Saturday, September 30, 2006

My man - Jerry

Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

Biographical Information about St. Jerome
Readings for Saturday

Reading 1 Eccl 11:9—12:8

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Gospel Lk 9:43b-45


I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: "Search the
Scriptures," and "Seek and you shall find." For if, as Paul says, Christ is the
power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
(-St. Jerome: from a commentary on Isaiah)

St. Jerome is the patron saint of those who pursue scripture scholarship. He is one of those remarkable minds that surfaced in the early Church and is a person to whom we owe so much. In his day, the only means by which one could read scripture is if we understood ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. He took manuscripts in these languages and translated them into the Latin Canon know as the Vulgate. Every Christian in the fourth century owes him a debt of gratitude for his efforts. This post was opened with a quote from his commentary on Isaiah that should stir us all up to be more fervently dedicated to uncovering Christ in scripture.

Given all of the portraits painted of St. Jerome, you may wonder why I selected the one above by El Greco to lead with rather than the one below by Simon Vouet. It is because Jerome was a very complex person and his struggles with the spirit are clear in his life. Much like St. Augustine who lived centuries later, Jerome, born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius, spent his youth embracing the amoral secular Roman culture. It was not until later in his life that, through his academic pursuits, he was drawn into God’s service. Aside from his great work of translation he felt driven to seek solitude and the mortification of the flesh, becoming a hermit in the Syrian Desert. I give you another quote from the Saint we memorialize today:

The measure of our advancement in the spiritual life should be taken from the
progress we make in the virtue of mortification; for it should be held as
certain that the greater violence we shall do ourselves in mortification, the
greater advance we shall make in perfection.

Great works have come from this Saint and Doctor of the Church.

Supporting his memorial we have scripture from Ecclesiastes that seems to echo that almost mournful search for wisdom and comfort that Jerome himself must have sought in those desert wastes. Like the description we have from Qoheleth, the phases of our lives bring us to different responses to God. Let us hope that through examples like St. Jerome who answered that call, we to can do great things for the Church and to the greater glory of God.


Friday, September 29, 2006

LA Cubed

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

Information about Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

Readings for Friday

Reading 1 Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
Rev 12:7-12ab

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

Gospel Jn 1:47-51


Today we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels. Just so we are all on the same page we can listen to the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great who defines what that means:

You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. (from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great)

The three Archangels are the only ones named in scripture and each has a distinct role as can be seen from the links provided above. What we must understand as being generally the most important element of our celebration is that these three Spirits have had a direct involvement with mankind. We see in their intervention God’s fingers affecting the course of human events. Deep within each of us is the wish that, at some point in our lives, an angel would speak to us, directly, personally, with clarity. The angel would tell us what God wants from us or wants us to do.

It is interesting today that, on this the feast of the archangels, the church gives us the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael rather than one of the encounters with the archangels. In this Gospel Jesus has identified the young man as someone without duplicity, that is innocent of worldly demeanor that would portray him as something he was not. The way Nathanael speaks when he says “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” makes us wonder how one, not of the twelve, had such an instant and deep understanding of Jesus’ identity. Could it be that this was a messenger from God? None of the commentaries assume this is the case.

Still, we wonder, if this innocent young man, without prompting, identified Jesus and if he was an angel in human form, that would mean that God may send his spirits, as Pope St. Gregory the Great has called them, to us and we might not recognize them as anything but people.

There is nothing theological in this reflection. It is just a hope that God might one day send an angel to me so that I might understand at last and clearly what he wants from me. Since I have speculated above that God may indeed send his angels to us in human guise, I must be constantly vigilant that one of my daily encounters may turn out to answer my prayer.

Certainly the more common intervention of the Holy Spirit can be seen, although usually in retrospect and not always clearly. The overriding principle here is we must always be open to that kind of guidance and be constantly vigilant, knowing that God intercedes in our lives and we must watch for it.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Vanity of Vanities

Thursday of the Twenty fifth Week in Ordinary Time &
Wencelsaus, Martyr and Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Biographical Information about Wencelsaus, Martyr and Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

Readings for Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Eccl 1:2-11

Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17bc
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Gospel Lk 9:7-96


“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” Ecclesiastes laments at the beginning of his treatise on the value and purpose of human life. Like most of us, he seeks on earth something which can only be revealed completely when we are face to face with God. In some respects he is like Herod in Luke’s Gospel today who we hear “was greatly perplexed” because of what was being said about Jesus by those who did not know or understand who he was.

Herod was seeking information. He was already greatly disturbed because in a moment when he was overcome by his own lust and probably drink, he had done something he was now clearly regretting – he had put John the Baptist to death and presented his head to the daughter of his adulterous mistress. Yes, Herod was perplexed, more likely he was thinking that the retribution of God was at hand and was desperate to avoid the consequences of his actions.

Still, Herod was seeking to know the person was whose disciples, as we heard yesterday were going about his kingdom curing people of illness and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. We wonder what would have happened if he ever found out who was truly walking through his earthly kingdom.

Both Ecclesiastes and Herod were seeking to understand how the Lord was working in their lives. Ecclesiastes, a holy person, seems at the beginning of his treatise to be despairing his ability to understand what is hidden. Herod, a cruel despot, feels more fear at his lack of more physical knowledge. They have one more thing in common. Neither of them have knowledge of the Christ. The Messiah who came into the world that we might know God’s great love for us and our fear be turned to peace.

Ecclesiastes has it right in one sense. Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity if we assume that we can accomplish anything of value on our own without God’s help. Indeed we are conceited if we think we can understand all the complexities of God’s creation if we try to do so without his guidance and wisdom. For God created us and all things. For Him, nothing is hidden and only through Him can we find the path that leads to peace in this life and eternal life with him in the next.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

Biographical Information about St. Vincent de Paul
Readings for Wednesday

Reading 1 Prv 30:5-9

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:29, 72, 89, 101, 104, 163
R. Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet.

Gospel Lk 9:1-6


Today we memorialize St. Vincent de Paul whose fame is spread, in our day, by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I provided a short biography with the link above. There is a much more extensive portrait at the New Advent site in the Catholic Encyclopedia. The principle reason the Church so reveres him is his selfless devotion to the poor. As we said yesterday, based on words from Proverbs, the poor are the concern of all Christians – Jesus made it so.

I want to make a comment on what is know as the “Midwestern Protestant Work Ethic”. For those unfamiliar with what that means, basically it is a mind set that says; “If you work hard, you will have enough. If you don’t have enough, work harder. “ This philosophy grew up in a largely agrarian and later manufacturing society and has tended to form the view of many protestants (and Catholics through assimilation) to view the poor with condescension.

That does not mean that those who have this mind set do not help the poor, rather they do so with an attitude, spoken or unspoken, that basically says the poor are poor because the have chosen not to work hard and pull themselves out of their poverty. In other words, many who share this philosophy will give to charity, but without much sympathy. Over time, this charity is more grudgingly given and a stereotype is developed that the poor are just plain lazy and enjoy just sitting around watching TV, drinking and depending on hard working citizens to keep them in a lifestyle they must enjoy.

