressing the love of God. As much as he asks Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, God has offered his own son to the world. However, where God is good and does not allow Abraham to kill his son, the world is cruel. It will kill Jesus for interfering with the established order of religion. The gospel gives us a glimpse of God's offering to the world.

Jesus has gone up the mountain with three disciples. There he is transfigured so that all three see his divinity. One commenter says it is not so much a transfiguration as a show of transparency. The three companions see the depths of Jesus for the first time and perceive his divinity. The clothes of Jesus turning "splendidly white" testify to this fact.  They become like the dress of the Ancient of Days sitting on his throne in the book of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:9).

The disciples will need this vision of glory during the ordeal to come. They will see Jesus captured, tried, and executed as an insurgent. Now they have been assured for the future that he is not a false hero but the true Son of God. We need this vision for another reason.

We live in increasingly anti-Christian times. Many if they are not afraid at least they do not want to publicly acknowledge their faith in God. We will not be pursued for going to Mass on Sunday. But living our faith the other six days of the week may cause us problems. Recently Twitter “froze” the account of a Catholic news service. The "offense" evidently was that the new service reported for its readers the news that President Biden appointed a biological man who identifies himself as a transgender woman to a high office in the Department of Health. Twitter said that posting the matter constituted "hateful conduct." Probably because of the clamor it created, the freeze didn't last long. Still we wonder why Twitter judges the publication of the report as "hateful." Isn't it alarming news when a high official thinks he can change his gender? Certainly this official, like everyone else, deserves respect as a human person. But we should be concerned when a person who challenges the nature of his own body occupies a position where he can influence many others to do the same.

In the passage God has a message for both us and the disciples. He says that Jesus “is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Jesus commands us to proclaim from the rooftops what he tells us in private. First and foremost, his message is always God's love for everyone. As Saint Paul says in the second reading, God "is" ready to give us everything, together with his Son. Second, Jesus instructs us how to respond to this love by not satisfying our cravings but by giving ourselves to others in love.

From the beginning the challenge for Christians has been how to be in the world without being of the world. We can express this challenge in another way: how can we love the world without being corrupted by the world? As the smartest kids in religion classes know, the answer is usually "Jesus." We have to reflect on the ways of Jesus so that we might put them into practice daily.


Friday, February 26, 2021

 Friday of the First Week of Lent

(Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26)

The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.  In other words, death brings on a new reality, a completely different way of living.  Jesus introduces such a new way of living for his disciples in today’s gospel.

Much of the Torah or Law was meant to bring about justice.  For example, Jesus in this passage cites the law on murder.  If one murders another, he or she must be brought to justice.  Jesus makes clear, however, that such a standard does not meet the criteria of the kingdom of his Father.  His followers must not only not kill one another, but they cannot let enmity among themselves exist.  He seems to have community members in mind here.  Yet a similar standard will be applied to people of other communities, social strata, faith traditions, races, etc.  After all, he wants his followers to love their neighbors as themselves.

Most of us are taught to stand out and be recognized.  Our parents and teachers tell us to claim what rightfully belongs to us.  Jesus might say, “Don’t worry about what belongs to you, give of yourselves to benefit your neighbor.”  We are to be reconciled with all so that we may be identified with Jesus.  He is the one who reconciled the world to his Heavenly Father.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

 Thursday of the First Week of Lent

(Esther C:12.14-16.23-25; Matthew 7:7-12)

Michael “Mickey” Schachle was born six years ago to a couple in central Tennessee.  He has Down Syndrome, but it is remarkable that he is alive at all.  During his mother’s pregnancy, medical personnel discovered that Mickey had fetal hydrops, a life-threatening condition.  Coupled with his chromosomal abnormality, his doctor gave Mickey no chance of survival.  His parents then prayed for a miracle to Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.  Afterwards, the fatal condition was no longer present. Through the intercession of his parents and Fr. McGivney, God has granted Mickey life, happiness, and love today.

