Friday, June 22, 2018

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

On Saturdays in Ordinary Time when there is no obligatory memorial, an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary is allowed.[1] Mass texts may be taken from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from a Votive Mass, or from the special collection of Masses for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Suggested for this date: # 35 The Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith

“The Worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan, 1909



Commentary:


Commentary on 2 Chr 24:17-25

King Joash does not direct the people to worship God, but embraces idol worship, and disregards the prophets sent to him.  Then Zechariah arises and challenges King Joash and the people, telling them that unless they turn back to God, they will be punished.  The king, even though he owed his own life to Zechariah’s father, Jehoiada (see 2 Kings 11:4-17), had Zechariah murdered. (This event is referenced by Jesus, speaking about the Jews ignoring and killing prophets in Luke 11:51, although there is some confusion over this because of Matthew 23:35, where Zechariah is identified as “son of Barachiah” the minor prophet. See Zechariah 1:1.)

The actions of the king and the people are seen to be avenged by God through the Arameans.  The chronicler records that a small force later attacks Judah, and inexplicably defeats the much larger army of Judah. They then proceed to kill the king and his court, not according him the honor of his kingship.

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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:4-5, 29-30, 31-32, 33-34

R. (29a) For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.


Psalm 89 is a communal lament sung after the defeat of the Davidic king. Because defeat calls into question God’s promise, made in the strophes cited here wherein God promised David’s throne to stand forever, the community asks God to remember his promise.

CCC: Ps 89 709
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Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

Commentary on Mt 6:24-34

Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount being very clear about what must be placed first in the life of his disciples. Here the word mammon is used, an Aramaic word meaning wealth. The Lord does not deny that people need the physical things of the world (i.e. food, clothing, and water), but tells them that, if they have faith in God and pursue the things of God’s Kingdom, the heavenly Father will provide for them. He goes further to say that, if they are constantly focused on material goods, they will not extend their lives even a little.

CCC: Mt 6:24 2113, 2424, 2729, 2821, 2848; Mt 6:25-34 2547, 2830; Mt 6:25 2608; Mt 6:26-34 322; Mt 6:26 2416; Mt 6:31-33 305; Mt 6:32 270; Mt 6:33 1942, 2604, 2608, 2632; Mt 6:34 2659, 2836
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Reflection:

The sacred history of God’s involvement with mankind repeatedly demonstrates the lesson Jesus tries to teach in the selection proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount. People who place physical wealth and power first in their lives perish with it. Those who worship the idols of avarice and greed, ignoring God, who created all things, find only dust at the end of their earthly lives.

We see the historical evidence of this warning played out in the reading from Second Book of Chronicles. King Joash, who himself was rescued from the tyranny of a predecessor (ironically kept hidden and safe in the temple for six years by a priest, the father of Zechariah, whom he had killed for calling the people to return to authentic worship) is punished for his idol worship. Like so many stories related in the historical books of the Bible (1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles), leaders who allow or encourage the people to turn away and forget that the one true God created them, offers them peace, and asks only for obedience and love, find that destruction follows their disobedience.

Jesus, who is trying desperately to show the people the depth of God’s love, tells the disciples and those with them that loving wealth, power, and material goods leaves the soul empty. What comfort and consolation does a bar of gold give when one is frightened or ill? What strength does a mansion of bricks and mortar give when our mortal shell begins to fail? What genuine love is received from hirelings paid to serve?

It is only in the Lord, whose love for us is unimaginable, that comfort, consolation, and strength may be found. It is only strength of spirit, bolstered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, that allows us to look into the eye of defeated death, and walk forward unafraid.

As disciples of the Lord, we are reminded once more that our energy and focus in life must be to embrace the spiritual treasure that the Lord offers us. It is by prizing him above all else that this treasure is accumulated. We pray today that our minds constantly flow to Jesus who, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, is the author of our creation.