We, as Disciples of Christ, cannot have such a mind set. We must look to the sources of injustice and try our best to correct them. Frequently these sources are institutional in nature. There is no safety net for many of the working poor. But this will quickly digress into a political discussion and that is not what this forum is about.

Today I was more or less blown away by the Proverbs reading. It had just two “Proverbs” but they really speak to us. Have you ever run across a person who uses the Bible to justify actions that everyone knows are not acceptable? It’s like a person who takes vengeance on a person for some past injury and then quotes scripture saying; “an eye for and eye.” That sort of thing is what the first proverb talks about when it says;

“Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you will be exposed as a

By taking scripture out of context that is exactly what we see happen. The next time we run into one of those who justify hate based on scripture, pull this one out and see if that does not stop them in their tracks. Oh, but don’t expect too much. Most of the people who behave in this way are somewhat fanatical and not easily dissuaded. Do give it a try though.

The second proverb is also deep.

Two things I ask of you, deny them not to me before I die: Put falsehood and
lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the
food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the Lord?” Or, being
in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.

It reminds us that if we place all our energy into gaining material wealth, we must neglect the Lord who makes all things possible. It also says the inverse. It prays that we not be placed in straits because we may blame God and thereby commit a greater sin of blasphemy.

Good stuff today and I did not even get to the Gospel. I leave you to contemplate your response to the Lord’s call in that one.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Twin Docs

Tuesday of the Twenty fifth Week in Ordinary Time &
Saints Cosmas and Damian, martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Cosmas and St. Damian
Readings for Tuesday

Reading 1 Prv 21:1-6, 10-13

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Gospel Lk 8:19-21


There is not much written about the lives of the Arabic twins, St. Cosmas and Damian. We know they were physicians and that they did not charge for their services and won many converts. We also are told that they were not harmed by the tortures inflicted on them before they were crucified in 303 A.D.. What is interesting is there are listings for them in the roles of the Saints for not only the Roman Catholic Church but also the Greek Orthodox Church and the Coptic Christian Church. Being revered by three major Christian communities makes them a unifying point for us and therefore, Saints of particular note. (That was strange to write as all the Saints are important and all give us examples of faith to follow.)

Our scripture today continues with more wise sayings from the book of Proverbs. As we said yesterday, we need to pay attention to this list as it frames what Jesus has instructed us to do. These are the basics, if you will.

Some of the sayings may be difficult to internalize at first glance. Like this one:

“All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves hearts.”

Here is an important article of moral theology. What the author tells us is that it is the intent of the deed that tells us if the impulse is from our own greed or truly done for God’s glory. It is frequently difficult for us to sort out what we do. We constantly ask ourselves; “Am I doing this because it will make me feel good or look good to others? Or, am I doing this because I am following what God wants me to do?” At the roots of this question is humility but it is sometimes difficult to come to an answer. We can always trust God and understand that sometimes he calls us to do things He wants and we will not be sure of the impulse.

Let’s look at one more:

“He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard.”

Jesus always focuses on the poor (look at the Beatitudes) and here is God’s sentiment expressed in simple terms before his Son came to us to give us a more intense lesson. Being part of a community of faith means that we are always heard by our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In Luke’s Gospel today we hear him define us as His family (“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”). Inside that community, we are constantly reminded to give to the poor.

When we fail to respond out of our excess, we fall to this proverb. We fall in a number of ways. First, all wealth is not material. There are many ways to be poor and a majority of materially very wealth folks have needed to focus so much of their effort on building wealth they have neglected the spiritual side of things, they have neglected their families, they have not heard the poor. They find themselves in the empty place; the place where their cries are not heard. Who ever heard of a stack of currency answering a cry.

It is good to review the framework of the good we are called to do, the beacon we are called to be. Hard as it is, we are called to follow the Lord in this and we need to be constantly filling ourselves up. After all, if we are doing this right, we are pouring out what we have received on others.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Energy Crisis

Monday of the Twenty fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Monday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Prv 3:27-34

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Gospel Lk 8:16-18


For regular readers and subscribers, my apologies for the past weekend I was in Northern Michigan with family and internet access was unavailable so I did not publish my reflections.

We start this week with a litany of rules and sayings that are intended to frame our response to God. We remember what St. James said “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (Js 2; 14). These sayings define those good works. Did you ever wonder where Paul’s wisdom came from as he instructed his various congregations about what they should and should not be doing? This is one of the sources.

We follow Proverbs with a short passage from Luke’s Gospel. At first blush and if we take the scripture out of context, it seems as if Jesus is saying that if you’ve got it flaunt it and if you have much you will be given more while those less fortunate will have what they have been given taken away. That sounds wrong if we think of it in terms of material wealth. But that is not what the Lord is talking about. He is speaking of faith.

If we think of it in terms of spiritual gifts, it starts making a lot more sense. Let’s take it apart a bit today. We start with;

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”

When speaking of the spirit, we hear that if we have been given an abundance of faith, we do not try to hide it by blending in with the secular society. Rather we make sure the light can be seen, we act on our convictions, we proclaim our faith by how we act and what we do. We have been called to be light to the world as Christ’s disciples. We cannot, must not hid that vocation.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

Even if we are placed in circumstances were someone else tries to hid the light of Christ by saying; “You are not allowed to say anything about God, or Christ, or religion at all.” The light that is in us we shine out through our actions and in other ways. I was thinking about the “Politically Correct” stance taken by many organizations funded by government (including schools). There is frequently a ban on mentioning things religious which is enthusiastically and litigiously enforced by the ACLU and similar organizations. For the person who has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and has the faith and convictions of our Lord, their actions will identify them to those they meet more certainly than any word they utter.

“Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Here’s the last piece and we need to look at it carefully. (I guess it even says that.) When we think of this in terms of faith we must assume the following is true. The more faith one has, and the more a person operates in conjunction with that faith, the stronger it grows. Any one who has had a crisis of faith knows that the later part is also true.

If one has little faith, darkness crowds in. Fear can overwhelm that small gleam of light that is faith. And there is no place in the darkest cave that can match the darkness that covers those with no faith.

There is a bunch more that can be said about the state of grace that lights our way but time prohibits. I leave it to you to find fuel for the fire.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Up and at 'em

Friday of the Twenty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Cor 15:12-20

Responsorial Psalm Ps 17:1bcd, 6-7, 8b and 15
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Gospel Lk 8:1-3


We have an interesting combination of messages today. First, we are back to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and we cannot help but think that that place must have been really messed up given the basic level of instruction he needs to give them. Today, apparently, he is addressing the fact that some of the new Christians in Corinth are of a school of thought that does not believe in the resurrection of the body. I was going to just kind of gloss over this reading, pointing out the very basic nature of Paul’s logic on the subject. But, when I went to the link to the resurrection provided earlier, I discovered; “"No doctrine of the Christian Faith", says St. Augustine, "is so vehemently and so obstinately opposed as the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh" (In Ps. Ixxxviii, sermo ii, n. 5).