Equally so Queen Esther’s prayers in today’s first reading are answered.  She is appealing to the Lord for her Jewish people in Persia who are being threatened with genocide.  The plot, which the king’s minister has woven, to kill the Jews is foiled when the minister’s treachery is revealed.  In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples to pray like Esther – sincerely, determinedly, and beseechingly.

We sometimes become discouraged when our prayers are not answered as we imagined they would be. That should be no reason to stop praying but to pray even harder.  God, who loves us more than we could appreciate or even know, heeds our requests.  He will help us according to his all-beneficent will.  We should never stop praying.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32)

The Book of the Prophet Jonah has become one of the most popular readings of the Old Testament.  For one thing it has a short, fascinating narrative.  For another, it highlights the contemporary value of tolerance for other peoples.  Also, as today’s gospel relates, Jesus uses the story to teach about his own mission.

Jesus refers to the great conversion that takes place with Jonah’s preaching.  A city-state, perhaps as large and as notorious as Mexico City today, is imagined.  Jonah might have been a reluctant preacher, but evidently his words had great power.  He inspired everyone to change heart and conform to God’s ways.  There are no historical records that such universal repentance ever took place in Nineveh or anywhere else.  Nevertheless, Jesus knows that his preaching is even stronger than the heralded Jonah’s.  He expects a conversion in Israel like Nineveh’s in the story of Jonah.

Repentance or conversion translate the Greek word metanoia.  It literally means a change of mind.  But as today’s psalm relates, conversion has more to do with a change of heart.  The mind actively inquires, probes. and calculates.  The heart, on the other hand, passively is moved by what impresses itself on it.  True conversion implies that our hearts are no longer moved by sex, fame, or fortune.  Rather, converted hearts feel grateful for God’s goodness and take pity on those living in misery.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

(Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15)

It is said that words make people human.  Other animals can think although not with much sophistication.  They even communicate in different ways.  But they do not seem to be able to form meaningful words.  Words not only have power to move others.  They have some sway with God as well.  At least, Jesus in today’s gospel prescribes certain words to solicit the Father’s attention.

The Our Father is the preeminent prayer of Christians because it was taught by Jesus himself.  It must be efficacious because in the first reading God declares that His word will not return to Him void.  When we own it by living it, we will receive the Father’s care.

A couple was praying for their daughter who had developed a blood disease.  They had lost one daughter to cancer many years before and feared losing another.  They prayed for their daughter and asked friends to pray as well.  A week or so ago, they received news that the bone marrow transplant their ailing daughter received was successful.  It may not be a saint-making miracle, but the couple is sure that God master-minded the healing, 

Monday, February 22, 2021


Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

(I Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19)

As much as we are eager now to get on with Lent, the Church asks us to pause to consider the pope.  More than any other day on the liturgical calendar, today is dedicated to the Bishop of Rome.  Someone asked if Peter was not the longest reigning pope.  Of course, Pope Pius IX reigned as pope thirty-two years.  Would not then Peter been head of the Church longer if he were given the keys to the kingdom in the year 32 or 33 A.D. and kept them until his martyrdom in 65?  However, historians don’t comment on this, perhaps because Peter did not go to Rome right away.

The 300 or so popes since St. Peter have come from different nations and possessed different qualities.  Although a few of them sinned grievously while occupying the chair of Peter, most were holy men.  Some of them were even martyrs like St. Peter himself.  Three or four of them have been called “the Great.”  In the fourth century, Pope St. Leo was erudite enough to leave us a profound understanding of the liturgy and brave enough to confront Attila the Hun.  In the sixth century Pope St. Gregory sent missionaries to convert or reconvert the extremities of Europe while writing a pastoral theology and perhaps inventing the chant that bears his name.  Pope St. John Paul II captured the respect of the world in an age of disbelief for his courage, love, and wisdom.

More than admire the popes, we should pray for them.  They bear responsibility for the pastoral care of the world.  This may sound pretentious, but in fact contemporary popes have been seen in this way.  Of course, they give immediate attention to Catholics, but what they say and do are reported around the world.  They are looked upon by national leaders for moral wisdom and spiritual insight.

