Thursday, November 30, 2006

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Biographical Information about St. Andrew
Readings for Thursday


Reading 1 Rom 10:9-18

We hear in this passage the message that is at the root of the “alter call” in many of the Baptist and Evangelical Christian communities. It appears, unfortunately, in this passage to be an absolute; “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Church asks for this profession but also expects, as is explicit in other parts of the scripture that actions must accompany the professed faith in Christ. In the first century this was significant and could result in social and economic persecution.

The second section of this selection exalts those who carry the good news to others. Note here how in Semitic fashion, the body part (in this case the feet) that bares the Good News is praised.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Psalm 19 is a hymn of praise. In this passage we give praise to God’s gift of the Law which guides us in our daily lives. The hymn also extols the virtue of obedience and steadfastness to the Law and its precepts.

Gospel Mt 4:18-22

This passage is the account in St. Matthew’s Gospel of the call of the first disciples. Ironically the notes on this section point out that three of the four called, Peter, James, and John, are distinguished by a particular closeness to Jesus. As we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew today, we should note that other scriptural evidence indicates that he too had a particularly close relationship with the Lord and he was called first among all the Apostles.

The reason that Matthew’s account indicates the disciples left work and family immediately without any explanation may be due in part to Andrew’s earlier encounter with Jesus as a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1;40)


There is a very old joke that says; “One of the bravest people in the history of the world was the first one to drink cow’s milk.” The joke itself begs the question; who was the first to drink cow’s milk? And, if we choose to carry it a bit further; who first domesticated the cow? Think about it, we don’t know the name of the person, without whose inspiration and courage, we would not have beef as part of our diet or milk as a source of nourishment. Given the current dietary aversion to red meat that may have not been the best example but there are others; who first decided that medicinal herbs could help us ward off disease? Not the inventors of Penicillin or even Aspirin surly, some unknown chemist in a darker age tried and found the beneficial effects and carried them forward.

The point here is this, in the history of the world there are many great names we could cite as being the benefactors of humanity. These great people often performed great deed and feats of work to earn their just places of honor. However, if we were to trace the events and inventions that made these same people noteworthy, we would find there are hundreds and thousands more, behind the scenes without whom nothing would have been accomplished.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. He also is considered the First Apostle. Although we are not given a Gospel from John today, if we were to look at the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel in verse 40 we would find that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist first said; “Behold the Lamb of God.” Two of his disciples followed Jesus and spent time with him that day. One of those was Andrew who, after hearing Jesus speak, ran to his Bother and said; “We have found the Messiah! (the Anointed one)” That might explain why, in today’s Gospel, when we hear that when the first disciples were called by Jesus; “At once they left their nets and followed him”.

The example of St. Andrew is an important one for each of us. How many times have we thought when we were performing some act of kindness in God’s name or when we were at prayer; what merit does this act have or, why do I bother? Think of St. Andrew, little is known of him and not much recorded in history yet it was he who told Peter, the Rock upon which the Church was founded; we have found the Messiah!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time


Reading 1 Rev 15:1-4

This part of John’s eschatological vision shows us the victory of the martyrs (“who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name”). They are singing the same Canticle of Moses we hear in Exodus 15:1-18 as the Hebrew people escape the bondage of Egypt.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 7-8, 9
R. Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!

Once again, the psalm selection supports the vision of John. Here we have a song of victory, song in praise of God’s salvation. The imagery could have been borrowed by John; “Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it;”

Gospel Lk 21:12-19

The Gospel today continues Jesus eschatological discourse from yesterday. Today we hear how the good news will result in persecution from every side for the early Christian community. The Lord foresees this time of intense persecutions and asks for a steadfast response. By not preparing a defense, he is asking that those persecuted not recant the faith and promises them the reward of the martyrs.


As we move closer to the end of our Liturgical year we are once again reminded of both the challenge we chose to accept by being followers of Christ and the ultimate reward of faithfulness. John’s Revelation shows us that what Luke’s Gospel means when Jesus says; “not a hair on your head will be destroyed” he is not referring to our physical body but our spiritual body. Only by denying the Lord can we be destroyed in that sense.

The Gospel predicts that; “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends”. The clear implication is that the Gospel message is so divisive that even family bonds can be shattered by it. While the great persecutions have ended in the western world, they are heating up elsewhere in the world. Especially in China where Christianity is suppressed, persecution still takes this form. In other parts of the world, specifically the Middle East, were radical Islam now flourishes; conversion to Christianity earns the death sentence. Lest we forget, freedom of worship is still a somewhat unique gift of our great country.

We do not need to travel to the Orient or to the Middle East to find a more subtle form of persecution. We see it in the numerous law suits spring up at this time of year. Here in Michigan I think we are breaking about even. The City of Berkley caved in and prohibited the erection of a 34 year old nativity display on public property when threatened with a law suit brought by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union – isn’t that a unique oxymoron). The City of Plymouth, however, allowed their display to go up (provided no public funds were used or any city employee assisted) when faced with the same threat.

Even in our own lives we have seen the very tension predicted in Luke’s Gospel. Our own families’ acceptance or rejection of the Good News has caused serious strife. The conversion of children stimulates hatred by parents and the inverse is true as parents see their children reject those long held values.

Our response to these situations and to this message must be one that is consistent with Christ’s message; “Love one another.” It is only way we can respond and the only way that leads to the Peace of Christ. Any other response opens the gates of hatred that comes from the one whose number is defeated in the last battle.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the 34thWeek in Ordinary Time


Reading 1 Rev 14:14-19

St. John’s apocalyptic vision shows us the image of Jesus (one who looked like a son of man) harvesting the earth; bringing the faithful to the Kingdom of God. The vision also makes clear that not everyone will enjoy that salvific event. Some (“He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury”) will be thrown down.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:10, 11-12, 13
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

This hymn of praise poses an invitation to the faithful and links us to John’s vision above – “The Lord comes to judge the earth”

Gospel Lk 21:5-11

We are given in today’s Gospel St. Luke’s version of Jesus eschatological (end times) discourse. This version differs significantly from the version found in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 13:1-37) in that it does not anticipate the parousia (second coming) within the lifetime of the audience. We note from many of St. Paul’s epistles that the early Christian community was pretty convinced that Jesus was coming again within their life times. In the version we hear today, Jesus points to events in the future as opposed to those that would have occurred during the author’s life time.