From a logical and scientific perspective we can understand his statement. In retrospect I may have been too harsh in my criticism of the Christians in Corinth. When we examine our faith closely, looking especially at the Creed, we find that there is a statement of belief; “And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead” What gets us into trouble is when we start to think, as people do, about the mechanism of that resurrection.

Let’s face it, when the resurrection comes, if I am going to be put back into my body, this body, for eternity, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. When I come back I want the one I had when I was 20, not one that is worn out. And what about people who have been born handicapped, disfigured or have lost limbs? Will they be forced to live their lives in a state if infirmity? See what I mean about getting into the mechanism of resurrection. As a doctrine of faith, we must accept that, while we believe in the resurrection of the dead (by the way, that’s all of the dead, not just those receiving salvation.)

Let’s get first to the logic of our dogmatic belief:

§ As the soul has a natural propensity to the body, its perpetual
separation from the body would seem unnatural.

§ As the body is the partner of the soul's crimes, and the companion of her
virtues, the justice of God seems to demand that the body be the sharer in the
soul's punishment and reward.

§ As the soul separated from the body is
naturally imperfect, the consummation of its happiness, replete with every good,
seems to demand the resurrection of the body.[1]

Got that? Now where does that take us in our belief? We believe that Jesus, the first fruits of the dead (as Paul says) was the pattern for what may come. Yet, while he was taken bodily to heaven, he was transformed. While the stigmata were present, they did not cause him pain. When he entered the locked room, his resurrected body was not stopped by the door and we did not hear about him “climbing through a window”.

(I really hate saying what comes next.) What that resurrection of the dead means physically or even paranormally is a mystery. It must be taken on faith. But what is sure, what we believe is that, at the return of the Lord, the dead will rise from their graves and stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those found worthy will find eternal life in Heaven. We need to work hard to make sure we make the cut.

[1] General Resurrection, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII, Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The wrong kind of friends

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

Biographical Information about St. Matthew
Readings for Thursday

Reading 1 Eph 4:1-7, 11-13

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:2-3, 4-5
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.

Gospel Mt 9:9-13


Tradition holds that St. Matthew, following his call and wanderings with the Lord, “…was also amongst the Apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:10 and 1:14)[1]. He was not mentioned prominently in even his own Gospel, although we do have the account given today of his call and response. Other historical accounts have him staying around Jerusalem for about 15 years and finishing his Gospel then going off to ancient Ethiopia (which is not present day Ethiopia) where he was martyred (not real clear on how that happened either).

What we are given, however, is that of the disciples called by the Lord, Matthew (Levi) was the one who gives hope for those who are marginalized. As a custom agent, he served the civil government under Herod Antipas and was not accepted by the Pharisees (that is an understatement, traditionally they were shunned). Think of them as you might think of an IRS agent (not that I have anything against people who work for the IRS, this is just a metaphor (gosh, I hope I don’t get audited)). That is why, when Jesus was invited to dinner following Matthews call, he was eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” These were probably the friends of Matthew, his colleagues. Jesus then proclaims his prophetic statement; “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Jesus was the great unifier. He took upon himself the sins of all of us. From some he takes a greater burden, but all contribute to it. And look where that particular sinner went once he chose to follow the Lord. He followed the Lord on his journeys through the region. He was with him in the upper room where he blessed and broke bread that was his body for the first time. He was with him in the garden when they took him. He was there, in fear, in the locked room when the Lord came and said to them “Peace be with you.” And for all of us, he recorded those events so we would know, and have faith.

Matthew is a great hope for us all. If he, who was considered by the religious of the day to be unworthy of a place in the assembly of the faithful, was one of the first called by the Lord; then how much more merciful will he be toward us? If Matthew, Levi, the tax collector, was blessed with the gifts of evangelization; how much more will the Lord give us if we ask him?

Yes, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve. When we long to have been there when Jesus walked the earth as man, let us remember the fate of those who were “lucky enough” to be called. Like all his contemporaries, Matthew picked up his cross and followed the Lord to his death. God willing our end will be less brutal and the path easier. It is, however, the one we are called to follow.


[1] The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Intolerance Kills

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, priest and martyr,
and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr,
and their companions, martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Andrew Kim Taegon
Biographical Information about St. Paul Chong Hasang
Information on the 103 Korean Martyrs

Readings for Wednesday

Reading 1 1 Cor 12:31-13:13

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Gospel Lk 7:31-35


What an intensely full plate we celebrate today. First it is the memorial to the Korean Martyrs. This memorial is one initiated by Pope John Paul the Great who canonized all 103 of them on May 6th, 1984, early in his papacy. Not only does this raise the stature of the Korean Catholics (they now have the 4th greatest number of martyrs of any country in the world), but it also demonstrates the Pope’s great effort to bring the global church together by recognizing the gifts they have made to the body of faith that is the Church.

As this weeks events show our current Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, does not seem to have that same gift. Please do not think I am criticizing Pope Benedict, I am not. He was clear in his teaching but the situation with radical Islam apparently controlling much of the middle east make it impossible for anyone to cite the failures of history without causing death and destruction at the hands of these intolerant extremists. What my dark humor side finds amusing is a quote this week by an official of the Ministry of Information of Pakistan who said; “Anyone who says Islam, as a religion, is intolerant invites violence.” Enough said.

I would like to point out one valuable lesion our Pontiff learned. Even in a benign situation, using the Pauline rule of love we find in Corinthians today, we always attach actions, never people (or Prophets). Had our Pope, instead of quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, simply attached the whole ideal of Jihad, nothing would probably have come of it. I suspect that more martyrs will emerge simply because the people who have taken his remarks badly enjoy the act of killing others as part of their twisted view of piety.

I have already mentioned the passage we have from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. I am pretty sure that at least verses 12-31 have been used in 90% of the weddings I have performed or been part of. The irony of that fact is Paul is speaking of our love for each other rather than a relationship between just two people. It is the best description we have of what “Love one another” is intended to mean.

I come back to the world situation. Pope Benedict did not make a mistake. Even though his words (in fact the remarks that sparked all of the outrage were not even his, they were explicitly cited as a quotation from the Byzantine source identified above) caused a furor in Turkey, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq the message he was trying to convey was one of love. His apology reflects the fact that he knows the correctness of what he said. His apology was that “…so many Muslims were upset by his words.”

We will not get into a very problematic Gospel today. I challenge you to understand what the Lord’s message is in that passage. I’ll just give you a little hint about what I was thinking; try substituting “cowboys and Indians” for the word play in the front and think about what Jesus and John the Baptist were really about.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We One!

Tuesday of the Twenty fourth Week in Ordinary Time &
St. Januarius (San Gennaro), Bishop and martyr

Biographical Information about St. Januarius
Readings for Tuesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a

Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5
R. We are his people: the sheep of his flock.