Sunday, , February 21, 2021



(Genesis 9: 8-15; I Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15)

They say that Army Ranger School is the toughest test for leaders of soldiers. It is comprised of sixty-one days of training to develop skills in direct fire battles. Not only does the participant have to perform difficult maneuvers, but he or she also has to function on less than five hours of sleep. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus is seen undergoing a test similar to the Army Ranger School.

The reading says that Jesus is tempted by Satan for forty days. The Gospel according to Mark does not explain the temptations. However, it can be said that having a human nature, Jesus is tempted like all human beings. It is proposed that he considers his own desires as priorities, more important than the needs of others. Today we see this type of temptation in the claims of some people to be vaccinated before others. More generally, it is seen in the willingness to have almost everything in our own way.

The season of Lent offers us forty days to be tested together with Jesus. We should understand it as a training to live in a new way. Jesus is going to instruct us how to curb our own desires and serve others. He will help us break habits that weaken us. Some are so consumed with drinking that evening cocktails become what most occupies their attention during the day. This type of person should consider giving up alcohol for 40 days. Others are so focused on their work that finishing tasks before bed takes a top priority. It would be helpful for this type of person to put more trust in God by taking the necessary rest for health.

The second reading provides another key to understanding the meaning of Lent. The Letter of Peter compares the waters of Baptism with those of the flood. As the waters of the flood delivered Noah and his family from the world permeated with sin, so the waters of Baptism have delivered us. During Lent we prepare to renew baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Together with the catechumens we are going to rededicate ourselves to Christ. We should think of the promises as waters not only washing us from sin but also illuminating for us the Christian way. It is as if the waters wash away all pollution from the air so that for the first time we can see ahead clearly.

Although the gospel does not relate the desert temptations, it does give account of their outcome. It says that Jesus goes to preach the good news. "’... the Kingdom of God is at hand,’” he proclaims, “’Repent and believe ...’" It is worth repacking and reproclaiming this message for the world today. Although there are churches in every sector of town, people no longer live adhering to the faith. Most people think it is acceptable to cohabit before getting married. Meanwhile many children live without both mother and father in the home. Our society needs now more than ever the message of God's will for it.

How are we going to deliver the message? Very few have the opportunity to proclaim it from the pulpit. But everyone can preach it by setting a good example. We can take advantage of this Lenten season. If we can't visit the sick, we can support the charities that do. Instead of always commenting on the faults of others, we can point out their virtues. On Fridays we can not only abstain from meat but also prepare simple meals like rice and beans. If someone asks us why, we can answer that our sacrifices demonstrate our love for the Lord. We can also turn off the TV to read the gospel and pray for other others.

Do we remember the "Rocky" movie? When the protagonist began training for the boxing championship, he had a lot of difficulty. Getting up in the morning to exercise seemed as challenging as swimming in icy waters. But by the time of the event, he had become a man living in a completely new way. It is like this if we take advantage of Lent as a period of enlightenment. By Easter we will be kinder, calmer, and more loving of the Lord.

Friday, February 19, 2021

 Friday after Ash Wednesday

(Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15)

In the days of perennial Friday abstinence, preachers often ranted about people eating lobster.  What kind of a sacrifice is that? They would say.  They had a point.  Lobster is rich and tasty, hardly a hardship.  The criticism echoes the one offered in today’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

The writer did not live toward the end of the eighth century B.C. like the prophet most of us think of when we hear the name Isaiah.  He lived and prophesized two centuries later.  The Jews had not long returned from the Babylonian exile.  They were rebuilding Jerusalem and wanted to live the traditions of their ancestors.  They fasted and prayed for God’s assistance.  Speaking for God, the prophet tells the people that their fasts and prayers are in vain if they do not practice justice.  God told their ancestors to pay workers fairly and to directly assist the hungry and homeless.

In Lent especially but also throughout the year, we should heed the prophet’s words.  Our prayers and fasting must be oriented to caring for those in need.  We must support a society where everyone has both material and spiritual resources to live with dignity.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


Thursday after Ash Wednesday

 (Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)

 Lenten mass readings do not follow any sequence.  We do not read consecutive passages from any Old Testament, New Testament, or gospel book.  No, the Church selects readings from diverse sources to help us make the most of this fruitful season.  Today, still at Lent’s beginning, the readings indicate a proposal for this time of penance.  Like the Israelites ready to enter the Promised Land, we are challenged to reform our ways.  