Pax


[2] The picture is “The Worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan, 1909


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


(Optional Memorial for Saint Paulinus of Nola, Bishop) or
(Optional Memorial for Saint John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr and Saint Thomas More, Martyr)



“Proclaiming Joash king” by Edward Bird, c. 1815



Commentary:

Reading 1: 
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20

Commentary on 2 Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20

This story of the succession of the kingship of Israel to King Joash begins with the fulfillment of the prophecy that the house of the sons of King Ahaziah would suffer God’s wrath. We see in the beginning of this story Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah learning of her son’s death. He was in fact a prince of Judah (see 
2 Chronicles 22:9ff) killed by Jehu. This action sets off the sequence of events that ends with the rightful king, Joash, installed, and the return of Israel to faithful worship, and another suppression of Baal worship. (Note: Baal was not a single god but had many guises depending upon the region. In Holy Writ the various forms are not usually distinguished.)

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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 132:11, 12, 13-14, 17-18

R. (13) The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.


Psalm 132 is a song of thanksgiving sung by the community as they remember the establishment of God’s salvation expressed in the Davidic Dynasty. The promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus, the fruit of Mary's womb, the Messiah, who comes from the house of David to rule forever.

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Gospel: Matthew 6:19-23

Commentary on Mt 6:19-23

Jesus concludes his sermon with a caution about placing importance on “treasures on earth.” In this context, St. Matthew’s Gospel also recalls the Lord’s analogy of faith being light, using it as a symbol of seeking one’s desires. Here we see that if what we seek is of darkness (material wealth), as contrasted with seeking the light (spiritual wealth), how dark will that spirit inside us be?

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Reflection:

As we grow older, our view of time changes. We have heard many times how a brush with death causes a person to come to grips with his or her own mortality. Yet, for the most part, we go through our lives thinking in terms of tomorrow, next week, next month, or on rare occasions, next year. It seems the furthest out we seem to go is when we are looking at retirement, and what kind of stability we can provide for ourselves. With the current crop of “baby boomers” coming to retirement age, we hear more and more about 401(k)s, retirement planning, and how we need to plan so we can enjoy the rewards of the “Golden Years.”

One would think, with all this attention paid to retirement planning, a person might think in even longer terms. If we think about it, in the United States today a typical retirement expectation is that a person will retire at around 68 or 70 (some wealthier might even retire at 55). With current life expectations, that means that the “Golden Years” may last for 20-40 years at the longest. At the end of that time, another phase in our lives begins – eternity. Once the body dies, we do not have to worry about things like health insurance and a fixed income. The planning we did for our financial health is now meaningless. What is important at that time is what we planned for by what we did with our lives.

That is what Jesus spoke about in the Gospel of St. Matthew. That is what the story from the Second Book of Kings should have reminded us. Only the greatest figures in history are even remembered (who even remembers what was accomplished by some of the Kings of Israel?), so out of the six billion people on earth, whom are we trying to impress with our wealth, our treasure, our power, our prosperity? Before someone says it, yes, we need to provide for ourselves and our families. Yes, we should use the gifts God gave us to the fullest extent of our abilities. But where is the true treasure? What are we storing up and how do we see the “Golden Years?”

Jesus reminds us today that what we need to store up is “…treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.” We need to come as close to the Lord as we possibly can in terms of our character. That means love of God, love of others, service to all. Our prayer today is that we see our response to the Lord, not just as our duty as Christians, but that it becomes our passion so that like the Lord says: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Pax


[1] The picture used today is “Proclaiming Joash king” by Edward Bird, c. 1815


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious


“The Vocation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga” 
by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, c. 1650




Commentary:

Reading 1: Sirach 48:1-14

Commentary on Sir 48:1-14

The final nine chapters of Sirach are devoted to praise of the glory of God. The first of these chapters is devoted to God in nature, and the final chapters to great prophets and leaders of Israel. In this selection we hear of the prophet Elijah, who came with a fiery message. Reference is made to Elijah’s passing (2 Kings 2:1ff) and the continuation of his work in the prophet Elisha, his student and successor. The image of Elijah is the precursor to St. John the Baptist, and echoes his prophetic work.