Gospel Lk 7:11-17


Why, you might ask, do we celebrate the feast of St Januarius in September and not January? My answer is; I don’t know. According to tradition, when the Bishop was martyred during the persecution of Diocletian (I like this saint, he was arrested while visiting his Deacons in prison), his blood was collected preserved, and dried. Since at least 1389, on his feast day, and on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, the blood liquefies. This is one of the few repetitive, verifiable miracles in the Church. I had not heard of it until I started research on this member of our communion of saints. It still does not explain why his feast day is when it is, but the mysteries of the church are profound.

Let’s get to today’s scripture. In Luke’s Gospel we find that following his cure of the Gentile (Centurion) whose servant was dying (Lk 7:1-10), the Lord now uses his power to raise the son of a Hebrew widow for death. All things are possible for the Savior of the World.

Guided by this faith we come to Paul’s on going instructions to the people of the Church in Corinth. Today he gets to the heart of his view of the Church as the living Body of Christ. He focuses on the need for diversity within the congregation. It is clear the divisions he exhorted against yesterday when he was talking about the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist are still being addressed. What should strike us most directly is the translation of this idea into the secular work place. It is amusing that encouraging diversity is considered by some to be a unique and new development in our society. If you read any of the work written about the advantages of a diverse work force and culture, you can hear Paul’s words echoing in the background.

Perhaps, though, we should not be judgmental of our secular brethren. In addition to feeling the need to reserve judgment to Him who is our ultimate judge, we have not done a terrific job of being inclusive in our own faith communities. While our doors are always open to the poor and marginalized, we find, on an individual level, we still have a long way to go.

To exemplify this point I will tell a tale on myself. Some four or five years ago when my son was still active in the youth group at our church, the youth minister held a service day. It was held in either late or early winter (in Michigan) and groups of tees accompanied by volunteer parents went to various parts of the Detroit metropolitan area to help people or organizations in need for about 6 hours on a Saturday. At the end of that work period we gathered back at the youth room which is in what was once the home of Gabriel Richard High School. Many of our larger Church events are held in this facility so it was no surprise.

What I was not told Is that our Youth Minister had arraigned for a Christian Actor who did a program on the homeless to join the group at the end of the day. As a Deacon of the church, I have both keys to the facility and a responsibility for its security in addition to my more spiritual role. I say the person who would be participating in the program walking in the halls of the complex on my way down to the youth room. (This is were I expose my own failings) My first thought when I saw the man, who was dressed in worn and torn clothing and had an unkempt appearance, was; “Holy cow, did someone leave the doors unlocked?” I was actually pretty alarmed. I remember looking stonily at the man and walking past him (I almost turned and asked him if he was not supposed to be somewhere else. I’m really glad I did not do that.)

I was intent on reporting his presence to other members of the staff so we could have him removed when I noticed he was walking into the same room I was; where all the teens were. Since our Youth Minister clearly expected him, I relaxed thinking; “Ah, she brought a homeless person for ‘Show and Tell.’” He later revealed himself as an actor (the performance was very moving) and I was forced to confess what I have told you here to the group of teens (including my son). When I first saw the man, I did not think; “Here is a brother who might need my help.” My first thought was, “Here is a potential threat to our facilities and our people. I did not accept him as part of our faith community or even think he could possibly have been part of it dressed that way. How can I judge others who reject the poor and marginalized when I myself still struggle with it.

Paul’s great treatise on the Body of Christ should be a constant reminder that we are one in Christ and that with him, all things are possible.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Where's the Party?

Monday of the Twenty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33

Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17
R. (1 Cor 11:26b) Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.

Gospel Lk 7:1-10


Beyond the fact that Paul speaks of Jesus in the reading from Corinthians and Jesus is healing in the Gospel from Luke there is not a central theme today. Because we struggle with the same divisions that Paul fought against in Corinth, let’s see what he can tell us today.

Paul does not paint a very pretty picture of the Church at Corinth. He speaks of factions and divisions within the community, this time centered around the worship of the Eucharist. From the sound of things, in the very early Church at Corinth, the celebration of the communal meal was something of a pot-luck where everyone brought the bread and wine to be broken and shared.

As we have been seeing in Corinth, however well intentioned it began, the gathering had become divisive instead of unifying. People were not sharing, others were going hungry, and still others came just for the drinking.

Paul refines their understanding of the Eucharistic meal. He sums up his reiteration of the meal in the upper room with, what can only be the reminder of the purpose of the gathering, our gathering;

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”

The author of the lectionary adds a line at the end that is almost confusing if you did not pay attention to the fact that they left out six verses. The six verses relate to taking the communal meal for the wrong reasons.

Let’s visualize what was probably happening here. First one of the leaders calls for a worship service in a given home. They have established a tradition of everyone bringing something for the symbolic meal. (I say symbolic here because the fact that Paul is writing them giving them directions about the Eucharistic celebration tells us that they were not celebrating true Eucharist – rather it was an evolving understanding of what happened at the last supper.) Some, who had a lot brought a good deal of bread. Others who had little came, not because they wanted to worship, but because they were just hungry.

In the same context some people came bringing wine, others just to drink – like it was a party not a worship service. Impressions of what was taking place must have been confused and when communication breaks down and expectations are not clear, everyone was getting upset and factionalized. We can imagine the two competing perspectives. One camp was thinking that we get together in a pious and prayerful setting to share a symbolic meal. The other would argue the gathering was social and the meal nothing more than a meal.

Paul set things to rights, although things were still somewhat blurred if we ad the missing verses.

The bottom line for us is this; that we are one body sharing in Christ’s sacrifice, which is also a communal meal. It makes us one with him and one with each other. The important thing is that we share that meal as often as possible because; “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Who's on the Race Committee

Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Is 50:5-9a

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

Reading II Jas 2:14-18

Gospel Mk 8:27-35


We are constantly reminded that we are all on a journey of faith. Along the way we encounter others. Some of those we encounter are going the same way we are and we walk with them for a while (our friends). A very few are going at the same pace in the same direction and we walk with them for a very long time (our family). However, most of those we meet are either traveling at a different pace; are at a different point in the journey; or are going in the wrong direction entirely.

Those of us lucky enough to have very close friends or family traveling the same journey are like the crew of a sail boat (once in a while I need to recall the sailor part of the Deacon). While we are at the helm, steering a course, others around us, our friends and family are constantly giving us information that help us to adjust that direction so we are moving toward our destination at the best possible speed.

The Church is the like the boat builder and sail-maker. The Church gives us the means to travel on our journey. It provides safety in storms, and gives us the power to move constantly against a secular tide that always flows against us.

We have as our navigation chart the Holy Scripture. Translated by the Church into directions we can understand, It tells us where the danger areas are, the shoals and sandbars places we could run aground or even be sunk. We need to constantly rely on that chart and listen to those who are helping us navigate.

The Lord, of course, is our compass (now days He’s actually more like a GPS). He both guides us with a needle that points the way and at the same time provides the direction for us to our destination.