The gospel passage adds necessary perspective.  We are to take up our daily cross and to follow Jesus.  He will lead us on the way of discipleship.  It is a course of self-sacrifice for God’s sake.  We let go of our claim to time and energy for the sake of others with more urgent claims.  In short, we sacrifice ourselves to help the needy live with dignity.  Jesus leads us not only by modeling the concern we are to give but also by praying to God for help.

We may think that the Lenten experience ends with the celebration of Easter in six weeks.  But this is not the case.  The sacrifices which we took up anew yesterday only end with our own death and entrance into eternal life.  We might ease off on some of the laid practices that we have just assumed.  But the cross which we have taken up – our commitment to living like Jesus – is not to be laid down soon.  We bear it until we too reach the Promised Land.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Ash Wednesday

 (Joel 2:12-18; II Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)

 The distribution of ashes this year will cause consternation.  Ashes will not be traced on the forehead in the sign of a cross.  Because of Covid, pastors have been instructed to sprinkle ashes over the person’s head.  Some will complain that they like to wear a smear of ashes because it identifies them as Catholics.

In a way the complaint is like that of a child who wants to have braces on her teeth.  She somehow thinks that braces are neat even though they entail discomfort, care, and maybe ridicule.  Ashes are a sign that the person has sinned.  It is like the scarlet letter that Hester Prynne has to wear on her dress in The Scarlet Letter.

But, on second thought, a cross of ashes does indicate that we have made a critical choice.  They confess guilt, but more importantly express reliance on Jesus Christ for salvation.  It proclaims that we do not dismiss our sins as unimportant.  Nor do we self-justify them either with an argument of defense or an act of self-absolution.  No, the cross of ashes indicates our faith in Christ’s sacrifice as purgative of our guilt.  For this reason, it seems right to make the sign of the cross as the ashes fall on her heads.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 5:5-8.7:1-5.10; Mark 8:14-21)

Just as winter rains prepare for Spring plowing, today’s first reading about Noah us prepares for Lent.  The reading mentions the vast extent of human wickedness.  Then it shows God taking action to curtail it.  Likewise, God gives us the season of Lent to root out the sin that prevents our lives from growing in love.

We are not too different from the disciples in today’s gospel.  They think that Jesus is referring to rotten bread when he speaks of the leaven of Herod and the Pharisees.  But Jesus has something else in mind.  The leaven represents inflated egos which cannot believe in Jesus.  They refuse to have faith even after he meets the needs of thousands of people with his words and blessings.  Some of us, at least, doubt that Jesus is God’s Son even after thousands of saints have testified to him with their lives.

So we prepare again to renew our faith during Lent.  We will desist from frivolous activity to concentrate on what the Lord is telling us.  We will do all that he asks of us.  We will look forward to a stronger relationship with the Lord as we celebrate his rising from the dead on Easter.

Monday, February 15, 2021


Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 4:1-15.25; Mark 8:11-13)

Sibling rivalry may be as old as Cain and Abel, but these two brothers had more between them the contention for parental affection.  Cain was a farmer and Abel, a shepherd.  The two ways of life have always been at odds.  Although Cain is the elder brother, Abel’s herding probably preceded Cain’s husbandry.  Cain’s line of work, however, is more complicated and requires greater skill.

Because he is always planning well ahead for contingencies, it is likely that Cain calculates about his gift to God.  Abel, on the other hand, quite innocently gives God “one of the best firstlings of his flock.” God’s pleasure with Abel’s offering and indifference to Cain’s causes the older brother’s resentment.  God does not shun Cain.  Indeed, like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, He goes out to reason with him.  But Cain rejects God’s advice and kills his brother.  Even after this outrage, God does not abandon Cain.  He marks Cain as His protectorate.