Since the 5th Lateran Council in 1516 the Church has prohibited anyone from announcing or predicting the end of all things. So, when the end does come, you’re not going to hear it from us. That does not mean you will not hear predictions of the end of the world – the Apocalypse – Armageddon. There will always be people who have some special knowledge or have discovered some special code that tells them exactly when the world as we know it will end. The scripture we have today is an excellent example of a whole class or genre of biblical literature intended to vision what that end time must be like.

If I were a Baptist Preacher, I could take off in a fire and brimstone way using these selections, pointing out that “the bible says” the end is at hand. Pounding furiously on the pulpit, I would read the passage from Revelations once more that says; “He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury” and would probably add the next verse from this chapter of the Revelations that was omitted in our reading that says; “The wine press was trodden outside the city and blood poured out of the wine press to the height of a horse's bridle for two hundred miles.” (Rev 14; 20) I’d add that just for the shock value.

We have to accept this scripture for what it was, symbolic literature of a style intended not to be read literally, but rather a vision seen through the lens of faith. What we need to take away from this scripture is a sense that all things come to an end, ourselves included. If scripture and history have taught us nothing, we know that we will not be able to predict the day or the hour of that very personal event.

As disciples of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, present before we were conceived and Great Judge whom we will come before when we return to Him, we are called to be prepared daily to face that event. We are reminded in harsh words and gentle invitation that we need to reconcile our debts to the Lord and our brothers and sisters so that we can fly home to that loving embrace when we are called.

Today our take away is this; there will come a time when the life we are living on this earth ends and we will be called to account for what we have done, whether good or ill. We must make sure that, as best we can, we have made every effort to be in complete accord with God and His Son, our Lord Jesus who is the Christ, the King at the end of all things.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday of the Thirty fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time


Reading 1 Rev 14:1-3, 4b-5

The symbolism is clear in this passage from Revelations. Mount Zion represents the heavenly kingdom and the Lamb of God Jesus. In spite of what has been written in the “Left Behind” series of books popularizing the idea that the one hundred and forty four thousand is an actual number, in the context of St. John’s numerology; “One hundred and forty-four thousand: the square of twelve (the number of Israel's tribes) multiplied by a thousand, symbolic of the new Israel (cf Rev 14:1-5; Gal 6:16; James 1:1) that embraces people from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rev 7:9).[1]” These faithful and unblemished (” On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished”) seem to be the faithful nucleus that forms the immediate worshipers of the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

This is part of a hymn of entrance, sung as the Arc of the Covenant was brought into the Temple followed by the faithful. Once again in this song we find a reference borrowed in the passage from John’s Revelation. Who are the ones allowed full access to God? They are those; “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” In other words they are clean in heart, body, and spirit.

Gospel Lk 21:1-4

The widow in this Gospel story represents the poor whose focus must be on God rather than on material wealth. This focus brings them the blessing of God because of their genuine praise and love.


It is appropriate on the eve (metaphorically speaking) of Advent we are given a scriptural arrow that points us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Notice how in Revelations we hear of the 144 Thousand who are unblemished and in the presence of the Lamb of God and then again in the Psalm we hear of the ones who are clean in thought, in body, and in intent or spirit.

Finally we are given the story of the widow in the Gospel who gives from her need rather than her excess, the purity of her intent is praised by Jesus himself. The message begs us to evaluate our own worthiness to stand before the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

We are asked to have the courage to look inside ourselves and see there the blemish that is a barrier to Jesus and to hold it up in contrition so that the Lord of Mercy can forgive it and it can be washed away.
There are some, especially in the bible based protestant denominations that argue that the Sacrament of reconciliation is not necessary, that if we say we are sorry to Jesus in prayer, that is enough. We argue that there is an analogy that shows how wrong they are.
If you go to the doctor because you are not felling well and he says he’d like to do some tests, and then if you went home and some time later started feeling better, you might think, I’m OK. In this, you would be in the position of the person who does not go along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Would it not be better though to have the doctor call you up and say; “I’ve looked at the test results and you are fine” than just to guess.
That’s what happens in Reconciliation, the Priest, standing in the place of Christ, tells you directly, you’re all right. God’s love operates through the sacraments; grace is transmitted through them. We are foolish not to take advantage of it as we approach the make of God’s great gift in the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord.
[1] NAB footnote from Rev 7:4-9.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
(or Thirty Fourth or Last Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King


Reading I Dn 7:13-14

Perhaps one of the most important features of this reading is the use of the title “Son of Man”. Jesus later borrowed it and it was the most common way he referred to himself. This vision by Daniel was the scriptural link used by Jesus to explain his role in salvation; “the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Keeping with the theme of the day, this Psalm is a hymn celebrating God’s kingship. It was he who created the world and he has dominion over all.

Reading II Rev 1:5-8

This vision of St. John of the return of Jesus as King is very straight forward. One of the more significant verses is; "I am the Alpha and the Omega, “says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty." The Alpha and Omega are first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, these words are used again later in Revelations (Rev 22:13) and were predicted by Isaiah (Isaiah 41:4), a clear reference to Christ’s Kingship.

Gospel Jn 18:33b-37

In St. John’s description of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilot we hear Jesus’ reluctant admission of his kinship. He clarifies that he is not a threat to civil authority, something that Pilot would have been most worried about since attempting to usurp authority from Caesar was treason. His statement; “My kingdom does not belong to this world”, changes the character of the Lord’s kingdom from one of physical monarchy to one of spiritual rule.


A number of years ago I was talking to a young lady from New York City who had come to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan. We were talking about what she was going to day once her studies were finished and I asked her if she was planning on moving back to New York. Her response told me how different things were there – she said that if she did, she would have to be very careful for a while because her “pedestrian reflexes” had slowed down. I asked her what that meant and she told me that if she walked out in the street in “The City” the way she does around Ann Arbor, she would run down by a cabbie for sure.

People from different parts of the country and world behave differently. The rules and laws they grew up with shape the way they behave and react in different situations. The young lady I talked about just now knew that the people who drive cars in New York would not yield to a pedestrian. She told me; “You have to be quick on your feet or you’ll end up in the hospital.” She was probably exaggerating but it emphasizes my point.

Today we are reminded once more that we are subjects of a Kingdom not of this earth but eternal in heaven. As members of this kingdom we are subject to the laws of this kingdom and its ruler, Christ who is King. His law of love supersedes the temporal secular laws we live under as citizens of what ever country to which we belong. His ten commandments are binding upon us even if the legal systems under which we operate does not hold the same values.