Now sometimes, in our boat, a person tries to misdirect us. They may say let’s go over there because the sun is shining or let’s go here because it is more fun. These people can be a danger to us because, if we forget to consult the chart, listen the rest of the crew, or consult the compass, we can run aground and sink.

This is what is happening with Jesus today in his Gospel. In his case it is his “First Mate” who is trying to turn him from his proper course. Peter, who has just led the disciples in telling Jesus they believe is the Son of God, now actually argues with him about the course of events.

We can understand Peter. He and the other disciples love Jesus and he has just told them the destination was going to break up the crew. They are worried and frightened because they don’t understand why they have to follow this course.

Frankly, Jesus himself, because he is True Man, is frightened as well. He knows the course they must sail, but also knows what lies at the way point, that is the Cross. So when Peter suggests that this is not the way to go, for the briefest of instants, Jesus is tempted to follow that advice and take an easier course. Then he realizes that the evil one, who is always trying to sell us inaccurate (uncertified) charts at discount rates, has whispered in Peter’s ear. That is why he tells Peter; “Get behind me, Satan.”

If the Apostles on Jesus’ crew can get bad information, how much more careful do we need to be, on guard against following bad advice and sailing off course? We, who are not nearly as good at sailing this journey of faith, need to be constantly consulting the compass (who is Jesus) and referring to the charts (Holy Scripture). And when the seas of our journey get rough, we need to trust our boat (the Church) and know that the party at the end of journey is one we cannot afford to miss.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Of Orchards and Fruit

Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr,
& Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

Biographical Information about Saint Cornelius
Biographical Information about Saint Cyprian

Readings for Saturday

Reading 1 1 Cor 10:14-22

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 17-18 R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.

Gospel Lk 6:43-49


Today we memorialize two early saints who were both martyred St. Cyprian in 258 AD during the persecution of Valarian, and Cornelius in 253 during the persecution of Decius. Those were very bad years to be a prominent Christian. Ironically the major trials that faced the Church during these years were issues of unity. Cornelius actually spent much of his papacy dealing with a schismatic Bishop Novatian.

Based upon these saints, martyred so the Church might be steadfast in its belief and unity, we should probably look closely at the reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. We find there today the beginnings of his great analogy that the Church is the living body of Christ. He links it beautifully to the Eucharist and the oneness present in our sharing the heavenly meal;

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ?

The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?

Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one Body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

This powerful statement is actually pointed at idolatry, comparing the Eucharistic celebration with pagan sacrifices. As we have noted earlier Corinth was not a nice place and as we have also commented (see The Bench at Alice's Restaurant) and the Christian Community was under a lot of pressure to “fit in” (sound familiar) with the large Greek population sacrificing and worshiping multiple gods and idols. Paul calls to them to be faithful to the Gospel and understand that anything that leads them away from Christ is from the evil one.

Turning from Paul’s practical instruction to the One Body of Christ that is the Church to the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus focuses us on what we as individual members of the Body of Christ must be. He calls us to be the fruit of the vine that is Jesus Himself. He tells us that if we hear his word but do not act on his commandments, we are weak and will be destroyed like the house built upon sand that is washed away by the sea.

It is likely that this scripture has been used to blame parents for the actions of their children, giving birth to such clichés as “The acorn does not fall far from the tree.” and other axioms. But, if we look at the context in which the Lord is speaking we see that it is not offspring that he refers to when he says; “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit”; he is referring to a person’s actions, the fruits of the person’s labors.

He tells us that if we truly believe in him and hear his word, our actions will become “good fruit” and the implication is that we have become, in him, a good creation in God’s garden.

Today we are given two linked messages. First Paul reminds us that we are one in Christ and that our treasure is there, not with those who prize idols (material things) above the spiritual gifts given by the Lord. This unifying theme is brought home to us as Jesus reminds us that for us to bear good fruit we must follow his commandments and we know what he is talking about. The Church gives us examples of both these virtues in Saints Cyprian and Cornelius and we thank them today for their sacrifice and example.


Friday, September 15, 2006

A Sad Day For Mother

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Background Information about Our Lady of Sorrows
Also Catholic Encyclopedia Entry

Readings for Friday

Reading 1 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22b-27

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 84:3, 4, 5-6, 12

R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

Gospel Jn 19:25-27 Or Lk 2:33-35


Today we remember in memorial Mary the Mother of God who followed her Son through his life and thereby suffered as only a mother can suffer. The Church traditionally remembers seven specific events in the life of Mary that are called her Seven Sorrows (Note the Hebrew numerological significance of the perfect number, seven (7)). It is apologetically noteworthy that all of her seven sorrows were scriptural. They include:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon.
2. The Flight into Egypt.
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary.
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross.
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb.

Two of these events are options for our Gospel today. In John we find Mary at the foot of the Cross as Jesus is being crucified and in Luke, she is hearing the awful prophecy from Simeon the mystic. While the Gospel of Luke predicts the sword of sorrow that will pierce Mary’s heart, it is more wrenching to hear the story of that event taking place in the Gospel of John.

Anyone who has had a child badly hurt can get an idea of the suffering Mary went through at the Cross. Only one who as lost a child in death can fully come to grips with Mary’s anguish as she watches her Son slip into death on the Cross. We can feel hear pain as her “brave little soldier” has spikes driven through his hands and feet. We can feel the hot tears as he is taken down from that place and laid, dead, beyond help, in a stranger’s tomb.

It is because of her humanness that we can so easily identify with her. It is because at these moments in her life when pain and suffering threatened to overcome her, Mary demonstrated the virtue and strength of one who was worthy of the title Mother of God, that we revere her. Mary always shows us the strength of the Holy Spirit and the peace only faith in Her Son can bring.

Today’s memorial is a reaffirming event for us. The Son of God, who is True God and was True Man had a mother, Mary. His mother went through the same human trials that mothers from the beginning of human history have endured. She has demonstrated for us the fruits of faith and the strength of love that is our example of virtue.

Our prayer today is a simple one. We take it from the hymn Stabat Mater Dolorósa

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ, my Lord.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Get Cross

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Background Information about the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Readings for Thursday

Reading 1 Nm 21:4b-9

Responsorial PsalmPs 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Reading II Phil 2:6-11

Gospel Jn 3:13-17


The celebration today focuses on the recovery by the Church of relics of the True Cross. Historically, this feast was celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century to commemorate the recovery of that portion of the Holy Cross, which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. Emperor Heraclius recovered this precious relic and brought it back to Jerusalem, 3 May 629.

Let’s take a moment and look at the wonderful metaphor set up for us today as we think about the Cross, how the Lord took that Roman symbol of humiliation and transformed it into our symbol of victory.

In Numbers we hear how, because of the grumbling of the Hebrews, the Father sent them saraph serpents, venomous snakes that caused a number of deaths among the wandering group. We hear how Moses prayed to God and how the Lord told him to make a saraph and place it on a staff, lifting it up high so it could be seen from a distance. He told the people that the Father had told him, anyone who was bitten and looked at that symbol would not die.