With Lent around the corner, we should strive to make our offering to God more like Abel’s.  Rather than calculating what we would miss, we should give God our best.  As was said of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, we should “do something beautiful for God.”

Sunday, , February 14, 2021


(Leviticus 13: 1-2.44-46; I Corinthians 10: 31-11: 1: Mark 1: 40-45)

We anticipate issues with the imposition of ashes this Wednesday. Some will react to the way we do it. Because of Covid, Church ministers have been instructed not to make a cross with ashes on the forehead. Instead of the conventional way, the bishops want us to sprinkle ashes upon people’s heads. The discontented will say that they do not want to be deprived of an old tradition. They will also claim that they want to demonstrate their faith by having a cross on their forehead this one day of the year.

However, Christians have shown their faith since ancient times in a more convincing way. Ancient texts exhort the faithful to demonstrate their faith with acts of charity. True followers of Jesus listen and help those in need as if they were him. Saint Mother Teresa had it right when she said that the poor are "Jesus in disguise."

The ashes, formed in a cross on our forehead or sprinkled on our hair, actually indicate something else. They tell the world that we are sinners. We remember that one of the sayings accompanying the imposition of ashes is: "Repent and believe in the gospel." We are to repent of our sins every day and particularly during the forty days of Lent. Ashes are like the scarlet letter "A" that a woman wears on her dress in a famous American novel. Because she committed adultery, the woman is forced to acknowledge her sin to everyone. Maybe our sins are not as serious as adultery, but they offend God and undermine the church’s mission of evangelization. It seems fair that we acknowledge and do something to compensate for them.

But as hard as we try, it is not possible to compensate God for our sins. We continue to long after the wrong things, be they vanities that engulf the soul, pleasures that pamper the body, or hatred that poison the spirit. Only Jesus Christ, obedient to God from the beginning, can do what is required for salvation. So we have to turn to him as the leper in the gospel.

The leper does not demand anything of Jesus. He only tells him: "'If you want to, you can heal me.'” He knows that he is in a sorry situation and only Jesus can save him. According to the first reading, he has to announce wherever he goes, "Unclean, unclean!"  We need to recognize that our situation is like his. This is the purpose of going to church this Wednesday. By receiving the ashes, we say to the world: "Unclean, unclean!"

We can count on Jesus to cleanse us. He came into the world to support us. He says to us as well as to the leper: "'Be made clean!'" Because he is God, his very words achieve what they say. To us today he says these words through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We should feel the relief immediately. Our sins will no longer be our ruin. However, they will cost Jesus tremendously. He will suffer the torture of the cross for them. We see a rehearsal of this suffering in this gospel passage. It says that the cured leper “began to publicize the whole matter” so that “it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.” Before it was the leper who could not enter any town openly. Now it is Jesus whose movement is restricted. As with our sins, Jesus takes the leper's burden on his shoulders.

On Wednesday the season of Lent begins. We will undertake a pilgrimage, not alone or only with the faithful of the Church. Rather we march with Jesus himself. He is there to support us in our efforts to show our love to God the Father. We do this in three ways. We deprive ourselves of material goods to show that we are sorry for our sins. We help the poor who are God's special friends. And we tell God of our affection in prayer.

Friday, February 12, 2021


Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 3:1-8; Mark 7:31-37)

There was once a television program, “What’s My Line.”  It had a panel of celebrities guessing which of three contestants was the person fitting the description given to the panel.  We can hear today’s Genesis reading in this way.  Who owns the voice tempting the woman?  Is it a talking snake that has become extinct?  Or is it an evil spirit that has taken control of the snake?  Or is it the inner voice of the woman coming to terms with a moral choice she must make?  There may be in this case a fourth contestant.  It may be an evil spirit that is leading the woman on.

In any case, the voice asks a provocative question: “Did God really tell you not to eat of any of the tree…?”  It is a set-up that puts the woman in a vulnerable situation.  Unfortunately, she falls into the trap.  She does not acknowledge God as her and the man’s benefactor.  God gives them abundant fruit to eat.  He also tells them not to eat the forbidden fruit for their own welfare.  She only remembers a rule that sounds arbitrary.  She says that if they eat the forbidden fruit, they will die.  Testing that rule and inviting the man to do so, the two commit the “original” sin.