The question we must ask ourselves as we contemplate an act of contrition is, if we were brought before the King today, would we be convicted under the laws of the heavenly kingdom? While the Lord’s Kingdom is not of this earth, his Kinship is eternal and we must never forget we are his subjects – now and forever.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time &
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, virgin & martyr

Biographical Information about St. Catherine

Readings for Saturday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time


Reading 1 Rev 11:4-12

We continue St. John’s Revelations with more visions full of symbolic references. Note, he begins talking about two witnesses (who later in the same section are referred to as “prophets”). He borrows his imagery this time from Zechariah 4:8-14. The powers they have are taken from Moses confrontation with Egypt (drought and water turned to blood).

Using the Old Testament imagery he now confronts his modern nemesis, Nero referring to him as the “beast that comes up from the abyss” The great city is evil referred to as Sodom and Egypt. This reference is used throughout Revelations to symbolize Babylon-Rome. Even the three and a half day period has symbolism for those interested in Hebrew numerology – (see the note on Rev 11:2).

The general sense of this reading is one of the good (followers of Christ) being persecuted by the Romans because of their testimony (“fire comes out of their mouths”). But, because of their faith, they will be resurrected (“…a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here.’”).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 144:1, 2, 9-10
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

While the Psalm is one of thanksgiving, much of what we are given today can also be found in other psalms (sort of like paraphrasing and combining the lyrics to other songs). This thankful psalm focuses on the courage and strength given the psalmist in battle and praise for victory delivered by God.

Gospel Lk 20:27-40

The footnote from the NAB at the beginning of this passage provides an excellent summary of what takes place in this passage: “The Sadducees' question, based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Deut 25:5-10, ridicules the idea of the resurrection. Jesus rejects their naive understanding of the resurrection (Luke 20:35-36) and then argues on behalf of the resurrection of the dead on the basis of the written law (Luke 20:37-38) that the Sadducees accept.”


When we take the readings from Scripture and couple them with our memorial of St. Catherine celebrated today, we come up with a very straightforward message; “Be courageous in the faith because no lasting harm can come to those who are faithful to Jesus the Christ.”

How can we who walk in the world shy away from standing firmly behind our faith in the face of resistance and persecution in the light of the message from scripture and the example of those who have been our examples though the history of the Church.

Let’s look at that example we are given today. St. Catherine, when she was 18 years old, according to tradition, during the persecution of Maximus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximus had her scourged and imprisoned. The empress and the leader of Maximus' army were amazed by the stories, went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximus ordered her broken by being placed on a spiked wheel, but she touched it and the wheel was destroyed (some stories say that when it came apart it killed some of the on-lookers). She was beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.

The power of the message cannot be denied or hidden forever. It will come out to everyone if we live it boldly and abide by its precepts visibly. Our joy is in the fact that the Lord has promised that we would join him when we have accomplished what we could in this life.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions

Readings for Friday, November 24, 2006


Reading 1 Rev 10:8-11

The modern analogy for this metaphor is “take your medicine”. The small scroll in this passage, according to scripture scholars, predicts the final victory of God’s heavenly host in the battle between good and evil to come. That is the reason it tastes like honey. There will be many who suffer and die in this struggle which is why it sours in the belly.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!

Out of this very long (176 verses) hymn of praise and thanksgiving we are focused onto the delight the psalmist takes in following God’s law and will. The taste of honey is again provided in verse 103: “…How sweet to my tongue is your promise, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” There is no corresponding sourness mentioned in this song.

Gospel Lk 19:45-48

Jesus enters Jerusalem and immediately takes charge of his Father’s house, driving out those selling animals and birds for sacrifice and the money changers. The clear implication here is money cannot buy God’s favor. It is interesting that this is not thematic in many sermons on the subject.


It is coincidental that the Gospel story of Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple occurs this year on the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year. I turned on the news this morning at around 5:30 AM and the news casters in Detroit were laughing about the good economic news heralded by a long line of people waiting (at 5:30 in the morning) to get into one of the local electronics boutiques. I wonder if they would ever think to wait outside the house of God for the privilege of receiving the Body of Christ at the same time of day – or any day and time for that matter. What do you think would happen if the doors of the Church were locked when we arrived for Mass? Would most people wait – wait hours for the doors to open?

Today on this first day of the “feeding frenzy” that will last until our Lord’s Nativity is celebrated we are reminded that it is not a season in which we should focus on how much we can spend or who we should buy for. It is a time when we should be looking at our own response to the gift God gave us in his only Son.

When we think of how much we are giving up by ignoring the temptation to jump into the fray, let us think about St. John’s revelation and the bitter sweet taste of victory. How the result tastes sweet but others will suffer. Instead of running out to the store today, think about the long suffering saints we remember today. St. Andrew was beheaded for being a Christian Priest. It would have been much easier for all 116 of this martyred bringing Christ the Viet Nam for them to simply follow Buddha or just hide their faith.

Today let’s take a stand. Instead of rushing out to take advantage of those bargains, let us take a trip to Church and gather in prayer. Instead of spending our money on merchandise, let’s find a way to make others who have nothing more comfortable.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day

Reading Selections for Thursday (USCCB)


Reading 1 Sir 50:22-24

“Praise and thanksgiving are given to God for his wondrous works, and a blessing is invoked on man that he may enjoy peace and gladness of heart and the abiding goodness of the Most High.” I can’t do any better than this footnote from the NAB.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2a, 2bc-3, 4-5
R. Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love.

Appropriately, this is a song of thanksgiving to God for having answered our prayers. We, who sing these words, pray also that the Lord will continue to shower his blessings upon us.

Reading II 1 Cor 1:3-9

This is the salutation portion of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In typical letter format, he gives thanks to God for the gift of faith given to this community and continues his fervent wish that they (and we) be steadfast in the faith; “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ).“

Gospel Lk 17:11-19

We were given this same Gospel just recently (see Wednesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, 11/15/06) but it was a crowded day so we focused on St. Albert in our reflection. The Gospel is an indictment of the Hebrews who did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus’ comment; “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” is a clear indication that this lack of faith will have consequences. Especially when he follows this statement with; “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” This would seem to imply that those who refuse to accept Jesus’ status as the Christ would not receive that salvation.

The footnote from the NAB is instructive and balanced; “[11-19] This incident recounting the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan leper is narrated only in Luke's gospel and provides an instance of Jesus holding up a non-Jew (Luke 17:18) as an example to his Jewish contemporaries (cf Luke 10:33 where a similar purpose is achieved in the story of the good Samaritan). Moreover, it is the faith in Jesus manifested by the foreigner that has brought him salvation (Luke 17:19; cf the similar relationship between faith and salvation in Luke 7:50; 8:48, 50).”