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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 97:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

R. (12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Commentary on Ps 97:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

Psalm 97 is hymn praising God in his majesty. The first strophes provide us with an image of God appearing in a storm and fire, a picture reminiscent of Elijah’s ascension recounted in Sirach and proclaimed in 2 Kings 2:1.

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Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15

Commentary on Mt 6:7-15

This Gospel passage from St. Matthew actually interrupts the pattern in the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus is clarifying the spirit of the Law regarding almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In the presentation of the Lord’s prayer, St. Matthew differs from the presentation by St. Luke (
Luke 11; 1-4) in which the Lord was asked by the disciples how to pray. This passage begins by telling the disciples: “do not babble like the pagans.” This may also be critical of the Jewish tradition of presenting long lists of petitions to God for help. The idea is the same: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

The prayer in St. Matthew has seven petitions (compared to six in St. Luke). The first three are synonymous, asking that God’s ultimate reign at the eschaton be brought to fulfillment. The request for “daily bread” has a couple of possible meanings beyond the obvious. It may be related to the petition in Matthew 6: 31-33 (“So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?'”) and it may also be referring to the Messianic banquet of the Eucharist. Using this interpretation, the fourth petition continues the intent of the first three.

The fifth petition, “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” is, in spite of the denominational tradition, best translated as “debts.” In St. Luke’s version, the word used is “sins,” an easier word for non-Jewish readers. Regardless of the transliteration, the precondition for forgiveness given is that we forgive others.

…Lead us not into temptation” is not likely intended to mean our daily encounter with “evil” or the “evil one.” St. Matthew would agree with St. Paul, that God would easily avoid the evil of the world (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Rather the likely meaning would be that we not be led to a great test, that is, despair at the tribulations of the eschaton (the end times). Similarly the final petition, “…deliver us from evil,” also would focus on the Christian hope of salvation rather than damnation.

CCC: Mt 6:7 2608, 2668, 2776; Mt 6:8 443, 2736; Mt 6:9-13 1969, 2759, 2759; Mt 6:9 268, 443; Mt 6:10 2632; Mt 6:11 1165, 2659; Mt 6:12 2845; Mt 6:14-16 2792; Mt 6:14-15 2608, 2841
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Homily:

When we hear the likes of the son of Sirach praise the great prophets Elijah and Elisha, it seems like the  weight of God’s message is bearing down on us from a great height. The passage from Sirach, coupled with the passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus gives his disciples one of the oldest prayers in all of Christian history, gives us a perspective of the persistence of God in trying to teach us what his children must know in order to find peace in this life, and joy in his company in the next.

Consider for a moment the many attempts God has made trying to get us to understand that it is his love for us and our love for each other that will show us the way to him, even if we forget, for the moment, the body of Mosaic Law through which God defines right and wrong behavior. (As St. Paul put it, by the Law defining sin, sin entered the world.) Forgetting also all of the prophets who came before Elijah, we look at the message he brought to our Jewish forebears. Elijah tried to turn the people away from worshiping “things,” and back to genuine love of God, the one and only Father. For his efforts, this servant of God was chased, persecuted and hated by those in power. (Does this reception sound familiar?)

All of those who followed God likewise met resistance. Why? Because in God resides all power and in him alone is the path to salvation we must follow. For a person or group who depend upon secular power to enhance or maintain their own egos or lifestyles, this path diminishes them and inspires from them constant attempts (even today) to suppress or eradicate proponents of the Father.

This truth is nowhere more evident than the reception given to God’s Only Begotten Son. Through his sacred authors, he teaches us to relate to God, the loving Father, in prayer. Prayer is transformative. When we use the words of prayer, spoken from the heart (not simply rote or from memory), our relationship with the Father is strengthened, and we can see more clearly what he intends for us.

Today, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, consider carefully what you say and ask for. See in those words a means by which we can deepen our understanding of God’s will for us. His will, as the loving Father, is for our happiness and peace.  In his prayer, we find the love and forgiveness that can bring us that gift.

Pax


[1] The picture is “The Vocation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, c. 1650