We must see God as always benevolent.  He gives us first life and then the world to meet our needs.  He has imposed laws for our welfare.  First and foremost, we should acknowledge them as such and heed them.  When we examine the laws, we will realize that they are not arbitrary but protective.  For example, God says, “Do not kill.” The understanding here is not to take innocent life.  We are not to bend this law by assisting in suicide.  It seems beneficial that people suffering extremely with no hope of recovery be killed.  Assisting in the killing, however, will not only enable other kinds of murder but also ruin our souls.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

 Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 7:24—30)

A man has two grown children – a male and a female.  Neither of them, however, have children.  One of them kids her father. “You don’t have grandchildren,” she says, “you have granddogs.”  My friend does not say that he is disappointed, but obviously he is.  Today’s first reading helps us understand why.

God sees that it is not good for man to be alone.  It may not be good for God that man is that way or for the rest of creation.  But probably it is mostly not good for man.  Shortly, it is seen why.  When God creates possible companions for man, man begins to speak.  Man names each the animal: an elephant, a giraffe, a dog, and a cat.  But man’s speech blossoms when God forms a creature from man’s rib. Man not only names the look alike “woman,” but in the process gives a name for himself.  She is “from man,” and he is now not adamah, that is man in general, but “a man.”  The English seem to reflect the Hebrew here.  Woman is from man as in Hebrew where ‘ishah is from ‘ish.  She is the perfect mate.  She will be able to talk with the man to draw out further knowledge.  They will come together intimately so that neither will be lonely, that is longing for another. 

Dogs can never replace other people and most especially a spouse as companions.  Jesus notes this in his teaching on marriage and divorce.  Marriage needs our support.  It is -- and will always be – the permanent union of a man and a woman both for love and for procreation.  If marriage as an institution fails, disaster will result.  People will not only feel lonely, but in their longing choose morbid options like drugs and promiscuity.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Memorial of Saint Scholastica, virgin

 (Genesis 2:4b-9.15-17; Mark 7:14-23)

Today’s first reading is taken from the so-called second account of creation.  Genesis has already given an ordered account of how the universe and everything in it came to be.  Now it provides a personal story to assist humans in knowing the glories and pitfalls of life.

The gospel today seemingly moves in a direction opposite to that of the first reading.  Where it relays how Jesus “declared all things clean,” the first reading shows God prohibiting a specific food.  The human is not to eat of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  People have speculated on what kind of food the tree bears for millennia. 

 o the best of our understanding, the forbidden fruit does not provide true knowledge of good and evil.  Rather it gives us only a semblance of it.  True knowledge of good and evil – what we know as wisdom -- comes mostly from listening to what God tells us.  By contrast, eating of the tree of knowledge is to think of oneself as wise without God.  It is to say, “I don’t need God to know what is good for me and what is bad for me; I can determine that for myself.”  This, of course, is the essence of pride.  In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples what is truly good and bad.  Eating any of the food that God provides – prudently, for sure – is good.  Evil comes from a heart set on self-satisfaction.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

 Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 1:20-2:4; Mark 7:1-13)

Commentors often claim that God declares humans “good” at creation.  But a careful reading of the text does not support this claim.  Unlike the declaration after all other creatures, with the exception of the heavens on day two, nothing is said of humans being created as good.  The text does say that as God finished the work of creation, He said that what He had made was “very good.”  But this may mean that it was very good that God created humans as not yet good.

Genesis does say that God created humans in His image.  This means that they are like Him in some ways but in every way.  Humans can think, communicate talk, work, and create. But they cannot perform any of these functions like God.  They fail terribly and even deliberately at times in their attempt.  This is to say that they may be very unlike God.  It should be concluded then that they may not be good at all.

We should strive to be good like God.  It is an impossible task, but we can come close to perfection.  In any case, we do not go forth blindly.  God helps us to be like Him.  He establishes His laws in nature.  He gives us His word in Scripture.  And, most of all, He has sent His Son, whom we know as Jesus Christ, to help us be like Him.