Today is the secular holiday of Thanksgiving. It was officially sanctioned as a holiday, first by the State of New Hampshire in 1782 and as a National Holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War.

Thanksgiving is one of the few secular holidays the Church has fully embraced, for very obvious reasons. While the tradition began as a harvest celebration by a predominantly agrarian community, the fact that its focus is on thankfulness to God is a very Christian ideal. As we see in the scripture above, it is at the very heart of our faith and has been promoted for as long as we have had our Judeo-Christian roots.

Today as our nation goes to parades, watches football games and waits with bated breath for the launching of the giant commercial orgy that precedes the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, we as a people of faith once more turn to God in prayer. We all have special prayers that we can utter on this occasion. We all have special things that we can give thanks for. I give you this prayer, paraphrased from the reading in Sirach;

And now, bless the God of all, (and His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ)
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
(and the whole world),
to deliver us in our days.

Pax and Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Memorial of Saint Ceilia, virgin and martyr

Memorial of Saint Ceilia, virgin and martyr

Biographical Information about St. Ceilia
Readings for Wednesday


Reading 1 Rev 4:1-11

We are given the whole of Chapter 4 of John’s Revelation to consider. First we see the heavenly court in worship. The twenty four elders would represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. Much of what is described here is taken from the apocalyptic literature in the old testament, specifically Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:22-26), Tobit (Tobit 12:15), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:2). The special effects, Flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder are representations of God’s activity. The addition of the eyes to the 4 living creatures represents God’s omnipresent vision and concern for mankind. The principle focus of this chapter, in addition to providing imagery of the heavenly court is to give us a sense of God’s majesty and omnipotence.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 150:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God!

This psalm serves a doxology for the 5th book of Psalms. The refrain we are given has its roots in the ancient Hebrew in that there was no word for “Holier” or “Holiest”. When that thought was to be expressed, the word was repeated the appropriate number of times. The sound of Crashing cymbals in this case reminds us of the rumblings and peals of thunder in Revelation, God’s work and presence on earth.

Gospel Lk 19:11-28

We have here Luke’s version of the Parable of the Talents. He combines it with the story of the King who is rejected so it has a little different flavor. The gold coins here represent the gifts God has given us. The king’s return is meant to symbolize his final return in judgment. His reaction to each of the servants indicates the Lord’s expectation that the gifts he gives us are expected to be used, and used for his greater glory. We are not to hide them, in doing so we loose them.


If we underlay the our scripture with the Feast of St. Ceilia, who was martyred for burying her martyred husband and brother in law in 117 AD, we get a sense that today should look distinctly at our own preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God. That is what was expected in the Gospel and that is the picture St. John painted in his Revelation.

What is instructive here is the placement of the Parable of the Talents (Luke uses coins or “minahs”, it’s less expensive that way) that focus us on our own discernment or what our gifts are and how we are using them.

It is good timing as we approach the Advent season to think about what we have been given and especially good in the United States of America as we sit at the vigil of the Thanksgiving holiday. How fortunate we are to have been given the freedom to worship our God and to apply the gifts we have been given to His greater glory.

Let us take some time over the next day or so to evaluate what it is that God gave us. Not just the material things we have been able to accumulate because of the industry or intelligence with which he endowed us, but the application of that industry and intelligence. Have we done what we do for His glory or our own? Have we presented the successes we have had as attributable to Him or our ourselves?

One element of the Gospel today cannot be overlooked as we evaluate our gifts and their application. That is; have we wrapped our coin of faith in a handkerchief because we were not proud of it or have we taken that coin and put it in play to bring more to God than he gave us to begin with? That is a hard question, but one the parable begs us to ask ourselves. St. Ceilia answered it and died. And if our answer is no, what shall we do about it?


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Information about the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings for Tuesday

Reading 1 Rev 3:1-6, 14-22

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

R. I will seat the victor beside me on my throne.

Gospel Lk 19:1-10


St. John addresses his vision to two more of the seven churches of Asia (the Asian Province of Rome), Sardis[1] and Laodicea[2]. In the case of Sardis, he calls them for backsliding. It sounds as if the community has been reduced in numbers to a point were the community is in danger of disappearing. St. Peter tells them that the few that remain faithful will be rewarded for their steadfastness.

At Laodicea the charge is that of lack of zeal for the faith. He says; “I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.” He bases this observation upon their works indicating that while they profess Christ Jesus, their actions are not reflecting that conviction.

This selection lauds the person who follows the “Law”, specifically the Hebrew laws that warn against slander or false accusations. In the second strophe it honors the person who does no violence against another. And finally, in the last strophe, we are told that the person who does not charge interest on a loan (usury) is also uplifted.

Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector and Jesus. While still on his final journey to Jerusalem this encounter takes place in Jericho, on the western edge of Jordan Valley, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, north east of Jerusalem. Jesus chooses Zacchaeus’ home for his resting place (an unpopular choice; “…they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’”

Jesus uses this occasion to give us a clear idea of why he came. When Zacchaeus tells him what he as done with his material possessions, Jesus tells us; “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” His mission is salvation.


We need to say something first about our feast day. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary has several levels of tradition and implication for the Church. First we hear from Butler’s Lives of Saints where he begins; “Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to the divine service and love, both before and after their birth.” Following some scriptural examples he concludes:” … the Blessed Virgin Mary was thus solemnly offered to God in the temple in her infancy.” While the event itself is not scriptural, it is clearly a reasonable expectation that one chosen as Theotokis, the Mother of God, would have been dedicated according to law and tradition. For us and for the Church this begins the events that lead to God’s gift of His Only Son, a celebration we have observed since around the 7th century and instituted most recently by Pope Sixtus V., in 1585.

Pope John Paul the Great has given this date and feast special significance as “’Pro Orantibus’ Day, a day for cloistered women religious who are especially dedicated to prayer, in silence and recollection.” This theme has been pushing at us for the past several days of readings. Today, the Church will recognize those who pray for us.

The best link we can make between the celebration of the vocations and the scripture would focus us on what our cloistered sisters are praying for. The pray that we remain faithful to our call to discipleship as the church of Sardis mentioned by St. Peter was not. They pray that our works reflect our beliefs in the world unlike the church of Laodicea. The good sisters no doubt pray that all of us remain firm in our observance of the Ten Commandments reflected in the Psalm. And finally they pray for the salvation of all of us in the sure knowledge that “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

So today as our religious pray for all of us, let us pray for them, that the Lord will give them strength and the reward that comes to all the faithful at the end of all things.