Then comes that amazing testimony from the Gospel of St. John;

“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the
Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal

The linkage is plain, the metaphor complete. Whoever is poisoned by sin need only lift up their hearts and eyes to Jesus who is hung upon the Cross and they will be saved.

That does not mean for us that once we have gazed upon that enigmatic symbol once meant to be the ultimate humiliation and excruciating death, now turned to the great hope for eternal life, that we are saved even if we turn away. Our eyes must remain firmly fixed upon the Cross and what it stands for.

The Glorious news for us today is that that path to salvation is open to us. The Cross itself tells us that that path will not be easy. The Cross remains a symbol of hope, it is also a reminder that Jesus has told us that if we wish to follow him, we must take up our own cross and all that implies to follow his steps, stumbling and falling, enduring the sufferings of this life’s journey, until at last we can rest with him.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Sky is Falling

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop and doctor of the Church

Biographical Information about St. John Chrysostom
Readings for Wednesday

Reading 1 1 Cor 7:25-31,
Responsorial Psalm, R. “Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.”
Ps 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17,
Gospel Lk 6:20-26


It is on days such as today that I wish I had the wisdom and words of the Saint we memorialize today, St. John (Golden Mouth) Chrysostom. He would have had the words to make the scripture sing.

Today, Paul walks on dangerous ground today. It is clear from this part of his letter to the Church at Corinth that he believes the return of the Lord is at hand. Predicting the end times, the eschaton, is dangerous even in vague terms as Paul does. People become frightened and react badly. There was a news article yesterday that brings that point home (see World doesn't end, sect upset). Paul tells the Church, clearly in response to a question, that if one is not married, it is his “advice” not to marry. He also tells the people that if they already are married, not to dissolve that relationship. All his instructions are focused on the idea that the end is at hand.

So, is there a practical application of Paul’s instruction today? We can link it back to a couple of the parables; the ten virgins would seem appropriate. We should always behave as if this was the last day from the standpoint of our desire to stand before the Lord in a state of grace. We would do well to make sure that our affairs are always in order because we do not know the day or the hour.

The Gospel today is in stark contrast to Paul’s rather gloomy prediction. We hear the Luken version of the Sermon on the Plain (Yes, that is how scholars refer to it, contrasted against St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27)). and once more are given the beatitudes to reflect upon.

St. Luke does one thing that Matthew does not. Luke contrasts the beatitudes that bless the poor, the hungry, the weeping and those who are persecuted with their opposite members; the rich, those who are filled, those who laugh, and those held in high esteem.

According to the scholars again, the reason for this “Woes” part of the sermon is that, unlike the Sermon on the Mount, this one is directed to the disciples and the woes are directed at those who do not recognize the spiritual value of the Kingdom of God.

We don’t want to turn this into a scripture study so let’s move again to the practical. The beatitudes give hope to those who are in dire straits or are suffering. They are a constant reminder that in times when we need the support of God, he is there. We all have those times and it is a great comfort for us to be reminded that our help is in the Lord and that tears will turn to laughing and mourning to joy in Him who makes all things right.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Bench at Alice's Restaurant

Tuesday of the Twenty third Week in Ordinary Time &
The Most Holy Name of Mary

Background on The Most Holy Name of Mary
Readings for Tuesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 1 Cor 6:1-11, Responsorial Psalm Ps 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b, Gospel Lk 6:12-19


St. Paul continues to put flesh on his vision of the living Body of Christ which is the Church. Today he tells the Corinthians something in a subtle way that the Lord said more dramatically. It comes down to the great paradox of discipleship, “Be in the world but separate from the world.” In this case Paul is telling the community at Corinth that they need to settle disputes that occur in the community themselves and not refer their complaints to the civil courts.

I actually feel a little sorry for the Corinthian Christians. They must have been good people or else why would they have signed up for the difficult road that is Christianity in the first place. They did not have an active community model to be a part of, so they had to find their own way based on what Paul left with them after he got things rolling. They live in a secular community that has a reputation of being very unsavory. Paul even says that some of them have past lives that are less than moral icons;

Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy
prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor
slanderers nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. That is what some of you
used to be;

Imagine trying to pull together a “God fearing” Christian community amid a secular community where the debauched and amoral sins in the above litany are present? Wait a second; all those things are fairly rampant in our secular community today. Yes, we can defiantly identify with those ancient forerunners of our modern Church. The big difference is supposed to be that we have a codified body of teaching and examples that guide us.

When we think about this situation that Paul addresses, we see more similarities to our own situation. While Paul was addressing a mixed community of Christians (that is there were Greeks and Jews who had converted to Christianity), they did have the books of the Law and Prophets (Torah and Talmud) that provided them with guidance familiar to Paul. It is just that Christ changed the way God’s Law was understood in the Old Testament.

The lesson we can take away from Paul today comes at two levels. First, at the very literal level, we should attempt to work out differences we encounter with members of our intimate faith community (this would be, at minimum, our families and could go larger if we are lucky enough to be close to a larger number of close friends who share our faith). It seems that many of the litigious blow ups we here about are family centered. It is just easier to go from intense love to intense hate in the family. And that hurt/hate, self-destructive as it is, is often a weapon hurled in the courtroom. As Christians, we need to rise above that and find our justice in the Lord.

The second level lesson Paul gives us is his vision of Christian community. It is a vision we can and should apply to our own parish community. It is a vision of common love, common compassion, common support and, above all, common worship of the one who gives us his own example, Jesus. In our large communities with instant access to our immediate family even when they live around the world, this is increasingly difficult. But it is a vision we must apply in spite of all the challenges we face. One thing is sure, if we don’t try, it definitely won’t happen.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Checks and Balances

Monday of the Twenty third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Monday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time[1]

Reading 1, 1 Cor 5:1-8 Responsorial Psalm, Ps 5:5-6, 7, 12 Gospel, Lk 6:6-11


Jesus continues to heal all those sick or suffering who are brought to him and have faith; today it is the man with the withered hand. In spite of the clear trap by his enemies, Jesus performs the cure in apparent violation of the laws about doing anything that could be construed as work on the Sabbath. At least in the eyes of the Scribes and Pharisees present, healing the sick fell into this category. Why else would the scripture say, after he performed this miraculous work, would they have been enraged. Perhaps it was because, Jesus first interpreted their Laws somewhat differently than they had intended.

Let’s look at the logic from their side:

Healing must be work.
Work is prohibited by Mosaic Law on the Sabbath.
Healing is therefore prohibited on the Sabbath.

It was simple. The Pharisees were scrupulous about the Law and its observance. They had already encountered this man before and new he had different views about the Law (his disciples picked grain and ate it on the Sabbath!). Here they were in very solid ground, in the Synagogue, on the Sabbath. What does Jesus do? He uses different irrefutable logic;

“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”

They were trapped. Jesus had reinterpreted the act of healing from “work” to “good” and they could not contradict him. But they didn’t have to like it.