Monday, February 8, 2021


Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 1:1-19; Mark 6:53-56)

As everyone knows, Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament.  But it is not its most important book.  That distinction is reserved for Exodus, the second book of the Bible, at least according to Jews.  Genesis serves a critical purpose, however.  It gives the origins of Israel, whom God made His own people in the exodus from Egypt.  Genesis also shows God as Lord of creation so that His word would be heeded and his help known as irresistible. 

Today’s passage from Genesis shows God making something of the heavens and the earth that He has already created.  First, the vastness of creation needs shape so God’s performs separations.  Light is separated from darkness.  Sky is separated from waters.  And land is separated from sea.  Then God creates plants to fill the earth and luminaries, the sky.  Remarkably, God does everything effortlessly.  All He has to do is say the word, and things fall into being.

God’s creative power reassures us, His people.  The one who created the seas and the stars can help us overcome the challenges we face.  Whether it is to finish some important work, to recover from an illness, or to overcome a temptation, we can call upon God for assistance.

Sunday, February 7, 2021



(Job 7: 1-4.6-7; I Corinthians 9: 16-19.22-23; Mark 1: 29-39)

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel written by the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It follows the activities of a prisoner in a gulag, the Russian prison camp in Siberia. The story tells of the pains of living in such a place such as the difficulty of laying bricks with freezing temperatures. It includes a couple of small joys like finding a piece of metal that could be shaped into a tool. We find something similar in the gospels of last Sunday and today. Between the two the evangelist Mark describes a day in the ministry of Jesus.

The story began with Jesus entering the synagogue at Capernaum. There he cast out an unclean spirit, which could be called ignorance, with his teachings. We are grateful to have faith in such a great teacher like Jesus.  His teachings bring hope to our lives.

Today we appreciate him for his sympathy with people. He first heals Simon's mother-in-law. After that, he does not fail to help many other afflicted ones. In a way his healings extend his preaching on the practical level. His message proclaims God's love for the people. Now he shows this love by easing the burdens that men and women carry.

Interestingly, when others try to identify who Jesus is, he does not allow it. When the unclean spirit calls him "the holy one of God", he responds: "’Be quiet… ’" Further on in the gospel Peter will name him "the Messiah." Jesus will respond by telling the twelve that they should not tell this to anyone. Only when he dies on the cross can his full identity be revealed. Seeing him suffer without cursing anyone, the Roman centurion says, "Indeed, this man was the Son of God."

The gospel’s effort to cover up the identity of Jesus is sometimes called the "messianic secret." It seems that the secret is kept so that men do not misunderstand Jesus. If they knew that he is the Son of God, they would try to crown him king. Worse still, they would form an army to drive the Romans out of Israel. But the son of God did not come to be flattered as a temporary king nor did he come to defeat foreign armies. No, his mission -- the will of God his Father -- is to overcome sin. When they see him suffering on the cross, dying and risen from the dead, they can understand his mission.

Today many who do not know the story of Jesus would have another objective in having the son of God in their midst. They would blame him for allowing Covid and all the other evils that afflict the people. For this reason, many make fun of Christians for believing in a God who does not save them from wars, pandemics, and other catastrophes.

How can we respond to these criticisms? First, we have to affirm the goodness of God. He gives us life, family, and many other benefits that are often taken for granted. Second, we have to realize the precariousness of our situation precisely because of the gift of free will. Men can make a lot of trouble on their own. However, they are not alone but are accompanied by dark spiritual forces that multiply evil in the world. And finally, we know that evil will not win. In the end, God, who has already conquered evil through the work of Jesus, will make all things well.

In between time it is up to us to believe in Jesus and follow his will. Paul says in the second reading today: "'Woe to me if I don't preach the gospel!'" We want to echo Paul saying, "Woe to us if we don't live the gospel!"