[1] Sardis: this city, located ca. thirty miles southeast of Thyatira, was once the capital of Lydia, known for its wealth at the time of Croesus (6th century B.C.). Its citadel, reputed to be unassailable, was captured by surprise, first by Cyrus and later by Antiochus. The church is therefore warned to be on guard.

[2] Laodicea: ca. forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and ca. eighty miles east of Ephesus, a wealthy industrial and commercial center, with a renowned medical school. It exported fine woolen garments and was famous for its eye salves. It was so wealthy that it was proudly rebuilt without outside aid after the devastating earthquake of A.D. 60/61.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday of the Thirty third Week in Ordinary Time

Monday of the Thirty third Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Gospel Lk 18:35-43


The first part of this passage from Revelations (Rev 1:1-4) appears as if this were a normal letter to the Churches of Asia. Only the introduction and salutation reflect this form. The seven[1] Churches being referred to are in the Roman Province of Asia which was western Turkey and the specific Churches being referred to are mentioned in Rev 1:11 - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each one of these gets their own injunction like the one we hear next.

Ephesus is given praise and criticism along with a warning that, if they do not revert to their previous charismatic love for one another, their “Lamp-stand” (the symbol of the presence of Christ) will be removed. Important in the commendation to the Ephesians is their steadfastness and their ability to reject false apostles.

The Psalm takes up the theme of following right paths and staying true to the teachings of God; “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.”

In Luke we hear Jesus encounter the blind man. The response is instructive as Jesus does not take credit for restoring his sight but rather says; “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He does so because the blind man identified him by title; “Son of David” – referring to him as the Messiah.


Once again we have two “take aways” from our scripture today. The first is a reminder from St. John whose vision praises the Church of Ephesus for its fidelity to the teachings of Christ and testing the purported teachings of supposed “apostles”. One might ask; “What bearing does that message have to me today?” The answer is clear. The One Church over the millennia has gone through many changes and divisions. As a consequence, the “Christian” message has many different flavors. We must constantly test what is purported to be “the truth” in accord to the wishes of God. So many times, sadly, it is a lie.

How do we test that word? We have two weapons at our disposal. First we have the Teaching Magesterium of the Church. If we are not certain where something is coming from, we can check first, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If we do not find specific guidance there; ask a member of the Clergy who has access and training in the Code of Canon Law. Be careful if you simply consult Holy Scripture. While it is a source the divine presence, it can also be misleading if a passage is taken out of context. How many atrocities have been committed quoting scripture as their justification?

The second message we can take from scripture today is the message of the power of faith. The blind man in the Gospel called out to Jesus, Son of David – the Messiah, and his prayer was answered, as the Lord said, through his faith. That same power exists in us if we can just tap into it. When we are faced with a trial in our lives, the first thing we should do is ask for the Lord to help. With his guidance, we can accomplish all things that are good to the greater glory of God.


[1] The number “7” is significant in Hebrew numerology, indicating completeness.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Dn 12:1-3

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Reading II Heb 10:11-14, 18

Gospel Mk 13:24-32


In Daniel we begin with an apocalyptic vision of the end times. A leader named Michael will arise and great distress will come upon the earth. Daniel describes the separation of those to be saved and those not. He does not give any attributes to them; he merely indicates that that those who are found “written in the book” will escape.

He goes on to say that those “who sleep in the dust of the earth” will awake and live forever. This is a clear reference to the afterlife and the fact that there are those who will “be an everlasting horror and disgrace” clearly references what we call heaven and hell.

The Psalm is one of praise. It does refer to the end times as well; “because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.” The intention of this selection is to remind us that there is a resurrection of the dead and that we should take heart in God who makes this promise.

The reference here to Priests refers to Levitical priests of the Hebrews. When one of the early Jews committed an act contrary to Hebrew Law, they were required to make a “sin offering” to mitigate against the dire consequences there were likely to follow. We know that when bad things happened to individuals, it was thought that God was punishing them for an offense against him, hence the perceived need for the “sin offering” given by the priest. Jesus, through his supreme sacrifice remitted sins once and for all, something no false sacrifice could accomplish.

That is what is meant by the final line in our passage; “Where there is forgiveness of these, tere is no longer offering for sin.”

This selection concludes Jesus’ prediction about the destruction of the Temple. Here he borrows imagery from Daniel to provide the more proofs of his divinity to the disciples he is speaking with. He warns that they should be vigilant because the time is coming and the hour and day are not known; “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."


It is fitting that as we conclude this liturgical year (next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King – the last Sunday of this liturgical year) we are pointed at the end times, the Eschaton. The first reading from Daniel takes us there with his description of how the faithful and the unfaithful will be separated. The Psalm rejoices in the promise of the resurrection of the body. Hebrews links up with the Psalm as it speaks of Christ great sacrifice promising forgiveness to those who follow him in life.

Finally we hear the last part of Jesus’ address to his disciples about the destruction of the Temple and the end times for all mankind. He provides further proofs to those rather “slow to believe” disciples in Mark’s Gospel, of the Lord’s divinity as he will come; “'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds” and lets us know that it is he who will separate those whom Daniel refers to as having their names “written in the book” – it’s his book.

Beyond the reminder that there will be a reckoning at the end, what does scripture say to us today? We can take away a couple of messages. First, we can take heart in the fact that the Lord’s mercy is there for us. He offered himself so that all might not fall into, as Daniel calls is; “an everlasting horror and disgrace”. We have chosen to follow him and know his promise of everlasting life. Clearly we can rejoice in that message along with the Psalmist who also rejoices in the resurrection.

We can also listen to the warning that the hour and day of the end is not known and that we must remain on our best behavior because of that. We do not want to procrastinate saying; “I can reconcile with the Father for my sinful acts today. After all, Jesus will forgive me if I am truly sorry.” Indeed, Jesus for gives our sins. But if we know an act is sinful and still go ahead with it, is simply saying; “I’m sorry” enough? Will we not be called to account for our actions?

Today is the Lord’s Day and we rejoice in the Eucharist we will share. Let us also recall that he has, through his saving sacrifice, brought forgiveness to us all and in that sacrifice we share again today, we are offered a new start looking for our own glorious resurrection with him.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Saturday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time &
Dedication of the basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles &
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne,

Information about the Basilica of St. Peter
Information about the Basilica of St. Paul
Biographical Information about St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Saturday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 3 Jn 5-8

Responsorial Psalm Ps 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Blessed the man who fears the Lord,who greatly delights in his commands.His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house;his generosity shall endure forever.Light shines through the darkness for the upright;he is gracious and merciful and just.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,who conducts his affairs with justice;He shall never be moved;the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.