In addition to what we see in the Gospel relative to legal issues, Paul in his First letter to the Corinthians is dealing with a problem that may actually be related. It seems that the members of the Church of Corinth have a situation where they have been taking the Lord’s law of love in a direction distinctly different from what Jesus intended. They were tolerating, even boasting about laxity of some moral virtue. Today we see Paul reining them in and correcting them.

It is this combination of points that is important to us. Jesus has the authority to interpret the Law of Moses because he is the Only Son of God, who gave Moses the law in the first place and knows the original intent. That does not mean that anyone can simply interpret what Jesus says any way they like it. What happened in Corinth all those years ago is a perfect example. Someone in Corinth who was part of the Christian community there apparently took a real shine to his stepmother and started carrying on a physical relationship with her. They justified it using as support the love and compassion the Lord taught. Left uncorrected, that group would have found a very easy road to the land of the dead.

We have seen, are seeing, examples of that same practice today. Without allegiance to a central authority, small Christian communities can interpret Holy Scripture any way they want. They can take the smallest fragment and claim that they are “following what the bible teaches”. Without standards and safeguards the permutations are endless. It is a very dangerous situation for all of Christianity and it is just a miracle that more situations like Waco, Texas and the Mormons standards of polygamy have not occurred (The good news in the case of the Mormons is at least they do not claim to be Christian.).

We are not saying that all those who do not give allegiance to the Catholic Church are immoral or that they do not accomplish good things, we simply see the huge danger in operating outside the authority of a central structure which has checks and balances to insure that a prayerful response is given to interpretation and implementation of Christ’s teaching. Let us pray, today, on the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, that the unity of all Christians may once more be achieved.


[1] Note; I have discovered that the link to the readings for the day go away when the USCCB Calendar drops the month in which the reading took place (this means that, for archival or reference purposes, the readings are not easily found. I also discovered that I cannot simply copy the readings from that site since they are protected by copy write. While I have written to the ICEL for permission to publish the full text, the best I am able to do for now is give the citations from the lectionary for later use.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

He has done all things well.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1Is 35:4-7a

Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened:Be strong, fear
not!Here is your God,he comes with vindication;with divine recompensehe comes to
save you.Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,the ears of the deaf be
cleared;then will the lame leap like a stag,then the tongue of the mute will
sing.Streams will burst forth in the desert,and rivers in the steppe.The burning
sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10R. (1b)

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,secures justice for the
oppressed,gives food to the hungry.The Lord sets captives free.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed
down.The Lord loves the just;the Lord protects strangers.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains,but the way of the wicked he
thwarts.The Lord shall reign forever;your God, O Zion, through all generations.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

Reading II
Jas 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partialityas you adhere to the faith in
our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.For if a man with gold rings and fine
clothescomes into your assembly,and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes
in,and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothesand say, “Sit here,
please, ”while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet,
”have you not made distinctions among yourselvesand become judges with evil
designs?Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.Did not God choose those who are
poor in the worldto be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdomthat he promised to
those who love him?

Mk 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyreand went by way of Sidon to the Sea of
Galilee,into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man
who had a speech impedimentand begged him to lay his hand on him.He took him off
by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s earsand,
spitting, touched his tongue;then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said
to him,“Ephphatha!” -. that is, “Be opened!” --And immediately the man’s ears
were opened,his speech impediment was removed,and he spoke plainly. He ordered
them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to,the more they
proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said,“He has done all
things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

To a world in pain, these words are words of hope; words of peace. Tomorrow is September 11th, 9/11, the fifth year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. We have been reminded of that fact, as if we were likely to forget it for the past week in practically every news source available to us. We have heard it on radio, TV, the internet, and at the news stand.

When we hear or see these reminders, we invariably think of where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of the attacks. We remember our shock at hearing a plane had crashed into the first tower; our growing fear when the second tower was struck; and the pandemonium that followed as reports the strike at the Pentagon and wild speculations of up to 9 additional aircraft being taken over.

That day changed the way we live in the world. It replaced a feeling of safety and security with one on fear, uncertainty, and anger. Yes, let us not forget the anger that followed the shock. Who could, for a political agenda, kill the thousands of innocent people who died at, what we now know as “Ground Zero”? Who would dare strike at our country? We were not at war with anyone.

Yes, it changed the way we think about the world and the way we live in it. Our children’s children will see moves made before that day 5 years ago and remark at how strange it is to see people just walking into an airline terminal and saying good-by to their families at the boarding gate. They will wonder at the lack of security they see in those old films.

There was something else that happened right after those attacks five years ago. People came flooding back to Church. We came because we were afraid; we came to pray; we came because something had been taken from us and we did not know were else to go to find it. We came seeking peace and consolation, and we found it in Jesus who “… has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

As we hear today Jesus comes to fulfill the words of hope from Isaiah:

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.

We are called to remember that, while the world has turned to violence and hatred, we are called to be a people of peace, patterning our lives after the one who came to make the deaf hear and the mute speak. We are called to be a people whose greatest commandment is to love one another; because in that love, we find the peace of Christ. It is a great tonic that allows us to live in the world but be separate from it.

Does this mean we should forget what happened five years ago? No, we cannot forget that there are those who have lost their way and in their hopelessness are willing to throw away God’s greatest gift, burning it on the pyre of hatred.

We remember that history and do our best to put peace where there was once fear,
because our Lord came to bring us that peace.

We remember that history and do our best to place forgiveness in the place of hatred,
because our Lord came to forgive and taught us to do the same.

We remember that awful day, praying for the souls of the victims and praying for
healing for their families and friends.

Finally, we remember that day and pray for those who supported that heinous act and, as we still see, support it today, that they might turn from the self destruction of hate and
find the peace that comes in the arms of Him who did all things well. He makes the deaf to hear and the mute speak.

These are not easy things for us to do. It is so easy to be reminded of all the things we have lost and be angry, vindictive, and spiteful. There has been no remorse expressed by those who perpetrated the act and support continued attacks on all Christians and Jews, but the prayerful response called for by Christ, himself, is what we are called to give.

Since the very beginning, our way of life has been attached. Never did Jesus tell us to hate those who hate us. That makes us the same as them. He calls us to be a people of peace, a image of God’s love.

As we recall the anniversary of 9-11 tomorrow, let us remember as well that our best response for our selves and for our world is the forgiveness that leads to the peace of Christ who has done all things well.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Immaculate Birthday

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings for Friday
Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (Unknown early church father)


We celebrate the birth of only two saints of the Catholic Church. The Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24th) and the feast we celebrate today, the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God. The esteem in which we hold Mary is a rational that has been forgotten by many of our protestant brothers and sisters. The amazing devotion many of our great predecessors had for Mary seems foreign, almost blasphemous to them (I might interject that, while I do not wish to go down that path of the deification of Mary, there was a similar contention in the early church with regard to the creedal formula regarding the Trinity.).