Friday, February 5, 2021

 Memorial of Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 13:1-8; Mark 6:14-19)

Today, the feast of St. Agatha, the Church remembers more a way of life than a person.  Historical records about St. Agatha vary.  The oldest say that she lived in Catania, Sicily.  Newer ones put her in Palermo.  She may have been martyred during the Decian persecution around the year 250, but this too is uncertain.  It is said of her, as of other saints like Agnes, that she was sent to a brothel to rob her of virginity, but she resisted successfully.  The way of life that she with other virgin-martyrs represents is devotion to the Lord.  When most teens would be flirting with boys and naming future children, Agatha reflected on Christ’s love for her.

Today’s first reading includes this message of the Lord’s love.  The Letter to the Hebrews makes clear that Jesus will help Christians gain the heavenly crown he won for them.  He is the “helper” who enables the saint to resist evil.  Its last line is especially memorable.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  What he did in the past for saints like Agatha, he will do for people today.

It may be as hard as ever for teens to think of Christ’s love for them. They are bombarded by counter-evangelical images and ideas.  Nevertheless, they deserve to know the love of Christ.  We help them by sensitively listening to their hopes and fears, encouraging them to value a relationship with the Lord, and by living modest and holy lives.  

Thursday, February 4, 2021

 Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 12:18-19.21-24; Mark 6:7-13)

The cathedral in a mid-sized city announced that its noon mass on Sunday would use Latin responses.  The news delighted many of the church’s young parishioners.  Veterans may be wondering why use a language which few understand.  This argument sounds like the one made by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in today’s first reading.

Throughout the exhortation the author has compared the new dispensation or covenant with the old.  He insists that the new one is superior in every way.  In today’s passage he says that the people whom he addresses have come to a much more desirable place.  Rather than the volcanic mountain where God met Moses, they have approached a wonderful city. The clinching benefit of the new place is Jesus who has won for them a dwelling in the city.  He wants them to finish the journey.  The road ahead may be rocky and uphill, but it will get them where they should want to be.

Like the Hebrews our faith can lag and ebb. We too must not lose sight of our heavenly goal.  Whether mass is celebrated in English, Latin, or another language, we should find in it a glimpse of salvation.  It is also the means to our eternal happiness.  We should no more pass it by than we would Sunday dinner in our childhood homes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

 Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 12:4-7.11-15; Mark 6:1-6)

An old Jewish scholar calls himself “a believing nonbeliever.”  He writes that he was raised in a devout Jewish household.  He learned to love the Shema, the supreme prayer of the Jews, at Hebrew school.  The Shema reads: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” But the Holocaust shattered his faith in God.  His relatives along with six million other Jews were slaughtered in Europe during World War II.  The man seems like the first century Jewish Christians to whom today’s first reading is addressed.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews pleads with Jewish Christians not to abandon faith in Christ because of their suffering.

The author asks his readers to understand their trials as discipline.  He urges them to see how suffering is making them stronger.  And he assures them that it will be remembered one day with gratitude.  Suffering in faith is the way of holiness because Christ walked it.

The Holocaust displays the depth of evil humans can reach.  We may meekly suggest that the crime was not as great as the deicide of the crucifixion.  But perhaps it is better to make no comparisons in face of such horrors.  The Holocaust, as clearly as any act in history, shows the need for human redemption.  We believe that Christ’s death has provided that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

 Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

 (Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-32)

 Today’s feast is formally called the “Presentation of the Lord.” More traditionally it is known as “Candlemas Day.”  For centuries on this day churches blessed all the candles that they would use during the year.  The inspiration for this grand event is Simeon’s declaration in today’s gospel. Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”  He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of world unity and peace through Israel.

Jesus is the flame – light and heat in a cold, dark world -- but not the whole candle.  The trunk of the candle -- its wax -- is humanity.  Like wax humans have fat -- their pride, greed, hatred, and lust – which is to be burned away.  Jesus, who may be compared to the refiner’s fire of the first reading, rids us of these vices.  Doing so, he allows us to participate in his illumination of the world.  With our lives so chastened, we are rendered sincere.  This word coming from two Latin words, sine cerum, meaning “without wax.” 

 Let us be sincere to all by leaving behind our vices.   Instead of pursuing pride and lust, let us follow Jesus, the light of the world.