Gospel Lk 18:1-8


No sooner do we post a reflection that warns against the possible trap of hiding in the contemplative life than the Church places before us St. Rose Philippine Duchesne also called; “Woman Who Prays Always”.

In addition to St. Rose, we are firmly instructed by Jesus himself in the Gospel to be persistent in our prayer. It is something we have heard time and again, pray always, keep the Lord constantly before us.

It is difficult for us to keep our eyes constantly on the prize, as the say, when we are constantly confronted with a secular environment that seems to draw out the very worst in people. It is our job, if we choose to accept it, to overcome those temptations to sink to a baser response to life. When confronted with obstacles maliciously placed before us, we must react with the peace that can only come from a deep and consistent prayer life.

We cannot ignore today’s major Feast celebrating the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (outside the wall). Two major churches dedicated to the lives of St. Peter, our first pontiff and the rock upon which Jesus built the Church and St. Paul, buried beneath the structure dedicated to him on the site where it is said he was beheaded.

The beginning of our chain of faith represented by these two churches stretches out to us. The art and majesty of these houses of God reminds us that the Glory of God must shine against all odds. Read the history of these edifices and you will understand my meaning.

Today we pray that we can continue the tradition of faith begun with the Apostles Peter and Paul, continued by St. Rose. We dedicate ourselves to advancing that faith and standing side by side with them, going forward.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

Biographical Information about St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Readings for Friday

Reading 1 2 Jn 4-9

[Chosen Lady:]I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truthjust as we were commanded by the Father.But now, Lady, I ask you,not as though I were writing a new commandmentbut the one we have had from the beginning:let us love one another.For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,in which you should walk.Many deceivers have gone out into the world,those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh;such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked forbut may receive a full recompense.Anyone who is so “progressive”as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Blessed are they who observe his decrees,
who seek him with all their heart.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Within my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Be good to your servant,
that I may liveand keep your words.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Open my eyes,
that I may considerthe wonders of your law.

R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Gospel Lk 17:26-37

Jesus said to his disciples:“As it was in the days of Noah,so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;they were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage up to the daythat Noah entered the ark,and the flood came and destroyed them all.Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot:they were eating, drinking, buying,selling, planting, building;on the day when Lot left Sodom,fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.On that day, someone who is on the housetopand whose belongings are in the housemust not go down to get them,and likewise one in the fieldmust not return to what was left behind.Remember the wife of Lot.Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,but whoever loses it will save it.I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed;one will be taken, the other left.And there will be two women grinding meal together;one will be taken, the other left.” They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”He said to them, “Where the body is,there also the vultures will gather.”


Today as we recall another Holy Woman of the Church, Elizabeth of Hungary and hear the Beloved Disciple we all struggle with the great work before us. St. John says again to; “Love one another.” St. Elizabeth demonstrates the high example of how that commandment, not from St. John, but from the Lord himself, may be lived, even in the face of adversity. How do we measure our faith against theirs?

It is difficult, what the Lord asks of us. Our biggest defense is the fact that God gave each of us different gifts and different vocations to live. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to renounce the world, the rat race, the pressures of providing for the family and having to deal with daily temptations that keep us from God and join a cloistered religious order like the Trappists in Gethsemane, Kentucky. They do get up each morning early enough to do the office at 3:30 AM and work manually all day and are vegetarians, but they can devote themselves without distraction to God.

It is truly a trap, running away to God. The one thing we can notice as we look at the lives of the saints like St. Elizabeth today is they did not run away and hide their faith; they took their faith to the world. There is a corollary in the Gospel today; “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” We can say that if your faith is hidden from everyone, will it do what the Lord intended? No, running away to God is not the answer.

This is not to say that the monks and sisters in cloister are running away from God. Like most of our decisions in life, discerning what God calls us to do and to be is critical if we are to walk that path. Those who feel the call to the contemplative life serve God’s purpose as well. Who would pray for us if not these holy men and women? Whose prayer, day and night, would float up to God keeping the praise flowing, ours?

Our great challenge today is to once again take out the measuring stick that is the example of the saints and of Jesus and see how we can measure up. We cannot stop trying we cannot run away from the responsibility God has placed upon us, his believers. We can only pray for strength from the Holy Spirit and do our best – Love on another!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Brother Thomas and the Kingdom of God

Homily for Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

There was once a young monk (we will call him Thomas) who read the works of St. Albert the Great (whose feast day we celebrated yesterday). He was so caught up in the wonders of God’s creation that he felt called to a vocation that would expand human knowledge of the natural world for the Glory of God.

He went and spoke to his Abbot and told him he felt called to take a long journey to exotic Asia that he might chronicle here to fore unknown wonders in God’s creation. His Abbot was a wise man and suggested that his call might be genuine, but to prepare him for his quest, why didn’t he start with a shorter journey. The one of the order’s other monasteries a few weeks travel away.

Brother Thomas was enthusiastic. He immediately went back to his cell and packed his few belongings and then went to the head scribe of his house and begged a few precious pieces of paper and some charcoal with which to write and draw. He went back to his Abbot to get a blessing for his journey and the Abbot gave him this instruction.

“Thomas,” he said, “God go with you on your journey. As you go to St. Bernard, each day you will be bound to do your office of prayer. When you have finished your office you will spend a short time surveying the area and find one example of God’s creation worthy of more study and create a sketch of that example and describe how you see God’s work fulfilled in it. When you have reached St. Bernard, ask the Abbot there to provision you and send you back to me. We will pray together when you return to see if yet another longer trip is necessary for you, before you leave for Asia.”

Thomas did as his Abbot had requested. When he returned several weeks later, he went immediately to the Abbot and said; “Father, There is no need for me to go to Asia to discover a natural world that reflects God’s creation. His glorious work is all around us and I can spend the rest of my life looking no further than what is just beyond these walls.”

This of course was the result the Abbot had foreseen. It is the same answer the Lord gave us about the Kingdom of God in today’s Gospel. Jesus was asked; “when the Kingdom of God would come?” and he answered; “…behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

· All we need to do is look for the Lord and he will be there for us.
· All we need to do is have faith in the Lord and he will buoy us up.
· All we need to do is ask in His name and we will receive, because the Kingdom of God is at hand.