Today we celebrate Mary’s Birthday. The scripture we have does not really go into the circumstances of her birth (that is almost certainly why many of the newer Christian faith communities do not understand the Marian Tradition) rather she springs, full grown into the beginning of the Nativity of the Lord. Yes, we heard today the scripture from the Gospel of St. Matthew on the genealogy of Jesus, which was necessary to demonstrate how the Lord came in fulfillment of the scriptures, being of the house and line of David. But even that focused on Joseph, his father, not Mary.

It is a great sadness that when the Reformation took place (it is an odd name for such a disastrous event in the history of Christianity), many of the schismatic groups took Gutenberg’s Bible and walked away from the 1,500 years of reflection, discernment, and tradition that had followed the Lord’s passing from death to life. They threw away almost all of the thought and careful study of people like St. Augustine, Origin, St. Polycarp and St. Thomas Aquinas. All this they rejected saying that the Holy Scripture, the Bible as they chose to interpret it, was their sole guide. And even the Bible could not be left as our fathers had established it. The found it necessary to remove portions that they rationalized, could not be demonstrated to be holy writ.

We can therefore shake our heads in sorrow as our brothers and sisters who agree that Jesus was born of a virgin and her name was Mary, but refuse to look past what was recorded in the scripture we heard today to try to understand the roots of how such a miraculous event could take place. They refuse to examine the logic that, in her passionate search for understanding the intentions of God the Father, lead the Church to proclaim the Immaculate Conception of the one whose birthday we celebrate. Because how could God entrust himself, his only begotten son to one who bore any semblance of sin. And, just once, because God only gave us that one Son, the Father touched Anne, the mother of Mary and created in her one pure soul, free from blemish, pure love to contain He who is love.

Today we celebrate the gift of that love, embodied in the Mother of God, Mary most holy. As we remember the gift God gave us in her today, let us remember her example of sacrifice and faith in her son. Let us try to emulate that faith and love in such a way that all we meet will know our devotion to her, the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to whom she steadfastly points us.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Net

Thursday of the Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time


You’ve had a really hard day at work and feel like you have not accomplished a thing when this strangely charismatic man walks up to you following by a big crowd of people. The man tells you to go back and do the same work you’ve just been trying to do for the past eight hours. At first you complain, but then think, what can it hurt and do as he asks. To your utter amazement when you do, you are successful beyond all imagining. You are so successful you have to call in your partners to help with all the results. What do you think of the man with the crowd?

Today we hear of the call of Peter from the Gospel according to Luke. I paraphrased it above for dramatic impact only because of all the Gospel stories about this event, Luke puts some meat on the bones of the story. Listen to the same event from the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Matthew:

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew
casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Then they abandoned
their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther and saw James,
the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their
nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along
with the hired men and followed him.
(MK 1 16-20)
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon
who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they
were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along
from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his
brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their
nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and
followed him.
(MT 4 18-22)

As you can see from the other Gospels, St. Luke provides motivation for Simon Peter and his brother to follow the Lord while Mark and Matthew report only that it was a more casual invitation. There are all kinds of speculations we could make about the situation surrounding this important event. We could speculate that the main reason the four young fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James and John) followed Jesus was because they had witnessed what could only have been perceived as a miracle and were so impressed they could not refuse the invitation to go and fish for men.

We could speculate that Luke created this context based upon Peter’s post resurrection meeting with the Lord as reported in St. John’s Gospel;

After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of
Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas
called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons, and two others
of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said
to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was
standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They
answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of
the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to
pull it in because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved
said to Peter, "It is the Lord." When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he
tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.
(Jn 21 1-8)

I see we have already been trapped by our desire to analyze the Holy Scripture and I promised this would be a reflection not an exegesis. It seems that there are two significant practical applications of this event we can take away. First, Jesus called and the four fishermen dropped what they were doing and followed the Lord, leaving behind them their families and worldly goods. We can only imagine the difficulty of that decision. It could only have been made if these men had been ready spiritually to make that transition in their lives. It is something that we can emulate to a degree. For most people it is not realistic to think of just dropping everything and going off to do what we perceive to be the Lord’s work.

A second higher level message is that, like the Lord called Peter, Andrew, James and John to become fishers of men, we to are called to reach out to the people we meet. We are asked to ensnare them in the web of love the Lord has provided so they might come to know the great prize that is waiting for them.

So to summarize, today we hear of the call of Peter, his brother, and the sons of Zebedee. As they were called so we are called, to become fishers of men and to bring hope to those who need hope, love to those who need love. It is a tall order and a good reminder.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A House Divided

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time


Today we begin with more of Paul’s distance learning program for the Church at Corinth. Notice he has moved away from his discourse on Wisdom and now focuses the problems facing the Church itself. Apparently there is some division among them because, while Paul and his entourage came and started the church, a person named Apollos carried the work forward and somehow there was a rift with part of the community claiming orthodoxy based upon Paul’s teachings (“I belong to Paul.”) and others supporting Apollos.

Paul points out in his letter that by behaving in this rather childish (but true to human nature) way they were not behaving as a community of faith but more like the un-converted community at large (“While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man?”) Even in Paul’s time, there were forces of human nature doing their level best to divide the Church. Does this sound familiar?

If we were to bring the situation forward about a thousand years we see that same ugly head appear, this time in Constantinople in the 4th Crusade when members of the Roman Church despoiled the city and churches of the Eastern Church causing a rift that exists to this day. It exists in spite of numerous attempts on both sides to reconcile the differences. Some hurts, when allowed to go untreated for too long may never heal entirely.

Fast forward about six hundred years. We hear cries from within the ranks of the Church; “I am for Leo X.” and others, “I am for Luther”. This time there was not St. Paul to remind the community that they were behaving childishly and they should remember his teaching. Once more the Church was divided and, because of the reactions on both sides, no reconciliation was possible and that wound also exists today in the separation of the Lutheran denomination and all of the Bible based subdivisions that have occurred subsequent to that initial schism.

Less that one hundred years later the most recent of the divisions of the Church occurred when King Henry VIII of England could not win the Church’s blessing for a divorce broke away from the Church of Rome and established the Church of England, the Anglican Church also exists to this day as a separate band of Christians looking to the same head.

Looking back at the history of these schismatic times, what lesson is there for us today? How do we approach the whole idea of Christian unity when so many different ideologies have evolved and there are so many varying interpretations of the will of God in Christ? The Roman Catholic Church has long maintained that based upon Apostolic Succession and the Teaching Magesterium handed down through it that ours is the authentic path to salvation and that while many of our spawned brothers and sisters, separated dogmatically from us for good reasons or bad, need to follow our lead.

The problem is once more, as it was in the time of Paul, a human one. There are so many people in positions of authority who would rather be in those difficult but prestigious seats than seemingly caving in to the Roman Church and somehow reconciling years of rejection of Papal primacy with a call to unity. I believe the path must continue to be walked. As a friend of mine likes to point out – we are all sailing to the same destination. Some of us are on the “Big boat” and some are on small boats following as best they can. We pray for those who travel with us that the truth of Paul’s words come to them and they come at last to know; “… we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”