Thursday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time &
Saint Margaret of Scotland, Matron

Biographical Information about St. Margaret
Readings for Thursday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Plmn 7-20

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.

Gospel Lk 17:20-25


I need to start today’s reflection with and apology. Yesterday, in my praise for the help given by Rita Thiron so freely, I spoiled the whole thing with an old joke at the expense of her profession. By doing so I inadvertently caused some discomfort for her.

While I try to keep these reflections grounded in Christ but somewhat “folksy” as they have been called, I must remember something Robert Heinlein, the great science fiction author, once wrote in his great work, Stranger in a Strange Land , “Almost all humor involves pain or embarrassment to someone.” That is not an indictment of humor, but it does mean that before we repeat a joke or something we suppose is funny, we, as children of God (using the Pauline address), need to carefully evaluate that statement. We need to ask; is it hurtful to one of our brothers or sisters? With all of that being said, to all my brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to improving our worship as Liturgists, my heartfelt apologies, I will not repeat that joke in the future.

While I know that today we have numerous opportunities to expound upon the virtues we are called to observe by both our Lord and is faithful disciple Paul, and are nobly exemplified by St. Margaret of Scotland, we have an opportunity to apply our thought for a moment on what was behind my insensitive remark. Orthodoxy in worship has, through the history of the Church, been a bone of serious contention among those who believe they have some gnosis, or special knowledge regarding the form authentic worship must take.

In previous posts the story was told about a group at my own parish attacking young ladies verbally and publicly because they accepted the invitation to participate in our liturgy as servers before that formal approval was given by our local Ordinary (the Bishop of Lansing). This period of tension paled when compared to the upheaval that occurred when the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were implemented back in middle and late 60’s. I do not have numbers, but I can remember people leaving the Catholic Church in droves when the Mass was offered in the vernacular (that is in the language spoken by the local population, in our case English).

Today we memorialize St. Margaret of Scotland. Try to find her relics. Apparently, most of St. Margaret’s remains were destroyed during the Protestant Revolution, just to take the point back a little further in history, probably by the Presbyterians who are a majority in Scotland today.

Because our act of worship is so visible publicly, any change in the way it is done will distract some part of our congregation from its purpose; to offer our praise and sacrifice to God the Father, through his only Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Try attending a Protestant service some time. You will find that it feels (to those of us who are addicted to the Mass and the Eucharistic Feast) somehow hollow by comparison.

Since I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church, I know I did not always fell that way. I can recall the first time I came to a Catholic Church for Mass, I was confused and did not feel filled when it was completed. We sometimes forget that other Christian communities do not understand our devotion to the Eucharist and its saving grace.

Underneath all of the ritual, music and preaching lies our soul and its attention to the higher ambitions of oneness with the Lord. While people like Rita work tirelessly to bring uniformity to our celebration, we must not loose sight of its purpose.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time &
Saint Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Albert the Great
Readings for Wednesday

Reading 1 Ti 3:1-7

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1b-3a, 3bc-4, 5, 6

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


Before we talk about St. Albert and the scripture we are given today, I wanted to give you some information I received from Rita Thiron, Author and Associate Director of Worship for the Diocese of Lansing. When I had posted yesterdays reflection I was not satisfied with my understanding of how the Church had come to select the readings for Mass. Unable to find what I was looking for on the web, I called Rita who has a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Here is a sketch of what she told me:

Before the Vatican II Council, which published its reforms in 1965, there was only one book used at Mass, that book was the Roman Missal. The Missal contained both the readings and the prayers used at Mass. The earliest Ordos and Missals date from around the 4th Century (Books were expensive) and it appears that the first codification or standardization was accomplished at the Council of Trent (1545-1563 it lasted that long). When it was felt that reform was once more necessary the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was held culminating in, among the other major reforms (including the vernacular) the establishment of the Lectionary for Mass we are familiar with.

At the command of the counsellor leadership, ultimately the Pope, 31 scripture scholars were assembled and asked to review all of the reading being used, not only within the Roman Catholic Church, but all other Christian denominations as well. They came up with what we use today (or at least the Schema for it). If you are interested in more on the subject, Rita suggested the following:

History of the Liturgical Books, Eric Palazzo, Liturgical Press (Pueblo Press)
Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, Annibale Buginini, Liturgical Press

Oh, and Rita’s book, Preparing Parish Liturgies, A Guide to Resources is also available at Liturgical Press

Also, it pays to know a Liturgist even though what they say is true – the difference between a Liturgist and a Terrorist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.

Today we may celebrate the memorial of St Albert the Great. The period in Church history at which he appeared was (1206-1280) was certainly one of God’s more notable finger prints. Among his legacy gifts were his tutelage of another great figure in the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas who preceded him in death. With St. Thomas he defended the mendicant orders (Dominicans and Franciscans among others) right to receive support from the community of faith (something we take for granted, but the diocesan clergy (lead by William of St. Amour) were having a difficult time getting at the same source of generosity because the orders were so popular).

St. Albert was a true Renaissance Man. He was a student and teacher of Greek Philosophy and the Natural Sciences. “Beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, Albert the Great was declared a saint of the Universal Church with the additional title of Doctor by Pope Pius XI in 1931. In 1941, Pope Pius XII named him as heavenly patron of all those who study the natural sciences.”[1]

What does this example of faith say to us? When we couple it with what we have been hearing from Paul’s letter to Titus about the virtues the Church looks for in its leaders we see glimpses of how much God’s influence can guide us. We see in St. Albert the Great, a hero of his age and ours, one of the building blocks that bring us, in this age, to understanding of the Father’s will for us.

Here is one more example of faith to inspire us on our daily journey of faith. Of all those who hear St. Albert’s story, let us give thanks for his gift to the Church and us.

God of Truth
you endowed our brother Albert
with the gift of combining human wisdom with divine faith.
May the pursuit of all human knowledge
lead to a greater knowledge and love of you.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


[1] Butler’s Lives of Saints, Harmony Media, Inc, © 2000

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Thirty second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ti 2:1-8, 11-14

You must say what is consistent with sound doctrine,
namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified,
self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance.
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior,
not slanderers, not addicted to drink,
teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women
to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers,
under the control of their husbands,
so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves,
showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect,
with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech
that cannot be criticized,
so that the opponent will be put to shame
without anything bad to say about us.

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of the great God
and of our savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 37:3-4, 18 and 23, 27 and 29

R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the Lord and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
By the Lord are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
The just shall possess the land
and dwell in it forever.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Lk 17:7-10

Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”


Let’s continue our thought from yesterday on how the Church has evolved it’s thinking in response to its own discernment. It is appropriate since we continue our reading of Titus today and there is an interesting omission. Notice that we do not see v. 9&10 in the lectionary. Do you wonder why? Here are the verses – let’s see if you think my logic is correct;

Slaves are to be under the control of their masters in all respects, giving them satisfaction, not talking back to them or stealing from them, but exhibiting complete good faith, so as to adorn the doctrine of God our savior in every way. (Ti 2;9-10)

Why would these verses have been omitted from our reading today? Was it because when these translations were approved in 1964 the slavery section was thought to be in appropriate because it would seem to give tacit approval to institutionalized slavery?

Another historian or scholar will need to go after the date when the chapter and verse selections were made. I have spent over an hour on the internet and have searched the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Code of Canon Law, and various sites on the Lectionary and have been unable to discover the date the current readings were codified.

During my search for historical information about when the current structure of readings was determined, I did discover a big flap in the Church about the use of “Inclusive” language (The Holy See's 1997 Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy includes the statement (6/3) "the word man in English should as a rule translate adam and anthropos since there is no one synonym which effectively conveys the play between the individual, the collectivity and the unity of the human family so important, for example, to expression of Christian doctrine and anthropology".)

It seems the Church has built in checks and balances that prevent rapid or frivolous changes in the way it acts or even understands certain principles of faith. All you need to do to see the degree to which this is true is to go to the web and check out sites like the following:

Women Priests Vs. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

Just about every social or religious issue you can think of as having two sides can be found within the context of our Church. So how do we follow the right path? Most of what we do on a daily basis is not considered controversial enough require us to get a reading on orthodoxy, however, we do need to understand the norms of behavior (those would be scriptural) and when it comes to social issues we must understand that the Church has a long standing tradition of supporting the dignity of the human person over that of any organization, be it a nation or business concern.

I know I am running a bit long today but I got involved in the simple omission of a couple of verses and ended up on social justice. I wonder if, in a few hundred years, we will see verses 3-5, those dealing with women being subordinate to their husbands, will be omitted because they are no longer socially relevant.

In the mean time, we continue to work for the greater glory of God and understand that in doing so, as the Gospel today says; “‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”


Monday, November 13, 2006

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, virgin

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, virgin

Biographical Information about St. Francis Xavier Cabrini
Readings for Monday

Reading 1 Ti 1:1-9

Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:1b-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Gospel Lk 17:1-6


We begin this week hearing the introduction of Paul’s letter to Titus on Crete. The main purpose of, what are called the Pastoral Letters of first and second Timothy and Titus, is the establishment of norms for selecting leaders and defense of doctrine. Of Titus himself we know little:

The Pauline assistant who is addressed, Titus, was a Gentile Christian, but we are nowhere informed of his place of birth or residence. He went from Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1; cf Acts 15:2). According to 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6, 13-14), he was with Paul on his third missionary journey; his name, however, does not appear in Acts. Besides being the bearer of Paul's severe letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 7:6-8), he had the responsibility of taking up the collection in Corinth for the Christian community of Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:6, 16-19, 23). In the present letter (Titus 1:5), he is mentioned as the administrator of the Christian community in Crete, charged with the task of organizing it through the appointment of presbyters and bishops (Titus 1:5-9; here the two terms refer to the same personages).[1]

These letters demonstrate that the view of the Church about clergy was not always what it is today. But then, if we think about it, a great deal of Church doctrine has changed since the earliest days of the Church. Some people will read these letters and say; “See, the celibate clergy is not what was intended.” To which I would respond, “You are right, in the first century after Christ, when these letters were written by St. Paul, the idea of celibate bishops and presbyters was not doctrinal. But, neither was the concept of the Holy Spirit and the Trinitarian God. Much of what we now accept as a fact of faith was not part of the original body of understanding. The Church is organic; it is constantly reinventing itself as greater discernment helps us to better understand God’s will and intent.

Let’s look at the life of the incredible woman whose feast day we celebrate today, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, as an example of how, what appears to be God’s will is recognized and realized. She was born a farm girl in Italy and while she was educated at a convent school, she was initially not allowed to pursue her vocation because of her health. It could have stopped there. But she continued to listen to God and took her vows in 1877 (at age 27 which in that era was approaching middle aged). Her spirituality and industry earned her the respect of Pope Leo XIII who sent her to the US where she continued to set up schools and hospitals. Her missionary activities sent her to South America where she contracted malaria which ultimately caused her death.

Who would have read her birth notice, one of the 13 in her family, and said; “Ah, that one will be a Saint in the Church and the first one to be canonized as a citizen of the United States of America.” Which of us can say that our journey has found its ultimate path? Which of us might accomplish great things? That too is in God’s hands and our hearts.

- Pax

[1] From the Introduction to Titus, New American Bible Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

Biographical Information about St. Leo the Great
Readings for Friday

Reading 1 Phil 3:17—4:1

Responsorial Psalm Ps 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Gospel Lk 16:1-8


“For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
(Phil 3: 18-19)

Paul has a way of putting things that helps us understand instantly that truth is eternal. Here, in this one short phrase he describes the battle between those who find the message of Christ to be too much to bear.

Paul echoes a truth about the Lord we find elsewhere in scripture. In James we hear; “Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas 4: 4)

This then is Paul’s message for us today, that we follow Christ in his commandments or we follow the world and make ourselves enemies of God and his only Son. We chose to live lives focused on love and compassion for others or we focus on material things for ourselves (their God is their stomach…). We live lives that avoid sin or we embrace hedonism, self gratification, and the demeaning of others (their glory is their shame...).

These are the choices Paul speaks of today and it is clear that those same choices have been available and taken by those generations that have gone before us through the countless ranks of forefathers throughout the history of the world. Each day those same choices are ours to reject because, as hard as we try, temptation marches in lockstep with us, kept at bay by the Holy Spirit.

Today we cannot overlook that we celebrate the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, one of the Doctors of the Church to whom we owe so much. His biography and writings are truly inspiring. Without him it might have taken centuries for the creedal statements of the Church to come together especially with regard to the nature and essence of Jesus Christ, true God and True man.

Today, even as we reflect upon the line in the Lord’s prayer that says; “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”, we also pray with the Church:

O Lord our God, grant that your Church, following the teaching of your servant Leo of Rome, may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption, and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man, neither divided from our human nature nor separate from your divine Being; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen